Adriana Lozada dispels nine common worries of expectant parents, and explains why you can just let them go.
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Related Birthful episodes:
- Rethinking the Pushing Stage, with Whapio
- Protecting Your Perineum, with Rachel Reed
- Water Breaking: Understand This Sign or Labor, from the Mayo Clinic
- Signs, Symptoms, and Risks of Precipitous Labor, VeryWell Family
- Laboring under misconceptions: Epidural myths may keep women from reliable pain management, American Society of Anesthesiologists
- Obstetric emergencies, British Medical Journal
- Fetal Ejection Reflex — What Is It And How Does It Happen? BellyBelly
- Perineal tears during childbirth, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
- This Viral TikTok Shows How Nurses Really Feel When You Poop During Labor, Health Magazine
- Nuchal cord and its implications, Maternal Health, Neonatology and Perinatology
- Actually, Joking About Women Being “Too Loud” During Childbirth Is Messed Up, Romper
Seek out positive representations of birth! Depictions of birth in the popular media are rarely accurate— and that inaccuracy can amplify fears and anxieties about what might happen during your own labor. We recommend viewing These Are My Hours, and delving into Transformed By Birth (author Britta Bushnell, Ph.D., was a guest on the Birthful podcast)!
Nine Things to NOT Worry About During Pregnancy
Adriana Lozada: I’m Adriana Lozada and you’re listening to Birthful, and today, just like every other week, I’m on my own taking about 10 minutes to talk to you directly, mighty one, about a topic that’s been on my mind. And this week, I want to talk about the things that you might be worrying about when thinking of your upcoming birth, but that really shouldn’t be taking up so much of your energy. Now, let me clarify I am not dismissing your feelings. Those are 100% valid. But sometimes we get caught up in the unknown or horror stories from friends, or the drama shown in the media that doesn’t really reflect the truth of what you’ll experience.
So, hopefully having this information is gonna dissipate those worries. First up, a common worry is that you’re gonna be out and about when your water breaks. In so many TV shows that’s how labor starts, but truthfully, that’s very rare. Only about 15% of labors begin with your water breaking. In most others, it’s just crampy contractions that slowly ramp up and that will let you know, “Oh, I’m in labor. I should probably go somewhere, like home, or be prepared that my water might break.” It won’t be a surprise.
The other thing is it might start with a trickle, not a big gush, and I’ll anecdotally… It happens to a lot of people when they’re sleeping at night. Also, for you to know is that your water may not break at all. You may have your baby in what is called born in the caul. So, in terms of worrying that your water is gonna break when you’re out and about, probably not.
Now, number two is worrying that you’re not gonna make it to the hospital on time. And for that, your labor would have to go really, really, really quick, which is called a precipitous labor, and truthfully, for first-time moms, that’s only 7% of first-time moms have precipitous labors. For people giving birth a second time around, that’s more like 21.5%, so second babies tend to show up quicker. The definition of precipitous labor is less than three hours from regular contractions to baby being born, so if you find that things are ramping up really quick, get to the hospital. Otherwise, most likely you’ll have plenty of time.
The third thing that you might be worrying about is that you’ll miss the window for the epidural and I gotta say I’ve heard this over and over again. It’s never too late unless the baby’s coming out, but by then, who cares? Know that it can take a while for you to get an epidural from the moment you ask for one, possibly half an hour, 45 minutes, an hour or more, so don’t leave it to the last minute if you are thinking of getting one, because then you’re gonna have to psych yourself to go through contractions, even though you’re ready to tap out because you wanted an epidural. But in terms of missing that window, nope. You can get an epidural even if you’re 10 centimeters.
Lozada: A common worry people worry about is having a true medical emergency during their labor and those are also very rare. Usually, what happens is more of a toppling effect, that baby’s heartbeat starts to go off, and things start not looking so great, and care providers will then bring it up in conversation and say, “We’re thinking we should probably move to a cesarean.”
A fifth worry might be whether you will know when and how to push. Now, if you have to ask if it’s time to push, it’s probably not. The urge to push is more than feeling uncomfortable. It’s an undeniable realization that it’s already happening, like your body is doing it. Your body is pushing.
Now, a very common more than worry, even a fear, is that you’re gonna tear. That you’ll have vaginal tears. And let me say first of all that your body was designed to do this, and your tissues are very stretchy, so one of the best things you can do to minimize tearing is to follow physiology, letting your uterus take the lead in the pushing process and waiting for the urge to push will usually make this stage shorter. Now, during that last bit of pushing where the baby is about to emerge, is what I call the baby cha-cha, and this is where with each contraction you see a little bit more of the head, and then as the contraction goes away the baby goes in a little bit, then another contraction and you see a little bit more of the head, and every time a little bit more and more and that’s the baby cha-cha, two steps forward one step back, as the baby is coming out the vaginal canal. And that is how they are gently stretching your tissues to make sure there is no tearing.
Now, once that head is not going back up and the baby is fully crowning, don’t barrel through that phase. Slow, gentle pushes are better. Having a hands-off delivery is better. And really, even if you tear, you most likely will not feel it happening. It’s gonna heal better than an episiotomy and severe tears only happen in about 1% to 5% of labors. Depending on where you live, it’s gonna be like around 27% of people will have no tear at all, so between like 10% to 27% will have no tear at all, and other people can have such a minor tear that it doesn’t even require stitches. So, that’s something you really shouldn’t be worried about.
Now, since we are still in this pushing stage, another worry is if you are going to poop. First of all, everybody poops. Well, almost everybody poops. But know that a sign of labor starting is that you’ll probably clear your bowels. You will maybe poop before labor starts or during labor go to the bathroom, and not so much towards the end at pushing. But even if it happens while you’re pushing, it’s actually a great sign, because that means that the head is getting all the obstacles out of the way as it makes its way down, and the care providers are really used to it, and if it happens, they’re like, “We’ll just wipe it away and make it like nothing happened.”
Another common fear is that the cord might be wrapped around the baby’s neck and honestly, that is way more common than you think. About 20% to 30% of labors will probably have the baby will have the cord wrapped around their neck. And it’s not something for you to worry about because the baby’s not breathing through their nose. The oxygen is coming through the umbilical cord, so that’s not really an issue if the cord is around their neck. It’s not gonna be really tight. There’s oxygen still flowing through those veins and arteries as the baby is coming out, even if it’s around their neck. And usually, the care provider just removes it from around the neck before the body comes out, and sometimes the baby just shoots out and the cord resolves itself.
And the last thing that you shouldn’t be worried about is that you’ll be too loud or say something snippy or sassy. First of all, if you’re in labor, all is forgiven. Nobody’s gonna take anything personally. And then the other thing is be loud! That can be a really great coping mechanism. Roar your baby out. What I would say is try to keep it to low tones, so low rather than screaming tight. But yeah, it’s all gonna be forgiven. Do what you need to do.
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Lozada: Birthful was created by me, Adriana Lozada, and is a production of Lantigua Williams & Co. The show’s senior producer is Paulina Velasco. Virginia Lora is the managing producer. Cedric Wilson is our lead producer. Kojin Tashiro mixed this episode. Thank you for listening to and sharing Birthful. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, and everywhere you listen. And come back next week for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “Nine Things to NOT Worry about During Birth.” Birthful, Lantigua Williams & Co., January 26, 2021. Birthful.com.
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