Woman holding her newborn in the hospital.

What to Know About Postpartum Bowel Movements?

Throughout your pregnancy, your body undergoes several changes. Between fluctuating hormones, a developing baby, and the production of breast milk, it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed. While these changes indicate that you’re preparing to welcome your baby to the world, they impact every system in your body, including your digestive system. It’s not uncommon to feel nervous about your first postpartum bowel movement, especially if you’ve given natural birth, but you will get through it. As your body heals, you’ll slowly begin feeling like yourself again. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what to expect during your first trip to the bathroom. Here, we’ll go over everything you need to know about postpartum bowel movements.


How Delivery Affects Bowel Movements

There are several different factors that can impact your postpartum bowel movements, all of which are completely normal after delivering a baby. Some of the most common include the following.


  • Bodily Changes – your uterus has been contracting, pelvic floor muscles are weakened, and your flooded with an array of hormones that can affect how you go to the bathroom. Try to be patient as your body heals and remember that this is a normal part of becoming a mother.


  • Medical Interventions – during delivery, both women who deliver naturally and those who undergo a cesarean will have postpartum poop issues. Talk to your doctor about delivery-specific concerns. Medications, supplements, labor restrictions, and perineal stitches can also complicate your bowel movements after delivery.


  • Fear or Embarrassment – it’s not uncommon to have some anxiety regarding your first postpartum bowel movement. Even the first time you urinate can be scary. Try not to be anxious or embarrassed, this is something that happens to every new mother.


  • Fatigue and Distraction – the exhaustion that follows labor mixed with the excitement of a newborn can contribute to increased rates of constipation. Try to eat the meals provided in the hospital to help jumpstart your digestive system and encourage a bowel movement.
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Postpartum Bowel Movements: What to Expect

Postpartum bowel movements aren’t glamorous and it’s natural to experience different types of distress. Some women feel extremely constipated for a few days while others suffer from diarrhea or fecal incontinence. It’s not a permanent change to how your body will eliminate waste and there’s nothing to be ashamed of during this time of healing. To help you better prepare yourself, here are a few things that may occur.


Constipation is one of the most common issues that women experience following delivery. Due to the combination of stress, lack of food during labor, and dehydration, it’s normal to suffer from constipation after having a baby. Many women don’t feel the urge to have a bowel movement, but it’s important to reinvigorate your system to avoid complications.


Hemorrhoids occur when the veins in the anus or lower part of the rectum become swollen and irritated. This is common throughout pregnancy and after delivery. Sometimes, hemorrhoids can be painful and make it difficult to have a bowel movement. If you notice any signs of hemorrhoids, either externally or internally, contact your doctor for treatment options.


While less common than constipation, there are women who experience diarrhea following delivery. Talk to your doctor about supplements, try to increase your fiber intake, and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Typically, most new mothers have their first postpartum bowel movement within three to five days after giving birth. Again, however, each individual is different so listen to your body. If you have any concerns or still haven’t had a bowel movement after a week, talk to your doctor. Your timeline isn’t necessarily abnormal, but longer bouts of constipation may require medical assistance.


How to Alleviate Common Postpartum Poo Problems

Your postpartum bowel movement will need to happen eventually, but there are things you can do to alleviate discomfort and ensure everything goes smoothly.

Don’t Strain

One of the most important things to keep in mind when experiencing a postpartum bowel movement is that straining is not recommended. When you overexert yourself, you risk ripping the perineal stiches as well as getting a hernia. Both of these instances will only make bowel movements harder and more uncomfortable. Try gently pushing when you feel the urge to go and focus on your breathwork. Breathe in, then gently push while you slowly exhale. If you don’t have success with this, put your pants back on and wait until you get the urge to go.

Try to Stay Comfortable

If you do experience hemorrhoids, a hernia, or an anal fissure, talk to your doctor about ways to stay comfortable while having a bowel movement. These ailments can be painful for anyone, but when they’re combined with post-delivery recovery, it can seem quite overwhelming. There are treatment options, so remain calm and do what you can.

Change Your Posture

Adults are used to sitting fairly upright on the toilet, but our digestive systems are built differently. The most efficient way to poop is to put your feet on a stool and get in a squat position, kind of like you’re crouching on the toilet. Make sure that you’re comfortable, then slightly lean forward. This properly aligns your rectum with your colon to make the process easier. There are products on the market tailored to achieving this position or you can simply use a stool around your house.


Drinking plenty of water will help replenish lost fluids and reduce the risk of constipation. The act of delivery is extremely strenuous on your body. Your body needs the water lost through sweat and exhaustion to continue functioning normally. Plus, by drinking enough water, you’ll help keep stools soft and avoid strenuous bowel movements with potentially painful stool. For added hydration, try drinking some coconut water. It’s high in potassium, thus helps to replenish electrolytes.

Eat Plenty of Fiber

Certain foods are better than others following delivery, especially if you’re experiencing signs of constipation. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of fiber through natural foods. If you’re not able to consume enough through whole fruits and vegetables, talk to your doctor about taking a fiber supplement like Metamucil daily.


Undergoing strenuous exercise immediately following delivery isn’t recommended, but walking can do wonders for your entire body. Walking helps to stimulate your bowels and reduces the risk of constipation. It can also help you strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles, thus expediting postpartum recovery. If you feel up for it, try taking your newborn on a daily walk around the neighborhood. Otherwise, simply walking around your home can help you reap the benefits.

Try a Stool Softener

Your doctor will likely offer you a stool softener following delivery—take it. These are safe and increase the moisture of your stool, making bowel movements easier to pass. Unlike laxatives, softeners work with your body’s natural digestive system and will not create an urge to poop.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pelvic floor strength is greatly diminished during pregnancy and childbirth due to the pressure of your growing baby and strain of delivery. Begin incorporating some minor pelvic floor exercises into your daily routine. Kegels are a great option that can be done anywhere, anytime. This will help you rebuild the strength of supporting muscles and better regulate bowel movements.


When to Seek Help

While you might be completely overwhelmed with tracking the changes in your newborn, remember to give yourself some attention too. Try to track your bathroom visits for the first few weeks to make sure that your body is readjusting and getting back to normal. You don’t have to be specific, just writing down when you had a bowel movement is enough. If you haven’t had a bowel movement within a week of giving birth, contact your doctor. Constipation that occurs for too long can lead to other, potentially serious complications. For any questions related to bowel movements, don’t be embarrassed to call your doctor. All new mothers experience this and it’s completely normal to have concerns.

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