Whether you're having your first baby or your fifth, every birth experience is different. You're probably banking on pain, contractions and indescribable emotions. But a number of things can happen during labor and delivery that can catch even the most prepared moms-to-be off-guard.
"Every labor and delivery is unique," says Elikem Amable, CNM, a certified nurse midwife at Henry Ford Health. "Even the same woman can have a very different labor and birth experience with each pregnancy."
The Less-Discussed Side Of Labor And Delivery
No matter how much you prepare for your child's birth, chances are something will happen that you didn’t expect. From unexpected bowel movements to uncontrollable shaking, we asked Amable to talk about lesser-known things that happen during labor and delivery.
- You might not realize you're in labor. It's true. Although rare, some moms-to-be don't feel any contractions before they inch toward childbirth. In addition to the labor signs you've heard about — pain, cramping, feeling like you have to poop — some women just feel "off," tired or even energetic.
- You might have a bowel movement. The muscles your body uses to birth a baby are the same as the ones it draws on when you're pooping. "It's very common to have a bowel movement while pushing," Amable says. "It means you're using the right muscles." So if you push out stool at the same time as your baby, don't be embarrassed or alarmed.
- You might shake uncontrollably. During the final stages of labor, some women begin visibly shaking. The shaking may range from mild to intense and can last for up to 45 minutes after birth. Doctors and midwives aren't clear on the specific cause. Shaking can occur with infection, or from a dramatic drop in body temperature and/or shift in hormones. Shaking can also set in due to anesthesia and certain medications. The best way to stop shaking? Warm blankets and time.
- You could develop a rash. It's not uncommon for women to develop hormone-driven rashes during pregnancy. While there are a number of different reasons why your skin may react, it's important to tell your provider about any skin changes you experience. In some cases, you may need treatment (even just with hydrocortisone cream).
- You might vomit. Nausea and vomiting aren't only a thing during early pregnancy, they can also happen during labor. The reason: "Your gastrointestinal tract slows down because all of your body's energy is directed to the uterus," Amable says. "I've had moms pushing and throwing up at the same time." Depending when the vomiting occurs, your doctor or midwife may offer anti-nausea medication.
- You may want a burger and fries. You might get hungry during labor, particularly if it's lengthy. The problem: Eating a big meal, and sometimes even small snacks, isn't recommended. If you have to have a cesarean section, having food in your gastrointestinal tract could lead to complications.
- You may be incontinent. Some women struggle with incontinence, either urine or stool, during the immediate postpartum period. The process of labor can affect your ability to control your bladder and bowel. But in most cases, incontinence dissipates in about four to six weeks.
A Safe And Healthy Delivery
Some birth experiences are surprisingly seamless while others can be very difficult. In either case, your childbirth experience does not define you as a parent. If it doesn't go like you planned, don't sweat it. Instead, celebrate that you did it, whether naturally or with a lot of medical assistance.
Women who have vaginal births are usually released earlier from the hospital than those who have a cesarean, but that doesn't mean recovery will be easy. Whether you birthed your baby naturally or surgically, you're likely to be sore for several days or even weeks. You might experience post-baby blues, postpartum depression or inexplicable anxiety about how you're going to take care of this little human.
"Don’t try to be superwoman," Amable advises. "Tell your health care provider what you're experiencing, sign up for a new moms' support group and allow your loved ones to help out where they can."
Elikem Amable is a certified nurse midwife. She sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center - Detroit Northwest and Henry Ford Medical Center - New Center One in Detroit.