Eating right and staying hydrated are two ways to prepare the digestive system for labor that may help reduce the odds of a bowel movement during childbirth.
Although having a bowel movement during labor is mostly an unavoidable sideshow during childbirth, it is a natural and common reaction to extreme pressures associated with labor.
The various systems in your body go about emptying your colon in the lead-up to labor, but the colon is never completely emptied, and oftentimes, accidents happen during childbirth.
Mothers-to-be do not all respond to labor similarly, and pooping is viewed as a natural part of childbirth.
However, some steps can be taken to prepare for the later stages of labor to reduce the chances of an accident occurring.
Read on to find out what you can do to reduce your chances of an untimely bowel movement during childbirth.
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Why some women pass stools during labor
Your baby has grown in size and weight throughout your pregnancy, and space becomes more restricted the closer to your due date you get.
Lightening or when your baby drops down into the birth position puts great pressure on your bladder and other organs, including your colon, which usually results in the need to relieve yourself.
The muscles you use when having a bowel movement are the same muscles you use to push your baby out.
Hence, it’s logical to assume that if your colon is not empty, you will initiate a bowel movement when pushing your baby down the birth canal.
Your digestive system also slows down in anticipation of labor but does not stop altogether.
This means that the colon will still be filled but just at a much slower rate.
This slow pace of digestion will catch many women off guard as it’s not in sync with their usual bowel movements, leading them to believe that their colon is clean.
As your baby moves through the birth canal, your colon is squeezed like a tube of toothpaste, and whatever is in the lower part of your colon will be pushed out.
1. The influence of hormones on muscles during labor
Your hormones are constantly changing before and after childbirth.
As your body prepares for the labor the muscles of your uterus, cervix, and rectum are loosened. As a result, pre-labor diarrhea and pooping during labor may occur.
The baby’s changing position is also a contributing factor.
As the baby shifts into the occiput posterior position, head down and facing towards your front, immense pressure will be placed on your rectum and lower colon.
2. Your body naturally prepares for labor
A hormone called prostaglandins is responsible for normal bowel movements, and this hormone is released in the early stages of labor in preparation for childbirth.
Some women may experience diarrhea at this time which is normal.
This is your body’s way of clearing space for your baby to pass through the birth canal.
If you’ve had an epidural, the chances are good that you will poop during labor because you can no longer feel the sensation to relieve yourself.
Besides, the muscles in the pelvic region may be more relaxed and inclined to release any stool in the rectum as your baby pushes down on that region.
Most women will take the early cue and relieve themselves in the beginning stage of labor, thus reducing the chance of an accident during the final stages.
That said, bowel movements during labor are natural and should not be a concern.
The attending medical staff will discreetly clean away and dispose of any stool without you even realizing it.
Can you prevent an involuntary bowel movement during labor?
Measures can be taken to reduce the chance of an untimely bowel movement during labor, but the possibility of it happening cannot be predicted with any degree of accuracy.
If your colon and rectum are not empty, the chances are good that you may poop during the final bear-down stages of labor.
Passing a stool during labor in most cases is nothing like your regular bowel movement but enough to cause embarrassment, that’s if you even notice it above your focused attention on giving birth to your baby and ending the labor pains.
The bottom line is that taking every precaution to avoid an accident during labor may still result in a little accident when you push down, something like a fender bender in mid-city traffic.
As you may have established, accidents happen, but it’s no reason to simply accept what you consider inevitable.
Although pooping, even just a little, is a normal part of labor for many women, there is no reason not to try and minimize the risk.
It may save you that little embarrassing moment that is mostly kept hidden from you anyway, thanks to professional and discreet conduct.
What not to do to clear your colon for labor
There will always be people around to advise you about this subject which is seldom openly spoken about.
Such advice gave rise to the popularity of enemas and ingesting castor oil, but fortunately, that period is banished to the history books.
Enemas are recommended to clean out your colon and rectum, but some liquid remains in the colon and will be pushed out during labor.
Besides being an unpleasant procedure, the main reason for having an enema was to prevent infections from spreading.
Research indicates this to be false as the remaining liquid is mixed with small amounts of feces and can still spread infections.
It was also believed that an enema would create more space for the baby to move, which has some truth, but that problem has always been solved by nature as part of the preparation for labor.
Opting for an enema is not advisable unless recommended by your doctor.
Castor oil is used by some stressed mothers as a liquid laxative to kickstart labor. It tastes nasty and clears your bowels by bringing on forceful diarrhea.
It also causes cramping and vomiting, which may mimic labor pains but instead puts your baby in distress.
Expecting mothers should avoid castor oil but rather speak to their doctor about any issues of concern.
Some women respond to their fear and unnecessary stress of pooping while in labor by “holding on” and hoping that an accident doesn’t occur when they bear down in the final stages.
Doing this will elevate stress hormones that may cause your contractions to slow down and possibly stall, at which point intervention will be necessary.
6 different ways to clear your colon for labor
Here are 6 different ways to help minimize the chance of an accident during labor:
If, for some reason, you have constipation, a suppository will offer relief, but this will be on the recommendation of your doctor in the early stages of labor.
2. Diet and meal size
Eat small regular meals in the lead up to labor and ensure you include fiber in your meals. This helps keep your digestive tract regular so you can go before the big push.
Stay hydrated and drink enough water.
Light exercises help regulate your digestive system as you are burning energy but limit your exercise to walking as your due date approaches.
5. Relieve yourself
Relieve yourself early if possible, but if you have the urge to relieve yourself during labor, ask for assistance from the nursing staff.
Go to the toilet as many times as you feel the urge to.
6. Stop stressing
Stress can lead to constipation and other unnecessary complications, so try to relax and enjoy your special moment of bringing your baby into the world.
The suggestions above are mostly centered around keeping your digestive system regular, so you can naturally empty your bowels during early labor.
The chances of pooping while in the final stages of labor will be significantly reduced if you can freely empty your bowels beforehand.
Can you eat or drink during labor?
This depends on your doctor.
Most doctors are okay with light snacks and fluids in the early stages of labor if no complications have been noted. However, the snacks must be made up of easy-to-digest foods.
Why is there a sudden urge to urinate so much when the baby drops?
This is because your uterus will now be resting on your bladder, and the added internal pressure will result in urinating more frequently.
Lightening can happen a few weeks before labor begins.
How close to labor am I when diarrhea sets in?
This usually occurs a day or two before labor begins.
Speak with your doctor if you develop diarrhea earlier or if it persists, and disclose any information about the possible cause, like travel and things you’ve ingested.
Is it best to relieve myself before labor begins or during labor?
The onset of natural labor cannot be predicted, but whenever you feel the urge to relieve yourself, do so.
Ideally, early labor is a good time but focussing on pooping may raise your stress levels, so don’t worry about it.
Go whenever you feel the urge and let nature take its course.
A few last words
All expecting mothers should make slight adjustments to their lifestyle by eating the right foods and drinking lots of fluids during pregnancy.
Keeping your digestive system functioning normally has the benefit of an easier labor period, and staying calm under the circumstances makes for memorable childbirth.
Speak to your doctor in the lead-up to D-day and follow any advice given, especially if you are on medication or supplements that may influence your body’s ability to naturally prepare for labor and childbirth.