Assessment of bowel function in the peripartum period

Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2014 Jan;289(1):23-7. doi: 10.1007/s00404-013-2914-9. Epub 2013 Jun 14.


Purpose: Obstetric patients frequently experience changes in bowel function, throughout pregnancy and into the postpartum period. Little is known regarding the timing and consistency of bowel movements immediately postpartum. The primary aim of this study was to characterize the timing and consistency of the first bowel movement after obstetric delivery in a racially diverse population at an academic medical center.

Methods: Patients were approached on the day of delivery. Patients received a data collection survey to record the date and consistency of their first bowel movement. Consistency was assessed using the Bristol Stool Form Scale.

Results: One hundred and sixty-nine patients were enrolled and 101 completed surveys were returned, for a response rate of 59%. The average number of days to first bowel movement was 1.55 versus 3.38 (p < 0.01), for vaginal delivery and cesarean section, respectively. Univariate analysis revealed cesarean delivery (+1.79 days, p < 0.01) and breastfeeding (-0.64 days, p = 0.01) as independent factors affecting the timing of the first bowel movement.

Conclusions: Both route of delivery and breastfeeding status may affect timing and consistency of the first bowel movement after obstetric delivery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding
  • Cesarean Section*
  • Defecation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Parturition / physiology*
  • Peripartum Period / physiology*
  • Pregnancy