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Pooping during birth is high on the list of things that petrify pregnant moms about giving birth. So if you’re reading this article it’s definitely playing on your mind. The thing is, nobody wants to talk about it.

As a labour and delivery nurse it’s one of the first concerns women will mention to me in early labor. It’s a physical action that sums up your lack of control during birth. Or at least the fear of it. As an activity we normally do in private, it can be petrifying to think you’ll do it in front of an audience.

People tell you your dignity will go out the door during birth. However, it doesn’t need to. This article is for you to follow some simple steps in last few weeks of pregnancy and early labour. They will all help to keep you regular and minimize the risk of a loaded bowel during labor.

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How to Prevent Pooping During Birth

8 Ways to Prevent Pooping During Birth

1. Increase Fluids and Fibre

We all know that what goes in must come out. That’s why your diet in pregnancy will have an impact on what happens during labor. The pregnancy hormone, progesterone, will slow down your digestion. Combat the effect by drinking at least 2L water per day. Adding high fibre foods such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrains will keep you regular. The sooner you do this in pregnancy, the quicker your body gets into a routine. This makes it easier to know when you are due to poop or if you are getting a bit bunged up and need a little help.

2. Avoid Certain Foods

Just like we know what foods keep us regular, there are foods which can slow things down. It is well known that dairy products, red meats and greasy or fatty foods take a long time to digest. I highly recommend avoiding these types of foods as you near your due date. The slower it takes your bowels to open, the more likely you are to have poop in you rectum during birth. This gives you a greater chance of pooping during birth.

3. Exercise

Once you are on maternity leave it’s common to slow down your pace. You’ll get advice to put your feet up and rest as much as possible. Whilst this is true, try to keep at least one period of activity in your daily routine. A nice walk, yoga or a swim, for 30 minutes every day will help your digestive system from slowing down. This is particularly important in the last few weeks of of pregnancy. Plus, keeping active will help to prepare your endurance for labor.

4. Don’t stop the urge

In the days leading up to labour, your body may decide to have a natural ‘clear out’. You may get a little diarrhoea as a way to prepare for baby. As long as you are otherwise well, it’s normal. Keep your fluid levels up, to stop dehydration. Although it’s not convenient, try not to take any medication that will stop the diarrhoea. This medication will slow down your gut flow and bind up your poop. You’ll reverse the effect your body is trying to have. In early labour don’t fight the urge to open your bowels. If you get it all out at this stage, you’re less likely to poo when you are pushing.

5. Stop Stressing

I’m not talking about the ‘sh*t happens, deal with it’ response to your anxiety. What I mean is that you need to find ways deal with your anxiety and stress. That’s because stress can actually cause your digestion to slow down and cause constipation. Once you are on maternity leave, take the opportunity to pamper yourself. Whether that’s going for a massage, having a laugh with friends and family or a nice warm bath. Do what makes you feel relaxed and takes your mind off worrying about what will happen during birth.

6. Have A Clear Out

If you feel bunged up or want to help things along you can take some medication. The safest option is to use a glycerine suppository like these ones. Another safe alternative is a home saline enema such as this one. Take them in early labour and you’re likely to empty your bowels before your contractions get too strong.

These medicines were given routinely by doctors many years ago. The trend stopped as they don’t aid your labor. However, doctors still recommend them if your extremely anxious about pooping during pushing.

I would absolutely avoid taking a laxative or castor oil to help you poo. They are both extreme methods and are more likely to leave you feeling very unwell. They can also leave you quite dehydrated, which is not good for you or baby.

7. Labor Diet

When your contractions start it’s best to change to a light diet. Eating little and often is the best way to keep up your energy levels to cope with labor. Toast, crackers and granola bars are popular options. You might even want to switch to a liquid only diet, eating soups, broths or smoothies and drinking sports drinks. Sucking on candy or glucose tablets is a great way to keep your sugar levels up without having heavy carbs in your stomach.

8. Consider Position

It’s tricky to suggest this as a tip as position is labor is really important. Upright positions such as kneeling, squatting or all-fours makes it easier for you to deliver your baby. Unfortunately, it also makes it easier for you to poop, or to make it easier to see if you do poop. If you find these positions most comfortable, I suggest choosing a swift delivery over preventing the poo. Try to avoid lying on your back as much as possible as it can slow labour.

A good alternative position is lying on your side with a supported leg. This position puts less pressure on your rectum and makes you less likely to poo.

Read More Stork Mama: 7 Natural Ways to speed up labor

5 Reasons Why you shouldn’t worry about it

Although these steps above will reduce the chances you’ll poop in labor, they won’t work for everyone. It may still happen regardless of what steps you take. These are some facts about pooping in labor that may actually help with your anxiety about it all before the big day.

1. It’s common

I’m going to be honest with you, around half (if not more) of the deliveries I attend, involve the woman pooping as baby deliveries. That means the odds are probably stacked against you. The good news is that your doctor, nurse or midwife all know you’re scared about this. Taking us right to the next point.

2. They will clear up quickly

Your care providers will be very swift at clearing things up. This is not only to make you feel more comfortable and discreet, but so that the area is as clean as possible for delivery. Remember, your baby’s head is being born in the same area. You’ll probably have a sanitary pad placed over your butt for quick clean ups. As soon as any poop  comes out, it’s pretty much in the bin.

If you are having a water birth, midwives have a little scoop that catches any poo that comes out. That way you won’t need to get out the pool and have it refilled.

3. You are pushing right

The good thing about pooping during labor, is that you’ll know you are pushing right. The muscles you use to poo are the ones you need to target when pushing the head out. You’ll feel like you are doing a big poo, even if you are not. You may even be told to push like you are doing a poo. It’s important you don’t hold back for fear that you will open your bowels. This can often lead to baby becoming distressed or you needing help from a suction cup or forceps.

4. Creates room for baby

If you do poo, it can help your baby deliver quicker. The poop in your rectum is taking up vital space that baby can be using to get through your pelvis. Once this is out it helps to clear space for baby to deliver quicker. This is particularly true if your bowels are ‘impacted’ i.e. you’ve not pooed in a long time and you have a good bit of  hard build-up.

5. Birth partners won’t care

Trust me, your birth partners will be caught up in the moment. When it comes to the pushing your Doctor, Nurse or Midwife will be at the action end. Your birth partner will be beside you from the waist up. If they are a bit squeamish they will be thankful, as birth is messy with or without poop.

They will still be able to get a birds eyes view of baby being born. Actually your baby’s head will block their view of any poop. They will be in such awe that you’ve just pushed a baby out, they won’t care less about a little poop.