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Giving birth – the facts and the myths

giving birth and labour, the facts and myths

With so many truths and myths flying around when it comes to pregnancy and giving birth, it’s no wonder you get confused. Not only does every existing mother and aunt know the ‘right’ answer to everything, but doctors also have varying opinions. Have you ever walked out of the doctor’s office realising that out of the ten important questions you want to ask, 8 slipped out of your mind during the consultation? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. We have listed some popular beliefs and delved into whether they are true or false.

Breaking of the waters makes the contractions stronger, thus can speed up labour.

True. While there are other medical reasons why breaking the waters may be necessary, once a woman is around 7cm dilated, this process helps speed things up for the painful last three. However, this will only be used if you absolutely need to have things go a bit quicker. So don’t count on it to help you out if you’ve been in labour for 30 minutes without any complications.

Braxton Hicks contractions are regular and strong, and will wake the mother up if she is asleep.

False. Real contractions will start at the top of the uterus and the intense pressure, like a tight belt around her waist, will wake her up.  True contractions feel like menstruation cramps. While Braxton Hicks may not be a walk in the park, you will know the difference because they won’t come in regular intervals and increase in intensity.

If you lift your arms above your head during pregnancy, the umbilical cord will slip around the baby’s neck.

False. The baby is submerged in water and thus gravity will have no influence.  Furthermore, the baby may become entangled by the umbilical cord because of the length of it. But the baby can swim through a loop in the cord as well.

Dilation of the cervix can occur at any given time of the pregnancy.

True. Some women have an “incompetent cervix” which means that the cervix does not tighten properly and a woman who had a child previously, has a slightly dilated cervix. In labour, dilation of the cervix is capable of happening earlier in the pregnancy. This is not necessarily a problem, but your doctor will talk you through it, depending on each case.

An epidural might not be possible if the mother previously had an extensive back injury.

True. Although this statement is true in certain circumstances, the skills of the anaesthetist will determine the likelihood of the mother having an epidural. If you feel that this may be a problem, make an appointment with the anaesthetist prior to the birth to talk about your options.

An emergency epidural can be done if the baby is under stress.

False. This is not true as an epidural takes up to 20 minutes to have an effect.  If the baby is under stress, 20 minutes to wait will be too long.

The most successful method of managing pain during labour is the one the mother chooses.

True. To manage the pain of labour, the mother needs to have the right attitude and support. Sometimes a combination of non-pharmacological methods (hypnosis, reflexology, massage and water therapy) is more effective than any given pain medication.  While the term ‘mind over matter’ sounds like hocus-pocus when it comes to the pain of birth, it really has proven to help. So if you believe that having a water birth will help you, then you’ve already done some of the work.

Bleeding in pregnancy at any given time necessitates a trip to the emergency room.

True. Bleeding is always regarded as suspicious and should be investigated. So ignore those who scoff at your apparent paranoia and get yourself checked out ASAP.

If the mother wakes up in the morning in the last trimester with a swollen face and extremities, she should contact her primary caregiver immediately.

True. This may indicate a rise in blood pressure and must be investigated immediately. You should take a urine sample for testing as well.

The mother should insist that an advanced lactation specialist help her with breastfeeding.

False. All midwives are trained to help and assist the mother with breastfeeding difficulties. However, it is true that a lactation specialist have a particular interest in and passion for breastfeeding. Some hospitals do not have lactation specialists available, then the ward midwife can assist effectively. With the right attitude and the right support, breastfeeding can be a success.

The delivery of the placenta occurs within 15 minutes after the birth of the baby with a contraction.

True. But don’t worry, this contraction is not as strong as during the birth and the tissue is soft and moulds into the area, so the expulsion will be far easier than delivering the baby.

 

Toptots Early Learning SA

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