Do you really poop during labor?
The uterus and small bowel are not only close in proximity — they’re also made up of the same type of muscle. Pushing during labor also uses many of the same muscles and mechanisms as a bowel movement. So when you add these factors together, yes, many people do poop a little bit during labor.
How often does it happen?
There aren’t any official statistics on how frequently it occurs — but the general consensus is that it’s pretty common, it’s expected by healthcare professionals, and there’s a good chance you won’t even notice if it happens. Why? Because there are a lot of fluids being released during the delivery process — including blood, amniotic fluid, mucus, and the placenta — so a bowel movement is just one of the many messy things happening.
Are there benefits to pooping during labor?
You might cringe at the thought of this, but it may actually benefit babies by exposing them to a diverse array of bacteria. Immediately after birth, babies experience a rapid colonization by microorganisms — and research suggests that it’s preferable for those microorganisms to be from the parent’s vaginal and fecal matter than the surrounding environment, which is more likely to contain bad bacteria.
Myth: You should try to prevent it from happening.
You may see advice on the internet about how to avoid pooping during labor. But the truth is this should not be a cause for concern and some of the strategies proposed online could actually put you and your baby’s health at risk.
What should you do if you’re nervous about it happening?
For some, the idea of it can trigger feelings of embarrassment or anxiety. Talk to your doctor, midwife, and/or doula about your fears; again, they will not be fazed and they will most likely be able to put your mind at ease. If your concern is about your support person, you can have them positioned near your head during the birth.
This article was produced in partnership with Pregnancy Podcast, an evidence-based podcast dedicated to providing people who are pregnant and their supporters with thoroughly researched, high quality information about fertility, pregnancy, birth and beyond.