The Biggest Lies Women Are Told About Labor

CorbisGetting an epidural during labor provides sweet relief for many women, but one study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology says it might also prolong the entire experience. 

The study, involving 42,000 women, examined subjects that did and did not receive an epidural. The anesthetized took about two to three hours longer to deliver during the second stage of labor (when pushing begins), compared with women didn’t receive an epidural. It was previously believed that an epidural prolongs labor by about an hour. “Epidurals are associated with longer labor more so than we initially thought, but we didn’t find a direct cause,” Yvonne Cheng, the lead study's lead author and an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, tells Yahoo Shine.

Many women are told that getting an epidural will not affect the length of labor. And that’s only the first misconception they have. Here are four more.

Myth No. 1: An epidurals numbs all feeling below the waist: It’s true that epidural will soothe and even eliminate pain brought on by labor, but it doesn't leave women feeling completely numb. “Many women who receive epidurals are surprised to feel lots of pressure — as if they're trying to push out a bowling ball from their abdomen,” Chandra Adams, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Jacksonville, Fla., tells Yahoo Shine. “That pressure signals them to push.” The sensation of pressure comes and goes with each contraction (which lasts about one minute) and occurs every two to three minutes during the second stage of labor.

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Myth No. 2: When a woman’s water breaks, it makes a huge mess: Remember the scene in "Sex and the City" when a pregnant Miranda’s water breaks all over Carrie’s pink, ruffled Louboutins? That made for great television, but it’s not exactly realistic. “There are cases in which the amniotic sac gushes out. But if the baby’s head is positioned low, it acts as a cork, so liquid trickles out instead,” says Adams. In fact, many women don’t realize for days that their water has broken. “There’s also this idea that as soon as the water breaks, it's time to rush to the hospital, but most women have a 24-hour window from then on until delivery,” says Adams.

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Myth No. 3: Once you have a cesarean section, you’ll always need it: In the past women who delivered by cesarean section were told they couldn’t deliver a second baby vaginally for fear of uterine rupturing (in a subsequent vaginal delivery, the uterine scar left by a cesarean could open), but that’s no longer the case across the board. “The risk is about .8 per thousand,” says Adams. 

Myth No. 4: Women lie flat on their backs to deliver: “This one is sort of true, but it depends on whether or not you’ve had an epidural,” says Adams. “If you’re numbed below the waist, your doctor may position you on your back because you won’t have a sense of balance.” You could also deliver lying on your left side (avoid the right side, which puts pressure on blood vessels that can decrease the baby’s oxygen supply), standing, squating, or lying in a reclining position.

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