But what if I poop? (What does pooping teach us about birth?)
In our culture, it’s usually only people with whom we are very intimate, or who are taking care of us medically, who ever see us in elimination mode. Some families have an open door-while-pooping rule, some families don’t get a choice because those little kiddos won’t be denied access to their parent, and some are more inclined to lock that door no matter what’s happening on the other side.
Whatever your routine, the key thing to notice is, “What allows me to feel un-self conscious, so that I can relax enough to go?” Most often, it’s people (if they must be present) who you feel safe with in that space with you, and an environment where you can relax. Imagine trying to poop with strangers yelling at you and bright lights pointed at your back end! You could do it if you had to, but is it ideal? I’m going to wager that for most people, probably not.
The great thing about what we know about our comfort level in pooping, is we can directly connect it to birth. What environment do you imagine for your birth? Does it make a kind of sense with how you feel about your ideal environment for using the bathroom? A relaxed environment, where you feel safe and unself-conscious, where you can ask for help if you need it, and all the tools you need to feel prepared are present, and where things can move along in their own time? ( Have you ever thought so much about your pooping environment before?)
Poop can also be an early indicator of labor. Some people feel ‘flu-ish’, with some loose stools and nausea, in early labor. Unfortunately we can’t know for sure you’re not getting a virus, until you start to feel more indicators of labor, but if you are suddenly feeling like you’re passing a lot of loose poops and this is unusual for you, notice if you’re feeling some uterine contractions as well.
The other aspect where poop and birth come together is in the labor space. Some people feel very concerned that they may pass stool while pushing. There aren’t many experiences in life where we get excited about pooping right in front of a room full of people… but this is one! As you progress from transition into pushing, your body presses the baby’s head down through the pelvis. In your pelvis is not only your uterus and vagina, but also your bladder and rectum. Your rectum is located between the baby (in the uterus), and the sacrum, or back of your pelvis, so as baby is moving down and you are pushing, you’re also bearing down and creating pressure, causing whatever is in the chute to come right out. It tells us that your pushing is effective, and its always encouraging!
What does it mean if you poop in labor? Here’s the great news- it means you’re using the right muscles and pressure, and most likely, moving your baby down! (Try sitting on the toilet and holding your breath to poop. Does it work as well as relaxing, breathing into your belly and focusing on the muscles you need to open and relax?) Experienced birth professionals are hoping to see some stool, as it’s a reassurance that things are moving (heh, punny!) in the right direction. Doulas will notice and eye-hi-five the nurse, and then we usually get more impassioned in our statements to you that you are, indeed, moving your baby down. We can see it! Could the pressure from pushing just cause the stool to come out with no descent of baby? Yes, of course, but they generally come together.
So, know that pooping has a purpose before birth, as a teacher to prepare our birth space, choice of location, who is present and what that space looks like, and also to indicate that labor is coming, and that pushing is likely going well. Every time you poop, you’re practicing pushing! Well done. 💩