As a doula, one of the most common questions I am asked is “do women really poop during labor?” The answer is almost ALWAYS, yes. OH, THE HORROR! I know, I know, the thought of having a bowel movement with all eyes on your bottom seems like one of the worst things to endure, but I promise that it is a completely normal – and expected- part of delivery.
As your body prepares for delivery you will often find you have an increased urge to “go” and sometimes you will have diarrhea or loose stools. As the baby’s head descends the birth canal it presses on nerves that stimulate that “need to go” sensation. As delivery becomes more immanent, women often find it comforting to sit and labor on the toilet. Those “poop” pushes are great practice and sitting on the toilet is the perfect way to relax the pelvic floor. If you find this position soothing, you can sit on the toilet facing backward and lean over the back with a few pillows. This will leave your back open for hips squeezes and back rubs from your partner or doula. Your birth team will find it very normal to see you laboring in this position, so please do not feel self-conscious sitting on the “throne”.
When it comes time to push, you will be told to bear down like you are having a bowel movement. You most likely will. Do not tense up and try to hold in the poop AND push your baby out. It simply doesn’t work that way. Push with your urges and focus on relaxing your pelvic floor. If you have a bowel movement, it will be cleaned up quickly and discretely by your nurses or OB. They have seen bowel movements thousands of times, it will not phase them. It is simply a natural process of birth.
Did you know that having a bowel movement during delivery actually serves a purpose? It is one of the same reasons that babies are born most often and most easily facing towards the birthing person’s bottom. When a baby is born, it is leaving its sterile environment. When they pass through the birth canal, vaginal opening, and the mother’s thighs, they are colonized with millions of bacteria. This will develop the baby’s immune system. The mother’s fecal matter plays an important role in this process. Fecal matter that touches the baby’s skin, eyes, and mouth, will set them up with a lasting immune system and their own unique microbiome.
So if poop happens, don’t fret. It is natural, extremely common, and it actually serves a purpose. Go into labor feeling relaxed and confident. Your body knows exactly what to do. Our bodies know how to deliver a healthy and strong baby. Whatever bodily functions we encounter, we can rest assured that we aren’t the first and won’t be the last.