Pooping During Labor: The Truth About Bodily Fluids During Birth

Get the inside scoop on poop—and other bodily fluids—during labor.

woman in labor in the hospital
Photo: Shutterstock

If you've ever wondered if bodily functions like going to the bathroom continue while in labor, the truth is, yes, peeing and pooping and other messy bodily functions absolutely can happen during labor. And not only can pooping happen during labor, but having a bowel movement during labor can actually be a good thing.

Why? Because the same muscles that you use to push a bowel movement out are the same ones used to push a baby out so pooping = effective pushing. Plus, a bowel movement can clear the way for baby to exit the birth canal. Win-win!

Why Poop Can Happen During Labor

The way your baby is positioned in the birth canal may influence how you feel during labor, including feeling pressure like you need to poop. For instance, some people who feel the urge to poop throughout their labor, may have an occiput posterior (OP) presentation going on.

An OP presentation means that the back of the baby's head is face up, often called "sunny side up" instead of face-down. With an OP presentation, the baby is pressing on the laboring person's backside while the baby's face looks up towards the bladder. This can cause additional pressure on the intestines, making it more likely that the laboring person will have a bowel movement during labor.

The optimal position to push out a baby is with the back of the head up towards the bladder and the face looking down at the rectum, but if your baby is facing the other way, it may cause more pressure. That being said, no matter what position your baby is in, you may still experience pooping during labor. Just remember: pooping during labor is usually a good thing!

Poop vs. Pressure

While pooping can happen during labor, in some cases, people who feel like they have to poop during labor might actually be experiencing the pressure of their baby in the birth canal and not actually need to have a bowel movement.

If you're in early labor, your contractions aren't back-to-back or extremely painful and you feel the urge to poop, chances are, you really do have to go. Poop happens in labor in tandem with all those contractions as a natural way to clean house in preparation for baby.

However, if you're later in your labor or if you have an epidural and can't really feel things and you suddenly feel a ton of pressure, like you need to have a bowel movement, you need to call your labor nurse ASAP. In some cases, pregnant people feel an urge to have a bowel movement when it's actually their baby getting close to delivery. So don't try to hop out of bed—call your nurse, just in case. Your nurse can check your cervix before letting you up to the bathroom, just in case.

What About Other Bodily Fluids?

Aside from pooping, moving through the different stages of labor may bring a whole host of other bodily fluids, from pee to amniotic fluid. During labor, you may pee a lot, especially if you get an IV at the hospital. A lot of people receive IV fluids to hydrate and help prevent complications during labor, but it can also lead to you needing a few more trips to the bathroom.

If you're able to walk during labor, you can simply use the bathroom as normal. (You may need to take your IV pump supplies and fetal monitor along to the bathroom with you, but your nurse can help show you how to do that.) If you have an epidural, your nurse may need to empty your bladder for you through a catheter into your bladder. This won't hurt because you have an epidural, but it may be an adjustment for you.

However, it's important because a full bladder can block your baby's head from moving down appropriately as well, so your nurse will empty your bladder at regular intervals during labor. Some people will be able to still empty their bladder on their own, even with an epidural, so if that's the case for you, your nurse will position a bedpan under you to pee in, but you still have to stay in bed.

In addition to urine, you will most also likely experience amniotic fluid leaking during labor. Even if your water has already broken, it can continue to leak during labor. In fact, you may notice that fluid spontaneously leaking out with the force of each contraction. Your birthing team will change your bed linens and padding as needed and if you have a large gush, don't hesitate to let them know so they can be sure to change your bed to make sure you stay comfortable and as dry as possible.

While labor can undoubtedly be messy, the good news is, all those bodily fluids can be good prep for parenthood.

Because once that baby arrives you'll be wearing all kinds of body fluids (and solids) without even wincing. Milk on your T-shirt, baby pee in your lap, spit-up on your shoulder—it's all in a day's work.

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