It’s common for women to have constipation postpartum. The muscles you use to push have just had the biggest workout possible! As well as your internal organs having to go back to their normal place, lack of movement (with reason!) Rest is so important postpartum), and massive loss of fluids during labor and birth. If you had a belly birth you literally can’t push because of the incision, generally mama has medication on board to help with the intense pain, and movement has to be limited! So it makes sense. But is there anything natural you can do to help? Sure is!
First things first, you need to hydrate! During pregnancy your body adds a ton of fluids from the amniotic fluid, to more blood for you and baby. After giving birth your body works hard to get rid of that fluid from pregnancy! You will be sweating like crazy (anyone else have drenched sheets 5 days postpartum?) and if you're breastfeeding that is fluids as well! Hydrate so your body can accomplish this more easily!
Some other ways to help with constipation are to take a magnesium supplement. Aviva Romm, MD recommends 500 mg magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate. A lot of our food today is deficient in magnesium due to mono crops stripping the soil. So a supplement might be necessary for adequate magnesium levels. The best part about magnesium is if you take too much it will just cause bowel intolerance (aka diarrhea).
Herbs can also be super helpful for constipation! Try not to use herbs that purposefully cause diarrhea while breastfeeding as it could affect the baby. I like to stay away from cascara, triphala, and gentian during breastfeeding. There are so many nourishing gentle herbs that can help get things going that won't affect baby.
Burdock root is a fantastic digestive herb. It is a good source of inulin, which is a prebiotic fiber. Prebiotics help feed the good bacteria in our stomachs! Burdock is a very very mild laxative and a bitter tonic. A bitter helps the liver make bile to digest your food. Burdock root is nourishing to the liver allowing it to do what it needs.
Dandelion root works similarly as it gets digestive juices flowing. It can be helpful for constipation as a mild laxitive. It also contains inulin. Dandelion root is a liver tonic meaning it helps the liver do what it's supposed to do!
Fennel seed enhances digestion and assimilation of food. It relaxes digestive tract as a gentle nervine. Fennel seed is also a carminative (a class of herbs that help get the farts out)! Fennel seed is also a galactagogue and is super helpful for breastfeeding. Some of fennel comes through the breast milk allowing the baby to get the carminative and nervine benefits!
Licorice root can come with some caveats. If you have any kidney issues, fluid imbalances, or high blood pressure, check with a provider before using this herb. Licorice root is a demulcent, which means it relieves inflammation with mucosal membranes (which are your entire digestive tract!) It is a mild laxative which will help with constipation. Licorice root is also mucoprotective, which means it will help protect your mucosal membranes! I also absolutely love using licorice root when a postpartum mom is feeling super depleted.
Marshmallow root is probably my number one recommended herb for digestive issues. It is moistening to mucosal membranes and contains the prebiotic inulin. But the best part is that it has mucilaginous properties that reach all the way to colon and are not broken down by the body allowing relief to dry constipation. Marshmallow root is yet another galactagogue as well!
Some non herbal help can start with a good probiotic. Generally at least over 10 billion CFU with multiple strains. Check on the strains as some "prevent" diarrhea but if you're constipated it's going to further that problem.
Apple juice and psyllium husk! Aviva Romm has a recipe in her book, "Natural Health after Birth"
"Soak 2 teaspoons of psyllium seeds in 1/2 cup of unfiltered apple juice for 10 minutes and consume the whole mixture. follow with a full glass of water."
I also like to make a seed bread. There are a few different recipes around for seed bread. I'll write up my version and link it. This seed bread gives bulk to the stool, gives fiber to move things along, is super filling and nutritious, and is pretty easy to make.
Constipation is common postpartum but hopefully there are things we can do to prevent it or help it on it’s way. The more constipated you become postpartum the harder it will be to pass the stool so look for help right away and try some of these tips and tricks!