I am not the type of gal who throws up easily. My whole family can be down with a nasty stomach bug and even if I get it, I’ll rarely actually vomit from it. I’ll get a fever, the shakes, the runs, horrid nausea, and everything else, but somehow hurling is not usually a thing for me.
That’s why it totally took me by surprise when I found myself barfing while I was in labor with my sons – both freaking times!
It happened during the transition phase of labor. That’s the part right between active labor and when you are about to push. It’s also the part – especially if you’re laboring drug-free – where you are pretty certain you are about to die.
I gave birth unmedicated, so I felt it all during transition. As the baby made his way into position right there in the birth canal, and as my body opened itself up as goddamn much as it ever would, it felt to me like I was being turned inside out.
And then I puked.
In the early stages of labor, I had shit my ass out (totally common too), but I guess that wasn’t enough. Puking it was! Luckily, the first time, my dear doulas could tell I was able to upchuck and they magically appeared at my side with a barf bucket. The second time I was laboring on the toilet anyway, so it was an easy catch.
But I was definitely kind of shocked each time it happened. Like, on top of getting ready to push a mini-human out of my hoo-ha, I also get to puke? Gee, thanks.
I thought my puking was kind of special, but it turns out my experience is actually really common and normal. Who knew?
Ready for some evidence?
Both the American Pregnancy Association (APA) and The Royal Women’s Hospital in Australia list vomiting — along with other lovely symptoms like nausea, shaking, chills, and hot flashes – as a common part of labor, especially the “transition” phase.
What’s more, in a Reuters article about eating and drinking during labor, Dr. William H. Barth, chair of ACOGs Committee on Obstetric Practice, explains that “nausea and vomiting during labor is quite common” and that eating and drinking during labor are usually “the last thing most women are going to want to do.”
(It should be noted that in 2015, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) came out with a recommendation that laboring women should be able to eat and drink whenever possible. So take that, ice chips!)
Finally, in an article in Parents, Dr. David Birnbach, spokesperson for the American Society of Anesthesiologists, explains that sometimes epidurals contribute to the whole vomiting phenomenon. Epidurals, he explains, can cause a drop in blood pressure (hypotension), and an early sign of that drop is nausea and vomiting.
However, puking can occur with or without an epidural, as pain and slowed digestion during labor can cause it. FUN TIMES.
When I took
a super scientific poll on Facebook, more than half of my mom friends had puked in labor as well. Most of them puked during transition like I had, but a few had puked during early labor, and even after labor.
One had even projectile puked several times during her first labor. “I’ve never thrown up harder than that in my life,” she said. Man, that sounds horrible. Luckily, she didn’t puke at all the second time.
A couple of the moms I polled felt that, as horrible as it was to puke during labor, it seemed like there was a biological reason for it. I concur: I remember feeling like my body was clearing itself out – every last ounce – in order to make room for my baby’s grand exit. I have no scientific evidence for that, but it made sense to me, especially because it was right after I barfed that I felt the baby descend, and when I began to feel “pushy.”
Whatever the reason, it’s definitely “a thing.” I think for most of us (besides my poor projectile puking friend), vomiting is not the most uncomfortable part of the process. But it’s no walk in the park either. The good thing is that for most of us, even the most squeamish and gross parts of labor are quickly forgotten once we finally lay eyes on our sweet little babies.
And then, before we know it, it’s their puke we are mopping up. The fun never ends, I tell you.