Soon-to-be mothers are inundated with blogs, books and anecdotal accounts from current moms who've had their own unique experiences with labor. From horror stories that make eyes bulge out of your head to reassurance that labor's not as bad as it's hyped up to be, it's hard to know what to expect come delivery day. The truth of the matter is that labor varies for every woman. However, some perpetuated labor myths deserve busting, and some truths should see the light of day.
"At the first signs of early labor, you should first call your doctor and consult with them," advises Dr. Winifred L. Soufi, a board-certified ob-gyn at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. Your doctor can tell you over the phone whether you should immediately head to the hospital.
Pregnant women are often shocked to hear that they may urinate and excrete while in labor. This is a common occurrence that doctors are used to seeing, so do not feel embarrassed. Both acts are as natural as giving birth.
Contractions aren't necessary painful, Soufi says. It's more important to pay attention to the frequency of contractions instead of the pain during early labor.
Even if your contractions aren't painful, you should take them seriously. "Patients may think they are experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, but they can be more serious contractions that require attention," Soufi says. Call your doctor if you experience any kind of contractions.
While an epidural may cause discomfort, it is usually considerably less painful than labor. "They are one of the most common forms of pain relief used during labor," explains Soufi. "A local anesthetic is used to ease the pain of the procedure, which may feel like a small bee sting."
You'll want to stay hydrated throughout all stages of your labor. If you think you're going into labor, the first thing you should do—after consulting your doctor—is grab a glass of water.
Do not rely on contractions to tell you you're going into labor. "Even if she isn't experiencing contractions, she can go into labor," Soufi says. For that reason, she says, it's important to know the other signs and symptoms of labor.
"Even in preterm labor, a mother can bank her baby's cord blood at any time as a source of stem cells for medical treatment if ever needed," Soufi said. "She just needs to make sure that her provider is aware that she plans to bank so the cord blood can be collected after the delivery."
All the "Uh oh, my water just broke!" moments on TV shows and movies may lead you to think that broken water is always a precursor to labor. That's not true. Sometimes a woman's water doesn't break until she's well into the delivery process.
The signs of labor a woman exhibits vary greatly from one person to the next. Signs include a change in vaginal discharge, pelvic or lower abdominal pressure, mild cramping and ruptured membranes (water breaking), Soufi says.
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