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Misconception About Labor And Childbirth

Stop Laboring Under Misconceptions. With all that is said about childbirth and labor, it's hard to tell fact from fiction, especially when old wives tales are mixed in with experiences shared by well-meaning mothers as the only truth there is.

When I tell people that I delivered both my children without an epidural or in fact, any kind of pain medication, there are two reactions. They either shut down, expecting me to be a Lamaze extremist he11bent on converting them, or they look at me with horror, seeing my action as stubborn and unnecessary. "Why suffer through the pain of childbirth when you can get medication to make it painless?"

But this isn't an article advocating Lamaze or natural childbirth. No indeed. I believe that every woman deserves to make her own decision about her own birth plan, because every woman is different and labour and childbirth is very personal. No two are a like. I do believe however that every woman deserves access to the all the information, so that she can, with the help of her doctor and her husband, make an informed decision about her birth plan.

Your Birth Plan

While more and more pregnant women in this day and age are making the effort of keeping themselves informed by reading books about pregnancy and childbirth, there's still a number that get so overwhelmed, they stop reading altogether, and just follow the old-fashioned notions of eating for two (aka: all they want!, and resolving to just follow their doctor just as soon their bag of water breaks.

Ladies, even as overwhelmed and as bewildered as you are, you should read up even a little, so at the very least, you know what to expect from your pregnancy, labor and childbirth. As for the birth plan, this could be as simple as discussing with your husband and your doctor your intentions regarding labor.

This means assessing your personal tolerance for pain, your general health and the quality of your pregnancy. This also includes discussing pain management options and intervention. As you consider these issues, make sure that you aren't laboring under any of the eight very popular misconceptions about labor and childbirth.

Misconception 1: "If I Can't Stand The Pain, I can Always Opt For A Caesarean Delivery."

That way, they can just put me to sleep and I'll wake up and the baby will be there:' Whenever I hear this, I cringe. The women who labor under this misconception are obviously not thinking beyond labor and childbirth to the tremendous and sometimes traumatic adjustment they face in the first six months post-partum. Unfortunately, many women still think that Caesarean delivery is a cinch.

It's very extreme, invasive surgery, and very frequently, it is not necessary. They also don't know that recovering from Caesarean surgery is no joke and is not painless. If you deliver via Caesarean, you will be unable to move freely due to the incision. You will likely be on post-surgical antibiotics and therefore be unable to nurse your baby. And you will not be fit for adjusting to the sleepless nights that come from caring for a newborn. Ladies, try your best to avoid it if you can.

Misconception 2: "Labor Means Non-Stop Pain Until The Baby Comes."

Almost all women should know by now, what with the number of movies and television shows that have shown it, labor is not continuous, unabated pain. Rather it is pain or what I like to call - intense pressure, at intervals. A contraction is best described as dull ache that radiates from the lower pelvis to the lower back, sort of in a band around the belly exacerbated by powerful pressure as though you're having a huge bowel movement.

The intensity of the discomfort builds as the cervix contracts to its necessary dilation of 10cm, At 10cm, you can now push the baby out ...and you must time the pushing as you experience a contraction. Some women don't even notice their contractions and are surprised, when the doctor does an internal, that their cervix has already dilated to 7cm - and they didn't even know it.

Misconception 3: "With A First Pregnancy, Labor Is Always Long And Drawn Out."

It is very common that first pregnancies are long, but it is definitely not a hard and fast rule. My first labor took about 11 hours before I had fully dilated, but it was very manageable all throughout the first eight hours. I was even able to nap through it a little. Only in the last six hours was it difficult. As I said, no two women are alike, and every labor will be a little different. So listen to your body and try to understand what it needs. Don't just blindly follow the rules of the book.

Misconception 4: "Contractions Are The Hardest Part. Once You're Fully Dilated, Pushing Is Easy."

For me, this was the biggest surprise. At the twelfth hour, right after they told me I was fully dilated, I thought, oh good, it's going to be easy. But pushing was what was most difficult for me, because I wasn't sure how to do it. In the birth of my first child, it was at this point that I actually wanted relief.

Most women just prepare for the contractions, but my advice would be to definitely prepare for the pushing. Even as early as the middle of your second trimester, do your pelvic floor exercises, so that you learn how to lift and control these muscles. This will aid you in pushing your baby out through the vaginal canal.

Misconception 5: "I Don't Have To Do Anything But Follow My Doctor. He Knows Best."

No doubt your doctor has a lot of experience. But he doesn't know what you're feeling and experiencing. Listen to your body and report all your symptoms. There have been too many horror stories of babies delivered late because mothers weren't proactive about reporting their feelings and doctors were dismissive. If you feel your baby is ready to come out, make sure your doctor knows. Report to him all that you're feeling, so he can act accordingly.

Misconception 6: The Best Position For The Birth Is Flat On Your Back, So You're Relaxed."

This is one of the biggest myths there is about childbirth. Until recently, many women were having long, painful drawn-out births because they were flat on their backs. Thankfully, that has changed, and many women are either sitting upright or in birthing chairs. Research has already shown that it is easier to push out the baby in a gravity-positive position.

In fact, many women who opt for natural, drug-free childbirth will spend the entirety of their labor walking around as this makes contractions more efficient. When a woman in labor lies in bed, frequently, the contractions slow down or stop altogether.

It's all about gravity. In provincial regions of many third world countries in Asia and Africa, women walk around and during their contractions and they even hold on to a tree! Think about this: ever tried passing a bowel movement flat on your back?

Misconception 7: "I Know I Won't Be Able To Cope With The Pain. I Should Just Get The Epidural Immediately."

There's nothing wrong with getting an epidural when you cannot bear the pain. But don't opt for something you're not even sure you need, out of fear. Again, during labor listen to your body. Don't just go by what's "supposed to happen:" Also consider that for many women, the epidural itself and the spinal injection it involves is frequently more painful than the contractions.

Furthermore, sometimes, the epidural numbs you so much to the extent that you cannot feel the contractions and don't know how to push except when the monitor tells you. Finally, if you're intending to nurse your newborn baby - as indeed you should because breast milk at the newborn stage is the best way to give your baby the antibodies he needs, you should consider that an epidural can sometimes affect the baby so he is groggy and unable to latch on to your breast for milk during those critical first days.

Misconception 8: "When You Learn The Right Breathing Techniques From Lamaze, You Will Have A Painless Labor And An Easy Childbirth."

A natural, drug-free childbirth means you are awake, alert and able to feel your contractions. You know what's happening to your body and can push your baby out more effectively once you are fully dilated. Yes, breathing techniques help you manage the intense pressure, but I wouldn't say natural childbirth is 100% painless. I will say that labor and childbirth are truly wondrous experiences with their own burdens and rewards.

Four hours after I delivered my daughter, I was up and about, able to chat with friends and family, able to walk around, able to carry and nurse my daughter - and it was the same with my son, to whom I gave birth almost one year later. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. But whether you're delivering your baby via natural childbirth with or without an epidural, enjoy it and see it as your body doing what nature intended it to do.


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