Below is a list of my 5 top movie birthing myths:
1- Myth- The start of labour is an embarrassing breaking of your waters, cue gush of water all over the floor..
Truth- Only 1 in 4 women’s waters break before labour starts.
In most movies the rupture of membranes (waters breaking) happens in a comical fashion, usually outside in public causing embarrassment to mother and anyone else present. This is often a big concern for expectant mothers as they imagine their waters may break at the worst possible time but the reality is that only around 13% of labours start with the waters breaking and 75% break well into labour (most when around 9cm dilated).So the mother will know she is in labour as she is having surges (Hypnobirthing speak for contractions) and if her waters break, chances are she will be at home or in hospital. That’s right, ‘IF’ her waters break as it is possible that they won’t break at all and the baby is born inside its sack with the waters intact which is perfectly normal and In some cultures it’s known to be very lucky. In my opinion, it must be one of the calmest entries into the world for baby as it’s still in its warm, cosy space.
2- Myth- Labour has started (panic!) I need to get to hospital as soon as possible
Truth- Labour can take hours, sometimes days; if you get there too soon you will be sent home again.
We see it all the time in movies; waters break, dad runs around in a total panic, getting everything together to take mum to the hospital and then driving like a lunatic to get her there in record time. The truth is, some labours can take a LONG time. The average length of established labour* for first babies in the UK is 8 hours and that’s not including pre labour** which, for some women, can be days.
In low risk normal births, a mother will be told to come into hospital when the surges are regular, lasting a minute, and 3-4 minutes apart. This is usually when the cervix has opened (dilated) to 4cm or more. If you go in before established labour you will probably be told to go home again. So rather than rushing to the hospital as soon as labour starts the best advice is to carry on with normal activities, sleep if you can, relax and for Hypnobirthing couples it’s the perfect time to start putting all the practise to good use.
*Established labour is when the mother's cervix is between 4cm-10cm dilated
** pre-labour is when the cervix softens and ripens, thins out and starts to open slightly (or dilate) up to about 1cm-3cm
3-Myth- Dad is a useless spare part
Truth- A calm, well prepared birthing partner will be very helpful in labour.
Although I do agree someone who is stressed and nervous can be detrimental to the birth as they produce stress hormones that can have an effect on the mother’s mood, I will say that in Hypnobirthing this is rarely the case. I very often hear, “I couldn't have done it without him” and tales of how wonderful the birthing partner was. This is because from doing the course, the birthing partner will have a better understanding of the birth process and have tools and techniques to keep mum calm and relaxed. During labour the birthing partner can be the mother’s eyes and ears, paying attention to the medical staff and making rational, informed decisions allowing the mother to remain focused on breathing and birthing. Birthing in this way makes it an experience which really brings the couple closer and promotes bonding for the whole family.
4-During the birth, mum will be on her back on the bed.
Truth- This is not the optimal position to birth the baby
Unfortunately, as it’s a rather convenient position for medical professions, it is often used. The reason it is rather difficult to birth in this position is that the pelvis is up to 30% smaller, it forces the woman to put pressure on her tailbone, which flexes it upwards, forcing it into a curved position which makes the area smaller and can inhibit the baby’s descent through the pelvis. It’s also working against gravity so mum is pushing “upwards” rather than down.
There are many positions the mother could adopt in labour such as standing, squatting, or on all fours, all of which aid gravity. Changing position should be encouraged and in one recent study, mothers who changed positions frequently during labour and birth demonstrated a 50% reduction in time progressing from 3cm to 10cm dilatation.(1)
You can find some more suggested positions for birth here:
1-Mendez-Bauer C, & Newton M. 1986. Maternal position in labor. In Philip A, Barnes J, & Newton M (Eds.). Scientific foundations of obstetrics and gynaecology. London: Heinemann
5-Myth- You have to push until your purple in the face
Truth-Forced pushing could be detrimental to the birth, rather than helping.
I’m sure we have all seen the scenes where mum is red faced, jaw clenched and pushing with all her might more often than not being coached by medical staff shouting “PUUUUUUSH”. In reality of course every woman and her birth is different and some may benefit from some direction but for many this forced pushing can hinder the babies descent, slowing things down as it closes the vaginal sphincters, causing exhaustion for the mother and in some cases distress to the baby.
The female body has a natural expulsive reflex that will gently nudge the baby down and out, women often describe this as having an “over whelming desire to push” or wanting to “bare down”.
New midwives are now trained to follow the mothers lead and encourage the natural expulsion rather than forcing the baby out. If the desire to push isn't there, the new guidelines suggest waiting until the mother is ready rather than putting time restraints on this stage and commencing forced pushing. You can read the new guide lines published by the Royal Collage of Midwives (RCM) here.
During Hypnobirthing classes we learn how to ‘breathe the baby down’, breathing techniques to work with the body’s natural urge rather than against it.
So with these points in mind I ask all parents-to-be to forget what you have seen on TV and become an educated expert in real birth. Go to antenatal classes, do your own research, learn about what an amazing body you have, what it’s capable of and learn to trust it. The more you know and understand the less there is to fear.
You can find out more about Hypnobirthing antenatal classes here
A great source for birthing research referencing can be found at site www.homebirth.org.uk