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Top 5 Pregnancy & Birth Myths Debunked

The more time I spend on the internet, and writing in general about pregnancy, and childbirth… the more myths I hear. You know those old wives tales that your grandmother, and mother have handed down to you to scare the living bejesus out of you!

I always feel the need to correct women, or help them to understand why something is a myth when I hear them talk about them, or pass that myth along to someone else. Someone has to break the cycle somewhere!

Myth #1. Epidurals have no risks or effects on mothers, and babies.

False!

Most women know this is not correct, but for those of us who are not familiar with epidural anesthesia, it does carry risks that are often overlooked or not even questioned for comfort measures. In fact, I have heard providers tell this to women directly which I also detailed in a recent posts on epidurals.
Some of the risks of epidurals are

  • Epidurals may cause your blood pressure to suddenly drop. For this reason your blood pressure will be routinely checked to make sure there is adequate blood flow to your baby. If this happens you may need to be treated with IV fluids, medications, and oxygen.
  • You may experience the following side effects: shivering, ringing of the ears, backache, soreness where the needle is inserted, nausea, or difficulty urinating.
  • You may find that your epidural makes pushing more difficult and additional interventions such as Pitocin, forceps, vacuum extraction or cesarean may become necessary
  • In rare instances, permanent nerve damage may result in the area where the catheter was inserted. (Which personally happened to me with my epidural in my first birth.)
  • Dosages and medications vary, so concrete information from research is lacking. Studies reveal that some babies may initially have trouble “latching on” among other difficulties with breastfeeding. While in-utero, they may become lethargic and have trouble getting into position for delivery. These medications have been known to cause respiratory depression, and decreased fetal heart rate in newborns. Though the medication may not harm the baby, the baby may experience subtle effects like those mentioned above.

This is another great publication about the risks to mother and baby, by Dr. Sarah Buckley. Or if you would like a more common known resource, there is the American Pregnancy Association’s website.

Myth #2. Hospitals are the safest place to have a baby!

False! For many women hospitals may be the best option, especially if they are in the high risk pregnancy category, but more information and studies are coming out including home, and free standing birth centers to be as safe as hospitals when it comes to low risk patients.

“Researchers found women who had planned a home birth had lower risk of obstetric interventions, including a C-section, or complications like hemorrhage, compared to those who delivered in hospitals.”

Which many of us know. Some of the benefits of having a home birth also include, no seperation between mother and baby which increases the risk for breastfeeding difficulties, no risk for unnecessary interventions which result in cesarean sections, less risk for an infection or illness picked up from the hospital, and you have less of a risk for fetal death (again at cited in the article).

Myth #3. OB/GYN’s provide better care than Midwives (Certified Nurse Midwives, or others)

False!

Consumer reports did a research study in 2008 which they published in the form of a true/false maternity care quiz. In this research, they included the above myth. The below is taken from the Consumer Reports maternity care quiz about this ignorant myth.

False. Studies show that the 8 percent to 9 percent of U.S. women who use midwives and the 6 to 7 percent who choose family physicians generally experienced just-as-good results as those who go to obstetricians. Those who used midwives also ended up with fewer technological interventions. For example, women who received midwifery care were less likely to experience induced labor, have their water broken for them, episiotomies, pain medications, intravenous fluids, and electronic fetal monitoring, and were more likely to give birth vaginally with no vacuum extraction or forceps, than similar women receiving medical care. Note that an obstetric specialist is best for the small proportion of women with serious health concerns.”

I was very happy to see such a major organization becoming involved in the quality of care, and maternity care system because just like anything else, women are consumers. Now to just get this information out there to pregnant women!

Myth #4. Episiotomies heal easier than natural tearing of the vagina.

False! For many women they may be needed, but in reality, they are not very beneficial to most women, and do more harm than good. Recommended episiotomy rates for a provider stand at 5% or less, because that is the instances they are medically necessary.
The Childbirth Connection reviewed a JAMA study about routine episiotomies should not be used as much as they are today. Many even believe there is no medical reason for an episiotomy at all. Others believe natural tearing heals easier. I personally have had neither, but what I have noticed in my time in the birthing community, less women I have come in contact with complain about natural tearing than damage done by episiotomies.

Myth #5. Once a Cesarean, Always a Cesarean

This one is probably my favorite, only because I have done so much research on this myself, because of my own birth experiences.
While there may be SOME women who it is safer to have a repeat cesarean because of medical conditions, or damage done by previous cesarean section/sections, that majority of women can safely, and SHOULD be having VBAC’s (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean).
I detailed in full recently in another post the risks associated with repeat cesareans as opposed to VBAC. All of that detailed information can be found at this link, as well as on this site.

Some interesting pieces of information I learned in March of last year during the VBAC consensus put together by the National Institute of Health include:

  • The risk of hysterectomy increases with each repeat c-section, which is rarely discussed. The risk of having a hysterectomy with the 4th cesarean section is 2.5%
  • Induced VBAC success rates are 63%, lower than the over all VBAC success rate of 73%
  • When comparing ERCD (Elective Repeat Cesarean Delivery) to VBAC, per 100,000 births, there are 9 less maternal deaths with VBAC than elective repeat cesarean delivery. Hence showing that VBAC is safer, despite all the discussion of risks.  Those are 9 mothers, sisters, daughters that can and should be saved!
  • 1 out of every 3 elective repeat cesarean deliveries takes place BEFORE 39 weeks gestation, when the recommendation is NO elective deliveries before 39 weeks. Showing that providers are picking and choosing which guidelines they want to practice.
  • NICU admission rates in the above babies are higher.

There is a lot more information available on VBAC from the Consenus on the National Institute of Health’s website.

What are some of the pregnancy and birth myths you have heard?

photo: Getty Images

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