Labor and delivery are often mysterious and, at times, anxiety-inducing subjects for pregnant women. Some women have ideas about labor either through friends, family members, and even television. But what's real and what isn't? What will your labor be like? What are the things that are important to know about labor and what are the things you should care less about? It's true that everyone has a different birthing experience, but there are some things your OB-GYN wants you to know about labor.
I was very anti-baby books and hospital courses when I was pregnant with my first child. I'm mostly happy about that attitude, because I didn't drive myself nuts with information. But I should've done a little research and asked my OB-GYN a few questions. After all, that's what she was there for. Had I been a little interested in the labor and delivery process — or at the very least inquired about it — my own experience in the hospital would've been less jilting and jarring. I was induced three weeks before my due date, and labored for more than 24 hours before having an emergency C-section. I didn't even know that was a possibility. How naive I was.
It's helpful to have certain realistic expectations about the labor process before it starts so you're prepared a little bit. No one can prepare fully for their unique labor experience, but there are some universal truths to bear in mind leading up to the show. Here are nine things your OB-GYN would like you to know before labor even begins.
1. Keep An Open Mind
When I was pregnant with my babies a bunch of moms told me I needed a birth plan to which I responded, "Isn't the plan to just to get the baby out?"
"Labor can be a stressful time so it is important that people come in with some flexibility about their labor process," Dr. Kameelah Phillips, founder of O Baby Maternity, tells Romper in an interview. "Things don't always go as planned and our ultimate goal is a healthy baby and mother."
Yes, having a plan is fantastic. But as long as you understand things may not go according to plan.
2. Labor Is Not Like In The Movies
Labor doesn't look like a scene out of Knocked Up. Labor is a very long and often times drawn out process that spans many hours.
"The movies make people think babies come out after a few screams. It doesn't work like this most of the time," Phillips says. "Be prepared to wait and wait and then wait some more. Some labors can take many hours not including the time to push."
3. Consult An OB-GYN Before Inducing Labor At Home
It can be very tempting to get pregnancy over with and meet your little one. If you are near your due date, your doctor may even tell you it's OK to try some "natural" or DIY methods to coax baby out. But the main point is ask first.
You have to be very careful because some of the so-called natural induction methods might be harmful to a mother and her unborn baby, according to Web MD. Even with vigorous exercise you should be cautious about, especially if you're a mama that doesn't get much physical activity on a regular basis.
4. Know The Signs Of Preterm Labor
According to What To Expect, 80 percent of women that experience preterm labor symptoms don't actually go into preterm
labor. But it's probably a smart idea to know the signs just in case it actually happens to you. Some symptoms of preterm labor that OB-GYNs want you to know about include contractions that come every 10 minutes and don't subside, blood streaked discharge, period like cramps, back pain, and pelvic pressure as all noted on Web MD. Additionally, What To Expect recommended that pregnant women who experience these symptoms call their doctors right away.
5. Your Water Might Not Break Before You Go Into Labor
Generally speaking, a woman's water breaking means she's about to go into labor. But it doesn't always happen that way. According to Baby Center, water breaking can happen in the first or second stage of labor. Sometimes the contractions start first and your water will break later or a medical professional will break it for you to speed up labor.
There's also the opposite issue - your water could break and you're not in labor.
"Just because somebody's water breaks, doesn't mean they're in labor," OB-GYN Dr. Mira Aubuchon, with The Missouri Center for Reproductive Medicine, tells Romper in an interview. She suggests if a woman's water has broken and they don't feel contractions, they should call their provider right away.
"A woman's labor may need to be induced if her water breaks because they're at risk for possible infection," says Aubuchon.
6. It's Never Really Too Late For An Epidural
According to Baby Center, it's not too late for an epidural unless the baby's head is crowning or the mother can't sit still. And aubuchon agrees.
"It will usually depend on the anesthesiologist's comfort level with how far along the pregnant woman is into her labor and her ability to sit still enough for the epidural to go in," Aubuchon says. "If a pregnant woman is writhing in pain it might be more difficult to get the epidural in."
Utilizing pain management doesn't mean you're any less of a mother or any less brave than a mother who goes the unmedicated route. Your pain is your pain. If you think your labor experience would be greatly enhanced by the use of an epidural and there are no medical reasons why you shouldn't get one, most OB-GYN's will be happy to set you up with the anesthesiologist.
7. Accidents Happen (And It's Totally OK)
Sh*t happens folks. Pooping during your labor will probably be the least of your worries while you prepare to give birth to a little human.
So why do we poop during labor? According to Parents, the same muscles you fire up when you're about to poop are the same ones you use when you're pushing.
"Don't be surprised or embarrassed if you poop while you are pushing. You actually need to use your pooping muscles to push the baby out," OB-GYN Dr. Nita Landry tells Romper.
Basically, OB-GYN's have seen it all and don't give damn about your doo-doo.
8. Your Doctor Might Not Deliver You
As much as you love your doctor and want only them to deliver your baby it might not happen like that. The partners at your provider's office work in shifts and some are on call when your doctor isn't noted Parents. You might even have a scenario where you see your doctor during labor, but not during delivery. Rest assured you'll never be without care. The same article said chances are you'll hardly see your doctor anyway and your nurse will be the main one caring for you.
9. You Can Say 'No' To Visitors In The Hospital
I'm not sure when labor became a spectator sport, but for some of us mamas it can be very unnerving to have an audience. I originally thought I wouldn't care about having people come in and out of my room, but I quickly changed my mind about two hours into labor with my first baby. For the birth of my second daughter it was only me and my husband in a hospital that was farther away from family. It was done purposely and I have no regrets.
OB-GYNs and hospital staff want you to be as comfortable as possible. According to Belly Belly, having added stress like visitors and pressure to perform and be entertaining can inhibit certain hormones that are necessary for labor to progress. You can either put a "no visitors" preference in your birth plan or speak up when the time is right.
Your healthcare provider's job is to make sure you're as informed as possible, comfortable, and cared for. You should lean on them a lot and ask questions as they come up, but knowing a little bit about labor beforehand is a great way to set yourself up for the unexpected aspects of childbirth.