Vomiting during labor sounds pretty awful. I mean, it’s kinda like getting kicked when you’re already down. No mother is excited to hear that throwing up during childbirth can be pretty normal.
But wait, there’s more! Your Pollyanna childbirth educator (that’s me!) is here to save the day with some good news. Did you know that there’s a silver lining to vomiting during labor? Throwing up in labor is not all bad and there’s actually some good news attached to it!
Before we get to the good stuff, I did want to share with you that what I’m writing about in this post is purely anecdotal and based on my experience of assisting women in labor. Take from this article what’s helpful, and leave the rest.
Also, just as an FYI, a small minority of women throw up throughout their entire birth experience, which, as you can imagine, is an extremely difficult labor. This post isn’t written for them necessarily, and they would probably get more out of my article How to Stop Throwing Up During Labor.
Why Do Women Vomit in Labor?
- Vomiting during labor can be caused by the pain of contractions and as a response to the hormonal shifts that happen as contractions become longer, stronger, and closer together.
- Vomiting can also be caused by dehydration, which ironically, vomiting makes worse.
- During one of my births I asked for a cervical exam and then for my midwife to break my water. The sensation of those procedures and being flat on my back is what I think made me throw up. It was a yucky experience!
The Silver Lining of Vomiting During Labor
Nobody wants to throw up and we’ll do just about anything to make it stop, amiright? Most of us resist the involuntary urge to purge. It’s such a yucky experience!
But what if I told you there’s a few good things that can come from vomiting during labor?
1) Feel Better After
First of all, many women find relief and actually feel better once they throw up and get rid of whatever the body is wanting out. If you feel like you’re going to throw up and are holding back but it’s getting too intense, you may find relief by giving in and letting your body throw up. Tell yourself that “I’ll probably feel better once I throw up”.
2) You’ve Made Progress!
Second, vomiting can be a sign of transition, which is the last part of the first stage of labor. Vomiting in labor may mean that you’re in transition and getting closer to pushing and the birth of your baby, which is the whole point of all these shenanigans.
If a laboring woman’s contractions are long, strong, and close together, she begins vomiting, and is showing other signs of labor progress, that’s a good sign she’s getting close to pushing. Tell her she’s making progress! “You’re getting so close, mama! You are doing it!”
3) Can Encourage Dilation
Finally, the silver lining to throwing up in labor that nobody talks about is that the downward force and pressure that comes with vomiting can actually help the cervix to dilate. Seriously!
Don’t believe me? Take a moment and pretend to vomit right where you are. Contract your abdomen and feel the downward pressure that even fake vomiting creates. Imagine that happening in labor, but with more force, and that’s how sometimes throwing up in labor can help your cervix to open.
Tips for Vomiting During Labor
If I’m with a woman in labor and she throws up I find it helpful to remind her of a few things:
- “Hey, you weren’t throwing up an hour ago! Your contractions have gotten more intense as well, right? Well these things may be a sign that you’re getting closer to pushing. You’re doing a great job! You’re doing it!”
- “Hey, sometimes throwing up can help the cervix to open up even more. It’s not all bad!”
Also, when a woman in labor feels like throwing up or has thrown up I find it helpful to have these things on hand:
- Lemon essential oil to sniff right out of the bottle
- Disposable vomit bag (these things are amazing!)
- A cold, wet washcloth or two to clean and cool her face/neck
- Toothbrush and toothpaste to get rid of that yucky taste
- An ice cold glass of water