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Am I going to poop during labor? And other embarrassing questions about childbirth.

Our labor and delivery nurse has heard and seen it all. Here’s the truth about what to expect during labor.

By Kriss Zulkosky, RN
August 6, 2018

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I find childbirth and women 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 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 women 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:

Am I going to poop during labor?

Probably. It doesn’t happen to 100% of women, 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 women 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 women 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 will it be like when my water breaks?

When your water breaks and how it feels when it breaks varies from woman to woman. 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 would actually recommend putting that number in your phone right now if you haven’t already. The care line nurses will ask you additional questions and help decide on a plan for next steps.

Am I going to be naked during labor?

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.

Will I need stitches after my baby is born?

Again, every woman is different in how her body responds to childbirth. Some women’s perineum (the skin between the vagina and anus) does tear while they’re pushing. But it’s not something you’ll feel. Your doctor or midwife will also be conscience 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 in with a nurse at the birth center where you’ll be delivering. At Regions Hospital where I work, we invite moms-to-be to take a free tour of our Birth Center – and encourage them to bring along any questions they might have. The less worried you feel going into childbirth, the more relaxed your body will be and the smoother the process will go.

About Kriss Zulkosky, RN

Kriss Zulkosky has been a labor and delivery nurse at Regions Hospital since her internship there in 1999. Originally an English Literature major, she was inspired to become a labor and delivery nurse after giving birth to her first child. Kriss went back to school to earn her nursing degree from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn. She’s enjoyed helping women bring their babies into the world ever since. She is a mother of two boys herself and was a 2015 March of Dimes Minnesota Nurse of the Year nominee.

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