Giving birth – what can you (really) expect?
So you’re going to give birth
Becoming a parent is a truly special experience, full of excitement and happiness. But it can also be stressful and frightening – especially if you’re the one who’s carrying the baby, and even more so in these times.
Your body is changing. Your emotions are fluctuating – which is understandable as you’re preparing for labour during a global pandemic. All this (and more!), while knowing that your life is about to change forever. It’s easy to see how this could be scary.
Even with social distancing measures providing their own set of challenges, you can still have a completely positive birth experience. After all, you’re still in control of the choices you make.
Fortunately, you’re not the only one. Everybody who goes through pregnancy and labour will experience many of the same changes and emotions.
Your body changes during pregnancy
The obvious changes to your body during pregnancy are hard to miss. But there’s a lot happening behind the scenes, too. From the moment you conceive, your womb, vagina and vulva start preparing for the birth of your baby.
Many women find that their labia change colour and size during pregnancy. Others experience changes to the size of their vagina. This is just your body’s way of getting ready for labour; it’s all entirely natural and normal.
If you end up giving birth vaginally, there might be other changes, too. Women’s bodies are designed for birth, and the vagina is built to stretch, but some tearing during labour is still very common. As one mother told our #wombstories project, “It’s like a peaceful garden, full of beautiful flowers, which is suddenly changed forever”. If you have a tear – or an episiotomy (when a cut is made to help limit the damage from natural tearing) – you may need stitches, which can change the way your vulva looks and how you experience sex.
Pain or dryness is common, but luckily this improves over time and with lubricants. Many women also experience a weakening of their pelvic floor, which can impact continence. In fact, a vaginal delivery doubles or triples the chance of experiencing stress incontinence .