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Pooping during childbirth. Sounds like a nightmare, but it's not that bad and it happens a lot. We tell you how and what. A little less annoying, but still a bit exciting: losing your mucus plug. What is that and what do you do? And we give you different breathing techniques for during labour. Do you want to puff and read along?

Shit happens

You're probably incredibly worried about it: pooping during childbirth. And although the subject is often avoided, it is incredibly common. Because: an accident can happen at any time. No fewer than nine out of ten women defecate during childbirth. So it is quite normal! The midwife even gets a little happy about pooing during labour because it means that you are using the right muscles. For the expulsion of your baby you use the same muscles as for defecating. So it is not surprising if a little stool comes along during the push. Do not worry too much about defecating during birth. Your gynaecologist and midwife are used to it and it is often just a little bit. Your midwife is discreet and will remove the stool in a jiffy. Often you do not even realize that you are defecating during labor, because usually it happens in the heat of the moment. Believe us, then you only think about squeezing your little one. Moreover, (unnecessary) stress causes the production of adrenaline which hinders the dilation. And the hormones oxytocin (causes contractions) and endorphin (natural painkiller) are produced less when you are stressed (Pregnancy Portal). So try to focus on other things and let go of unpleasant thoughts. Trying to hold back a potential turd will only create tension in the wrong places, making it harder for your baby to come out. And most women have to poop a lot right before delivery anyway. So most of it is usually out already. Relief, right?

Mucus plug 

During your pregnancy a mucus plug seals off the womb. It forms a natural barrier between your baby and the outside world. When you lose the mucus plug, it can mean the start of labour. But it does not have to be that way: Sometimes it can still take weeks before labour starts. So it is not necessary to call the midwife immediately when you lose your mucus plug.  

Usually the mucus plug comes out in its entirety. It is then clear white, often with some red or brown strings. This is blood from the uterus, which is perfectly normal. If you continue to bleed, you must of course contact your midwife immediately. Some women do not even notice that they have lost their mucus plug, for instance when they sit on the toilet. Others lose it in parts, which is also quite normal (Midwives Kampen). 

Ha, ha, ha! (stayin' alive)

One of the most important things during your birth is your breathing technique. Puffing, you have probably heard of it and we use the word from time to time. But what is it and what is it good for? A good breathing technique helps you to relax and to endure contractions better. By focusing on breathing your attention is diverted from the pain (ScienceDirect). Applying an efficient breathing technique also ensures an optimal oxygen intake, which you can put to good use. After all, you are breathing for two hard-working braves. 

We have listed several breathing techniques for you. It is difficult to know in advance which of these will work best for you, so it is best to practise them all at home. 

Puff

Breathe in through your nose and breathe out in small puffs, making the last puff longer. The last one makes sure you don't breathe in too quickly so you stay calm. Counting the puffs can be a distraction and help you focus on your breathing. Try it out!

Abdominal breathing

Place your hands just below your navel on your belly and form a heart by placing your fingertips against each other. Breathe in slowly through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Try to breathe towards your hands. You will feel your hands moving up and down. Use your hands for control, during labour it is not necessary to use your hands. By then you will have mastered it (if you have done your homework).

Flank breathing

If low breathing becomes difficult because the contractions are too heavy, for instance, you can use flank breathing. Breathe in through the nose and let the ribs and chest expand. Breathe out slowly through the nose or mouth (Pregnancy Portal). You can also use your hands for control during practice. 

During the press

Is it time to push? Take a big bite of air and squeeze with all your might until the air runs out, or take another bite if you feel the need. The oxygen will run out eventually and your body is working hard. Follow your instincts! Preferably don't make any noise while pushing, because you will lose a lot of usable air. And try to keep your mouth open. That way you are not putting any strain on your head and all your energy is going to the pushing (Physiotherapy Mariëlle ter Schure). 

Puff, sigh, support

Breathe slowly, mama. Try to relax as much as possible - yes, we know how hard that is - and focus on your breath. Practice the different breathing techniques and puff your way through. Your partner can help you with that! Do not worry unnecessarily about things you have little or no influence over. Let go of all embarrassment (read: poop, scream, moan, support) and let it happen. Trust the people around you, and remember: they are used to it.

Sources:

Schure, M. (2018, October 15). What are the breathing techniques in childbirth? Consulted from https://www.fysio-cesartherapie.nl/ademtechnieken-bij-een-bevalling/

ScienceDirect. (2017, November 1). The effects of breathing techniques training on the duration of labor and anxiety levels of pregnant women. Consulted from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1744388117304097?casa_token=rzJKmO3xmUUAAAAA:kguikXKy14gcoORF2yp7XEC8Ga7UGllAYeh4kUGVQ9g5SwQdMSdL40IctzRPu8wtJYx_2HaKlvai

Midwives Kampen. (s.d.). Signs. Consulted from https://www.verloskundigenkampen.nl/bevalling/voortekenen

Pregnancy Portal. (2020, October 23). Hormones during childbirth at a glance. Consulted from https://www.zwangerenportaal.nl/bevalling/hormonen-tijdens-bevalling-op-een-rijtje

Pregnancy Portal. (2021, Feb. 10). Different breathing techniques for giving birth. Consulted from https://www.zwangerenportaal.nl/bevalling/verschillende-ademhalingstechnieken-voor-de-bevalling