How to relieve constipation after pregnancy?

Digestive problems such as constipation after pregnancy are quite common among women. If you are also on the same page, here are 7 tips to get rid of it!

The feeling of bringing a new life, your baby, into this world can’t be explained in words. Even as you prioritise your child’s health and comfort, postpartum health problems must not be ignored. It is common for women to face postpartum constipation. These digestive issues following pregnancy involve infrequent bowel movements and difficulty passing stools, regardless of how smoothly your pregnancy went. While hormonal changes contribute to postpartum constipation, there are numerous other factors at play as well. Read on to find its causes and learn how to deal with it.

What causes constipation after pregnancy?

There are several factors that can increase the risk of constipation after pregnancy. Here are 5 common causes:

1. Hormonal changes

Hormonal fluctuations, including decreased progesterone levels, are quite common during and after pregnancy. It can affect gastrointestinal function, leading to digestive issues, including constipation.

2. Haemorrhoids

Many women develop haemorrhoids after childbirth, especially after vaginal delivery. You may experience discomfort, which makes passing stools more difficult. However, the link between hemorrhoids and constipation goes both ways, as sometimes, constipation can also cause haemorrhoids.

3. Iron supplements

While there is no exact cause for it, oral iron supplements, commonly prescribed during and after pregnancy, can contribute to issues such as constipation, abdominal pain, and bloating.

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Iron supplements can improve your health. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock.

4. Episiotomy or perineal tears

Pain and discomfort from episiotomy or perineal tears (a cut through the area between your vaginal opening and anus to make your vaginal opening larger for childbirth) may make bowel movements uncomfortable, explains obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Aarthi Bharat.

5. Anal sphincter damage

Damage to the anal sphincter during childbirth may lead to difficulty controlling bowel movements and other digestive issues.

How to get rid of constipation after pregnancy?

1. Stay hydrated

Adequate hydration is essential for maintaining healthy digestion and preventing constipation. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can soften stools, making them easier to pass. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water daily. Keep a check on your water intake and increase it, especially if you are breastfeeding or engaging in physical activity.

2. Relaxation

Postpartum stress and tension are common among women and stress is related to digestive issues. To avoid such effects, make sure you allow yourself to relax and heal after pregnancy. “Find ways to relax and unwind, whether it’s through deep breathing exercises, meditation, gentle yoga, or taking a warm bath,” says Dr Bharat. Managing stress levels can help reduce the risk of digestive problems.

3. Eat high-fibre foods

Fibre plays a crucial role in promoting regular bowel movements by adding bulk to stool and facilitating its passage through the digestive tract. Incorporate fibre-rich foods into your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. These foods not only help prevent constipation but also provide essential nutrients for postpartum recovery. Dr Bharat advises avoiding foods that are hard to digest, such as starchy vegetables, grains, dairy products, beans, and peas.

A woman eating salad
Eating high fibre fruits and vegetables helps with healthy digestion. Image courtesy: Freepik

4. Include prunes in your diet

Prunes, or dried plums, are renowned for their natural laxative properties. They contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that helps soften stools and promote bowel movements. According to research conducted by Harvard Health Publishing, people who drank prune juice for 3–7 weeks experienced fewer hard and lumpy stools and had regular bowel movements. Incorporate prunes into your diet by eating them as a snack, adding them to oatmeal or yoghurt, or drinking prune juice.

5. Drink warm liquids

Warm liquids can help stimulate digestion and relieve constipation by promoting muscle relaxation in the digestive tract. “Enjoying a cup of herbal teas such as chamomile or peppermint, warm water with lemon, or broth can be soothing and encourage bowel movements,” explains Dr Bharat. Avoid excessive consumption of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, as they can have a dehydrating effect.

6. Take probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that support gut health by maintaining a balanced gut microbiome. They can help regulate bowel movements and alleviate constipation by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestines. To maintain daily probiotic intake, you can incorporate supplements and probiotic-rich foods, such as yoghurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables, into your diet. If you are breastfeeding, consult with your healthcare provider before consuming supplements.

7. Pelvic floor muscles therapy

Weak pelvic floor muscles can contribute to constipation and other pelvic floor disorders. Pelvic floor muscle therapy, also known as pelvic floor exercises or Kegel exercises, can help strengthen the muscles that control bowel movements. “Incorporate pelvic floor exercises into your daily routine to improve muscle tone and support healthy bowel function,” says the expert.

pelvic exercise
Pay attention to your pelvic floor muscles. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

These simple tips can make a big difference in helping you feel better after giving birth and supporting your body’s recovery!