Common Surprises during Labor and Delivery


Childbirth is one of those times in your life that you can feel the most prepared and the most unprepared all at the same time. If you are anything like me, leading up to labor and delivery you switch back and forth between the two, feverishly writing and checking off lists. Still, no matter how prepared you are there can be a few surprises that come up when the time actually comes to bring your new baby into the world. Some of the most common ones are:


1 – When your water breaks, it will happen one of two ways.

The first is the small gush that feels very much like you peed yourself a little but keeps happening. This type of rupture is usually before active labor begins and only 1 in 10 women will experience it. The other happens most often after you are in active labor and you will feel like Niagara Falls let loose on you. Some women will even hear a pop before the dam breaks! However, just because you felt a large gush and soaked everything you were wearing (and sitting on) does not mean it is over. Every time you move, sneeze, cough etc. you will feel a new, uncontrollable warm gush. (This may or may not be in order to prepare you for *snissing* the rest of your life.)


2 – Everyone says that you will KNOW when it is the real deal.

That is true, but when you will realize that your contractions are the real thing is different for every woman. Some women realize they are in labor during early labor and others do not notice a big difference until transition. Either way, timing your contractions and keeping your care providers updated is very important.


3 – Speaking of care providers, your doctor, if you decide to birth in a hospital, will show up just in time for you to start pushing.

If your labor is fast, doctor may show up just to catch baby! Many women seem to think that their doctor will be there for a larger portion of their labor, and if you are induced you may see the doctor a few extra times then average. But, in general they are scarce. When you start pushing there is a good chance that a nurse will be there monitoring your progress instead. If this is not what you pictured for your labor and delivery, consider hiring a doula. Along with your partner, a doula provides continuous support and won’t be in and out checking on other patients like your medical staff need to.


4 – Your doctor may not be there but it may seem like everyone else is.

Depending on how long your labor is and when you go into labor, you may see many new faces. Between day shift nurses, night shift nurses, anesthesiologists, phlebotomists, and anyone currently shadowing any of the aforementioned people it can be overwhelming. If you find that the amount of people or the frequency of people coming in and out of your laboring space is distracting you, speak up!


5 – Things may happen during labor and after that seem abnormal to you but your medical staff will seem unphased.

They are not dismissing your concerns to make you feel bad. If something is bothering you don’t be afraid to ask more questions. While they seem unphased, most doctors and nurses want you to feel confident in what is going on.


6 – You are going to need to make fast decisions.

In the heat of things, you will be faced with questions that need an answer quickly and the time that they ask these questions usually is not optimal. It is hard to think clearly and weigh your options in the few minutes (sometimes seconds) between contractions. In order to feel more prepared for these situations spend plenty of time going over the possibilities. If that list is overwhelming to you consider hiring Mid Kansas Doula Services to help you create a birth plan. We offer birth plan creation services as part of our Birth Doula package and as an individual service.


7 – Once delivery is over and baby has arrived your nurse will likely come in multiple times before you go home and massage your uterus.

This is done by pushing on your abdomen and is meant to encourage your uterus to contract and shrink back down. It can be, and often is, rather painful. If you are breastfeeding, you will also notice your uterus starting to contract whenever your baby latches on, this is also part of the healing process to shrink your uterus back down to pre-baby size.


8 – Depending on mode of delivery, how long you are pushing, and position of baby there is a chance he or she is not going to look like you imagined.

Some babies will have strange bruises from the way they entered the birth canal and others may have a smushed face appearance. This is another instance where if it concerns you ask your child’s pediatrician. In most cases, any swelling or discoloration will disappear in as little as a few hours to as much as a few days. The doctor can give you an idea of what is normal.


9 – If during labor and delivery you were hooked up to a continuous IV, be prepared to swell a few sizes

(maybe even bigger than the pregnancy swelling) before you go home. The fluids they give you to keep you hydrated during birth can cause this to happen. This also goes away by a few days postpartum most times.


10 – ::Quick TMI alert for this one:: There is a reason the hospital has mesh panties (oh yes they are real) and huge pads.

Pads so big you cannot find them at the store. Pads so big they look like they could be used to stop up bleeding from a gunshot wound or worse. You will bleed more than you have ever bled before and in some cases you will pass clots. These can range in size from startling to “OMG am I dying?!” and some of them can be downright huge. Your doctor or nurses will give you an idea of what size is of concern so as weird as it may seem, keep them informed and refer to #5.


Surprisingly, when it comes to birth there is a large spectrum of normal. The experience will stretch your idea of what is humanly possible and push your boundaries. In the end though, it really is like nothing else you have ever experienced.