Bowel Function

After surgery, your caregivers will frequently ask whether you have passed gas. This is because passing gas is a sign that your bowels are returning to normal. You may not have a bowel movement for four to five days following surgery.

Woman’s offers the following helpful tips for returning to normal bowel function.


  • Drink warm liquids
  • Walk outside your room three to four times daily
  • After meals: walk, and then sit up in a chair for 30 to 60 minutes
  • Sit upright in a chair three to four times daily
  • Lie on your left side rather than on your back to help move gas through your bowels
  • Eat slowly
  • Eat small amounts
  • Chew your food well


  • Stay in bed for long periods during the day
  • Lie down for 30 to 60 minutes after eating
  • Eat gas-producing foods (cabbage, melon, carbonated drinks, broccoli)
  • Drink from a straw
  • Suck hard candy
  • Eat foods that you know give you gas

As your bowel function returns to normal, your diet will change from only liquids to soft foods. To help with any nausea you may experience due to sluggish bowels:

  • Eat small amounts of food
  • Eating slowly
  • Chew your food well

In addition to bowel function, your recovery will include returning to normal bladder function and gradually increasing your activity level. Throughout your recovery, take special care to use good hygiene. Always wash your hands before and after you touch your incision, and anytime you use the bathroom. Clean your genital area after you go to the bathroom by wiping from front to back.


For patients who did not have a bladder or urological procedure, the following exercises may help you to pass gas:

Abdominal Tightening

Gently suck your belly in as if you are trying to zip up pants that no longer fit. Do not hold your breath. Relax. Repeat 5 times.

Pelvic Tilt

Lie on your back with your knees bent (may also be done sitting). Rock your pelvis back and forth using your stomach and buttock muscles. Do not hold your breath. Repeat 5 times.

Bridge and Twist

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Tighten your buttock and stomach muscles and raise your hips a few inches off the bed. Hold this position and twist to the left and then twist to the right. Lower your buttocks back to the bed and relax.

Bowel Massage

Massage your bowel by making small circles with your fingers on the surface of your belly, along the bowel. Always move from the right side to the left side. Use two fingers to press down gently into the belly as you circle around. This massage is most helpful if done while lying on your left side.

Avoid Constipation

Once you return home, you will want to continue on your journey toward complete bowel function. You can help avoid constipation with the following tips:

  • Drink plenty of liquids; eat lots of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink warm liquids to help your bowels move.
  • You may take a laxative or stool softener if you need it.
  • Avoid gas-producing foods such as asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, prunes, pears and beans.
  • Perform the recommended exercises to help you pass gas.