Out of all of the mishaps that can occur during labor, soon-to-be mothers are terrified of pooping. Public defecation probably isn’t on anyone’s bucket list, but it’s likely to happen during a vaginal birth.
The truth is, if there are feces in your colon, the pressure of your baby will push them out during labor. For a pregnant woman, this sounds like a nightmare wrapped up in utter humiliation. But it’s not as horrifying as it sounds. Believe it or not, poop during delivery is good.
If you're afraid of having a bowel movement during labor, we have 7 reasons why you shouldn’t worry. Brace yourself for the scoop on labor poop.
7 You Won’t Know If It Happens
If a mother tells you she never pooped through her vaginal delivery, she may be among a small percentage of women who did not pass a stool during childbirth. Or maybe, she did have a bowel movement, but she didn’t realize it happened, and no one told her.
While it’s highly common for women to pass a stool during labor, doctors are reluctant to unnecessarily worry their patients. Obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Shieva Ghofrany does not volunteer this information to her patients before delivery. During labor, Ghofrany says most women don’t see it. And in the chance they do see it, they don’t care.
During active labor, there will be pain and pressure. You’ll probably be hooked up to an IV and a heart monitor. Your blood pressure will be checked periodically. Various medical staff will come into the room and look between your legs. All modesty quickly disappears.
There will be so much going on, that you will be preoccupied with other matters. When the contractions hit and you’re ready to push, poop will probably be the last thing on your mind. If you’re overly concerned about pooping, ask your OB/GYN and the nursing staff not to mention it. And even if you forget to ask, they probably won’t call you out.
6 Most Women Poop During Childbirth
Research shows that a substantial number of women who give birth vaginally have a bowel movement during labor. The reason for this has to do with the pushing process of childbirth.
There are three stages of labor and delivery. In the first stage, the baby slowly descends the cervical canal. When your cervix fully dilates to 10 centimeters, the second stage of labor can begin.
In stage two, it’s time to push. When the doctor, the nurse, or the midwife gives you the go-ahead, they will ask you to “ bear down.” This means during your contraction you need to push your pelvic area down. The further the baby descends, the more the baby feels like it's coming out of your bottom.
Your doctor will have seen this before
Pushing a big poop out of your rectum is the same motion as pushing a baby out of your vagina. You engage the same muscles. Plus, it takes a lot of physical force to push a baby out. You have to use all of your efforts down there, pushing harder than you ever pushed before. This is why so many women have a bowel movement during active labor.
A contraction can also cause you to poop. During a contraction, the uterine muscles tighten, and the abdomen becomes hard. This recurrent tightening helps your baby descend the birth canal. The compression can also expel fecal matter out of your body.
You may be thinking “Crap!” but it sounds more horrific than it is. The silver lining is pooping will convince your medical team that you are pushing correctly. So, don’t hold back when they ask you to push like you’re pooping.
5 It’s Par For the Course
Doctors, nurses, and midwives are familiar with poop during labor. It’s almost expected. In your hospital bed, an absorbent, flat pad will be placed underneath your bottom. If you poop, the bed mat will be changed quickly. Sterile gauze and towels will be available to clean up any mess. The nurses will be discreet, and no one will be the wiser. They also don’t want you to feel distracted by knowing that you just had a bowel movement.
There is no need to apologize to the medical staff if you have a bowel movement. Nurses and doctors see it all the time. If they're professionals, they will not make you feel self-conscious. You are not the first woman to poop and you won’t be the last.
What you don't want to do is not push at full force because you are afraid that you might poop on the table. This may inadvertently prolong your labor. It’s natural to feel embarrassed about letting go of feces, but the doctor and nurses won’t be phased. It’s just a part of childbirth.
4 You Can’t Control It
In the movies, women push two or three times, and the baby pops out. Perhaps this is why some pregnant women are surprised when labor turns out to be a lengthy process. For first-time mothers, active labor can last for an average of eight hours. Subsequent labors generally do not last as long. Still, labor involves a lot of pushing.
The most important task is to get your newborn out safely, poop or no poop. You have to focus on delivering the baby. You cannot hold back because you are afraid that you might have a BM on the table. Withholding your strength for the fear of embarrassment will only lead to a longer labor.
When the baby is ready to come out, a BM may come along for the ride, and that's okay. It’s not preventable, so try not to let it bother you.
3 We All Experience Embarrassing Moments
Picture this: you're in a meeting at work with ten people. As soon as the room becomes silent, your stomach growls. It’s a slightly embarrassing moment, but it’s probably not utterly mortifying. So, let’s take the level of embarrassment up a notch.
Imagine feeling sick with a cold. You have a sore throat, you’re coughing, and your nose is completely stuffed. Suddenly, you sneeze, and a thick glob of snot lands on top of your lip. Yeah, it’s gross. It’s a bodily function that you probably wouldn’t want anyone else to witness. But if your partner happened to see, it’s not the end of the world because these things happen to all of us.
You don't need to dwell on it
Your closest friends and family members have probably seen you in at least one compromising position. If your mother had to hold your hair while you threw up, she wouldn’t look at you differently. If you accidentally passed gas while coughing, your true blue best friend would not judge you. And if you poop during labor, your partner will still love you because you’re human.
As humiliating as these things may seem, they are necessary in an effort to bring your beautiful child into the world. In the grand scheme of childbirth, it’s just a little poop.
2 After Giving Birth, You’ll Be Glad You Had a BM
Pain medications prescribed during labor can harden your stools. Prescription drugs, such as diamorphine and pethidine, have been known to make bowel movements difficult to push out. Postpartum medications have a similar effect.
Perineal soreness after delivery also contributes to constipation. Stitches, bruising, and tears cause enough pain to make new mothers hesitant to go to the bathroom.
To alleviate the physical discomfort, your health care provider may suggest:
- A laxative, such as Colace
- Drinking plenty of water
- Eating fruits, vegetables, and a high fiber diet
- Not pushing too hard while going to the bathroom
- Plenty of rest
Since postpartum constipation is an uncomfortable condition, consider yourself lucky if you have a bowel movement during labor.
1 It Helps You Decide Who You Want in the Delivery Room
The delivery room is not exactly an intimate environment. The birthing team may consist of a doctor, nurses, medical students, a midwife, and your partner. Even if no extended family members are allowed to enter, there is going to be between five to ten people in the room. Without siblings, parents, in-laws, and cousins, the hospital delivery room will be very busy.
Understandably, everyone wants an invite to witness the phenomenal event of childbirth. You may not mind being physically exposed, but lots of unexpected events can happen during childbirth.The intensity of labor pain may be unexpected. You could sweat profusely. You could pass gas or have a bowel movement. These are just a few natural bodily functions that occur while in labor. Considering these factors, it really makes you think with whom you want to share this intimate moment.
You'll want someone you know you can trust in there
If all of these events happened, you might feel vulnerable and flustered among a crowd of onlookers. Your job in that moment is to deliver a baby, not to worry about embarrassing situations. Worry can actually delay your progress. This is why thinking about labor pooping is a good way to decide who you really want in the delivery room. Ask yourself, are you completely and utterly comfortable with this person watching you poop?
On the other hand, you can always ask your family and friends to stay close to your face for moral support. Enforce a no-looking-down-there rule. That way, you can have privacy during childbirth while sharing the blessed moment with your loved ones.