Birth should be an awesome thing with as much focus on making it as easy and safe for you as possible, and of course, as safe as possible for the baby as well. Today's labor and delivery wards are much more like an assembly line, and some typical L&D staff policies and procedures not only make birth harder and more painful, but can be the very reason for unnecessary medications and c-sections.
Here are the top five myths associated with hospital procedures that change your birth experience.
Myth 1: You need a monitor on your belly the whole time you're in labor.
Fact: You absolutely do not. Intermittent monitoring is shown to be just as effective, and actually allows the woman to focus on things other than her contractions. Consider that women are often made to lie down and stay relatively still with the monitors on as well, and you're put in a position where you have nothing to do but focus on and internalize any pain of contractions.
In fact, constant fetal monitoring often leads to unnecessary concern, and even intervention, including c-sections, so says the American Academy of Family Physicians, not some holistic home birth website, for those of you in doubt. In fact, only monitoring the baby's heartrate and your contractions every 30 minutes during early labor, and every 15 during transition and pushing is the current recommendation, but one that you almost never see actually practiced.
Myth 2: Lying on your back is a good position for pushing.
Fact: It sucks, big time. The only reason women end up on their backs is to make it easier for doctors to get in there. So, really, unless they NEED to be in there, it's a bad move. It's not only shown to reduce the size of the pelvis significantly, but it puts pressure on the vena cava, which reduces blood flow to the baby and your lower body -- why is it not okay during pregnancy, but they tell you to do it for hours on end during labor, and then are surprised at reduced blood flow to the baby?
The National Center for Biotechnology Information states that being upright, in addition to increasing blood flow also makes contractions and labor less painful, faster, easier, with a lot less trauma to the mother's birth canal, minimal to no tearing, and less trauma to the infant as well. It also makes for less postpartum complications, damage to the pelvic floor, incontinence, and in general, a much better, faster, less painful birth.
Also, if you opt for an epidural and can't feel your legs, you can't walk or kneel. So consider that you might not need that if you actually get up off the bed, and that just because you can't feel the pain with an epidural, your baby can, and you will once the drugs wear off. I wish I'd known as much about epidurals as I do now 15 months ago when I had my daughter. I was ashamed of myself for getting it then, but now I really, really wish I hadn't.
So why are 75 percent of births still done with the woman flat on her back? Back to the beginning of this point -- to make it easier for the doctor.
Myth 3: You can't eat or you'll barf it up and aspirate the vomit.
Fact: You wouldn't tell a marathon runner to skip breakfast, would you? Telling a woman about to engage in major physical work not to eat is almost as bad -- except what is at risk here isn't just a race, but two lives. Yes, there has been some concern that with intubation before anesthesia would come vomit, and then aspiration of said vomit.
MedScape discusses a study on the matter that says:
"Aspiration pneumonitis/pneumonia is significantly associated with intubation and ventilation," the study authors conclude. "In modern obstetric practice it is the use of regional anaesthesia, thereby avoiding intubation, rather [than] fasting regimens that is likely to have reduced mortality from aspiration. Although the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has recommended, on the basis of consensus opinion, that women in normal labour may eat/drink in labour, our trial shows that this will not improve their obstetric and neonatal outcomes."
In other words, forcing women not to eat hasn't reduced aspiration -- not shoving tubes down their throats has. In their study, women who ate light meals showed absolutely no difference in anything -- no more vomiting, no more risk than women who were only allowed ice chips or water.
Myth 4: You need to be told when to push.
Fact: Do you need to be told when to poop? You no more need permission and direction to push out your baby than you do to push out a bowel movement. Just as your body uses contractions to move the baby towards the cervix and through it, it moves the baby down the birth canal, too. Your body will tell you what to do. You will feel when you need to push, and you will just work with it. When you feel the need to relax, do it. Push as hard as YOU are comfortable and if someone is yelling to you to push harder or longer than you feel you should, yell at them to shut up.
Pushing to the point of shaking, not breathing (called 'purple pushing' for the color your face turns) and breaking blood vessels in your face is not going to help you. In fact, it can cause the cervix to swell if you're not ready, it can make you exhausted, it can create much more severe tears, and is just a bad idea in general, even according to the World Health Organization.
Drugs can inhibit the feeling of needing to push (or the ability to know if you need to stop), though, but that's a whole 'nother topic all on it's own.
Myth 5: A break in contractions/labor stalling is a bad sign.
Fact: Women can get fully dilated and have the baby ready to go ... and then have a period that has been appropriately nicknamed the "Rest and Be Thankful" stage. It is nature's way of giving you a break after all the work to get your body ready, before the final hurrah. You can also have a break like this earlier in labor as well. Sometimes you can even be in early labor for what ends up being days, often called prodromal labor. We are mammals, first and foremost, and our bodies aren't stupid -- if a woman gets really stressed or really exhausted, often her body will sense that she doesn't have the energy for birth, or deems that it's an unsafe situation and halt labor until mom is rested or calmed. Think of a mother rabbit in labor realizing a predator is nearby -- she NEEDS to get safe before she can birth the babies.
Doctors often start up pitocin here, when the recommended things are anything but that -- squatting, moving around, getting in a bath all are proven safe methods to help the mother relax and get her contractions going in a normal pattern again. In fact, my midwife told me that studies show nipple stimulation and relaxing in water had been shown to be as effective, if not moreso, than pictocin. Considering that pictocin is an artificial chemical designed to mock those from things like nipple contraction, it's not exactly a far leap in logic.
If your labor stalls, don't rush for the meds -- relax, move around, have a light meal for energy, try to take a nap. In and of it's own, it is NOT an emergency.
What other delivery room procedures do you know of that do more harm than good?
Image via missbeckfay/Flickr