Pooping in Labor: What You Should Know

Are You Afraid of Pooping in Labor? Here’s Some Real Potty Talk

pooping in labor

Fear is powerful in labor. Our culture perpetuates shame for our bodies, and birth becomes foreign and seen as dirty. Pooping in labor is one of the most common fears I hear about from my birth doula clients. This is such a common and routine event in birth, and the vast majority of mothers have no idea it even happened. Let’s break down this fear and get it out of the way before birth.

Why do we poop during birth?

Birth is a physiological process that involves the entire body. If left undisturbed, the body will make all the movements and adjustments necessary for birth in most cases. Firstly, your baby’s head will move down through your pelvis and put pressure onto your rectum. Secondly, the fetal ejection reflect (or the urge to push) will stimulate your muscles to bear down with each contraction. Strong contractions alongside the urge to push use the same muscles that you would use while pooping. Your body will naturally squeeze out some poop while simultaneously pushing your baby out. It’s uncontrollable and these muscles are part of the birth process.

Pooping during labor can be a positive sign. It means that your muscles are working effectively while pushing. Also, it means that your baby is moving lower through your pelvis and passing over your rectum. Therefore, pooping in labor just means you are getting closer to meeting your baby!

It May Help Spread Beneficial Bacteria to Your Baby

Interestingly, pooping during labor can also be beneficial to your baby. You pass beneficial bacteria to your baby during birth. If you poop, it helps your baby become colonized with more beneficial bacteria. This may help your baby develop their microbiome and support the development of your baby’s immune system.

Researchers are learning more and more about the amazing benefits of supporting the infant microbiome. Some families who have cesarean births are researching a process called vaginal seeding. In vaginal seeding, the mother uses a swab to collect bacteria from her vagina and the baby is rubbed with the swab after a cesarean birth. Vaginal seeding replaces the bacteria missed if your baby was not exposed to beneficial bacteria through a vaginal birth. We don’t have a lot of good evidence to support vaginal seeding. But research reveals time and again that the infant microbiome is incredibly important.

Pooping during labor – What happens?

The chances are very good that you won’t even know if you pooped. Your care provider simply wipes it away. Any poop is whisked away and forgotten about. Besides, you have more important business of birth to attend to. It happens all the time and is simply a normal part of the birthing process. You couldn’t stop it if you tried.

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