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What’s The Poop?

Is the baby the only thing coming out of me during labor?

By Ceridwen Morris |

This may be a stupid question, but I just read that the baby comes out facing my butt. I have also heard that women sometimes have bowel movements when they are pushing. I am slightly concerned about how this all works. – Too posh to poop

Dear Too Posh,

There’s no such thing as a stupid question, even when it involves the delightful prospect of defecating on a baby. In fact, this is a very common and totally understandable concern. Many women worry about what might come out in addition to a baby.

When you bear down in labor, you use the same muscles you use when you have a bowel movement. The urge to push a baby is pretty much the same as the urge to use the toilet. It’s all the same area, same triggers, same muscles. So, yeah, it’s true poop happens. It’s common. It’s normal. And you will likely never have a clue if it does.

Caregivers are discreet and quick to wipe away any evidence. They have seen it all a hundred times. No one will scream “GROSS.” No one will worry. And if your partner or labor support person is watching the baby emerge, it’s unlikely he or she will even notice.

As far as the baby’s involvement: Any poop action will probably happen earlier in the pushing stage and be well out of the way before the baby’s head emerges. Women often have diarrhea at the onset of labor: the hormone progesterone loosens intestines along with everything else. There is always the enema. A staple of labor preparation in the olden days, women are no longer required to flush their bowels before delivering babies. You can still request an enema if you want one, but realize that this comes with its own set of discomforts and humiliations. Plus, labor and your intestines are long. Even if you empty your bowels early in labor, by the time you push you may be hitting another digestion cycle.

Also worth mentioning while talking about babies and nethers: there’s a lot of good bacteria in the birth canal (AKA the vagina) that does all kinds of wonders for the baby’s immune system. Seriously, one reason there’s added risk in a c-section is that babies miss out on that smear of bacteria. So while this may all seem rather impolite, it’s a pretty good system.

Almost all babies born vaginally do come out facing the rear (posterior position). But when the head crowns and emerges, the baby’s face turns out rather than back towards the anus. It’s kind of like the head at the prow of a boat and pretty rad, at that.

Bottom line is: try not to worry about the poop factor. If you’re trying to push but also not trying to push, you’ll give yourself more unnecessary work. Birth is a pretty solidly intense event: women in labor tend to shift their priorities completely. It’s hard to imagine now, but the chances are excellent that when that moment comes, poop anxiety will be pretty low on your list.

Have a question? Email beingpregnant@babble.com

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About Ceridwen Morris

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Ceridwen Morris

Ceridwen Morris, CCE, is a writer, childbirth educator and the co-author of From The Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Becoming a Parent.

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17 thoughts on “What’s The Poop?

  1. jojo44 says:

    I was terrified of this prospect before I went into labor.  When labor started, I gave myself an enema.  As things go, this really was at the very bottom of my list of worries when the baby actually came out.  What the hell?  Give yourself an enema.  It’s less embarrassing than having a nurse do it.  My labor was so long, though, that it really, really did not matter. 

  2. Ali says:

    I have never understood why people do water births knowing you will probably poop while pushing. Who wants their newborn floating with turds in a big toilet? Often babies inhale their moms poop too. Lots of complications there. Safer to have the kid on dry land and hope the docs pull the baby out of your poop before he takes a breath.

  3. catmom says:

    Haven’t babies been inhaling their own crap in utero? And they’re out of the water by the time you’ve got them actually breathing air, aren’t they?

  4. adjm says:

    In a water birth, the baby doesn’t inhale water. The baby is born into the same climate as the uterus and isn’t feeling the need to breathe air until he is quickly pulled out of the water. So the baby isn’t inhaling mom’s poo. Also, the midwives and doulas are all there to clear/clean the water if an accident happens in it. And babies are not inhaling poo inside the uterus. They usually haven’t had their first poo yet, unless there is a reason for the baby to experience stress in utero. Then the likelyhood of it happening is a little higher. Still, even in a post-EDD baby when meconium (baby’s first poo) can be present, it’s very rare that the baby breathes it in. Don’t worry about the poo. Just push! ;)

  5. RedKitten says:

    I was also terrified of pooping while in labour. However, after a very, very long labour, by the time I was ready to push, I honestly didn’t give a damn. I could have pooped, thrown up, or been pelted by tomatoes by a roomful of vengeful circus clowns, and I would not have noticed nor cared. Nothing mattered except getting that baby out.So don’t worry about it, hon. In labour, nothing goes as you’ve planned or anticipated. By the 28th hour, my husband and I were actually laughing at my birth plan and how it was such an epic fail.

  6. I pooped says:

    I also was not aware that you may poop while pushing before I went into labor. I pooped before the pushing and thought I was set. After the birth, I asked the hub, why did the nurse keep wiping my bottom, I did not care if there was fluid down there? He laughed and told me she kept wiping me because I pooped with every push. I had no idea!! Somewhat embarrassing, but too late to really care!

  7. momtospeedybabe says:

    ah, yes. Priorities. What everyone who has been there will say – and for once it is completely true. By the time you are pushing that little critter out, you will not give one iota about what anyone else is thinking or seeing – it all comes down to just you two, the rest is just noise. Good luck, and tell babe to head into the light…as quick as he/she can…

  8. poopnbirth says:

    your pushing a baby out of your vagina with blood and waters and slime and mucous. get over it people. it is a part of life. you shit every day. you only give birth once in a while. I dont understand why people are paranoid about it. when I had my twins, i pooped. who cares. and i wouldnt be ashamed to have a water birth and pooping. it is the furthest from your mind when the sweet relief comes and you are holding that slimy, vernix covered baby!

  9. Modest Mom says:

    It’s funny how people always say “you won’t care or you won’t notice, get over it,” etc.  The fact is some of us are extremely modest and the entire birthing process is ridiculously humiliating.  With my second child, now 11 months old, I had a natural birth, and I pooped.  Even though I was suffering more than I knew a human could, I was still horrified when the smell hit my nose and I realized what had happened.  To this day it bothers me.  Perhaps it shouldn’t, in fact, I know it shouldn’t.  But it does.  Blood and mucous, okay.  Shit, not okay.  Sorry, that’s just how I feel.

  10. rstgoyam says:

    Hahahaha, I pooped, your comment was really funny because the same happened to me. The only difference is that it was my mom who answer the question. As some people have pointed out, you do not feel it when is happening and I guess the nurses are so used to it that they have the ability to wipe and throw away the pad very quickly. I also thought that they kept throwing away pads because too much water and blood were coming out, hehehe.

  11. jmagnus13 says:

    I was totally aware that I was pooping as I pushed, and I wanted the nurse to keep my butt lightly covered so my mother and friend/doula didn’t see it (my husband was up by my head). It wasn’t a HUGE deal, but I was a little self-conscious about it. (P.S.: How can you say you “will likely never have a clue” that this is happening? I didn’t have an epidural, so I don’t know if those numb you enough to make you unaware of the pooping sensation.)

  12. TYLER COLTER says:

    SHUT UPPP BITCHESSS

  13. valleygirl says:

    oh this cracked me UP!

  14. Anonymous says:

    yeah well…i totally cared if i pooped while i was pushing. i didn’t want to push too hard in the begining because i was so worried about it. with the second birth i chose an enema before i was induced and i felt much better when it came time to push.

  15. Anonymous says:

    fyi-the nurse didn’t give me the enema (meaning push it up my butt for me), in the hospital. she gave it to me and let me take it in the bathroom in the labor and delivery room and i did it myself. stayed in there for a while and it all came out in the toilet. private.

  16. Leeanne says:

    The best advice I can give about this is to tell your partner it can happen. If he doesn’t know and sees it he may react in shock/disgust even if he doesn’t mean to. I’m lucky; I discussed all my qualms about pregnancy with my fiance, and he was very matter-of-fact and understanding about it. He just said, “Well, yeah, the baby puts pressure on your bowels. It happens.” When I added that I didn’t want him to see me poop, he was just like, “Oh, that’s fine. It’s naturally occurring; it doesn’t bother me.” From what I understand though, this may be a non-issue; they cover it up/remove it as soon as you finish; they don’t just leave it lying there. This is not only to keep things sterile, but also because it can obviously be embarrassing or upsetting to the mother and that is not the kind of stress she needs at the time. Also, if you ask a nurse, they usually won’t mind leaning one of the Chux pads against your anus from the get-go so if you do, it just kind of goes into/under a sort of tent and nobody sees or smells it.

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