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What’s The Poop?

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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