And perhaps nobody knows this more than labor and delivery nurses, who are in the trenches every day — and who see things from a completely different angle than what the rom-com scripts and Lamaze instructors have to share. After all, it’s their job to make sure you and your baby are safe in the delivery room. And boy do they have some crazy stories to tell (from requests like Mariah Carey’s infamous birthing soundtrack to births so fast they were over before the doctor could finish scrubbing in). Talk to any L&D nurse, and you’ll be in for some wild tales.
So, we did just that: SheKnows spoke with Alison Navarro, a labor and delivery nurse with more than 14 years on the job, to set things straight and lay out what’s real versus what moms out there gloss over when they share their own experiences.
The moral of the story? Yes, you might poop yourself. But nurses like Navarro are there to make sure you never find out whether or not you actually did.
Here are the top five facts Navarro wishes new moms knew going into labor and delivery.
Epidurals are safe.
“The initial part of the epidural will hurt, since a needle is used to inject the local pain medicine,” Navarro tells SheKnows. “In most patients, the hardest part is not moving while they are getting their epidural, since they’re having strong contractions. There are also a lot of myths about epidurals that your anesthesiologist will discuss with you along with any side effects. From my experience, the benefits outweigh the risks.
“Once you have your epidural placed, you will be more relaxed, so your body is able to go through labor. In most cases, this allows the baby to have a smoother transition down the birth canal. Your plan for your birth may or may not include an epidural. As your nurse, we will support your birth plan.
“Speaking of that birth plan: Be flexible. Having one is great and will put a lot of new moms at ease, but know that things won’t always go according to any specific plan. Think of backup plans to birth plans — and backup plans to the backups.”
Yes, you might poop.
“There a real possibility that you may poop yourself. When you get closer to delivering your baby, the pressure you will feel is the same as having to push to poop,” Navarro explains. “When the baby’s head is coming down, it’s putting pressure on your rectum. When you push, it increases your chances of pooping. But you’ll never know [if you pooped or not], because your nurse will never tell you.” Well, that’s a relief.
No one cares if you shave — or get your hair done.
“Nurses aren’t looking at your hair or makeup,” Navarro insists. “If it makes you feel better, then do it! Just know that there may be a lot of sweating involved.”
Pushing doesn’t necessarily take hours and hours.
“The amount of time pushing has to do with many factors,” Navarro explains. “How many babies have you had? How big is the baby? How wide is your pelvis? Do you feel the desire to push with the contractions? How good a pusher are you? From my experience, I’ve had first-time moms push anywhere from 30 minutes to five hours. Don’t be discouraged; everyone’s birthing experience is different.”
No, pregnancy classes are not a waste of time.
“Prenatal yoga, birthing classes, and even daddy boot camps are all great ideas to help support and prepare you for this life-changing event. They help set realistic goals and expectations, because birthing is not what they show on TV. Classes can even make the experience more enjoyable for some moms, so it’s worth looking into.”