This post is part of an editorial series, “The Stork Stories,” brought to you by the Fort Worth Moms Blog. We hope these pieces provide you with helpful information, encouragement, and answers as you prepare for baby’s arrival.
Hey mom. Let’s talk.
First things, first. You look incredible. Truly. Regardless of how you feel, you are absolutely radiant.
Today, I want to talk to you about birth. I know there’s a lot of information out there, some pretty scary stuff, too. Television makes it looks so intense, and we’ve all heard the real life trauma stories. Before you get sucked down the black hole of what could go wrong in labor, I want to put a few anxieties to rest.
There are a lot of things that can and do happen in birth, that’s for sure. But instead of letting the Hollywood hype freak you out, let me debunk, for you, some of the most common myths about birth.
1) Labor begins with a gush. We’ve all seen that episode. The one where the pregnant woman stands up contraction-free and all of a sudden her water spills all over the floor. While water breaking is a sign of labor for some, only about 15 percent of labors begin with ruptured membranes. And sometimes, when the membranes do rupture, it’s more of a slow leak than a huge gush, leading many women to believe they’ve just peed a little. Membranes rupture at different times for different women. Sometimes the bag of waters break as baby exits the birth canal. Sometimes baby is birthed with the sack still intact (en caul). While extremely uncommon, en caul births are said to be a sign of good luck.
2) You’re due at 40 weeks. As a doula, this might be the biggest myth I’d like to bust. Because of a variety of menstrual cycle lengths, few people can nail down an exact date of conception. Only about 5 percent of women give birth on their due dates. Stressing a 40 week due date only adds pressure to expectant women and disappointment when they (almost) inevitably go beyond that mark. I like to refer to my clients’ “due dates” as “estimated due dates.” This takes the stress off to get labor started and allows them relax — which is the best state of mind to be in when you want labor to begin.
3) If you’re not screaming, you’re not in labor. There are a lot of sounds in labor, but screaming shouldn’t be one of them. When you scream you actually waste a lot of energy on something that is not even helpful to your process. Instead of screaming, laboring women should remember to moan in low tones, deep in the throat.
Try this: Make a high pitched noise. Go on, no one’s listening. Did you feel the tightness in your throat? When you make high pitched noises, your throat closes and restricts your breathing. When you restrict your oxygen flow, you also restrict baby’s oxygen flow. No bueno in labor. Low tones keep your throat relaxed and your breath unrestricted. Same goes for pushing. Screaming will only exhaust you more and hurt your throat; grunt or moan instead.
4) Start pushing the minute you’re fully dilated and fully effaced. Most care providers and nurses encourage women to push as soon as their cervix is “complete” (dilated 10 cm and 100% effaced). While you certainly can push, it is sometimes better to wait until you feel “pushy.” Your body will naturally push your baby out when it is ready, this is called the Fetal Ejection Reflex. When your body is ready to birth your baby, you won’t be able to resist pushing. The pressure and urge will be too great to ignore. This is when you should push. Babies aren’t born in cars by choice.
While we’re on the topic of pushing . . . ladies, take it slow! There is no gold medal at the end for pushing your baby out in five minutes. You could even reduce your risk of tearing if you take your time and let the skin slowly stretch out. I know it’s painful, and I know you’re ready to be done, but your lady bits will thank you later. I promise.
*Two things should be noted: 1) if you get an epidural it could be harder to recognize the urge to push, but it is possible, 2) sometimes it is medically necessary to push regardless of feeling ready.
5) Dilation means everything! There is a phrase floating around the birth world that is my absolute favorite! “Your cervix is not a crystal ball.” We put so much stock in cervical change and what that means for the onset of labor. Yes, dilation is great! It tells us the body is working and preparing for labor, but it does not give us a timeline for the beginnings of labor. Dilation is just one piece to the puzzle. All of that to say, celebrate progress, but also take it with a grain of salt.
As with all statistics there are always outliers. Generally speaking, though, birth isn’t scary, but rather a normal, natural process. Do your research, ask questions, and, most important, trust your body and your baby.
There are many myths when it comes to labor. Which myth was most surprising to you?
The Fort Worth Moms Blog is hosting its next event just for you! Bloom, happening May 20, 2017 from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. at Cook Children’s Medical Center, is an event for expectant moms and moms who are currently parenting children two years and under. (Foster and adoptive moms are welcome too!) The afternoon will focus on information, resources, products, and more that target the pregnancy and delivery stage of parenting through the first two years. This event, held in partnership with Cook Children’s Health Care System, will provide a few hours of pampering, light snacks, educational resources, giveaways and swag, shopping, and connecting moms and families with relevant local resources for this season of life. For information, tickets, and more click HERE!