The big day can feel daunting, particularly if you are a first-time mom. While you are really excited to welcome the newest member of your family, the delivery process represents an unknown world. You know this baby will come out of you but it may feel like an insurmountable task.
There are many things you’ve probably heard or been told to expect during delivery but there are a few things that nobody really talks about. Maybe it’s because there is just too much information to retain or possibly because moms forget some of these things after they give birth the first time. And truth be told, every experience is different so not everything will apply to everybody. Here we share some of our unexpected delivery room secrets to help better prepare you for your big day.
When you are pushing your baby out, all of your energy needs to be focused on pushing and breathing. Any other noises you make only serve to consume energy. If you expend energy groaning, yelling or screaming, it only takes away from the energy you need to push. Short, guttural grunts, on the other hand, are okay. These short little grunts are a sign that your body is involuntarily starting to push.
As much as you feel like you want to yell and scream, try to refocus that energy on big, effective pushes. You need to push like you are having a bowel movement. You’ll feel incredible pressure in your rectum during labor and that’s because the baby’s head is bearing down.
As you are pushing, focus that energy on the push and the associated breathing. This is an effective way to get your baby through the birth canal more than anything else.
At certain points during labor, your attending doctor may advise you to do little “coughs”. Coughing during labor? Seriously, this can help. Often the delivery folks will want you to do “little” pushes as opposed to big ones. This might be desirable for a number of reasons, such as to help preserve your perineum. But for a mom in labor, the difference between little pushes and big pushes can be tough to discern.
Coughing puts pressure on the cervix and serves to mimic a “little” push. It’s easy to identify and produce a small cough, so this helps moms create little pushes during delivery. It’s a great trick for when the docs want you to slow down a bit.
It’s also a nice instruction for moms because it’s easy to follow. It can also create a good distraction because you won’t even realize that you are “working” during your coughs.
Oh, that epidural can offer sweet relief but it also comes with several other realities. If you choose to have an epidural, you will be unable to get up to go to the bathroom before the epidural wears off. An epidural works to numb the entire lower part of your body, which means you will be unable to walk and unaware of the urge to pee.
As your bladder fills up during labor, a urinary catheter is used to drain the bladder so it doesn’t overfill and become distended. Furthermore, because of the position of the bladder, a full one can impede the baby’s passage as you are laboring.
Many women don’t know that an epidural and a catheter come hand-in-hand during labor and delivery. Catheters are perfectly safe and this certainly isn’t a reason to forego an epidural if you want to have one; we just don’t want you to be surprised.
If you opt for an epidural, it will basically obliterate your pain but as a result, you may not feel the same urge to push. Choosing an epidural is absolutely your choice and a completely reasonable one but we want you to be aware that it will likely slow things down. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a monumental amount of time but it may feel like things are slowing to a halt as you anticipate the arrival of your little one. This can be frustrating for some women.
With an epidural, you may feel a sense of pressure with each contraction but you’ll be more reliant on others in the room to tell you when to push than to respond to your own cues. Ideally, your epidural will be at such a level that the pain will be minimized to a tolerable level but the contractions will still make you feel the need to bear down.
One “secret” you may hear in the delivery room is that pushing is more effective if you tuck your chin down to your chest. Believe it or not, this helps you focus your pushes more effectively and eliminates any energy waste caused by elongating your neck. This can also help you focus your breathing and puts your attention in the right direction.
If you imagine your chin tucked into your chest during those critical push moments, this positions your entire head down towards your belly and vaginal area. As a result, all of your energy is directed towards the birth canal and getting that baby out. Depending on your position, you may also have a better view with your chin tucked in.
Some of these tips may sound subtle but when you combine them all, the result is an easier and swifter labor bringing you a little closer to meeting your new person.
We are talking about your perineum here. This is the area between your behind and your vulva. This tender piece of fleshy muscle can take a beating during delivery because it needs to stretch to let that baby’s head through. In the past, episiotomies were often performed to give the baby’s head more room to pass through. This intervention is still performed but is no longer routine.
This means your baby might pass with your perineum intact or this area might tear. The idea of “tearing” sounds horrible but results have shown that women labor better without an episiotomy, that recovery is better or the same, and there are fewer complications. One reason recovery is facilitated is that if the perineum tears on its own, it will do so in a non-uniform pattern which allows the flesh to more naturally knit back together.
Don’t be alarmed if you do tear. It happens. You’ll be stitched up and guided on how to help the healing process. With everything else going on, you’ll hardly even notice it happen. Trust us on this one.
On the topic of the perineum, there are things you can do BEFORE delivery to minimize the chance that your perineum will tear, and it won’t cost you a penny! A key prep activity is perineum massage. Yep, it's means exactly how it sounds like. Massage that area.
It is recommended that you massage the perineum as early as 35 weeks gestation. Massaging the area helps to stretch and relax the muscle, enabling your baby to pass through without tearing. There is also evidence to suggest that perineum massage before delivering helps with post-natal healing as well.
If you are up for it, your partner can help you out. It is a way for him to be involved in your pregnancy journey. Just be cautioned that it may also result in some friskiness! So, depending on how you feel, you may want to massage this area yourself.
You may have heard that pooping during labor is a possibility and it absolutely can happen. It’s a very natural thing as the same muscles you are using to push your baby out are those very ones you use to push other things out. It happens all the time and nobody cares! Well, except maybe you, of course. Oftentimes your body will naturally clear itself out before labor (thanks to prostaglandins) so you may have nothing to worry about.
If it does happen, we assure you--you’ll get over it. If your husband is there, he won't want to talk about it either, so that will be a non-issue. Someone will clear the area without batting an eyelash. Doctors used to promote the use of an enema before active labor to clear the bowels but this is no longer deemed necessary.
Once you perform the work of a superhero and push that baby out of your narrow birth canal, nothing else will matter. Nothing else that happens in the delivery room diminishes that.
Many women want to clean up down there before they go into labor. After all, you will be on display for many people to see. The truth is, if you want to wax or shave, it will largely be for you. None of the health professionals care about what you look like down there. The number one priority is to get your baby out safely, and whether there is hair down there or not makes no difference.
It shouldn’t be something to add to your giant to-do list before your baby arrives. An essential to-do list before your baby arrives can be found here, and it does not include waxing, shaving or anything of the sort.
The reality is, vanity goes out the window in the delivery room, so what your nether regions look like should be the least of anyone’s worries. Truth-be-told, if you wax close to your delivery date, it will be more sensitive than normal. Because of the extra blood flow to the area, you may find it has crept up on the pain scale.
You have a distinctly different vantage point of your baby’s birth than any other person in the room. In fact, you have the worst view of all. Some women find it very motivating to actually see what’s going on down there by way of a mirror.
Most hospitals and birthing centers have mirrors on hand for this very reason. You can ask for one or you may even be offered one. The mirrors are generally large and on tall stands, so you can have a good view of the action.
That said, some women don’t like this at all. It can be tough to see yourself in full view like that. Some women find it more humbling than they can manage. Your face will take on a look that you’ve never seen before as you’re working through contractions and pushing that watermelon out. It’s beautiful and raw but it isn’t for everyone; we just want you to know this is an option if you think it could work for you.
A lot of expectant moms expect the pushing part of labor to really hurt. And it isn’t pleasant but because the act of pushing gives you somewhere to direct and focus your energy, it can feel like a relief. It also feels productive because you are urging your baby out. So, to many moms, pushing feels like they are doing something as opposed to just getting through those harsh contractions during dilation.
It’s bizarre to think that after all you’ve been told about delivery, there are parts that will feel like a relief but it’s true. Pushing is a break from the pain of contractions. Once your baby’s head passes through, the rest will feel easy by comparison. Oftentimes, the rest of the baby slips out easily once the head comes out. Sometimes, there are just a few pushes to bring the shoulders and the rest of the baby’s body through once the head passes.
A birth plan is something that some women create to let their wishes during birth to be known, particularly around pain management. It can also involve details around types of examinations and interventions expectant women are open to/not interested in. A birth plan is generally provided to the healthcare team involved in the delivery.
The problem with birth plans is that they don’t always factor in the flexibility needed when faced with a real-life birth situation. Sometimes, your desires aren’t possible, the pain is more than you imagined, and there might be unforeseen complications.
We aren’t saying don’t create a birth plan because they a great way to lay out your ideal scenario. We are just saying that you may need to make some decisions on the fly. And that’s okay, too. If you do create a birth plan, it’s still a good idea to go in with an open mind, so you aren’t disappointed if things go in a different direction.
Many women envision lying down during delivery. And of course, this does happen. Plus, women depicted on TV or in the movies that give birth are in this position. Even though lying down to give birth happens all the time, and works well for some, pushing does tend to be more efficient if you have gravity on your side.
This means that a squatting position may work well for you. The “pushing” muscles are also easier to engage in an upright position. At least it is something you can try if you want to mix up positions or if lying down gets too tiresome. That said, squatting will be tough if you’ve had an epidural, so its feasibility will depend on a number of factors.
One other benefit of squatting is that it puts less pressure on the perineum which we already know is in a tenuous position during birth.
Your baby is out. Sweet relief. You are overjoyed. You did it. That bundle of joy is now external and you can soak in your little miracle. Hang on for a sec…you're not quite done.
That’s right. You still have to deliver the placenta. This can be quite a surprise to first-time moms. It doesn’t hurt as much as delivering the baby, but it still hurts--possibly because it’s somewhat unexpected. You’ll need to do a few more big pushes and a nurse, doctor or midwife may push down on your abdomen at the same time to help get the placenta out.
The placenta will come out with a bit of a "popping" feeling. At that point, the big stuff that needs to come out of you is out now, so you can fully focus on your new, tiny human. Of course, if you want to look at your placenta, now is the time. Some moms are quite fascinated with this organ that has kept their baby alive for so many months
Nothing can quite prepare you for the overwhelming emotion you will feel when you see and hold your baby for the first time. Many women cry--tears of relief, happiness, amazement, fear…you name it. Any emotion is possible. This is the moment when your life is forever changed. You are a mom now.
For some women, the bond with their baby is immediate but for others, it can take some time. Both reactions are perfectly normal, so don’t be alarmed if the bonding takes a little longer for you. Either way, your baby needs you and we know you’ll be there for him/her.
You’ll also look at your partner through a different lens now. Seeing him as a dad may very well make you love him more. The tiny human you’ve created are a part of both of you and you’ll love to see how he/she takes after your husband. Fatherhood brings out a different side in men and, for first-time moms, it’s a side you haven’t seen. You may see tears in his eyes, too.
These emotions represent nine months of anticipation, so you may very well let them all out when you meet your baby. Do whatever feels natural. You’ve absolutely earned it.