If you’re about to give birth, surely your friends and family have told you exactly what their deliveries were like — and how yours should go, too. After reading the books and searching Dr. Google, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. Here are 10 myths about giving birth that might surprise you.
1. The doctor you’ve been seeing for every prenatal visit will deliver your baby. This all depends on how your obstetrician’s practice is set up. If your doctor is the only one in his or her practice, then it’s true, you’ll definitely know who’s going to be there to help catch your baby. However, if your OB is one of many in a large practice, they may all cover Labor & Delivery and deliver each other’s patients. If this worries you, be sure to ask when you are picking an OB/GYN.
2. Your doctor will be in your room most of the time. Some may, but it is more likely you’ll see much more of your labor nurse. Your doctor will probably have multiple women in labor to care for and usually has to handle many phone calls and see patients in the Emergency Room, too. While they will check in frequently and be there for your delivery, it is doubtful they’ll be there for your entire labor.
3. Giving birth is as quick as it is in the movies. If only babies came as quickly as they did in Hollywood! While some certainly do, the truth is that it is normal for labor to take hours and sometimes days. Labor tends to be shorter with the more babies you have, but keep in mind that it is normal for a first-time mom to be in just the early stages of labor for up to (and maybe longer than) 20 hours. That doesn’t even count the time spent in active labor or pushing.
4. Epidurals make all the pain go away. Epidurals can work wonders, but they don’t always make birth painless. Be aware that you still may feel some pain from contractions or a sense of intense pressure. As you actually give birth, you may feel more pain, as well as burning in the vaginal area. This is all normal and is due to the fact that different nerves innervate your vagina and uterus. If you experience a sudden increase in pain, say something because your epidural may be able to be adjusted, but know it can be normal.
5. You’ll be able to sleep once this baby finally shows up! Many moms — after a long labor and hours of pushing — think that once baby arrives, they will finally be able to sleep. That’s probably a nice thought to motivate you, but usually it is not true! The adrenaline rush of finally meeting your baby often makes sleep difficult, as does the activity that happens afterward (your nurse checking on you frequently to make sure you are OK, possibly changing rooms, etc). In addition, babies are very alert in the initial hour after birth, and this is an important time to feed and bond. So while you may be able to rest after your little one makes his or her appearance, sleep may still be a few hours off.
6. The pain will stop once the baby is delivered. Things that can cause pain after you have given birth: delivering your placenta, having any lacerations or episiotomies repaired, afterbirth pains (where your uterus contracts back down to size — these feel like intense cramps), going to the bathroom, and sitting in certain positions. While none of these usually hurts as bad as having a baby, let your nurse know if you need something for the pain.
7. You’ll know when you are in labor. It’s true that most women definitely know true from false labor. However, sometimes it can be tricky, especially if it’s your first one. If you’ve gone to the hospital thinking you were in labor and you were sent home, fear not! You won’t be pregnant forever. We promise!
8. Your water always breaks on its own. This certainly does happen, but sometimes your doctor or midwife will break your bag of waters using something that looks like a crochet hook, rather than waiting for your water to break on its own.
9. After a few pushes, your baby will be here. Again, see #3. Sometimes this is true (and those mothers are lucky!), but often it is not — especially if this is your first baby. Keep in mind that giving birth takes time, and we now know that it can be normal for this part of labor to take even longer than we previously thought. If you want to throw in the towel and have a C-section after just a few pushes because you think your baby will never come, rest assured that this part takes time.
10. Babies come out looking like newborns. Babies don’t show up all clean and cute like on TV! It is normal for their heads to have some swelling and be shaped like a cone. Their faces are often swollen too, and they may even have some bruises on them. These changes are all because of coming through the birth canal. In addition, their skin is usually covered in a cheesy substance called vernix. In a day, you’ll be surprised how different they look.
11. You can’t bank cord blood if you use delayed clamping. While delayed cord clamping may mean you don’t have enough blood to do cord blood banking, that isn’t always the case. Oftentimes there is enough for both. If you are trying to pick between the two, however, go with delayed cord clamping, as your baby can definitely benefit from that extra blood supply and iron stores. And if you get enough to do cord blood banking too, that’s just icing on the cake!
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, December 2018
- Many myths exist about giving birth.
- While every labor varies, few are as quick as the media makes it out to be.
- Epidurals can help but don’t always make labor pain-free.
I’m loving reading all of these articles! I’ll be so prepared now.
Wonderful Elisabeth! Glad we can be of help!
I’m glad I did research the past few months on some of these things. I’ve got 7 weeks or less to go and I am terrified, haha.
#6 resonated with me as I remember this weird juxtaposition of having guests stopping by to ogle the new baby and they inevitably say something about how great you look (ha!) and this being a happy, lighthearted environment, then slipping away to use the restroom and then cleaning up said restroom cuz it looks like a murder scene after you’re done with it. That’s probably TMI, but I think my fellow Mamas can relate… remember the peri bottle?! 🙂
I’m not sure it’s a myth but I know that I completely ignored what recovery might feel like. Two days postpartum and I pulled out the pregnancy books to read the “what happens after chapter” feeling like why did no one mention this part, LOL!
Totally agree! I remember calling my OB’s office several times asking whether the pain I was feeling in the region South of my lady parts was normal. I almost wish they sent you home with a manual of what to expect about your body after baby 🙂
This is a great list! Here’s another one: If your water DOES break, you might not realize it. For my first baby, his head was so low that he blocked the ‘flow’ so the amniotic fluid only leaked out a bit at a time. I just assumed increased discharge was a normal part of labor. It wasn’t until I mentioned it to my sister and she suggested that my water had broken that I realized that was the case. Of course then when my second came along, my water broke in a big pee-like gush (which I can tell you is pretty embarrassing when you’re soaking the floors of the hospital as you make your way to labor and delivery).
Can I just tell you – the hospital stay is WORSE than the delivery. Every 2 hours someone coming in and disturbing you to poke and prod you some more.
I was afraid of the not knowing when I was in labor but luckily with the first baby the entire process usually lasts several hours if not days so I had time to prepare when it actually happened. Since I wasn’t 100% sure I decided to clean the house and take a bath to “groom” myself before going to the hospital. The doctor explained how to keep track of my contractions but that went out the window because of all of the excitement. Turns out I was in labor so we didn’t have to make the trip back home until after the baby was born. .
#5 is so true!! Sleep as much as you can before the baby is born. Once your little one arrives you will wish you did. Coffee will become your new best friend-lol! 🙂