We often think we know what to expect when going into this “pregnancy thing”. But the truth is, as mamas quickly realize, the reality is very different from what we thought we knew. Even our mom’s or sister’s or friend’s experience may vary significantly from our own! And if most of our education over the years has come from TV sitcoms (hello, screaming and swearing!), then there are going to be some obvious childbirth myths to unpack.
1. When your water breaks, it’s always an unexpected, dramatic event with a gush of leaking fluid.
‘Rupture of membranes’ is the medical term to describe what happens when your water breaks, and there are actually a few different ways this can happen.
Only 8% to 10% of women, on average, will experience their water breaking before labour starts. You might notice a slow trickle of fluid, or a larger gush, but it’s not always obvious. If we’re being honest... when you’re far along in your pregnancy and your bladder is not as strong as it once was, it can be easy to convince yourself that you just peed a little!
For the remaining 90% of women, your water will break DURING labour—that is, once contractions have already started. Sometimes, it will be spontaneous and unexpected and, depending on where you are in your labour journey, you may not even realize! Other times, your doctor will break your water for you with a special device, to help speed up your labour if it has slowed down. This is usually not painful, but it can make your contractions feel more intense.
Remember: If you think your water has broken, your next step should be to call your healthcare provider. Pay attention to the COLOUR, ODOR and AMOUNT of fluid, as well as the TIME, so you can let them know.
2. You can kickstart labour
Congratulations—you’ve made it to the final few weeks of pregnancy! The third trimester may feel like it has 492,750,275 days and, at this point, you’re probably anxious and excited for labour to begin, ready to meet your baby, and wondering if there’s anything you can do to get things moving.
There are so many suggestions out there on different ways to kickstart your labour, like sex, nipple stimulation, exercise, herbs and teas, accupuncture, and eating spicy food. Interestingly, oxytocin (the hormone responsible for uterine contractions) is released during nipple stimulation, sexual activity and orgasm. If you have sex with a man, semen also has prostaglandins, which can soften the cervix. So, there is a theoretical basis for why sexual activity and nipple stimulation could help start labour. However, other strategies (like eating spicy foods or taking certain herbs and teas) are more anecdotal and do not have concrete evidence to support them.
So, CAN you kickstart labour on your own? While no strategy is guaranteed to work, it can’t hurt to try several of the above. However, it is important to discuss any strategies you are considering with your healthcare provider to ensure they are safe for you and your baby.
3. Labour is always longer with your first pregnancy
It’s true that, on average, the length of labour is often shorter with second and subsequent pregnancies. However, this is not foolproof…
It is entirely possible for a mama to have a super speedy delivery (also known as ‘precipitous labour and delivery’) with her first baby, only to be in labour for hours with the next. That’s because there are so many factors at play and no two pregnancies and birth experiences will be exactly the same.
Studies suggest that your baby’s birth weight, the length of your pregnancy, and whether you’ve had a prior caesarean delivery, epidural and/or labour induction (to start labour) or augmentation (to speed up labour) all independently influence the length of your labour!
Try to stay flexible, keep an open mind, and be prepared for anything—because it’s impossible to know for certain how your labour and delivery will unfold.
For more info or support, be sure to consult perinatal experts, we're here for you!