Childbirth seems like something that should happen with no problems. If mom can carry a baby for nine months without incident, then getting him out should be a snap, right? Nope.
Though plenty of women have smooth labors, others struggle during the birth due to unforeseen issues. The baby may be in the wrong position. Mom may develop a problem in the middle of labor. Anything can and does happen, and these problems throw major kinks into the birth plan.
Luckily, doctors and midwives know how to handle most situations. However, there are some startling trends surrounding birth that have experts worried. The United States is the only developed country where moms are more likely to die during or after labor than they were in previous years, and C-section rates have increased to an alarming high. Though no one knows for sure why the changes have occurred, many have theorized that the way those in the medical community view birth and their choices about interventions may be an issue.
It’s important for women to know going in what problems may arise and how to deal with them. Being caught off guard can still happen, but the more mom knows the better off she is. It will help mom write a birth plan that takes into account all the possibilities, and it will give her time to determine what she wants to happen if the situation can be controlled.
These are the major problems to prepare for when the baby is ready to arrive.
18 Plus-Size Delivery
A child who is over eight pounds, 13 ounces is considered large, and doctors get concerned about delivering babies who weigh so much. It’s definitely possible, and many argue that babies have been delivered naturally forever regardless of their size. However, babies in many countries weigh more at birth than ever before, and that can make a natural delivery complicated.
Larger babies may not be able to make it through mom’s birth canal, especially if she has narrow hips. Mom may tear or need assistance from forceps or vacuums to get the baby out. It’s also possible that a large baby will get lodged in a bad position and not be able to make it out. This leads to C-sections.
Another issue is that there is no way to know how big a baby is before birth. While doctors can estimate, they won’t know for sure until the baby is out, though complications with delivery are a big clue that the baby is large.
17 Wrong Way
Mom may know going into labor that the baby is breech, though many doctors won’t allow breech vaginal deliveries. They sign mom up for a C-section if the baby is not in the right position when birth starts.
However, babies can flip into a breech position, meaning they are not presenting head down but are instead coming out bottom or feet first, anytime. A child can be in the perfect head-down position for the entire nine months and flip to a breech presentation when mom goes into labor, making a vaginal delivery much more difficult, if not impossible.
Though some doctors will attempt to work with a baby who goes breech during labor, others will tell mom it’s time for a C-section. There is an increase for certain injuries to mom and the baby when a breech baby is delivered vaginally, and most doctors won’t take the chance.
16 Birth Plan Showdown
Moms who write birth plans have thought long and hard about their ideal deliveries, and they want their plans to be followed as much as possible. That’s why it’s hard to end up fighting with doctors and nurses who refuse to follow the birth plan.
A woman who is trying to give birth shouldn’t have to argue to receive the care she wants, but that happens when doctors and nurses don’t want to take mom’s wishes into consideration. Having a partner or doula to handle those who wish to force their wills on mom is a life saver. It gives mom permission to simply focus on birth while everyone else works out the details.
A way to avoid this problem is to discuss the birth plan with the OB very early in the pregnancy. If the OB won’t support the birth plan or refuses to tell nurses who will be helping to support it, find a new doctor.
15 Induction Overboard
Inducing labor using medical means has become so popular that many women now choose their due dates and don’t even imagine going into labor on their own. Pitocin is administered, and contractions come on hard. However, they don’t always stay strong and consistent, and that is the problem.
Mom may feel like her body is responding to medical induction, and then all of a sudden it’s not. Labor stalls. Mom’s contractions stop. She is stuck in the horrible in between when it’s too late to turn back and let the baby choose when to arrive but not quite time to birth.
Failed inductions often lead to C-sections, and a mom who is already exhausted from labor and then has to have a surgical birth ends up pretty disenchanted with the process. That’s why it’s important for women to express their concerns about medical inductions early on and refuse them unless there is a legitimate reason to evict the baby.
14 Surgical Surprise
Surgical births may be planned due to a breech baby or a medical condition that prohibits mom from giving birth vaginally. However, any many cases C-sections occur after mom has been in labor and things take a turn for the worse.
Emergency C-sections may occur if the baby is in distress from an umbilical cord problem or other issue. If mom starts experiencing obstructed labor, where the baby is lodge in the birth canal, then surgical birth is the only option. It’s also possible that mom will lose her stamina and not be able to push any longer, or the baby may flip into a position that isn’t conducive to exiting through the vagina.
Whatever the case, emergency C-sections can be extremely scary for mom. Mom may be unconscious or unable to feel anything from the neck or waist down. The fact that these surgeries have to be performed quickly adds a level of panic as well.
13 What Do I Feel?
There are women who want to go through childbirth without any medication. Drug-free childbirth is in style, and classes have popped up everywhere to help moms prepare for a medication-free birth.
Other women know that they want an epidural to ease the pain of labor. Some rely on the promise of the pain medication to help them deal with their fears about labor, and they ask for the drugs to be administered as soon as possible.
For these women, it’s extremely difficult when the epidural doesn’t work. Though pain medication usually takes effect in plenty of time, there are instances when it doesn’t work at all, doesn’t work before mom needs to push, or only numbs one side of the body, leaving mom with the full pain experience on her other side.
12 Not My Doctor
Mom’s relationship with her OB or midwife is unique. She spends months getting to know the person who will usher her child into the world, and trust is built. Mom also shows her doctor every private part she has, with modesty taking a backseat to the doctor’s need for personal access.
Building this relationship helps mom remain confident when she goes into labor, and it’s startling for mom to find her doctor is not available when she goes into labor. Doctors and midwives are humans, and they have emergencies and lives outside of the hospital or birthing center. If mom goes into labor when her precious doctor can’t attend, she will be stuck with whoever is covering at the time.
11 The Express Route
Babies are sometimes in a hurry to enter the world. Women have found this out when their children arrived while they were still at home, in the car, or before the epidural had a chance to work.
Though having a baby come out quickly sounds like a dream come true, it can be terrifying. Not every environment is clean and prepared for a newborn with a low-functioning immune system to enter, and mom may be petrified at the idea of having a baby without medical support. Women whose children are born faster than they expected often experience birth trauma because of the fears they carry with them of everything that could have gone wrong.
10 When It’s Over
Not all of the drama happens during labor. In fact, some of the scariest times for moms are right after when their bodies don’t do what they are supposed to in order to heal.
Postpartum hemorrhages can occur if mom’s uterus does not contract to stop the bleeding caused by birth and the removal of the placenta. Women already lose a lot of blood when giving birth, and women who have C-sections lose double the amount of women who have vaginal deliveries. That’s why it’s essential that a woman’s body does the work of closing off the injuries before too much blood is lost.
When this doesn’t happen and a postpartum hemorrhage occurs, doctors will work quickly to stop the bleeding, and mom may have to have a blood transfusion if she’s already lost tons of blood. It’s a scary situation that interrupts mom’s bonding time with her little one and leaves her feeling weak.
9 Snip, Snip
Episiotomies have gone out of fashion due to the increased risk of infection that they cause. Sometimes they are still necessary though. When mom is going to tear in a way that will cause major injuries down there, doctors may have to make a cut to decrease the damage.
That doesn’t mean receiving an episiotomy is easy. Though women who have epidurals may not feel the pain of the cut as it is taking place, others say they immediately feel a burning sensation. No matter what, the pain from the cut will eventually set in, and mom will find that healing is more difficult if she has to be cut.
Women may also tear on their own, and this can be painful to recover from as well. Anything that requires ripping or snipping down below is going to hurt, and there’s no way to prepare for it. That kind of pain catches moms off guard.
8 Pushing Surprise
Poop will be a part of mom’s life for a while after giving birth, but mom expects the poop to come from her baby. Women are often surprised when they find that the pushing phase of labor causes stool, as well as babies, to emerge.
The same muscles we use to poop are the ones we use to push out babies. That’s why it’s so easy to push out more than we bargained for while focusing on bringing our babies into the world. Doctors and nurses are used to this and will simply scoop up mom’s mess with a diaper and move on. It’s mom who often never recovers from the trauma of a public poop.
There’s nothing mom can do to prevent this possibility. It’s important for women to snack during labor if allowed because it may help them keep up their strength. It may also give them ammo for a number two.
7 Squeamish Partner
Our birthing partners, who are also often our chosen life partners, need to be our rocks during labor. Women have to bear the physical pain alone, so they need people with them who can help them carry the emotional and mental load of bearing a child.
Not every partner is cut out for this job. The smells, the needles, and the blood prove too much for certain partners, and they find they are the ones in need of support. Some partners pass out, some have to leave the room, and some cry as hard about the situation as mom is even though they aren’t going through the physical pain.
Though this is nothing to be embarrassed by, it does make labor harder for mom. Not having her support person actually be supportive leaves her feeling abandoned during an important time. That’s why many women enlist the help of doulas. They know they will have someone experienced in birth support in case their partners can’t cut it.
6 The Unexpected O
We don’t think of birth and sex mixing. Sure, it takes sex to make a baby, but that’s where that connection usually ends. Orgasmic births combine the pains of childbirth with the pleasures of intimacy and leave many women feeling extremely confused.
There are women who try to achieve orgasmic births, but most don’t want to combine childbirth with that kind of pleasure. Orgasms are intimate and personal, and mom doesn’t want to share that experience with every person who happens to be in the room when she births.
Women can’t always stop this from happening though. Their bodies take over, and all of the pressure and sensations down below that occur during labor lead to an unexpected place. It’s not a bad way to birth if mom can pull it off, but it’s still way too intimate and personal for most women to want to share it with others.
5 Cord Complications
The umbilical cord is extremely important to the baby throughout life in the womb. It provides blood and nutrients to the baby and is the literal lifeline while he is in mom’s body. Problems with the umbilical cord during pregnancy can spell major troubles for the baby.
Unfortunately, the possibility of problems doesn’t end when labor starts. Umbilical cord issues can occur during labor, with the cord becoming kinked, prolapsed, or tangled during labor or delivery.
A child cannot survive without the umbilical cord, so if something occurs that keeps it from functioning properly, emergency measures will take place. The method to remove the baby in time depends on the specific problem, but doctors and nurses will move quickly to make sure the baby is out when the umbilical cord is compromised.
4 Little Heart Flutters
Fetal heart rate monitors are placed on mom the minute she enters the hospital and often aren’t removed until the baby is born. They monitor the baby’s heart rate throughout labor, clueing doctors into any potential issues.
When a baby’s heart rate goes outside of what is considered normal for life in the womb, doctors will assess the situation and decide what needs to be done. This can be scary for mom since the end result may be a C-section.
There are problems with the practice of fetal heart rate monitoring continuously. Though many feel the practice makes the baby safer, the evidence doesn’t point that way. Mom may have to wear the monitors all the time, but the readouts are only checked on occasion. Plus, constant fetal heart monitoring has been proven to lead to interventions that aren’t necessary. A child’s heart rate may fluctuate for normal reasons, and it will often correct itself. However, doctors rely heavily on the monitor and may step in if they sense anything going off course.
3 Progression Stalled
Prolonged labor, also called failure to progress, occurs when mom is in labor for longer than expected. First-time moms are given around 20 hours while moms who are having subsequent children are cut off after 14 hours.
Many argue that every woman is different and we shouldn’t be timed based on what everyone else does. There’s plenty of support for that belief, but most hospitals still start putting pressure on women who don’t birth within a certain amount of hours. Interventions are threatened, and mom will likely feel panic and stress, two emotions that will not help her relax and let labor take over.
Discuss with the OB or midwife beforehand what happens if labor goes long. Make a plan that works for everyone so mom will know when she truly needs to be concerned about a long labor. However, after 20 hours many women are perfectly happy to let someone else take charge.
2 Unwanted Assistance
No woman dreams of a birth assisted by vacuum or forceps. These techniques don’t occur as often as they used to because of the potential harm to mom and the baby. However, there are times that doctors decide to use them to extract the baby, usually in an emergency situation that has the potential to go very bad.
Recovering from these kinds of deliveries can be very difficult. Mom may be injured, and babies have been harmed by the pressure placed on their heads by these items. It’s scary to know these injuries still occur and that these tools are so dangerous.
If mom does not want these items used during her delivery, she needs to make that clear up front. Though emergencies can occur, it’s important that mom knows whether or not her doctor uses them often and without cause. That’s a sign that mom needs a new doctor.
1 Natural Disaster
What does mom not want to worry about during labor? Anything outside of birth. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t stop just because a baby is coming. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters can strike when mom is in labor, adding further complications to a stressful situation.
Women who have to birth during natural disasters may find themselves without electricity or other expected help. One doctor told of a woman who birthed during a tornado who then had to be separated from her baby so he could be taken to hide in a closet while the storm passed and she was in the birthing room still be sewed up.
There’s no way to plan for a birth that includes a natural disaster. Most women won’t go through this kind of experience, and those who do will have a story to tell when it’s over.
Sources: Americanpregnancy.org, Fitpregnancy.com, NPR.org, Babycenter.com
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