You’ve been waiting nine long months, and your big day is almost here. But what should be a joyful time of giving birth has become clouded by myths about labor and delivery. How do you know what to believe when you have so many people telling you different things? Here are some of the most common myths about labor and childbirth, and the reality behind them:
There is one way to do labor and childbirth that is better than all the rest. You’ll hear all sorts of variations on this one: “Natural childbirth is the only way to go.” “You’ll never make it without an epidural.” “You should set a date for induction so that you take the uncertainty out of the process.” Each one of these may have worked for one person or another, but they won’t necessarily work for you. Keep in mind that each mother’s body, each baby, and each situation is different. And even if you have your mind set on a certain way that things are going to be, it could all change at the last minute if your baby has other plans. So don’t let anyone convince you that there’s only one “good” method for giving birth. Just decide what you think will work for you, and then go with the flow.
Childbirth will be like what you’ve seen on TV. Childbirth drama makes for great television, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect the way things happen in real life. The truth is, most deliveries are pretty straightforward. You will probably make some loud noises during the peak of your labor and delivery, but chances are there won’t be screaming, fainting, orderlies running a gurney down a hallway, doctors barking out orders, or any other overly dramatic turn of events.
You will know when you are in labor. Well, maybe. But there’s a chance that you might not even notice it starting. Sometimes contractions are very mild when they begin, and they can drag out for as long as several days before you are ready to go to the hospital. Often second-time or third-time moms may be several centimeters dilated without realizing it. Also, don’t forget Myth #4…
Your water will break when you are in labor. Some women don’t bother keeping track of contractions because they are waiting for their water to break. But the truth is, sometimes the amniotic fluid comes out in a big gush, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes a doctor may need to “break” your water during labor if it is not progressing. If your contractions are strong and regular and frequent, it is probably time to go to the hospital, and you shouldn’t wait around for your water to break.
Your doctor will want you to have an episiotomy. In fact, the rates of episiotomies (a small cut made in the vaginal opening to mitigate damage from tearing) have declined steeply over the last several years and they are by no means routine anymore. Commonly a doctor will wait until the baby is crowning to assess whether or not one might be needed. If you feel strongly about not having one, make sure you talk to your doctor about it ahead of time so you are both on the same page.
Having an epidural increases your chances of needing a c-section. There are so many myths surrounding epidurals, it’s hard to keep track of them all, but this one is particularly stubborn. Epidural medications for childbirth have become extremely well refined in the last several years, and at this point, studies show no connection between having an epidural and needing a c-section. In fact, one three-year study at Northwestern University looked at two groups of first-time mothers, one who were given epidurals and one who were given an analgesic pain killer. The mothers in the epidural group actually needed fewer c-sections and had shorter labors.
Your labor experience will be just like your mother’s. If your mother had easy deliveries, maybe you will too. Perhaps your pelvic shape is well-suited to delivering babies. But don’t assume that it will always play out this way. Your baby may be positioned differently or may be larger than the babies that your mother delivered. Due to a variety of factors, today’s babies are generally larger than babies a generation ago.
Your second childbirth will be easier. Your second childbirth, and subsequent ones, will undoubtedly be quicker than your first. Whether they will be easier or not is hard to say. It depends on the position and physical condition of the baby and on any issues that may be affecting your health. Again, each pregnancy and delivery is different. But you can rest easy knowing that even if delivery #2 is more difficult, it will probably be faster.
You will feel an instant bond with your baby. Well, maybe – and it’s great if you do. But plenty of new moms are either too exhausted, overwhelmed, or nervous to feel an instant connection. If you don’t feel “it” right away, never fear. Every day you get to know and enjoy your new little one, your bond will grow stronger and deeper.