I asked a group of natural birth Mamas to name one thing they wished they knew about during pregnancy and labor/birth, here is what they came up with...plus a few I have added that many women are surprised about in my work as a midwife. This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully, you will learn something!
Pregnancy hormones can sex you up….or down
Your libido when pregnant can equally increase or decrease, both is ‘normal’ so don’t be hard on yourself. And really good to have an open discussion about sex with your partner as some men struggle having sex with their pregnant partner for various reasons so good to get these concerns out in the open. It can be difficult for a couple if their is a mismatch in libido, like if the woman’s libido increases during pregnant but the man doesn’t want to, the woman can feel super unattractive and vice versa so keep those communication channels open.
Sensitive about your bump size - too big, too little
Many women worry about the size of their bump and a lot of this worry comes from other people’s comments. Helpful things to say to a pregnant woman:
‘What a lovely bump you have’
That is all.
Don’t really want to hear your negative birth story
If you see a pregnant woman, don’t take it as an invitation to tell her your traumatic birth story - what happened to you was traumatic and you need to process it but don’t traumatise every other woman unless it is to empower her and give her advice about how to not have a traumatic birth. I highly recommend talking to a therapist to help you process through it.
You can start producing milk months before your baby is born
You may or may not leak milk and neither is an indicator of breastfeeding success. Looking into expressing and harvesting colostrum from 36-37 weeks for 10 minutes a day can be highly beneficial for your baby (reduces the need for other supplementation straight after birth) and your breastfeeding relationship (helps you get to know your breasts and how they work and also helps you keep the power in terms of feeding your baby). You can learn how to express colostrum in our tutorial here.
Shaving your tender bits for birth - don’t!
I am not sure where this habit started but let’s reclaim the normality of body hair. Aside from the logistics of shaving and pain if waxing, you really don’t want to be dealing with ingrown hairs or chafing with your stubble growing back when you have just had a baby. Believe me, as a midwife, we are not looking at or judging your bush!
Staying at home to labor as long as you can increase your chances of achieving a natural birthThere is a lot of research to support this, if you labor at home for as long as you possibly can then the chances of interventions and ending up in an instrumental or cesarean birth are greatly reduced. There is no law to say when you have to go into hospital when you are in labor or if your waters have broken - it is only ‘recommendations’ by your care provider and YOU need to give your informed consent for anything to do with your pregnancy and birth - your health in general.
It is normal to get the shakes and or vomit during the later stages of labor
As labor gets very intense, things can get overwhelming for your body and cause the shakes and nausea or even vomiting usually around 7cm to transition although some women can vomit earlier in labor too. You can also get the shakes after your baby is born.
Pooping during birth - don’t make it a thing
Let’s talk about physiology for a moment - when your baby’s head enters and traverses through the birth canal it also pushes past your rectum. And when you push your baby out whether it be involuntarily or purposefully, you are pushing with your pelvic floor. This means you might poop. And that is totally OK. Midwives actually get excited when they see poop as it means the baby will be here soon!
Ask for hot cloths on your perineum when you are pushing
This practice helps soften the perineal tissue, research has shown it can reduce tearing and also helps reduce the burning feeling when baby is crowning.
When you feel the ‘ring of fire’, JUST BREATHE
Speaking of the burning feeling, you actually want to feel this for longer than you think you can cope with. And when I say longer, I am talking minutes not hours! The normal reaction to pain is to want it to stop, but if you can let baby’s head stretch your perineum gently and with a bit of time rather than blasting baby through to get rid of the pain, you will probably ‘save your ass’.
If your baby is posterior, you can feel the urge to push before you are fully dilated/open
This is physiology playing tricks on you, when your baby is posterior, the widest part of their head (diameter) puts pressure on your rectum prematurely (usually around the 8cm dilated mark) giving you the urge to push before you actually can. This is hard for two reasons, one is that if you don’t know your baby is posterior and are being told to go with your body then you could start pushing at this point and cause swelling and edema to your cervix which can cause it to stall in dilation. The other reason is mental, it is so so hard to ignore that urge to push as when you are able to push it is a huge relief and can actually feel amazing, so when you are told you can’t push if someone checks your cervix, it can be really difficult to hear and to ignore those urges until you are fully dilated. So...it is much easier if you can ensure your baby is in the optimal position for labor prior to the event which we talk about a lot in our classes and also you can see this tutorial here about how to turn a posterior baby in labor using the Rebozo technique.
Using your BRAIN for a better birth (Research, Inform, Relax)
This message is two-fold, one using your actual brain - read, watch, research, do prenatal or childbirth education, if you are going to an Ob or Dr appointment, make sure you have a basic knowledge about what it is you are seeing them for. And if a Dr quotes ‘research’ for you, ask for the link or name of study so you can read it yourself. There are times when research or statistics may be misquoted whether it be on purpose to achieve compliance or not hence if you ask about the research they are quoting, you can read it for yourself. Pregnancy and birth are normal life events, not medical emergencies, this does not mean they are without risk but these can be managed by experienced care providers. It is riskier getting into your car every day.
The other brain you should use is the BRAIN model, we talk about this in our classes too, if a situation is presented to you during your pregnancy, labor/birth, postpartum or with your newborn, ask yourself and your care provider these questions:
Benefits - What are the benefits of this procedure or care they are advising?
Risks - What are the risks?
Alternatives - What are the alternatives?
Intuition - What is your intuition telling you?
Nothing - What would happen if we did nothing or waited a while?
Just because someone has a medical degree does not mean you have to do everything they say - you have a voice, use it.
Have something to add? Leave your comments telling us things that surprised you about pregnancy and birth. Look out for ‘Things that may surprise you about after birth’ in our next post