Mention the word “childbirth” in a room filled with moms and you’ll be inundated with a whole host of advice, personal experience, and a heap ton of warnings of what to do, what not to do, what to be wary of, and what’s the worst thing ever.
Everyone’s got their own story about childbirth and something to say about vaginal deliveries, epidurals, C-sections, breech births, natural births, doctors, midwives, etc.
An exaggerated story makes for more interesting conversation, and an overly enthusiastic warning forces someone to wake up and pay attention. Unfortunately labor and childbirth tales aren’t spared this drama—even when they’re told by the most well-intended souls. It’s no wonder that pregnant women (or those considering becoming pregnant one day) feel freaked out and confused.
So what’s the truth? In reality, no one delivery is the same. Every body is different, and different women handle different aspects of delivery, well, differently.
Let us help put your mind at ease and shed some light on the most common myths about labor and delivery—that you can ignore.
Natural childbirth is through the vagina only.
The whole idea of labeling a delivery “natural” or not natural is so odd! Were the terms initially coined to make mothers feel like failures—as if their deliveries weren’t intended and were fake? What exactly is considered a natural birth? Much of society defines a natural delivery as being any type of delivery that doesn’t involve a C-section.
This doesn’t exactly make sense because 1. The delivering of a baby (whatever method) is a natural event—a baby is coming out of a mother’s body (probably the most natural event that Mother Nature ever made). 2. So-called “natural deliveries” are sometimes anything but. What about a typical vaginal birth is natural? The forceps used to aid getting the baby out? The breaking of the water in the hospital? The medications, epidurals, or monitoring of vitals by high-tech machinery?
You have a low threshold for pain if you have an epidural.
Going into labor and having a baby doesn’t exactly tickle…it’s going to hurt. For some people it hurts a lot for a short amount of time, and for others it hurts a little for a longer period of time—and there are variations to those themes as well.
How can you tell what your pain is going to be like? Some studies have found that delivery pain levels and tolerance are genetic; so it may help to ask your mom or grandmom how her pain was during childbirth.
Other studies have found that support (or lack of) affects your pain, as does your preconceived perception of the labor process—if you believe that it’s going to be painful, then that’s how your body will perceive it. The choice to have an epidural or not is a personal one.
The decision is often made after taking the following into consideration: the amount of pain the mother is in, the duration of pain, and how pain is affecting a mother’s vital stats, such as blood pressure. It’s also important to consider that the actual administration of an epidural is no walk in the park, and getting one is no indication that you have a low threshold for pain.
You have a higher chance of C-section if you have an epidural.
Studies have shown that with epidurals, the time that a woman is in labor increases. Researchers have also found that having an epidural can make women push for a longer period and increase something known as “ineffective pushing” (pushing without the baby coming out).
On the other hand, doctors sometimes are a little eager to push a woman into a C-section if they’ve been waiting around a longer time for a woman to deliver (i.e., they don’t feel like standing around anymore and waiting for the baby to come).
However, if your baby’s not in distress (and there’s no medical risk), and you want to have a vaginal delivery, then there’s no reason not to try.
C-sections are the easy way out.
Many people think that a C-section is an easier form of delivery than a vaginal birth. They assert that the woman gets spared the pain of going through the contractions of labor, she doesn’t suffer the common issues of a vaginal delivery, and she just schedules the surgery for the most convenient time.
This is not true, and anyone who has ever had a C-section (or any other major abdominal surgery) will agree that having your abdomen opened is absolutely not the easy way out. Sure, you don’t have to push, don’t end up with hemorrhoids and minor tears, and don’t experience the pain of pushing…. But recovering from major surgery is a pretty big deal. Initially, you have to worry about things like excessive blood loss, blood clots, and infections, and that’s just for starters.
Standing, walking around, carrying the baby, and breastfeeding are all made much more complicated by abdominal surgery. Whether someone chooses to have the C-section or not, it absolutely is not the easier route, and each childbirth option comes with its own set of issues.