The first emotions most women feel when they find out they’re pregnant are excitement and joy. The next emotions they experience are usually fear and anxiety as thoughts of the many things that could go wrong begin to surface. This is especially true for first-time moms who haven’t gone through the labor and delivery process at all. They’re relying on the stories provided by friends and family who mean well but give little comfort.
The truth is—every delivery experience is different, and many of those fears can easily be put to rest with a few facts.
It is important for pregnant moms to take good care of themselves and this includes keeping their level of worry to a minimum. While friends and family are sharing the intense stories of their delivery experiences, we want to put the minds of pregnant moms to rest with some truths.
Rather than spending nine months in a continuous state of anxiety over what might go wrong, we want to share with you these ten things women shouldn’t worry about during childbirth. Of course, no article like this would help if it didn’t include ten things moms probably should pay a little attention to.
20 Childbirth Is No Walk In The Park
There is no escaping the fact that childbirth can be painful. That doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to alleviate the pain. Some moms choose to stick with breathing exercises and relaxation techniques while other moms have no problem requesting an epidural or pain medication. There is no right or wrong way to manage pain. It’s up to what she feels is best.
Women’s Health recommends that moms keep an open mind regarding pain medications during delivery. Even if a choice was made to avoid medication, it could be requested at any time. Some moms worry that if their epidural will wear off. An epidural can be repeated—if necessary. And of course, there are a plethora of other ways to mitigate pain without drugs, too.
19 The Scare Of An Unplanned C-Section
Even the best-laid plans for a natural childbirth can be scratched if there are complications during labor and delivery. According to WebMD, an unplanned C-section is medically necessary only under a few conditions
An emergency C-section may be necessary if mom or baby is in distress, the placenta is blocking the birth canal, the umbilical cord is prolapsed, mom is hemorrhaging or her uterus has ruptured. The goal in this instance is to get baby out as soon as possible. While this is a valid concern, Women’s Health tells us these events may occur just 1-2% of the time.
18 Things Other Than Baby Coming Out
While a new mom may be horrified at the prospect of pooping during childbirth, Cosmopolitan tells us that doctors and nurses see this as a sign mom is pushing as hard as she should be. As embarrassing as it sounds, pooping while delivering is as normal as the birthing process itself.
The good news is that the nurses in the room have seen it before and are prepared for it. If this should happen during delivery, a nurse will quickly scoop it away without uttering a word. For moms who are really concerned about the smell, Cosmo suggests having the birthing partner ready with essential oils to open if necessary.
17 Tearing During Delivery
The fear of tearing “down there” is a common one for pregnant moms who have heard story after story of episiotomies and the pain afterward. While the odds of slight tearing are intimidating during a natural delivery, it isn’t something mom will feel at the time.
The Bump recommends that moms who are concerned about tearing should discuss these concerns with their doctor. There are things she can do—like perineal massage—before childbirth to help avoid tearing later. Midwife.org has resources available for moms who wish to try it. Moreover, mothers who birth without the use of pain medications are better equipped to feel where they are directing pressure and less likely to tear because of it. Furthermore, avoiding coached pushing and allowing the fetal ejection reflex to take hold while mom is in a squatting or hands and knees position are optimal for minimal to no tearing as well.
16 That Epidural Comes With A Big One
The term epidural is used to describe three separate procedures: a spinal, an epidural and a combined spinal epidural. Fit Pregnancy says the main difference between a spinal and epidural is where they are placed. With a spinal, the medication is injected directly into the spinal fluid. With an epidural, the medication is injected in between the vertebrae and the spinal fluid.
In either case, the anesthesiologist will numb the area with a local before anything is inserted. Mom can rest assured she won’t feel anything more than a pinch, a little sting and some pressure. So everything should work out fine.
15 The Never-Ending Labor
While some moms fear they will be in labor forever, The Bump reassures us the average labor lasts about eight hours. It is only a small percentage of women who experience failure to progress or extended labor. For a first-time mom, this is generally anything longer than 20 hours. For others, failure to progress is labor lasting longer than 14 hours.
In some cases, if mom or baby is in distress, a C-section might be necessary. Failure to progress can be caused by slow dilation or effacement, a large baby, a small pelvis or birth canal, delivering multiple babies or emotional factors like stress and anxiety.
14 Unforeseen Complications During Delivery
No doctor can guarantee smooth sailing during labor and delivery, but for most moms, there are no complications. Pro Publica states roughly 1.2% of all deliveries come with complications, which means 98.8% of deliveries have none.
While these complications are severe when they occur, the rate at which they occur should have most moms setting this worry aside. When talking to the obstetrician, moms should inform them of any previous pregnancy history or family history of complications as well as any medical conditions or medications they are currently taking. Having a doctor who knows everything there is to know about mom is a great defense in avoiding complications.
13 Labor Lasts So Long That The Epidural Wears Off
Many moms fear they will experience pain during delivery, so they choose to have an epidural. While this mitigates the pain fear, another fear creeps in—what if it wears off? WebMD shares that it is becoming more common for doctors to use an infusion pump when delivering an epidural.
There are added benefits for mom when she has an infusion pump. Many fear that they won’t be able to push the baby out while on an epidural, but with the infusion pump, mom has more control over leg and tummy muscles. Additionally, the chance of side effects following an infusion pump is reduced.
12 Turning Into A Screaming Meanie
Women who like to be in control have a fear of losing control during childbirth. It’s important to understand that hormones are stronger than usual during pregnancy and delivery. Giving Birth With Confidence tells us that these hormones are key in the process. Oxytocin causes the labor contractions, beta-endorphins helps relieve the stress and pain, catecholamines keep mom and baby alert and ready for birth and prolactin is responsible for the process of generating breast milk.
While these hormones play an important role in the birthing process, they can also cause mom to be more emotional than normal. These emotions include everything from joy to a feeling of overwhelm to anger.
11 The Baby Experiences Distress During Delivery
When a baby isn’t tolerating labor well, he or she will show signs of distress. When mom is admitted to the hospital, one intervention taken is to put a fetal monitor on the baby so his or her heart rate can be watched. The medical staff is on high alert for any signs that baby’s heart rate is dipping or peaking at the wrong times or for prolonged periods of time.
The Bump assures moms that if the medical care team senses mom or baby is in distress, they take action quickly. In some instances, an emergency C-section is performed to get the baby out as quickly as possible.
10 Worth It: Bums Up
Often referred to as abnormal presentation, a breech delivery is when the baby is not positioned head-down, facing mom’s back. During the last few weeks of delivery, obstetricians monitor baby’s position to make sure baby is dropping into the birth canal properly. Ultrasounds can confirm if a baby is not where he or she should be as delivery draws near if your provider is not proficient with Leopold's maneuvers.
WebMD shares several ways baby can be positioned. In a frank breech, the baby is headed down the birth canal butt first, hips are flexed, and knees are extended. This is similar to a complete breech where knees and hips are flexed.
9 Worth It: An Umbilical Cord Prolapse
During pregnancy and labor, the umbilical cord is the lifeline from mom to baby. Oxygen and other nutrients are passed from mom to baby through the umbilical cord and placenta to help the baby grow and develop. After mom’s water breaks, the umbilical cord can—on occasion—pass through the cervix ahead of the baby. Sometimes, the umbilical cord will be visible to mom down below.
WebMD cautions that this is a very dangerous situation for the baby because blood flow from mom to the baby can become blocked when the cord moves into this position. When mom sees something unfamiliar protruding below, she should consider it an emergency situation and should dial 911.
8 Worth It: Postpartum Mayhem
Following the birth of the baby, moms are at risk for postpartum hemorrhage. According to Stanford Children’s Health, the risk of hemorrhage is between one and five percent of all deliveries. Hemorrhaging usually occurs after the placenta has been delivered and is more likely after a cesarean delivery. Hemorrhaging happens when the uterus does not continue contracting strongly enough after delivery to compress blood vessels where the placenta was attached.
Moms who experience postpartum hemorrhage will experience uncontrolled bleeding, a drop in blood pressure and increased heart rate. This life-threatening situation usually occurs immediately after birth. There are many risk factors for postpartum hemorrhage including placenta previa and several others.
7 Worth It: But It Isn’t Time Yet
The March of Dimes defines preterm labor as labor prior to the 37th week of pregnancy. At this point in the pregnancy, the baby is still at risk of not having his organs like his lungs and brain fully developed. If mom suspects she is experiencing preterm labor, it is best to get to the hospital where symptoms can be evaluated and monitored.
Moms most at risk for preterm labor include those who have delivered before 37 weeks in another pregnancy, moms giving birth to multiples or moms who are experiencing problems with their uterus or cervix or have in the past.
6 Worth It: Pregnancies Extending Beyond 42 Weeks
Of these five risky delivery events, this one is perhaps of least concern. It is normal for delivery to occur between 37 and 42 weeks—however—there are some risks worth mentioning if mom goes past 42 weeks of pregnancy. Perhaps the most common is that the placenta can stop functioning as well as it did before.
This lack of nutrients and oxygen can also lead to a stillbirth which—while uncommon—does become a greater risk after 42 weeks, according to Medline Plus. Additional complications can include the baby growing too large to deliver naturally and a decrease in amniotic fluid, which can also limit the oxygen baby, receives.
5 Worth It: Rapid Labor Isn’t The Worst Thing
Sometimes babies don’t tend to stay inside as long as they should. While in most cases this simply doesn’t happen and is a rare occurrence, medical attention should be sought immediately when it does. Rapid labor is when any of three stages of labor go on for less than the traditional time frame.
According to Medical News, some women may feel as though they begin their contractions and can never catch a break—as if they are coming one after another without any type of pause in-between. This can lead to complications such as the baby aspirating or choking on amniotic fluids or gaining infection due to an unsterile environment.
4 Worth It: Perinatal Asphyxia
Asphyxia or choking is when the baby has a lower than required level of oxygen immediately before or after they are born. The most common ways to tell if this is affecting the baby is a presence of an abnormal heart rate or extremely low levels of pH. This is also indicative of the baby having lower levels of acid.
Doctors are usually able to detect this according to Hopkins Medicine, by noticing that the fetus is demonstrating complications with vital organs such as the heart and lungs. In severe cases, the baby has neurological problems that result in seizure activity or coma. Treatment requires emergency cesarean or breathing machines.
3 Worth It: Albeit Rare, Some Babies Do Get Stuck
According to Medical News, some fetuses can suffer from Dystocia, particularly in the shoulder area. This is when the baby is starting to be delivered, but after the head appears, the shoulders which precede the rest of the body appear to be unable to pass through the birth canal or effectively stuck inside the womb.
When physicians notice that this is going to be an issue they immediately take one of several different measures to reduce injury or preserve the baby’s life. Remedies include manually adjusting the baby’s position, cutting the peritoneum to make more room, or applying pressure to the mother's abdomen. The worst case scenario is loss of the baby's life.
2 Worth It: Uterine Rupture Is A Real Concern
Mothers with a history of a C-sections—emergency or not—should be informed on the risks and benefits of having a VBAC or natural birth after cesarean, due to possible complications. One major complication is the tear or rupture of the uterine wall during labor. They can range in severity from a partial tear to a full rupture of the length of the uterine wall.
The mother who is experiencing this will often have symptoms such as abdominal pain, pain down there, or the early signs of shock and it’s usually noticed in the beginning stages of labor according to Baby Center. Treatment is given by surgical repair and a blood transfusion. Typically, complications occur more in moms who have had prior repeat Cesareans.
1 Worth It: Problems With The Afterbirth
As previously mentioned, during the process of labor and delivery, many mothers face unusually large amounts of bleeding down there. This can come from a variety of sources that include, rupturing of the uterus, tearing of the cervix or abruption of the placenta. Another cause of hemorrhaging is placenta previa—or when the placenta covers the cervix as the baby is trying to come out according to ShareCare.
Complications can include serious fainting and even lead to death. This is one of the reasons that anatomy scans done about halfway through pregnancy prove to be medically necessary for many mothers.
References: FitPregnancy, The Healthy Mummy, Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, The Bump, WebMD, Medical News Today, Merck Manuals, WebMD, Midwife.org, FitPregnancy, Pro Publica Inc., March of Dimes, Giving Birth with Confidence, Giving Birth With Confidence, The Bump, Stanford Children's Health, Healthline, March of Dimes, Medline Plus, Hopkins Medicine, Baby Center, ShareCare