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10 Childbirth Facts

What women should know about giving birth

By Ceridwen Morris |

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  • 10 Childbirth Facts

    Fact It’s not like the movies

    Eating can be an effortIn the movies, the water breaks, everyone panics, mom wobbles up, grabs her belly, and on cue has an enormous contraction, then yells for a taxi. In real life, the water usually breaks during labor and if it does break early, there’s no reason to run screaming to the hospital. Real-life labor is really hard, but it’s not one big screaming emergency. Every labor is unique, but perhaps none more “unique” than the mythical Hollywood birth.

  • 10 Childbirth Facts

    Fact Your due date is more like a due month

    Your due date is more like a due monthA full-term pregnancy is anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks. The estimated due date (EDD) is an educated guess, not a firm deadline. The majority of babies are born before or after their due dates; most first-time babies are born an average of four days past the EDD. It can be hard to mentally plan for a whole due month, but a due date is too specific. So, how about a due fortnight?

  • 10 Childbirth Facts

    Fact Labor goes through very distinct phases with different challenges

    Labor goes through very distinct phases with different challengesLabor is not one continuous, unwavering sensation; it’s a dynamic, rhythmic process. Early labor tends to be long but usually easier to deal with than active labor, which generally requires much more focus and pain-coping techniques. Pushing the baby out at the end is another thing entirely and can actually be a welcome change (now you can finally do something!). Learning about the stages of labor helps you prepare for each one in different ways.

  • 10 Childbirth Facts

    Fact An epidural is just one of many ways to cope with labor

    An epidural is just one of many ways to cope with laborThere’s a lot of debate about whether getting an epidural is a “good” idea or a “bad” idea. The only answer is: it depends. An early epidural can slow things down and therefore make more medical intervention necessary. But an epidural given after laboring for a very long time (and when mom is completely exhausted) can actually speed up labor and reduce the chances of more interventions. Try to forget “good” and “bad” when it comes to the epidural; instead, educate yourself about the risks and benefits of the drugs and learn other coping techniques, then see how your labor goes.

  • 10 Childbirth Facts

    Fact The philosophy of your care-provider matters. A lot.

    The philosophy of your care-provider matters. A lotSome doctors believe in actively managing the labor, introducing medical technology — from labor induction drugs to continuous fetal monitoring — even before they are necessary. Other care-providers believe labor should unfold on its own and medical intervention should only be brought in if something comes up. The way your labor will be handled has a lot to do with who is handling it; talk to your caregiver now about his or her philosophy of birth. And make sure it matches up to your own.

  • 10 Childbirth Facts

    Fact Your doctor or midwife will not be with you for most of your labor

    Your doctor or midwife will not be with you for most of your laborThis often comes as a big surprise to an expecting couple, but it’s common. Doctors and midwives will be on call, advising you when to go to the hospital and will check in on your progress periodically. But for the most part they just show up at the end to catch the baby — midwives tend to be present for longer, but it depends. This is one reason childbirth classes and doulas can be so valuable.

  • 10 Childbirth Facts

    Fact Induced labors are twice as likely to end in C-Section

    Induced labors are twice as likely to end in C-SectionExpectations to get births moving at an unrealistic pace have led to the overuse of pitocin, which doubles the odds of having a C-section. Pitocin requires monitoring, which means mom cannot move during labor. Yet, changing position can actually help labor progress and help with pain. Bottom line: Try to avoid induction unless it’s medically necessary.

  • 10 Childbirth Facts

    Fact Staying Home in Early Labor Can Reduce the Chances of a C-section

    Staying Home in Early Labor Can Reduce the Chances of a C-sectionBarring any specific concerns, there’s no reason to rush to the hospital at the first, or even 50th contraction. You may be turned away if you go in too soon. A good guideline to follow for first pregnancies is Go in when your contractions are four minutes apart, one minute long and have been that way for one hour. Talk about this with your midwife or doctor and call when you know labor has started, but allow your body time at home to really get labor going.

  • 10 Childbirth Facts

    Fact Birth is a normal physiological event

    Birth is a normal physiological eventYeah, contractions can be very intense and the process of birth can seem overwhelming or even impossible, but the fact is, our bodies were built to do it. Unlike other kinds of pain, labor does not indicate that something is wrong or broken. There are things you can do to get through the hard work: Take a childbirth education class, get some good labor support and learn how labor works.

  • 10 Childbirth Facts

    Fact A good birth experience is not about how you do it

    A good birth experience is not about how you do itSurveys of thousands of mothers have revealed that it’s actually not about whether you got the epidural or didn’t get the epidural that makes birth a positive experience. It’s more about whether you were treated with kindness and respect at a vulnerable time. Women with realistic expectations also tend to be happier with their births. This doesn’t mean low expectations, but rather an understanding of what you can control, and what you can’t. Remember that once we banish the idea of a “perfect” birth, the “imperfect” birth goes with it.

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About Ceridwen Morris


Ceridwen Morris

Ceridwen Morris, CCE, is a writer, childbirth educator and the co-author of From The Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Becoming a Parent.

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28 thoughts on “10 Childbirth Facts

  1. Joe Lazauskas says:

    This is an incredibly helpful guide.

  2. Cali mom says:

    Very nice, non-judgmental guide.

  3. Andrea says:

    Very nice. I would add:
    -Even if you intend to get the epidural as soon as possible, you’re still going to have to go through quite a few contractions without any pain relief. It’s also possible (as happened with me) that there simply won’t be time to get an epidural. It’s a really good idea to know some pain relief techniques regardless of your plan.
    -Learn about the mini-stage of labor known as transition (just before pushing).
    -Don’t listen to anyone when they predict when your baby will be born. In two pregnancies my doctor, chiropractor, and doula were all sure I’d give birth in week 37 because I was dilated to 6 cm at week 35. I went over 42 weeks both times.
    -Remember that being in labor doesn’t mean that the hospital owns your body or your baby. You always have the right to decline anything you don’t want or don’t feel comfortable with. Even if it’s their procedure, there’s nothing saying you can’t have it a different way.

  4. stacynight says:

    I had to have an induction but was allowed to move during labor. I walked, used a yoga ball during contractions and labored and gave birth in the water. You have to be convey the birth you want!

  5. Jenna Boettger Boring says:

    Great article, rarely do I see anything as non judgemental as this on a parenting website.
    I would also add that labor can go on much longer then you expect. When my mom told me she was in labor for 14 hours with my brother I was horrified and couldn’t imagine anything lasting that long. I ended up being in labor for four days. Surprise!

  6. PlumbLucky says:

    Very good article. I will say that I was induced (medically needed) and I was able to move around, I just had to pull my IV stand and monitor cords with me.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the great comments everyone. Jenna, it’s absolutely true: I thought a 12 hour labor was long before I ever had kids … The average length of a first labor is about 24 hours. *A lot* of that can be early labor, which is much more manageable that very active labor. Though this is a long time to consider, the benefit of a slower ramp up to pushing is that you have time to adjust to each phase. A very, very fast labor can be nice in some ways, but also can feel overwhelming in others.

  8. ceridwen says:

    Oops. I didn’t mean to be so mysterious. That last comment was from me. – Ceridwen

  9. Cmiller says:

    Great! You should write a ;little book called “100 Things You should Know About Giving Birth” full of these pithy, fun but SMART little tidbits.

  10. Ceridwen Morris says:

    Great comments all! I’ve blogged up a few more ideas to keep the convo rolling, check it out:

  11. midwyf says:


  12. Jennifer Wynhoff says:

    I would have to agree with you Andrea. My daughter was born 6 weeks earlie, my next child (son) was born 4 days late, and my third child (son) was born 2 days early. All three times barley mad it to the hospital. My doctor had to catch my first son, and my husband had to deliver my third child in the delivery room because my doctor did not have enough time to get there. With my third child, I was told that I was only maybe 2cm but I had to push him back in three times because the nurse did not know what she was talking about. So, I decided that I knew more about when my baby was ready than she did and I let him come out. I believe that the mother knows a little more about when the baby is ready to come out than the nurse. Now, do not get me wrong, I am not saying that nurses do not know anything about birthing (my husband is a nurse), but this one that I got stuck with did not. With my first child I was in the hospital in labor for only 30 minutes, second child was 28 minutes, and my third child was only 23 minutes :D . At that time is when I feel really luck.

  13. Alla Tumanyan says:

    i guess that in our world pregnancy is the most charming period of woman’s life.

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  20. Lynette Day Young says:

    You forgot one – childbirth is messy. The baby does not come out clean and smelling like baby powder. You will get blood and amniotic fluid on you (and sometimes other stuff). If you have a section your entire belly may be covered in brown-red sterilizing solution. It ain’t pretty, but you will never appreciate a shower more in your life!

  21. Kacee Wheeland Burke says:

    We don’t have children yet but I love reading all these to educate and prepare myself for birth. Just a week ago I had to help pull a calf out of a 1st time cow giving birth. That was intense, I hope when our time comes it’s nothing like that moment. But I also thinking seeing all the cows labor and give birth allows me to be more comfortable with rearing life. Hopefully helps something?

  22. jlr says:

    In my experience, pitocin does not prevent a mom from moving around during labor. I was induced with pitocin for my first birth. I spent the first three hours after they started the drip walking the halls of the maternity ward and then got in the tub for about half an hour after that. My daughter was born one hour after that (vaginally, by the way). I was hooked up to a monitor the entire time, but it was portable.

  23. Anonono says:

    Also, in the movies the birthing mom is always sitting up with her legs open but nicely covered by the blanket. It is much more ungainly than that for a lot of the time. During both of my births I spent a lot of time flat on my back with my legs spread eagle and my butt hanging out.

    AND the baby doesn’t arrive looking like a 1 month old. In the movies they can’t use brand new newborns so they usually have an older baby, so it is really funny how they don’t look anything like newborns!

  24. Nicolle Littrell says:

    Lots of great info here, Ms. Morris, however you are missing some really important info that women need to know.

    perhaps it’s true that midwives (and certainly doctors) in a hospital setting do not stay with their client through their entire labor, but homebirth midwives do–unless their client requests otherwise.

    and yes, it is true that staying home in “early” labor can reduce your chance of c-section. what about staying home, period?

    it would be nice if the choice to have a homebirth and homebirth midwifery care were better represented in this generally useful article–especially with the fact that:

    a.) homebirths with professional midwives have been evidenced as being safe, if not safer, than hospital birth (see CPM 2000 Study).

    b.) homebirths increased by 20% between 2004-2008 (USA Today article re. recent CDC report).

    To see the kind of midwifery care I’m talking about and what the homebirth experience can be, go to: to watch a series of films, At Home in Maine, that present 10 authentic, artistic portraits of homebirth.

    Not just for Mainers! And not just about homebirth, but about normal, natural, woman-centered birth.

  25. Noelle Corris says:

    To add to Nicolle’s comment, my midwife was with me the entire time I was in labor…at my birth center. It was a wonderful experience!

  26. Sarah Dunn Penquite says:

    If you have a homebirth, your midwife is there as long as you want her there. Don’t lump MED-wives and OBs in with true midwives :(

  27. Anonymous says:

    A-MEN to Fact #4!

  28. jay says:

    It’s also worth noting that the only reason that the average “date of delivery” (for the record, the in medical terms, “EDD” actually stands for “estmated date of delivery”….”due date” implies that it’s a deadline) is only 4 days past the 40 week mark is that so many women are induced. If you look at worldwide averages in healthy births with o interventions, the TRUE average for primiparous gestations is actually over 41 weeks. Our routine obstetrical practices have skewed the statistics on the real biology of human pregnancy.

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