Why Postpartum Constipation & Postpartum Gas Are Totally Normal

Postpartum constipation and gas can be made into the stuff of nightmares for new parents, but those experiences are completely normal. Here’s everything you need to know.
postpartum

After giving birth, you expect to deal with some postpartum pain. You’ve just been through something major, after all—no matter how you gave birth, it’s a physically traumatic experience.

Discomfort and tenderness, utter exhaustion and, of course, bleeding are par for the course, but what might come as a sort of shock in your postpartum journey is constipation and indigestion—both of which are totally normal. 

There are lots of causes of constipation or gas when you’re not pregnant or postpartum: the food you ate, a medical condition you have, and more. “All of these can cause postpartum constipation as well, but they are just a component; when we add in anesthesia, vaginal damage or swelling from delivery, and pain, the postpartum period is a common time for complaints of gas, bloating and constipation,” Rebecca Levy-Gantt, M.D., an OB/GYN at Premier ObGyn Napa and author of the forthcoming book, Perimenopause for Dummies says.

If you have friends or family members who have recently given birth, you may have heard them talk about that first post-birth bowel movement in hushed, serious tones. If you had a vaginal birth, you might be dreading that first postpartum bowel movement because you’re (naturally! understandably!) feeling a little sensitive in the area of your perineum, and if you had a C-section, you might be concerned about making your incision pain worse, per VeryWell Family. It can be scary to face down the idea of needing to strain or push after all your body has been through, and if you’re experiencing some postpartum constipation, you might find that you need to put in a little extra effort to go.

Here, some of the reasons why postpartum constipation and postpartum gas pain are totally normal, when you may want to seek medical attention and what you can do to alleviate your discomfort at home.

  • What causes postpartum constipation or postpartum gas?
  • When to be concerned about postpartum pain
  • How to alleviate postpartum constipation and postpartum gas

What causes postpartum constipation or postpartum gas?

You may or may not have experienced constipation or gas during your pregnancy as your hormones, body and just about, well, everything was undergoing massive changes. In fact, Dr. Levy-Gantt explains that constipation and gas often start during pregnancy (particularly the third trimester) because of an uptick in progesterone as well as your uterus putting pressure on your bowels. But you might’ve thought that giving birth would help take care of those issues. Not so fast. Experiencing postpartum constipation and gas is not only normal, it’s exceedingly common.

“[It’s] so common that every postpartum person is placed on stool softeners as soon as [they] deliver,” Dr. Levy-Gantt says. So you’re far from alone in experiencing difficulty or pain when trying to use the bathroom after giving birth.

If you have a C-section, you may experience more postpartum gas than if you deliver vaginally, Dr. Levy-Gantt says. “If someone had a C-section, especially a complicated or emergency section, the anesthesia as well as the touching of the intestines (we move them around) causes them to slow down and ‘go to sleep.’ It may take 24 hours or more to “wake” them back up. Breastfeeding causes dehydration and most women do not adequately replace those lost fluids,” Dr. Levy-Gantt explains.

Postpartum constipation is common after both vaginal births and C-sections and can, if not dealt with, lead to postpartum gas and bloating as well. Dr. Levy-Gantt explains that stool softeners are often given to just about everyone who’s given birth to help ease the discomfort of the first bowel movement. 

Postpartum gas and postpartum constipation can also result from eating different food than you’re used to or a less healthy diet, Dr. Levy-Gantt adds. If you’ve ever experienced travel-related constipation, gas, or other digestive upset, you likely understand how changing up your eating habits can mean digestive discomfort later on.

The silver lining, if you’re ready to see one, is that postpartum constipation and other post-childbirth bowel issues usually clear up as your postpartum health recovers, as Rita M. Knotts, M.D., a gastroenterologist, told Health. 

When to be concerned about postpartum pain

While most postpartum constipation and postpartum gas aren’t signs of postpartum health concerns, occasionally, this kind of postpartum pain can signify something more serious that requires medical attention.

“If a postpartum person does not even pass gas, and has no bowel movement for more than 48-72 hours and starts to get severe abdominal pains, she may have a bowel obstruction or an ileus,” Dr. Levy-Gantt explains. Bowel obstructions are serious and considered emergency situations because your bowel is blocked.

If you suspect that you might have an obstruction or ileus (an extreme slow down of your digestive system that makes you feel nauseous or vomit, explains Dr. Levy-Gantt) or if you experience bleeding or other issues, talk to your doctor right away. They’ll be able to evaluate you and get you the treatment you need.

How to alleviate postpartum constipation and postpartum gas

If you’re dealing with postpartum gas and postpartum constipation, you almost certainly want to do whatever you can to alleviate the symptoms as easily and efficiently as possible. Part of taking care of your postpartum health is working to manage any postpartum pain with which you’re dealing, as well as supporting your overall well-being, which absolutely includes your digestive health.

Luckily, there are plenty of quick and easy home remedies that can help you deal with postpartum gas and constipation, but what you need to try might depend on the severity of your symptoms.

Dr. Levy-Gantt suggests starting with these basics if your symptoms are generally mild:

  • Taking a stool softener
  • Making sure you’re staying hydrated (“drinking twice or three times as much as you think you need, especially if breastfeeding,” Dr. Levy-Gantt recommends.)
  • Cooking with (or tossing food in) healthy oils like olive, avocado, or sesame oil
  • Upping your intake of leafy greens
  • Eating whole prunes or drinking prune juice
  • Adding Metamucil or Miralax to your supplement lineup

Romper also notes that moving around—if you’re able—can help ease postpartum gas and associated pain. There are also some positions you can move into to help remove the postpartum gas from your body, per VeryWell Family. Squatting, child’s pose, and the like can help give you a little relief.

While you can use laxatives for constipation or take Tums for postpartum pain if needed, Dr. Levy-Gantt is quick to note that neither should be relied upon or used daily. If you’re experiencing prolonged reliance on these kinds of products or worsening gas pains or constipation, talk to your doctor, they may be able to help and have ideas that will get you away from daily antacids.

Just remember, postpartum constipation and postpartum gas pain are totally normal. Whether you were expecting it or it came as a rude awakening, there are tons of things you can do to help minimize the impacts and clear it up sooner rather than later—even if ultimately the best solution is to raise the issue with your doctor.

No matter what your postpartum health and well-being look like, The Mother Chapter is here to help you navigate that time of transition and change armed with the knowledge you need. Find articles on postpartum recovery, motherhood, and more on The Mother Chapter and join the community.

Author

  • Lauren Schumacker

    Lauren Schumaker fell in love with food at a young age. After attending culinary school in Chicago, she moved to Athens, GA to earn her master's in journalism at the University of Georgia. While in Athens, she took over the food-focused Locavore column in Flagpole magazine. She was also an editorial intern at Sauce Magazine in St. Louis, where she continued to freelance. Lauren worked as a lifestyle writer and editor for years, with bylines appearing in places like Romper, INSIDER, Tales of the Cocktail and The Everygirl. When she's not working, you can find her in the kitchen cooking, spending time with her dog, Brody, or working on her endless TBR list.

Share the Post:

Related Posts