Pregnant women seem to inspire a type of verbal diarrhoea that leaves well wishers unable to talk about anything but the impending birth.
If you find yourself honing in on an expecting pregnant woman, unable to fight the urge to discuss childbirth, at least make sure that you are not trotting out one of the following topics:
Hear About Birth #1: That It Really Hurts
There is little chance that anyone has made it to adulthood without hearing that childbirth hurts, least of all someone carrying around a huge ‘I’m Pregnant’ beacon in the form of a baby bump. So there’s really no need for you to mention that labour hurts, or that it was the worst pain you have ever experienced.
She knows it might hurt. She may be feeling positive about the experience, and believe that she can handle the pain, in which case you could damage her confidence, and what would be the benefit of that? Or, perhaps she’s feeling fearful of birth, and will lie awake tonight worrying about your description of the pain – and again, that would have little benefit to anyone. You won’t help be helping to prepare her, you’ll be scaring her.
Hear About Birth #2: That She Might Poop
Women go through the intense and primal experience of giving birth to meet the amazing babies they have created, and yet somehow, all anyone wants to hear about is whether they pooped. The idea of pooping during labour might terrify pregnant women, but most labouring women couldn’t care less. There is far too much going on during childbirth for women to spend time worrying about bathroom etiquette. So, yes, maybe she will poop, or maybe she won’t, but either way it is hardly going to be the most significant event of the day.
Hear About Birth #3: That She’ll Need An Epidural
The voice of experience can, at times, be invaluable and yet stifling at others. If a pregnant woman tells you her dreams for a natural labour, do not dismiss her birth plan by informing her that she should get an epidural straight away. Every birth is different, and all are impossible to predict. Perhaps she will decide to have an epidural on the day, or maybe she will get the ‘only two paracetamols’ birth she is hoping for. Be supportive of her decisions, and be careful not to force your own experience on her.
Hear About Birth #4: Any Horror Stories
Pregnant women spend a surprising proportion of their pregnancy trying to avoid hearing childbirth horror stories. For some reason, some people seem to love nothing more than sharing these horror stories with pregnant women.
The unbelievably long births, the perineal tears, the complications and the interventions – pregnant women don’t need to hear every story you can dig out about these. Pregnant women have enough to worry about, without you adding every negative birth experience of everyone you’ve ever met. What pregnant women need is support, and to approach childbirth with a positive mindset.
Hear About Birth #5: That It’s Bloody Or Messy
If a pregnant woman has just informed you of her dreams to have a homebirth, try not to immediately stress the extensiveness of the postpartum clean up operation. Yes, childbirth is messy. Ok, very messy, but it’s not reason to avoid a homebirth. Feel free to suggest making sure there are old towels and possibly some protective floor coverings to hand, but do not try to dissuade her from welcoming her baby at home.
Hear About Birth #6: That It’s Hard To Describe
She knows. Every single mother she has encountered since she announced the pregnancy has told her this. It’s not helping her to feel anymore prepared for the birth, in fact, it’s simply starting to annoy her. It’s true that childbirth is hard to describe, and that the experience is different for everyone, but saying this will not reassure her so just find a better way to describe the contractions.
Hear About Birth #7: That ‘She’ll Know’ When She’s In Labour
This is another unreassuring phrase that pregnant women hear repeatedly. It’s also not strictly true since so many women mistake pre-labour for the real thing. Even second and third time mums get it wrong, so it’s hardly surprising that first time mums-to-be are not reassured by this phrase. Instead of dismissing labour questions with this phrase, give some anecdotal examples of how you knew you were in labour.