Considering how much information women receive from friends, family and their doctor, it's remarkable that first-time moms still frequently report that there are a lot of things about the pregnancy and birth process that they were just never told. Many women trust their doctors to help them understand and navigate all the changes and to help to educate them so they can make informed decisions. No mom wants to look back with regret; yet many find that once the process is over, or even years down the road, that if they had known then what they know now, they might have chosen differently.
Sometimes the communication breakdown isn't on the doctors' end. Many medical professionals not only keep up on the latest information in the healthcare fields but also listen carefully to the needs of their patients. Unfortunately, because this isn't the case for every doctor, not every mom is open to hearing what her doctor might have to say–many doctors just haven't earned the new mom's trust. There are times when the urge to listen to her instincts and to do what's right for her may override whatever the doctor is telling her. At the end of the day, first-time moms can only make the best decisions they can based on the information they've got.
Here are 10 things the doctor may choose not to tell first time moms, and 10 things moms definitely don't want to hear!
20 The Epidural Can Definitely Affect The Labor
One thing most doctors know both anecdotally and through multiple studies is that an epidural often affects mom's labor and can even slow it down significantly, yet many doctors don't discuss it with their patients. Studies have clearly shown a correlation between the administration of an epidural and a longer second stage–often referred to as the pushing stage–of labor, according to Evidence Based Birth. In at least one massive study, the length of the second stage of labor for women who received an epidural was double that of women who labored without an epidural. The epidural could be relaxing the pelvic floor and making uterine contractions less effective.
19 The Due Date Isn't The Done Date
Only around five percent of moms actually give birth on their due date, as per the New York Magazine. A lot of factors go into this, including the uncertainty of the first date of the last menstrual period, as well as the health of mom and even her height–taller women tend to stay pregnant longer! Yet so much importance is placed on the due date, including planning induction simply because the mom doesn't appear “ready” as she approaches the due date. The number of days of a woman's cycle can vary by more than ten days, and that affects when she ovulates. On top of that, every baby cooks at a different rate.
18 The Intensity Of Postpartum Cramps
One big shock that first time moms get is when they find out that just because the baby is out, doesn't mean they're done with those strong contractions. Those contractions, which may be especially noticeable when mom begins nursing, are actually a good sign. The uterus has to morph from a large holding tank back into a much smaller organ and shed all the excess material inside of it, according to Babble. The good news is that first time moms are likely to experience the contractions similarly to how period cramps feel. Doctors don't always explain exactly how these will really feel after the exhaustion of labor.
17 Pregnancy Is Not An Illness
Pregnancy in the US has become the forte of predominantly male doctors and large, technology-driven hospitals. While pregnancy does come with a number of symptoms that impact mom's health, advocates claim that treating pregnancy as a disease rather than a bodily function is rooted in campaigns of male doctors in the early 1900s against and distrust of female midwives–often black and brown women, according to Quartz. While certainly most doctors are not overtly motivated by their personal beliefs or stigmas toward specific groups of people, the tradition of calling a doctor to fix things was established and is now evident today in the rate of C-sections in the US–the highest number of any country.
16 Give Pushing A Pass
Every mom is told to push–and after a rough second stage, most women are eager to–but they may be doing far more harm than they realize. Beginning in the 1920s, doctors decided the second stage of labor was dangerous for the baby and instructed moms to push in order to speed up the process, according to Unassisted Childbirth. Subsequent studies and observations have shown that even unconscious women can give birth naturally–so pushing isn't actually necessary. Doctors and birth coaches still regularly urge moms to push once she's fully dilated, even if she doesn't feel the urge. Prolonged pushing is associated with more severe tearing of the perineum. Waiting for the urge and letting the body's fetal ejection reflex take over is an amazing and totally natural experience that the body was intended to take part in. No pushing necessary.
15 Home Births Can Be Safe
It's easy to understand why a doctor is more comfortable in the hospital–if anything bad happens, all his tools are close at hand–but emerging studies indicate that low-risk pregnancies can be safely delivered in the comfort of the new mom's home, as per MANA. In a large study, low-risk mamas attended by midwives and delivering at home had far fewer medical interventions and a cesarean rate of just 5.2%, far lower than the national average, which is well over 30%. Very few of the babies needed any medical intervention, and those that did–less than 1% of the study–were safely transferred to a nearby medical facility.
14 All The Skin Problems
First-time moms anticipate that “rosy glow” of pregnancy only to find they're dealing with acne, random bumps, and far more itchiness than they were prepared for. Sometimes doctors will tell moms to expect a little acne, but many are shocked to find dark spots and rashes that often seem to appear overnight, as per Today's Parent. A few skin conditions can indicate a risk of preterm labor, but often when women do discuss these skin issues with their doctor, they're often told that it's all a part of being pregnant, so in the more extreme cases they might find their skin condition isn't being taken seriously.
13 Inductions Can Be Problematic
Many inductions in the US are elective–pregnant mamas are choosing to have an induction when it's not medically necessary–and that carries a lot of risks, according to Verywell Family. An induction increases the chances of fetal distress and that the baby will have to go to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The contractions caused by induction medicines like Pitocin can make contractions more forceful, increasing the risk of an injury to the baby, like shoulder dystocia. Women who elect to be induced are also far more likely to end up getting a cesarean, which has its own potential complications.
12 A Midwife Might Be A Better Fit
Many women find the feeling that they're somehow ill or broken and in need of fixing by the doctor a little disconcerting. A growing number of women in the US are choosing to turn instead to midwives, feeling that the care they receive comes from a fundamentally different place, according to Quartz. In marked contrast, pregnant mothers in the UK have a midwife more than 50% of the time, and midwives work with obstetricians when the mom needs medical intervention, as per The Atlantic. The long and often antagonistic history against midwives in the US is only now seeing a slow but steady turnaround.
11 Mom Can Refuse Tests
Informed consent is the idea that a doctor or hospital staff will discuss all aspects of a procedure, but many medical professionals play fast and loose with the “informed” part. Many first time moms have no idea that they can refuse some treatments and procedures, and they may even feel pressured to agree, as per Babble. The first pregnancy is confusing, and moms often feel if they don't do all the procedures and tests doctors recommend, they'll get in trouble somehow. Many doctors don't tell their pregnant patients that not only can they refuse a test or procedure, but they're entitled to get a second opinion if they want one.
10 A Very Gassy Lady
Nobody wants to hear it because so many get embarrassed by it, but pregnant women are just gassy–no two ways around it. The hormones of pregnancy slow down the digestive system. Food sits longer and that allows gas to form, according to WebMD. Adding insult to injury, the first time mom will find out the hard way that she doesn't have the same muscle control, increasing the chances of a gassy public announcement. A healthy, high fibre diet and exercise can go a long way toward improving the situation, but even though most first moms don't want to hear it, gas passing is just part of the pregnancy experience.
9 All The Kegels In The World May Not Help
Doctors usually tell first-time moms that it's normal to leak a little while they're pregnant, but many notice that they continue to leak a little when they sneeze or pick something up even after they think they've recovered from birth. If they talk to a doctor, they're often told to try Kegel exercises, but this exercise could do more harm than good, as per Birth Takes A Village. The pelvic floor is instrumental in good bladder function and is often left weakened by birth. First-time moms may not want to hear it, but sometimes they may need to see a physiotherapist who specializes in rehabilitating the pelvic floor.
8 The Number Two Blues
If gassiness is too embarrassing for most women to discuss, then more substantial bowel problems may very well be relegated to absolute secrecy. Pregnancy can bring either constipation or diarrhea, or both depending on the day, according to The Bump. Hemorrhoids contribute to the discomfort. Then moms are mortified to discover that often during labor, when the baby moves down the birth canal, it squeezes out whatever fecal matter is in the rectum at the time. First-time moms may wonder if they'll ever get back to normal postpartum. Nobody wants to talk or hear about it, but number two issues need to be discussed–after all, everybody does it.
7 The Epidural Might Not Work... No, Really
Sometimes epidurals don't work. The reasons are many: mom might have moved, not enough of the analgesic was delivered, or the anesthesiologist didn't place it in the right spot, as per J. Hermanides et al., published in the British Journal Of Anaesthesia. When a laboring mom is in distress, she may not be able to hold still enough for the anesthesiologist to safely administer the epidural. Sometimes the epidural only works on one side of the body, and the doctor can't try a second time. Another reason that women don't experience the expected pain relief is when they're considered too far along in their labor.
6 Some Babies Are Just Difficult
Healthy babies come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments. Some babies just need more attention or don't sleep through the night as quickly as others, as per the New York Times. Moms often search for a reason, but whether first-time moms want to hear it or not, the simple truth is that sometimes it's not because of what baby is fed or the weather or any of a thousand other variables. Moms who have more than one child often notice that even when each baby is diapered and fed the same, each is born with their own personality. Some babies are difficult even when mom does everything “right.”
5 It's All Downhill From Here
The beginning isn't the hardest thing a first-time mom will encounter. Even a difficult pregnancy and the sheer, mind-numbing exhaustion of the first year with baby will fade into pleasantly nostalgic memory when mom and kid reach middle school, according to Common Lit. While the first moments and early years can make moms feel physically wiped out and emotionally isolated, it's the tween and teen years that cause mom the most stress. While saying it's all downhill from here is a bit misleading, the point is that it's just different. Each age and stage with a child is simply different, trading some good things for some tough things.
4 When To Put Mom First
When people talk about what makes a mom great, or when they have nice things to say about their own mom, it often involves some variation of the phrase “she puts others first.” On the other end of the spectrum, everyone has heard of or knows at least one mom who has no problem prioritizing herself at the expense of her children, as per the Huffington Post. Somewhere in the middle is where first-time moms should aim to be, but many don't want to hear the message of moderation. It is important for a mom to have a few moments here and there to practice self-care.
3 Mother's Advanced Age
Most doctors consider women 35 and older to be at an advanced age for the rigors of pregnancy. A lot of women in their late 30s feel a bit insulted by this, considering that most haven't even reached the halfway point of their lives yet. Less and less of these “mature” first-time moms are listening–the rate of women having their first baby at the age of 35 or more is increasing in the US, according to NPR. While there's an increased risk of health complications, researchers say this is often balanced out by the better health habits of older moms, and the fact that they're often more financially stable.
2 PPD Can Happen To Anyone
One thing that many women say after they've been diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD) is that they didn't think it would happen to them: they were happy, or well-off, or educated or had lots of help. The truth is that PPD doesn't care how prepared a first-time mom is. While there are some warning signs and some risk factors that can make PPD more likely, any first-time mom can find herself experiencing something far beyond baby blues, as per Parents. New moms often think that they've done something wrong when they're struggling with PPD, and don't talk about it with doctors even when the subject is brought up.
1 Where Baby Sleeps
Where the baby actually sleeps is a very touchy subject. Official medical guidelines state that newborns and babies should sleep in the same room as Mom but not in the same bed, yet many parents aren't listening to the advice of their doctors, according to Redbook. First-time moms often feel ashamed and guilty and lie about co-sleeping with the baby to doctors and even family and friends. There are risks associated with co-sleeping, but many of the risks stem from placing the baby in an adult bed that hasn't been made safe, and by not talking about it, mom might not be hearing good advice on how to minimize the risk.
References: Evidence Based Birth, New York Magazine, Babble, Quartz, Unassisted Childbirth, MANA, Verywell Family, The Atlantic, Babble, WebMD, Birth Takes A Village, The Bump, Science Direct, New York Times, Common Lit, Huffington Post, NPR Parents, Redbook