If you feel constipated during confinement, do not be embarrassed because it is quite common for mums to not poop for the first couple of days right after giving birth to their baby. Statistics show that at least 20 percent of mums are constipated after giving birth, and there are a couple of reasons why this happens.
The most obvious reason is that you’ve just had your baby, which means there is still quite a fair bit of excess progesterone in your body which is known to cause constipation. Your body will also naturally slow down digestion when going into labour, and any pain relief you took to cope with the delivery can also contribute to your toilet woes. Below are some other causes explained in detail to help you understand why it happens and how to rectify the situation:
Why do mums constipate?
Unlike western mums, Malaysian mums are usually subject to confinement (link to confinement article) right after delivery, resulting in them not being as active. At most, you would only be cuddling and feeding your baby, and walking as far as the boundary of your home. Sometimes you’re not even allowed to leave the room!
Confinement is the time when you are supposed to kick up your feet and rest so that your body can recover. However, this also means less standing, walking, and general activity which can slow down your digestive tract. Exercising is great because it can increase blood flow to your stomach and intestines to help your body digest your food faster. Being inactive means less blood in your GI tract, resulting in slower bowel movements, which could lead to bloating, gas, and ultimately, constipation.
Certain medications can also cause you to constipate, especially the ones you receive when you are discharged from the hospital. Although antibiotics tend to trigger diarrhoea in some, it can also cause constipation by killing all the good bacteria in your gut. Unless you replenish your body with probiotics, your bowel movements can take a few days to several weeks before returning to normal.
Another common culprit is postnatal vitamins, especially iron supplements if you are slightly anaemic after having your baby. Needless to say, if you factor all of this in, the not being active, medications, postnatal vitamins and add red dates tea during confinement which is somewhat heaty, it is no wonder you find yourself constipated all over again.
How can I ease constipation after giving birth?
You can try to improve your bowel movements by changing the way you eat. Remember that it is essential to stay hydrated and to do so, you need to drink throughout the day – even more so when you are breastfeeding. Try eating high-fibre foods while increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. By increasing your fluids and fibre intake, your poop would be softer, making it easier for you to pass.
Get out of bed and walk around the room or your house because sitting down or lying down all day will not do you any good. Don’t delay when you feel the urge to do your business; go immediately.
Try not to be anxious about the pain, especially if you’ve delivered vaginally because sometimes it’s really just all in your head. Warrant that everyone has different tolerances for pain, the area between your vagina and anus (aka the perineum) might feel quite numb. Why? A vaginal birth would stretch the nerves around your vagina resulting in you not feeling that much down there. So rejoice, you might not even feel anything when you do your first poo!
Being worried and fearful would only make matters worse. Anxiety can cause you to stiffen and tense up your back passage, rather than relaxing and letting things do its due course. Try to distract yourself by reading a magazine or book while you’re on the toilet. Don’t worry too much about the stitches and about tearing them. If you resist going, you will only cause more damage by adding more stress to your pelvic floor.
To alleviate any pain, you can fold a clean, sanitary pad in half and hold it next to your perineum or over your stitches to support your pelvic floor. Indirectly this will also help you feel more confident about going without doing any damage to your stitches. However, you might feel a slight discomfort going to the loo once the nerves around your vagina have recovered since your perineum and pelvic floor will move when you push. By supporting the area with a pad, this will help to take away most of the pain.
I’ve tried, but I still can’t go
If things do not get better after three days of trying everything, you should speak to your doctor. Your doctor would likely prescribe some stool softeners or a laxative to help you go. Although the laxatives can cause some mild stomach cramps, they are safe to use for short-term relief. Usually, they would come in liquid form which you take orally. Still, if you don’t find yourself going to the loo after a couple of days, then you might be given something more potent in the form of a suppository to be inserted into your behind.
While you can easily purchase laxatives over the counter, it is still best to have them prescribed by your doctor to ensure no clash with your other medication
It would be best if your doctor prescribes the right laxatives for you even though you can easily buy them over the counter. This is so that the laxatives do not affect your breastfeeding or clash with other medications you might still be taking.
- Do not delay when you feel the urge to poop
- Try to avoid medication that can cause constipation. You can always seek advice from your doctor.
- Eat regularly and remember to include a lot of fibre, fruit and vegetables into your diet. Drink about eight to 10 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated.
- Engage in some light exercise every day.
- Do not hesitate to speak to your doctor if your condition continues to worsen.