Pregnancy is a beautiful and miraculous experience. When we consider everything a woman goes through to conceive, carry, and give birth to another human being, it’s amazing. In addition to feeling strong and powerful, many women feel feminine and beautiful during their pregnancy.
But pregnancy does come with its fair share of not-so-beautiful side effects. While a pregnant woman might be enjoying that pregnancy glow and a thick, luxurious head of hair right now, she’ll eventually end up dealing with the side of pregnancy that’s more gross than glamorous – that is, childbirth.
Sure, moms-to-be can still appreciate and be amazed by everything that’s happening to their body during labor and delivery. The female body is capable of some crazy stuff. But it’s admittedly kind of hard for a new mom to feel in awe of herself when she’s not sure if she’s leaking amniotic fluid or peeing her pants. The same thing goes for when she’s afraid to go to the bathroom for the first time after giving birth. Motherhood might be a beautiful thing, but that first bowel movement sure isn’t.
In all honesty, we need to remember that giving birth is one of the most natural things a woman can do. In this day and age, when so many are concerned with their looks and what other people think of them, the last place women should be concerned about their appearance is in the delivery room. Even though childbirth may result in blood and barf, stretch marks and scars, it’s still beautiful. Gross, but beautiful. Here’s a list of some gross, but perfectly normal, things that can happen during labor and delivery.
13 That Just Sounds Gross
The mucus plug blocks the opening of the cervix kind of like a cork to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus. The mucus plug is usually a clear, stringy, sticky glob of discharge. It may be tinged with pink or red blood. Before labor begins, the mucus plug falls out. However, this can happen hours, days, and even weeks before labor starts. This is okay, though, because the cervix continues to make mucus (all that extra discharge many women experience during pregnancy!) to keep the cervix and your baby protected.
Some women will notice that their mucus plug has come out while going to the bathroom. Others may miss it completely and never see it. It can also come out gradually in small pieces, so you might not notice it. It will most likely come out before your water breaks, although you could have a small tear or break in the plug which allows fluid to leak out.
12 Did My Water Just Break?
Speaking of water breaking, that’s next on our list of gross things that can happen during labor and delivery. While it’s not usually the big splash you see in movies or on TV, the feeling is different for everybody. Some women may feel like there’s a little bit of a slow leak, others may feel like they’re straight up peeing their pants. Once it starts leaking, the amniotic fluid will continue to empty, so if you do feel a little (or a lot) drippy, you can wear a pad to protect your clothes or put a towel in the car to protect your seat…
Because when your water breaks, it’s time to call the doctor and get ready to head to the hospital. If your water breaks before 37 weeks, it’s considered pre-term labor. If you don’t give birth within 24 hours of your water breaking, the doctor may give you IV antibiotics to make sure your baby doesn’t get an infection. Your doctor may also induce labor to get things moving.
11 Drop A Deuce
As if childbirth isn’t enough to worry about, a lot of women worry about pooping during childbirth. The reason why many women poop during delivery is because the same muscles you’re using to push are the ones you use during a bowel movement. In addition, there’s lots of pressure on your colon and rectum from the weight of the baby moving through the birth canal. Hormones also play a part; the same hormones that kick in during the beginning of labor, prostaglandins, are also the hormones involved in normal bowel functions.
There’s not really any way to prevent pooping during labor. Some women may have a bowel movement, or even have diarrhea, before labor begins, possibly as nature’s way of clearing everything out before baby comes. Back in the day, doctors used to give women enemas before birth, but that’s not really common these days. If you’re having an epidural, you might not even be able to feel the urge to poop – or know that it’s happening. And even if you do, there’s so much other stuff going on, that it should be the least of your worries. The doctors and nurses have all seen it before.
10 So Does Barf
In addition to the possibility of poo during labor, some women may end up feeling nauseous and vomit during labor. And just like the pushing poo, nurses and doctors are prepared to handle the barf and move about their business.
Nausea and vomiting late in your pregnancy could even be a sign that labor is beginning. It can occur several hours or even up to a few days before labor starts. As labor progresses, these yucky feelings can intensify, even continuing as contractions get stronger and stronger.
Some women may experience a sudden drop in blood pressure after receiving an epidural, and may then end up feeling nauseous and even getting sick. Some anesthesia and medications may even increase the sensation of nausea. However, throwing up can also be the result of the pain you’re experiencing, or the food that’s sitting in your stomach. Since digestion grinds to a halt during labor, it’s best to eat only light foods during early labor – and that’s one of the reasons why some doctors suggest you stop eating completely during active labor.
9 A Tear Down There
The thought of a vaginal tear or an episiotomy (an incision to widen the vaginal opening) during delivery can make many women cringe. Unfortunately, the odds of tearing can be pretty high, especially if you’re a first-time mom. During childbirth, the vagina has to stretch enough to allow a baby to come through, so if it can’t stretch, the tissue will tear. There are four types of tears, and while they’re all painful on some levels, some can be serious.
A first-degree tear is just a tear in the lining of the vagina. (Oh, yeah. “Just” a tear. No big deal.) It doesn’t go into the muscle, but may still require stitches. A second-degree tear involves the vaginal lining and goes deeper into the vaginal tissue. A third-degree tear goes deep into the vaginal tissue and the muscles that make up the anal sphincter. The doctor will have to stitch up each layer separately, making sure to carefully close the muscle layer supporting the sphincter. A fourth-degree tear is the least common (thank goodness!) and includes tearing through the vaginal tissue and muscles and extending right into the lining of the rectum.
8 Is That Cottage Cheese?
When a baby is still developing in the womb, he’s covered with a thick, white layer of a cheese-like substance called vernix caseosa. This cheesy layer has several functions. One job is to protect the baby’s delicate skin from soaking in amniotic fluid and to act as a barrier from infection. The vernix also acts like insulation, to keep the baby warm and help him maintain a proper and comfortable temperature. The thick layer acts as a seal to prevent baby’s skin from drying out and wrinkling up. It’s also a bit of a lubricant, to help the baby slide on down the birth canal.
If your baby is overdue, there might not be a lot of vernix, or it might be missing entirely. It probably got absorbed in the amniotic fluid. If it is there, there’s no need to hurry up and wipe it off. Research shows that removing it isn’t necessary, and that it might actually contain good bacteria to help protect the baby after his arrival.
7 Hello, Conehead!
You probably weren’t expecting to give birth a cute little conehead, but sometimes that happens. Don’t be alarmed if it looks like your baby has an elongated skull. A newborn baby’s skull is made of soft, movable plates that allow the head to be molded during labor; this helps it pass through the birth canal. If a baby is stuck or takes awhile to come out, the shape of his head might look a little odd, but it will return to normal in a few days.
It’s also common for a baby’s head to swell and appear bruised after a vaginal delivery, especially if a forceps or vacuum extraction became necessary. And, although it’s rare, sometimes the pressure from labor can result in bleeding above the skull’s bones, causing a bump over the back of one side (or both sides) of the head. This is called cephalohematoma, and should go away in a few weeks.
6 Are You Gonna Eat That?
After all that pushing, your baby is finally out… but you’re actually not done pushing yet. You have to push out the placenta, too. After delivery, you’ll continue to experience mild contractions that will help separate the placenta from the wall of the uterus and move it through the birth canal so that you can push it out, too.
Your doctor may give you some Pitocin to encourage your uterine contractions, which will help your uterus start to shrink back to its normal size. Your doctor may also press on your abdomen and ask you to push, or may even (gently!) pull on the umbilical cord to help ease the placenta out.
Once it’s out, the doctor will examine the placenta to make sure it all came out. If there are any pieces of the uterus missing, the doctor will examine your uterus to find and remove any pieces that got left behind.
5 When Is This Thing Gonna Fall Off?!
In the womb, the placenta is the source of nourishment and oxygen for the baby. The baby is connected to the placenta by the umbilical cord. After your baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut close to your baby’s body. (Don’t worry, it’s painless!) This leaves an umbilical stump attached to your baby’s belly button. The stump will dry up and fall off in about 7-21 days, although it may feel like that thing hangs on forever! When it does finally fall off, you may notice a little blood, but that’s normal.
In the meantime, you’ll have to keep the umbilical cord stump clean and dry. Avoid dressing your baby in bodysuits to avoid it rubbing against the cord stump. Fold diapers down and away from the stump, or buy diapers with a notch cut out specifically for the umbilical cord area. Keep the area clean and dry. Give your baby sponge baths instead of fully submerging them in a bath tub. Let air circulate to help dry the stump out, and never pull on the stump, even if it seems like it’s only hanging by a thread.
Hemorrhoids are basically veins in the lowest part of your anus that are swollen; sometimes the walls of these blood vessels get stretched so thin that the veins bulge and get irritated. Pregnancy can make women more prone to hemorrhoids, and chances are, if you had them before pregnancy, you’ll probably get them during pregnancy. When you’re pregnant, the uterus puts lots of pressure on the pelvic veins, which can cause them to become enlarged. Thanks to the increase of hormones during pregnancy, your veins can relax a little, which allows them to swell more easily. In addition, hormones can also slow down your digestive tract, which can lead to constipation. Constipation can lead to straining when you poop, which can lead to (or irritate) hemorrhoids. You can even get hemorrhoids from pushing really hard during labor. So, to summarize, you can get those pesky hemorrhoids from pooping, pregnancy, and pushing.
4 The Baby's Gotta Come Out Somehow!
A vaginal delivery is no picnic, but a C-section certainly isn’t a walk in the park, either. Although a C-section is major abdominal surgery, it’s a pretty straightforward. procedure And it’s fast! A routine procedure can be as quick as ten minutes or less, followed by another half an hour or so to stitch you back up.
Although it’s quick, it ain’t pretty. Once you’re numbed, the doctor will make an incision in your abdomen, just above the pubic hair line. The doctor will then make another incision in the uterus. Amniotic fluid will be suctioned out, and then with a lot of tugging and pulling, your baby will be lifted out of you. Although you’re numb and shouldn’t feel any pain, you will definitely feel your body being jerked around as they pull the baby out. The pulling and tugging sensation may even feel a little rough, and you might feel suction as the baby is removed. But then you’ll hear your baby cry, and it won’t matter that your insides are probably still being sewn back together while you meet your new little one for the first time.
3 There Will Be Blood
Everybody knows there will be some blood involved during childbirth. But the amount of blood you have to deal with afterwards can be a bit of a shocker. After you give birth, it’ll seem like you have a really heavy period for a few days. (Whether you had a vaginal delivery or a C-section.) Here’s why:
When the placenta detaches from a uterus, it basically leaves behind a gaping wound where it was attached to the uterine wall. All those open blood vessels will bleed into the uterus. The uterus will continue to contract after childbirth and after the placenta is delivered. This helps close off those blood vessels and shrink your uterus back down to its normal size.
The blood discharge that results, known as lochia, may flow smoothly or come out in gushes. If you’ve been lying down for awhile, you may have some thicker clots come out. This discharge will gradually lighten and thin out, turning pink and eventually white or yellowish. It should taper off and stop completely in about two to four weeks.
2 Excuse me!
You’ll experience a wide range of emotions and physical feelings after childbirth. You’ll probably be sore, whether you had a C-section or a vaginal delivery. Your muscles might ache from pushing. You’ll be exhausted and overwhelmed with joy and love for your new baby. You’ll also probably have gas. Compared to everything else you’ve got going on, it might seem like a minor issue, but it’s a little weird, and it can actually be kind of uncomfortable.
Pregnancy hormones can throw your digestive system out of whack; digestion can slow down to a halt, trapping gas inside. A vaginal delivery can put a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor and anus, which can make it hard to control your gas. If you had a C-section, you’re likely to have air trapped inside your abdomen. Increasing your movement and getting up and walking when you’re able to will help relieve any gas that’s trapped in your abdomen.
While your baby may be perfect and beautiful, every baby’s first poops are a nasty mess. You can expect baby’s first poop to look like greenish-black tar. In fact, it will be sticky like tar. This first poop is known as meconium. It’s made up of amniotic fluid, mucus, skin cells, and other stuff ingested in utero. That’s right. Ingested. Swallowed. Your baby swallowed all that goop. The result is sticky dark meconium poop. It’s disgusting, but at least it doesn’t smell.
When your baby is a few days old, the poop will begin transitioning into a lighter shade of green and will become less sticky. This is a sign that the baby’s digestive system is working the way it’s supposed to.
There’s a wide range of what’s considered normal when it comes to baby poop. Breastfed babies will have mustardy-yellow looking poops that look like they contain grainy little seeds. Formula-fed babies tend to have poops that look really green, thanks to the iron in the formula. And when babies start eating solid foods? Look out!
1 Your First Poop... After Baby
While your newborn baby can poop, like, eight times a day, you may experience postpartum constipation, which is a real bummer. Constipation after childbirth can be caused by a few things.
One, it could be the pain medicine you received while you were in the hospital. Once you stop taking them, your bowel movements should return to normal. Same thing goes with prenatal vitamins if you’re still taking them. Don’t just stop taking your vitamins, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Instead, talk to your doctor about finding one that is less likely to constipate you.
Your digestive system could also just be slowed down after labor and delivery. Add lots of high fiber grains to your diet, like whole-grain cereals, breads, brown rice, and oats. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Drink lots of water, or, if you have to, prune juice, to hopefully get things moving in the right direction.
Finally, your mind could simply be playing tricks on you. If you had a rough time with delivery and had tearing, an episiotomy, stitches, or hemorrhoids, the thought of doing any more pushing in that area can be a little intimidating. Try your best to relax… and maybe ask your doctor about a stool softener or a laxative.