6 ways to ease postpartum constipation

From drinking more water to working out, try these simple steps to deal with this common post-pregnancy problem.

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If you had constipation during pregnancy, you’re probably counting down the days till you deliver your bundle as you’re hoping that everything will return to normal. Unfortunately, it will take some time before your bowel movements resume its once-regular schedule.

Indeed, ob-gyn Dr Peter Chew explains that whether it was a vaginal birth or a C-section, it’s fairly common for mothers to not poop in the first two days of giving birth.

SmartParents expert and consultant ob-gyn at Gleneagles Hospital, Dr Christopher Chong explains that your pregnancy hormones are largely to blame. These slow down peristalsis — the movement of food through your gastrointestinal tract. He notes, “It’ll take about six weeks before the hormones return to its normal levels.”

“It’ll take about six weeks before the hormones return to its normal levels.”

Other reasons why you are constipated include:

* An empty stomach For a vaginal birth, you’ll be given an enema, so that you don’t poop during delivery. If you’re getting a C-section, you’re advised to fast before surgery as your digestive system needs to be free of food to avoid complications. So, there’s no waste to be expelled since your digestive tract sits empty.

* Confinement foods These herbal tonics are considered to be “heaty” in nature, so it’s harder for you to poop.

* Pain and soreness “down there” Your gynae performs an episiotomy ― a snip to your perineum, the space between your vagina and anus — to ease a difficult delivery. As the skin around the area is still healing, it can hurt when you try to poop. For some mothers, piles (or haemorrhoids) can even develop in the area. As a result, the anal sphincter — a ring of muscles around the anus — may narrow, thus causing constipation.

* Anaesthesia Dr Chew points out that general anaesthesia has been shown to slow down one’s bowel movements, which explains why C-section patients also face constipation.

Dr Chong says that your constipation will resolve from about a week after delivery. In the meantime, follow these suggestions to help move your bowels…

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1) Drink lots of fluids

Whether it’s water, soups or juices — these liquid sources soften the stools, making it easier to pass. Your fluid intake must also increase if you are a breastfeeding mum as fluids are a critical part of breastmilk. Both Dr Chew and Dr Chong notes that prune juice has been shown to boost bowel movements. But be warned, you don’t want to consume too much as Dr Chew warns that drinking prune juice can result in mild laxative effects. “Some people find that drinking a warm liquid soon after waking up helps to get things moving, too.”

2) Take a dump when you need to

Delaying passing motion can cause your stools to dry up and become harder to pass. Dr Chong advises that you try not to strain the muscles around your anus when you’re on the throne. “Pushing hard stools or pushing without stools can cause the stiches to tear in the early days.” This, in turn, can damage your pelvic-floor muscles. Dr Chew cautions hard stools can also cause abrasions in the anus, resulting in fissures.

Besides being low in fibre and high in fat and sugar, sugary and processed foods can aggravate and slow down the digestive system.

3) Observe a high fibre diet

Fibre cannot be digested by the body, but it does add bulk to your stools, making sure the food moves through your body. It also absorbs water as it travels through your gastrointestinal tract, softening your stools and make it easier to pass. Dr Chew urges that you to load up on things like fruits, veggies, lentils, whole grains and nuts.

4) Do simple exercises

Squeeze in activities like a short walk during your day as it can improve your body’s circulation and peristalsis, Dr Chong suggests.

5) Avoid sugary and processed foods

Besides being low in fibre and high in fat and sugar, these can aggravate and slow down the digestive system. Dr Chew notes, “It can cause symptoms like bloating and cramps, too.”

6) Ask your doc about laxatives and stool softeners

his should be a last resort when every other method has failed to work. Do avoid self-medicating by consuming over-the-counter laxatives. Dr Chong cautions, “It’s best to see a doctor, especially if you are breastfeeding.” Dr Chew adds that taking laxatives is a short-term solution. “If your constipation doesn’t improve after a while, colonoscopy may be advised by the physician as occasionally, cancer of the large intestine may be the cause.”

Photos: iStock

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