5 Common Labor Misconceptions Debunked

     Being in the nursing field of Labor, Delivery and Postpartum as well as running a business aimed at expectant and new moms, I hear a lot of misconceptions when it comes to pregnancy and labor itself. It's worth clarifying certain things, as we all know knowledge is power.

"I'm Ten Months Pregnant"

     I have even made this common error before. A normal pregnancy is 40 weeks, a month has 4 weeks, ergo: pregnancy is ten months, right? Well, not exactly. While we typically think of a month as 4 weeks for convenience, most months have more like four and a half weeks. Plus, we get the extra credit of two weeks before we even conceive. So basically if you knew you were pregnant the very moment you conceived, you would already be two weeks pregnant. So sorry ladies: pregnancy truly is just nine months.

"I had an emergency C-section"

     I have heard all too commonly, "I pushed for three hours and ended up with an emergency c-section," or something along those lines. Upon further inquiry, well no it wasn't exactly emergency, but just unscheduled. There is a big difference between an emergency c-section, an urgent c-section, and an unscheduled c-section. I don't want to get too technical, but if you are laboring and you are suddenly rushed to the O.R. in an extremely urgent manner, that is an emergency. If labor does not go as planned, you do not progress as you should or if baby is simply not coming down and you decide with the doctor that a c-section is best, that is an unscheduled c-section. I am not diminishing any of these avenues, but women who truly have emergency c-sections can attest to the difference and how terrifying it can be for all parties involved.

"I had to get a c-section because I got an epidural"

     In over three years of being in this field, I have never once had a patient have to get a c-section because they got an epidural. While it can drop a patient's blood pressure which could in turn cause fetal distress, we have easy methods to counteract this if needed. It also does not "stop labor". If one is truly in labor, it may slow things down but studies suggest only by about an hour or so. In fact in my experience, it often speeds things up as it allows the mother to finally relax. 

"Epidurals are bad for the baby"

     I've definitely talked about this before but it is worth mentioning again because I still hear it all the time. Epidurals are not bad for your baby. The medication goes into the mother's epidural space (near the spinal space), not directly into her bloodstream. Conversely, the medications that are given for pain control during labor through the IV do in fact go directly into the mother's bloodstream thus going almost directly to the baby. They are safe but they do have side effects such as respiratory depression at birth. Epidurals do not have that side effect. If you are choosing to go all natural for the sake of your baby, then I would encourage you to avoid pain medication through the IV as that would defeat the whole purpose. 

"The doctor only comes at the last minute"

     I admit, before becoming a nurse, I totally thought this was the case after witnessing my niece and nephew's births. It is true in some cases you may not see the doctor from the time you arrive at the hospital until the baby is crowning and they come in at the last minute to deliver. What you are not seeing is that doctor running from their office in the middle of seeing a full day's worth of patients, possibly having been on call and not having slept the whole night before. So yes, as nurses we might be working our asses off for 12+ hours straight and you see us much more than you see them, but they might be on their 48th hour of being on call, not having seen or had time to speak to their own families.

My Pregnancy Journey- First and Second Trimester

            There is nothing in the world I wanted more than to be pregnant. I could not wait to experience the miracle of a tiny person growing inside me. From the time I was a small child, I was fascinated with pregnant women. I thought it was the most beautiful site to see an adorable woman confidently walking on the beach in a bikini with a giant swollen belly. I would be that woman. I would be an adorable pregnant lady with a little basketball belly. I would never whine or expect any kind of preferential treatment. I would embrace each new day of my pregnancy with a gracious smile and love every minute of it. I would do prenatal yoga every day, continue running at the lake several days a week, maintain my vegetarian diet while abstaining from caffeine... I could not wait!

            And then I became pregnant.

            The moment I saw the second line appear on the pee-stick, I screamed and jumped around the room. Yes, I actually did that. I felt like my heart was about to explode out of my chest, I was so ecstatic. I picked up the phone to call anybody but remembered my husband would kill me if I told anyone but him first. Unfortunately, he was in a golf tournament that day and wouldn’t be home until later that night. I could hardly contain myself. I ran to the store to buy another confirmatory test. Yes, still positive. Thank God.

            I spent the rest of the afternoon thinking up a creative way to tell my husband. I couldn’t wait to see him scream and jump around the room just like I did. Hey, I would even film it to capture such a magical moment. I didn’t want to buy a silly bib or shirt that said “Best Dad Ever” so I just decided to hide one of the sticks in a special box that I gave him on our wedding night. After he got home I asked him to grab my earrings out of the box. As I patiently awaiting his joyful scream, iPad video filming from a stealth location, I merely heard the sound of him drop the stick on the ground, fumble around to find it, then say, “Uh Les, what is this?” Really? I decided to give him another minute to figure it out… … Nope not happening. No screams. No jumping. Just, “That’s great! That’s what you wanted, right?” Um, yea I’m pretty sure for the last two months when I said, “I think I’m ovulating; Let’s get busy,” that’s what YOU wanted, too! But I didn’t have time to dwell on that. I was pregnant. This was my dream. Nothing could get me down.

            As a Labor and Delivery Nurse, I am around pregnant, laboring, and postpartum women all the time. I decided when I was twelve that I wanted to deliver babies for a living after watching my nephew being born. I thought it was the most incredible thing I had ever seen and couldn’t imagine a better career. I also had the unique opportunity to watch my own birth on video several times. In fact, from a very young age we would watch it on my birthday (we as in the whole family) and I never knew that was weird. It wasn’t until several years later when I mentioned to my friends about it that I realized that was the weirdest thing ever. I think the fact that I never knew it was strange or thought it was gross definitely contributed to my desire to be in this field. How many people can say they watched their own birth?

            The next night at work I asked one of the doctors to give me a sonogram to confirm the pregnancy. I realized how lucky I was to get free sonograms at work and I took full advantage of that privilege. And there it was—a tiny gestational sac barely visible on the screen yet undeniably there, in my uterus. Maybe now my husband would believe me.

            My first week of knowing, I felt great. I was getting by on one cup of coffee even on a 12-hour night shift three days a week. The girls at work knew so they all asked how I was doing and I excitedly responded, “I feel great!” I was still working out almost every day, eating well… pregnancy was a breeze. And then came week 6. The nausea swept over me like a tidal wave, knocking me on my knees… over the toilet bowl. I had no energy, could hardly stomach anything besides crackers and ginger ale, and felt seriously hungover ALL the time. I thought maybe I would beat morning sickness being nocturnal and all. But no, it seemed it only meant that I would be sick in the morning, afternoon, and night with only a few hours of normalcy in between. I dreaded going to work and even had to back out of an eight-week bonus plan where I would work an overtime shift each week for a large bonus. The only thing that seemed to help was being horizontal. I quickly grew sick of ginger ale and saltines. I tried all the little tricks I found online like sucking on lemonheads, ginger pills, drinking soda, snacking constantly. Nothing would help for more than an hour. It was miserable! Of course I had heard of “morning sickness” but this was completely debilitating. No one had warned me about this. Was I just being a big wuss? Should I just suck it up? In addition to the constant hangover, I was cramping at least half the time. I certainly was never warned about that. I was miscarrying? It felt like I was on my period every day. Are these the things that oxytocin makes you forget along with the pain of labor? Why didn’t I know about this?! My dream of having three or four babies was quickly disseminating in my mind. There is no way I could feel this terrible for another two or three go-arounds.

            Now I’m not just being whiny. In fact, most of the time I was feeling so bad, I made sure not to take it out on my husband or complain too much. My days were still filled with nursery planning and name games and I couldn’t have been more excited about the blueberry-sized embryo inside me. Besides feeling terrible, I started to gain weight from not working out and eating constantly to try to keep the nausea at bay. In this early stage of pregnancy, however, no belly was obvious yet so I just felt fat and frumpy.

            Thankfully, around week 12-13, the nausea slowly started to get better. It could have been coincidental but I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism and put on the correct dose of medication at that time so that may have contributed to my feeling better as well. The second trimester was absolutely awesome. All the discomforts, or most I should say, were gone and I had tons of energy. I started exercising again, I was sleeping well, and work was not unbearable anymore. The first time I felt the baby move, I was exactly 16 weeks. I was eating Mexican food and I swear it was the Serrano peppers that did the trick. It felt like tiny bubbles popping in my lower belly. If I wasn’t paying attention, I would’ve easily missed it. Each day the movements became progressively more noticeable until there was no mistaking what it was. Matthew wouldn’t feel it until about week 22.

            We found out it was a girl at 20 weeks with our friends and family by cutting into a pink cake at a gender reveal party. I have to say it was the best way to have found out and I am so happy we did it. It was SO hard driving from the doctor to the bakery with the results in my hand without peeking but it was totally worth it. We were so surprised to learn it was a girl! I had thought it was a girl from the beginning of the pregnancy but the ultrasonographer said she "got a really great picture" during the anatomy scan so we assumed it had to be a boy. Finding out with our family and friends made for an incredibly emotional and awesome experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. 

     I trekked on in the pregnancy with high expectations. So far everything had gone pretty much textbook. I had the first trimester-filled morning sickness, followed by the energized second trimester. Surely the third trimester would be miserable...