5 Hospital Procedures That Ruin Your Birth


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

tests & procedures


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

Brade... BradenIsMySon

OMG...this is awesome. And you links to the facts are from sources that most diehard hospital/OB worshippers can't deny.

Kittie26 Kittie26

Wow... it would have been nice to have known about these before having a baby... but none of them really applied to me anyway. I had a 2-hour labor, with only the last 10 being at the hospital pushing her out. There was no time for monitoring, eating, or anything else other than pushing. They pretty much had to rip my clothes off me because I was goin to have my girl in the wheelchair. I'll keep these in mind though, on the off chance I have a long labor next time. lol

jagam... jagamama0710

THANK YOU!!! This is a fantastic article.

Frequent cervical checks are unnecessary and can potentially even slow the process. If a woman finds out she's less dilated than she suspected she could become discouraged and unable to relax. Although I guess finding out your further than you thought could give you the motivational push you need to keep going.

It would be best to completely understand the stages of labor and what you are experiencing so you can kind of guess where you're at. For instance if you're shaking and have the chills, feeling nauseous, hiccups, feeling like you just want to give up, those are all signs of transition which means you're in the home stretch! I labored in our bathtub with our second until I started feeling all those things. I told DH it was time to go and when I got into our room at the hospital I was 9 cm.


xavie... xavierlogan09

i'm glad i had the monitor on my stomach. if i didn't have it i wouldn't have known my son's heart rate was low. i would have loved to been able to eat. i had a friend who ate although the doctor told her not to. she threw up on herself when her daughter was born. i know i wouldn't want to lay in vomit until i was able to get up and around. whoever eating is a good thing when you're going to be pushing out a human being.

beane... beanerbecky

I wish I had known a lot of things when I gave birth to my daughter 2 1/2 years ago. I was induced. I was on my back. They had me pushing like it was a freaking race. I ended up with a 4th degree tear that didn't heal right. Some things you can't get back. I read all about pregnancy, baby care and breastfeeding but I didn't prepare myself for the labor and delivery. 

Sadie... SadiesMom08

AWESOME article!

Another unnecessary intervention--routine IVs. It's a painful procedure placing the IV, then you're tied to a pole, and all the fluid can actually over-hydrate you. It can cause your tissues to swell, and it can cause a scary drop in blood pressure for some women.

A somewhat okay compromise is a heplock, where they place the IV in your hand but lock it off so you don't actually have to be attached to anything unless it suddenly becomes necessary. 

sweet... sweetheart1985

Loved it!!

It's time for women to take back their births. Doctors have WAY too much power in this area.

nonmember avatar Jen

Yea, one more insulting list, and already a comment, about how modern medicine destroys childbirth. To each her own, but I did not have a problem with one of these. I'm not a "hosptial/OB worshipper" but I truly appreciated my babies being monitored and the ability to lie down after I walked. When I was in labor I had no interest in eating as I was trying to give birth. And I will confess I had an epidural so I had to be told when to push with my second because the feeling was somewhat blunted and I could not feel the contractions until they were peaking. I liked being in the hospital. I had an amazing labor nurse, each time, who was there right when I needed her. For me it was not about being able to say I was better because I had a baby in my bathtub with no pain meds. It was about having a safe delivery and a healthy baby. That is probably just because it was a priority to me though.

wendy... wendy46121

Yes 100% on all points!!!

Fallaya Fallaya

My doctor never pressured me in any of the 5 areas listed.  I was in control 100% of the time.  I think women simply need to educate themselves and stop blaming the doctor for when things go wrong with their birthing experience.  


1-10 of 259 comments 12345 Last