The pain of childbirth is a well-known, often discussed reality. The pain that comes after labor, however, is rarely acknowledged let alone talked about. For example: it hurts to poop after giving birth. But no one warns new moms about this very specific postpartum pain. And that's how you end up like me: in the bathroom alone, wondering what the hell is happening and if you're going to live through such a scary, painful experience. So let's talk about the post-birth poop, my friends, and how you can ease the literal pain in your butt that pooping after childbirth can present.
Fortunately for moms-to-be everywhere, experts have postpartum pooping down to a science, and there are a few things you can can do to ease the pain of pooping after giving birth. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), postpartum rectal and perineal pain is a pretty universal experience, especially for women who deliver vaginally, tear, or have stitches from an episiotomy. What to Expect notes that two main causes of pain as a result of going number two after giving birth are constipation and hemorrhoids, which you unfortunately may remember from pregnancy. To help soothe your sore behind, BabyCenter recommends treating your hemorrhoids with over-the-counter pads or creams, sitz baths, and ice.
While postpartum pooping can be scary and overwhelming, and a task you are likely to want to put off for as long as possible, having a bowel movement post-birth is incredibly important. In fact, the University of Rochester Medical Center advises calling your doctor if you still haven't been able to poop four days after giving birth. So, yes, this isn't an avoidable postpartum task, my friends. You gotta poop.
According to BabyCenter, one common cause of painful pooping after childbirth is hemorrhoids. Their website explains that hemorrhoids are actually varicose veins inside your butt hole that can be irritated, become painful, and even bleed as a result of constipation and inflammation during birth.
The same site notes that treatments for hemorrhoids include staying regular, ice packs, sitz baths (basically a few inches of warm water with no soap or bath salts), and witch hazel pads. BabyCenter does warn moms who have stitches from a tear during vaginal delivery or episiotomy to ask their doctor or midwife before using any medicated creams or suppositories to treat their hemorrhoids, as they can further irritate your sore perineum and make your postpartum recovery process even more painful.
What to Expect notes that constipation is also often to blame for painful postpartum pooping, because it can cause trauma to your hemorrhoids, your sore butt, and your perineum. The same site notes that the best ways to prevent and treat postpartum constipation are to stay hydrated, eat enough fiber, get moving, and take a stool softener — all of which might take a few days to work. In the meantime, you should try to stay calm and relax while attempting to poop, as straining can make hemorrhoids, and the pain, worse.
Unfortunately, according to ACOG, while narcotic pain medications prescribed after delivery can help relieve pain from perineal tearing, they can actually make constipation worse,which can, in turn, make your postpartum pooping more painful. Other postpartum pain remedies, according to ACOG, include local anesthetics (such as sprays or creams) to ease the discomfort of perineal tearing or hemorrhoids at the source, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, it's totally normal to have some mild pain during pooping after delivery. However, if your pain is severe or doesn't go away with treatment, you shouldn't hesitate to contact your obstetrics provider for advice, because it could be a more serious issue. The same site notes that if you haven't been able to poop by the fourth day after childbirth, you should definitely call your doctor or midwife for some medical assistance.
Just remember, everybody poops. Some of us just need a bit of help to do so comfortably after having a baby. Painful postpartum pooping is common and nothing to be ashamed of, but you don't have to go at it alone. Ask a maternity nurse or your doctor for advice. Your sore behind (and perineum) will thank you.