Childbirth is a scary experience for most moms, whether you're a first-timer or a veteran. That's because each birth is totally different. No one can predict how a woman's birth experience is going to ultimately go. There are so many variables to consider, like how many times the mother has been pregnant, how many times she's given birth, whether they were C-sections or vaginal, and if she suffered from health complications or abnormalities. And yet, old legends and lies continue to infiltrate the birthing narrative. Some of the myths about childbirth that make the rounds are really misleading and harmful to mothers.
So how do myths even get started? According to mental health expert Dr. John Grohol of the website Psych Central, myths start as kernels of truth that somehow get misinterpreted. These misinterpretations then spread because they seemingly confirm hoary social notions that reflect a society's perceptions or beliefs. For example, vaginal and medicine-free childbirths are glorified in the media and they are accepted as the norm. Over and over again, society is fed the same fantasy version of child birth. A woman's water breaks, she goes into a sweaty (often screaming) labor, she is rushed to the hospital, and in three pushes the baby is born. Emergency C-sections aren't shown, episiotomies aren't talked about, and breech births aren't discussed. Water births, home births, and medicated births aren't depicted. Childbirth is not this binary, one-size-fits-all experience.
For some women, childbirth is a total train wreck process. For others it's zen-like in a inflatable pool. Either way, it's different for everyone. All of our experiences need to be reflected better, otherwise these worn out and tired myths will never die. Here are nine childbirth myths that need to be done away with.
Myth #1: C-Sections Are The Easy Way Out
I'm not sure any surgery, especially major abdominal surgery, could ever truly be considered an easy alternative to vaginal child birth. According to the Mayo Clinic, recovery from a C-section takes much longer than a vaginal birth generally speaking. There are also significant risks associated with C-sections like blood clots, blood loss, and infection that shouldn't be ignored or minimized. Whether a C-section is elected or not, it doesn't matter. No one birth is easier than the other.
Myth #2: "Natural Childbirth" Means Through The Vagina Only
What is natural? Apparently everything other than C-section is labeled as natural, which doesn't make much sense considering all of the medical interventions and instruments that often go into making a baby come out. Medications and epidurals are often used in vaginal births. So are only unmedicated vaginal births considered natural? Well, what if a mother gives birth vaginally and unmedicated, but her water is broken in the hospital? Is that still considered natural? What if forceps are used? Is that natural? It'd be nice if society accepted the idea that however a mother gives birth is natural. All births are natural.
Myth #3: You Have A Low Threshold For Pain If You Get An Epidural
So in general, labor is going to hurt. Your uterus is contracting and trying to push the baby out. However, your pain is unique to you. There are a lot of factors that go into how much pain you feel. According to Fit Pregnancy, genetics can play a role in delivery pain. The amount of support (or lack of) that you have and even negative labor stories can impact how you perceive and handle your pain.
Bottom line, women who get epidurals are not wimps. Their pain is their pain and no one should judge that.
Myth #4: You Have A Higher Chance Of Getting A C-Section If You Have An Epidural
According to Fit Pregnancy, epidurals can increase the time a woman labors, especially in the pushing phase. And it's found that ineffective pushing can make your chances of C-section higher. Research in the same article shows that some doctors have been over eager and push women into having C-sections when it's not necessary. The take away is if you've had an epidural and you've labored a long time, but still want to deliver vaginally, simply ask your doctor if the baby is in distress. If there is no medical risk to continue to labor, then labor if you desire.
Myth #5: You Can't Eat Or Drink During Labor
Childbirth no matter how you do it is hard work. Work that requires energy in the form of food. In fact, last year, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) said it's totally fine for healthy women to eat a light meal during labor as long as there are no complications. Researchers credit improvements in anesthesia care which have resulted in safer pain management during labor, and reduction in possible risks related to eating.
Myth #6: Vaginal Breech Birth Is Unsafe
Many doctors and midwives in the United States still practice breech vaginal births. But, it depends on the type of breech. The American Pregnancy website said it's best to try to flip a breech baby between 32 weeks and 37 weeks. That is of course, if there are no medical reasons as to why the breech baby has to stay in the breech position. Examples of why a flip might not be a good idea include uterine abnormalities in the mother or the cord being wrapped around the baby in a risky way.
Additionally, Spinning Babies website noted that there are several birthing positions to help vaginally deliver a breech baby. The site suggested that women use an experienced doctor or midwife to assist in a breech vaginal birth.
Myth #7: Vaginal Birth After C-Sections (VBACs) Are Unsafe
If you've delivered one baby via C-section that doesn't necessarily mean you have to have another C-section. According to the Mayo Clinic, 60 to 80 percent of women who attempt a VBAC deliver vaginally successfully. The site stressed that pregnant women should discuss their individual options with a doctor, as there might be specific reasons why a VBAC is not safe for a particular person.
Myth #8: Your Second Childbirth Will Be Easier
Generally speaking, a woman's labor with her second baby will be shorter, according to Parents magazine. Your body has already been through birth. Your cervix isn't so rigid as it once was when you were a birth virgin. However, that doesn't mean the birth of your second child will be easier. Again, shorter labor possibly, but not easier.
Myth #9: You Will Have An Instant Bond With Your Baby
Some parents fall romantically in love with their babies the moment they are born. Society accepts this as ideal, and perpetuates this image in every movie, TV show, and advertisement. But the truth is the bond doesn't always happen immediately. For some moms it takes time. According to Web MD, about 20 percent of parents don't feel an attachment to their babies in the first hours after birth. In some cases it may take weeks or months. This is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. Knowing that it's completely normal and not judging yourself as a new parent is really important for your self-esteem and happiness.
Being confident in making decisions is crucial as well. Gathering information and weighing your options for childbirth is the best way to feel more secure especially if you face an unexpected challenge during the birthing process. When it's time for your baby to come out there will be so many things happening at once. It will be a joyous and overwhelming time. Arming yourself with knowledge and the right questions will help you prepare for what to do if your plan, doesn't go as planned.