Trying to get pregnant? Make sure you know the bottom line on baby-making—what you don't understand can affect your bub-to-be's health.
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We all know that giving birth rarely happens like it does on TV shows: Your water breaks; you gasp, exclaim, “She’s coming!” Then, lipstick refreshed, you cradle your newborn as your handsome husband looks on. Alternatively, we hope your experience isn’t going to be fodder for reality TV: A swarm of doctors sprints into the delivery room, shouting, “Get the NICU team, STAT! We’ve got a quadruple nuchal and need a cold-knife section!”
Considering that at least 60 percent of American women today have an epidural for pain relief during labor, it’s surprising how misunderstood this procedure is. For starters, even doctors use the word “epidural” generically, to encompass three similar yet distinct procedures: epidurals, spinals and the combined spinal epidural (CSE), or “walking” epidural.
Since deciding whether or not to have an epidural means becoming informed about the benefits and risks well before labor begins, here are the facts to help you make sense of some common misconceptions.
When Christina Carey, 40, imagined her baby’s birth, she pictured her husband by her side, lovingly supporting her throughout labor and delivery. But when showtime arrived, she was surprised to see an entirely different side of him.
Raise your comfort level with these tips to cope with pain and labor. First, decide who and what will be with you. Then learn about what you can do with your body and mind during contractions. You’ll be amazed at your ability to discover and stay in your comfort zone.
Some prenatal yoga classes are teaching “vocal toning,” a technique that can help you ride out contractions and even ease pain during labor. Typically, the body’s response to pain is to contract, which works against you in labor. But creating a low, sustained sound in the open throat relaxes the birth canal and lower belly, allowing the cervix to dilate more easily and with less pain. “Vibrations create internal space, diminishing the intensity of the sensation,” explains Janice Clarfield, an international prenatal yoga teacher based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Conventional medical wisdom says the best way to send your baby out of the womb and into the world is with “coached” pushing: When your birth attendant announces it’s time, you tuck in your chin, tighten your abs, pull back your knees, take a deep breath, hold it and push for a count of 10, bearing down in this manner two or three times during each contraction. But a growing body of research suggests the conventional wisdom may be wrong, and that the healthier strategy is to follow your body’s cues and push spontaneously rather than following a coach’s count.
You wouldn’t dream of running a marathon without training first. Such an intense athletic event requires mental, physical and emotional preparation. The same is true for childbirth: Knowing what can happen during labor and delivery—and your options for pain relief—can alleviate your fears and boost your confidence. “Knowledge is power,” says Sheri Bayles, R.N., a certified Lamaze instructor who taught childbirth classes at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City for more than 20 years.
What's the difference between preterm labor and preterm contractions? It's all in the cervix, baby. If it changes, it's labor. If it doesn't, it's annoying. Sarah, 34 weeks pregnant with her first baby, has had contractions for a few weeks. They're not painful and yet there are enough of them that she wisely headed to the hospital for evaluation.
Hillary emailed with a subject title reading, “I think my mom is lying to me.” She’s in the “planning to plan” for a pregnancy stage (AKA – not pregnant – never has been). She was chatting with her mom about all that goes into having a baby and asked about her own birth. Hillary’s mom was apparently a “natural woman” and didn’t have an epidural.Here’s the pickle: Hillary thinks her mom is lying about what hurts most, where and when during labor and birth. Mom says contractions hurt more than pushing.
Lena wrote this week with a ton of questions—most of them having to do with peeing and pooping and other messy bodily functions. I love that you wrote, Lena. You're a girl after my own heart because this is the stuff people really want to know but feel way too "refined" to ask. Lena's expecting her second baby in a few weeks and had a rough go of it with her first. It sounds like she had a long labor with a lot of rectal pressure. She felt like she had to poop through her entire labor.
Patti wrote with questions about her granddaughter's birth. She says her daughter pushed for a long time but once her nurse emptied her bladder, she delivered right away. Patti's daughter has some speech problems and she's worried this might've been caused by oxygen deprivation during delivery. It sounds like Patti thinks her daughter pushed too long and this may have had an adverse affect on her granddaughter. Though there's no way for me to know whether Patti's granddaughter's speech problems were caused by a birth injury, I can answer a few questions here.
I had a patient a while back who was caught by surprise when I suggested her labor might last a couple of days before she had her baby. "But why? I'm in labor now, aren't I?" She was contracting but not "in labor." She was uncomfortable but not "in labor." "What's the difference?" she asked. The difference is in the intensity and effect of contractions. Though my patient was pretty convinced the regular, cramps she was feeling was labor, it wasn't until the next day that she knew what I really meant by "in labor."
What happens when you spring a leak? Most of us go through pregnancy worrying about a public watershed moment when our amniotic membranes will break with enough gush and rush to fuel a water park. I was so worried about it when my second was overdue (on the day I graduated from nursing school) that I wore double Kotex to walk across the stage and get my diploma. It happens on TV and in the movies all the time and yet, most of my patients have a much subtler experience. If only it was a simple as they make it seem on soap operas.