Regardless of whether you’ve done it before or this is your first time, the prospect of birth is often accompanied by many questions, some of which you may feel a little uneasy to ask out loud.
Here are 7 questions you may not have dared ask yet:
- Will I poo?
This is probably one of women’s biggest fears! Yet, most women empty their bowels before their labour starts or during the early stages, leaving little or nothing left to pass when you are in active labour. However, if you’re constipated or haven’t felt like going to the toilet beforehand, it is very likely that whatever is in the rectum (your back passage) will come out, as the latter flattens with the descent of your baby’s head. Try not to be embarrassed, though. Midwives (and doctors, if they are present during your birth) are unfazed by a little poo and will swiftly scoop and get rid of anything that comes out. In fact, a sign of poo during labour is often very encouraging as it can mean your baby is close to being born.
- Will I tear?
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists estimates that 85-90% of women will sustain some damage to their perineum (the skin and muscle between your vagina and anus) during birth. This can consist of differing degrees of tears, including an episiotomy (a cut that, with your consent, a midwife or a doctor makes to allow for a quicker birth of your baby, or when an instrument like forceps is used). Damage to the vulva may also include grazing to the skin and labial tears. You can help reduce your risk of tearing or requiring an episiotomy by performing perineal massage from 34-35 weeks pregnant.
- Will I bleed?
You shouldn’t bleed during labour, but as your cervix dilates, you may see a blood-streaked ‘mucousy’ discharge, anything heavier and it is advised to be monitored by a midwife or a doctor to rule out any other problems. After your baby is born, your placenta will be birthed and, with this, some blood loss will occur. Up to 500ml (just under a pint) is considered normal. More than this is classified as a haemorrhage, although most women will tolerate heavier losses quite well and if your midwife is concerned drugs can be given to help control heavy bleeding whilst the medical team is contacted.
- Will I scream, grunt or make embarrassing noises?
Making noise in labour and whilst you give birth is natural and may even help you cope with contractions. Rather than holding your breath or clenching your jaw, you can try to let go and see how the relaxation that is brought on by your own sound-making can help your body open up and your baby descend. Experienced midwives can tell what stage of labour you are in, by the sounds you make. Moaning, long, loud breaths or, in later stages, grunting are common and welcome indicators that all is progressing well. Screaming is uncommon in women who feel well-supported and usually denotes unmanaged fear.
- Will my piles burst?
In short, NO. If, when you go into labour, your haemorrhoids are swollen and painful, they may feel like they will, but they won’t. Pressure from pushing your baby out will most likely aggravate them, making them swell more and feel more painful after the birth, but they will not burst! If you can, try to manage them before you go into labour by ensuring that you are not constipated and treating them so they shrink as much as possible. You may choose to buy ‘over-the-counter’ creams or ask your GP for a prescription.
- Will I be disgusted to hold my baby straight after birth?
Your baby will most likely feel wet and a little sticky when they are born. They can be covered with amniotic fluid and, perhaps, some blood and mucous. A layer of vernix, which is a natural waxy substance designed to protect your baby’s skin from infection and being in constant contact with the water they are surrounded with during pregnancy, covers some babies more than others. This is a wonderful moisturiser and will be quickly absorbed by your baby’s skin once they are born and does not need wiping off.
- Will my partner go off sex if they see me giving birth?
Some partners can be a little shell-shocked and, perhaps, also worried that you will be in pain and recovering for a long time afterwards. However, most are in awe of your strength and power and filled with admiration for you. If your partner is particularly squeamish, it may be a good idea to discuss what things may look like beforehand and make a plan to keep at your end rather than watching baby being born. Most men cope better than they think they will if they observe the birth though!
Unanswered questions about your birth can cause unnecessary anxiety, which can adversely impact your birth experience. The answers to ‘7 questions you daren’t ask about birth’ aims to reduce your fear and worry and help you feel more reassure before your labour