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It is common to experience difficulty with bowel movements after giving birth. Some people may find that postpartum stool softeners help.
Constipation is a normal problem following delivery. Several factors can contribute to this issue, including hormonal effects, iron supplements, sore and stretched muscles, hemorrhoids, and discomfort due to an episiotomy.
The general level of tenderness that people experience after delivery can make them anxious about bowel movements. Taking a postpartum stool softener can help make bowel movements easier during this time.
After delivery, the prospect of having a bowel movement can seem intimidating, but most people have one within 2–3 days.
People who have had stitches for an episiotomy may be particularly concerned about their first postpartum bowel movement, but experts say it is unlikely that a person could tear their stitches or sustain an injury while attempting a bowel movement.
Holding a sterile cloth or pad over the stitches or injured area may help, but the most important thing is to avoid straining.
Delaying or holding back bowel movements will not make the first one easier. In fact, it could have the opposite effect. After delivery, people should try to have a bowel movement as soon as they feel the urge.
Relieving postpartum constipation
The following practices can help make bowel movements easier postpartum:
- drinking plenty of water and other hydrating fluids
- eating a well-balanced diet containing lots of fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables
- trying to include dried fruits, such as prunes and figs, in the diet
- exercising gently and regularly
- washing the anal area gently with warm water
- avoiding holding back bowel movements
Experts consider stool softener medications safe to take when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Stool softeners make it easier for stools to move through the body by increasing the water content of fecal matter. People typically take them at bedtime with a full glass of water.
Postpartum stool softeners are available in the form of:
Learn about the difference between stool softeners and laxatives here.
Products to relieve constipation can be effective, but they do not necessarily work immediately. Experts note that it is common to use a postpartum stool softener for 1–3 days before seeing any benefits and recommend discontinuing use after 2 weeks.
Some foods, drinks, and remedies can naturally soften stools and ease constipation. For example, probiotics, Epsom salts, and aloe vera may help soften stools.
Learn more about natural stool softeners here.
Before using a postpartum stool softener, people should discuss their concerns and review their options with a healthcare professional.
People can choose from many different stool softener products after giving birth. Below, we provide information on five options that people may wish to try.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information below is purely research-based.