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Pooping in the postpartum period

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Let me share a little something I discovered the hard way: no one really tells you that after a vaginal birth, it can feel like the baby is coming out of your bum. Anyone else experience this?

Postnatally, the focus is often on caring for the vagina, including tissue tearing, episiotomy, and surgical repairs. But today, we're shifting our attention to the rectal area and, yes, poop. It's understandable that this region might be tender, considering how the rectum gets stretched and pulled during vaginal birth to make room for the baby's passage. As uncomfortable as it sounds, this stretching is necessary for childbirth.

Personally, I experienced more rectal pain after giving birth than vaginal pain. Surprisingly, my magic vagina had no redness, swelling, or stitches, but the rectal discomfort was intense. I was even anxious about going to the bathroom. However, I knew delaying bowel movements would only worsen things in the long run.

So, let me share my top tips for postpartum pooping

1. Don't delay the poop

As scary as it might seem, suppressing the urge to eliminate waste will only lead to constipation. The longer you wait, the more backed up you'll get, making passing stool harder and more painful.

2. Use a squatty potty

This position helps relax the pelvic floor muscle (puborectalis), straightening the back passage and allowing for easier bowel movements. Adding low-tone sounds like "mooooo," "zoooooo," or "rooooooo" can encourage abdominal muscles and diaphragm contractions, stimulating the rectum and the parasympathetic nervous system.

3. Take a small pillow with you

If you're still nervous about pooping, place a small pillow on your lower belly, especially if you've had a cesarean section. This helps create intra-abdominal pressure and supports the act of pooping while relieving pressure on your fresh scar.

4. Practice relaxed diaphragmatic breathing

Stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system through relaxed breathing aids digestion and stimulates the rectum to contract. This type of breathing also builds awareness of breath and pelvic floor muscles, promoting healing and recovery.

5. Avoid codeine-containing medication

Instead, opt for pain relief options like paracetamol, as codeine can exacerbate constipation. Ice can also help numb the area and aid in recovery.

6. Consider magnesium oxide

If you're having trouble with bowel movements, consult your maternity health team before trying magnesium oxide to soften the stool.

7. Choose nutrient-rich and easily digestible food

Bone broth, rich in collagen, gelatin, and minerals, can aid in recovery and gut health.

8. Care for your gut microbiom

Support and rebalance the gut microbiome postnatally with a diet rich in prebiotics (found in plant foods) and probiotics (found in fermented foods or supplements).

9. Be selective with hospital food or food rosters

Opt for nutrient-rich, organic whole foods with a variety of colors to support digestion.

10. Chew your food thoroughly

Chewing breaks down food and promotes gastric enzyme production, aiding in digestion and gentle stool propulsion.

11. Stay hydrated

Proper hydration is crucial for breastfeeding and avoiding constipation. Consider using a soft damp cloth instead of dry toilet paper, especially if you have stitches, hemorrhoids, or fissures.

12. Rest when possible

Sleep is essential for your well-being, even if it's challenging to get enough. Limit screen time, as the blue light can disrupt melatonin levels, making it harder to go back to sleep.

13. Incorporate gentle movement

Start with small walks to stimulate gut movement.

At The Osteopathic Pelvic Hub, we believe that prioritizing gut health and having good quality poop should be part of every new mother's postnatal care. Taking care of your gastrointestinal tract not only positively impacts your gut but also supports your immune system, mental health, and pelvic floor function, benefiting both you and your new baby.


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