The Down Low on Your Down Below: # 2 - The Postpartum Poop!
Who knew when you got pregnant that you'd spend months worrying so much about poop?!
During pregnancy, you're worried about getting constipated, during labour your worried about diarrhea or emptying your bowls in front of your support team and then you're worried about baby poo... did they have their first poop in utero? Are they pooping and peeing enough? Did they poop all the way up their back?!
And then you realize you have to take your first postpartum poop...
Many birthing people find themselves constipated or unable to have a bowel movement right after birth. This can be because the bowels are still adjusting to having been pregnant and going through the process of birth. The digestive system is still slower due to hormones and if you were taking iron supplements or had medications during labour these can also cause some backing up.
But possibly one of the biggest factors is the fear factor, especially if you are at a hospital. There can be a lot of apprehensions about going to the washroom in an unfamiliar and semi-public place - our pelvic floor muscles may get a bit tense and unable to release and most of us have been told it will be painful! Do you have hemorrhoids? Some tearing? Stitches? Did you surgical birth? Do you have swelling and sensitivity?
It doesn't seem to matter what kind of birth you have, the fear factor is real!
Here are a few ideas to help you get you past the first postpartum poops:
• Eat and drink well before during and after birth.
Hydrate! Water keeps things moving and this natural "Labour Aid" drink is good for digestion, relieving stress and relaxing your muscles. There’s even evidence to say that a cup of coffee or tea with caffeine can help get the bowels moving.
Fibre is your friend! Whole grains, nuts and seeds fresh fruits and veggies, and leafy greens are all great ways to keep your bowels happy. Try sprinkling some flax seed on your favourite breakfast oatmeal, some putting greens in your smoothie or throw some avocado on your salad.
•Hot / Cold therapy.
To help with swelling, sensitivity, hemorrhoids (piles) and healing you can make "Padcilces" wear these off and on throughout your first few postpartum days. When it's time to use the loo use a warm wet washcloth as a compress on your anus for a few minutes to help your sphincter muscle release.
Use a peri bottle (perineal irrigation bottle) with warm water and witch hazel - spray continuously as you're voiding (peeing or pooping) to help keep the muscles released and prevent stinging. Then drip-dry and use a hair dryer instead of wiping with toilet paper which can stick and feel uncomfortable (be sure to use a cool setting so you don’t burn yourself). This is a great option for sensitive breasts after a shower too! Alternatively, pat any of your body's sensitive areas with a soft dry washcloth.
• Use Coconut oil, a Perineal Spray and soak in a Sitz Baths.
Some TLC for your nether region! It can be as simple as oiling up the area with coconut oil or spraying a pre-made perineal spray (with healing herbs and oils) or soaking in a sitz bath to promote healing and muscle release.
• Assume the (squatting) position.
Try using a Squatty-Potty, small stool or even a few books under each foot to elevate your feet so that your knees are above your hips. Similar to pushing out a baby, a squatting position instinctively releases the sphincter muscles of your pelvic floor allowing for expulsion. A slight tip forward helps and if you sit up tall and twist your torso to the right a few times you can encourage things along in your bowels.
• Breathe, Relax & try not to strain.
Learn to breathe well to keep your pelvic floor functioning optimally which will help with the instinctual emptying of the bowels and bladder. When on the toilet, focus on getting some slow, deep inhales- imagine your bottom blooming like a flower (I know, I know, but it works!) Get a tutorial on breathing and a few postpartum exercise tips here.
Do your best relax and unclench your jaw- when we hold tension in our face, neck, and shoulders our pelvic floor will also respond by tightening up. It's a little like birthing your (much smaller) baby all over again - you've got this!
And possibly the trickiest part is to try not to strain. You can use that padcicle or the warm wet wash cloth again from our second tip as counter pressure on the perineum and vulva or you can hold a small pillow or folded towel on your low abdomen if you’ve had a cesarean birth.
Using any or all of these tips may help ease your way into your postpartum poops, and to be completely cliche, know that this too shall pass! Before you know it all you’ll talk about is baby poo!
Ruth has enjoyed watching many bodies change, stay functional and become powerful humans. Education is at the centre of her approach, believing that knowledge is power and that informing our minds and bodies will help build an extraordinary life experience. Creative by nature and armed with an excellent knowledge of functional anatomy and physiology of pregnancy & birth, Ruth loves working with all sorts of bellies, babies and bodies!