When you’re wearing a baby belly, you tend to attract delivery room horror stories and cryptic warnings from oh-so-helpful strangers. What is reliable, and what’s really bull? We’ve stared down some of society’s most stringent delivery room myths.
The myth: Your water will break before you get to the delivery room, suddenly and likely in public.
The reality: It’s a common fear: You’re strolling through the mall when a spontaneous flood of amniotic fluid bursts forth, soaking your shoes, drawing stares and embarrassing the heck out of you. Good news: This event will most likely never come to pass. Of more than 50,000 moms polled at BabyCenter.com, only 5 percent said their water broke “at work, out shopping or in another public place.” The rest lost their fluid at home or otherwise in private, at the doctor’s office or at the hospital.
While some women experience their water breaking before they go into active labor, it’s more likely that you’ll be in labor before your water breaks (so you’ll have a physical warning) or that your doctor will break your water for you once you arrive at the hospital. When your water does break, it could release in a gush, or it may start as a mere trickle. It can feel unnervingly like peeing on yourself (at least there’s no pain), but you’ll quickly realize that the smell and color don’t indicate urine.
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So, will your water break in public? It’s possible but not probable. In other words, don’t cancel your dinner plans in fear that you’ll suddenly drop a water balloon from your skirt.
The myth: You’ll know when you’re truly in labor.
The reality: If you’ve been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions (aka false labor), it can be tricky to recognize when you’ve made the switch to true labor. Often, true contractions start out feeling the same as their false counterparts—the muscles of the uterus contract, causing the abdomen to feel firm from the outside and cramped up on the inside. However, if your contractions are coming at regular intervals and growing stronger and closer together, you are in true labor. It’s time to call your doctor to give her the heads up and book it to the hospital once your contractions are less than five minutes apart.
Because it can be hard to identify where false labor stops and true labor begins, first-time moms occasionally arrive at the hospital before there’s a real need. If this happens to you, don’t be ashamed for erring on the side of caution—the nurses aren’t judging you. They’ll simply send you home until you’re ready to come back and birth a baby.
The myth: At any moment, you might need to make a mad dash to the hospital.
The reality: In the movies, it seems like mom goes 0 to 60 in a minute, from calm to red-faced and hollering, “Honey, it’s time! We’re going to the hospital now!” In fact, early labor is typically calm, with mild contractions gradually becoming more urgent as the cervix dilates (opens) and effaces (thins). It can take hours until active labor sets in and it’s really time to go. Generally speaking, moms tend to labor longer with first babies than with subsequent deliveries.
Of course, there are widely varying time-tables; some women don’t realize they’re in labor until active, painful contractions kick in. If you’re having painful contractions less than five minutes apart, don’t delay, even if it seems too sudden. You might just be one of those women who labors briefly and delivers in a hurry.
The myth: Contractions are more painful with Pitocin.
The reality: Oxytocin, or brand-name Pitocin, is a hormone used to induce or speed up labor. While it doesn’t necessarily make labor more painful, it does condense the process, moving you along from relatively easy early labor to painful active labor more quickly. Jeffrey L. Ecker, MD, chair of ACOG’s Committee on Obstetric Practice, explains, “Pitocin makes contractions occur sooner and more frequently than they would on their own.” Without Pitocin, labor revs up more gradually.
When considering induction, it’s important to discuss your progress with your doctor. If mom or baby’s health is in danger, induction might be the best option. Otherwise, in a normal, healthy pregnancy, it’s typically wise to let nature take its course. Induction before 39 weeks is not recommended, unless there is a significant medical reason behind it. Inducing labor before the cervix is sufficiently dilated and effaced could very well lead to an unplanned cesarean delivery.
The myth: Delivering in a hospital means you’re strapped to a bed from start to finish.
The reality: Anybody who feeds you this whopper has an agenda to promote. Today’s hospitals are generally flexible in their birth practices. Women are free to choose a more mobile labor or not, depending upon what they’re comfortable with. The more interventions a woman selects, the less mobility she will have. For example, hooking up to oxytocin or inserting an epidural means you’ll be restricted to a bed. If you value freedom of movement, don’t request these interventions, or at least hold off until closer to delivery.
“In healthy moms and babies, ambulation early in labor is a welcome thing. It can make everyone feel better,” says Ecker. “If someone is told she needs to be in a bed and be continuously monitored, there may be a reason.” (Examples include using Pitocin, high blood pressure or bleeding.) When there are no complications or interventions, mama is free to roam except when nurses occasionally check her progress and track baby’s heartbeat.
Many hospitals offer birthing balls and tubs to assist women in labor. Talk to your doctor and visit your chosen hospital well before your due date to discuss options for labor pain management and delivery. Hospitals have advanced interventions available if they’re needed, but you won’t be forced into an undesirable position.
The myth: Meeting your baby will be love at first sight.
The reality: It’s true for some but not for others. Although you’ve carried baby for nine months, you haven’t truly gotten to know her yet. The physical bond is there, but the emotional connection can take some time. Especially for those who experience “baby blues” or, worse, postpartum depression, there can be a real feeling of disconnectedness—feeling guilty about the time it takes to bond will only add to your stress. Instead, be patient with yourself and with this new relationship.
Baby blues (mood swings and sadness during the first two weeks postpartum) affects about 70 to 85 percent of new moms, and clinical postpartum depression (longer lasting, more severe depression) affects approximately 20 percent. There is absolutely no shame in admitting you need help—someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on or possibly medication. The important thing is to get yourself well mentally, so you are better prepared to care for your newborn.
The myth: If your hubby sees you push a baby from your lady parts, he won’t be attracted to you anymore.
The reality: We’ve all heard this rumor, but if it were true, how would anyone end up with more than one child? Modern dads are present in the delivery room, and while some opt to look away as baby emerges, others are thrilled to witness the miracle of birth—complete with all the stretching, tearing and unsightly output that comes with it. “It was very special for me to be the first person on the planet to see each of my kids enter the world,” says Justin Williams of Des Moines, Iowa. “It was amazing to watch and be a part of. I feel like it brought us very close together, and I think [my wife] is still damn sexy.”
Sure, the actual birth is less than alluring, but that doesn’t mean your man will find you less attractive going forward. You are his lover, and now you’re also the mother of his child! Mitch Manley of Santaquin, Utah, says, “Knowing that my wife has sacrificed herself and her body to bring my amazing children into the world—that is hot in my opinion.” So invite papa to view his baby’s birth, including the nitty-gritty aspects. Even if he sees some truly gnarly stuff in the delivery room, after six weeks on the bench, his “manstincts” will take over, and he’ll be ready to put it all behind him.