Your labour FAQ’s answered

Whether you’re worried about pooing in your pool, or whether you’ve got enough stamina to last, our midwife answers your questions

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Q: I fancy a water birth, but what happens if I poo in the pool?

A: Water is a fantastic method of pain relief, so it’s a great idea to plan to use a pool.

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During labour you won’t really be aware of what’s going on down below. There’ll be bits of mucus coming away (called the show), amniotic fluid and yes, you might open your bowels very close to the birth of your baby, as his head presses down on your back passage.

Most women get the runs before labour really kicks in, so there’s very little poo actually left in the bowel. Your midwife will sit next to the pool and every so often will discreetly sweep a plastic sieve around the water, removing anything that’s in there. You probably won’t notice, as you’ll be so preoccupied with giving birth. Opening your bowels is a positive sign, as it means that the birth isn’t far away.

Q: When I gave birth naturally, the placenta didn’t come out. It had to be removed by a doctor. What are the chances of this happening again?

A: This condition is called ‘retained placenta’ and occurs in around 3% of births. As it happened last time, there’s a slightly higher chance of it happening again – although it probably won’t. It can be caused by the midwife who, having given you an oxytocin injection, pulls on the cord before the placenta has separated from the uterus. You might want a natural (physiological) third stage so the placenta separates naturally.

However, even with a natural third stage of labour, you can still have a retained placenta, and it may just be ‘one of those things’.

Q: This probably sounds silly, but how will I know when I’m in labour?

A: Many women worry they won’t recognise labour – but you will! Most start with mild, period-like cramps that gradually develop a pattern. Some mums-to-be feel it low in their abdomen, others in the back. The latent (very early) phase of labour can last a few days with ‘niggly’ aches and pains that start and stop.

The general rule is, if you’re not sure you’re in labour, you’re probably not! It might be the start of it, but when you have regular contractions that take your breath away, you’ll know.

Q: I’m 37 weeks pregnant and was getting excited about labour until a friend told me that her labour lasted 46 hours. Please tell me that this isn’t normal!

A: You will always come across women who’ve had very short or very long labours, but an average length of labour with a first baby is around 10-12 hours, and less with a second.

What has significant impact on the length of your labour is your ability to recognise the ‘latent phase’ of labour – often the longest part, which occurs before labour has become fully established.

During this time, which can last hours or even days, the cervix is becoming softer, thinner, and starting to open. Any contractions might be mild and irregular at this point, and you’re generally best off trying to carry on as normal.

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Your friend may actually be thinking of this phases as the time when her labour started. But if you count labour from the point the contractions are strong and regular, and you struggle to speak through one, that’s a much better marker of the point where labour has actually kicked in.

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