A cesarean section, or C-section, is a surgical delivery of a baby made by incisions in the mother's abdominal wall and uterus. Because it's a major abdominal surgery involving anesthesia, side effects like gas or constipation may occur and recovery time can take six to eight weeks. A few dietary and lifestyle changes may provide constipation relief, but see your health care provider if constipation persists as you may need a stool softener or other medication.
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Eat More Fiber
A lack of dietary fiber can contribute to constipation after a C-section. Fiber, although indigestible, provides bulk in your digestive tract to keep food moving through your body. It also absorbs water, helping to soften stools and make them easier to pass. You get dietary fiber from whole plant foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa also boost fiber intake. Beans, such as garbanzo beans, kidney beans, pinto beans and lentils, are another excellent source of dietary fiber. The Institute of Medicine recommends women under the age of 50 get at least 25 grams of dietary fiber per day.
Eat Prunes or Drink Prune Juice
According to a study published in April 2011 in the journal "Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics," eating prunes may help relieve constipation by increasing the number of bowel movements you have per week, softening stools and reducing straining during bowel movements. Prunes are high in dietary fiber, providing 6 grams of fiber per 100 grams, which accounts for some of their positive digestive effects. They also contain natural laxative compounds, such as sorbitol, to help relieve constipation.
Drink More Fluids
Without enough fluid, fiber from food becomes dry and hard in your digestive tract, worsening constipation. The Institute of Medicine notes that women need at least 2 liters of fluid per day, or at least 9 cups. If you're breast-feeding, your fluid needs increase to support milk production. ChooseMyPlate.gov suggests drinking a glass of water every time you breast-feed. Plain water, milk, herbal teas, coconut water and all-natural, no-sugar-added fruit juices help keep you hydrated. Limit caffeine-containing beverages and alcohol.
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, constipation may be caused by a lack of physical activity. After your C-section, you were likely told to rest and do very little in terms of physical activity to allow your abdomen time to heal. Once you're no longer in pain and your doctor gives you the OK, returning to normal daily activities and getting exercise helps relieve constipation. KidsHealth.org notes that frequent and early walking after a C-section may help reduce pain, discomfort and constipation.
- KidsHealth.org: Cesarean Sections
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Constipation
- Colorado State University Extension: Dietary Fiber
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids
- Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics: Randomised Clinical Trial: Dried Plums (Prunes) vs. Psyllium for Constipation
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: Chemical Composition and Potential Health Effects of Prunes: A Functional Food?
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Nutritional Needs While Breastfeeding
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Electrolytes and Water