There is a bevy of sensations that accompany labor. It's quite remarkable, really. I don't think the human body ever feels quite so much so quickly as they do from the first contraction until they fully heal. Most of the sensations are expected, and you're prepared for them. You understand that labor will hurt, and that there are myriad types of pain. However, some sensations are less understood because women don't talk about them. Like how labor sometimes comes with a ton of rectal pressure. You may wonder, having experienced Braxton Hicks, do real contractions make you poop? Because you didn't notice that with the false contractions.
I spoke with labor nurse Heather Hall and she tells Romper, "A lot of women have to poop when the contractions get strong. Your body is doing what it does — evacuating the area in preparation for your baby. If you feel like you need to poop real bad, you probably only need to poop and not push yet. If you get the urge, tell your nurse, and she will check you and help you with a bedpan or take you to the bathroom." She also says that if you do poop on the table, you're in good company. "Happens all the time, we just clean it up and move on."
You know, it makes sense. The events of labor are all happening in your lower abdomen. The strong contractions and the hormones that cause them have an effect on all of the systems in that region, including your digestive system, according to Boundless Anatomy and Physiology. During labor, it is not uncommon for your stomach or your intestinal system to take the hit, causing you to throw up, or feel a deep rectal pressure like you need to poop. Think about it, the muscles of your abdomen are squeezing, pushing your baby down into your birth canal, which therefore has a corresponding effect on the system behind your baby, which just so happens to be the exit route for your digestive system.
Why on planet earth does no one tell you this? There's no primer about this in your fifth grade sex ed class when they make you watch that horrid video about childbirth. That woman in The Miracle of Life didn't take a crap on the table, nor did you see a kindly labor nurse escorting her to hover painfully over the toilet because "oh holy gods of Atlantis you have to poop right now." This isn't in the pretty pink and blue literature at your OB-GYN's office, nor do they tell you about it during your appointments — at least mine didn't.
Let me tell you, I was not prepared. I had a precipitous, unmedicated birth with my son, and during the short few hours of contractions I did live through, it was like a freight train hit my undercarriage and I looked over to my nurse, convinced I either had to push my baby out at just that minute, or I was about to take the most epic poop ever. I've never felt anything like it. After checking me, she followed me into the bathroom and sat there while I did my business, bless her heart, and the relief was amazing.
I mean, none of this is surprising. You're really bearing down on your downtown, and the ol' poop area is right there. It's not going to be your best memory — if you even notice — but it's not as bad as that time you asked your crush to the dance in eighth grade. At least this time no one is trying to let you down easy while holding back eye-tearing laughter. That's so much worse. So what if contractions may make you poop — it happens to most of us, so it's no big deal.
Heather Hall, labor nurse
This post was originally published on Sept. 12, 2018. It was updated on Aug. 22, 2019.
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