Your belly’s just started showing and then the stories start: your hips are too narrow to birth naturally, labour pains are the most excruciating ever… and everyone shares the absolute worst birthing stories. Labour scenes in movies also don’t help much to put you at ease… You often see wide-legged women with their feet in stirrups screaming and shouting in pain and doctors, gogos, anties and dads anxiously running around.
It’s enough to give anyone nightmares.
But how true is all of this? We separate fact from fiction…
1 LABOUR ALWAYS STARTS WITH WATERS BREAKING
In the movies, the birthing process often starts with the woman standing somewhere in the shopping aisle or dealing with a crisis when her waters break, and she suddenly finds herself in a pool. But only about a third of women find their labour starting with waters breaking, says Heather Pieterse, a private midwife in Gauteng. For most women, labour starts with contractions, and their waters only break in the active phase, or they get broken in hospital by the staff. If your water does break spontaneously (when the membranes of the amniotic sac tear), it’s also not always a stream – you’ll often just find your undies are a little wet. Phone your doctor if you suspect your waters have broken and you’re leaking amniotic fluid, because it increases the chances on infection.
2 LABOUR IS A NATURAL PROCESS, SO YOU DON'T NEED TO PREPARE
Your mom did it, and so did your gogo. So why do you need to prepare for such a natural process? Every woman should prepare herself psychologically for labour, so that you know what to expect and are empowered with information, Heather says. “If not, you’re more scared, and that can trigger the pain-and-fear cycle,” she says. Research has shown that stress and fear cause stress hormones to be released that can delay the contractions and extend labour. With preparation, you can learn techniques and positions that can make birth easier and less painful. Prep should also include light exercise. Studies show that exercise can help speed up the labour process and shorten the recovery period following birth.
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