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

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