By Rosemarie Gonzalez
At 20 years old first time pregnancy I had no clue what I was in for. I heard many birth stories from relatives growing up but honestly I had very little knowledge on the birthing process. I figured you feel contractions that brought on pain; you head to the hospital and have a baby. That was my take on the whole process during that time in my life. Oh and C-section, that was not going to happen to me. That only happens during rare emergency situations. But not me as most of my relatives including my mother had all vaginal births. Well 12 years later experience and learning changed my ways of thinking. After my first 2 were born via C-section I started to research more as I was planning for a VBAC with my 3rd baby.
As the years went on I started realized how misinformed I was and how I was not alone when it came to the misinformation surrounding childbirth. It should not be this complicated. C-sections should not be almost 40% of births in the US, but it is. While I am blessed to have had my all my babies, here are 8 major facts I wish I had known before having my first child:
1. Estimated Due Dates (EDD) does not equal eviction
An EDD is actually an estimated date of when baby could arrive but not a date in which baby must arrive. In fact most estimated due dates are off give or take 2 weeks. So don’t fret when you are nearing your EDD and there does not seem to be a sign of baby being ready to make its debut. It just might not be time and the little one needs more time to grow and get stronger for the actual day of birth.
2. Ultrasounds are not always needed throughout pregnancy
Oh I had many with my first 2 pregnancies. But what I didn’t know was that if there is no sign of distress for mother and baby it is actually not needed. ACOG advice's that ultrasounds should only be used when there is a clinical need. This is advised to minimize exposure risk to the baby. I have also seen and heard how ultrasounds can sometimes give misinformation, such as the baby is “too big”. This can lead to increase induction and C-section. This misinformation on the baby’s weight can be off by a pound or two.
3. Electronic Fetal Monitors (EFM) are not always accurate:
Here is another one I learned the hard way more than once. There are many factors that play into this. Continuous and Intermittent Auscultation are 2 types of EFMs. With Continuous Fetal monitor the birthing woman will have a monitor strapped around her belly. The problem with this is that it is not always the best as it as shown to increase the risk of cesarean deliveries due to abnormal Fetal Heart Rate (FHR). The reading can be difficult when the baby moves around. This is what happened to me with my first which eventually led to a Cesarean section. Also with continuous fetal monitor there is an increase in fear with everyone watching the monitor instead of focusing on the laboring women. ACOG recommends using Intermittent Auscultation for low risk women.
4. Birth is NOT a Medical Event
Of course in some cases there may be high risk pregnancies that may need to be monitored. But this should not account for all births. Birth is a natural process and should be treated as such. It is not a sickness that needs medical attention. It is an actual process to bring forth life. One that needs to be treated as a beautiful part of life and not something we fear and right away write off as an emergency. It should be treated as natural until it is proven otherwise.
5. There is no need for induction unless medically necessary
If it is not an emergency situation, than there is no need for an induction. Giving baby more time is beneficial as baby may need more time to gain strength needed for birth to come. In some cases if the baby is just not ready, induction may fail. Giving baby and body time is optimal unless proven otherwise by a medical emergency.
6. I could say no and decline any and all interventions
We have rights during labor and delivery. If there is no immediate danger we can actually decline any and all interventions that we are not comfortable with. We do not have to accept and do anything that we are uncomfortable with before, during and after labor. Sure we can get medical advice but in the end the decision is ours. And remember #4, “Birth is NOT medical” unless it’s truly proven otherwise.
7. Pitocin can be turned off if it is not helping with dilation, I can even walk out and skip the entire induction
Did you know if the induction is not working and there is no medical reason to be induced you can have the Pitocin turned off? Well you can. You can even skip the induction all together and come back when baby is ready for birth. Being induced with Pitocin for no medical reason can sometimes lead to fetal distress and failure to progress.
8. Prodromonal Labor, First stage of Labor and Active Labor are different
I use to believe that once you feel contractions that was active labor and that baby will come right away! After all that's what happens in the movies right? I believed this to be true. That was until I found myself with what seemed to be strong contraction for baby to come a WHOLE WEEK LATER!!! This was for my third baby. I went an entire week with strong contractions that would wear off to then return at regular intervals to find out I am 1 centimeter dilated and I wasn't even in active labor as active labor is considered at the time 5cm plus. It has now been changed to 6cm plus. Since contactions would wear off for a couple of hours I was in what is considered Prodomal Labor. When the contraction no longer wore off I thought for sure this is it, I am in active labor! But I was wrong again as I still had hours to go. I was in early labor. This all makes sense because the prodomal labor can take days, even weeks as the cervix begins to thin and dilate. And the first stage of labor can take hours as your cervix continues to thin and dilate. Isn’t that great! Your body is prepping beautifully for the birth. The first stage of labor is the longest stage. Makes you wonder what happened to women going into the hospital in early to end up with what was considered a stalled labor to then be sent for a C-section for failure to progress. This happens more than we think.
Knowing these things probably would have helped me to avoid that first cut or me thinking my body just did not work when it came to labor and birth. But then again I would have not been blessed with the opportunity to learn and share my experiences with others. Whatever your choices and experience are, know they have value <3
Much Love and Blessings to all
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