Does Everybody Poop During Delivery?

Every so often I’m asked a question where I say, “Hmm, that’s a good question for a nurse,”  and pooping on the delivery table is one of them.

Seeing as I don’t attend many births (I was barely there for the two I did) I can’t say how common it is. All I can say is it was something I was VERY concerned about before I went into labor, then it was something that I couldn’t care less about during it – personally, I think the phrase “I don’t give a shit,” was coined by a woman giving birth.

But in the interest of knowledge, I asked Hilary from Pulling Curls about it because she’s an actual nurse (rather than a foul-mouthed Canadian sitting at home eating All Dressed potato chips) and may have a little insight on this gem.

Here's the poop:

Hello Pregnant Chickens, I'm Hilary, from Pulling Curls  – your friendly neighborhood Labor and Delivery nurse here to answer your probing {haha} questions on pregnancy.  Believe me, no question is too stupid, no answer will be too graphic.  For instance, here's the question du jour:


Q:

"Will I poop during delivery?  I will be moritified.  How can I stop it?"

-- Ashley (asking for a friend of course)


A:

Well, Ashley, that's a pretty normal question.  I get it at almost every prenatal class I teach. Here are five things to consider:

1. 

It is less likely to happen if you go into labor on your own.  You will often clean yourself out during early labor at home.  If you come in for an induction, you miss out on that part.

2. 

Doctors used to order enemas.  You don't want that.  Also, it didn't really help and just made labor even LESS fun.  We will NOT do them anymore.  I've had patients ask and the doctors just laugh.

3. 

It is humanly impossible to clench the poop-exit area, while not clenching the baby-exit-area.  Hence, you'll be pushing against closed muscles.  Average pushing time on your first baby is 2 hours.  You don't need anything preventing delivery.  

4. 

It's what we do.  We clean-up poop, and vomit, and urine, and blood.  The nurse will stick a cloth there and clean you up regularly.  It is NOT a big deal for us.  Also, we are happy to see it, because it means you ARE pushing in the right area.  That is a happy thing!

5. 

If you do (and frankly, the majority do) no one will ever talk about it.  If they do, you need to question your relationship with them.  Gosh darn it, that baby pushes RIGHT on that area, it's humanly impossible to prevent it.  In the immortal words of our friend Elsa.  Let it go. :)

 

So, those are my thoughts on pooping.  Got any other questions?

Unlike me, Hilary is a nurse who has worked in various medical fields for the past 14 years, however, none of the information on this blog should be substituted for the care of a physician. You're smart. You get it. Call your doctor if something seems weird.

Hilary is a part time labor and delivery nurse/prenatal class teacher and full time mother of 3.  She knows labor makes people nervous and she's here to help! :)  You can find her talking about pregnancy and families at Pulling Curls or by signing-up for her newsletter.

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Your Vagina is Not a Crystal Ball

I follow Lindsey’s blog called Mother Rising so when she asked if she could do a guest post here I said, “Absolutely! Pass along anything you think would be a good fit for the site.” As soon as I read the title of this dilation post, I knew it was good for the Burd.

crystalbabll.jpg

No Vaginal Exams!

When I was pregnant with my son, Gabriel, I swore up and down that when I got closer to my due date I was not going to ask to know my dilation in pregnancy.  I knew that by having a vaginal check I would be tempted to start prophesying about when my labor would start and what my birth would be like.

 

Yes Vaginal Exams!

Of course, I had no self-control and I asked for vaginal checks starting at 35 weeks.  I was 2-3 cm dilated and 40% effaced.

I could have easily started stressing and wondering if I would go into labor before my due date.  I could have got really self-confident and assumed my labor would be shorter because I was already 1/3 done dilating.

I didn’t do any of those things because I knew that my vagina was not a crystal ball.

I repeat.

YOUR VAGINA IS NOT A CRYSTAL BALL.

 

Dilation in Pregnancy

Dilation, effacement, and station information cannot predict when labor will start, how long or how easy/hard labor will be.

The only thing that vaginal checks will tell you is what your body has done to prepare for birth.

If you opt for a vaginal check at a prenatal appointment and find out that you aren’t dilated at all – you could have your baby that night.  Or a week later.  If you find out you are 4-5 cm dilated you could have your baby tomorrow, or two weeks later.

Seriously, vaginas are not crystal balls.  Your vagina will not tell you how long you have to go until you push your baby out.  Even when you get to 10 cm and start pushing you still have no idea how long it will take.
Stepping into the unknown is the nature of labor, birth and being a parent.  Care providers do a disservice to mamas by prophesying when their baby will arrive. 

But, I can understand why it is done – because it is HARD to sit in the unknown with an expecting mama and to not know with her. 

However, care providers should censor birth predictions because it is much more compassionate to hold the space for mamas while they step into the unknown than to predict the future.

 

What About You?

Did you find out your dilation in pregnancy?  How was it helpful (or not!) for you?  I’d love to hear your story.

If you found this post helpful, you might be interested in this post on how to check your own cervix or this one about how your vagina is not a vacuum cleaner.


Lindsey Morrow is author of two websites: a pregnancy blog called Mother Rising and a pregnancy book review site called My Best Pregnancy Books.  Lindsey is a childbirth educator, doula and mother of two.  She attends a lot of births and often freaks people out by posting placenta pictures on Instagram.  Lindsey lives in North Florida with her family and dreams of moving some place more temperate like the mountains.

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What the Heck is an Episiotomy?

 

Ahh, the episiotomy. There are some things about having a baby that just make you go: “Seriously? No, seriously. I so didn’t sign up for that.”

Here are the nuts and bolts: an episiotomy is an incision made in the perineum – that fleshy area between the vagina and the anus. It speeds up delivery because the vaginal opening is that much bigger. Once the baby’s present and accounted for, the incision is stitched back up.

If you’re thinking “WTF?” you’re not alone. But there are some very good reasons to have an episiotomy. Like, you find out you’re having a breech birth. Or maybe you’ve been pushing for several hours and you just…can’t…push…again. Sometimes that perfect child you’ve been dreaming about for nine frickin’ months pretty much refuses to budge and he needs a little encouragement – like forceps-or-the-vacuum kind of encouragement. Or very occasionally, your wee one can go into distress, where his heart rate shoots up or drops way down. It’s rare, but it happens.

In all those cases, your doc or midwife will very likely say it’s time to get the baby out and that means it’s time for an episiotomy. In all those cases, don’t hesitate.

But what if your delivery is chugging along just fine? Is there any reason for you to have an episiotomy? Doctors – and many midwives – used to think so. They were trained to think that episiotomies help prevent and heal better than more extensive vaginal tears. The procedure was also thought to keep the bladder from drooping and the rectum from protruding into the vagina after childbirth. (Yep, you read that right. Drooping bladder. Protruding rectum.)

Here’s the problem: there isn’t any evidence to suggest episiotomies do any of that. It’s now generally accepted that a routine episiotomy – not one done for any of our “good reasons” – does not provide any significant benefit, either right after delivery or in the months that follow. Some medical-types thought that recovering from an episiotomy might hurt less than from a tear, but that’s not backed up by any evidence. There isn’t even any proof that having an episiotomy will prevent your insides from ending up on the outside. Ain’t that the shits?

So how do you avoid one, if you can?

Lots of people recommend massaging the perineum during your pregnancy. Now, I’m all about a good massage, but studies suggest this is only really effective for first-time moms. There isn’t much of a consensus on how long to do it either, but 10 minutes a day from 35 weeks on seems to be a common recommendation. If you’re into it, I say go for it. It can’t hurt.

You can also try applying warm compresses to the perineum during the pushing stage of labour. This may help soften the tissue and make it easier for the baby to head on out. Some health care providers also massage the area as labor progresses.

You might also want to give some thought to who’s going to deliver your baby, if you haven’t already decided. Studies show that midwives do fewer episiotomies, while older doctors do the most. Weirdly, more episiotomies are performed in the middle of the day than the middle of the night. Maybe it’s because doctors have more stuff to do during the day so they want to speed things up a bit.

But the most important thing you can do is talk to your health care provider. Ask them how often they do episiotomies and under what circumstances. Remember, though, it's important to go into labor with an open mind. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and you have to make decisions on the fly.

 


Maggie writes. Mostly for advertising. Sometimes for environmental and arts groups. 
When not at the helm of her ever-expanding freelance empire, she spends her time making semi-successful attempts at self-improvement. That may explain the decent down-the-line backhand and respectable shot from the point.
She is married to John Foote (dashing Emerg Doc) and has two shockingly tall kids.
She thinks Pregnant Chicken rules the roost.

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