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15 Myths About Labor and Delivery

Updated: May 22, 2023

(An excerpt from upcoming book release, Woven in the Womb, "Labor and Delivery")

I would like to debunk some of the myths that women believe on social media and answer some of them in general terms.

Myth #1 “When my water breaks, there will be a big gush, followed by a birthing head.”

Reality: While water breaking can certainly lead to a faster delivery, it is rare that a baby would arrive right after Niagara Falls. Unlike the movies, you need your water breaking with contractions to have a torpedo birth. Usually, there is time to go to the hospital once the water breaks. But keep in mind that if you have birthed a child before, the tunnel is already open. It may not take many contractions for your cervix to be completely open. Call your provider’s office when your water breaks because they may have different instructions for you based on your pregnancy.

Myth #2: “Water breaking is a dramatic waterfall.”

Reality: Most of the time, water breaking is unmistakeable. But there are times that a slow amniotic fluid leak is possible and it is important to talk to your provider if you are feeling constantly wet.

Myth #3: “Labor starts with strong contractions.”

Reality: Most contractions start with mild irregular contractions that become more strong and regular. Your provider will go over signs of labor, but strong contractions are the effective ones that change your cervix - and this will give you the ticket to L&D.

Myth #4: “I won’t know if I am experiencing a real contraction.”

Reality: If contractions were represented by punctuation, a Braxton-Hicks Contraction is like a question mark. A true contraction is an exclamation mark. It has a beginning, middle (most intense), and end. For the musicians, think crescendo and then a decrescendo. You will know when it is a true contraction as they are usually unmistakeable. Some women describe it as menstrual cramp, or a charley horse in their belly, or intense back pain.

Myth #5: “A cesarean is more painful than a vaginal birth.”

Reality: Both exits are painful. Both exits have a recovery process that is unique to many factors. There are different degrees of vaginal tears that can require more stitches. Sometimes a vaginal delivery can be a more painful recovery than a cesarean incision. Most women are surprised by the mobility they have after a cesarean. They are able to move better than they may have expected due to the many pain management options that anesthesiologists have now to help the postpartum experience. But the reality is, a recovery is easier from a vaginal delivery than a cesarean. Less pain medication is needed after a vaginal delivery although most women are not using narcotics a week after their cesarean.

Myth #6: “If I get an epidural, my labor will slow down and I will have a higher chance of a cesarean.”

Reality: A 2018 meta analysis has shown that epidurals did not increase the risk of cesarean delivery. However, it may take longer to push a baby out with an epidural compared to someone who does not have an epidural. Without feeling the contractions, sometimes it may take longer to get a hang of pushing. If your contractions do become more infrequent after receiving an epidural, you may need Pitocin. Regular contractions are important to keep the momentum for changing your cervix.

Myth #7: “Pitocin contractions “hurt more than regular contractions.”

Reality: This is somewhat true. Real contractions should hurt in order to be effective. If you need Pitocin, chances are your contractions are not strong enough to make a difference in your progress. So adding Pitocin will certainly increase the pain of the contractions. If the contractions are too frequent, Pitocin can be turned down.

Myth #8: “I need to eat during labor to have energy.”

Reality: When your body is in a stressed state of labor, your hunger drive will be a lower priority. Stress eating is not a thing in labor. The focus will be on getting through contractions rather than filling your stomach. Many women feel nauseous in labor as intense pain causes nausea. Women are given a diet of clear liquids in labor because food can cause problems during intubation (putting a breathing tube in) if an emergency cesarean is needed. You will not get dehydrated in labor because routinely you receive intravenous (IV) fluids during labor.

Myth #9: The doctor is going to cut me a new one.

Reality: Routine episiotomies are no longer done at every delivery. Talk with your provider to understand practice styles, but episiotomies are no longer indicated unless your baby is in distress and requires a faster delivery.

Myth #10: The placenta always delivers after delivery.

Reality: Sometimes the placenta gets stuck and a surgery is needed to remove all of the pieces of placenta. Sometimes it can take up to 30 minutes after the birth for the placenta to deliver.

Myth #11: I may get the “shakes” after delivery because I’m cold.

Reality: Most of the shivering that occurs after a delivery is related to an endorphin and adrenaline release. Your body has gone through an incredible amount of stress and it takes some time for your mind and body to connect again. The shaking will pass. I often tell my patients to stick their tongue to the roof of their mouth as this gives them something to focus on so that the shakes do not bother them as much. Sometimes your body may not catch up to your mind for a while.

Myth #12: Breastfeeding is natural.

Reality: Yes, the milk is natural. But the act of breastfeeding is not always natural. The baby may not latch or you may not have enough breast milk. Some feedings go well and it feels like, “Aha! I’ve got it!” And then some other feedings do not go well at all. There are many different permutations of variables involved in good feeds versus bad feeds. The first 24 hours the baby is often very sleepy and will not be interested in feeding. But as the baby becomes more awake and aware of his or her hunger, the demand for feedings increase. For some women, breastfeeding is natural. But for many women, breastfeeding has more barriers than they expect.

Myth #13: My breastmilk will come in right after I deliver.

Reality: Breastmilk can take 24- 48 hours to come in. When the baby is put to breast the first time after delivery, the baby is receiving colostrum. Colostrum is considered “liquid gold” as it is rich with antibodies that help your baby’s immune system.

Myth #14: I will love breastfeeding.

Reality: Not all women love breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can affect a woman’s self-worth (more on this to come). The reality is, breastfeeding is a continuance of laying down your body for your child. Some women think it is worth it especially if it comes easy. But for the women who are running into every breastfeeding wall, do not let breastfeeding failures define you as a mother.

It is good to talk to lactation consultants, your obstetrician, and your pediatrician to help you find the plan that works best for you and your child. Your pediatrician will recommend breastfeeding as the best option for the baby’s development. But if you find that your mental health is suffering as a result of breastfeeding, you will need to be honest with yourself and your medical team. If you are having trouble bonding with your baby because of breastfeeding, then you may need to re-evaluate the purpose of your breastfeeding.

Myth #15: I am not at risk of postpartum depression because I have a good support system.

Reality: There is not just one risk factor for postpartum depression. But the risk factors I have observed for postpartum depression are when:

1) Women do not feel in control of their breastfeeding experience.

2) Women have had a birth experience they regret.

3) Their baby is difficult to soothe.

4) Women are not getting a break from the constant demand.

A big identity change happens when you have a baby. Even with the best support system, there is an intense pressure unique to mothers to feed and train their young. When this path is interrupted for whatever reason (a NICU admission, flat nipples that make a difficult breastfeeding experience, a colicky baby etc), this woman’s transition to motherhood is at risk of postpartum depression.

We will discuss more of the changes that are happening to your mother’s soul in the postpartum section, but remember that God knows what your baby needs - and what you need too.


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