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11 Birth Myths Debunked

By Jennifer Lincoln, MD, IBCLC, Board Certified OB/GYN

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!

 

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