After childbirth, there are many new stressors, like infant feeding… and wearing your OWN diapers. One stressor that can come as a surprise is the first postpartum poop! The idea of anything passing through a newly healing pelvic floor can be scary and unwelcome. It can be painful if you’ve had tearing or stitches, and difficult or slow to move if you’ve had surgery or pain medication. But pooping is normal and healthy. So we want this to happen, right?
Tips For A More Pleasant Postpartum Pooping Experience
Remember Pooping Is Normal
First, remember that bowel movements are healthy and normal. Try to welcome it. Mindset affects the body’s responses, so the more positive you are, the less likely you are to have a fearful physiologic response. Sometimes just being aware of the topic is enormously helpful in improving the experience.
Hydration Makes For Happy Poops
Stay well hydrated and well nourished. Proper hydration and nutrition keep your tissues healthy, your intestinal lining happy, and your stool consistency normal. Stool softeners or Magnesium supplementation can also assist (especially those who had a Cesarean birth) because the medication used for surgery can cause sluggish bowels and constipation. Proactively ask for these in the hospital after birth or start taking on Day 1 if you are already home.
Proper Pooping Posture Makes All The Difference
Have good pooping posture. This step is so easy and fundamental for good bowel movements that it should become a regular part of your toilet set-up. To improve the angle of the rectum for pooping, have a step-stool under your feet to get your knees higher than your hips.
Squatty Potty makes stools just for this purpose, but you can also use a kiddie step-stool, books, etc. Make sure you EXHALE as you bear down to poop instead of holding your breath. Try exhaling like you are blowing out birthday candles to avoid holding your breath.
Pooping After C-Section
For Cesarean births, apply pressure over the abdomen with a pillow. This supports the healing incision while you poop, and also supplements the muscles of the abdominal wall that normally help to regulate pressure during defecation.
Breathing For Better Bowel Movements
Practice diaphragmatic breathing. This is a fundamental activity that can be performed day one postpartum to start re-connecting to your core and reduce stress. Diaphragmatic breathing increases oxygen to our tissues, and we need good blood flow for muscle function and tissue healing.
Diaphragmatic breathing helps to reduce sympathetic nervous system activity associated with stress. Stress from new responsibilities, pain, or disability can inhibit the “rest and digest” signals, which includes signaling to poop. We tend to get a better signal for a bowel movement when we are relaxed. So diaphragmatic breathing can assist in this way.
Lastly, diaphragmatic breathing also improves mobility of the abdominal wall and pelvic floor. Breath work can help to both relax and strengthen the abs and pelvic floor. You can apply diaphragmatic breathing as an exercise several times throughout the day (for several minutes at a time), in prep for going to the bathroom, and also while seated on the toilet when it’s time to go. Here’s how to do it:
- Lay down or sit comfortably supported.
- On each inhale, allow the ribcage and belly to inflate (INHALE = INFLATE).
- On each exhale, allow the ribcage and belly to recoil (or flatten) naturally.
- Try to breathe as slowly and deeply as possible without strain. You should find that the more time you spend breathing, the slower and deeper you can breathe comfortably.
Happy Pooping to You!
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Melissa Stendahl, PT, DPT is a pelvic health physical therapist with specialty certificates in the areas of prenatal and postpartum physical therapy. She has a unique approach with clients by promoting preventative care, active participation, education and understanding of their diagnosis and treatment plan so they feel empowered in their ability to achieve wellness. Melissa is a lifelong athlete, military veteran, and mom. She is the owner of Stendahl Physical Therapy, PLLC. Follow along on her Instagram.