Coming in at number six on our list in the Top 10 Childbirth Fears series is "Will I really poop when I give birth?" This fear, though it has nothing to do with the health or safety of mom or baby, is HUGE in the minds of many expectant mothers. The idea that an act that is considered very private will suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly be made public, can feel terrifying, embarrassing, and shameful. The short answer to this question is that, yes, you will likely poop during birth. But hear me out! When thinking about this seemingly scary possibility, please keep in mind the following information.
It's very, very common. Both the fear of pooping and the actual pooping during labor and birth (often during pushing) are commonplace. Most expectant parents fear this, and most laboring parents experience it. This means that while you may not be comfortable or accustomed to this incident, your care providers are. They clean up any excrement (usually a small amount) and do not announce its presence to everyone else in the room. Care providers know it's normal and also know it should be handled swiftly and discreetly. Oddly enough, many care providers become excited about poop because it's a sign that you're pushing effectively!
It makes perfect sense, anatomically speaking. What would happen if you sat on an open, full tube of toothpaste? Now, what might happen as a baby's head passes down and against a full rectum? Pooping during labor just makes sense. Pushing a baby out utilizes the same muscles as pushing during a bowel movement. Baby has to move down! Anything in it's way will get compressed! Anything that can be released can only help baby pass through easier!
It will not be the highlight (or low light) of your experience. Looking back on your birth, you will focus on many more important and exhilirating events that occurred. Pooping will be a vague or nonexistent memory. You will, like your care providers, also see it as "no big deal."
In answer to the follow up question to this post, which is likely, "So there is absolutely nothing I can do to prevent pooping in labor?" I can offer the following thoughts. You could have an enema prelabor or during labor. Know that enemas can be uncomfortable and while they may be effective, there is no guarantee it will prevent the big "P" later in birth. You could alter your diet leading up to or in early labor so as to potentially avoid a larger bowel movement. But, eating in early labor to help fuel your body for the immense amount of energy needed is important. Restricting food or eating light may only serve to drain you of energy too soon in labor, and likely still will not prevent pooping during birth.
If you find that your fear of pooping in labor is so big that you feel "paralyzed" by fear, it will be important for you to talk to a counselor or therapist, a childbirth educator, or a doula, all of whom can offer support and helpful tips.