You can file this as item number 9,675 under Universal Challenges No One Talks About That You'll Face After Childbirth. (That's a mouthful, but you get the idea.) The first bowel movement after a vaginal or Cesarean birth can be painful and scary, which adds stress to an already challenging time.
According to one study, between 16-38% of pregnant women report being constipated. And after childbirth, something once taken for granted (going to the bathroom) can suddenly feel really ominous: How will it work? What's it going to feel like?
“The postpartum woman is often afraid to poop after they have a baby. The fear of straining too hard, of ‘opening back up’ is common,” says Brie Abbe, a labor and delivery nurse in Bar Harbor, Maine. With my professional experience as a birth and postpartum doula (and my personal experience as a once-constipated new mom), Brie and I can both attest that postpartum constipation is exceedingly common. So take some consolation in not being alone, if you're going through it.
A small silver lining is that it probably won't last that long. “Anecdotally,” Abbe offers, “I would say that most women poop within 24 hours of having a vaginal delivery and within three days after a C-section.”
If you’re one of the lucky ones still waiting on that post-delivery delivery, you should know it’s not just stress making you feel blocked up. Your body is actually encouraging some retention. “The hormones of pregnancy function to slow intestinal motility. So physiologically, it is harder to poop for most women during their pregnancy — and immediately after,” Abbe explains. She suggests eating a diet rich in fiber, staying hydrated, moving around as you are able, and utilizing over-the-counter medications as needed.
Most importantly, she says, “Don't be afraid. Procrastinating pooping just makes it harder.” Read on for more tips to getting through that dreaded first deuce.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about kids right now or not, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.