Childbirth seems pretty magical. You create a human and it magically appears on your chest… but in reality there are some pretty gross things that can happen around childbirth. So, let’s talk about it. Oh, and stay tuned for #7 because I actually think it’s one of the weirdest grossest things, but no one talks about it.
Hi — I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I’ve been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of bedside labor and delivery experience. I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I will say that a nurse’s idea of gross is very different than general societies, but these are the things that freak OTHER people out about birth.
Note: As a nurse I’m not bugged by any of these (except for #7, but I’ll explain why — so keep reading). So, don’t worry about us — but I do think it’s good to know these can happen so you’re not caught off guard.
And, if you like knowing these “birth secrets” be sure to join this where we make everything less scary/gross.
Pooping at Birth
A lot of people don’t think about this at all (I, honestly was one of those people when I had my first baby). And if that’s you — GOOD.
However, some of you have put 2 and 2 together and realized that if you’re pushing really hard in ONE area of your perineum you may also push out things from that other area.
I actually have a whole post on avoiding pooping at delivery that you can read if you want, but I can boil it down to this:
Poop happens, and literally no one in that room cares. Just push.
Honestly, as a nurse I am sort of happy when I see you pooping because then I know you’re pushing in the right place. FYI, it’s literally impossible to stop poop if you’re pushing right. If you tense up your rectum, you will also tense up your vaginal walls and make it harder for baby to come out (and you may tear more).
And yes, nurses are weird. Thanks. 🙂 Grab my hospital packing list while we’er here talking about what will happen in the hospital. 🙂
Baby Pooping at Birth
Now, baby can poop in the womb, which can be problematic. It makes your fluids green/brown stained and if that is the case we often have a neonatologist or someone trained well in babies at your birth.
However, something a lot of people don’t know is that baby may poop on their way out. We call that terminal mec (short for meconium). It’s not really a problem because they’re not inhaling it — they’re just pooping as they come out.
Of course, that means it can get on you and them and all over the place.
My second child did this and I finally just asked for some baby wipes to clean him off — because it was pretty gross. It also took them some extra time to clean me off from the poop after the delivery.
A newborn’s poops are called meconium. It isn’t like our poop, it’s a black tarry stool that has been in their intestines as they grew in the uterus. Slowly it will become more like ours. But, in the mean time it is super sticky and well, gross. It may take more wipes than a regular diaper.
Strangers in the Room
A lot of people think this is gross, but thank goodness they allow it.
So, there could be strangers in the room — those people might be:
- Nurses you haven’t met
- Doctors or midwives you haven’t met (either there is a new doctor on or maybe a neonatologist or pediatrician for the baby)
- People in training — some people mention residents, intern or EMT’s come in to watch deliveries now and then to learn more.
And if you and I were asked if we’d want to give birth with strangers when we’re not in birth we might give it a big no — but when birth actually happens often people don’t care.
A plug for allowing providers in your room to learn from you. I have every nursing student in the unit in my births, I also allow them to check my fundus and put in my catheter. Those people need good people who allow them to train on them. It may not be your favorite, and you can always refuse but it’s a good service to the future to allow people to learn from you as a patient.
A lot of people just aren’t prepare for how bloody birth can be.
You may bleed while you’re in labor, we call that bloody show.
You may bleed more while you push, and there can be a good amount of blood right at delivery (of note, there is often a gush of blood before the placenta is delivered).
Also, after you have the baby blood can pool in your vagina and then when you stand up there can be a large gush of blood. Don’t worry, your nurses are hopefully prepared for this (but don’t wear socks after birth that you’re in love with — they can be really hard to clean).
It’s good for both partners to be aware this type of blood is normal. You can always ask your provider if it’s more than they think is OK. And if you feel a gush at any point talk with your providers so they can be sure you’re safe.
A plug for BOTH of you to know about these gross things. Partners can get really nervous when things out of the ordinary happen (like gushes of blood) — so having them be prepared too will help both of you feel much more at ease. I recommend doing this together.
This one catches people off guard too.
Your water breaks, and you get that gush of fluid you expected — but did you know that the fluid will KEEP coming out after that? You’ll feel like you’re peeing a bit every time you move — but there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
It’s normal, and expected. Your nurse will put a pad on the bed to absorb it. If it’s getting full ask them to change it (or ask how your partner can do it, because that will help them feel useful).
Remember, most of the amniotic fluid is baby pee, and baby pee is sterile at this point so there’s nothing wrong with it. Just a lot of people find it gross and annoying. The good news is that it will stop after you have the baby.
I have a whole post on the signs your water might break.
Pee With Restraint
This one caught me off guard. After I have the baby I am unable to stop my pee for a day or two. So, if I feel like I need to pee, when I get up to do so I will start to pee. I try to go pee frequently in those first few days (you don’t want a lot of fluid in your bladder anyway, so that’s good) so a full bladder isn’t a big issue for me.
The other good news is that you’ll be wearing heavy duty pads at this point, so a little pee won’t hurt…. (besides your pride)
Slowly those muscles remember what they’re supposed to do after they’ve been so stretched out with birth.
BUT, if you have this issue and it’s not resolving quickly, ask your provider for a pelvic floor physical therapist consult. Honestly, I think everyone needs one of those — but they can help with issues like this.
AND, even without Pelvic floor PT I slowly gained back that pelvic floor strength. But, at the time it was gross and weird, for sure (I think it happened with all of my babies — but I definitely remember being caught off guard a LOT with it on my first).
Vernix is a white coating around your baby that protects them/their skin in the womb. As your baby gets closer to their due date it will start to wash off and they won’t be covered in it. BUT if you have a baby earlier (or some babies just have a lot) the baby may be covered in this cream-cheese type substance.
It is supposed to actually be REALLY great for your baby’s skin. Just imagine your beloved baby covered in cream cheese…. You have three options: Rub it in, wipe it off, or ignore it. Either way, it will be gone in a day or two. 🙂
As a nurse it’s just really hard to handle a baby who has a lot of vernix because my gloves keep sticking to them and it just feels weird. I can handle it though. 🙂
So, those are what I think are the grossest parts of having a baby. Frankly — they all sound pretty gross right now but when it actually happens it’s surprising how accepting everyone is of it all. It helps a LOT to know what’s coming — which is why I recommend everyone take a prenatal class like The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. We can get you BOTH prepared in just a few hours for your hospital birth!
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.
Did I miss any of the gross things about birth? Tell me in the comments!
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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.