MYTH-understandings

There are a lot of common myths that I hear regularly as a midwife – common enough I thought I’d toss a blog post out addressing them! Some are funny, some have a basis in truth…but some can be dangerous.

1. PREGNANT WOMEN ARE FRAGILE AND NEED TO RESTRICT ACTIVITIES: Don’t run, don’t jump, don’t exercise too hard…be careful because you need to protect your baby!!
But the truth is…it’s true, and it’s not true. It’s true that you should be careful, but only for you, not for your baby. Your baby is protected inside a water balloon – VERY well protected! You could jump around and do the shimmy-shake and bounce on a trampoline and act like a fool – and your baby is still very well protected inside. HOWEVER – you do need to be careful, not for your baby bur for you. There is a special hormone we produce in pregnancy called “Relaxin” that softens all of the ligaments in our bodies and loosens our joints. While this hormone is wonderful at helping our pelvic bones open to allow our babies to be born, it also makes us vulnerable to injury during the pregnancy. If you were a marathon runner before, then you can be a marathon runner while pregnant so long as you are aware of your looser joints and protect yourself (your baby will be fine!). Protect your baby from the possibility of an “impact injury” after the first trimester – horseback riding when you could be thrown, for example. But regular physical activity is GREAT for both your baby as well as you in keeping you healthy and strong for your up coming birth!

2. GENDER DETERMINATION: It’s fun to try and guess whether you are having a boy or a girl….and if you have clues that might give you special insight, it can satisfy the detective in anyone! The most common idea is the baby’s heart rate (high end and it’s a girl, lower and it’s a boy), but there are tons out there – do you have more acne, how are you carrying, tie your wedding ring on a string….
But the truth is… that they are all just for fun. You can not tell what gender the baby is by any of these methods. (no, not even heartrate!)

 

3. CORD AROUND BABY’S NECK: Sounds terribly scary – and images of nooses might come to mind. I can’t tell you how many times nervous parents consulting with me have asked, “What if the baby’s cord is around the neck!?”
But the truth is…that it happens in approximately 1 out of every 3 babies born, and RARELY does it ever cause any kind of problem whatsoever, and if it does cause problems, they aren’t scary problems.  Of all of the things I need to be concerned about at a birth, this is not one of them.  Now, understanding how frequent this occurs – you can see how it can be a good scapegoat (I have heard many a surgeon while performing a cesarean say, “oh lookie there!  Baby has a cord around his neck!  No wonder he (wouldn’t dilate your cervix, wouldn’t come out, had a heartrate that kept dropping, whatever is causing them to do the cesarean) –  it’s a convenient thing to blame, but it’s rarely true.  Cords around the baby’s neck is RARELY a problem occurrence.

4. UMBILICAL CORDS NEED TO BE CLAMPED AND CUT IMMEDIATELY: And if you read most any “had my baby in a car” story, they almost always include how the father saved the baby’s life by quick thinking and using a dirty gross shoelace to tie off the umbilical cord! So pervasive is this idea that I recently read a story about a man’s ingenuity and creativity when his wife birthed on the side of the freeway while he was wearing FLIP FLOPS! He thought fast and yanked the elastic cord off of the windshield’s sun shield to tie it off!
But the truth is….clamping or tying of the umbilical cord is at best unnecessary, and at worst extremely dangerous. One of the most important things someone can do if they find themselves in an unexpected emergency birth situation is to ENSURE that NOBODY clamps and cuts the umbilical cord! Babies continue to get everything they need through that cord and if baby isn’t breathing right away – no reason to panic AS LONG AS the cord is still functioning for that baby (ie. You don’t clamp it!).  Eventually, when baby no longer needs it, the cord will stop working on its own and will become thin and limp and white – until that time it continues to pulse and deliver oxygen to the baby the same way that it did before they were born.

A good example of what NOT to do! EVER!

4.  DOCTORS/MIDWIVES PULL AND TWIST TO GET BABY’S SHOULDERS OUT AT BIRTH:  Watch enough birth videos and you’ll see care providers twisting babies heads and pulling them out – so it’s no wonder when dads want to help catch their babies they are nervous about knowing how to twist and how to pull.  That’s one of the big fears when a mother has her baby in the car on the way to the hospital…how will dad know how to get the baby out once the head is born!!
But the truth is…we don’t need to (and in fact shouldn’t) pull or manipulate the head at all.  Babies do specific maneuvers simply through the process of being born – without any assistance from us whatsoever.  A good care provider will simply have their hands available to receive the baby as the mother is pushing the baby out.  In the vast vast majority of the cases the baby should not be manipulated at all but rather pushed out by the mother and caught by us (and this is an instance in which interference can cause problems – so don’t do it!)

5. BABIES NEED TO CRY – IT’S GOOD FOR THEIR LUNGS AND A SIGN OF HEALTH: This idea starts the moment of birth (in fact, that’s often what many family members in the room are waiting for…”the first cry”) and can even continue through infancy with well meaning grandparents telling parents that the baby “needs to cry” and “it’s good for their lungs” or “they need to learn to self-soothe”.
But the truth is…many babies that we see that are born at home do NOT cry right away. You don’t have to be crying to be breathing, and neither does a baby. We often have to warn grandparents who will be present at the birth that we will be watching the baby, but that we don’t MAKE babies cry and often times they don’t – and that’s okay! As long as baby is breathing and happy, then there is no more reason to make them cry at the moment of birth than it is to make them cry when they are a month old.
And there is no benefit (and in fact, studies have shown it can be harmful) to intentionally allowing a baby to cry. Small times of crying (because you have to go to the bathroom, for example) is fine – but there’s no benefit to allowing them to cry, and extended crying (like ‘crying it out’) has been shown through studies to be harmful to babies brains. Babies don’t have wants – they have needs. They need food, they need safety, they need warmth. If one of these three things aren’t met, babies respond by telling us – it’s a survival mechanism. There I no benefit to not meeting our babies needs.

There you have a few of my most commonly heard myths – feel free to share others you may have heard!

7 Comments

  1. Amy V. wrote:

    Another wonderful blog post, Stephanie. Thanks for sharing!

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink
  2. rosie_kate wrote:

    Great post! The umblilical cord thing always grinds my gears… I love that my midwife leaves it attached for an hour or so.

    The myth that really drives me nuts are all the rules about what a pregnant woman can and can’t eat. Talk about paranoia! No soft cheese and sushi? Give me a break! Pregnant woman have been eating nutrient-dense raw and fermented foods for millennia, but all of a sudden it’s so dangerous. Bah. You’re far more likely to get in a serious car accident than to get listeria while you’re pregnant.

    I’m currently “overdue” and waiting for this baby any time now. I’m getting pretty tired of hearing the same comments and myths over and over. Everyone is shocked that we don’t know the baby’s gender, so then I hear all the usual questions in trying to guess. Are you carrying any different? Is this baby more active? Do you have more/less heartburn/back pain/whatever other symptom? Gah! I can’t imagine that any of that oculd have to do with the gender, anyway!

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink
  3. Trena wrote:

    Bravo on dispelling these common myths! I’m guilty of having believed some of them myself before becoming educated. Thank you. You ROCK!! (As always.)

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  4. Joe...the Dad wrote:

    Some lady at the gas station looked at my wife and said, “You’re having a boy, I can tell.” So I say, “You can see his penis from there?!?!” Thought that was a good way not to hear, “Oh, it depends on how you carry him…blah blah blah”

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink
  5. Diana wrote:

    I would add “once a cesarean, always a cesarean” to the widely-believed pregnancy myths. I am meeting a TON of women these days who had a primary cesarean and then were automatically funneled into repeat sections for future children with no other reason than the primary section. Not sure that this belongs in this category, but I thought I’d mention it.

    GREAT article, I will continue to share it wherever I can!!

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Permalink
  6. sara r. wrote:

    I am having the exact same pregnancy so far with this one that I had last time, and guess what? First was a girl, and this time it’s a boy! (Just like I thought). I trust intuition over all of those silly gender indications that you hear.

    Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink
  7. Dawn S. wrote:

    I love Joe’s quote–I might have to use that one myself. I would like to add onto what Diana wrote, too. I was a C-section in 1978, after the doctor had my mom push for an hour and couldn’t get me repositioned (butt first is no way to come into this world!). My brother was a natural birth in 1981–I wish more women would ask questions and get the full story so they don’t have to go through major surgery and recovery for no reason. I was lucky to be born to such a smart lady.

    Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

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