For first time moms, it’s easy to spend hours upon hours online, reading about everything from one mom’s lightning fast delivery to another’s that took a week. Between learning about the birth process and adjusting to life as a mom, there’s a lot of internet searching going on between that positive test and D-day.
Even for moms who are on their second or third child and beyond, some things don’t stick with you. You forget how long things take, what your options are, and what it’s like in that hazy postpartum period when your newborn is all you can think about. Whether you need to learn the birthing lingo or brush up on what happens in each stage of labor, answers are easier to find than ever.
Whether it’s your first pregnancy or beyond, you probably have a ton of questions. After all, every pregnancy is different, so some new and not-so-exciting things might be happening this time around. From troubling symptoms to embarrassing questions you wouldn’t dare ask your birth team, expecting women are often grateful they can turn to the anonymity of the internet to answer their burning questions. Here are fifteen things that expectant moms spend the most time looking up online, and worrying about until their due date.
15 Troubling Number-Two Timing
Likely the top worry from first-time pregnant women, wondering whether you’ll poo on the delivery table is a top concern. There are nearly three million search results for this one alone, and it’s not surprising. Remember those episodes of I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant and similar stories where moms explain they thought they really had to poo, but it turned out they were in labor? That’s the short explanation, but here’s the expert one.
According to Parents.com expert doula,
the same muscles you use during a bowel movement are the ones you use to push the baby out. There’s also more pressure on that area because the baby is squishing your colon while you’re bearing down.
Plus, the hormones that are involved with bowel functions are also present during labor.
Still, there’s no guarantee that mom will go number two mid-delivery. If you don’t have an epidural, you can probably feel when you need to go, and get up to use the bathroom. With an epidural, it’s harder to read your body’s signals, but Parenting’s experts maintain that an epidural doesn’t make pooping during pushing any more likely.
In the end, mom’s worries about her bowel movements can actually impede labor- so it’s better not to dwell on it, Parenting cautions.
14 Lessons In Laxatives
Although many moms worry about pre-birth pooping, there’s a ton of conversation surrounding the postpartum poo, too. Many hospitals and birthing centers will give moms a laxative as a routine measure. For example, when I had my first son in 2010, the hospital automatically tried to pop me a laxative pill. However, moms should be cautious, since any others meds they’re taking during labor- even pain meds- can have a laxative effect, too.
That said, if mom isn’t offered a laxative, or doesn’t want one, going to the toilet after birth can be scary. Whether you have stitches or not down there, things have changed since baby passed by. As a physiotherapist explained to worried moms on a BabyCentre UK, nerves inside and around your intimate areas will feel numb after giving birth. That’s because the nerves are stretched- and it can take a few days or longer for feeling to return. That might mean you’ll have the same push-and-take-what-comes approach to going number two postpartum as you did to push your baby out.
Experts recommend gentle exercise (walking is enough), staying hydrated, and eating food with fiber like fruit, vegetables, whole wheat bread, and brown rice. Once you’re on the toilet, experts also suggest keeping your knees above your hips, either by propping up on your toes or using a stool for your feet.
13 Post-Birth Potty Visits
Another scary post-birth experience is going number one. Yet another fear that expectant moms have- will it hurt to pee afterward? The mere existence of “perineal irrigation bottles” makes many moms cringe in anticipation of their first visit to the loo. While moms who have epidurals often wind up with catheters to empty their bladders during birth (I had one with my first delivery), it doesn’t put off the first potty visit for long.
And unfortunately, when you’re trying to stay properly hydrated for recovery and for nursing your new baby, you’ll wind up needing to use the restroom often. The good news is, not all moms experience pain while peeing postpartum.
The thing is, moms who wind up with tears, episiotomies, or stitches will probably experience some stinging when they pee. That’s because urine is acidic and you essentially have an open wound in your private parts.
The truth, though, is that it depends where your tear or stitches are- that will dictate how uncomfortable you’ll feel when you try to use the bathroom.
From personal experience, I can say that tears in some places will hardly be noticeable both in terms of recovery and pain. However, not all moms are lucky enough to have tears that are outside of the stream of urine. Unfortunately, there’s no way of predicting what your experience will be.
12 Banishing The Belly
You’ve spent nine months (or a bit more!) growing your baby, and watching your waistline expand. Once he or she makes an appearance, it’s common to wonder how long it will take to get your pre-baby bod back. Most moms recognize that their bodies will likely be forever changed by childbirth, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wind up with a flat belly again if you had one before.
Still, it’s not reasonable to expect your belly to shrink immediately. That’s because part of the bulge has to do with how long your uterus takes to shrink. According to Today’s Parent,
the uterus can take anywhere from four to eight weeks or longer to shrink back to normal size. Still, some moms keep a “five months pregnant” tummy for months or years.
There’s also a condition called diastasis recti, which is the separation of muscles in the abdominal wall. Moms with this condition might carry a pooch unless they receive a proper diagnosis and work on repairing it. Posture and alignment can also mess with your tummy appearance, experts say, so focusing on a healthy amount of exercise and standing up straight can help, too.
Overall, moms should keep in mind that growing a baby takes at least nine months- so they should give themselves time to work on flattening their tummies.
11 Womanly Workouts
If you’ve never heard of kegels, I’ll try to explain in a non-graphic way. There are pelvic floor muscles that support your uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. Kegel exercises are meant to “train” the pelvic floor muscles and help moms recover from birth. The idea is that if anything is “loose” down there, kegels can help firm it back up.
Kegels can also help with minor incontinence, Mayo Clinic says, and they give guidelines for how to identify the muscle and perform exercises. But keep in mind that your lady parts aren’t inherently “loose” just because you’ve had a baby. Your body has an amazing capacity to rebound from birth, as Glamour explains.
First, it takes around six weeks for you to heal after giving birth vaginally. Stitches take about a month and a half to dissolve, too, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be back to normal yet. Things will still feel “different,” and you may have the feeling that it’s a little looser than before. And while Glamour’s experts explain that things eventually go back to “normal,” you’ll probably notice that you continue to feel a little different. However, different doesn’t necessarily mean worse- and it definitely doesn’t mean that your “exit” will always measure seven centimeters.
10 Exit Wound Odds
Can you believe there are over 25 million results about tearing during labor on Google? It might just be the top worry that moms have about their lady parts while they’re expecting. Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for avoiding vaginal tears- except perhaps a C-section, but that’s a serious surgery and it’s not to be taken on lightly.
If you have friends who have discussed their births, you’ve probably realized by now that it’s fairly common to tear during labor. In fact, it’s not as big of a deal as most expecting moms think!
According to Self,
between 53 and 79 percent of natural deliveries result in some kind of tear. But thanks to a ton of estrogen surging through your pregnant bod, your tissue is stronger and stretchier than ever.
Plus, hormones help ease your baby’s exit by stretching your hips and helping your pubic bone move out of the way slightly.
Still, it’s possible for moms to tear, and there are different degrees of tearing. First- and second-degree “lacerations” are minor tears on the “mucosal tissue that lines the [V].” Often, these tears don’t require stitches, just a little pressure to stop the bleeding. Second-degree and worse tears need stitches, and in severe cases, later surgery. But third- and fourth-degree tears are least common, thankfully.
9 Expert-Assisted Exit
Although it’s less common now, at one point in time, episiotomies were common for birthing moms. Doctors would literally cut mom from vagina to anus to make more room to get the baby out. Afterward, she’d have a ton of stitches to put everything back together. Today, most medical professionals avoid episiotomies, Self explains, but in some cases, they’re necessary.
According to Self, one reason for an episiotomy is when the baby is too big. They give the example of a baby whose birth weight is over eight pounds, 13 ounces. Larger babies can often become stuck, especially with their shoulders. But for the record, let me note that I birthed a nine-pound, nine-ounce baby with only minor tears- no episiotomy required- and that’s common for many moms who birth bigger babies. Plus, many providers- midwives especially- are knowledgeable in getting big babies out safely without resorting to cutting mom.
Still, there are times when episiotomies are warranted, but it’s usually up to mom to choose a health care provider that’s trustworthy and experienced enough not to jump to cutting mom when it’s not needed. But in general, women recover just fine from episiotomies, one doctor says, and it’s much easier than the recovery from a C-section.
8 The Ring Of Fire
I remember hearing the term “ring of fire” when my sister gave birth to my niece. I hadn’t yet had my own children yet, so I wasn’t sure what to make of that description. But since that time, I’ve had two births of my own plus read a ton about natural labor and birth. What I’ve found is that many moms won’t feel the “ring of fire,” or a burning sensation while pushing the baby out, but plenty will. That said, it’s not something that tips the pain scale too extremely.
If you’re having an epidural, you may not feel anything below the belt, let alone the stretching of your soft tissue as the baby’s head exits.
This “crowning” is usually the most intense part of labor because the baby is actually beginning to exit the womb, but with an effective epidural, you won’t feel a whole lot.
For me, my first child’s birth involved a half-effective epidural that numbed me “down there” but not anywhere above my pubic bone. So I did not feel the “ring of fire” moment. However, with my second baby, a completely unmedicated birth, I did feel the burning sensation. Still, the most intense part of labor and delivery was the pressure as the baby came out, not necessarily when he crowned.
Whether or not you feel this odd sensation depends on a few factors, like how big your baby’s noggin is, how stretchy your tissues are, how relaxed you are, and whether you have pain relief in effect.
7 Pain Prevention And Practicality
Most expectant moms live the full nine months in fear of labor. I’ve hard tons of moms say they “couldn’t do” natural labor, planning their epidural before they even fall pregnant. Other moms decide, ok, it might be painful, but I’ll suck it up for this relatively short period. I fell into that group, thinking that if I could just make it through a few hours of pain, then it would be over and I’d never had to do it again.
Whatever your perspective on pain, odds are, you’ll experience at least some while laboring and delivering. The thing is, everyone experiences pain differently, and your baby’s size and position also influences how you feel.
That said, there are pain relief methods for mom outside of the scary big needle that epidurals require. Most moms will have an IV already placed, and there are liquid pain meds like fentanyl, for example, that can stave off the worst pains while you work through pushing or decide on another route for pain management. Fentanyl is actually what’s inside your epidural and it’s an opioid, so it carries its own set of risks just like any other pain meds.
If you’re worried about pain, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor about your options- because it can vary by hospital or facility, too.
6 Spotty Pain Relief
If anyone had told me that there was a chance my epidural wouldn’t actually “work,” I probably wouldn’t have accepted it. But with raging back labor due to my son being “sunny side up,” I couldn’t hang in the hospital bed without crying. While I now know that if I had been “allowed” to get up and move around, the back pain may not have been so bad, I wound up with an epidural that didn’t work 100 percent.
After struggling through labor with feeling still in my back, stomach, and parts of my legs, I did some research and found that it’s pretty common to have a “window” in your epidural, as my doctor called it.
Basically, that means the epidural doesn’t take completely, leaving you open to pain in unpredictable areas.
Unfortunately, experts such as those of the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal agree that epidurals don’t always work. Factors that influence the effectiveness of an epidural include catheter placement, speed of labor progress, and the patient’s “neuraxial anatomy”- essentially how the body responds to anesthesia. Overall, the epidural failure rate is around 12 percent, one study found, but some techniques, including epidural replacement, can turn things around.
Unfortunately, it’s possible that your epidural may have windows or may not work at all, but thankfully, it’s a low chance of that happening.
5 Meaningless Measurements
Most expectant moms recognize that “dilation” refers to how big the cervix widens. Basically, the cervix has to soften and dilate so that the baby can fit through. But what’s with all these measurements, and why do they matter?
Many expectant moms will need to Google to understand all of this, especially once they pick up a ruler to see how small ten centimeters in diameter is. How does a baby’s head fit through there, right? But fortunately, mom’s tissues are super pliable, and baby’s head is moldable, too. Those two factors mean most babies won’t have a problem exiting the womb.
That said, it’s helpful to understand what the centimeter measurements mean. For example, I walked around two centimeters dilated for a month or more with my second son. Fortunately, although I didn’t know it with my first, it’s perfectly safe to be dilated a few centimeters before your due date, and that doesn’t mean the baby’s on his way yet.
Overall, it’s helpful for moms to understand that a fully dilated cervix measures ten centimeters, which is about the width of a donut. It can take hours to get from one centimeter (width of a Cheerio) to ten, but for most moms, all you need is time and patience to make it there without interventions.
4 C-Section Scares
I’ve talked to many moms who told me that being forced to have a C-section was their worst fear about pregnancy and childbirth. But C-sections do save lives- both moms’ and babies’- and there are a time and a place for them. Unfortunately, many C-sections are done out of convenience for medical professionals- you’ll know this if you’ve had a baby any time around the holidays and scheduled a C-section or induction around your OB’s vacation plans.
But in general, your personal odds of having a C-section depend on multiple factors. First, there’s the C-section rate at the facility or center you’ll be giving birth at. For example, when I was looking for a place to have my second child, I intentionally chose a facility with a lower C-section rate than other hospitals.
Often, though, moms don’t have that option- in 2017, Statista determined that first-time, low-risk moms who birthed at South Miami Hospital in Miami, Florida, the C-section rate was a staggering 51 percent. The “targeted national average” is 24 percent, just for reference.
And while researching your hospital is the first step, there are factors that moms can’t control that could lead to a C-section.
Shoulder dystocia, for example, can cause the baby to get stuck and require emergency surgery to save him.
Moms with high blood pressure often wind up with C-sections for their own safety. Some hospitals don’t deliver breech babies- and some don’t “let” moms labor naturally with twins or other multiples.
3 Bedridden Before Birth
Because every hospital and birthing center has its own policies, this common first-time-mom concern is hard to explain. Many facilities want moms up and moving around during labor, because evidence shows that’s the best way to encourage labor to progress naturally. Cochrane reported that a review of 25 studies found that labor was shorter for moms who were upright and/or walked around during labor.
Moms who were upright and mobile also reduced their chances of needing a C-section, cut the rate of epidural use, and reduced the chance that their babies would need to be in the NICU. Unfortunately, some hospitals still adhere to policies that require moms to be in bed and “plugged in” to an IV, too.
Picture laboring moms pacing the halls pushing an IV pole, and you’ll see why this isn’t optimal. It’s hard to get around and encourage labor progress when you’re pulling a pole along with you. Plus, many hospitals only require an IV in case they need to give you meds for an emergency C-section- at least, that’s what my hospital told me.
However, I was able to refuse an IV with my second birth, and instead opted for a “hep lock,” which is a plugged tube that’s there if you need emergency meds. But you’re not connected to a drip of anything- and the only condition my midwife had was that I stay hydrated orally.
2 Overnight And Beyond
How long do I have to stay in the hospital? I asked this before I’d even given birth to my second son. For most first time moms, the brief hospital stay might feel reassuring, especially if you’ve never been around newborns before or have complications. But for second-time and subsequent moms, we often just want to go home!
Especially when you have young children waiting at home, it can be difficult to focus on tending to your newborn. Moms always feel pulled in multiple directions with multiple kids, and the newborn phase can be a difficult adjustment for everyone- especially when mom’s in the hospital for days.
The good news is, you have options.
Many birth centers only keep moms for a few hours after baby arrives, as long as everything is looking good. Some hospitals, especially ones with birthing centers that feature midwives, may have a 24-hour stay policy.
C-sections can require 48 hours or more- some want moms to stay 3 days. The second hospital I delivered at wanted me to stay a full two days, but my midwife agreed to discharge me since there was no reason to hang around.
However, I did have to sign my newborn out AMA- against medical advice- because they wanted me to stay for all the newborn testing. The thing is, you don’t have to stay if you don’t want to- but beware signing out AMA, since some hospital staff won’t be friendly about your choice.
1 Potential Postpartum Problems
With so many celebrity moms stepping out within days of giving birth, that leaves us “normal” moms wondering whether they’re defying the laws of biology. For at least a couple of days after giving birth, moms can expect a period-like bleeding experience. It’s technically called “lochia,” and it’s your body’s way of shedding everything leftover from baby’s residence in your uterus. And moms have questions about it- there are upwards of 19 million Google results on the subject.
In short, lochia is like a period, and can feel just as painful, but it’s necessary for your body’s recovery. Your doctor or midwife will probably explain what’s normal and caution you to look out for larger clots- that can be a sign of postpartum hemorrhage.
Even moms who don’t have vaginal births will have lochia- a C-section doesn’t exempt you from the after-birth cleanup! It adds another gross and sometimes difficult to manage aspect to postpartum recovery, but rest assured that every mom experiences it- whether she’s a celebrity or not.
The good news is, after the postpartum bleeding ends, many moms don’t see another period for months or longer when they’re exclusively breastfeeding. Unfortunately, we can’t all be so lucky- but for many mamas, nursing keeps their period gone for as long as they keep baby on the breast. However, just because you’re not getting your period doesn’t mean you’re not fertile- so be careful if this happens to you!