A woman's reflection is shown in the glass over a dial on a scale. She appears upset and is holding her stomach. The number on the dial indicates lower weight and/or weight loss.

How IBS Impacted My Weight Loss After Birth

Recovery after giving birth to my first baby was hard. Like, really hard. Partially because I got tons of stitches, but mostly because of IBS. But one thing that came easily was losing weight. Actually, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight 2 weeks after delivery!

Sounds great, right? Well, it wasn’t. It was miserable. And here’s why.

The laxative fiasco

The first IBS-related phase of my postpartum journey was when the nurses started giving me laxatives. Only I didn’t know what they were. I just took them along with my pain killers, until I suddenly got really, really sick.

The flare caused by these laxatives lasted for several days. I barely ate, I went to the bathroom all the time. And, incidentally, I was also losing weight like crazy.

Within days, I was basically down to my pre-pregnancy weight!

The misery of never-ending flares

However, the IBS-journey didn’t stop there. My digestive system seemed to recover at first. It had eliminated all the laxatives and I was doing a bit better. But my body was still completely out of whack, and as soon as I started eating normal food again, I began having constant flares.

After every meal, I would start feeling sick and have to go to the bathroom multiple times. The safer the meal, the fewer bathroom trips there were, but it was never okay. My body was simply unable to digest food normally!

I’m not sure if that was due to anxiety (more on that later), hormones, or the fact that I simply ate the wrong things. Maybe it was a mixture of all of that. But the situation forced me to eat less and thus keep losing weight.

The return of IBS-related anxiety

In the first years of my IBS journey, I suffered from really bad anxiety related to having flare-ups in public. But that mostly went away once I started working from home and created a lifestyle that made me feel safe, despite IBS. Until now.

After having a baby, my IBS-related anxiety came back with a vengeance. I was scared of changing my baby because what if I had a flare in the middle of the process? Breastfeeding felt like a huge commitment each and every time because I would have to not use the bathroom as long as my son was eating. Or at least try to interrupt the feeding as little as possible.

And don’t even get me started on taking walks, or going to doctor’s appointments! Everything I had to do was accompanied by this uneasy feeling in the back of my mind.

This type of anxiety always leaves my stomach in knots and makes me lose all my appetite.

The forgotten diet

I’ve written a couple of articles about my experience with IBS during pregnancy. Or, to be precise, the lack thereof. My IBS-D somehow disappeared, or at least got a whole lot better, towards the end of my first trimester and didn’t come back until after I gave birth.

Now, I would have never thought that I could forget what it’s really like to suffer from flares. What safe foods I can consume to reduce the risk of getting sick. What my triggers are. But I did!

Somehow, I did not remember that it feels that bad. I’m still struggling to avoid snacking on trigger foods, to remove onions from my meals, and to not eat as soon as I get up. It’s strange how my brain blocked out all the misery after just a couple of symptom-free months!

Long story short, it took me a while to rediscover what a safe diet looks like for me. And with that came tons of flares, trips to the bathroom, and days where I could barely eat.

“You’ve recovered so well”

The funny thing is, my quick weight loss after birth was only due to me feeling absolutely miserable. Yes, I was extremely happy to have a baby, but my body was just not having it. And I would have traded that weight loss for better health without even thinking about it!

But the funny thing is, people never see what’s on the inside. Everyone kept complimenting me on my “super-fast recovery,” even though I kept telling them how sick I felt. All they saw was that my body did not look any different than it did before pregnancy, and that seemed to be the goal.

Well, I can’t say that I don’t care about weight loss at all. It’s the only silver lining with all the IBS-flares I’ve been going through. But at the same time, it’s just so unimportant. I’d much rather feel good than “look skinny”. But with IBS, I, unfortunately, didn’t get a choice.

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