You’ve finally given birth to your precious baby. The hard work is done, right?
The hardest, yes.
But for many mamas the first postpartum poop comes with its own set of challenges.
Great. As if you’re not already tired of your bowel habits being in the forefront of your mind – courtesy of pregnancy constipation.
The First Postpartum Poop – 10 Things You Need To Know
The good news? The postpartum bowel troubles are much shorter lived than pregnancy. And like pregnancy constipation, there are many things you can do to help with or even fully eliminate the troubles.
Of course, adding in your new-found obsession with baby bowel habits, life post conception really becomes a life focused on poop.
Perhaps we can’t take away just how much of your life will revolve around poop, but we can help you prepare with 10 things you need to know about your first postpartum poop:
#1: Don’t End Pregnancy Constipated!
Okay, so you won’t be ‘empty’ at the end of pregnancy but just don’t be full of crap, literally. If you’re already constipated during late pregnancy, the first postpartum poop could be much worse than it needs to be.
Staying well hydrated, especially towards the end of pregnancy, can be extremely helpful in preventing constipation. A high fiber diet is also important.
If you’re on iron supplements, you may find yourself really battling constipation. If diet, staying active and staying hydrated aren’t helping, talk to your midwife or doctor about ways to treat your constipation.
Be sure to read more about the prevention of Pregnancy Constipation here.
#2: How You Give Birth Impacts Your First Poop
If you have a lot of trauma to your perineum (e.g. an episiotomy) the first poop could be more painful. Just like managing pregnancy constipation can be an important part of preparing for your first poop, reducing the severity of perineal trauma can also be an important.
Read more about reducing your risk of tearing or the severity of perineal trauma: Tearing During Birth – 9 Ways To Help Prevent Tearing
If you give birth via c-section, while your perineum is untouched, you’ll have another set of problems to deal with. Your c-section wound can be quite sensitive, making you unsure how much you can safely push for a bowel movement.
The side effects of surgery, medications and not being able to eat solids for extended periods of time can all worsen constipation – making your first bowel movement challenging.
You can read more about c-section recovery including easing your first bowel movement in What to Expect After A C-Section
#3: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate – Drink Lots Of Water
As if you aren’t tired of hearing this after 9 months of pregnancy! Even so, it’s still very important to stay well hydrated immediately after birth.
Remaining hydrated will help your body heal, digest and function at its best. If you’re dehydrated, or even just not as well hydrated as you can be, your bowels move slower and you can become constipated.
The last thing you want after giving birth is to feel like you’re putting in just as much effort to pass hard stool.
#4: Get Up And Move As Soon As You’re Able
Okay, so don’t start a boot camp workout program. Postpartum rest is vital!
However, you do want to get up just a bit and walk. This is important to reduce your risk of blood clots but also to help your bowels get moving.
Even the lightest activity can be helpful. This is why, even after a c-section, your nurses will try to help you get up and walking – even if it’s just to the bathroom.
#5: Fruit, Vegetables And Fibre – Eat Lots Of Them!
This is important towards the end of your pregnancy as well as immediately following birth. Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food – it rings true when it comes to preventing constipation.
I made it a point to have a serving of raw fruit or vegetables with every meal or snack as soon as I gave birth. The first postpartum poop tends to be the most worrisome, but any time during healing you can be prone to discomfort with a bowel movement.
#6: Pain Medications Can Be A Pain
If you give birth via c-section, or if you experience severe postpartum cramping or perineal pain while healing, you’re likely to be taking some pain medications. A side effect of many pain medications can be constipation.
If you need pain medications, the fear of constipation isn’t a reason to skip them, especially after major surgery! Many midwives and doctors automatically prescribe a stool softener with pain medication.
If you’re only experiencing mild pain but you’re already having symptoms of constipation, you may want to opt for some natural pain relief techniques.
#7: Be Aware Of Your Weakened Abdominal And Pelvic Floor Muscles
Your body just made room for a baby. It’s safe to say, no matter how fit you are, your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles will be a bit weak. Add in the hormones relaxin and progesterone, and you might be left wondering if you’ll ever have normal muscle strength again.
The good news is the hormones subside and with some light exercise, the weakness is temporary. However, it will be present for your first bowel movement.
Many women, especially those recovering from a c-section, find light abdominal support helpful for walking, changing positions and even for having a bowel movement. A binder, or simply holding a pillow for extra support, can be helpful.
The previous tips will all be important (e.g. hydration and fibre) to help make sure you’re not straining to pass stool.
Pelvic floor weakness plus straining is a bad combination as you could increase your risk of a prolapse. You’ll also want to avoid straining to prevent forming or worsening existing haemorrhoids.
#8: Be Kind To Your Bottom
While preparing for your baby’s arrival, you’ll buy diapers; the softest baby wipes; and the most expensive, all natural, maybe even organic, diaper ointment. After all, their skin is sensitive and they deserve the best!
Well, your bottom deserves the best too! Many things can help soothe a sore bottom post baby, including: witch hazel, an herbal bath or sitz bath, and avoiding harsh wiping by using a peri-bottle (often given at hospitals and birthing centers) and the softest toilet paper money can buy.
Some women also find applying light pressure to their perineum during a bowel movement very helpful.
Read more about healing after birth in 6 Ways To Heal Your Perineum After Giving Birth.
#9: It’s Partially In Your Head
The first postpartum poop can be scary. If you pushed for a while during labour or you have a painful incision site, the thought of a bowel movement can be intimidating. You might tense up, avoiding going (which can contribute to constipation), or really psych yourself up with fear.
While the first poop is uncomfortable for many, it might not be as bad as you’re expecting (especially if you use the tips above). Remember that you just made a baby, birthed a baby (whether vaginally or by having major surgery) and you survived it! You can absolutely handle having your first poop.
Remind yourself how amazing you are. Remember that even if it is uncomfortable, it will be short lived. And if necessary, dive into those wonderful coping techniques you used for birth.
#10: It’s Going To Happen And You’re Going To Be Okay!
Even if you do your best to delay, you’re eventually going to have to go. And you know what? You’re going to be okay. Women have given birth and then pooped since the beginning of time.
Stay hydrated, lots of fibre, get moving, utilise stool softeners prescribed by your maternity care provider, be kind to your bottom and know you will be fine!