Each year, around 30 percent of babies delivered in the United States are born via cesarean.

Caring for a newborn baby while recovering from surgery isn’t an easy task. Although most new mothers can return home in one to four days, recovery is usually harder than after a vaginal birth. New moms who’ve had a cesarean delivery must take extra precautions like keeping an eye out for possible infections or excessive pain. They should avoid carrying anything heavier than their baby.

As with any surgery, a cesarean delivery has complications and risks. Many new moms experience constipation after delivery. Following surgery, the hospital staff will likely encourage you to move as soon as possible. This helps prevent blood clot formation and constipation.

Here’s how to ease constipation following a cesarean delivery.

Postpartum, slow bowel movements are often caused by fluctuating hormones, or by an inadequate amount of liquid or fiber in the diet.

Following a cesarean delivery, there are several other possible causes for constipation:

  • the anesthetic used during surgery (it can temporarily make your muscles sluggish)
  • narcotic pain medications
  • dehydration, which is more of a risk for breast-feeding moms
  • iron in prenatal supplements
  • weakened pelvic muscles

Another potential cause of constipation is psychological. Many moms have a fear of pain, or of having their stitches rupture.

Try one of the natural solutions below to help ease your bowel movements so you don’t strain too hard.

Constipation after delivery shouldn’t last for more than three to four days, but it can be very uncomfortable. Many doctors will prescribe a breast-feeding-safe stool softener immediately after delivery to help with constipation.

Here are some of the other things you can do to find relief:

1. Move

If you’re able to move around, do so several times a day. Try to increase the amount of time by a few minutes every day. Moving can help with gas and bloating, too.

Also ask your doctor about some gentle stretches you can add to your daily movement routine.

2. Drink Warm Liquids

Drink a glass of warm water with lemon juice every morning. Also drink herbal teas during the day, such as chamomile or fennel tea. Fennel is known to help increase breast milk production. It might also help with gas and bloating.

Drink water throughout the day, but avoid ice cold water. Instead, try room temperature or even lukewarm water.

3. Eat Prunes

Prunes are known to help alleviate constipation. Add some to your daily breakfast routine. You can eat them in hot cereal, or drink prune or pear juice.

4. Go for Fiber

Make sure you include plenty of fiber in your meals, both soluble from fruit and veggies, and insoluble like the ones from whole grain cereal and breads.

5. Rest Up

Get plenty of rest to help your body recover from surgery.

6. Eat Iron-Rich Foods

Many prenatal vitamins are iron-rich. But if iron supplements make constipation worse, try iron-rich foods, including:

  • chicken
  • red meat
  • dark leafy vegetables
  • beans

You can also switch to a different supplement. Ask your doctor for a recommendation.

7. Relax

Anxiety can lead to constipation. Make time during the day to do some deep breathing and meditation.

Coffee is known to help many people maintain a regular bowel movement schedule. But it’s wise to stay away from caffeinated drinks while breast-feeding.

Caffeine is passed through breast milk to your baby. This can add agitation at a time when sleeping schedules and other daily routines haven’t been established.

A diet that includes plenty of water and fiber should help alleviate constipation after a cesarean delivery. Avoid refined and highly processed foods because they lack nutrients and fiber. They also usually have a high amount of salt and sugar.

If after a few weeks, you still haven’t found relief, contact your doctor. They may be able to recommend a breast-feeding-safe laxative or stool softener.