Childbirth is just like on TV and other birth misconceptions

Posted on March 11th, 2019

Not everything you hear about giving birth is true… By Lynne Gidish

Childbirth is just like on TV and other birth misconceptions

Big hips or small babies mean easier labour

Pushing out your baby has nothing to do with the size of your hips, explains psychologist and sexologist Dr Marelize Swart. “In fact, your body shape, or the size of your baby, won’t tell you much about how easy or hard your baby’s birth is likely to be, because even if your hips appear to be wide, your pelvis may, in fact, be small. Remember, your pelvis is made up of ligaments and several bones that are designed to move and loosen as you give birth. There are also many internal contributing factors to your experience of labour. For example, will your baby’s head be able to fit through your pelvis? Which position is your baby in when you go into labour? How is she progressing through the birth canal? Your doctor is the only person who can evaluate your pelvic size in order to determine this. Your medical team will be prepared for every possible outcome.”

ALSO SEE: Do you have childbearing hips?

If I have a vaginal birth, my vagina WILL stretch and sex won’t be the same

A woman’s body is amazing, says sexual health physician Dr Jireh Serfontein. “It’s designed to adapt during pregnancy, making a normal vaginal birth possible. During the delivery process, the muscles and ligaments of your vagina and pelvic floor will soften and stretch to accommodate your baby. Although you may feel a little loose or “floppy” down there after giving birth, there’s no real cause for concern. Your vagina is naturally elastic, so it will gradually return to its normal state – maybe not exactly as toned as it was pre-baby, but pretty close. You can do your bit to help things along by regularly doing Kegel exercises once your doctor has given you the nod.”

ALSO SEE: What to expect (for your vagina) when you are expecting

Having an epidural increases your chance of a C-section

An epidural may increase your chances of needing an assisted birth (vacuum or forceps), but it certainly doesn’t appear to make a C-section more likely, says Marelize. “In fact, having an epidural may, in some cases, increase your chances of normal delivery as it allows you to relax and cope with labour. On the other hand, having an epidural may also lead to your pelvic floor becoming so relaxed that your baby may not be able to rotate into the right position for birth, which could eventually lead to an instrumental or C-section birth. Your doctor will address all these issues, as well as the pros and cons well before the birth.”

ALSO SEE: 10 tips to help prevent a C-section

Childbirth is just like on TV

Childbirth on TV or in movies is often very dramatic, suggesting birth is risky and very painful, explains Marelize. “This is not true. Pain during labour is different for every woman and, in some cases, is just uncomfortable. In fact, childbirth is far less dramatic than what you see in the movies, and generally a whole lot slower. One of the best ways to prepare for labour is by signing up for an antenatal class where you and your partner will be taught breathing techniques and exercises to help manage pain.
Unlike what you see on screen, you may not always instantly bond with your baby. Skin-to-skin contact between the two of you soon after birth can help with the bonding process, but this may take time. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to your experience of motherhood and you should always chat to your doctor about any difficulties that you may experience.”

ALSO SEE: 5 movie labour scenes you have to watch

Your waters will break in a dramatic way

This is another myth that’s perpetuated by Hollywood, says Marelize. “In real life, it’s often your doctor who ruptures the amniotic sac membrane with a specialised instrument once you’re already in labour and in a hospital bed. If your waters do break spontaneously, you’ll probably experience a trickle of a usually clear and odourless, or milky liquid. If this happens, don’t panic − there’s no such thing as a ‘dry birth’ as your body is able to replace the fluid every few hours. Call your doctor and get to the hospital as soon as possible if your waters do break as this puts you at higher risk of infection. Your doctor may decide to induce labour after 24 hours if you have not started on your own.”