15 Things That Happen When You Give Birth That No One Talks About

There are a lot of aspects of giving birth that no one likes to talk about. We're here to give you an honest look, and tips to help you prepare.

Published July 28, 2023
woman giving birth

For the women who are about to give birth, you might have a fairy tale image in your mind of your upcoming childbirth experience. Sadly, it usually doesn't end up like it does when a woman gives birth in the movies.

Labor is long and painful, but Hollywood did get one thing right -- the moment your baby arrives and lets out that first little cry, it's quite possibly the most breathtaking moment you will ever have in your life. If you're hoping to get some inside information about what to expect when you deliver a baby, we give you the honest details of what it's actually like to give birth!

1. It Probably Isn't Going to Go as Planned, and That's Normal

Most first-time moms have a birth plan in their head. You might have picked out your push playlist, you might have a beautiful birthing gown picked out, and maybe you even plan to have your hair and makeup done so that you can document the whole amazing experience. Hopefully, this will pan out for you, but most of the time, things tend to be not so picturesque.

woman writing birth plan

Real-Life Birth Examples

For me, I went into labor two days early, only to find out that my OB-GYN and pediatrician were both out of town. I also had my first son at the peak of COVID (after getting pregnant before we knew COVID existed), so no one could visit the baby and I got to experience a COVID test in between my contractions.

I also arrived at the hospital right after work, so my hair and makeup were done. Sadly, after 18 hours of labor, I looked like a disheveled racoon, so I was far from picture-perfect. Then, before the nurses could even check him out, my son pooped all over my birthing gown.

With my friends:

  • One mom labored for over a day, only to have an emergency C-section because her son's head wouldn't fit through the birth canal.
  • Another went to a routine checkup three weeks before her due date, where she found out that she had preeclampsia and had to deliver the baby early via C-section.
  • Yet another friend went in for a routine induction, only to end up needing reconstructive surgery to repair fourth-degree vaginal tears.

What to Remember About Real-Life Birth

These stories are not meant to scare you. They're intended to make you realize that your baby's plan and your own plan may differ. The only thing that matters is that you and your baby are healthy. What this means is that if your doctor tells you that you need to veer in a different direction from your original plan, follow their lead. It's their job to take you through this journey safely and they have your best interest at heart.

Need to Know

These stories are also meant to remind you that educating yourself on both vaginal and cesarean births is a good idea because you may not get to choose your birth style. Emergencies happen. Late arrivals to the hospital happen. Taking a childbirth class with your hospital can be a great way to prepare you.

2. It Can Be a Long Wait

woman waiting for doctor

I had no complications, but with my first son, I labored for 18 hours before I started pushing. What I didn't realize was that a long labor meant that I was experiencing contractions every few minutes for 18 hours. Birth in the movies has you believing that you arrive, you push, and you are done. Real life birth is a long process. Be prepared, and make sure that your partner is prepared, for a long day or night.

3. You Cannot Eat After You Are Admitted

If you start experiencing contractions, you might want to make sure you squeeze in a hearty meal. Once the hospital moves you from triage and puts you in a room, there is normally no food until the baby arrives. In fact, it can even be a while after that. Thus, in your last few days of pregnancy, make sure to be eating regularly!

4. Your Water Will Likely be Broken by a Nurse, With a Hook

Did you know that fewer than 15% of women actually have that dramatic moment where their water breaks and spills all over the floor? That magical movie moment is reserved for very few women. Most of us will have our membranes ruptured artificially. This is called an amniotomy.

A nurse will bring what my husband described as a giant sewing needle, officially called an amnihook, and they will insert it into your vagina to break your water. Don't worry, this does not hurt!

Need to Know

Why is this important? Because most women think that they don't need to head to the hospital until a big gush occurs. This is one of the reasons why many birth plans go awry. You don't want to go to the hospital too early, because they may send you home, but you don't want to arrive too late either!

5. There Are No Trophies for Enduring Pain

woman in labor

Like many other expectant mothers, I went into the experience with the idea that I would have a fully natural birth. No pain meds for me! However, after about six hours of non-stop contractions and no baby, I decided to try out the pain meds. These just made me dizzy, but did not remove any of the pain.

Another hour went by, and I told my husband that we could just keep our son in me forever. An hour after that, I begged for the epidural, and full disclosure, I am terrified of needles. Once I got the epidrual, it didn't take long for all my pain to go away. All that was left was pressure in my lower abdomen. With my second son, I got the epidural as soon as I was admitted.

Need to Know

If you don't want to take any medications or have an epidural, then more power to you! But know that if you do choose to use these methods of pain reduction, no one is going to judge you. I have friends who went the natural route and they note that no one applauded their efforts. In other words, don't try to live up to some fairy tale image. Do what you think is best for you.

6. If You Want an Epidural, You'll Probably Have to Get a Urinary Catheter

If you choose to get an epidural, you'll probably be informed that this is a regional anesthesia that results in "decreased sensation in the lower part of the body." You'll receive medication through a catheter, or small tube, in the lower back.

Because of the decreased sensation in the lower half of the body, women typically need to stay in bed and will also require a urinary catheter to collect and drain urine. This is another thing that brings first-time moms a lot of worry, but it's a simple process. It's usually placed after the epidural medication has taken effect, so it will also be painless.

7. You Will Never Know If You Poop on the Table

This was a big concern of mine. However, like most other moms, this worry quickly left my mind when I was in active labor. It probably did happen, but I will never know. If you don't want your significant other to see this potentially happen, have them stand near your head!

8. There Will Likely Be a Lot of People in the Room

woman in labor

Unlike birth in the movies, you will have a team of people moving in and out of your room throughout the entire labor and delivery process. They are going to see every inch of you. This is normal (and it is their job). There is nothing they haven't seen, so try not to feel uncomfortable!

9. You May Have to Wait for the Doctor While in Active Labor

This tidbit surprised me the most. When you go into active labor, there will be a nurse by your side up until the baby is essentially crowning. It is usually not until that moment that your doctor will suddenly appear. That is, if they are near the hospital. Turns out, the doctor is not always at the ready when you are giving birth.

Some moms have to wait a while for their doctor to show up, which means not pushing, even if you desperately want to. It also means that you will most likely not get to chat about your birth plan on the day you deliver, so if you have special requests, make them in the appointments leading up to your due date.

10. You Have to Push Out the Placenta After Giving Birth to Your Baby

That beautiful home that you literally made to grow your baby in your body has to go once they are born. When your baby arrives and they put them on your chest, your doctor will then ask you to push a few more times to get the placenta out. This is painless and only takes a few pushes.

Need to Know

This is for the squeamish significant others -- after you push out your placenta, many doctors hold it up to make certain that all of it came out. I missed this moment, but my husband described the sight as something similar to a scene from the Alien movies. If your partner is not good with things like this, make sure they know before this moment to stay facing you.

11. You Will Probably Be in a Diaper for a While

If you have a vaginal birth, you will likely be wearing a diaper for the next few days, and yes, when I say diaper, I mean an actual adult diaper. This is quite the attractive look, but it is there to help keep you clean. You see, your bladder is going to be comparable to that of your baby's. You probably will not be able to hold your pee very well for a few weeks. Yes, this is normal too.

You will also bleed heavily for about six weeks. This is also typical after a vaginal birth. The good news is that you can ditch the diapers in a few days and switch to pads. No, you cannot use tampons for the first six weeks after giving birth. Additionally, if you do your kegels leading up to giving birth and every day after, you will gain bladder control before you know it!

12. The Idea of Pooping Will Be Scarier Than Childbirth

woman with newborn

It sounds silly, but after pushing out a baby, the idea of pushing anything else out sounds quite terrifying. Also, unlike childbirth, you can control when you poop. Don't get stopped up out of fear. Instead, talk to your doctor about a stool softener to take during the few days and weeks after giving birth. And always drink a lot of water!

13. Your Vagina Isn't Going to Look Prettier After This

With my first son, I had an episiotomy. I had told my OB-GYN that I did not want this, but since he wasn't in town, the fill-in doctor went ahead with making the cut, and told me while she was doing it. I was devastated, because in the year following childbirth, nothing felt the same down there. Thankfully, over time, it went back to normal.

The second time around, my doctor was present, but during the birth, I tore. He stitched me up, but in the following weeks, some of my stitches snapped and things did not go back to looking they way they did before I became a mother. Turns out this is normal. In fact, "up to 9 in every 10 first-time mothers who have a vaginal birth will experience some sort of tear, graze or episiotomy."

Need to Know

Had I mentally prepared for this, I probably would have handled these situations better. I will tell you, in the six weeks after giving birth, just don't look down there. It is not going to go well. I will also tell you, if you are in a loving relationship, your significant other will not care that the appearance has changed.

14. Hemorrhoids Will Likely Happen

40% of women will experience hemorrhoids during childbirth. This is not a fun experience. Since regular straining is the culprit behind these painful, swollen veins, the best way to prevent them is to drink LOTS of water during your pregnancy, which helps with constipation. However, if you experience this unfortunate side effect of vaginal birth, they will typically go away with time and treatment.

15. You Will Give Birth and Then Forget It All Happened

woman with baby

Not only is 'mom brain' real, but it has its benefits. After you give birth, you would think that everything that you went through will be imprinted in your mind forever. However, after a few months, the negative parts of giving birth will fade and the memory of the pain will go away. Big problems will become small problems, and before you know it, you will be thinking about going through it all over again. Best of all, the second time is so much easier!

Your body is an amazing thing, and it is capable of so much more than you give it credit for. Real-life birth can seem scary, but the more you know about what could happen, the better you can prepare for this miraculous experience.

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15 Things That Happen When You Give Birth That No One Talks About