Feeling less than motile now that you’ve had your baby? It’s par for the course. “Constipation is so common that it’s rare for new moms not to experience it,” says Mavis Schorn, Ph.D., C.N.M., director of the nurse-midwifery program at Vanderbilt School of Nursing in Nashville, Tenn. Anesthesia administered during labor, and narcotic pain medication given after, can cause the sluggishness. And if you had a Cesarean section, your bowels may be in full revolt.
“The trauma of surgery really makes things grind to a halt,” she adds.
Most women can expect some relief by about three to four days post-delivery, though some may go as long as seven days. To help speed things up, Schorn recommends the following:
Drink up. Down lots of water—at least eight glasses a day, even more if you can swing it.
Go raw. Load up on uncooked fruits and vegetables. Whole grains work, too.
Start moving. Even though your body is undoubtedly sore, try not to limit your activities. Every little bit of movement helps.
Keep it hot. Warm liquids help get things moving. “I recommend hot lemonade and herbal tea,” Schorn says.
Listen to your grandma. “The old standbys—prunes and prune juice—really do work,” Schorn says. Start off with one-quarter cup of either—if you’re opting for juice, warm it first to kick it into high gear—and you should see some action by the next day.
Don’t hold back. Head to the toilet when you feel the urge. “Many women are afraid of having a bowel movement because they think it will hurt or they’ll tear their stitches,” Schorn says. “The truth is, you won’t tear, though it may be uncomfortable, especially if you withhold.”
Although she favors natural, food-based treatments, Schorn says you also can try an over-the-counter stool softener. She doesn’t advise anything stronger, though: “If you’re so bound up that you need a laxative, call your health care provider.”