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SheKnows guide to giving birth

Molly Cerreta Smith has enjoyed a career in the publishing industry for more than 10 years. As an editor of several regional magazines, she has had the opportunity throughout her career to meet many local celebrities, businesspeople, ent...

The real deal on childbirth

We’ve taken the childbirth classes, gotten up to speed on epidurals and have our bags packed. But this guide will give women the lowdown on what they really want to know — from what to do when your water breaks at midnight to why you get hemorrhoids... and what's this about pooping on the table?
Woman in hospital bed in labor
Photo credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/WaveBreak Media/360/Getty Images

What should I do when my water breaks?

The first thing Dr. Alyssa Dweck, medical advisor for Healthy Mama suggests is to relax. (Wait, who can relax at a time like this?) She adds, "No need to panic if there is a pop then a gush of clear fluid. She can call her physician, but water breaking doesn’t necessarily mean there needs to be an urgent rush to the hospital."

Is home birth safer than hospital birth? >>

There are some cases where you do need to call your physician right away, however — such as if the fluid is green (it might mean the baby had a bowel movement), if it appears very bloody or if you had group B strep, which usually requires an intravenous antibiotic once the water has broken. Dweck says, "Other than that, she can let her physician know and then head to the hospital to begin the process."

My water broke, what happens next? >>

That process can include eating — but not too much. Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., medical advisory board member of the Nutritional Magnesium Association advises, "Labor for a first pregnancy can be up to 20 hours so women are told to keep eating — but mostly liquids and snacks, not full meals."

Tips for the first stages of labor?  >>

I lost my mucus plug. Is it baby time?

Dr. Dean says, "[It] doesn’t necessarily mean the baby is coming out ASAP. A lot of women just show some blood after a cervical exam or a bit of dilation. If this appears with contractions or seems very heavy, then she should get to the hospital."

Can an epidural really wear off?

Some women may have heard horror stories about an epidural "wearing off" during childbirth, but Renee Horowitz M.D., F.A.C.O.G, founder of the Center for Sexual Wellness squelches that rumor by explaining, "An epidural is placed on a continual pump which can be adjusted through the labor. It will block a certain amount of pain associated with contractions, but it will not block the feeling of 'pushing.' Very little actually takes away the feeling of pushing."

Epidural: An option for you? >>

She reminds her patients who are slightly (or really) afraid of the pain that "all labors start but all labors end. There is an end point. It will not go on forever." Though it is a simple thought, it is definitely reassuring in the throes of labor.

Why some moms choose unassisted childbirth >>

I'm still really afraid to give birth...

All the doctors we interviewed suggest education as the best way to ease your fears about labor and delivery. Dr. Horowitz says, "Education and being proactive is always important in healthcare. Anything you can learn in classes is really important as it takes away some of the fears and anxiety of the 'unknown.' I always encourage my patients to take Lamaze and any other childbirth information classes."

Birth disappointment: When things don't go as planned >>

Dr. Dean adds that classes are a good tool to provide mothers as well as their partners with not only education but the guidelines on how to handle pain and anxiety.

Still not sure about the whole process? Read these tips from a labor nurse about pregnancy and delivery.

Do you have your hospital bag ready? >>

What if I poop on the delivery table?

The truth is, you might. Okay, you probably will. Dr. Horowitz says, "As the baby's head is coming down, it is pushing on the rectum so if anything is there it will come out. It's totally normal, we see it all the time and it matters not one iota to anyone in the delivery room. We pay no attention to it." So breathe a sigh of relief, ladies, it's no big deal.

Birth is nothing like the movies >>

What's the deal with hemorrhoids during pregnancy and after childbirth?

Though some women do not experience them during any point of their pregnancies or after childbirth, others are not so lucky. Dr. Dweck says hemorrhoids can appear as a result of a few different causes. She explains, "Because of the increased amount of blood flow, we get what is called vascular engorgement, which then causes those bulging veins in the rectum. It could also be because of pressure from a large uterus on the veins in that area." Dr. Horowitz adds that they usually subside after childbirth, and advises, "Treat symptoms as needed and know they don't really cause terrible problems."

What if I tear during delivery? >>

Finally, Dr. Horowitz reminds expectant mothers, "It's really important to understand that you only get one chance with each pregnancy. So get the adequate rest and proper testing and eat the right foods. Do the necessary things to ensure you and baby stay healthy throughout the pregnancy and beyond."

More on pregnancy, labor and delivery

Declining routine tests during pregnancy
What's the deal with orgasmic birth?
What's the deal with birth hypnosis?

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