This is a real fear for a lot of people (in my study on birth fears 61.2% of respondents were concerned about having a BM at delivery). Today we’re going to talk about what you can do to avoid pooping at delivery, and also if it ends-up being that big of a deal at birth.
But first, how do I know all of this? Hi — I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I have seen thousands of births, and frankly — I’ve cleaned up quite a lot of poop. As an expert on this topic, let’s chat.
Oh, and if you’re looking for more tips about giving birth do NOT miss The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. It’s the only online birth course created for couples that is fun, quick and budget-friendly
How common is it to poop while giving birth
You may wonder how many females poop while giving birth? Because you likely haven’t seen a lot of births, this is a super common question.
And I’d say about 50-75% of pregnant women poop during birth.
Why would you poop during childbirth?
I mean, you don’t poop during other medical stuff, right?
So — your rectum and your vagina are SUPER close to each other. This gives a FEW reasons why it’s almost impossible (if there’s poop there) to NOT have this happen:
Sometimes the baby’s head pushes on your rectum area and squeezes the poop out as it comes out. Think of it as a ball next to a tube of toothpaste. If that ball is coming down the tube of toothpaste, there really is no way to stop it from coming out — short of putting the cap on. Of course, there is no cap for our rectum (and if there was it would just explode instead — which, believe me, would be worse.
You really only have LARGE muscles in that area. So, you can’t push in JUST your vagina without pushing like you do when you poop. We call it “bearing down”. So, in order to push out a baby you HAVE to use your pooping muscles.
How Can You Avoid Pooping During Birth?
So, as you can tell — it’s hard to avoid it if it’s there. And frankly, it’s hard to STOP making poop as your body just does it when you eat. But, there are a few tips I can give you in this area.
Go Into Labor Naturally to Avoid Pooping at Birth
When you go into labor naturally, most often your gastrointestinal system clears itself out on its own. This includes things like:
- Nausea (so you’re less likely to eat)
- Diarrhea to clean out the intestines
It makes sense, if you’re mother nature and you’re wanting to push something out of the body that you’re going to want to clear the way — and the rectum is part of “the way”.
So, it’s true that those who go into labor naturally (especially those who have a good amount of early labor where this type of thing happens) are less likely to poop at delivery.
Because, back to the toothpaste scenario — the tube is empty.
And, if you’re wondering more about all those signs of labor don’t miss Labor Made Easy, a super-quick class that helps you know what labor is really going to look like!
Don’t Be Afraid to Poop During Labor So You Don’t Poop at Birth
So, I will admit that when patients told me they needed to poop at about 5 cm on I would get a little hesitant to send them into the restroom. Mostly, I just stayed close at hand, just in case (because, as I said the pooping muscles are the same as the pushing-out-your-baby muscles). BUT, if you’re truly just 5 cm then you really aren’t going to deliver your baby in the bathroom.
However, many people are afraid of using those muscles because they worry they will have the baby in the bathroom.
I’m telling you not to. Sometimes that can give a good amount of relief to your body if you go to the restroom and relieve yourself. I wouldn’t recommend pushing hard, but give it a try and see if anything comes out.
That being said — it may FEEL like you need to poop as baby descends into the birth canal — but nothing is there. So, see if you can poop, but if nothing comes don’t worry.
What to eat before labor to avoid pooping?
I do believe this is something that can lend itself to the poop coming out easier BEFORE you start to push.
Think high fiber, good hydration. So, things like fruit, vegetables, etc. Frankly, if you’re eating a good, varied diet before birth — this should be your normal routine.
I do have a whole little pamphlet about safe eating during pregnancy that you might be interested in as well:
Study on Dates before Labor
This is where it gets interesting. Did you know that there is a study about eating dates before labor?
It says that consuming dates in the month before you due date decreases your latent labor phase, and decreased the need for induction or augmentation of labor.
IN terms you can understand it means people went into “active labor” (where their cervix was actually dilating) and they didn’t need any medications to keep labor going once they were in active labor.
Part of me has always wondered if what they do to your bowel movements had anything to do with it.
However, the science in the area points to dates making your body react more to oxytocin. In fact, they’ve even studied using dates after delivery to prevent postpartum bleeding.
It’s fascinating! Either way, I think a a few dates/day (in the study they consumed about 70g of dates/day) isn’t a bad idea at all. You’d be getting that extra fiber, some good carbohydrates to give you more energy. Plus, you’d like skirt some of that final month of pregnancy constipation that so many people talk about.
I have a whole post on when you should stat eating dates during pregnancy.
AND you’d likely make it easier to poop AFTER baby, and that’s a whole post of its own!
And yes, if you love evidence-based birthing stuff — this class is full of it!
What about emptying my bowels before Labor?
Many people might think we give you an enema before labor.
I have heard that they used to do this.
But, it was before my time — which was 2001. Which means in the last 20 years we have NOT done this.
Most people don’t want it, but if you’re desperate to try something, you can do it on your own (we don’t even carry them in our supplies in L&D).
That being said — sometimes an enema just makes everything more watery and it just may flow out easier when the baby comes out. So, I’m not sure it’d be that helpful for the uncomfortable-ness it contains.
So, What Happens if Your Poop at Delivery?
Nothing. The nurse cleans it up and everyone goes on with their day.
It’s hard for non-nurses to imagine this, but as a nurse poop is just part of our daily routine. We just do it and move on.
Most often if I saw it happening, I’d slide a few wash clothes under your bum and just quickly wipe it out of the way if it’s there. And because so MUCH is going on (smells, excitement) no one really ever notices.
And most people who were super worried about it before delivery find-out that it’s not that big of a deal after all. Crazy, right?
Pooping at Delivery FAQ’s
Ok, let’s go over some of the most common questions about poop at birth (and, if you have any OTHER questions about birth — don’t forget to join me in here — you won’t regret it, in fact — we guarantee it!)
Will my husband know if I poop during labor?
He might. Honestly, most partners aren’t fixated on the “birthing area” as you push. They’re mostly looking at you, and being impressed at how you can do something that looks so hard.
BUT if they do notice the nurse is quick to give them the “shut up about this” look.
Sometimes people ask their partner after they have the baby if they pooped and many partners just lie (or they had no idea). I love it. 🙂 I actually have a whole partner sequence that you might want to sign them up for (it emails them to make sure they’re interested before it sends it to them):
If your partner is super worried about this, they can always put a little peppermint oil below their nose while you push…. which bring us to….
Pooping during labor smell
Sometimes it smells. Although, there’s a lot of smells right before birth anyway.
If the nurse thinks it smells a lot, she’ll often just bring in some room freshener for you. Or, you can ask for it and she can grab it or ask housekeeping for it.
But, like I said above, some essential oils on your upper lip can help a partner who is worried about the smell.
As far as the birthing partner, I’ve VERY rarely had them mention them smell. Perhaps because we take care of it so quickly, but also you’re VERY concentrated on pushing well to get that baby out and snuggle them.
Pooping during labor stories
Honestly, mostly what I hear is people who are SO worried about pooping at delivery and then find-out it’s not a big deal at all.
If that makes you feel better. 🙂
Baby poop during labor
Baby CAN poop during labor, it’s called meconium.
Sometimes baby poops in the bag of fluids which can be problematic as baby may breathe in some of the poop. Most often if this happens we ask a neonatologist to come to the delivery just to make sure baby is breathing well. They’ll also keep an extra eye on baby’s breathing while you’re at the hospital.
Baby can also poop at the very end, and this is called terminal meconium. It’s not problematic (other than poop being everywhere) as baby won’t breathe it in at that point.
My second baby did this. I asked them to wipe him up before we snuggled. I’m like that. 🙂
Pooping during Early Labor
Some people find it worrisome with how much pooping they are doing during early labor. But, as we talked about in the beginning it’s nice to know that your body is clearing the way. Hopefully that means less time pushing because less will be in the way.
Can you accidentally give birth while pooping?
I mean, I guess? I’ve honestly never had this happen. But, I’m also very cautious as my patients use the restroom once their cervix is past 7 cm or so.
That being said you’ll be VERY aware that more is happening than pooping as baby will start to bulge out of your vagina and you will ask for help.
BUT, remember that you will have an urge to push as baby’s head descends into the birth canal and pushes on your rectum the same way that it does when you need to push out a bowel movement.
So, if you have that urge to push and you’re just not sure — talk with your provider before going to the restroom.
Can the nurse feel the poop in your rectum when she checks your cervix?
Sometimes, yes. Remember that the vagina and the rectum are two tubes right close to each other. Sometimes I will feel some hard poop in your rectum as I check your cervix. Sometimes I’ll ask if you feel like you need to poop, if you don’t — I figure we’ll just clean it up when it happens.
So, that’s the “skinny” on poop at delivery. What other fears do you have about birth? Tell us in the comments, I think that would be a fun discussion.
AND I wasn’t kidding about this being the VERY surface of things that you need to know before you go in to have your baby. Come join me in The Online Prenatal Class for Couples where we prepare you for the confident hospital birth you are hoping for!
And, if you’re not quite sure you’re ready for that whole thing, check out my free prenatal class. It’s your first step toward getting in the driver’s seat of your birth.
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice. She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.
As an evidence-based prenatal educator Hilary has delivered thousands of babies and has educated hundreds of thousands of parents from a diverse patient population to help them have a confident birth.