9 Common childbirth misconceptions

Dr Amer-Wahlin, obstetrics and gynaecology consultant at Bonzun Pregnancy app separates childbirth fact, from the fiction. 

Fact: Your due date might be wrong

cute baby with a late due date
Photo by The Honest Company

After nine months of pregnancy, it might be frustrating to find that you are still pregnant after your due date. Only a very small percentage of babies are born on their actual due date, as it is only an estimate provided by your doctor.

In reality, it is normal to give birth any time between the 37th and 41st week of pregnancy.

 

Fiction: Dramatic water breaking

Phoebe's water breaking in TV show Friends

A myth perpetuated by numerous films—your waters breaking is not the first indicator of labour, and very rarely happens at the same time as irregular contractions.

The water often breaks when the mother is already at the hospital, and sometimes has to be broken actively by medical staff to speed up the labour process. You shouldn’t expect a large gush of water, either. Typically, women only lose a bit of water, or experience a steady trickle.

 

Fact: You might not be allowed to eat

As labour begins and you make your way to the hospital, you might be surprised to find out that you aren’t allowed to eat until after giving birth.

Although the enforcement of this rule varies, the reason is to prevent food obstructing the mother’s airways if she has to have a C-section and requires general anaesthesia.

 

newborn baby

 

Fiction: Mucus plug means labour

Another common myth is that labour starts as soon as the mucus plug is lost. The mucus plug is located at the entrance of the cervix and works to protect the baby from bacteria during pregnancy.

Its detachment does not signify the start of labour—it can happen weeks before active labour begins, or during the labour process itself.

 

Fact: You will be exhausted

tired mum in labour

While most mothers-to-be appreciate how difficult the labour process is, many forget that their sleep might be disrupted in the weeks leading up to labour, as the baby’s growing size can make it more difficult to get comfortable and sleep.

Similarly, labour can often last several days, frequently leaving the mother-to-be unable to sleep and exhausted until after the baby is born.

 

Fiction: Spicy food will speed up labour

The final weeks of pregnancy can be tiring, so it is no wonder that there are numerous myths about things that can bring on labour. Unfortunately, eating spicy food, moving, drinking castor oil or having sex aren’t scientifically proven methods of starting labour.

Women can definitely try these, but fundamentally, labour only starts when the baby and mother are ready.

 

Fact: The baby’s heart rate might fluctuate

baby heartbeat fluctuate

As you progress through labour, it isn’t uncommon for the umbilical cord connecting you and the baby to stretch or become compressed, which can lead to drops in the baby’s heart rate.

If you're connected to monitors, then this change might be very alarming, however, changes in the baby’s heart rate don’t necessarily mean that there is a serious problem.

 

Fact: Epidurals don’t numb all feeling

If you choose to use an epidural during labour, you might be surprised to find that it won’t numb all sensation.

While anaesthesia works well to remove pain, you still need to have some sensation in order to push when the baby is on its way out. This shouldn’t hurt but might be an unexpected sensation if you are expecting to feel nothing!

 

Fiction: You have to follow your birth plan

newborn baby feet
Photo by Omar Lopez

No matter how much effort and time is spent on planning the perfect birth, things can, and unfortunately do, go wrong.

It is better to think of a birth strategy that you would like to follow, and communicate it to your doctor and midwife, but be prepared that things might have to change—either because you want to change something yourself, such as having an epidural for example, or because it’s simply the safer thing to do for both you and your baby.

 

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter