Skip to main content

Birth: The Top 10 Things They Don't Tell You

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Amanda is a Registered Nurse with over 10 years of experience in Obstetrics. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2003.


There are many ways that women prepare themselves for the delivery of their first child. Having never experienced this before, they turn to pregnancy books like What to Expect When You're Expecting, they take child birth classes, or watch one of the many television shows about childbirth.

The thing is, such books give you a very general idea about things that are possible and do not always paint the whole picture. Childbirth classes give you suggestions on comfort measures for early labor, show you different pieces of equipment that may be used in the hospital to monitor the baby, discuss the admitting process, and usually provide a hospital tour. I often find that childbirth education does not address pushing and what happens after birth. Television shows give you a picture of someone's birth experience in 30-60 minutes from start to finish and edit out much of the "not for TV" content. Yes, all of these preparation methods contribute some valuable information, just remember no two pregnancies, labors or births are exactly alike. You can not take the information from any of these sources to be law. Do not believe everything you see or hear!

Here are a few things that they don't tell you or that you probably will not see on TV.

1. Vomiting, diarrhea and labor often go hand in hand. Many people get an upset stomach when labor begins and have a lot of vomiting and diarrhea. Maybe this is the body's natural way to clean out your system before the baby comes. When labor becomes more active, your circulatory system goes into a more "fight or flight" state. This results in circulation slowing to the digestive tract, and increased circulatin to the more vital organs like: heart, brain lungs, and in this situation, the uterus. That means that the food you have taken in will not be digested, and is more likely to come up. Sounds like fun!

2. You can't get through childbirth with your modesty intact. We are trained since childhood that our "private parts" are exactly that private. Unfortunately, it is not possible to keep things covered and private during childbirth. In many hospitals it is the nurse, whom you have just met that day, who checks your cervix and reports back to your doctor. During birth there will be a number of people in your delivery depending on the setting and circumstances of delivery. After birth, and during the couple of days you stay in the hospital, the nurses will have to evaluate your perineum and bleeding, and any hemorrhoids or lacerations that you might have. So your privates are not so private anymore... and there goes your modesty.

3. Expelling your mucus plug does not mean that you are in labor. Some women lose their mucus plug days or even weeks before they go into labor. Others continue to lose it little by little for the days preceding labor. The mucous can rebuild after you have lost it, and it is also possible not to notice losing it at all. This is not anything concerning to the healthcare professionals so just wait and see if labor follows. No, you do not need to take a picture of it, or bring it to the hospital with you in a baggie! I will say that if you are premature (less than 37 weeks) and lose your mucus plug just give your doctor a call so they can inquire about any other signs that you may be going into preterm labor.

4. Early labor can go on for days! The First Phase of Labor is made up of three stages: Early Labor, Active Labor, and Transition. You are not considered to be in active labor unless you are 3-4 centimeters with regular contractions resulting in cervical change. That being said, in some hospitals if you come to the hospital during this early stage of labor you are often sent back home. With suggestions to rest, bathe, eat lightly, try different positions, and use massage for comfort. This can be a painful and exhausting process, so it is important to be mentally prepared for it.

5. Stay home. If you are preparing to have an unmedicated childbirth, and your pregnancy is uncomplicated, stay home as long as possible. It is important to be in communication with your doctor or midwife and let them know what is going on. They will help you decide when to come in to the hospital. If you are Group beta strep positive you will need to come in to the hospital or birthing canter a little earlier than others, in order to start antibiotic treatment before the baby is born. But otherwise, if you are planning for an unmedicated child birth, why go to the hospital during early labor when the healthcare workers there will have to follow the policies usually including: monitoring you baby to some extent, restricting your eating, and eventually taking measures to move towards delivery. Something for you to think about... If you can not cope anymore and need to go to the hospital and find out that you are only 2-3 centimeters, you may want to reconsider your plan for an unmedicated birth. Why torture yourself? If this is your first time, you had no idea what you were in for, if it turns out to be way worse than you anticipated there are viable pain relief options for you to consider.

6. Labor hurts. There is some information out there about orgasmic birth or painless birth but in all of my years attending births, I have never witnessed a completely pain free delivery. I have witnessed birth where the pain was tolerable and not torturous. Many women say "I can't do it" or ask for medication at some point during their labor; whether or not they actually need or get it, just depends how close to delivery they are when they are feeling this way. Also, everyone's pain tolerance is different. You sometimes consider yourself to have a high pain tolerance, but you don't really know until you have experienced labor. Typically, each baby gets easier. It isn't really that the pain is less intense, but instead that the duration of the labor is less, making it more tolerable. The best approach is to go into labor empowered with knowledge, and with a flexible plan on how you plan to cope with labor pain.

7. Pushing takes time. Pushing can take anywhere from minutes, if this is not your first baby and/or you are having an unmedicated delivery, to 3 hours! During this time you will be expected to hold your breath, pull your legs back and bear down for 3 10 second intervals during each contraction until the baby is born. Sometimes despite getting to 10 centimeters and giving pushing all you have got, babies still do not come and an assisted delivery or cesarean is needed.

8. Pushing can be traumatic! Women can poop, pass gas, and develop hemorrhoids during pushing. Pushing very hard and straining your face during pushing can give you petechiae. Delivery of the baby can cause you to tear from your vagina straight through to your rectum.

· When you push if there is any stool remaining in your rectum the baby's head will push this out as they come down the birth canal. Do not stress over this. There isn't much that you can do to prevent it and your nurse and doctor will view it as a positive sign that you are pushing well.

· Pregnant women are more susceptible to hemorrhoids due to constipation, the weight of the uterus and elevated hormone levels. During pushing even more pressure is placed on that region and hemorrhoids can develop.

· Petechia is a rash caused by hemorrhage under the skin and looks like tiny polka-dots on the face and neck. These are benign and will go away. Try to follow the pushing instructions of your nurse to help prevent this from happening.

· Perineal lacerations (or tears) are classified into 4 degrees. 1st degree being the smallest, 4th degree being the most severe. It is normal to have a 1st or 2nd degree laceration following delivery. At times a 3rd or 4th degree laceration will occur if the baby is large or coming out in an unusual position. The use of a vacuum or forceps can also contribute to lacerations. Even delivering rapidly and in an out of control manner can cause more tearing. In general things that can be done to help keep tearing to a minimum, or prevent it altogether include: daily application of lotions high in Vitamin E to the perineum during pregnancy, doing your kegal exercises, perineal massage by your healthcare provider or nurse during pushing, and the application of mineral oil or some sort of lubricant to your perineum during pushing. Also, follow the prompts of your nurse, midwife or doctor during pushing. At times they may ask you to back off of pushing and give a half of a push to allow the baby's head to ease its way out in a controlled manner allowing your skin time to stretch properly.

9. Babies usually aren't pretty when they are first born. At first glance babies are a pale, blue grey color and have misshapen elongated heads. Sometimes their faces are swollen or bruised. They are often covered in blood, amniotic fluid, vernix and sometimes their own feces. Some babies, particular if they are premature, are covered in fine hair called lanugo. Maternal instincts kick in and all women usually see is their beautiful baby. Dad's sometimes take a little longer to come around. All of the things listed are temporary so no worries. Nurses will immediately begin to wipe away the blood, fluid and vernix from the baby in order to stimulate crying and help the baby keep warm. Within minutes of crying your baby will pink up; although it is normal for both the hands and feet to remain pale for some time after delivery. Swelling or bruising of the baby's face and head will go down in a couple of days. In time the lanugo will fall off as well.

Scroll to Continue

10. The poking, prodding and pain does not end with delivery. Once the baby is born, there is still the matter of the placenta. The placenta is the disposable organ that has enabled you to sustain your baby. Pitocin is often administered after birth to encourage the placenta to separate from you uterus. Your nurse, midwife or doctor may also do a "fundal massage" to help this separation to occur. Once the placenta comes out, any tears or lacerations that you may have will need to be repaired. Evan after the delivery of the placenta, the nurse will need to evaluate your bleeding closely over the next couple of hours. Every 15 minutes a "fundal massage" will be performed to push out any blood clots that remain in your uterus and prevent excessive bleeding. I put this term in quotations because the word massage implies that this is a comfortable thing. In fact, a fundal massage is when the nurse, midwife or doctor firmly press down on the top of your uterus. After everything that your body had just been through, this is a very uncomfortable thing albeit a necessity. Don't be surprised if you have the "shakes" or are trembling during this time. Your body has just seperated from your baby and placents. This is a huge hemodynamic change, often resulting in shaking.

© 2011 Amanda S


Natural on August 22, 2014:

I'm just going to throw this out there: The gentleman who said he didn't find his wife to be sexy anymore probably entered into marriage for the wrong reasons... When the person you truly loves gives birth to your child, you should be impressed and the love is usually much deeper.

In any case... I'm sorry that you were not educated about childbirth before you entered into it. For prospective mothers, I would suggest watching Ina May Gaskin discussing natural childbirth which may change your perspective on the pain and the protocols that typically go on in hospitals. No one should be holding your legs up or yelling at you to push. Your body will naturally contract and pull the baby down into your pelvis. It is important to breathe and relax but often in hospitals, it is difficult to focus on relaxing when there are a million distractions. It is also a bit business-like. Often forced pushing, which is done when an epidural is administered will lead to tearing. By allowing the baby to move at its own pace, you are able to protect your body a bit better.

Anonymous on August 02, 2014:

I also know that when your about to give birth u probably don't care who sees u naked but I haven't gone through it so I'm not sure how that feels. I still would want female dr

Anonymous on August 01, 2014:

This was an interesting blog. I wasn't really aware of what happens in birth cuz I'm not a mom yet and your right the books don't tell u everything. The one thing that scares me is to have a male dr or other male c me naked or touching me. I have had bad experiences in my childhood with men and was wondering if I could choose a female dr to deliver when the time comes. If it was all female inside the room I would be ok with it. I just can't imagine myself a stranger guy doing this to me. I have a boyfriend and I like him but sometimes I remember what happened to me and freak out when he touches me. Having a child would be very difficult for me especially a stranger guy does it. It has kept me from even thinking of having kids. I mean I know it will b hard work but I would feel more comfortable if a women does it

rich goodenough on June 22, 2014:

after watching my wife have our child i can never look at her as a sex partner after watching all those gross things come out her who who when i get close to it the image pops in my head of a mucus plugs , placenta ,after birth , visira , blood ,and god knows what else oh and she shit also that got mixed in there i feel bad i just don't think of her as sexy any more

kaye on June 15, 2014:

with the fourth baby, i spoke up and got what i wanted finally!

i DID NOT, WOULD NOT SIT OR LAY DOWN!!!===i stayed on my knees and held on to the back of the risen head of the bed, and down came the baby! 4 pushes! i followed my maternal instinct, and the 'pain' i had was more like a good, serious, strenuous workout. i could put into practice what my body knew to do but i had to suppress as i just did what i was told for the first three deliveries- but this time i spoke up and was able to do what i needed to...i hope you do, too, even if it's your first...

moms, unless there is a serious complication and you have to lay down, the only way to have a baby is off your butt! let gravity work! put that in your birth plan and have it notarized! :)

google birth positions from old pictographs or hebrew doula practices and see how it's been done since the beginning! look at the birth stools europe uses! so many moms think they have to have a poop, only to find that sitting on the commode facilitates a very quick birth! yay, the secret revealed! :) there's something to sitting up like that...

that's the one thing they don't tell you, because staff want it cookie cutter most often...

also, the last one was unmedicated- came fast, no time; delivery is exactly like a big bowel movement; same muscles, same bearing down, same breathing for a big, hard poop- use what you know! i wish i knew for the first one what i did for the last...

best to all,


mandy on June 13, 2014:

my daughter as just had her first baby she's just told me he went had any milk since hesbeen born and yes just sleeping and is it normal for a baby two ave two blankets onim and still feel a little cold

annonyms on December 18, 2013:

I have a question since I'm not a mother myself. I would like to have a baby one day but I'm really afraid of men doctors. Are women allowed to choose their birth doctor or does the hospital choose it for u?

NaturalMom on April 06, 2013:

This is unfortunately the "hospital" story. Look at unassisted births and you will find a much different story. Most of these 10 things will not be a part of my birth. Many hospital interventions impede the woman's natural God given ability to birth on their own.

Amanda S (author) from CA on December 18, 2012:

@iguidenetwork thanks for the comment. And it is funny how the life cycle does seem to circle from dependent/infant to independent/adult and back to dependent/adult with infantile needs and behaviors...

iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on December 17, 2012:

Great and very important information for expecting mothers or those who are planning a family. Yes, babies aren't pretty when they're born, they look like old men and women with creases. it's really interesting that we will have those back as we age. Voted up and interesting.

Amanda S (author) from CA on December 14, 2012:

@Kathryn Stratford thank you so much for the positive feedback. I am so glad you found this helpful. And always feel free to send me a message if you have any questions. Best of luck!

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on December 14, 2012:

Wow, this was a great article! I haven't had a baby yet, but I hope to in the near future. And pieces like this are very helpful. When I want to know what something is like, I don't want it to be sugar coated, I want the truth. I like to be prepared. I will want to re-visit this article in the future!

Amanda S (author) from CA on December 13, 2012:

I'm so glad you enjoyed this Hub. Congratulations in advance on this upcoming new chapter in your life. :) There is nothing like it! Take a look at my Hub Natural Birth- It's Your Right, there I have sole natural induction methods you could try :) Best wishes.

CONSCIOUSNINJA from Planet Earth on December 13, 2012:

I am 40 weeks and 2 days pregnant and this little one is showing no signs of coming out :s at this stage, I am so eager to meet the baby that I look forward to all the above things you mentioned!!

Great hub, informative, voted up & interesting!!

Amanda S (author) from CA on October 06, 2012:

@micheaelsteyn thanks for the comment. So glad you found this helpful :).

micheaelsteyn from Neutral Bay on October 06, 2012:

Really a nice share thanks for sharing tips are really helpful in those tough days

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 16, 2012:

@OneMommy they tend to forget to mention that during child birthing classes or at the doctors office. I could come up with a few more things... Maybe another Hub idea. Thanks for the comment.

OneMommy on September 16, 2012:

I have to say you nailed it on the head!

I definitely don't remember anyone telling me about those "massages" after the baby was born, or the uncomfortable part of my doctor taking clots out of my by hand...

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 15, 2012:

@Esther Strong thanks for the comment. There are a lot of things that people don't realize and I thought I should share.

Esther Strong from UK on September 15, 2012:

Great info here for soon to be mums to be prepared for anything - for me, the after pains were quite a surprise - thought it was all over LOL

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 13, 2012:

@Akarime31 I'm sorry I don't mean to scare or discourage. Just to inform. This is all part of giving birth and what is likely to follow. But it is amazing. Women are strong and built to do it and do it well. I personally just like to know what to expect. Thanks for the comment :)

Akarime31 from Las Vegas, NV on September 13, 2012:

This all sounds very scary and discouraging! I'm not a mother but I have been in the delivery room with my sister when she was giving birth to her daughter and you are right on with everything that you mentioned on your hub. This is a great hub, thanks for the information.

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 12, 2012:

@Annabelle Tyler thanks for the comment. :)

Annabelle Tyler on September 12, 2012:

Great hub! All of it so true!

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 12, 2012:

@TeachableMoments. I am glad to be of assistance. And thank you so much for sharing.

TeachableMoments from California on September 12, 2012:

Incredibly useful and honest hub. I will share this hub with some expecting parents. Voted up!

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on September 12, 2012:

samnashy: You are so right about remembering the pain as soon as you find out you are pregnant again! After three natural deliveries, as soon as I found out I was having another baby I was determined to have an epidural for this one, not because of fear of labor, but because I didn't want to go through another episiodomy - locals don't work on me. After being in the hospital 2 hours with my first, 30 minutes with my second, then home alone for a miscarriage that took about 4 hours, I'm so glad I was willing to have the ep because the last baby had me in the hospital from midnight to 8 a.m. (I know. I still don't get much sympathy!)

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 12, 2012:

@samnashy Oh so true how we forget. It must be a self preservation mechanism because if we remembered the population would probably be a lot smaller. I was lucky not too much pain and quick deliveries. Natural both times.

I am glad you enjoyed. Thanks for the comment.

Sam Graham from Australia on September 12, 2012:

Great hub. My delivers where so different. One with Epidural and one completely natural, the great thing is once it's over you forget the pain - until you get pregnant again!!!

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 07, 2012:

@Kathleen Cochran thanks for your comments. Since epidurals became so popular, some nurses forgot what unmedicated birth looks like and rush to offer medication when the mom says "I can't do it". Instead they should recognize this as a sign that she is nearly done and provide encouragement. Hospitals are now recognizing the benefits of breast feeding (go figure) and are becoming more informative and supportive of breast feeding. It is quite interesting to sit back and watch the trends that take place...

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on September 07, 2012:

Great information every soon to deliver Mom needs to know.

"Most women say "I can't do it" or ask for medication at some point during their labor; whether or not they actually need or get it, just depends how close to delivery they are when they are feeling this way"

In my day (3 kids in the 1980s) they called this "transistion" - an instinctive sign you were almost at the point of delivery.

Breastfeeding is hard at first but much easier later - they didn't used to make that clear enough to expectant mothers.

I would only add there are a lot of things worse than having a baby that you don't come out of with a wonderful, new life.

Great work!

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 06, 2012:

@LauraGT thanks for the comment and suggestions. I actually thought about mentioning pooping and the loss of all modesty but didn't put it on the top 10 list. Maybe that's an idea for a follow up Hub. Thanks. :)

LauraGT from MA on September 06, 2012:

Thanks for sharing some of the details of one of mommyhood's biggest kept secrets. I would add that a lot of the stuff people don't talk about is stuff that isn't important at the time or that doesn't really matter (e.g., pooping - you don't really notice while you're doing it or being completely naked in front of a bunch of strangers - you're in too much agony to really care!). And, pushing can go on for up to 5 hours. Well, probably longer, but my 2 data points have it at 5!

I also completely agree about staying at home. Going to the hospital just slows down labor and makes things uncomfortable.

I think educating themselves and knowing what to expect (as much as possible) can really help women have the births that they want!

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 06, 2012:

@mamun nub thank you so much. I am glad you found it helpful.

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 05, 2012:

@chloelozano I'm so sorry that happened to you. I too had a postpartum hemorrhage after the birth of my second child, dispute protocol and adequate fundal massage. OB is like the ER for pregnant women. You never know what will happen and have to be prepared for everything. But women are strong and bounce back and are blessed with our amazing children. Thank you so much for your comment.

@v1p3r so glad you enjoyed :)

chloelozano on September 05, 2012:

Excellent Hub! I hope all women take note about the fundal massage. The nurse taking care of me after my daughter was born did not do this as often as she was supposed to. Actually she did it once and that was it. I ended up hemorrhaging eight hours after giving birth and while I am sure there were other factors, I think the lack of the fundal massage every fifteen minutes contributed to it happening. It hurts like hell when a nurse presses on your uterus but it really is so important.

My son was my first child and no one told me about the whole tearing thing could happen. That definitely was not fun. I didn't feel it when it happened but I certainly felt it for weeks after.

Good info! I voted up :)

v1p3r on September 05, 2012:

nice hub

thanks for sharing

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 05, 2012:

@peachpower thank you so much for your comment. What a great compliment. I am so glad you found my information valuable. I aim to inform. :)

peachpower from Florida on September 05, 2012:

I loved reading this!!!! I have 4 little guys of my own (the first when I was 16), and this Hub was dead on. I've had a 3rd degree tear; the most horrifying afterpains known to woman, prob b/c I didn't put my 3rd one to breast quickly enough after delivery; and very nearly water tox due to pitocin.... pretty rough stuff. This Hub will be an invaluable resource for people wondering what really goes down- What To Expect was excellent, but occasionally fails to acknowledge the other things that may happen. :)

Amanda S (author) from CA on August 08, 2012:

@chloelozano thanks for the comment. And yes there is a lot that the baby books don't tell you as well as some misinformation as well.

chloelozano on August 08, 2012:

Very good Hub! There definitely a lot that the baby books don't tell you.

Helen Murphy Howell from Fife, Scotland on January 08, 2012:

Excellent hub! You are right about TV - and many books - giving all the nice bits and glossing over the not so nice. I think most women will really appreciate this honest and very necessary information.

Voted up !!

Amanda S (author) from CA on December 20, 2011:

I do not know why you had to have your C-sections...but I often hear women express sadness after having a C-section. Just remember everything happens for a reason and you have three amazing children. Happy Holidays!

kelleyward on December 20, 2011:

I've had 3 children but all c-sections. In some ways I'm happy in other ways I'm sad. I never really got to experience birth the way nature intended!

meganlsmith3 from Texas on December 18, 2011:

I have had 3 children and I would say you pretty much covered it all. Great hub!

Related Articles