I find childbirth and people in labor to be completely inspiring. It’s one of the reasons that I went back to school to become a labor and delivery nurse after originally getting a degree in English literature.

The fact that birth can be messy is one of the things that makes it beautiful. But for moms facing childbirth for the first time, “beautiful” isn’t always the word that comes to mind. You end up hearing a lot of labor stories when you’re pregnant. And in the weeks and month leading up to birth, I often have people ask me questions about labor that they’re worried or embarrassed about. One of the big ones is, “Am I going to poop during labor?”

So, let’s get right to it.

Do you poop while giving birth?

You might. It doesn’t happen to 100% of people, but it is something you should expect, and it’s really not an issue. Your nurse has seen it time and again, and will be there to help quickly clean up without bringing attention to it.

Here’s the part that people with this concern often don’t hear: when you poop during labor, your nurse is going to see it as a good thing. It tells us that you’re pushing in the right spot and that labor is progressing. And if you try and fight it, your labor might be prolonged because you’re fighting the process.

Rather than trying to prevent it, I tell people to make sure the people in the delivery room with them are people they feel comfortable with. Don’t invite people to join you for this special moment if having them in the room will make you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious. Because if things aren’t coming out of your body during labor, then neither will your baby.

What does it feel like when your water breaks?

When your water breaks and how it feels when it breaks varies from person to person. If the baby is high up, it will feel like you’re continually wetting your pants. But if the baby has dropped down, then their head acts like a cork, and your water breaking could be a much lighter gush.

Your water breaking is another important and natural stage in the process. If you’re worried about your water breaking in public, bring a change of clothes with you when you’re out and about during the last few weeks of pregnancy, or wear a pad.

If your water breaks before you experience other signs of labor, or if you think your water has broken but you’re not sure, call the care line where you’re planning on delivering. I recommend creating a birth plan and adding that number to the plan and in your phone right away. The care line nurses will ask you additional questions and help decide on a plan for next steps.

Are you naked when you give birth?

This is completely up to you. If you tell your care team that you’d like to keep your clothes on during labor, then we’re going to do everything we can to help you feel comfortable and covered. I’ve had women give birth almost fully clothed, and I’ve had women give birth completely naked. Whatever you’re comfortable with, we’re comfortable with. You might be surprised how little you end up caring about or even noticing what you’re wearing as labor progresses.

Do you get stitches after birth?

Again, everybody responds differently to childbirth. Sometimes the perineum (the skin between the vagina and anus) does tear while pushing, but it’s not something you’ll feel. Your doctor or midwife will also be conscious of your perineum. Listen to their voice as your baby crowns. They will calmly guide you with pushing and that will help reduce the chances of a tear, or the severity of a tear.

Your care team is there to help with whatever happens during labor, so if you do tear, they’ll be prepared and will stitch you up when the moment is right. And chances are, that moment will be when you’re holding your beautiful new baby – which is the reason your body has been working so hard!

If you have other questions on your mind about giving birth, I encourage you to talk to your midwife or doctor. You can also check out our pregnancy resources page, which connects you with helpful tips and information about the whole pregnancy and delivery journey.

Checking in with a nurse at the birth center where you’ll be delivering can be a good idea, too. At Regions Hospital where I work, we invite parents-to-be to take a tour of our Birth Center – and encourage them to contact us with any questions they have. The more confident you feel going into childbirth, the more relaxed your body will be and the smoother the process will go.