Pushing Pretty

If you're more worried about how you'll look and sound during delivery than about labor pain, this will put your mind at ease.


Pain. Blood. General all ’round ickiness. These are the things most pregnant women worry about when they’re anticipating labor and delivery. But for some moms-to-be, they’re small potatoes compared with looking and screaming like a banshee or pushing out something besides the baby (oops!). If you’re willing to take on the physical discomfort any day as long as you don’t look and act like a fool, keep reading.

the fear >> looking ugly Making weird faces actually is a good sign. “You’ll make a very funny face if you are pushing properly,” says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., an OB-GYN at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and co-author of A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Health (Yale University Press, 2004). If you’re worried that you’ll make faces fit only for horror movies, ask that the lights be dimmed. This also will make for a more relaxed atmosphere.

the fear >> making noise Some women are nervous about letting it all out—loud. “Labor is very hard work,” Minkin says. “Women should do whatever they have to do to cope, even if that means hollering.” Afraid your noises will frighten the horses? Bring a CD player and drown out the sounds. Learning breathing techniques during pregnancy also can help.

the fear >> pooping “I was very worried about losing control of my bowels,” admits Heather Hofmeister, a mother of one in Chanhassen, Minn. “That’s such a private thing.” Maybe so, but many women do have a bowel movement during delivery. “When you push, you’re actually pushing on the rectum,” Minkin explains, “so everything in there comes out.” If you do poo, don’t worry; hospital staff members are used to this, and it’ll quickly be cleaned up and forgotten (by them, at least). If your water hasn’t broken, giving yourself an enema beforehand is one way to put your mind at ease.

the fear >> being overexposed “I wondered if the doctors and nurses were going in the break room to laugh at what they saw,” says Victoria Pericon, a New York mother of two and author of Mommy Land: Entering the Insanity of Motherhood (Wyatt-Mackenzie, 2005). It’s not likely—they’ve seen it all, and more. But if you’re worried, ask to be covered up “down there” between pushes.

the fear >> feeling graded Women often feel as though they’re being judged or criticized during labor. “I felt like people were yelling at me for not pushing hard enough,” Hofmeister recalls. “It may come across as yelling, but it’s actually encouragement,” says Laura Mieszerski, M.D., an OB-GYN at Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. “But if you don’t want a lot of outside input, keep friends and family away so you won’t feel judged,” she adds.