At almost every vaginal birth you attend, there comes a time when the whole poop discussion raises its head.
Women deeply in touch with their birthing instinct, briefly come back to the room and look you in the eye and whisper they are worried about a little poo escaping with the contractions. Some try and move towards the toilet from the birth pool despite being very close to birthing in order to avoid the embarrassment of opening their bowel. It seems crazy that we seem perfectly fine with liquor running down our legs for hours and blood and mucous strewn across our clothes, sheets and towels but we can’t accept a little poop.
I was told years ago “Just tell women they are only feeling baby’s head and there is no poo there and not to worry”. If we were to talk about it, we were encouraged to play it down and say “it was only a tiny bit, and it is gone now”.
I believe, however, we should be educating women in the antenatal period that this sensation will occur in labour and not to feel embarrassed but acknowledge it as an important part of labour. Now we know, emptying the rectum creates more room for baby to descend, and when baby’s face passes over the perineum, baby ingests a little faeces. This colonises the baby’s gut with flora helping with immunity and even future mental health.
So let’s help women forget anxiety and embarrassment and accept this as another of nature’s miracles. Embrace poops in labour – well figuratively anyhow, and tell women it is all normal and vital to baby’s good health.
words: Jacki Barker