Many of us build our expectations for pregnancy and birth based on what we see on TV and in the movies. But learning about what these experiences are actually like can help you feel prepared and confident.
We asked AdventHealth OB/GYN Gargey Patil, MD to debunk some of the most common pregnancy myths.
“By guiding women through what to expect during their pregnancy and delivery, we can help them avoid a lot of nervousness and fear about the unexpected,” he says.
1. Moms-to-be Are Eating for Two
You may have heard that pregnancy means you don’t have to concern yourself with calories for nine months. It seems to make sense — you are feeding yourself and your baby — but it’s not good advice, Dr. Patil says.
Some weight gain during pregnancy is natural, of course, but how many pounds you should add depends on your weight before you were pregnant. A woman of healthy weight (a BMI of between 18.5 and 25) is recommended to gain between 25 and 35 pounds. But a woman with obesity should gain about half as much, or 11 to 20 pounds.
And while some myths are harmless, this one can actually be dangerous. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can lead to an overweight newborn and potential long-term effects on the baby’s health.
“Healthy weight gain during pregnancy depends on where you start, and thinking about it as ‘eating for two’ can be a harmful attitude,” Dr. Patil said.
2. Your Water Breaking Will Be a Dramatic Call to Action
A woman’s water breaking is often played up on screen to dramatic effect. In real life, it’s likelier to be a trickle than a gush.
“It could be a steady trickle, and it could go off-and-on,” Dr. Patil says.
Moreover, a woman’s water breaking — meaning her baby’s protective amniotic sac has ruptured, a normal part of labor — doesn’t mean she has to rush to the hospital. The actual rupture of water only occurs in 8 percent of women at full term.
“As long as your baby is moving fine and you don’t have contractions or abnormal bleeding, you can usually wait at home for several hours after your water breaks,” he says. “It can take an average of 31 hours for most women to deliver.” You’ll want to talk to your doctor about what signs of labor mean you’re ready to head to the hospital.
3. Labor Is All About Pushing
In the movies, delivery seems to be a series of demands to push, push, push! In real life, pushing comes only at the end.
Until the mom’s cervix expands to about 10 cm, there is no pushing at all, Dr. Patil says.
“A first-time mom can expect to push for between 30 minutes and an hour,” he says. “In the second or third birth, pushing tends to last for only 10 minutes or so.”
4. You’ll Deliver Lying Down
In the movies, women all tend to deliver the same way: Lying on their back.
But Dr. Patil says many positions can work, and which one is best depends on a mom’s preferences.
“If a mom is most comfortable and has the easiest time pushing while crouching down, on her sides or on all fours that’s the best position for her,” he says.
5. You’ll Need to Choose Between a Cut or Tearing
The medical term is an “episiotomy,” and it means a cut to a woman’s vagina to allow the baby to fit through more easily. Though this procedure was once common, it no longer is.
“In most cases, a woman can deliver without an episiotomy,” Dr. Patil says.
6. You’ll Be Separated from the Baby Shortly After Birth
You may have seen this scene, especially in older movies: A newborn child is plucked from their mother’s arms within moments of birth.
Not only does this deprive mom of the satisfaction of holding her baby, it’s not as healthy for the child. Instead, we hand the baby to mom with the umbilical cord attached so they can make skin-to-skin contact.
“The baby is warmer, feels better and doesn’t need as much help from us when they’re held by their mother right after they’re born,” Dr. Patil says.
7. You and Your Partner Will Lose Control Over Your Emotions
The image of a mom who’s lost control — and a partner who faints during delivery — does not match up with reality, Dr. Patil says. Sure, delivery is stressful, but you don’t have to worry about turning into a ball of wrath.
“Most patients I deliver are not out of control, and their partners are there to support them in the way they want to be supported,” he said.
Knowing what to expect can shape a woman’s birth experience. If she’s prepared for what will happen, a woman is likely to be less nervous when it actually does.
Whether you’re looking to achieve a natural birth or not, we want to be your partner in achieving the birth experience you envision. To learn more about the options available to you, visit our website or call our Birth Experience Team at Call407-303-7341.