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Pooing during labor, why it happens to some and not others

Pregnancy By The Mirror
Photo: Courtesy

Even if the closest you've come to birth is a nicely airbrushed rom-com re-enactment, there are some 'truths' about childbirth we take as being universal.

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The belief that it's painful and messy is perhaps the most widely-held (though this is not every woman's experience).

If you delve a little deeper, however, or happen to have insider / medical knowledge, there are a whole world of weird and wonderful childbirth facts to be discovered.

Which makes sense, considering the miraculous feat the humble human body performs.

Perhaps one fact which, to expectant mums and the uninitiated, can be very unsettling is whether pooing mid-labour is a likelihood.

Addressing this concern is midwife Clemmie Hooper, who spoke about it on Radio Four's Woman's Hour.

Do women always poo in labour?

The good news?

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"No, they don't actually!" answered Clemmie.

The bad news?

"I would say the majority do and it certainly feels like you want to do a poo when you're pushing a baby out."

A mother giving birth to her baby in the hospital

There's a lot of pressure down there

The reason why this is so common is because the same muscles used when having a bowel movement are the same ones engaged when pushing in labour.

There's also the extra pressure on the colon and rectum with a baby moving through the birth canal to consider.

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The odds, therefore, dictate you will poo.

The question frequently comes up prior to a baby's birth. As mortifying as the thought may be to an expectant mum, Clemmie is matter-of-fact.

"My clear answer is, if you do, so what? As midwives we get very excited by the sounds of a woman saying she needs to do a poo because it means the baby is on its way."

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She raises another crucial point adding, "and also, there are much more important things in labour that are going to happen and a poo is not that a big a deal.

"Everyone's seen it before."

And ladies, you're in good, professional hands should it happen.

"You may not have pooed so openly in front of your partner [but] we're quite discrete as midwives at clearing it away."

It's not just the thought of pooing during birth which alarms women. Given the effects a vaginal birth may have on the body, many mums-to-be have concerns about that first, postnatal poo.

A woman going into labour

Mums may be concerned about having a poo in front of their partner (Photo: Getty)

"Having a poo after birth," Clemmie agrees, "that first time you do a poo is terrifying.

"You may have had some stitches if you've had a vaginal birth, so it can be quite terrifying the thought of having to push something out (obviously not of your vagina) - but I think a lot of women really worry about it."

Top tip?

Clemmie's advice on the firs poo is "try not to worry about it. When you feel like you need to go, you definitely need to go then."

Because you can wait too long.

"Depending on the birth," she adds "you don't want to hold it in and risk constipation, you want to go when you're body's saying 'let's go for a poo.'

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Try not to worry, the midwives will take care f many 'mess'

"Holding a sanitary pad on your perineum can help.

"It's very unlikely you'll rip your stitches which is what I think many women worry about.

"Maintain a good diet and keep yourself well hydrated."

We hope parents-to-be are feeling reassured by this. Even if you do poo, like Clemmie says, 'so what' - you're bringing a CHILD into this world!

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