Labor is messy business—and your nurses will cheer you on!

It’s every woman’s most feared and most unspoken question: What if I poop during labor? Vomit? Urinate? Do other embarrassing bodily things?

First, stop freaking out—your healthcare team has seen it all. Birth is a messy business! As a former labor and delivery nurse with more than 35 years of experience, and a mother of 4 children, let me just reassure your healthcare team is prepared for just about anything that might happen.


Read: Natural Childbirth Doesn’t Have To Be A Painful Delivery


Poop happens in labor, and a whole lot more

Should your body do something you didn’t plan, something you find embarrassing, your healthcare team will just take it in stride. We know you feel embarrassed, we know you’re uncomfortable.

Did you know that your nurses consider a bowel movement a good sign that you’re pushing correctly? And by correctly, you’re using the muscles that help bring baby down the birth canal. When women don’t know quite how to push, we’ll often say, “push like you’re having a bowel movement” or “bear down!” If it happens, your nurse will discreetly clean the area and dispose of the soiled pad. Plus she will continue to encourage the good pushing that you’re doing!

This is especially important when you have an epidural as you may not feel any sensation during labor, and may only feel slight rectal pressure. Birthing without an epidural, you’ll feel a lot of pressure on your rectum that will give you an uncontrollable urge to push. Just go with it—holding back on pushing out of fear of having a bowel movement will only lead for pushing for longer periods of time and delay baby’s birth. Passing stool during birth is quite common—don’t fear it; know many women experience it.

Nature will prepare you

Your body is already one step ahead of you. A few days before birth, you’re likely to experience a mild case of diarrhea and or vomiting. This is nature’s way of preparing you for birth.

Don’t try to help nature—avoid the outdated practice of having an enema or taking laxatives before birth—experts now know it’s risky at best. To minimize your risks of vomiting in pregnancy, stick to light foods and snacks in small amounts and drink plenty of fluids.

Pick your witnesses

Healthcare providers know what to expect during birth but your friends and family may be surprised at what you experience. Discuss any fears you have with your partner; together you can be certain your thoughts and feelings on these delicate matters are observed and honored when the time comes.

Give in to losing control

There is no shame in your body doing what it’s naturally designed to do. Birth is a time when you learn to give up control for the beautiful end results of bringing a new life into the world. As my mother Mabel always jokingly said (and she birthed 13 children!) “when you go to the hospital to have a baby, you leave your modesty at the reception desk; don’t forget to pick it back up on the way out!”

Ultimately, you will be so involved in the demanding work that is birth that any “embarrassing” moment is soon forgotten. Relax, give birth all your energy, and don’t hold back!


Read also: Promoting the Breast Crawl


Joanne Goldbort, PhD, MSN, RN, is an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at Michigan State University and an expert nurse adviser to Healthy Mom&Baby.

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