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Labor Expectations and Experiences

Despite the odds, which are nearly one in three, most women just don't think they'll need a c-section, especially if their pregnancy is healthy and normal. "I tuned out that portion of the childbirth class I took," says Cahill. Like many women, she had every reason to expect a routine birth. But that's exactly why it can be so shocking and upsetting when a complication does arise. Suddenly your supposed-to-be-perfect day is wrought with chaos, anxiety, or worse.

"It's wonderful to dream the perfect birth," says certified nurse-midwife Jerri Hobdy, former program director of the Midwifery Institute at Philadelphia University, "but you're going to have the birth you have."

That may be all well and good in theory, but most women still try to do everything they can to orchestrate the big day. In fact, more than 70 percent of moms said they had a birth plan, either written down or discussed with their practitioner. After all, having a plan for labor is what everyone -- including this magazine! -- has been advising women to do for years.

So we'll be the first to admit it: Maybe we've been wrong all this time. Most of the women who were disappointed with their birth experience -- three out of four, to be exact -- had shared their preferences in one way or another. And with that, we can't help but ask: Should women bother with birth plans at all?

Many doctors say no. "Committing your wishes to writing actually increases the likelihood that you'll be disappointed if the birth doesn't go as planned," contends Randy Fink, M.D., an ob-gyn in private practice in Miami, Florida. "Couples who have 'made a plan' about how they intend their labor to proceed can be frustrated when, for safety reasons, things don't go their way."