Here it is: if you're in labour and about to have a baby, it's totally normal to poop yourself when you start pushing. Dr. Kyrin Dunston, an OBGYN, sheds a little light on the not-oft-discussed phenomenon: "The pelvis is only so large and can hold only so much material," she explains. "When a baby's head comes through, it pushes out everything else that's not solid, including urine and stool." Dunston adds that pooping during delivery is more likely to happen if there's stool in the sigmoid colon — the last curve of the colon — when labor begins.
Another reason for the pre-baby poop is that the muscles you use to push a baby out —the valsalva (diaphragm), abdominal muscles, and intercostal muscles — are are exactly the same muscles you use during a bowel movement. Fun!
And if you're worried about grossing out the doctor or staff, don't. "They are all used to this," Dunston says. "It comes with the job and there is no judgement." If you have your partner or other friends and family in the room with you, you shouldn't worry about offending them, either. "They're usually more fixated on and disturbed by the blood that can be a part of the delivery, the baby, the mum, or the wonder of birth to really care about poop," Dunston adds. "I used to joke that you can't be shy around any body fluids and be an OBGYN —we get them all....My special labor and delivery shoes had every kind of stain on them."
If you still need validation that the experience is way more normal than you think, here are nine women on what it's really like to poop during delivery.
1. "Humans are animals and there is absolutely nothing more primal than giving birth. Trust me, you are way too busy pushing out a baby and coping with pain to care if poop comes out of your butt. It happened at least once during my delivery. Nobody, not even my husband, batted an eye or cared. I kept screaming on the delivery table that 'My butt [was] falling out.' There is so much pressure that it really feels like all of your insides are blasting out of your bottom area at the same time."—Amanda, 32
2. "I felt some poop come out at some point during the two-plus hours of pushing out my first son. I had an epidural but it had mostly worn off so I felt the poop come out while I was pushing. I just had the sensation that it was there, and then when I saw the nurse quickly wipe it away I knew I was right. The nurse quickly wiped it away and it was like it didn't even happen. I was so focused on pushing I wasn't worried about it. My second son came out so quickly, that if I pooped while pushing I wasn't even aware of it."—Maya, 39
3. "Like many first-time mums, I worried a lot about pooping on the delivery table, and it definitely happened. I kept yelling to the nurses 'Am I pooping?! Am I pooping?!'. I was so embarrassed by the whole thing and kept apologising. In the moment there is so much pressure happening to your lower body it is hard to tell one bodily function from the next. The pushing feels the same. The nurses told me to push as if I was having a bowel movement. Obviously the labour pushing is more painful and intense, but how you go about pushing is the same as when pooping. I was convinced I was pooping the entire time, but it was just one quick second and the nurses took care of it."—Mary*, 31
4. "I was ready for the possibility of pooping because one of my friends once texted another of my friends who was in labour, 'remember, cool moms poop,' and it is a running joke among us. The thing to really know is that the doctor will basically ask you to poop. They tell you to 'push like you're pooping.' I don't know how anyone gets out of there without actually doing so. I had an epidural and didn't feel very much, but I still somehow knew it was happening and was powerless to stop it. It only happened once during what was a very long delivery. My husband was holding one of my legs at the time, which was unfortunate for him. He definitely noticed but he didn’t say anything until I brought it up a few days later. We laugh about it now." —Jenny, 37
5. "If 2017 was the year we finally accepted that all women poop, then 2018 will be the year we come to terms with the fact that all women poop during labour. While I truly believe that every birth story is magical and unique and fucking crazy, there is one thing that remains consistent: the pooping. But here’s the thing that’s hard for anyone who hasn’t gone to the bathroom in front of their loved ones (particularly the one who got you into this mess) to comprehend: pooping during labor is sort of a non-issue. It happens, but in the moment, it’s really the least of your concerns. I was in labour for 56 hours and by the end of my five-day hospital stay, a crap was really the least alarming thing to emerge from my body. Babies, on the other hand, are a whole other story."—Jane, 31
6. "I told my significant other he was not allowed to look at the baby coming out of my vagina, because I didn’t want him to see shit coming out of me. I didn’t pretend there was any other reason. I told him the sole reason he could not see the physical birth of his child was that I was probably going to poop and I was really embarrassed about him seeing that. I also heard horror stories about women watching the look on their husbands' faces as they pretended not to be disgusted by the sight of huge, bulging hemorrhoids and nasty vaginal tears. When it came time for the actual delivery, all that went out the window. It was such an emotional, beautiful, and incredible time that I didn’t care if he saw me shit myself. The whole thing is a freaking miracle, body fluids and all, and he shouldn’t be denied seeing this miracle in action. Turns out I didn’t have a choice anyway, as the delivery doctor asked him to grab one of my legs as I pushed. He had a prime viewing spot either way. I don’t even know if I pooped, but I probably did. I think I saw the nurse wiping away some stuff — but it was such a mix of fluids that I don’t know exactly what it was. I lost pretty much all modesty the moment my daughter was born, and I’m 100 percent better for it."—Jenn, 36
7. "I was in the room with my cousin when she was delivering and unbeknownst to me, I was pregnant too at the time. Everything you could imagine was going on in that delivery room including pooping, and I remember thinking, 'When I have kids, my delivery is going to be so clean, peaceful, and perfect.' Then nine months or so passed and I no longer cared about the atmosphere; I wanted that baby out! It’s totally normal to poop during labour and although my epidural wore off, I don’t even think I felt it happen. I just remember seeing the nurse scoop it up and throw it away, as if she dropped something on the floor while cooking. Totally nonchalant."—Marcella, 24
8. "I started labour in the middle of the night and promptly shit my brains out. When it came time to push, I kept in mind what my birthing class instructor said: 'If you poop while pushing, you know you’re pushing effectively.' That really stuck with me. So when my midwives had to 'wipe my bottom' a couple of times, I was sort of proud. There really is no need to be embarrassed. You are bringing a life into the world! Who cares if you poop? I didn’t."—Sarah, 27
9. "I went into labour in a birthing pool in hospital, with my husband holding my hands through it all. I was leaning over the edges of the pool and the midwife said with the next contraction that I should push down into my bottom, as if I was doing a big poop. I said I was worried I would actually poop, but she reassured me it was unlikely. So I pushed. Hard. I was convinced I must have pooped but she said 'no, you’re fine.' Then I made eye contact with my husband who just gave me a look while nodding his head to confirm I had indeed pooped a little. The most humiliating part was the midwife fishing out the offending article with a goldfish net!"—Sanchia, 29
*Names have been changed. Answers have been lightly edited for clarity.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.