Today I’m 40 weeks and we are so excited! Hooray!
I owe a lot of my readiness and comfort level and even excitement of my birth to trying to be informed and making decisions that are best for me and my family. Before I took an amazing birth class with my husband prior to our move, there were a few things I believed or imagined about pregnancy that I believed to be true. However after taking the class, and experiencing pregnancy first hand, I came to realize that there were some silly things that I thought to be true which indeed were not. Here are some pregnancy myths that my husband and I unveiled as we have journeyed through our first pregnancy together:
1. You can eat for two.
I don’t know about you, but as baby got bigger I found myself unable to eat much at one sitting for quite some time. This was frustrating as I was used to sitting down and eating a whole meal, but I actually had to break my food up into many small meals throughout the day. On top of that, starting in the second trimester I found myself hungry frequently and couldn’t eat much at one time, and on top of that digestion slowed down (which my hunger didn’t care about). This went on for a majority of my pregnancy and drove me bananas. So I often found myself wondering why pregnant women are portrayed to sit down with three cheeseburgers and eat them all, and then ask for more. I definitely did not experience food in this way. In fact, I found out that not only is it unhealthy to ‘eat for two’ but that you only need to increase your food intake by approximately 300 – 400 calories a day starting with the second trimester. That’s not that much, and trust me, it won’t be optional.
2. Sleeping on your left side is better for circulation to the baby. Don’t sleep on your back in mid to late pregnancy.
Though for some time I tried to sleep mostly on my left side, there was no way I could sleep on one side only. It just wasn’t comfortable. Later on, it became impossible for me because it hurt my ribs to sleep on one side for too long, and I would get a painful stitch in my side. I actually had to mostly sleep on my right side from the second trimester because of that, and because of my slowed digestion. I would often get hungry right before bed, and since my organs were on my left, it felt really uncomfortable to lay on my digesting food. Later on after consulting my midwife, she informed me that this is a myth and that it is totally healthy to sleep on both sides. In fact, she mentioned that doing so will in no way negatively affect my baby and that while people and doctors often recommend sleeping on your left side and staying away from sleeping on your back, you would feel the effects way before your baby does. This was a relief as I was giving myself a bit of a hard time about it and as sleeping on my back was the only way I could comfortably sleep for most of my first and second trimester. At some point as I hit my third trimester, laying on my back became uncomfortable because of the weight, but I never spent too long in that position to ever feel any negative effects. So that goes to say, listen to your body and do what feels comfortable, as I doubt the same rules apply equally for every woman in pregnancy.
3. Hot baths harm the baby.
While it’s definitely unnecessary to stay in a very hot bath for an hour or two, there is definitely no harm in taking hot baths while pregnant. Baths for me were the best part of my day, because the heat would really soothe and relax my tired body at the end of the day. Best of all, the water would take the heaviness of my belly off and I could, for a short amount of time, feel light again. The trick is, don’t heat the water above 101-103 degrees F and don’t stay in the hot water for more than 30 minutes. If you start to feel a little warm, pull your arms and legs out of the bath and set them on the edge of the tub. The main point is, don’t let yourself get overheated. The amniotic fluid has a tendency to regulate its own temperature and you will, once again, feel the effects way before the baby would. You want to avoid feeling overheated, dizzy, and sick while sitting in the water and upon getting out. Unless you go completely overboard, chances are that you and baby are totally fine. For me the benefit of the relaxation was so great, and on some instances I’ve even made the water a degree or two hotter and perhaps stayed in the water longer. My back thanked me for it and my baby seemed to love the water as she would get rowdy when I was in it. This happens because your amniotic fluid increases when you’re in the water, giving baby more room to move around. This is often why it is recommended for women with babies that are in the wrong position to get in the tub or pool.
4. Labor is hard work the entire time.
Actually, if given the room to walk around and eat and be given room to generally get comfortable, a woman in labor commonly doesn’t work hard the entire time she is in ‘labor’. There are different phases of labor and inactive labor is usually the longest, during which a woman who is comfortable and allowed to do what she needs to do can generally still function normally and be overall relaxed. Inactive labor is the phase when contractions are the mildest and are still building up, and if not dehydrated or starving or uncomfortable, a woman can get through this phase of labor pretty easily. Most of the work happens during the transition phase, and when she gets the urge to push. A short period of more intense pain during the ‘transition’ phase means that active labor is about to start and that the worst of the pain is pretty much over.
5. Pushing is the hardest part.
Contrary to popular belief, a woman who has no major complications and who is allowed to get into a comfortable position (usually not on her back) when she gets the urge to push will tell you that pushing is the part that feels the best. Though intense, it is usually not painful and it is also usually the shortest part of labor, as well.
6. Births are generally safer in the hospital.
Actually, ever since births were moved to the hospital, the mortality rates have risen for both babies and mothers. Statistics prove that the US, amongst the most advanced countries in the world, rates within the top few countries with the highest mortality rates in the world due to constant medical intervention, such as fetal monitoring, high elective (unnecessary) c-section rates, and lack of proper education and technique in the delivery room, to name just a few. Yes, childbirth has always been a reason women have died in the past and they still do, even in the hospital. However with access to emergency medicine, clean water and food, and other resources which should make labor more safe for women and babies today, the rates of mortality for mothers has been steadily increasing just in the past 30 years alone. Not to mention, this is one of the only countries in which the CDC and the government do not hold doctors accountable for reporting accurate mortality rates, which are guessed at being at least double what they are reported as the CDC themselves claim, because of inaccurate reporting. Insurance companies have a heavy hold on what decisions doctors make in emergencies and otherwise, thus making their function in the delivery room (and outside of it) based on upholding general following of procedure versus proper medical procedure that would apply to a specific situation (for example, being quick to throw women into a c-section when it is unnecessary). Generally, midwives have more variable training, spend more time with each patient during and outside of birth, have a more personable relationship with their clients, and put the woman and baby first since they are not governed by insurance companies.
7. Pitocin and Epidurals are safe for me and my baby.
Have you ever seen the warning on that bag of Pitocin they hook up to your IV? There are clear warnings that state that the medication not only has effects on mother and baby, but doctors don’t commonly care to share with you what those effects are. Pitocin is a synthetic drug (mimics the natural hormone oxytocin) used to stimulate contractions during labor. Some of the adverse reactions are stated to be “..anaphylactic reaction, postpartum hemorrhage, cardiac arrhythmia, fatal afibrinogenemia, N/V, subarachnoid hemorrhage, hypertensive episodes, uterine rupture. (Fetus/Neonate) Bradycardia, permanent CNS or brain damage, seizures, low Apgar scores at 5 min, premature ventricular contractions, jaundice, retinal hemorrhage.” Epidurals are now used by over half of women who labor in the hospital and some of them even get harrassed into using it by nurses who are not used to seeing women labor without it. Just because it has become routine, does not mean it carries no risk. Epidurals are anesthetics combined with opioids or narcotics, which in unison create the effect of numbing with pain relief, however there is proof that this slows down and weakens the body during labor causing certain complications, as well as affecting the baby in ways such as attentiveness and problems breastfeeding. Of course, there are certain times when emergency medicine is absolutely life saving and necessary and during those times the proper administration of these medications is an incredible gift.
8. Your water will break at the beginning of labor.
Though often portrayed on television as the onset of labor, only about 10-15% of labors actually start that way. And if you’re one of those few, it won’t be a huge gush of liquids but most likely a trickle. If you’re outside of that range, there will be other signs to signal that labor has begun.
9. Breech births are more dangerous than vertex births.
This topic is particularly relevant to me because our baby is frank breech. What has made breech births the popular topic of the new ‘threat’ to labor is actually related to several issues. First, breech births in general have become a sort of lost art. Few doctors, and I mean few, actually ever receive training in how to deliver a breech baby. I’m not sure all the reasons surrounding this issue but I know that one of them is the fact that insurance companies refuse to back doctors that deliver breech babies without a c-section. This prevents most doctors from making the decision to bother learning to deliver breech babies vaginally, even if that chance hardly comes up. Because of lack of training in delivering breech babies, most women are automatically sent to have a c-section as a routine procedure, without being given the option of delivering vaginally. This perpetuates the circle. A side effect of these issues is that when a mother is delivering breech vaginally for whatever reason, lets say she arrives to the hospital and it’s too late for a c-section, the doctors have to scramble to birth this baby without any actual education or experience of how to deliver a breech baby. Often times, this is the cause for the faulty statistic that vaginal breech births are dangerous. Put together a frightened, unsure doctor who doesn’t know what he’s doing and throw in improper technique and you have a recipe for disaster. In most other countries, it has now become widely known that breech babies in uncomplicated pregnancies are delivered safer vaginally and without interference. Statistically breech babies that are born vaginally and without interference have less risks in childbirth than breech babies born via c-sections. Many doctors who don’t have training delivering breech tend to ignore the general ‘hands-off-the-breech’ rule, a very important rule that states that the mother and baby should not be touched during a breech labor as it can set off the Moro Reflex in babies, caused by surprise of touch, making them throw their hands up and potentially getting stuck in the mother. This creates a stressed out baby and the need for more interference. Babies actually know what to do quite well in a breech birth and in an uncomplicated pregnancy that ensues the ‘hands-off-the-breech’ rule, they usually maneuver themselves out the same way almost every time, perfectly. Automatic c-sections for breech babies also have other complications that are not often discussed but happen at the same rate as any complications for vaginal breech births: respiratory issues, risk of infection, accidental laceration of the baby, and a much higher maternal death rate. There are some other proven issues that go alone with using c-sections for breech babies, including a lesser chance of breastfeeding and a diminished hormonal bond with the baby. Overall, though breech babies do carry a slightly increased risk mostly because of the issues mentioned, they are (especially frank breech babies), just as safe to deliver vaginally as vertex (head down) babies and many doctors and midwives believe the breech presentation is considered a variation of a normal position.
*Edit* I gave birth to my daughter, Liv, in July! You can read about my birth story here. Though our labor went in an unexpected direction, I still stand by this list even after giving birth because my labor was an exception, as all complications are. This information was gathered from talking to different doulas, midwives, doctors, and mamas. However every mama has her own story and her own perception of her birth, so this post is not in any way meant to negate that. I would love to hear what your beliefs are and how your birth went, so feel free to leave a comment!
Do you know any that I haven’t mentioned? Have any questions? Let me know in the comment section below.