Monday, 8 August 2016

23 things they don’t tell you about childbirth and labour

23 things they don’t tell you about childbirth and labour John Lewis Aden & Anais
Chance is wearing John Lewis Baby Organic Cotton Body Suit//Aden & Anais Swaddle Baby Blanket
WHIITELIST talks through the 23 things no one tells you about childbirth and labour from Simi’s own experience, and what you need to know to prepare you during pregnancy.

Having gone through labour and childbirth, I now know I wasn’t in the least prepared!
I had attended antenatal classes with Lulubaby (see the antenatal classes edit here) and presumably I was listening and taking everything in as I felt quite saturated with information after each class.
Then came the evening of Monday 7th December, I had posted the now infamous picture on my Instagram here taking my cue from Mrs Kim Kardashian West, which promptly resulted in me losing my mucous plug. For those of you who haven’t yet given birth, losing your mucous plug doesn’t mean that labour has started, it just means that things are moving in the right direction...being that this was my first baby I should have remembered that labour could be up to a week away!
I didn’t and promptly headed to the hospital, when I should have stayed calm and at home; you can read my birth story here.
Two days later after an induction of labour at 11pm my labour started and less than 12 hours later my son was here, and the below is what I learnt from my experience.

  1. Active labour takes time
Active labour is when you know that the baby is really coming, because you can feel contractions. When I had watched movies previously it seemed that the active labour was over in a matter of minutes, when in actual fact on average it’s about 8 hours. It was around 9 hours for me, but it can take up to 18 hours in some women.
  1. Prepare 3 birth plans not 1
Due to having a low lying placenta, I was prepared to have a c-section at 37 weeks. I had done lots of research on ‘natural caesareans’ so that the benefits of vaginal births was somewhat replicated in caesarean such as skin to skin contact, being able to see my child being delivered and included all of my wishes in my birth plan. Then at 38 weeks I got the all clear to try and deliver vaginally (I went into labour 5 days later) so I prepared a birth plan for the birth centre with no pain relief, water birth and more. As the story goes, I had prepared 2 birth plans neither of which was relevant as I had my labour induced (which I hadn’t prepared a birth plan for) so I highly recommend researching everything and making your wishes known irrespective of the kind of birth you would like. Unfortunately this isn’t a restaurant you cannot order the birth you are like, but preparation for all kinds of birth, caesarean, natural and medical interventions allows you to have a much more satisfying birthing experience.
  1. Labour is NOT painful
For some people! As soon as I found out I was pregnant my mind shifted to the horror stories of painful contraction during labour, especially my own mother’s who explained that she literally ‘signed her life away’ when requesting epidural as she was in so much agony, she wanted it to be over. She even asked for a top-up! The first 2-3 hours of the contractions I barely noticed anything (and I had an induced labour which was meant to be more ‘painful) then as time went on the contractions became annoying and uncomfortable especially as all I wanted to do was sleep. The strength of the contractions kept getting more intense, longer with no let up in between which makes it difficult to sleep but not ‘painful’ per se just running a marathon with no end in sight.
  1. Vaginal examinations are REALLY painful
In my opinion too much emphasis was placed on painful contractions, as opposed to the painful internal examinations. I would happily give birth 10 times in a row if I never had to have an internal examination. There is no amount of lube that can make checking your cervix comfortable...I recommend asking for gas and air prior to the examination which takes the edge off slightly.
  1. Number 2 is likely but NOT definite
From my antenatal class I learnt that I may do a number 2 when giving birth, as you’re engaging the same muscles for pushing as you would when you do a number 2. Throughout labour I was incredibly conscious of this, every time I went to the bathroom during active labour (which was about 4 times in 9 hours) I explained to my mother she would need to hold me whilst I squatted to do a number 2. I did not want to shock my husband, midwife or doctor with stool!Firstly they’ve seen it all before, secondly if you’ve got to go don’t try and hold it in just do it...I could have saved myself about 40 minutes off the pushing stage which lasted about 74 minutes, if I stopped worrying about doing a poo and asking whether I was doing one, instead of just focusing on engaging down there!
  1. All fours is THE best labour position
There is something quite primal about giving birth, and my instincts were to get onto my hands and knees and birth my child. This is contrary to what you see in the movies and on TV where everyone seems to be laying down and pushing their baby uphill?! This position allows you to open your birth canal more allowing for a smoother (hopefully shorter) active labour.
  1. Drink and eat consistently
During the initial stages of active labour I was famished. I hadn't eaten properly as you may have read from my birth story here and was surviving on Lucozade tablets and Gatorade. I would definitely recommend eating/drinking soups, yoghurt and isotonic drinks during labour to avoid ketosis, which can easily occur during long periods of activity such as labour.
  1. Labour isn’t over after you have delivered your baby
Yes, the third stage! You do have to deliver nearly 2lbs of placenta following the birth of your baby. I waited until the umbilical cord stopped pulsing and Chance was feeding, before we clipped the cord and the midwife tugged the placenta and checked internally to see that it was fully delivered, and nothing was retained.
  1. Normal working day for Doctors and Midwives, question everything
I knew that I was heading not for the natural birth I had hoped for but one with interventions, and I wanted to limit as many medical interventions as possible by asking questions. Doctors and midwives as fantastic as they are, it is a normal working day for them so just ask them to slow down and talk you through the pros and cons of everything that is occurring, so that you can be apart of the decision making process. Most likely everything a Doctor or Midwife plans will be in your best interest but knowing why something is happening will make you feel better about your birthing experience. I loved my birthing experience but it so easily could have gone the other way.
  1. Epidurals MAY mean catheterisation
If you decide that you would like to have an epidural for pain relief in childbirth (please read the pros and cons of epidurals) you may need to be cathetirised as you may not realise when you need to pee. You can ask not to be cathetirised but ultimately you may need a catheter to empty urine which could be slowing down labour.
  1. You bleed A LOT
I was well aware of bleeding after childbirth, I just didn’t realise that it would be soo much bleeding.  As the uterus returns to pre-pregnancy size there is bleeding and blood clots. I actually bled continuously for about 2 weeks, but speaking to friends who have given birth some have continued to bleed for 6 weeks! What I tried to do as finding maternity pads was so difficult (see here for the things to invest in for month 1) was purchase normal sanitary towels. Sanitary towels and certainly not tampons are adequate or advisable, you need to maternity pads which you’ll have to change every hour in the beginning.
23 things they don’t tell you about childbirth and labour aden and anais john lewis
Chance is wearing John Lewis Baby Organic Cotton Body Suit//Aden & Anais Swaddle Baby Blanket
  1. You can prepare for the ‘ring of fire’
Oh yes, the ‘ring of fire’ or the ‘sting of fire’! This moment is when the baby’s head is ‘crowning’ stretching the vagina and inducing that sting. Honestly I have been stung by a wasp on 2 occasions and this didn’t hurt as much as those wasp stings, especially as after a while the area just feels numb, but you can prepare for the sensation using the EPI-NO and practising breathing your baby out slowly as opposed to pushing quickly which can cause tears.
  1. You MAY have vaginal tearing
Some women tear their perineum (between the vagina and anus) when pushing the baby out, having a quick birth, instruments or episiotomy. There are various degrees of tears from first to fourth degree and there is a high chance that you may experience tearing in childbirth. I was extremely lucky not to suffer perineal tearing and I believe that was due to a number of things. Pushing whilst on all fours and perineal massage from weeks 34 daily. There is also the EPI-NO a pelvic floor muscle exerciser to use in advance of birth.
  1. Childbirth is messy
You won’t believe it but I actually purchased a lovely Seraphine Nursing Nightie and brought along my plush dressing gown in my hospital bag. As soon as I hit the pushing stage I got totally naked and thank goodness because all of my clothing would have been ruined. I highly recommend delivering naked or at the very least using the hospital gowns, or clothing you are happy throwing away. Childbirth is really messy, there is the waters leaking, post birth bleeding, possibly number 2’ing, bloody baby!
  1. Waters breaking, fore and hind waters
Again, the movies have deceived us. Waters can break in any manner of ways. Before labour has begun, then you can expect labour to begin within 24 hours; during labour and an intense contraction and sometimes not at all and a baby can be bore ‘in caul’ in the amniotic sac. I had my membranes artificially ruptured so I experienced the gushing of my fore waters (water in front of my baby’s head) and then over the next few hours continuous water leaks from my hind waters, water behind my baby’s head. See why I said childbirth is messy.
  1. Have more than 1 support person
If you watch Sex and the City, remember that episode when Miranda was in labour and she had enthusiastic midwives telling her to push when she was in labour? Remember the death stare? That was me! Except I had my mother, then 2 midwives asking me to ‘PUSH!PUSH!Nearly there…!’ It was too much, thankfully I had my lovely husband holding my hand rolling his eyes with me and comforting me the way he knew I would appreciate it. Having 2 support people ensures that you have at least 1 person who can support you the way you really want.
  1. Breastfeeding can feel ‘strange’
All mothers understand the benefits of breastfeeding (read here) and so far as it’s possible for you to do it, it’s a definite must. I wish that someone had told me that following childbirth when Chance was on my chest and he naturally headed to feed, that my nipples/areola/breast would feel strange and tender and this was with correct latch. As times goes on (so far as latch is correct) you don’t feel anything but the initial feelings are definitely strange.
  1. You MAY suffer from leaks
You may not! I haven’t had any experience of leaks following giving birth, although I believe this was due to performing my kegels exercises routinely during pregnancy, but I have heard stories of urinary incontinence following birth, you can read a little more about it here.
  1. Post-birth contractions
You thought it was all over! For a few days maybe even up to two weeks after birth I still felt contractions, especially when breastfeeding. The contractions help to prevent excessive bleeding and I believe helped shrink my uterus quicker so my ‘mum tum’ decreased in record time.
  1. Newborns can have funny shaped heads
I don’t think I noticed whether Chance’s head was misshapen, but I did notice that his head shape changed over time. Babies heads are funny shaped firstly due to the 2 soft spots the fontanelles which allow the baby to pass through the birth canal; the soft spot at the back of the head closes at around 6 weeks, and the soft spot which you may sometimes spot pulsing closes at around 18 months old. Also we now lay babies on their backs to sleep as part of SIDs prevention which means that they may develop flat heads, but again over time their head shape becomes ‘normal’.
  1. You still LOOK pregnant and your tummy is a mess
Thanks to Kate Middleton I was aware that my tummy wouldn’t disappear immediately after childbirth, but I didn’t realise how awful it would look. It looked deflated, like I was still pregnant, the dark linea nigra looked darker, there were some stretch marks that I had never seen before at the base of my belly and I just looked a mess. Thankfully after 2 weeks my stomach started to resemble normalcy, due in part I believe to the contractions from breastfeeding and also due to the balanced diet I had prior to month 7 of pregnancy. The last 12 weeks I completely threw in the towel!
  1. Peeing stings
Even if you were lucky and you didn’t tear, the fact that you delivered a baby means that your vagina is sore due to the swelling and bruising of the urethra and bladder. One of the most amazing hacks was instead of wiping I chose to fill a water bottle with cold water and squeeze following a visit to the bathroom. If I had to do anything more than a number 1, I hopped into the shower as opposed to wipe as the soreness and stinging effects wasn't something I was prepared for whatsoever.
  1. Forget all of the above
I was thinking which images can I use to depict my childbirth and labour experience, but the only image I wanted anyone to remember was this of my beautiful son, as I really cannot remember the 10 hours 14 minutes I was in labour, especially when I see Chance’s face it was certainly all worth it. I cannot wait to do it time! I think that’s the general feeling for most new mothers, and seeing that the average number of children is 2, childbirth cannot be that bad.

I think that’s it, which things do you wish you’d known prior to giving birth? If you haven’t yet given birth anything that you fear in particular?

SAL xx



  1. Very detailed! This will be useful to loads of people, you don't often get such a thorough account! Also I bled for 6 weeks after my first and I didn't even realise it was ages. Only two weeks with my second (sorry if this is tmi). I think women need this sort of info. When I was pregant for the second time I had already forgotten most of this stuff.

    Also I just checked out the insta pic you linked to, there surely wouldn't have been any more room if he'd stayed a little longer! x

    1. Hi Jenny, thank you! I just had a brainwave and felt like I WISH someone had told me. Lots of TMI but hopefully lots of people find this useful. I don't know he had 9 more days and honestly I felt like a whale, 40lbs heavier than I usually am it was hilarious x

  2. Chance's Mormor9 August 2016 at 11:12

    I've really enjoyed reading the detailed account of your childbirth and labour (especially #16).

    I must confess, my over enthusiastic self was totally oblivious to any "death stares" or "rolling eyes". I guess it was more a case of seeing the top of Chance's head almost pop out one second, then disappearing the next, that inducted me into the 'PUSH!, PUSH!,nearly there' enthusiastic cheerleaders squad.

    This Mormor couldn't wait to meet her first grandchild. xx

    1. Thank you Mother! My back was facing you, possibly why you missed it x


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