Most Pregnant Women Don't Know Squat About Childbirth


woman in laborPregnant women may spend hours researching car seats and strollers, they take their prenatal vitamins and know to steer clear of tuna and hot dogs and deli meats, they spend months creating the perfect nursery decor. And yet, according to a recent study, a vast majority of first-time mamas-to-be can't answer basic questions about childbirth.

When I read this article, my first thought was, "For shame! How could a pregnant woman not be informed about epidurals, episiotomies, and c-sections?" Then, I realized that, in more ways than I'd like to admit, that woman is me!

I'm a journalist -- it's my JOB to be inquisitive, to do research, to ask questions. Of course, I've asked my doctor a ton of questions about what's happening to my body, what's normal, how my babies are doing. And yet, when it comes to childbirth, I'm like "let's get to that later." Of the bajillion classes that I've taken -- from breastfeeding to infant CPR -- not one has been about childbirth! In fairness, maybe it's because I always assumed that I'd have to have a c-section anyway (twins), and didn't feel like getting into the nitty-gritty about where my vital organs will go while my babies are cut out of my belly. But, I found out about a month or two ago that I might very well be able to deliver my babies vaginally, so that excuse just doesn't fly anymore.

Yesterday at the doctor's office, he told me that I needed to start thinking about if I wanted to try for a vaginal delivery, even if it meant I'd then need a c-section to take Baby B out. Since Baby B is head up, he'll have to get pulled out by his feet, if he can even exit through the front door. We still won't know what's possible until we get closer, but for now, my doctor told me to start thinking about if I'd be okay with the possibility of a vaginal delivery of one baby, followed by a c-section for the other.

On the way home, I called my Mom and asked her what her thoughts were. This is a woman who delivered both of her children vaginally, without an epidural. Immediately, she started asking questions: "Well, what is safest for the babies? What is safest for you? Does an epidural mean no pain, or will you still be in pain if he's reaching up into your uterus to yank the baby out? What will the recovery be like for a vaginal delivery followed by a c-section? Can he tell you if you'll definitely be able to deliver just Baby A vaginally?" I hate to admit this, but I hadn't asked ONE of these questions. Not one! Granted, I still have some time (I hope!), and my doctor and I agreed that we would talk about it more in length once we had a better sense for how things were progressing. But, still!

Why didn't it occur to me to ask any of those questions right then and there? I'm a smart girl and I want what's best for me and my babies. So what's going on with me? If I had to guess, I'd have to go with total freakin' paralyzing fear! Childbirth is scary, it's daunting, and as much as we like to think that we can plan the whole thing out, at the end of the day, we have very little control over what ultimately happens.

Honestly, in this day and age, I know very few women whose birth scenario went according to plan. I've heard of many women whose babies were in distress and had to come out ASAP via c-section. I know many women who went through 30-plus hours of labor, and ultimately had to deliver their child via c-section. A couple of friends tried for a home birth, only to get rushed to the hospital at the 11th hour (and again, have a c-section). Of the friends who did have a vaginal delivery, all ended up with an epidural, even those who swore they'd go without. Plus, I've been told by other twin moms that you have to let go of what your ideal birth scenario might be because twin deliveries are different and complicated and very rarely follow a set plan. From what I hear, it's hard for a pregnant-with-twins mom to even have a birth plan -- I think it may lead to more disappointment than anything else.

That being said, there are some things that I do know: If I am lucky enough to go the vaginal birth route, I want an epidural. I know that I want to try and breastfeed my boys as soon as I can. I want only my husband there (aside from doctors and nurses), but I want him next to me, not checking out the action down below. As for everything else, a lot will just have to be wait-and-see. In the meantime though, I realize that I do need to take my fingers out of my ears, push my fear aside, and ask my doctor all of those important questions that will help me make the best decision on my own labor and delivery. Maybe I can't be wedded to a plan, but I do need all of the information.

Can you relate? Do you feel like you've been avoiding conversations about labor and delivery?

Image via MammaLoves/Flickr

labor & delivery, c-sections


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Princ... Princesslilian

What would be the point of doing both a vaginal and c-section? Since they are going to cut you open anyway, why not just have them both via c-section? That would save you any complication from a vaginal delivery on top of a c-section. Why have your stomach stapled AND and an episiotomy incision to take care of?

Maybe there is a vaild reason, but for me this doesn't make sense.

ashjo85 ashjo85

Yeah, I think I decided that it was going to go how it was going to go, and making a "birth plan" was just going to set myself up for disappointment. Plus, I honestly HAD no strong opinions on how I wanted to give birth, I just wanted what was safest for me and my daughter, and I trusted in the doctors and nurses to guide me as I went.

That said, I learned a few things the first time around that I will NOT be repeating. There are some things you just can't GET until you go through them, I think. For me, being open to all the various possibilities was the most important.

jmomm... jmomma2009

My thoughts exactly, Princesslilian.

cemcnair cemcnair

I was very well informed thanks to my Bradley Method birthing classes and a few great books (Thinking Woman's guide to childbirth being one)! I wanted to know everything!

And, I think you should try to deliver at least one vaginally. It is healthier for the baby (and Mom) and so many women who I know who have had c sections feel cheated. You could have both and I think you would feel less left out of the process. Read up, do your homework and Congrats!

jalaz77 jalaz77

I felt more informed AFTER I had my babies. Which is sad. When I was pregnant I was asked who is your doctor? When will you have an epidural? Just do a repeat c/s vs vabac (for #2).....You really have to do your own research when it comes to this because there are so many options. What is safest is the most important question not "will they abide by my birth plan". We may or may not have a 4th but with our 3rd I did things a little differently if that 4th comes I will do things differently again. In the end I do have 3 happy healthy babies!

rerra... rerratron

I think maybe I was maybe TOO prepared for childbirth. After I had my little guy, I realized I'd researched SO MUCH about my fetus, I knew far too little about my newborn. I was at a loss!

Mrs.Salz Mrs.Salz

The reason most women know so little about birth is because they trust their doctors too much, and don't do any research on their own. 

Birth has unfortunately been regimented to the hospitals, where most births do not belong.

momof... momof3inTN

I was completely informed going into labor with my first... even more so with my second and third. Now I'm pregnant with number 4 and having been throught this 3 other times, I know what I want from this labor and delivery... and I'll put my foot down to get it. I researched everything as soon as I found out I was pregnant the first time. I talked to my midwives, I asked questions... I wanted to know what was going to happen and when and what to expect. I have had a birth plan for all of my children and yup, we followed it with all of them. I wouldn't change a thing. This time it looks like I may have to have a hospital birth (my other 3 were at a birth center which we've moved away from and it's too far to drive this time around)... at which point I will station my husband at the door so as not to let anyone in that I do not want in the room. Just let me labor how it works best for me (and I know what works for me)... and I'll let the doctor know when I'm done. Thanks. LOL

SicTr... SicTransitGlori

I think I was moderately informed when I went in to have mt daughter. I didn't ask my doctor any questions and I can't really say why. I think it didn't feel "real" to me until I was in the hospital. I was terrified of the delivery and kind of blocked that part out.

Honestly nothing during her birth came as a surprise. I wasn't prepared for post-partum recovery (bleeding, stitches, all that fun stuff). I didn't think to research it and I think that made it much worse.

nonmember avatar Helen

We took a birthing class at the hospital, which was informative, but it did not prep me at all for the delivery!
But in retrospect, there really was no way that anyone could have prepared me fully for the experience. I had to go through it to know how I would react to labor pain (epidural, stat), or what my body would do during the delivery (tear and bleed enough for a scene in a slasher horror movie).

Everything I learned, and was told about labor, flew out of my head during labor. Ultimately, I just had to trust my body, Mother Nature and my doctor to do their thing. My husband was also pretty amazing. He stayed near my head, but was still pretty close to all the action (there's not a whole lot of distance from your head to your pelvis), so he inadvertently caught a glimpse of our daughter's head crowning!
In the end, I think everything happened the way it needed to for us, and we had a healthy, beautiful little girl. :)

Good luck and best wishes to you!!

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