Movies sometimes make childbirth look clean and easy—or scary and difficult. The truth is someplace in between. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

I recently wrote about how Hollywood sometimes has a tendency to look at childbirth and delivery unnaturally.

My previous story on this topic discussed the “water break” moment and amniotic fluid, as well as the notion that a baby can somehow just “fall out” of mom.

Well, the baby doesn’t just fall out magically. And significant water breakages are more the exception than the rule.

A few other areas where scriptwriters missed the mark on childbirth and delivery:

Bedbound for labor

Many years ago, it used to be common for women to get into bed and lay there until the time came to give birth to the baby.

Many movies and TV shows, of course, will still show expectant moms tucked into their bed, patiently—or sometimes painfully—awaiting delivery.

The realities are often much different. Nowadays, women are typically encouraged to get up and move around prior to giving birth.

At many hospitals in the west Michigan area, women are allowed to give birth in any position they choose. As you’d expect, this is usually whatever position is most comfortable to them—propped/semi-seated, lying on the side, upright, or hands-and-knees.

Michigan may be ahead of some other parts of the country in this respect.

In reviewing Childbirth Connection’s “Listening to Mother’s Survey III,” conducted in 2013, I was surprised to learn that 68 percent of mothers had delivered while lying in bed. The 2,400 participants, ages 18 to 45, had given birth from July 2011 to June 2012.

We know that each position presents certain unique advantages, depending on the mom’s needs. Some moms can prepare for delivery simply by sitting on the toilet, which can help relax the perineum. It also uses gravity to help move the baby along.

At Spectrum Health Gerber Hospital, we’ve even had moms who prefer to push while seated on the toilet, and then when the time comes for delivery they can move to a bed or another position.

Some of the various delivery positions and the associated benefits include:

  • Supported squat: This helps open the pelvis by up to 15 percent, providing more room for the baby coming down the birth canal. It also makes full use of gravity.
  • Squatting: Mom can squat by the side of bed or by using a birth ball. This helps open the pelvis by 2 centimeters.
  • Side lying: This position opens the pelvis by lifting the top leg. This is a great option for a mom who has chosen an epidural.
  • Hands and knees: This helps relieve pressure on the back. It can be done leaning over the birth ball, too.

Wrapped up, whisked away

Another scene that you might see in movies is where the baby is delivered, but then quickly wrapped up in a blanket and whisked away by doctors.

In the Listening to Mothers Survey III, the majority of moms had their babies stay with them for skin-to-skin time, for at least the first hour after birth. (Dads need to do skin-to-skin contact, too.)

Skin-to-skin care is something that most hospitals in West Michigan encourage. In fact, we call it the golden hour. Whoever is in the room at delivery can stay, but no one else comes in until mom has had at least an hour to bond with her new baby.

We have moms who ask for longer.

Out and about

Some movies might show a quick delivery where the baby emerges and everything is wrapped up, neat and tidy and proper.

In some respects, this is true. But not entirely.

After the baby is born and handed to mom for skin-to-skin contact, there is still the placenta to deliver. The placenta—essentially an extra organ—provides many of the essentials to the baby during the time in the womb.

It can actually take up to 30 minutes to deliver the placenta. The placenta, or afterbirth, is checked after delivery to make sure it is intact and complete.

Once those parts have all wrapped up, the job of birthing is finished. Then it’s on to 18 years or so of parenting—and you could write plenty of movie scripts about those years!