The Scoop on Poop

doula woodbridge

Worst part of giving birth?  Pooping.

I'm not talking about pooping while you're delivering.  That's actually a great thing, and I can talk about all that in another post.  I'm talking about the horrible mind game that comes with pushing a baby out of my vagina (or having my abdomen cut open and then stitched up in two places), and then asking me to push something else out of my rectum the next day.

Its unfair, and kind of a sick joke, if you ask me.  I mean really. The midwife said, "Push like you have to have the biggest bowel movement of your life."  And I did.  And a baby came out of there.  And it hurt.  And now, I'm just supposed to believe that when I push like that again its everything is going to be peachy?  No.  Just. No.

Does pooping after birth hurt? What about my stiches?  How in the hell can I relax?  What about my cesarean incision?  How hard is TOO hard to push?  Is there anything that makes pooping after birth easier? 

Unfortunately, poop is a part of life.  It has to happen.  Hopefully its happening every day, actually, that's the sign of a healthy diet, and maybe for you it won't be a negative experience in the least.  But for some of us, its kind of like the gauntlet at the end of childbirth.

doula culpeper

Here are some things that can make both the physical and mental pain of poop after birth a bit less, well, painful.

  • Stool Softeners- No matter how you gave birth, you can ask for stool softeners in the hospital.  Some moms even begin taking them before they give birth, to help regulate themselves, but I'd ask your doc about that first.  Also, please note there is a big difference between a stool softener and a laxative.  You want the first one, and probably not the second one after birth.
  • Dietary Fiber/Water- Try not to order three pieces of chocolate cake without something like broccoli as a side-dish.  Make sure your body gets lots of roughage and hydration as you head towards birth and in the postpartum period.  Insoluble fiber+H20= softer poop, and softer is much, much better. (Please don't start taking fiber supplements without talking to a doctor though-- they can cause upset bowels, and that's the opposite of what you're going for here.)
  • Relax your face and jaw- Its nuts, but the muscles in our bums mirror the muscles in our face.  Try it, you'll see: scrunch up your face real tight.  Your bum tightened bit, huh?  Now relax. Open your jaw slightly, and take a few big breaths.  Everything loosens up.
  • Peri-bottle- The hospital will give you a nice squeeze bottle, because you won't really want to be putting toilet paper down there for a while.  Fill it with warm (but not hot) water, and squirt it on yourself when you feel the urge to go.  It can help relax those muscles.  (Bonus use- if it burns when you urinate after the birth due to any tearing or stitches, you can squeeze the water on your perineum while you pee, and it will help prevent the stinging sensation.)
  • Washcloths- I'm talking some Dollar Store ones you don't just mind tossing when you are done.  Get them wet with warm water, and use like a wet compress around your anus while you attempt to go #2.  It provides support to that tender area, and the warm pressure feels heavenly, while relaxing all those muscles that feel tense.
  • Sitz-Bath- These little pleasures are plastic tubs that fit over the toilet seat above the water in the toilet, and have bag you fill with nice clean water to steady stream so can sit your lady parts in warm water and soak them without having to get into a bath.  The hospitals have them for your use, and once you use it, its yours to take home.  They'll even give you a bit of Epsom salt to add to it, to help relieve some of the swelling.  Sit in it when you would like to feel some bowel movements.
  • MOVING AROUND- Now I know you just had a baby but no matter how it arrived, its important to be up and moving (as your situation allows) no more than 24 hours after birth.  Take (small 2 min) walks as you can.  Movement and exercise get the bowels moving.
  • Squatty potty- Some people buy these stools that you can put your feet up on to help their hips align for more anatomical correctness while they defecate.  (Think squatting over a hole to go to the bathroom-- you want your knees higher than your hips.)  I think you can use a regular stool or a stack of magazines to help do the trick.
  • A towel-- this can be great to roll and tuck under a caesarian scar (over the bandage, of course)-- adding gentle counter pressure while you try to use the bathroom.
  • Sitz Spray-- There are great ones online and I know a local place that will make one for you too.  These essentially help lessen inflammation to make things more comfortable down there, and usually include witch hazel, water, and some kinds of essential oils.  (Don't go trying to make your own unless you already are very familiar with Essential oils.)
  • Suppositories- These should be only used under the direction of a medical professional.  But I want you to know they are available to you.  If you go a few days without a bowel movement right after birth, its not surprising, but it can be uncomfortable.  The hospital will have suppositories that can help stimulate things for you if you are feeling full up to your neck, but still are hungry (a sign that your bowels still aren't moving just yet).

No matter what you do, please don't PUSH down.  You are still tender from your birth, and for Heaven's sake please don't STRAIN anything or add to your hemorrhoids.  Just let it kind of naturally happen.  It might take a few sessions of sitting on the toilet.  Grab a book, and spend some quality time in there.  And if the anticipation is just too much, you can always call your mom, your doula or your total-TMI-friend.  If we've given birth, we've all been there.


Victoria McCollum

Victoria McCollum is a birth and postpartum doula and owner of Doulas of Fredericksburg, in Fredericksburg, Virgina. She resides there with her husband and three precocious sons.