Bowel Movements Before Labor

By Dr. Ritu Krishnatreye, BHMS

Bowel movements before labor

With all the physical as well as emotional changes, pregnancy can be quite a roller coaster ride. Some of the experiences bring pleasant memories, while others can be rather unpleasant.

As I write this article, I am approaching my due date for our first child.

Because of this, I am more and more concerned about the various signs that help to indicate when my baby is coming. As pregnant women, a common question that we share is, when will my labor start, and how can I know it is about time? 

A sign that labor is almost there

There are several signs to let you know your labor is approaching. One of them is the change is bowel movements right before labor.

A woman’s bowels undergo a lot of changes during pregnancy.

Due to certain factors, including laxity of pelvic muscles, use of iron supplements and a lack of physical activity, 50% of pregnant women will experience constipation at some point in their pregnancy.

However, as her due date approaches and it is almost time for delivery, her bowel movements tend to loosen up. 

Diarrhea before and during labor and delivery

Loose bowel movements can occur 24 to 48 hours prior to labor, or a few days before labor begins.

They are often accompanied by other pre-labor signs and symptoms, such as:

  • Braxton hicks contractions (false labor pains)

  • Increased vaginal secretions

  • Menstrual like cramps

  • Continuous lower back pain

These symptoms indicate that your body has prepared itself for the delivery process.

They are not necessarily signs that labor is imminent, but they do indicate that you need to watch out for other preliminary signs of the onset of labor.

As many women have found out, diarrhea can rear its ugly head during labor and delivery. Unfortunately, this unpleasant and visually unfriendly occurrence is fairly common.

Why loose bowel movements occur before labor

Loose bowel movements and diarrhea are an indication that your baby is ready to come out and your body has started preparing itself for the process.

As your uterus undergoes changes for the preparation for childbirth, so does the rectum and other parts of the body.

The muscles of the uterus start relaxing and loosening. Some experts believe that it is the nature’s process to make room for the baby to emerge.

A second reason for bowel disturbance is the release of natural painkillers called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are natural chemicals produced to help a woman through delivery.

Their affect on the bowels is to loosen bowel movements and even cause diarrhea. Along with loosened stools, you may notice other digestive symptoms, such as flatulence and heartburn

Action steps

As mentioned above, loose bowel movements may be an indication that it is about time for childbirth.

Therefore, there is nothing to be worried about.

  • Try to eat light food and drink plenty of fluids. This can help you to stay hydrated and energized for going through labor and delivery.

  • Avoid eating fatty foods, dairy products and processed foods. Your digestion will be weak prior to labor, making it will difficult to digest these foods.

  • Stay as calm as possible and relax your mind. Indulge in some sort of relaxation activities that will help you work with your labor. 

Be aware that bowel contractions when accompanied by painful flatulence can mimic uterine contractions. If you are suffering from severe diarrhea, call your gynecologist immediately, as severe diarrhea can also induce labor.

If you are noticing other symptoms such as fever, stinky stools or shivering, it may be a sign of a gastrointestinal infection. Consult your health care provider immediately for medical care. 

Conclusion, bowel movements before labor

Bowel movements tend to become loose right before the process of labor. It is nature’s way to prepare your body for pushing the baby out of the womb.

There it isn’t something to be concerned about. However, it is best none-the-less to keep an eye on any other symptoms.

(p.s.) Dr. Ritu delivered a healthy baby boy on Nov. 28, 2014. Both mother and baby are fine.

(Return from Bowel Movements Before Labor to Pregnancy and Constipation)

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