Will my waters really break with a huge gush?
Banish those pavement-puddle fears right now — when it comes to waters breaking, we’re generally talking more trickle than gush. “Usually, it feels like you’ve wet your pants a bit,’ says UK midwife Helen O’Dell. “You may not even realise it’s happened at all, and most women’s waters don’t break until they’re already in established labour, or at least, having contractions.” If you are worried about yours breaking before labour starts — and it does happen — a sanitary pad will save you from unforeseen-wet-patch embarrassment.
If I go into labour in the supermarket, will they give me a year’s worth of free diapers?
Sorry, no. This is definitely one of those urban myths, although supermarket staff should help you ease your distress and can help you call for the ambulance.
Is it true that I’ll poop as the baby comes out?
Possibly. As your baby’s head comes down the birth canal, it puts such pressure on your rectum that any poop in there doesn’t stand much chance of staying put. “But no-one’s going to make a fuss,” O’Dell says. “We’ve seen it all before and we know you didn’t do it on purpose! The nurses will clear up discreetly and carry on.” Honestly, you probably won’t even notice.
Do I need to shave down there?
No. And, frankly, could you even reach if you had to? The state of your “lady garden” has zero impact on your labour and is certainly not going to be inspected by your gynae (“Ooh, have you seen the Brazilian on the one in ward 3?”). The only time pubic hair becomes an issue is if you end up needing a Caesarean. Then, the nurses will do a speedy shave.
What does an internal examination feel like?
Well, it’s not exactly the world’s most enjoyable experience, but because it’s the only sure way of finding out just how fast your labour’s progressing, you just have to grimace and bear it. “It’s not unlike having a smear test,” O’Dell reckons, “Except that instead of inserting a speculum, the nurse will insert two of her fingers, then part them slightly to feel how dilated your cervix is.” While the nurses try to be gentle, they also have an irritating habit of urging you to relax. As if.
Do I have to take all my clothes off?
Don’t let those stark naked, hippy-dippy women in the birth videos put you off — there’s no rule saying that you have to strip off everything at the delivery-room door. You can give birth wearing as many or as few clothes as you feel comfortable in. The nurses will give you a hospital gown to change into. Obviously, you can’t have pants on when the baby’s coming out, but, trust us, at that point, you’ll be way past minding who sees your privates.
What if I swear or shout?
Well, you certainly wouldn’t be the first! There is a particular phase of labour called transition (when your cervix is fully dilated, but it’s not quite time to push the baby out), which can provoke even the most modest or prudish young woman to let rip with the odd four-letter howler. “If it’s directed at us, we tend to ignore it because we know that it’s just fear, pain or exhaustion talking,” O’Dell notes. “If the verbal abuse is directed at your husband, though, you may find that he doesn’t take it quite so well. We tend to leave the room for a bit at that point!”
Can you hear other women in labour in your delivery room?
It’s certainly possible that you’ll hear the odd scream or moan — labour can be a noisy business (see the last question!). But don’t let that freak you out, the women making those noises probably aren’t in anything like the agony you’re imagining (I say this as someone who had what I smugly thought was an unbelievably peaceful and harmonious second birth, only to be greeted by a midwife later as “the screamer in room seven”)!
If I have sex to bring labour on, will my gynae or the nurses know when they examine me?
“Absolutely not!” O’Dell says. “There’s so much mucus around during labour, there’s no way we’d be able to distinguish sperm from anything else. Not that we’d have the time or the inclination to look, anyway!”
Isn’t it excruciating to have an episiotomy?
Funnily enough, it isn’t necessarily too bad. Granted, the thought of someone coming at your nether regions with a pair of scissors isn’t even remotely pleasant, but the reality — if it turns out that you need one — could actually be something of a relief. “An episiotomy is a cut made in your perineum to help the baby out and we only do one if it’s absolutely necessary,” O’Dell says. “And we’ll give you a local anaesthetic first. It might be an odd sensation, but it should be quite pain-free.”
Won’t my husband go off me after seeing my baby come out?
We’d be lying to you if we said that this never happens. However, we also know that, for the vast majority of new dads at least, watching their baby come into the world ranks up there alongside watching Manchester United winning an unprecedented Quadruple. And their love for the woman who delivered that baby only gets deeper and more intense as a consequence. If you’re worried, though, you could always insist that your other half stays north of your belly button when the action gets serious. What with the doctors, nurses, baby, blood, mucus and all, it gets a bit too crowded down there, anyway.