The four-letter word you shouldn't say in labor

Anybody who works around women giving birth will tell you that they have heard their fair share of four-letter words in the delivery room. Even the most mild mannered, polite, and proper of women have been known to let a few choice words fly in the midst of contractions or pushing. cursing in labor

However, there is one word that we feel should be taken out of a women's vocabulary during labor, and that word is "only."

It's a common scenario. Mom's been having contractions all day/all night/all week, and finally gets that feeling that tells her, "it's time," but then she gets to the hospital and the news isn't quite what she expected.

"I'm only 3 cm dilated."

"It's been six hours, and I've only progressed 1 cm."

"I'm only in early labor and not active labor like I thought."

"If I've only gotten this far in the past eight hours, how long is the rest of this going to take? Am I going to be in labor forever?"

"I've only been at __cm for 8 hours. Does this mean I have to have a cesarean?"

The vast majority of the time, the word "only" is used in reference to cervical dilation. The problem with this is that it fails to acknowledge all of the other things that a woman's body has to do before pushing out a baby. Every contraction has a purpose, but that purpose is not always to dilate the cervix. Some contractions work to engage the baby further in the pelvis or to help the baby rotate. During labor, the cervix does four things:

Softening: in preparation for effacement and dilation, the cervix starts at a firm consistency, like the tip of your nose, and softens to allow for effacement and dilation.

Effacement: as the baby's head becomes more engaged in the pelvis, the cervix thins out, or effaces, in preparation for dilation.

Positioning: before labor, the cervix is high and posterior, or facing towards your back. As labor progresses, the cervix moves to an anterior or forward facing position in preparation for delivery.

and finally...

Dilation: as delivery approaches, the cervix dilates, or opens, to 10 cm. This is also known as "complete." When the cervix is fully dilated, the second stage of labor, or the pushing phase, can begin.

The dangers of "labor math"

Labor math refers to the practice of taking how long it takes to get from one stage and dilation to the other and assuming it will take that long to get to the next stage of dilation. Dilation, however, rarely follows such a linear pattern and labor math is not a good way to estimate how long it will be before delivery. This leads to another four-letter word called, "WHEN?!" Instead, labor math leads to disappointment, frustration, and feelings of dread. Because there are other factors besides dilation that lead up to delivery, there might be an ebb and flow to the progress of your dilation.

What if my labor stops?

You may feel "stuck" at a certain number and reach a plateau, and then proceed to dilate fairly quickly after a period of time. Or not! Using the word "only" to talk about your labor progress discounts the amazing work that your body is doing. It is true that sometimes a lack of progress indicates a need for a cesarean, but usually there are other factors at play that contribute to an OB's decision to perform a cesarean. Unless your OB has discussed a specific concern with you, there is no need to worry if things seem to be taking longer than you expected. If you are feeling exhausted or have another need, don't be afraid to speak up and communicate those needs with your birth team. Your doula can help you talk things through and help you communicate with the staff if you aren't quite sure how.

Our opinion? We won't judge you for any four-letter word you might say during labor, but consider leaving the word "only" at home. You are more than "just" or "only:" you're incredible and you're doing great work!

Who is the best OBGYN in Memphis?

As a doula, I am frequently asked or am privy to some variation of the question, “Who is the best OBGYN in Memphis?” Variations include: What do you know about Dr. XYZ? Has anyone had a totally intervention-free birth with Dr. XYZ? Does Dr. XYZ induce at 41 weeks like my current OB? Can anyone tell me who their favorite OB is and why? Have any of you had a VBAC in Memphis with Dr. XYZ? I’m new in town and need a new OB. Who do you recommend? Have you ever worked with Dr. XYZ? What are they like? Then come the responses. ALL of the responses. The asker soon finds themselves inundated with options, choices, and opinions, and may be left feeling more confused than before she asked. The truth is, it’s a loaded question. People choose their OBGYNs for a variety of reasons, some of which they may or may not disclose, and their answers don’t tell you what that doctor-patient relationship would look like for you.

best obgyn in memphis

Where crowdsourcing falls short

Although crowdsourcing can be a great way to procure a list of options, there isn’t one single best OBGYN in Memphis. When you see an OBGYN for your pregnancy and birth, you are receiving care that is highly individualized. Your doctor is looking at your individual pregnancy and health history and drawing from their knowledge and experience to give you the best care they can. Perhaps you consulted with that doctor people are raving about and left feeling underwhelmed- the doctor who was perfect for your sister or best friend may not be what you need at all, and that’s okay!

How to find the best OBGYN in Memphis...for you

Aside from insurance considerations, the top three things to consider when choosing an OBGYN are personal connection, communication style, and similar values surrounding pregnancy and birth. Let’s break it down:

Personal connection: This isn’t priority #1 for everyone, but it’s something to consider. If you value one-on-one care, a solo or smaller practice may better suit your needs than a larger group with a rotating call schedule. If you choose a larger group, do you feel comfortable with each doctor in the practice?

Communication style: Does the doctor you choose take the time to listen and understand your questions and concerns, or do you feel like you’re talking past each other? Do you know that you can always get the answers you need to make important decisions about your care? Finding an OB who speaks your language is important!

Similar values: Think about the things that are most important to you for this pregnancy and birth. Write them down if you feel the need. Different doctors have different passions, strengths, and perspectives. Ask them how they typically handle things that matter to you, like freedom of movement, inductions, post dates, pushing and delivery positions, TOLAC, modesty, cervical checks, monitoring, fluids, cord clamping, skin-to-skin, any health conditions you already have, cesareans, postpartum depression and anxiety...their answers will tell you a lot about their individual practice style and can inform your choices.

There’s no magic formula for choosing an OBGYN, but finding one that you are comfortable with, speaks your language, and shares your values? That’s where the magic happens.