As the end of pregnancy approaches, many soon-to-be moms get nervous about the upcoming labor and delivery. Labor can be frightening, especially if this is your first pregnancy—amazing and joyous, definitely, but also terrifying. Here’s a look at a few common labor fears.
What if I go into labor early?
Many women worry about going into labor prematurely, and Braxton Hicks contractions definitely don’t help this. Braxton Hicks contractions are the body’s efforts at getting ready for the real deal, and if you’ve never given birth before, you may not know the difference. These contractions usually begin to occur around weeks 29 to 32, are much less painful than delivery contractions, and are perfectly normal.
However, it’s important to talk to your obstetrician or midwife about what actions to take should you begin actual contractions. Be prepared to recognize the signs of a premature labor. Some of these are vaginal bleeding, excessive fluid discharge from the vagina, contractions, diarrhea, stomach cramps, backaches, and tightening of the uterus. If you notice a combination of these symptoms, contact your physician immediately.
This is really going to hurt, right?
Yes. A lot. But there are a ton of different options for managing labor pains. Start thinking about what you want to do for yours around the 30-week mark. More intensive options include local anesthetics—like an epidural, walking epidural, spinal block, or pudendal block. More natural, holistic options are also available, like calming music. Many women also use special breathing patterns and relaxation aromatherapy, and breathing techniques to help reduce stress and tension.
Just know that no matter what you choose, (a) you can change your mind, and (b) you will be able to handle the pain. A woman's body was designed for pregnancy and childbirth. Once you see that little face, all the pain will fade away, for the most part.
What about ripping, tearing, and cutting in the vaginal region?
Many women also fear they will suffer vaginal ripping during childbirth. It is fairly common for a woman to experience ripping of the tissue between the anus and the vagina during labor. To avoid this, your doctor may suggest an episiotomy. This is a small cut in the area prior to labor to keep the skin from tearing. Tearing can sometimes be severe and take multiple stitches to repair, while an episiotomy is easier to manage and sew up afterward.
Talk to your doctor beforehand to see what he/she usually opts for. Although the procedure used to be pretty common, many obstetricians are beginning to shy away from it, suggesting alternatives like massaging the skin between the anus and vagina on a regular basis, beginning a few weeks prior to labor. There are also certain pushing methods and positions that can help avoid vaginal tearing.
What if I need a C-Section?
About one-third of women require a cesarean section during labor. Recovery is more difficult than a vaginal birth, so a vaginal birth is the best option when it does not place undue risk on mother or baby. An emergency C-section may be performed if the baby is in a breech position, its heart rate is slowing, the umbilical cord is being problematic, or labor is simply taking longer than is healthy. Planned cesareans are generally reserved for women at-risk for complications during labor, these include:
- Having twins, triplets, etc.
- History of high blood pressure or heart disease
- Having HIV or herpes
- A previous C-section
- Pelvic problems, or
- Placental problems.
C-sections may require more recovery time, and there are risks associated with the practice— just like any surgical procedure. However, many doctors do a wonderful job with these surgeries, leaving small, barely noticeable scars. What matters most is choosing an experienced doctor that will be equipped to make the best decisions regarding the health and safety of you and your baby.
Am I going to have a bowel movement while giving birth?
If you’re having a vaginal birth...probably. Yes. Pooping on a table holds a special sort of terrified place in a pregnant woman’s heart, especially once you hear other moms’ stories. While it may be mortifying for you, your doctor has seen it hundreds of times and the nurses won’t bat an eye. You’ll also experience a whole new level of closeness with your partner. Additionally, the damage labor leaves behind makes bowel movements uncomfortable for a few days after labor, so getting as much accomplished beforehand as possible is really a godsend. As an extra bonus, if you get an epidural, you probably won’t even notice if it happens—if you really don’t want to know, ask your partner to lie.