YOUR FIRST POOP AFTER DELIVERY
You have done it! You survived pregnancy, made it through delivery (either vaginal or cesarean section) and you have your baby! Congratulations! You are a miracle. Your baby is a miracle.
Life is amazing!!
And, now you have to ….to poop!?!?!
No one really talks about this…
What if it hurts? What if it won’t come out? What do I doooo??????
With a vaginal delivery, even if you had little to no tearing or an episiotomy, there is, at the very least, swelling and trauma in your vulva from pushing your baby out. Even if you had a C section, you may still have pushed first, which leaves you with vulvar trauma. Finally, even if your C section wasn't preceded by pushing, you did just undergo MAJOR abdominal surgery, which does affect your intestines. You may likely be suffering from gas pains too. Either way the prospect of sitting down and releasing your first BM can feel quite daunting…
And this is understandable. It is completely normal to be nervous about your first few poops after your delivery. As a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, I am here to give you some tips to help make your first few BMs more comfortable after you delivery of your miraculous bundle of joy.
Stay hydrated!! At a minimal you should be consuming the equivalent of half your body weight in ounces of non caffeinated fluid(caffeine actually takes away from your overall fluid volume because it is a diuretic), ideally most of which should be WATER. For Example, if you weigh 150 pounds, then you should be drinking at least 75 oz of fluid every day. If you are nursing you should be drinking even more!
Take a look at your diet. Do you have an idea of how much FIBER you are eating on a daily basis? Fiber is the indigestible part of a plant that, ironically, helps your digestion. Ideally, you are consuming a combination of both types of fiber (soluble which helps soften your stool and insoluble which bulks the stool to help it move through your digestive tract). For every 1000 calories, you should consume ~14 g/ day. However, it is important to add fiber into your diet very slowly. Adding in too much fiber too fast can cause abdominal bloating, gas and discomfort.
Be aware of HOW you are eating. As a new mom taking time to sit down and eat in a calm manner may seem like a bit of an obstacle. However, the state of our body when we eat can actually make a big difference in how well our digestion works. Sitting down for a calm quiet meal and not eating when stressed or on the run is ideal and signals our digestive system it is time to work. Begin to also pay attention to how much you chew your food. Most people chew only 3-5 times a bite. However, research shows that chewing each bite up to 40 times is what is ideal for us to digest and absorb the nutrients our bodies need. 40 times may seem like a big stretch, so maybe make it a goal to chew each bit 20 times.
Going for a short (eventually increasing time as our bodies heal) WALK and gentle movement can be quite helpful to stimulate movement in our digestive tract.
Pay attention to your POSTURE when you are sitting down to have a BM. Using a small stool or a squatty potty to help your knees be higher than your hips with your legs apart can help relax your pelvic floor muscles. Hunching or slouching is usually not a helpful posture for an easy BM. Instead it is best to elongate your spine and some find it helpful to hinge at your hips (bend forward at your hips) letting your elbows rest on your knees. This way, you can let your belly hang out. Don’t suck your belly in; some find it helpful to imagine a beach ball in their belly.
Contrary to popular belief, straining to push a stool out is not a helpful tool to facilitate a pain-free and easy BM. Instead, it is best if you EXHALE as you push. You can imagine you are blowing up a balloon or blowing bubbles. Straining actually causes your pelvic floor muscles to tighten up making it more difficult for your stool to pass out of your body, whereas exhaling and pushing opens and elongates your pelvic floor muscles. Some find that making a sound can actually make it easier to release your stool (such as ahhhhh, ohhhh, grrrrr or errrrr).
Your stool consistency should be that of a sausage or ripe banana and during this time should lean more on the side of softer. Many health care providers will recommend stool softeners so please do have this conversation with your provider. You can also try a nice sitz bath. 3-4 cups of Epsom salts in a warm bath can be soothing to hemorrhoids, help heal any tearing/episiotomy tissue and can help relieve constipation.
The most important thing is that your first few poops after having your baby need not be traumatic. Keep these tips in mind ahead of time so that when the time comes, you are prepared. AND, as many pregnant women also suffer from hemorrhoids and constipation these tips and tools can be use during pregnancy as well. There is no need for you to suffer during your pregnancy or after!
If you are interested in learning more tools and tips to help you heal and return to your life after your pregnancy and delivery, sign up for ITR Physical Therapy’s PILOT Pregnancy and Delivery Recovery 5 Week Online Program. Call 301-770-7060 or email us at email@example.com to register with any questions. It starts on June 15, 2020. Hurry--only the first 15 women will be accepted!!
--Jennifer Chu, MS, PT, WCS, Mind-Body Coach
Founder, ITR Physical Therapy