Preparing for childbirth can seem like a monumental task. As you get closer to your due date, you may feel like you have more questions than answers.
It’s completely normal to wonder about a lot of things. This is a big moment for you. Even moms who’ve already been through the experience don’t know everything.
To try and help you cut through the chatter a bit, here are 12 things that you should know.
You Probably Won’t Stick to Your Birth Plan
Creating a birth plan is a great way to mentally prepare for labor. It’s also a guide that your doctor, support people and yourself can refer to as needed. These plans outline important birthing details, from how you want the room to feel to what types of medical intervention you feel comfortable with.
However, as great as it is to have something in place, things often don’t go according to plan once the big day arrives. That’s perfectly normal. Sometimes women in labor change their minds, or their needs are different than they thought. As long as you give consent, any changes to the plan are OK.
Water Breaking Isn’t Like the Movies
More than likely, your water will not break like popping a water balloon. It’ll feel more like you are slowly peeing yourself. Sometimes your amniotic fluid won’t even break on its own. If necessary, a doctor will break it at the hospital with what looks like a large crochet hook. This shouldn’t be painful, only mildly uncomfortable.
You Might Get Sent Home
Labor can take a long time, especially for first-time moms. Your first instinct may be to rush to the hospital when you start feeling contractions. However, if they aren’t close enough together or your cervix isn’t dilated enough, the hospital will probably send you home. Wait in the comfort of your house and time your contractions until they’re five minutes apart, lasting for one minute each, for at least an hour.
Labor May Need a Jumpstart
If your water has broken and it’s been 24 hours without going into full labor, your doctor will probably induce labor with Pitocin. Another reason to induce labor is preeclampsia or other risk factors. Your doctor should discuss your options with you so you can make an informed decision about induction.
Many People Will Be in and Out of Your Room
You’ll never feel as popular as in the days surrounding giving birth. Many women picture giving birth with only their doctor and maybe a nurse. However, it takes a much larger team to get you to the finish line.
Usually, hospitals will have a rotation of doctors on call, as well as a team of nurses, phlebotomists and anesthesiologists. Medical students may also be present, but you can give or deny them permission to help with procedures or be in the room at all.
It Is OK to Self-Advocate
No matter what happens during labor and delivery, you’re in charge. If you’re uncomfortable with something the doctor or nurse presents, ask for all your options. Unless your or your baby’s health is on the line, you can choose what feels right in your situation.
Pooping Yourself Won’t Be a Big Deal
Most pregnant mothers hear about the possibility of pooping themselves during delivery and are mortified. However, when you are in the moment, you probably won’t even notice or care if you poop. Doctors and nurses won’t think twice because pretty much everyone poops in labor.
You’ll Give Birth Twice
Don’t panic. After delivering your baby, the doctor will work to help you expel the placenta, which brought nutrients and oxygen to your child during pregnancy. You’ll probably feel some pressure and discomfort during this process, but it is not as intense as childbirth. Plus, you will probably be holding your baby on your chest at the same time, so you will be less likely to notice anyway.
Kegels Will Be Your New Best Friend
It’s incredibly common to experience some incontinence after giving birth — nearly 50% of women do occasionally. Your pelvic floor muscles keep you from peeing, and childbirth weakens them.
Kegel exercises can help you restrengthen your pelvic floor. Talk to your doctor if you continue to struggle with leaking when coughing, laughing, exercising, lifting objects or standing up.
Your Baby Won’t Be the Only One in Diapers
While not the most fashionable look, the mommy diaper will provide you some comfort postpartum. After delivery, women typically bleed for about six weeks. The diaper will catch that blood and provide extra padding when sitting.
As time passes, you can ditch the diaper and switch to pads. If you want some extra relief, try adding an ice pack, witch hazel, aloe or a combination of the three.
Toilet Paper Is a No-Go
Your whole bathroom routine will look different postpartum. Set aside some extra time to do what you need to do. In addition to layering your mom diaper with feel-good products, you will need to take longer to clean yourself.
Toilet paper can be too abrasive postpartum and leave behind residue that leads to infections. Instead, the hospital will give you a peri bottle. You fill the bottle with warm water and squirt yourself clean. It’s actually quite soothing.
You’ll Still Look Pregnant
Unfortunately, you won’t leave the hospital looking like your pre-pregnancy self. You may never look that way again, which is perfectly normal and OK. Look at what you just did! You brought new life into the world. Expect to look several months pregnant for a while as your uterus shrinks.
None of This Will Matter in a Few Months
Women have a remarkable gift, and not just the miracle of childbirth. We’re exceptionally good at forgetting the intricate details of labor, delivery and the whole pregnancy experience. As time passes, you’ll remember mostly the good and very little of the more uncomfortable aspects. Once you have your baby, none of the rest of it really matters.