We’ve all seen movies, TV shows, and commercials where a woman in labor is a sweaty, screaming mess who looks to be in so much pain and is always in a hospital setting. She likely gets the epidural, is stressed to the max, and is yelling at someone about something trivial. And it all usually begins with her water breaking and then rushing off to the hospital. The stereotypical birth is this chaotic image and it’s no wonder so many women are terrified of it!
Here are a few ways that birth is drastically different from mainstream ideas on the matter:
- A woman’s water doesn’t usually break until right before the baby comes. 95% of women have their water break towards the end of active labor, right before pushing. Only 5% have their water break first then have labor begin. The movies have it all wrong.
- The reason women are stressed while in labor is moreso their lack of information on pain coping techniques like deep breathing, relaxation, water therapy, hypnobirthing, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, walking around, squatting, back massage, aromatherapy, etc. They go in not having any plan for dealing with the early labor contractions and transition (which is very intense). The thing with contractions is that if a woman is tense and tightens her muscles (anywhere, like clenching facial muscles or making fists), her body tenses up even more and the pain level goes up. If instead she closes her eyes and truly relaxes with deep breaths, imagining a peaceful place, tunes out noises and distractions, etc, the body takes this cue as a sign and pain is lessened. I’ve experienced this difference first-hand with my Braxton Hicks contractions with my first pregnancy.
- Women are always delivering babies in hospitals. There are many more options than just this one! Birth Centers with a certified midwife, home birth, and even birthing in nature, like a stream or under a waterfall! Only 10% of pregnancies are considered high risk (high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, history of miscarriage, multiple births (twins, etc), and women that have had premature babies before). A high-risk pregnancy needs to have an Obstetrician and the the baby needs to be delivered in a hospital setting with the equipment and specialists to handle any emergency situations that may happen. The other 90% of pregnancies are low-risk and the medical interventions and high-stress environment of a hospital are totally unnecessary (like the IV drip with Pitocin in it, the epidural, the episiotomy cut of the perineum skin, the outrageously high rate of C-sections in the United States, etc)
- Women are always delivering in supine position (reclined, on their back, legs spread in stirrups). Not only is this position the most difficult to push a baby out, but it’s also the most limiting in terms of comfort, mobility, and the mother’s control of her own birth experience. Doctors like to have things be predictable and unfortunately, birth is something that is still institutionalized in the States. Anyone who wants to labor in a different position, on a birth ball, in a shower or tub, etc is told that they cannot or that it’s not safe! (Yes, really). I had a friend whose OB told her that she couldn’t labor in a tub because it can give the baby an infection. I delivered my son in a jacuzzi tub, which, if done correctly with proper monitoring and care, is entirely safe.
- Birth isn’t always a scream-fest. My fist son’s birth was quite peaceful and quiet and I’m sure my partner thought I was either a superhuman or just made to make and have babies! My midwife said I was a rockstar and asked if I was sure this was my first birth! Haha! I just wish that there would be better representation of the different ways birth can go- peaceful ways and others as well.
Some good videos/movies to watch on methods of more holistic childbirth and information on coping techniques for labor pains:
- The Business of Being Born
- Call the Midwife
- Freedom for Birth
- Birth as We Know it
- Welcome to the World
- National Geographic- In the Womb
- 9 Magical Months
- A Baby Story
- Pregnant in America