8 Birth and Labor Myths That Will Surprise You

  • 5%

    of babies are born on their due date

  • Contrary to what you see in movies, only 8-10% of labors *start* with your water breaking.

Some ideas about labor and birth that have been circulated for so long through generations and across pop culture that many are assumed to be true. While some are harmless, others can lead to true confusion. Below, we set the record straight on some common myths about labor and birth.

Myth: Babies are born on their due date
The Reality:

Fewer than 5% of babies show up on their estimated due date. One study found that most first-time parents will go into labor without intervention 8 days after the predicted due date.

Myth: Your water breaking is how labor begins
The Reality:

A common myth perpetuated by movies and television is that labor starts with your water breaking. But this is not true about 90% of the time! Only 8% to 10% of full-term labors start with water breaking. Often, your water won’t break until you are well into labor, and even then, it may not break. Your healthcare provider may recommend breaking your water manually or with labor-inducing medication to help your labor progress if medically indicated.

Myth: Having sex induces labor
The Reality:

While a lot of people believe that sex can kick start labor and induce contractions, research has found that it doesn’t have an impact . In fact, “in low-risk pregnancies, there is neither association with preterm birth, premature rupture of membranes (water-breaking), or low birth weight”, in addition to it not speeding up the onset of labor.

For low-risk, full-term pregnancies, having sex is safe and doesn’t need to be avoided unless you have been told to do so by your healthcare provider. You can decide what level of intimacy during pregnancy, labor, and birth feels right for you.

Myth: If you have a c-section, you can only ever have c-sections
The Reality:

The term VBAC stands for vaginal birth after cesarean and describes when someone opts for a vaginal birth after having a previous c-section. VBAC rates are still relatively low in the United States but slowly increasing — 12.4% to 13.3% from 2016 to 2018.

How recent your last c-section was, the reason for it, and how many you’ve had can also affect your candidacy for VBAC. The type of c-section incision you had with your previous birth is a large determinant of whether you are a candidate for a VBAC. Most people who get c-sections have a low transverse incision that runs horizontally below the bikini line, and they are often eligible for a VBAC. However, people who received a vertical or classical incision are often not eligible due to an increased risk of uterine rupture below the scar. The success rate of VBACs is about 75%, and the risk of uterine rupture (a serious complication) is about 1%.

Research suggests a previous cesarean could carry a small but increased risk for neonatal complications and maternal hemorrhage. If you’re considering a VBAC, work with your healthcare provider to discuss your specific situation, requests, and plan for labor.

Myth: Epidurals increase chances of c-section
The Reality:

Epidural anesthesia is a safe and effective method of pain management during labor and birth. Studies conducted before 2005 associated epidural use with increased rates of assisted vaginal births, but all research since 2005 found that epidural use does not impact delivery method or newborn outcomes. This is likely due to modern advances in pain management techniques. Across all recent studies , epidural anesthesia did not impact the risk of cesarean delivery, long-term backache, newborn Apgar scores, or admission to neonatal intensive care units. The use of pain management for labor and birth is a personal choice to be discussed with your healthcare team and outlined in your birth plan.

Myth & Reality: Eating dates shortens labor
The Reality:

Research has shown that eating date fruit may help prepare your cervix to dilate and thin more easily and may reduce the active stage of labor – the most intense part of labor when your cervix dilates from 6 to 10cm before you start pushing. However, it has also been shown to have no effect on the early first stage, second stage, or third stage of labor.

Research is limited on the kind of dates and how many you should eat. However, dates have some great nutritional, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits, so there is no harm in eating them anytime during pregnancy unless you are on a low-sugar diet for gestational diabetes or other health conditions managed by a healthcare provider.

Myth: Spicy foods and pineapple induce labor
The Reality:

There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that eating spicy food or pineapple can induce labor. However, these foods can cause gastrointestinal upset for some people, which could lead to cramping, not necessarily contractions. It is important to note that these methods are not harmful, but they are also not guaranteed to work. Always consult your healthcare provider before trying any home labor induction techniques.


What about all those other myths?

This list of common birth and labor myths is by no means comprehensive. So if you’re wondering if something that sounds a little strange is actually true, reach out to your doctor or midwife, who can help set the record straight.

Bodily does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.


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