If you’re in labor and about to have a baby, it’s totally normal to poop yourself when you start pushing. Dr. Kyrin Dunston, an OBGYN, sheds a little light on the not-oft-discussed phenomenon: “The pelvis is only so large and can hold only so much material,” she explains. “When a baby’s head comes through, it pushes out everything else that’s not solid, including urine and stool.” Dunston adds that pooping during delivery is more likely to happen if there’s stool in the sigmoid colon — the last curve of the colon — when labor begins.
Another reason for the pre-baby poop is that the muscles you use to push a baby out —the valsalva (diaphragm), abdominal muscles, and intercostal muscles — are are exactly the same muscles you use during a bowel movement. Fun!
And if you’re worried about grossing out the doctor or staff, don’t. “They are all used to this,” Dunston says. “It comes with the job and there is no judgement.” If you have your partner or other friends and family in the room with you, you shouldn’t worry about offending them, either. “They’re usually more fixated on and disturbed by the blood that can be a part of the delivery, the baby, the mom, or the wonder of birth to really care about poop,” Dunston adds. “I used to joke that you can’t be shy around any body fluids and be an OBGYN —we get them all….My special labor and delivery shoes had every kind of stain on them.”
If you still need validation that the experience is way more normal than you think, here are nine women on what it’s really like to poop during delivery.
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1. “Humans are animals and there is absolutely nothing more primal than giving birth. Trust me, you are way too busy pushing out a baby and coping with pain to care if poop comes out of your butt. It happened at least once during my delivery. Nobody, not even my husband, batted an eye or cared. I kept screaming on the delivery table that ‘My butt [was] falling out.’ There is so much pressure that it really feels like all of your insides are blasting out of your bottom area at the same time.”—Amanda, 32
2. “I felt some poop come out at some point during the two-plus hours of pushing out my first son. I had an epidural but it had mostly worn off so I felt the poop come out while I was pushing. I just had the sensation that it was there, and then when I saw the nurse quickly wipe it away I knew I was right. The nurse quickly wiped it away and it was like it didn’t even happen. I was so focused on pushing I wasn’t worried about it. My second son came out so quickly, that if I pooped while pushing I wasn’t even aware of it.”—Maya, 39
3. “Like many first-time moms, I worried a lot about pooping on the delivery table, and it definitely happened. I kept yelling to the nurses ‘Am I pooping?! Am I pooping?!’. I was so embarrassed by the whole thing and kept apologizing. In the moment there is so much pressure happening to your lower body it is hard to tell one bodily function from the next. The pushing feels the same. The nurses told me to push as if I was having a bowel movement. Obviously the labor pushing is more painful and intense, but how you go about pushing is the same as when pooping. I was convinced I was pooping the entire time, but it was just one quick second and the nurses took care of it.“—Mary*, 31
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