The bedside table in a hospital is full of flowers, congratulations cards, and a pink teddy bear, as well as a bottle of medication. A stroke of lightning comes in from the window and strikes the bottle, and the faces on the card and the bear change to alarm as the lightning lights up all the items in the room.

Postpartum, IBS, and Laxatives - A Horror Story

After giving birth, and having what felt like thousands of stitches, I kind of dreaded having to go to the bathroom for the first time. I hadn’t had proper IBS in several months, and I had no idea when and how it would come back.

What I didn’t know is that I was in for quite a surprise!

The wrong medication

At the hospital, they started giving me a stool softener after birth to make things “easier.” And as someone who never deals with constipation and thus has no idea what stool softener actually is, I naively believed that they gave me something else than a laxative. Boy, was I wrong.

I only found out after having the absolute worst flare-up I’ve ever had in my life. It lasted several days, and I had a newborn to take care of by myself (the father was only allowed to come once a day). Let’s just say that feedings were interrupted, although I really tried my best.

IBS flares and postpartum don’t mix

The worst thing about having an IBS flare after giving birth is that your perineal muscles get so stretched during delivery that it takes a while for them to start working again (they do, eventually!)

So, at the point of the story, 3 days postpartum, I wasn’t there yet. To be honest, I wouldn’t even have noticed that if I didn’t suddenly get super bad diarrhea… but that’s the way IBS goes.

Not only was I horrified when I started having the worst flare-up ever, but I now also had to leave everything once I sensed the urge to go if I wanted to reach the bathroom in time. Not easy when you’re feeding or changing a baby!

It was like having my worst nightmare realized. After all, with IBS, you really need those muscles to work.

Reality check

I felt so terrible for hours on end that I ended up calling a nurse to ask if she could at least help me with the baby. But she wouldn’t because, in her opinion, I needed to find ways to take care of my baby myself. According to her, I wouldn’t have help at home either.

Even though she may have been right (although not very understanding), this is hard to hear when you’re in the middle of the worst flare-up you’ve ever had. So, I spent the rest of my hospital stay trying to taking care of my baby boy and IBS flare-up at the same time.

After 48 very rough hours spent feeding, running to the bathroom and back, trying to sleep, feeding again, I finally made it to the point where things slowly started getting better.

The moral of the story

So, here’s how IBS came back into my life after pregnancy. A horrible, miserable mess, as it usually is! I guess that the moral of the story is threefold:

  1. Firstly, NEVER take anything that might or might not be a laxative when you have IBS-D. Unless there is a medical reason for it. Which there wasn’t for me because I wasn’t even constipated.
  2. Secondly, it's best to avoid IBS flares right after giving birth, so play it safe until your body had time to recover a bit.
  3. And lastly, you CAN get through tough situations like this. I did, messily, miserably, but I did it anyway.

IBS made my first few days postpartum a living hell, but my baby was fed, clean, and happy. And that’s an accomplishment, right?

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