Warning, I use the word poop a lot in this post.
Ew! You can poop when you push? This is what many people’s response is to hearing there is a possibility of pooping when you push. My response as a childbirth educator and birth doula is YES, you might, but there is almost a 100% chance you will have no idea it’s happening. Here are six things to know about when it comes to passing a bowel movement and pushing a baby out.
1) You are already very familiar with bodily fluids from your pregnancy. Pregnancy and birth involves a significant amount of bodily fluids. There can be bloody show, which is when your cervix begins to soften and dilate and you can see blood when you wipe or some left in your underwear. There is oftentimes a mucus plug weeks, days, or hours before labor begins, which looks like a giant booger that can come out in one piece or many small bits. If your water breaks during labor, this is probably the nicest bodily fluid because it is clear and sweet smelling (if it has a green/ brown tinge or a fowl odor, call your provider immediately), however, this is the largest amount of bodily fluid. It can fill a whole box of pads in a short amount of time. I recommend shoving a chux/puppy pad between your legs, or investing in some Depends from CVS. And chances are during pregnancy you had an increase in cervical mucus and dribbles of pee that you may have had to wear a panty liner for. I say all this to preface that you most likely are familiar with the influx of fluids that happens when you are pregnant.
Now that we got that out of the way, lets chat about why you most likely won’t notice you have ‘let it gooo’ while pushing out that beautiful head of hair from your nether-regions.
2) There is a lot of commotion going on in the birth room. When you are spending your mornings in the bathroom after a cup of hot coffee you have nothing else going on except scrolling through your friend’s stories on Instagram, or maybe ignoring your toddler on the other side of the door. Pooping is your main goal, especially if you have been stopped up from pregnancy hormones. When you are pushing a baby out, there is a LOT more happening. Whether you have a beautiful tranquil birth suite at a birth center surrounded by twinkly lights, a home birth packed with your family and friends, or a hospital birth with student nurses and fresh residents - there is an unmistakable buzz when it is time to push. If you are in a hospital, there are bright lights and all of a sudden there may be twice as many people in the room. People are chatting and cheering you on and if you are bearing down to push and a little poo slips out, you won’t be able to tell.
3) There is a lot of pressure and it is hard to tell the difference between baby descending, and having to poo! You are feeling intense pressure from your belly button through your pelvis and down through your bottom. Your pelvis is widening and your baby is descending! When baby is low you may be asked by your nurse if you have the urge to go to the bathroom, or you notice it yourself and say, “I need to poop!”. Waiting for the urge to push, feels very similar to the urge to poop. Why does this happen? When baby is low in your pelvis they are actually pressing on your colon. It is hard to tell the difference between having to poop and baby being very low (around +1 station).
Your doctor or midwife may suggest to use the same muscles you would use while pooping to help push baby out. When going number two you have to relax in order to pass your bowl movement. Sometimes it is hard to relax when baby is descending because it hurts and is an incredibly odd sensation! Even with an epidural, it is a whole new feeling, you still feel pressure and have to work on getting baby down.
4) Birth has a unique smell. It’s not something that I was aware of until I attended my first birth. It’s not talked about. All the blood, mucus, and amniotic fluid leads to a very distinct smell in the birth room - it is not bad! Just something most people have never experienced before and a little poop is barely detectable in the big scheme of things.
5) Your body has done a lot of prep work for the big day. A potential sign of oncoming labor is your body “clearing out”. It’s when you are sitting on the toilet for what seems like forever. By the time you are pushing, you most likely haven’t had much of an appetite AND your body may have been slowly getting rid of the last bits left in your colon before labor. So if you do poo while pushing, it will be so minimal, again, you won’t notice, and it is not a giant dump you take after Thanksgiving.
6) Those awesome birth attendants whisk it away before you even know it’s there! The last reason you won’t notice anything besides a baby is coming out is because of the incredible invention of chux pads! Whether a nurse or midwife’s assistant is standing there, someone will slide the dirty pad out from under your bottom and just slip a new one under in the blink of an eye. There may already be a stack of new ones under the old so they just pull the dirty one away and all is new! They are doing this frequently without number two because again, of all the other fluids coming out.
If you are having a water birth (it really decreases the uncomfortable pressure you feel in your bottom) then the little turds will either sink to the bottom or float to the top - again - you won’t be able to tell they are there! BUT - someone will scoop them out. In most birth kits you order for water births, they actually come with a fish net to scoop them out, how clever!
I hope you didn’t mind this crass post about pooping - but I think it is important to know because it is a worry for many clients I have had. If you have a squeamish partner who has never seen you poop, that’s okay. Just have them stay up by your head when you are pushing and have them support you from up there, that is okay!
Most important thing to remember - if you are pooping, that means you get to meet baby VERY SOON - yay!