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Birth Myths Busted!

bleeding cesarean hormones interventions labor pain placenta rupture of membranes

When I'm scrolling through social media, I often come across misconceptions about birth that are based on naivety and false information. Usually, when I have some free time, I do my best to answer and react to these posts and comments. But now, I want to provide you with accurate information on five recurring birth topics that need some clarity.

Myth #1: Bleeding During Labor

One common misconception, especially believed by fathers-to-be, is the idea of excessive bleeding during labor. Well, let me tell you, that's quite far from the truth! During the first stage of labor (dilation stage), there's hardly any blood. You might experience a few drops (known as a "bloody show") when the mucus plug is released, but it's really just a small amount. Don't worry; this is normal and usually fresh blood, so it appears red or pink. As labor progresses, you might notice a thick, elastic mucous discharge, which can also contain a few drops of blood. However, if you experience serious bleeding – continuous or intermittent, similar to or more than menstrual bleeding – during labor or even in the last trimester, that's a cause for concern and requires immediate medical attention. However it is ture, that when the baby emerges, the baby's body may be a bit bloody, especially if there was perineal tearing or an episiotomy, but the significant bleeding typically occurs after the birth of the placenta, and the quantity may reach up to a quart. 

Myth #2: Labor Starts with Rupture of Membranes

Another misconception is that labor should start with the rupture of the membranes. Thanks to TV and media portrayals, some parents believe that the artificial rupture of membranes is a standard procedure upon hospital admission if their labor hasn't begun "normally." However, only about 15% of labors begin with a spontaneous rupture. More often, labor starts with contractions, and the membranes are released at the very end of labor or during the pushing stage. In some cases, babies are even born within the amniotic sac, which we call an "en caul" birth. In reality, intact membranes during labor offer many benefits, such as reducing the risk of infections and helping the baby navigate through your pelvis. The amniotic water also acts as a cushion, spreading pressure around the baby and the placenta, ensuring better blood circulation. Unfortunately, in many hospitals worldwide, the rupture of membranes is often one of the first steps upon admission. Why? Well, it's either part of the birth induction process if labor had been induced, or providers believe that it speeds up labor by intensifying contractions, however this impact had not been confirmed by research.

Myth #3: Labor Is Bad for the Baby

Now, this one is a doozy! Some mothers believe that labor is harmful to the baby and opt for a surgical birth because of this misconception. Let me set the record straight: labor is not just NOT bad for the baby, but it's actually an important part of the baby's preparation for life outside your body. During labor, the baby benefits from the hormones your body produces. Cortisol prepares the lungs for breathing, adrenaline during the pushing phase makes the baby alert to search for your nipples, and oxytocin helps with bonding for both of you. Additionally, contractions play a vital role in the baby's adaptation process. A temporary drop in oxygen levels during contractions creates positive stress (eustress), triggering the mobilization of the baby's energy reserves, thus increasing metabolism to regulate body temperature and blood sugar levels.

Myth #4: Cesarean Birth Is Less Painful

This one's a common misconception among some expectant parents. They may think that a cesarean birth is less painful than a vaginal birth. However, let me tell you from experience and the stories of many mothers that this is far from reality! For most women, the most challenging part of giving birth is the dilation phase. But if a cesarean becomes necessary when dilation is almost complete, the pain of dilation remains, along with the pain of the surgery itself.

While an elective cesarean eliminates the pain associated with labor, it's essential to remember that a cesarean involves abdominal surgery, so a cesarean is not just like cutting your fingers! The procedure itself might be painless due to anesthesia, but you may still feel pulling, stretching, and vulnerability, depending on the type of anesthesia used. The first hours and days after a cesarean are not a walk in the park either! The pain sensation is significant, and mothers may find it challenging to perform simple tasks like lifting a glass of water, let alone caring for a baby. Even coughing, laughing, or sneezing might remain painful for several weeks. So, if you're considering an elective cesarean to avoid the pain of childbirth, I'd rather recommend learning efficient pain management and coping techniques, and ensure your partner is familiar with them too!

Myth #5: Interventions are Only for Complications

Here's the last misconception we'll tackle today. Many women and parents-to-be approach hospital birth naively, believing that interventions are only used in cases of complications. I have to admit that I was also believing this prior the birth of my first daughter. But typically in the Western word, birth is seen through an overly medical lens, where the normal, healthy, physiological process is often treated as a "risky business", and routine interventions are applied to minimize perceived risks, meaning that those interventions are used for every mother giving birth, regardless of the individual situation and individual risk. 

It's important to know that hospital protocols can vary significantly between institutions, even within the same country or state. Care providers claim that that protocols are to protect babies and mothers during birth...However If those protocols were truly effective in protecting the health of mothers and babies, they would be more standardized across the board! The overuse of interventions, such as the  widespread application of Pitocin and birth induction, can actually increase the risks involved and lead even to a surgical birth! So, being prepared and educated about childbirth is essential to navigate the medical system and hospital routines.

I hope debunking these common myths and misconceptions has given you a better understanding of the importance of being informed and prepared. Remember, knowledge is power, and this is too for chilbirth too! Knowledge empowers you to make conscious, well-informed decisions and allows you to shape your own birth journey - according to your values and your preferences!


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