Pushing, pooping, and perineal tearing. This is what I affectionately call the three P’s of labor fears. I will be tacking each of these subjects over the next few weeks.

Class after class, I am often asked if there is any way to avoid pooping during labor.

Will I Poop During Labor?

The answer is yes. There will be poop if you are making progress during second stage (pushing) and if you have eaten in the last 48 hours.

Trust me, you want both of these things to be true!

WHY OH WHY must I Poop?

Let’s consider anatomy here a bit.

The top of your uterus pushes the baby down through the pelvis and into the birth canal.  A lot of downward pressure is applied to your intestines and anus (not to mention, your vagina).

anatomy image

The baby’s head puts pressure on the intestines, anus, and vagina on its trip through the pelvis.

When you begin to move the baby down and out, you are engaging the same muscles used to   have a bowel movement. If your pushing efforts (or breathing efforts) are making progress and there is any poo there – it will come out.

Oddly enough, this is a good sign that your providers LOOK for and even get excited over.

Should you feel bad or worried about pooping? Heck no!

Providers are experts at using the pad under your bottom to tuck over and then roll away the evidence.

Very often, you won’t even know you had a bowel movement because well, there are much more interesting things going on!   As a doula, I keep a little peppermint spray that can be spritzed IF there is a scent, but typically there is none.

In summary:

Will you poop? Likely.

Will it matter? No way.

Try to let this fear go… pooping is normal and expected during labor.

Just like the children’s book tells us, everybody poops!

If you want some inspiration, check out this fun pooping song – it will make you laugh!

Mandolin is a birth and postpartum doula, and childbirth educator. You can find her teaching community-based classes as well as classes at Mary Washington Hospital. 

She loves birth, coffee, and a good spit-your-drink-out of your nose laugh.  She is the mom of a kindergartner, and works in her local community on justice issues.