Birth is one of the most rigorous natural processes a body can go through. Yes, some bodies are built to do this – but wow, who knew all the stuff that went with it?
There are some things that, courtesy of your mom and the internet, you probably know, like that you will defecate at some point during the process, or that newborns can have trouble latching onto the nipple to breastfeed.
But here are some lesser known facts about birth and the immediate aftermath – the challenging and the downright awesome.
The hormonal rush you have during and after a non-medicated vaginal birth is one of nature’s most extreme natural highs
There are several hormones involved in labor and delivery that lead to a euphoric post-birth “high”:
Oxytocin, often called the “love hormone” due to its involvement in orgasm, floods the system during labor and delivery to help encourage mother/child bonding. Oxytocin is also released after delivery during breastfeeding.
Endorphins are calming, pain-relieving hormones often associated in the fitness community with “runner’s high.” Endorphins are released throughout labor steadily, increasing as labor continues, although studies show that the use of epidurals and other opioid pain medication significantly reduce the release of labor endorphins. Endorphins can lead to a state of euphoria in the immediate aftermath of birth.
Throwing up during labor is common, and is actually a sign of labor progress
Many women throw up during labor, and it’s actually a good sign. Typically, this occurs as a person enters active labor, or when reaching a new level of intensity.
It’s important to eat and drink during labor
You need energy and nutrients for the hard work of labor. Recent research has alleviated historical concerns around having a full stomach in the case of needing general anesthesia; restricting food and drink is no longer a required (or even recommended) practice in the general research.
At Baby+Co., we have kitchens available for use during labor and delivery so that moms and partners can stay fed and hydrated (often, they’ll bring food ahead of time and have items in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, ready-made or microwaveable).
If your hospital still has a restrictive policy around food and drink, make sure you eat a balanced meal before heading into the hospital.
Labor pain is not continuous
Lots of people think pain during labor is constant. It’s not. Most contractions last for a minute at a time, with rest periods in between. This is one of the things that makes labor very manageable, especially with good support and education.
It’s vital to have good labor support, such as a doula
People think about having their partners and midwives or OB/GYNs in the room, but often don’t consider how important it is to have a non-family member whose sole job it is to provide emotional labor support for the birthing parent and partner. Doulas perform that role. Studies show that this can speed up labor, reduce the chance of a cesarean, and increase satisfaction with the birth experience.
You will still look pregnant after the baby comes out
It’s typical for a person to still look around 20 weeks pregnant or so for the first few days after giving birth. The uterus was your baby’s home for 9+ months and has grown in size and muscle strength. Once it’s done with the hard work of labor, it shrinks. Swelling begins to recede after the first week.
Your muscles are going to be very sore
Labor and delivery is one of the most intense full-body workouts you’re going to get – ever. This is probably a no-brainer, but you’re going to be pretty sore, so have some ibuprofen on hand. Epsom salts in a warm bath are also helpful. Expect a few days before you start to recover from a vaginal delivery, with perinatal soreness lasting longer.
C-sections are major surgery, and recovery will take significantly longer.
Epidurals slow labor recovery
On the one hand, epidurals can be a valuable pain management tool. But on the other hand, epidurals are known to slow labor recovery. There are a few reasons for this.
First, epidurals lengthen the time of labor, so can cause more strain on muscles around the pelvis. They also significantly slow the release of hormones which assist in both speed of labor and natural pain management, oxytocin and endorphins. Using an epidural also limits a woman’s ability to move and change position during labor, again putting particular strain on specific parts of the body.
Your body builds up a massive amount of fluid during pregnancy, so get ready for some post-birth shifts – peeing, sweating, bleeding
Your body quite literally builds up 50% extra blood volume during pregnancy. You’re going to bleed, pee and sweat a lot of that out. Have pads on hand.
After birth, fluid shifts continue to happen. The swelling that happens in late pregnancy is resolving itself. Regardless of whether or not you are breastfeeding, your body is also figuring out how to produce milk, so fluid is shifting. You’ll be pretty thirsty.
No matter what birth you have, you are stronger than you possibly know
You grew a human being inside you for nine months and then brought it into this world. Now, the work of raising that new person begins. You are a superhero.
P.S. To learn more about giving birth at Baby+Co., contact us! Click “Contact” in the upper right corner to learn more – we’ll follow up with you soon!