What to Expect When You're Expecting...to Deliver

Pregnant woman smiling in hospital gown.jpg

All those bodily fluids and their smells! You can bet nurses have seen, heard and smelled it all. There is no way around it, labor and delivery is a messy process. Many weird things that happen before labor are actually totally normal and even expected. Ashley Guelzow, RN, labor and delivery at UnityPoint Health, describes all those messy things and explains why they occur.

Excess Gas Before Labor

It’s a normal bodily function, and while in labor, your stress, hormones and contractions irritate your bowels and make you gassy. Most likely, you’ll find your medical team acting like it never happened.

Types of Discharge Before Labor

Whether it’s a big gush or a small trickle, amniotic fluid continues to leak until baby arrives. In fact, it continues to be produced after your water breaks when the baby pees. But don’t worry, even with the loss of amniotic fluid, your baby is still okay inside.

You’ll notice your nurses asking to look at it and sometimes asking if there’s a smell to it. This is because we want to be aware of a few things:

  • Color. Typically, the fluid is clear in color, although if the fluid appears yellow/greenish, it could mean the baby pooped inside you. This is okay, and your baby is still safe. However, we will take extra precautions at your delivery and sometimes suction out the fluid from your baby’s mouth to make sure he or she doesn’t inhale it, which could lead to an infection.
  • Odor. And the smell? If the fluid smells foul, it means there could be an infection inside your uterus. Again, we’ll take extra precautions, like monitoring your temperature, to make sure you don’t have an infection.

Pooping Before or During Labor

This is caused by bowel irritation. Just like gas, poop happens during early labor, active labor and during pushing. Yes, during pushing. Think of it -- you are pushing in the same general area as when you poop. Nothing to stress about, we make sure to clean it up quickly; sometimes, you might not even realize it. And, don’t worry, we have some tricks to take care of that smell, too! Generally, if you’re pooping during pushing, it means you’re pushing correctly. Nurses get excited about that!

Remember: You're Doing Something Amazing 

So you might ask, who would want to work with all of those fluids and smells for living? Nurses do. There’s no judging in labor. It’s an amazing process to experience. We enjoy working with you and your families to develop personal, yet professional connections, so embarrassment can be avoided and some bit of modesty can be saved. It’s truly an amazing opportunity to be at a woman’s side during her most vulnerable moments in life.

Instead of dreading the “unpleasant side effects” of labor, think of the bigger picture: The opportunity to experience pregnancy and delivery is something special. You are a strong, amazing and courageous woman and, now, a mother!