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20 Questionable Things Women Do During Childbirth (According To Doctors)

Giving birth is an intense, magical, and life-altering experience. The hours, minutes, and seconds leading up to the arrival of a bundle of joy are fraught with all sorts of emotions, both positive and negative. All moms-to-be hope their labors and the deliveries of their babies will go smoothly. Luckily, there are steps a mom-to-be can take to potentially minimize her risk for complications when it comes time to give birth.

Medical professionals with years of experience in the fields of labor and delivery have revealed some of the things expecting women do during delivery that could pose potential risks to themselves or their babies and should be avoided whenever possible.

Not only may heeding the advice of experts who deliver babies and assist with births on a regular basis make the process of labor and delivery more enjoyable, but it may also go a long way to keeping mom and baby safe. Whether a woman opts to give birth in a hospital, a birthing center, or her own home, when she arms herself with the knowledge she needs to succeed, she’ll be on the right track before she feels the twinges of her first contraction.

Read on for 20 questionable things women do during childbirth, according to doctors.

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20 Avoiding Snacking During Active Labor

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It has long been believed by the majority of medical professionals that women should avoid eating while in labor in case anesthesia is needed. Due to the fact that most anesthesia is now administered through the spine instead of via face mask, more and more women are being allowed to snack during labor.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released findings claiming that snacking during labor does more good than harm for women with low-risk pregnancies.

According to the ASA, “Most healthy women can skip the fasting and, in fact, would benefit from eating a light meal during labor.”

19 Arriving At The Hospital Too Early

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It isn’t uncommon for moms-to-be to show up at the hospital ready to deliver only to be told their labor is not yet far enough along for them to be admitted. Medical professionals encourage women to call their doctors or midwives before deciding whether or not they should head for the hospital.

According to Parents.com, “When your contractions are regular and strong, and coming every four to five minutes for one to two hours, you should call your midwife or doctor.”

Women who arrive at the hospital too early are often admitted and may be given unnecessary interventions like the artificial breaking of the water or pitocin, both of which have been linked to a higher risk for C-section.

18 Overexertion

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A video of mom-to-be Marsha D. Ford dancing to Silento’s “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” while at the hospital getting ready to deliver her baby went viral a few years ago.

Some applauded her gusto, but medical professionals were quick to point out that it may have been a good idea for her to conserve her energy so early on in her labor. Doctors definitely encourage laboring women to move around, change positions, and go for walks around the hospital, though.

They also caution that, while women may have endless energy during early labor, delivering a baby is often a long, exhausting experience, and laboring women should save some of their energy for the intense process of bringing a baby in the world.

17 Water Deliveries

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently released guidelines for women who have chosen to have water births.

Dr. Tonse Raju, chief of the pregnancy and perinatology branch at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and one of the doctors who contributed to the guidelines has stated, “The practice has been going on without a whole lot of endorsement from any major group.”

The guidelines state that the risk of complications from water births are low, but complications that do arise can be severe. Cases of babies getting infections from contaminated water that contained fecal matter or amniotic fluid and babies aspirating water into their lungs upon delivery have been reported.

16 Pushing Too Soon

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Lawrence Oppenheimer, obstetrician and head of maternal-fetal medicine at Ottawa Hospital, has seen many changes over his 30-year career as an OB-GYN, one being when is considered the right time for a laboring woman to push.

He told Today’s Parent, “As a junior resident, I was taught that the second stage of labor was the most dangerous time in a woman’s life, and we tried to get it over with as quickly as possible.”

He has since discovered that it’s better to wait until a woman is fully ready to push before encouraging her to do so. He continued, “I’ve always felt that everybody yelling at the mom and telling her when to push might not be the best idea.”

15 Holding Breath/Not Breathing Deeply

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Many medical professionals encourage women to practice patterned breathing during labor to minimize anxiety and maximize the levels of oxygen reaching mom and baby.

According to Amy Romano, a Connecticut nurse-midwife and Lamaze expert, laboring women shouldn’t feel stressed or rushed. She told Parents.com that, when it comes to labor, “shorter is not intrinsically better.”

According to AmericanPregnancy.org, breathing deeply and regularly ensures “the mother remains in a more relaxed state and will respond more positively to the onset of pain.” The site also explains, “The steady rhythm of breathing is calming during labor [and] provides a sense of well being and control.”

14 Eating Too Heavily

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While many medical professionals are allowing patients to eat during labor, they advise against eating too heavily. Nausea and vomiting often accompany labor, and a full stomach during labor could add to the intensity of these unpleasant symptoms.

However, it is important to note that the ASA stated in a recent press release, “The research suggests that the energy and caloric demands of laboring women are similar to those of marathon runners.”

The statement continues, “Without adequate nutrition, women’s bodies will begin to use fat as an energy source, increasing acidity of the [plasma] in the mother and infant, potentially reducing uterine contractions and leading to longer labor and lower health scores in newborns.”

13 Getting Glam For Delivery

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Doctors have seen it all when it comes to the delivery room, and are all-too-aware of the toll labor and delivery can take on an exhausted mom.

Medical professionals may not understand why a mom-to-be would go to the trouble of doing her hair and makeup just to get sweaty and messy as the baby enters the world, but if a woman wants to look good during labor, that’s her prerogative.

New mom Nicole V. confessed to TheBump.com, “When my contractions started getting worse, I took a shower and got ready. My doctor even noticed and asked me, ‘did you do your hair and makeup before you came here?’”

12 Being A Know-It-All

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Mom should definitely feel empowered and in control of the delivery room. She has a right to feel safe, secure, and heard by her doctors and midwives.

While is of the utmost importance that a mom-to-be feels she has open, honest communication with the medical professionals involved in her labor and delivery, it is also important for her to heed the advice of the experts she has entrusted with her life and the life of her baby.

Taking the time to find a doctor or midwife who shares a mom-to-be's birth philosophy will go a long way to instilling confidence in the decisions that are made during labor and delivery.

11 Insisting On A Late Epidural

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Mother-of-four and family physician Dr. Sarah Buckley has been outspoken about the fact that epidurals, especially when administered late in the labor process, can cause dangerous complications.

If a mother-to-be is ready to push when an epidural is administered, it may slow down or stop the progression of her labor, possibly increasing the need for interventions such as forceps or a C-section.

According to Buckley, “Epidurals significantly interfere with some of the major hormones of labor and birth, which may explain their negative effect on the processes of labor.” She explains, “Epidurals...obliterate the maternal oxytocin peak that occurs at birth...which catalyzes the final powerful contractions of labor.”

10 Refusing To Put The Phone Down

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In the world today, social media is always at our fingertips. Laboring moms can be tempted to take selfies, post updates, and stay in constant contact with friends and family. This is completely okay as long as phone use is not distracting a mom-to-be from the task at hand: delivering a baby.

According to labor and delivery nurse Shauna Cheshire, “There may be times when staff may need [mom’s] full attention. If a request to discontinue a phone call, text [conversation], or other personal device use is made...it is out of necessity.”

Cheshire also advises, “Birth will only happen once. [It’s important to] let technology enhance this experience rather than detract from it.”

9 Waiting Too Long To Go To The Hospital

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As mentioned above, doctors recommend that women call ahead if they think they may be ready to head for the hospital, but, when in doubt, it is always best to seek medical care. Waiting too long to head to a designated birthing location is more of a concern than seeking help too early. Ready or not, when the baby’s ready to come, he’s coming.

Delivery of a baby in an unconventional location may add stress to mom and detracts from the ease with which any needed interventions can be made.

According to Rebecca Schiller, chief executive of the charity Birthrights, “We know that how women feel giving birth can have an impact on their emotional wellbeing for quite a long time.”

8 Taking Castor Oil

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Waiting for labor to begin or progress can be extremely frustrating for moms-to-be, especially at the end of a long pregnancy when an expecting mom is more than ready to reclaim her body.

Taking castor oil is one proven way to help labor along, but many medical professionals warn that doing so may not be safe...or pleasant.

According to Healthline.com, “Castor oil may cause irregular and painful contractions, which can be stressful to mom and baby alike. This can lead to exhaustion. It may also cause the baby to pass meconium, or their first stool, before delivery. This can be problematic after birth.”

7 Having Unrealistic Expectations

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Many medical professionals warn that women shouldn’t go into the experience of labor and delivery expecting things to go a certain way. This can lead to added stress if unexpected interventions are needed to keep mom and baby safe.

According to TheConversation.com, “Many women believe they’re likely to go through labor and give birth without medical intervention...The disconnect between evidence and expectations means that new mothers may not be making informed and appropriate choices about the type of care they should get during pregnancy and where they give birth.”

The site continues, “A small number of women value low intervention so highly that they accept a higher fetal risk.”

6 Avoiding Movement

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While overexertion may cause a mom-to-be to burn through precious energy too soon, most medical professionals discourage women from staying completely still and immobile during labor.

Victoria midwife Lorna McRae explains, “Moving or walking can be the perfect tool for pain management--it’s the way your body helps you get through labor.”

According to Julia MacNeil, director for Doulas of North American (DONA) International, “Movement is integral to the progress of labor. The movement of the hips while walking helps to guide the baby into the pelvic opening, and the swaying of the hips encourages the baby into the optimal position for birth.”

5 Opting Out Of Fetal Monitoring

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Many women choose to opt out of fetal monitoring during labor in order to be able to move more freely and avoid being anchored to a small area for the duration of their labor and delivery experiences.

Opinions on the importance of fetal monitoring vary, even among medical professionals, but, according to WhatToExpect.com, “Periodically assessing how [a] little one is handling labor and delivery is important to ensure Baby’s health and safety”

The site also states that 2017 recommendations by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggest that “intermittent, rather than continuous, fetal monitoring might be better for low-risk pregnancies where mom and baby aren’t in need of constant tracking.”

4 Refusing Induction

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The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists advises against inductions, unless medically necessary, before 39 weeks gestation. However, there are cases when induction will likely provide the best outcome for mom and baby and is the safest route despite the associated risks.

According to Sabine Dorset, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Induction is a medical procedure that carries risks, so it should be reserved for medical reasons only.”

While induction isn’t encouraged or recommended for low-risk pregnancies, it can be life-saving in certain instances, and shouldn’t be avoided if it could mean a better outcome for Mom and Baby.

3 Refusing To Relax

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According to many labor and delivery experts, including midwife Laurice Dunning, one of the best things an expecting woman can do during labor is to relax. Of course, this is a feat that is easier said than done, but anything that can be done to relieve a mom-to-be’s stress during delivery will be worth it in the long run.

It has been proven that cortisol levels soar when stress is high, and anything happening in mom’s body is passed on to the baby. Cortisol can increase heart rate, suppress thyroid function, cause blood sugar imbalances, increase blood pressure and lower immunity.

According to Dunning, “Due to these reasons, a high cortisol level is one of the things that should be avoided during labor.”

2 Insisting On Sticking To A Birth Plan

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While there is nothing wrong with going into the delivery room with a birth plan, it’s important to remember that unforeseen complications or occurrences may cause a carefully crafted plan to be thrown out the window.

Grace Godwin, a registered nurse certified in obstetrics who works in labor and delivery told Fatherly.com, “Labor is too unpredictable...What we consider simple, routine occurrences in childbirth, like intervening to break the water, can be a huge hurdle for the couple because it’s not what they planned.”

Godwin continued, “I know how hard it is when reality doesn’t match your expectations. One thing that can help is to ask questions. We don’t know what you are struggling with until you tell us.”

1 Being A Diva

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Yes, having a baby is a big deal. It’s exhausting, it’s scary and things often don’t go as planned. While it’s completely understandable for a mom-to-be to become a bit of a diva while she’s in the process of giving birth, it’s important to remember that delivering a baby is a team effort.

More often than not, doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, and baby daddies are doing all they can to keep a laboring mama comfortable as she brings new life into the world.

True, curse words and below-the-belt jabs may be taken in stride by those there to assist in delivering a baby. Even so, while laboring girls may run the world, doing so with kindness can go a long way. 

Sources: Parents.com, SarahBuckley.com, Baby-Chick.com, NPR.org, Today.com, TodaysParent.com, MinnPost.com, HuffPost.com, Fatherly.com, HealthLine.com, TheConversation.com, WhatToExpect.com, TheBump.com

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