The secret side of labour and childbirth

Nov 21, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. ET

For most women, the only experience they've had in a labour delivery suite is what they've seen on sitcoms and in movies — and any mum will tell you, what you see on TV is not a realistic portrayal of childbirth! So, we chatted with some real mums to find out what surprised them the most about labour and childbirth.

woman with newborn

Your water might not "break" in a spectacular fashion

In fact, it might not break at all. Many mums think that their water breaking is the start of labour, but contractions can start well before the amniotic sac bursts.

Real mum talks: "I was expecting one of those movie moments," Krissy from Brisbane confides. "But I started having contractions before my water broke and in the end — after around 12 hours — they had to break my water for me."

You will likely feel the need to poo

There is a very good reason for this: When the doctor tells you to push, he’s actually asking you to use the same muscles that you use for a bowel movement. Many women fear going to the toilet in the delivery suite, but the truth is, midwives and doctors are used to it (and they’re so discreet, you may not even know you’ve done it!).

Real mum talks: "Beforehand I was really worried I might poo in the delivery suite, but I have to say, once I was in labour, I really didn’t care!" explains Ali from Balmain in Sydney. As far as she knows, Ali says she didn’t have a bowel movement during labour… "But, my sister did, and so did my best friend. So it happens!"

You have to deliver the placenta

Contrary to popular belief (and every movie and TV show ever made), you aren't finished with labour once the baby is delivered. They may pop the baby in your arms right away, but you still have to deliver the placenta. Although not as intense as delivering the baby, it does take some effort and it isn’t exactly pain-free!

Real mum talks: "After a 26-hour labour, I was obviously exhausted, so I couldn’t believe it when my obstetrician said 'Okay, one more push, let’s get this placenta out.' Are you kidding me?!" says Veronica from Subiaco in Perth. "I don’t know where I found that last reserve of energy, but somehow I did. You never see that part of childbirth in the movies!"

Your baby probably won’t look "commercial" cute

Of course your baby will be cute — indescribably, unbelievably, outrageously cute! But they may not look as adorable and cuddly as the babies on Huggies’ commercials when they’re fresh out of the womb. They can be swollen, puffy, bruised, hairy, yellow-skinned and/or covered in a fine, cheese-like coating.

Real mum talks: "My labour only lasted four hours, so my little girl came out looking bruised and battered. She actually looked like my granddad!" says Erin from Hawthorne, Victoria. "I didn’t say anything till afterwards, but at first I was a little worried she wouldn’t be cute! She had a swollen face for three days and bloodshot eyes for a week, but after the swelling went down, she was completely adorable."

Breastfeeding may not happen easily

There’s no denying the many benefits of breastfeeding, which is why many mums put a lot of pressure on themselves to nurse. But the reality is that although breastfeeding is natural, it doesn’t always come naturally. Cracked and bleeding nipples, serious infections such as mastitis and bub having trouble attaching are just a few of the issues that nursing mothers can face.

Real mum talks: "When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was determined for everything to happen naturally — I’d have no drugs during labour, I would breastfeed and use cloth nappies and organic, fresh baby food," Kellie from the Gold Coast says. "I wound up having an emergency caesarean and afterwards, I had loads of trouble breastfeeding. I persevered for eight weeks before finally giving up and moving to formula. I felt like a failure but two years on, my son is thriving — and I’m breastfeeding his two-month old baby sister with no problems at all!” 

More pregnancy and childbirth

Answers to common pregnancy questions
3 Ways to bring on childbirth
Foods to avoid when pregnant

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