Updated: Nov 14, 2022
Pregnancy can be a very constipating time. So much so, that many clients rely on stool softeners throughout the entire pregnancy.
I recommend preparing for your postpartum poops with stool softeners, especially if you've had a tear or a c-section, but are stool softeners a long-term resolutions to your constipation problem?
Although stool softeners are symptoms relievers, I do not think they should be relied on long-term, and if they are needed long-term we need to be looking deeper.
Stool Softeners Are a Short-Term Solution
Colace, or Docusate Sodium, works by increasing the amount of water the colon absorbs, creating softer and easier stools to pass.
Colace is a great option for managing occasional constipation, such as when traveling or after surgery.
But it's not a long-term solution. Long-term use of Docusate Sodium can create a dependence on laxatives, decreasing your body's ability to create a healthy bowel movement without it.
Stool softeners are excelled solutions for a short-term problem, but if you are using it daily, it's time to have a talk with your doctor about why.
Getting to the "Why" of your GI Issue
Unless indicated by your doctor, regular use of stool softeners to manage bowel movements is not considered a healthy bowel habit, and is something you might want to rethink.
When addressing bowel dysfunction, we need to be thinking about the big picture. Why is the stool so hard and slow in the first place?
Bowel issues can be the result of digestion problems, intestinal permeability issues, gut microbiome imbalances, inflammation in the intestines, or nervous system problems.
It can also be the result of pelvic floor tension and inability to fully relax the pelvic floor to allow stool to exit, and/or mechanics of how we are pooping.
But more than that, your gastrointestinal (GI) system dysfunction is not at all isolated. Problems in our GI arise from imbalance in our lifestyle, mental health, stress and sleep levels as well.
How you feed yourself and care for yourself directly impacts your GI.
Chronic GI issues can create skin issues, allergies, allergic reactions, and trigger the onset of autoimmune diseases we may not even attribute to our gut flora, but are directly related.
This is why it is simply inadequate to mask chronic bowel issues with stool softeners.
Many people suffering from GI problems have already travelled down a long and difficult road of endless uncomfortable tests and scopes, with no resolution.
My favorite team for this group of people includes:
Functional Medicine Doctor
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy
Mental Health Professional
Functional Medicine will help you find out what is going awry in your intestinal system, pelvic floor physical therapy will help calm your nervous system and address any scar tissue or pelvic floor tension/dysfunction creating physical blocks, and mental health will help you set healthy boundaries, create self-care time, and manage whatever trauma is creating more inflammation in your body.
I know this got serious really quick! If you are relying on stool softener for regular bowel movements, know that you are doing your best, but it's time to take a deeper look as to why you need it!