Will I Really Poop During Labor? Probably.

By Babe | Illustration by Ana Hard

Out of everything you could possibly stress over during childbirth – you know, like unexpected medical intervention or whether you’ll have a healthy baby – one rather innocuous idea tends to keep pregnant women up at night. Will I poop during labor??

“I can’t even tell you how worried this made me,” says Kara DeLange, mother of Georgia, 18 months. “It’s like this thing that makes its way around pregnancy groups. You know it’s possible and you think, well will I or won’t I? And if I do, will my doctor or partner ever be able to look at me without cracking up?”

For Beth Hughes, the idea of pooping during labor became so stressful, she performed her own enema the morning she was being induced. “Since I knew when I was going in, I figured let’s clean everything out in advance,” says Hughes, mother of nine-month-old Dylan. “I know it sounds crazy, but I figured since I could plan for it, why not?”

Pooping during labor – the time honored what if that’s totally unavoidable and also super common – is for many women, an insanely stressful concept that’s part urban myth, part typical bodily function. It sounds gross and embarrassing but when you think about what your body is actually doing during labor, ie pushing out a BABY using the same muscles you use to push out poop – it’s actually totally normal. Think of it this way, if you do let something slip out, you are actually laboring correctly! 

“When a woman is in labor, the prostaglandins, aka the hormones that can stimulate labor, are also the hormones that can stimulate the bowels,” says Dr. Shieva Ghofrany, a Connecticut-based obstetrician-gynecologist. “Also, when a woman is pushing her baby out, I carefully instruct them to ‘push like you’re pooping!’  I will often explicitly demonstrate not pushing from your face but instead push from your diaphragm down as if you’re pooping.”

When a woman is pushing her baby out, I carefully instruct them to ‘push like you’re pooping!

At Babe we seek to normalize the birthing process from start to finish, including every icky element that comes along with it. After all, sometimes being a warrior goddess who’s BRINGING LIFE INTO THE WORLD comes with a side of sh*t. But if you’re super obsessed about it, you could try to time an enema in advance of your labor, though that might not work for every birth and it won’t necessarily rid your body of everything. 

“I often encourage my patients if they are being induced (similarly before c-sections) to keep their meals the day before on the lighter side but to increase their liquids,” says Dr. Ghofrany. “The purpose of this is less to ‘avoid pooping’ and more to ensure empty bowels that can lead to constipation after the delivery due to dehydration and pain medicine. Also, before an induction or as one is starting labor, women can self-administer (or with the help of their partner) an enema to empty their rectum of stool or can take castor oil to empty their bowels.”

Also, drink plenty of water and maintain a high fiber diet. And don’t you dare starve yourself. Just remember, whatever happens happens. Trust us. your relationship will survive. After all, once you have kids, there’s crap basically everywhere. You both better get used to it now.

“I remember being so concerned over whether I would poop or not, and by the time I was pushing, I didn’t even know what was going on, nor did I really care,” says Rachel Winston, a Chicago-based mama of three. “Plus, there was so much other stuff happening down there that I probably wouldn’t have even noticed if I did.”