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8 Myths and Facts About Giving Birth

posted: 05/04/15
by: Mara Betsch
newborn baby
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There's a lot of work that goes in to getting your bundle of joy into the world.
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After nine long months of carrying your baby girl or boy, it's finally time to meet your bundle of joy. But when it comes to actually giving birth, you'd be hard-pressed to find an activity surrounded my more old wives' tales and misinformation (I mean, have you been to any pregnancy chat rooms?). Luckily, we chatted with Dr. Sherry Ross, OBGYN and women's health expert, and she helped us separate delivery facts from fiction. Read on to get the real deal on giving birth:

1. Myth: Eating spicy foods (or taking castor oil) will speed up labor

These old wives' tales don't have any truth to them. And, unfortunately, introducing foods like this prior to labor can lead to unpleasant side effects, like nausea and diarrhea.

2. Fact: Your birth probably won't go exactly as planned

It's an excellent idea to do you birth plan research ahead of time, and you can even print out a template to give to the nurses and hospital staff. But, it's important to have some flexibility, because it's hard to plan for factors outside your control. "Honestly, more often than not, birth plans don't go as planned," says Ross, who estimates that about 80 percent of births she's been a part of have deviated from the initial plan.

3. Myth: If you lose your mucus plug, it's go time

"That's a misconception," says Ross, explaining that the mucus plug, which is exactly what it sounds like, builds up around your cervix and covers your uterus. It's your body's way of protecting the uterus from bacteria, and, when your cervix dilates, the plug is discharged. Though it means you are getting close to labor, it could be days or even weeks before your contractions begin.

4. Fact: Most women's waters don't break

Only about 10 to 15 percent of women will actually have their water "break" - in fact, most of the time a doctor breaks the water once you're already in the hospital. But if your water does break at home, you should make your way to the hospital, even if you're not feeling some of the major symptoms of labor. There's a higher risk of infection once your water breaks, and it's better to be safe than sorry.

5. Myth: Epidurals are dangerous

"Some women feel that epidurals slow down labor and make it too difficult to push the baby out," says Ross, "Some are also worried about the needle in the back." But these are all myths. Though there can be negative side effects, namely the potential for a drop in blood pressure, epidurals are generally safe for you and your baby. "Because it's a nerve block, it really doesn't affect the baby at all," she adds.

6. Fact: Most women will opt for pain medication

The idea of natural childbirth is appealing - it's typically less invasive, and there's no loss of sensation. But, the pain of labor typically has women asking for a little medical assistance. "About 90% of women will get some type of pain medicine, often in the form of an epidural," says Ross. Though pain management is so individualized and most women's experiences are different, Ross encourages women to keep the option open and know their pain tolerance, even when they're planning to have a natural birth. "Labor usually lasts about 16 hours for a first time mom," says Ross, "That's a long time to be uncomfortable."

7. Myth: Episiotomies and enemas are common

Though both of these were common at one point, they are now rarely used during labor. Episiotomies - incisions made during childbirth - are typically only used if your baby is in an abnormal position or needs to be delivered quickly. And though it was once thought that enemas helped empty a woman's bowels to prevent crowding and help the baby emerge more quickly, this practice is more or less a thing of the past. "You don't need an enema, and don't worry about [pooping]. It happens all the time. It's really no big deal," says Ross.

8. Fact: There are things can do while pregnant to make your labor easier

Staying in good shape throughout your pregnancy is a good way to ensure your labor will go as smoothly as possible. You don't want to gain too much weight - 25 to 30 pounds is ideal - and you want to exercise for four to five times a week, even if it's simply walking. "It's so helpful in labor, helpful for the delivery, helpful for the baby," says Ross. In fact, some studies show that keeping fit during pregnancy can result in a shorter labor and fewer medical interventions and less exhaustion while in the delivery room.

Did we miss any big myths? Tell us @TLCmeNow!