Pregnancy brings all kinds of unexpected – sometimes unwelcome – surprises. You probably expected all of those fun little surprises to come to an end after your C-section. But now that your pregnancy is over, your body is embarking on a whole new adventure: adjusting to life as a new mom.
The latest “surprise” to complicate your life? Constipation. Right about now you’re probably feeling pretty envious of your newborn’s ability to poop six or more times a day.
Is constipation normal after a C-section, or should you call your doctor?
Table of Contents
- Is It Normal to Feel Constipated After a C-Section?
- What Causes Constipation After a Cesarean Birth?
- When to See a Doctor
- 6 Ways to Relieve Constipation After a C-Section
Is It Normal to Feel Constipated After a C-Section?
Yes – but to an extent.
It’s important to remember that a C-Section is a serious procedure, and your body is still recovering from both the delivery and the procedure itself. It can take three or four days for the bowels to function normally again.
While it’s perfectly normal to have a dry spell that lasts three or four days, it’s not normal for your constipation to last several days. If it’s been a particularly long dry spell, it may be time to call the doctor.
What Causes Constipation After a Cesarean Birth?
Constipation is normal after birth. During a vaginal birth, women may go long periods of time without food, or they may have a bowel movement during labor. These women may become constipated simply because there’s nothing to move in the intestines.
But constipation can be caused by a variety of other things, including:
If you’re breastfeeding, your doctor probably instructed you to continue taking your prenatal vitamin. Prenatal vitamins are notorious for causing constipation, but that doesn’t mean you should stop taking one. Ask your doctor about switching to a less constipating formula, so you can get back to life as normal.
If your doctor prescribed you postpartum medication for pain, that may be the culprit causing your backup. Continue taking the medication for as long as prescribed. Once you stop taking the medication, your bowel movements should return to normal in a couple of days.
If your doctor prescribed co-codamol, that may be what’s causing your blockage. Constipation is a side effect of this medication. Speak with your doctor to discuss an alternative option.
Yes, your constipation may really be all in your head – but not in the way you’re thinking. If you have stitches from your C-section (you almost certainly do) or if you have hemorrhoids (also common with pregnancy), you may be subconsciously (and understandably) worried about pushing.
That fear of going to the bathroom can create a viscious cycle of constipation.
If it hurts to go (or to try going), your body may naturally hold back just to avoid the pain.
Lack of Movement
Giving birth via Cesarean section can be just as exhausting and hard on the body as vaginal birth. And due to the nature of the procedure, your doctor may have asked you to rest in bed for a little longer than usual. That lack of mobility may be the problem.
If you’re not moving, your digestive system will find it harder to get things moving (literally).
We’re not suggesting that you go on a three-mile run after a C-section, but ask your doctor when you can get up and start walking around again. A short walk may be all that you need to get things going.
Dehydration and Poor Diet
Keep tabs on your eating and drinking habits. Are you eating enough? Are you eating foods that may be making your constipation worse? Are you drinking enough water?
Poor diet and lack of water may be causing your constipation.
When to See a Doctor
Should you call your doctor right away if you’re feeling constipated? Not necessarily. You should always call your doctor or seek immediate medical care if you feel something is wrong.
But it’s perfectly normal to be constipated for a few days after a Cesarean birth.
If the constipation lasts more than a few days, then you should contact your doctor. And if you experience any of the following, seek medical attention immediately:
- Severe pain
6 Ways to Relieve Constipation After a C-Section
Now that your baby is out in the world, you want to get things moving again (literally). You don’t have to suffer with constipation forever.
Here are six effective ways to relieve constipation after a C-section:
1. Fill Up on Fiber
High-fiber foods are a great way to combat constipation – both during and after pregnancy. Insoluble fiber adds more bulk to your stool, which helps move it through the intestines.
Try adding high-fiber foods to your diet, such as:
Beans, lentils and vegetables are also high in fiber, and may be the better option for those on a gluten-free or grain-free diet. Other high-fiber foods include:
- Split peas
- Black beans
- Lima beans
- Brussels sprouts
2. A Little Lubrication Goes a Long Way
No, we’re not talking about that kind of lubrication. We’re talking about healthy oils and fats. Try adding olive oil, coconut oil or a ghee to your foods to help get things moving.
3. Drink Warm Liquids
Herbal teas or a glass of warm lemon water can help get things moving. Fennel and chamomile are both great options. Chamomile relaxes the body, while fennel helps combat bloating and gas.
Be sure to stay hydrated during the day, but opt for room-temperature water which is easier for the body to absorb.
4. Avoid Binding Foods
Just as high-fiber foods can get things moving, binding foods can keep you stuck in place. Avoid highly processed foods and grains, including pasta, white bread and white rice.
Chocolate and bananas can also keep you clogged, so avoid these foods if you can.
5. Over the Counter Relief
If diet changes aren’t getting things moving, talk to your doctor about over-the-counter laxatives. If your doctor gives the okay (he might not), ask for product recommendations.
6. Hemorrhoid Cream
Sometimes the pain of hemorrhoids – or the fear of pain – can be the root cause of constipation (it’s easy to see why). But there are over the counter hemorrhoid creams that can help alleviate the pain and the root cause of the problem.
Hemorrhoids are nothing to be embarrassed about, and are perfectly common among pregnant women and new moms.
Remember: constipation is perfectly normal after a C-section. Give your body a few days to get back up and running. If things aren’t moving smoothly by then, call your doctor. In the meantime, these six remedies can help alleviate your discomfort.