Constipation -- the passage of hard, dry stools less than three times a week - often plagues women during pregnancy and after giving birth. If you're breastfeeding, you might hesitate to take any type of laxatives which might pass through breast milk to your baby. While relieving constipation naturally through diet and exercise is best while breastfeeding, some over-the-counter laxatives are considered safe for use while nursing your baby.
Several factors may lead to constipation in breastfeeding women, including lack of dietary fiber, not drinking enough fluids and taking pain medications after delivery that can cause constipation. If you had a Cesarean delivery, surgery itself, anesthesia and decreased physical activity can slow your bowels and cause constipation. If you had a vaginal delivery, fear of perineal pain from your stitches or fear of actually tearing your stitches might have you holding back on a bowel movement. Hemorrhoids can also lead to fear of straining and constipation.
Try to relieve constipation naturally before using a laxative while breastfeeding. Consume a diet high in fiber with foods such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains such as oatmeal or high-fiber cereals. Drink plenty of water throughout the day; you need fluid to make milk and to help with constipation. Regular exercise can also help relieve constipation, but check with your doctor prior to starting an exercise program, especially if you had a surgical delivery. If you're worried about your stitches, relax. It's highly unlikely your stitches will tear when having a bowel movement, notes WhatToExpect.com.
Numerous over-the-counter laxatives can help relieve constipation. Bulk-forming or stool-softening laxatives are the safest laxatives to take while breastfeeding. Bulk-forming laxatives, such as Metamucil, Fiberall and Citrucel, absorb the water in the intestines and soften the stool. Stool-softening laxatives moisten the stool and prevent dehydration. Doctors often recommend stool softeners such as Colace or Surfak following childbirth or surgery . Osmotic laxatives such as Cephulac, Sorbitol and Miralax allow the fluids to move in a special way through the colon, allowing for bowel distention. Stimulant laxatives, such as Correctol, Purge and Senokot, cause rhythmic muscle contractions in the intestines. Avoid stimulant laxatives while breastfeeding, because large dosesmay pass into the breast milk and cause diarrhea in your baby, reports The Royal Woman's Hospital.
People can become dependent upon laxatives, so use them only if absolutely necessary and try to relieve constipation naturally before using an over-the-counter laxative. Always read the labels to ensure the laxative will not interfere with any medications you're taking and drink plenty of water when taking laxatives. Consult your physician if you have severe pain and discomfort from constipation.