If you are pregnant, you’ll probably be told a lot of stories about labour and birth. While some of them might be useful, it’s important to remember that your experience will be unique to you. You should always discuss anything you are unsure about with your doctor or midwife. This article looks at some of the common myths you might hear.
Myth: You can bring on labour by nipple stimulation, drinking castor oil, walking, hypnosis and acupuncture, having sex or eating spicy food
Truth: These methods are anecdotal and you should always consult your doctor or midwife before trying any of these methods.
Myth: Babies stop moving just before you go into labour
Truth: Babies’ movements do not increase or decrease just before labour. You should continue to feel the baby’s movements right up until the birth. Having something cold or hot to eat or drink won’t affect your baby’s movements. If at any time you feel your baby is not as active as usual, contact your doctor or midwife immediately.
Myth: Once you have a caesarean, you can’t give birth vaginally
Myth: Having an epidural increases your chances of a caesarean
Truth: There are risks and side effects associated with having an epidural to relieve the pain of labour. Epidurals may increase your chances of needing a vacuum or forceps birth, but epidurals don’t appear to make a caesarean more likely.
Myth: Mums instantly bond with their baby
Truth: Skin to skin contact between mum and baby soon after birth can help the bonding process, but not all women feel bonded to their baby straight away. It can take time and you shouldn’t try to rush or feel like you are doing anything wrong.
Myth: Childbirth is like what you see on TV
Truth: Childbirth on TV and in movies is often very dramatic, suggesting that birth is risky and very painful. It’s important to get accurate information about labour and birth from your caregivers. You can also call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse about what you can expect.
Myth: You must give birth on your back
Truth: You should choose the most comfortable position to give birth. You don’t need to be on your back — in fact, it can be helpful to be upright when giving birth. Find out what happens during the second stage of labour.
Myth: You will know when you are in labour
Truth: If you haven’t already had a baby, it can be difficult to know when your labour has started. For most healthy women, there is no need to go straight to hospital when labour starts. Ask your midwife or doctor for a number to call for advice if you think you might be in labour.
Myth: You must go to a hospital labour ward to give birth
Truth: Birth centres, which are usually attached to a hospital, and planned home births with registered midwives in attendance are both options for healthy, full-term mothers and babies. Hospital labour wards are the best option for women and babies with certain medical conditions, or those at a higher risk of experiencing problems during birth.
Whichever you choose, make sure you trust your care provider, and be aware that the birth might happen somewhere other than where you planned. Some women plan to give birth in hospital but give birth at home. Some women plan to give birth at home or in a birth centre and need to go to a labour ward.
Myth: Good hips or small babies make for an easier birth
Truth: You may have heard the expression ‘good childbearing hips’. In fact, the size of your hips won’t tell you much about how easy or hard your birth is likely to be.
A woman’s pelvis is not a solid bone. It is made up of ligaments and several bones that are designed to move and loosen as you give birth. Your baby’s skull bones are also not fused together yet, which allows for them to fit into and move through the birth canal. There is a condition, however, known as cephalopelvic disproportion, in which a baby’s head does not fit through the mother’s internal pelvis. Your antenatal care provider will screen for this condition.
Truth: It’s also not true that the size of your baby will make birth more or less painful, but the position you are in can make a big difference. Some women find that squatting or being on all fours can be more comfortable than lying down. The position of your baby as they move through the birth canal can also affect how the labour will progress.
If you are concerned about giving birth, speak to your midwife or doctor or call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: November 2021