I’ll admit when I wanted to become pregnant I read more about how to get pregnant and how to raise children than I did about the actual pregnancy and birth process.
What little I did know I had gleaned from fiction. As we all know fiction is not reality, so here is a little truth to combat the silly fiction memes about pregnancy and birth.
Myth #1 Stress leads to labor.
This is straight up wrong. My midwife was very clear with me: stress impedes birth and labor. Women need to be calm and in a safe place with people they trust before their bodies will allow the child to be born. The more stressed a pregnant woman is the LESS likely she is to go into labor. In fact she has often found that she will have to leave for awhile in order to get labor to start properly because even though pregnant women know her they don’t know her well enough to let down their guard around her. Which is why when a writer adds a person going into labor into the middle of a tense action movie just know that probably would not happen. They women would probably endure the entire experience be checked out by the EMTs go home, calm down and THEN go into labor.
Myth #2 Pregnant women want sex just as much as they did before they got pregnant.
Hormones are strange things so perhaps for some women this is true. For me pregnancy was vastly uncomfortable and I don’t know anyone who feels sexy when sick. But even if I hadn’t felt nauseous for seven months, my vagina and pelvic area went through all kinds of changes that made sex tricky. It was possible but adjustments had to be made at every stage because my body changed every week and sometimes every day. I had looked forward to sex right up until delivery, but found that it was not in the cards for me.
Myth #3 Labor is awful and scary and requires emergency care.
My experience was a home birth. If I had to pick a word for the entire experience it would be ‘work’. It was not awful or scary, or even that painful. There was a lot of time waiting for contractions. I went for a lot of walks, did puzzles and chatted with my mom and the midwives. It was almost mundane. Then I would contract and my world became narrowed to pushing which was very physically exhilarating at first and it was not painful. There was a point when I felt like a marathon runner, I was so tired and I still had to push and the midwives would just set me up in a new position and I would push some more. I did try and wuss out once or twice but no one let me. At final push time when the baby’s head came though it was excruciatingly painful but since that was about three minutes total of 24 hours and afterwards I felt wonderful I wouldn’t count it as a big part of the experience. I did tear but at that point I couldn’t feel much and the midwife stitched me up. Mostly I was tired and euphoric by the end.
I would say that my midwife was very important to my birth process mostly because I was inexperienced. If I’d managed one bigger push at the end I wouldn’t have torn. I was just unaware of what was needed and was very tired. Because my midwife was a nurse and had medical training I didn’t need a doctor or emergency help. I realize that every woman’s experience is different but birth certainly doesn’t have to be scary, painful, or covered by a doctor.
Myth#4 Pregnant women are either blissed out or bitchy because of hormones.
I will admit pregnancy was incredibly hormonal. Every aspect of your life is influenced by the things your body is trying to do. However I did not feel particularly blissful or bitchy. Mostly I felt sick and/or emotional. The hormones really accentuated emotions making it almost impossible to control my reactions. I did cry during commercials and have to avoid scary or upsetting movies but I was assured by my closest friends that I did not become a mother Theresa type figure nor a demon from the depths of hell.
Myth #5 Pregnant women eat more.
Everyone says to you when you are obviously pregnant “you are eating for two” but pregnant women really don’t need that many more calories because the baby is so tiny (even at the end). What they need more of is nutrition in the form of vitamins and minerals which for some people ends up being more food. Nursing women on the other hand are in fact eating for two calorie wise. Every bit of milk they produce contains calories and burns calories as its being made.
When I wasn’t unable to eat I had a fairly normal appetite during pregnancy. Which since I was gaining weight was totally fine. It was when I started nursing that my appetite kicked into high gear. In the first week of nursing I dropped a lot of weight even though I was eating an amazing amount of food. I didn’t stop losing wight until I started eating a LOT more food. Even though my 18 month old is eating some solid foods now she drinks enough milk that my appetite hasn’t really diminished either. If I slip up and reduce my food intake I start losing weight fast.
Myth #6 The main things that pregnant women should avoid are drugs and alcohol.
This is really misleading. Obviously drugs and alcohol are bad for babies but there are all kinds of other activities and substances that I was advised about. The amount of things a pregnant woman must avoid or consult their doctor before consuming is so long it might actually be better off to have a list of what you can eat. I felt shockingly deprived.
I am sure there are many more myths out there in fiction but these were the ones that I was most surprised by. Be sure to comment if I skipped one you think is important.