Without a doubt, one of the most common questions I get as a midwife is, "Is it true that I'm going to poop while I'm giving birth?"
The fear is certainly understandable—it doesn't sound like our idea of a fun group activity.
Well, my dear, the bad news is that yes, you most likely will poop a little when you are giving birth.
The good news is that it is 110% completely okay. Promise!
First, let's talk about why it happens.
When you first get the urge to push when you're in labor, it feels a lot like when you need to have a bowel movement (a.k.a. poop). This is because the baby's head is getting lower and pressing against your rectum (check out the diagram below), making it feel like you really have to go to the bathroom.
Motherly Birth Class
As the baby makes her way out, she is going to sort of squeeze the poop out as she continues to move past your rectum.
Also, when you do the work of pushing your baby out, it's actually the same work as having a bowel movement—in fact, sometimes when a woman is having a hard time pushing, I'll suggest she sit on the toilet for a few pushes because it feels more natural to do the motion there. So, some stool will likely come out from the action of pushing, just like when you are going to the bathroom.
Okay, so now you know why it happens, but you don't feel any better about the fact that it might happen. Let's discuss.
First, the people in the room—your nurses, midwife or doctor, and even your partner—will barely even notice. Seriously. It happens at such an exciting time in your birth because your baby is so very close to being born. People will be focused on a million other things at that moment, as will you!
If anything, we just get a little excited when it happens—we're a weird lot, I know. But it means that you are doing an awesome job pushing and that your baby is coming. We'll just wipe it away quickly and move on with your beautiful birth.
And for the record, I have never once been involved in a conversation with another medical provider about someone's labor poop. We do not leave the room and talk about it, ever. It really doesn't phase us, even a little bit.
When women have a bowel movement during labor, it may also expose babies to healthy bacteria that they are missing in their bellies at the time of birth, which may help them to be healthier. For example, studies have found that giving premature babies certain probiotics can help them grow faster.
In fact, there are doctors that recommend a process known as vaginal seeding in cesarean births, where a swab is inserted into the woman's vagina, and then into the baby's mouth to expose the baby to the bacteria he is not coming into contact with in the vaginal canal and perineum.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not recommend this as routine practice yet though, stating that much more research needs to be done on the topic to prove its safety and efficacy.
I know it's not a pleasant thing to think about. But really—pooping in labor is so normal. There is so much going on for you right now—please don't let the fear of this keep you up at night. You are going to do great. You've got this.