Why are new mums scared to poo?
You spend so much time worrying about the birth and how it will go, you never give the after birth issues a thought until you are faced with them. Opening your bowels (doing a poo) for the first time after having your baby can be one of them!
It can be worrying (especially if you have swelling, bruising and/or stitches) and can sometimes take a few days but there are ways you can help yourself and make it easier.
During childbirth your body is concentrating its energy on the uterus, ensuring it contracts properly to push your baby out. So much so that other areas - such as your bowels - become sluggish and slow down because their blood flow has been diverted as they aren't really needed at this time. Your muscles you use to go to the toilet have been stretched and weakened along with the fact you may not have eaten much at all since you began your labour. All these things can contribute to it taking a few days to get them working normally again. This also applies to Mum's who have had a caesarean sections as the bowels can be irritated during birth and it takes them a few days to get back into their rhythm, sometimes needing a rest all together.
Ensure you drink plenty following the birth - if you are breastfeeding this is doubly important - you need to ensure you drink the recommended amount of water daily to keep your stools soft (The recommended about for each individual differs but for women the institute of medicine suggests an average of 9 cups is a good starting point).
Choose your diet carefully
Following the birth of your baby you definitely deserve a decent meal and you need to ensure you eat regularly to keep your energy up, help milk supply and recover, just be careful to keep a balanced diet. Try to ensure a high fibre diet - fibre is your friend where your bowels are concerned - include lots of fruit and vegetables as well as whole grains. Other good choices include dried fruits and nuts, try not to over indulge in the chocolate as it can be constipating.
Don't put it off!
Whatever you do if you feel the urge to open your bowels DONT PUT IT OFF. Understandably this can be difficult especially if you are still in hospital and not the comfort of your home, but trust me staff and women on the wards don't think "my goodness she has been in the toilet a long time!". Take your time, if you feel like you need to go but when you get there find you can't, just try and relax and wait a few minutes, if unsuccessful you can always try again later, straining will only cause pain, anxiety and haemorrhoids!
Lots of new Mum's find the thought of having stitches scary when first going to the toilet. if this applies to you - take a clean sanitary towel into the bathroom with you and apply a little upward pressure onto your stitches while you are bearing down and this will give you a little more support physically and mentally. Please be reassured that even if you don't do this your stitches will not split when you open your bowels, they are made to withstand these events.
Mind over matter!
We often hear new mums tell us they are worried about going to the toilet because they are afraid it will do more damage or cause their stitches to open! We can promise that this will not be the case. To help with this take a clean sanitary pad and place it gently over the stitches and press as firmly as you are able to while you open your bowels, and this will give you physiological as well as physical support. It also allows you to feel where your stitches are in relation to your anus. We really encourage you to take a look in the mirror if you have had stitches. This will help you understand where they are and how they are healing. For more information on how to help your stitches heal take a look at our 9 ways to help the healing.
Position is everything
Lots of research has been completed on the correct position to adopt when having a poo. So much so they where even talking about it this year on 'I'm a celebrity....Get me out of here'.
They have found that the squatting position is best - the way to achieve this while on the toilet is to put a stool (or something similar) under your feet, this will lift your knees above your hips making your colon (the tube your poo passes through) straighter and therefore easier to pass through.
If you have not opened your bowels by day 3 then you are probably temporarily constipated, read on for more tips. Once you have opened your bowels for the first time it only gets easier.
Some medication (such as pain killers) can cause constipation so speak to your Midwife or Doctor to see if you are on them and if so what you can take instead.
Use a stool softener or mild laxative - but speak to your Midwife first.
In rare cases some new Mum's find they have the opposite problem and cannot control when they open their bowels to go to the toilet or pass wind. This can be embarrassing and in some cases limit where and what you can do.
Always tell someone, your midwife or your GP, they can refer you for more tests. This may just be temporary but it could also be due to a complication during the birth and need more in-depth investigation.
Pelvic floor exercises are a great way to start to help with recovery. Even if you don't have any problems going to the toilet you should complete pelvis floor exercises after having a baby - you will thank yourself in years to come for doing them.
Check out Jo's breathing exercises gentle enough to start from day one after birth to help with recovery of your pelvic floor Postnatal Heal and Restore - Herts Osteopathy & Pilates Clinic