When women are expecting, they have so many hopes and concerns. They typically read up on pregnancy in order to understand what's happening to them, and they may read up on labor, too. Sometimes, women find inaccurate information about labor, which means that they get things wrong.
Today, it's time to separate the myths about childbirth from the facts. It's time to get real about labor and what actually happens to a woman, from her first contractions to delivery to postpartum. Having a baby is a grand adventure, and labor is a process that every woman has to go through before she can meet her new baby. It's a milestone, and every woman's experience of childbirth is individual.
Women need facts that to help them prepare for labor. They need facts that cut through misinformation. This list is loaded with helpful and factual information about what women usually get wrong about giving birth, as well as information about what really happens in hospital delivery rooms (or during home births).
Any woman who wants a realistic sense of what labor will be like will benefit from reading every single entry on the list. Knowledge is the key to going into labor with the right attitude.
20 Having Birth Plans That Aren’t Realistic
It's common for women to go to hospitals with birth plans that aren't 100% realistic. Most hospitals do encourage women to put together birth plans and bring them along, but the birth plans shouldn't be unrealistic. For example, one woman had a birth plan which stated that no one could examine her private parts during labor. This type of birth plan puts pressure on medical teams.
When you're writing a birth plan, bear in mind that hospital staff have rules they must follow. They also have ways of doing things which have resulted in the births of many healthy babies. Make your birth plan, but don't hinder doctors and nurses with too many restrictions.
19 Believing That Pushing Starts Earlier Than It Really Does
Movies and TV make women believe that they'll be pushing fairly early on in labor. The truth is that pushing too early is a bad idea. Women need to be dilated enough to give birth and this means that a lot of contractions need to happen before pushing begins. Contractions create cervical dilation.
The second stage of labor doesn't even begin until a woman's cervix is dilated by ten centimeters. That's roughly four inches. It's during this second stage of labor that a woman will be able to push, after a baby is far enough along in the birth canal. A doctor will know when it's time for you to push.
18 Believing That Childbearing Hips Make Labor Easier
Do body types play a role in how easy or hard labor will be? Many women think so. They believe that having wider hips, which are also known as "childbearing hips", will make things easier.
When we think of wide hips, we are thinking of wide "ilium". The ilium is a wing-shaped bone. It's part of the pelvis and it grows sideways. The width of the hip isn't the factor that determines how easy or difficult labor will be. It's actually the width of a round-shaped hole in the center of the pelvis that matters. This hole is the pelvis inlet. If it's larger, labor may be easier. If it's smaller, labor may be harder.
17 Believing That Labor Escalates Fast
Labor can escalate fast, but it's a lot more common for it to escalate slowly, especially if a woman is having her very first baby. If you're preparing for your first labor, you may expect labor to range in duration from eight hours to eighteen hours. Usually, labor doesn't go on longer than eighteen hours.
After you're dilated enough to push, it will generally take an hour or two to birth your baby.
While there are women who have their babies very quickly, it's usually a process that takes the better part of a day and it's good to understand this as you prepare for labor.
16 Believing That Water Breaking is a Dramatic Moment
We're all conditioned to believe that water breaking is a dramatic moment and that there will be flood of water which signals the beginning of labor. The truth is that water breaking can be a lot more subtle than we imagine. It's usually a trickle of water that seeps out slowly, rather than a flood.
Generally, women begin experiencing typical contractions before the rupture of their amniotic sacs, which are filled with fluid. The contractions are a sign that water is going to break. Most women describe a "popping" sensation when their water does break. Watch for the signs as you move closer to labor.
15 That a Partner Will Need to Wear Scrubs
Usually, with natural deliveries, partners do not wear scrubs. If you need a C-section, your partner may be asked to put on scrubs in order to keep the operating room as germ-free as possible. Operating room staff do all that they can to limit the risk of infection and wearing scrubs helps.
So, don't assume that your partner is going to be wearing scrubs while you're in a hospital delivery room.
Partners do wear scrubs a lot in the movies, but the movies aren't real life. For example, Seth Rogan wore scrubs while Katherine Heigl was in labor in a scene from a popular movie that was co-produced by Judd Apatow.
14 That They Won’t Need Epidurals
A lot of women want drug-free natural deliveries and believe that they can manage labor pain until their babies are born. Some discover that they can't manage the pain. They then request epidurals. If you're determined to avoid an epidural, and you haven't had a baby before, you may not really understand what labor feels like. You may change your mind about an epidural once hard labor kicks in. This is very common.
According to a report by an American government agency, sixty-one percent of pregnant women receive epidural pain relief during labor. Since more women opt for epidurals than decide not to get them, there's a big chance that you'll choose an epidural, too.
13 That Women In Labor Start Behaving Badly
Some women are stoic during labor. Actress Kelly Preston is one example. She believes in silent births, where the woman makes as little noise as possible. This doesn't mean that Kelly made no sound at all as she was in labor. She just tried to minimize noise in the labor room as much as she could, because she believes that quiet births are better for babies. The whole silent birth thing is part of Kelly's beliefs, which are shared by her husband, John Travolta, and by other famous celebs, such as Tom Cruise. Other women are loud and may act out a bit, but they don't usually start acting like the girl in The Exorcist.
12 That They Can’t Eat or Drink During Labor
Bringing snacks and drinks in your labor "go bag" will be a smart strategy. Don't assume that you can't eat or drink while you're in labor. Labor is sometimes a long process and having healthy, comforting drinks and snacks on hand will be a good idea. It'll be easier to bring your own than have a partner, friend or family member fetch things for you while you're having contractions. It'll probably be cheaper than buying food at the hospital, too.
In-the-know moms recommend bringing bottles of water, fresh fruit (bananas are one example), sandwiches made from multigrain bread and high-protein fillings, crackers, trail mixes and energy bars.
11 That They Won’t Throw Up During Labor
I threw up during labor and you may do the same. Of course, I wasn't expecting to throw up. It just happened. It happens to lots of women, who probably aren't expecting it, either. I can't remember exactly when I threw up during labor. It's all kind of a blur at this point. But experts reveal that epidurals (I had one) trigger sudden drops in blood pressure, which may cause vomiting. It's also possible to throw up during labor when you haven't had an epidural, due to your pain level or due to food that's sitting in your tummy. When labor begins, digestion typically shuts down.
10 That They Won’t "Go" During Labor
When a woman is in labor, her pelvic floor and bladder sphincter muscles carry a lot of strain. The extra pressure may lead to incontinence. Unfortunately, some women continue to deal with incontinence issues after they give birth to their babies. These women benefit from doing pelvic floor exercises (Kegels).
Don't be ashamed if you lose control of your bladder or bowels while you are in labor. It is your time to be taken care of by a medical team. Labor can be rough and lots of things happen that women don't necessarily expect. Doctors and nurses have seen it all and they understand.
9 That Everyone Gets snipped
Do you know what an episiotomy is? It's a cut that's made with a surgical tool. The cut is made at the opening of female private parts. The episiotomy happens during labor, when a woman is having a tough time giving birth. The cut is designed to assist with delivery and to prevent tissue from rupturing. Most women don't get these surgical cuts, so don't assume that you're going to get one. Doctors decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not episiotomies are necessary. These cuts widen women's openings, so it's easier to deliver their babies. When a woman gets one of these cuts, it needs to be stitched up after her baby is delivered.
8 That C-Sections Are a Bad Thing
Sometimes, women do need C-sections, even if they are committed to having natural deliveries. Usually, women get prepped for C-sections when their unborn babies are in distress. There are various reasons why doctors will make the decision to move forward with C-sections for their patients.
Women who are pregnant need to know that twenty percent of labors end in C-section operations. They aren't uncommon. While recovery from a C-section puts more stress on a new mom, it is possible to recover from this type of surgical procedure in about six weeks. C-sections protect babies, so they aren't a bad thing.
7 That Contractions Won’t Be As bad As They Think
We all want to think positive while we visualize labor. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't acknowledge the fact that contractions hurt a lot. They do hurt, and it's important to understand that labor pains aren't exaggerated by women or the media. If you're pregnant and it's your first pregnancy, you won't really know what labor pains feel like until they happen to you, no matter what you've heard.
Most women who post about labor online report that their contractions hurt far more than they thought they would. The best strategy is to take good care of yourself before labor and practice your breathing.
6 That Their Ob-gyns Will Deliver Their Babies
Women see their ob-gyns while they are pregnant and many women believe that their ob-gyns will deliver their babies. The reality is that an ob-gyn may not be available when a woman goes into labor. She may have to give birth while another doctor is on call. With this in mind, don't get too attached to the idea that the ob-gyn who knows you the best will be at your side while you're giving birth. This might happen or might not happen. No matter what happens, there will be an experienced doctor on call to help you, even if it's not your own ob-gyn.
5 That They Don’t Have To Deliver the stuff after
In a natural delivery, once a woman gives birth, she'll continue to experience uterine contractions. Many will find that gushes of fluids seep out after delivery, which are followed by placentas. The umbilical cord is connected to the placenta. The umbilical cord is also connected to a newborn baby. So, you should be aware that delivering the placenta is a normal part of childbirth. Placentas are in the news a lot these days because there is a trend towards mothers consuming them after childbirth. Some ladies dry out the placenta and make it into capsules that they swallow. Would you eat your placenta?
4 That They’ll Feel Great Once Their Babies Are Out
Women don't usually feel superb after childbirth. Most feel like they've been hit by a truck. Childbirth is easier for some women than others, but it's always exhausting. There is pain and it is typically gruelling. So, don't expect to feel amazing right after you give birth. Sure, you'll be more elated than ever before when you meet your new baby. It's going to be one of the most magical and profound experiences that you ever have, if not the most magical and profound experience of your life. That being said, you're going to need time to recover. You won't feel like yourself right away.
3 That They Won’t Need To Wear “Mommy Diapers” After Labor
Some women research pregnancy and labor intensively, but don't spend much time thinking about the postpartum aspect of things, unless it relates to caring for newborns. Women who've given birth are going to need mommy diapers after labor. The hospital typically provides these mommy diapers.
It takes time for a woman's body to revert to a pre-pregnancy state. Before that happens, there is bleeding. The mommy diapers make it easier for women to handle postpartum bleeding. This bleeding may continue for days or weeks after you give birth. Every woman goes through this. A few unlucky women find that their uteruses don't contract as they should after labor. These women may experience hemorrhaging.
2 That They’ll Never Forget Labor
I can't really remember how bad my labor experience was, even though it was a rough labor. It's kind of strange that I can't remember the way that pain felt and all of the other things that went on, such as throwing up during my delivery. I'm sure I remembered after my son was born, but, over time, memories of labor really receded. When it comes to labor, you will forget the pain after. You'll have a beautiful new baby to focus on. You may even start to think about having another baby. Lots of women forget their labor pains. They remember being in pain, but forget the details.
1 That Doulas Are Nurses
Doulas are helpers to women and they are wonderful, but they aren't usually nurses. Midwives are much more likely to be registered nurses. If you want a doula for your labor, that's your decision, but don't assume that your doula will be trained to handle medical emergencies in labor. You need doctors and nurses for that. Educating yourself about doulas and midwives, as well as all of your birthing options, will be the key to creating a birth plan that is right for you. It has to be said that hospital births are statistically proven to be safer than home births. Keep this in mind as you plan.
References: Onlinelibrary.wiley.com, Beingtheparent.com, Webmd.com, Parents.com