What nobody tells you about giving birth

February 01, 2018 | by Lisa Chorzempa-Schainis, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

Everyone has their own labor story to tell. Yours will be unique too. Since every birth is different, how can you prepare?

The best place to start is with your doctor. Ask your OB-GYN what to expect during childbirth. Your doctor has seen you through your pregnancy and knows your individual situation.

You can also educate yourself through reading and attending childbirth classes. But there’s only so much you can read in a book or learn in a class.

Let’s get real. Let’s talk about what nobody tells you about giving birth.

First, will you know when labor begins? It may not be as easy to tell as you think. In your third trimester, you may experience a random squeezing of your abdomen, called Braxton-Hicks contractions. Usually, these are less regular and not as strong as true labor contractions.

True labor contractions come at regular intervals and begin to get closer together and more intense. These contractions continue, despite movement, and steadily increase in strength, usually starting in the back and moving to the front.

Also, you may go into labor without your water breaking. If it does break, you may only notice a small, constant trickle. Only 1 in 10 women experience a dramatic gush of amniotic fluid. Your doctor can break your water for you if it doesn’t happen on its own.

Let’s move on. You have arrived at the hospital and you know for sure you’re in labor. What now? Here’s what nobody tells you about giving birth:

  • All modesty will be gone. When you give birth, you truly have to surrender your modesty. Lots of people will be looking between your legs. Your doctors and nurses don’t care how it looks down there — and by that point you won’t really care either!

  • It’s way easier to have support — but don’t invite a crowd. Continuous emotional and physical support during labor makes for a more positive, comfortable experience. With that in mind, don’t invite a crowd. You’ll want your main support person there. The rest can wait.

  • Don’t induce unless you have to. Inducing labor may increase the likelihood of a c-section. Induction of labor should be carefully discussed with your physician, including the pros, cons and risks.

  • It may not go according to plan. Some women hope for a natural childbirth and wind up getting an epidural or pharmacological pain relief. Others have an unplanned c-section. Just know your birth plan may be not turn out exactly the way you thought — and that’s okay.

  • Embarrassing things happen. If you have a c-section, your doctor will likely need to shave you down there. You may puke, pass gass or pee during labor. You will probably poop. Although you may worry about it, it’s highly common. Know that your doctor and nurses could care less.

  • You may not have to be stuck to the bed. It may be more comfortable and less painful for you to give birth in upright or side-lying positions rather than on your back. Some hospitals allow hydrotherapy and warm water immersion for labor and birth (should you choose this approach). Ask your doctor or midwife in advance about the option of giving birth in alternative positions.

  • There are more comfort options than you think. While an epidural is the most effective form of pain relief for labor, there are a number of other ways to reduce pain. Some women do fine with natural methods alone. Others combine natural methods with medications to relieve pain.

  • Pushing may not be what you imagined. You may push for a long time — a few hours, especially with the first baby, is normal. And if you get an epidural, you’ll need help with when to push because you’ll be numb. After your baby arrives, you’ll have to push out the placenta.

  • The hardest part is yet to come. Some women go through very difficult births. But for many, childbirth is often the easy part (gasp). The real challenge is what comes next. The minute your little one is born, you are responsible for this brand new life — forever. Pretty heavy stuff.

It’s called labor for a reason. It’s hard work. But like most hard work, there is a reward. In this case, it’s the best reward of all.

Learn more about what to expect in labor and delivery at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Find an OB-GYN or midwife.

Related blogs:

What’s normal during pregnancy    
8 options for a more comfortable labor
Demystifying c-sections: what every expectant mom should know

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