Three babies wear 3-D glasses and hold popcorn.
Movies are a go-to favorite for entertainment—but don’t look to Hollywood for answers about delivery and childbirth. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Can you think of any better way to spend a Saturday evening than curling up on the couch with your family to watch the latest release on DVD or Netflix?

Throw in a bag of hot, buttery popcorn and you’re in for an unbeatable night.

We’re a nation of movie-lovers. We love the exciting emotions that films stir in us—the fear, the happiness, love, longing and all manner of drama and suspense.

Sometimes movies offer a bit education, too.

But not always.

When it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, movies can perpetuate inaccuracies. I can think of at least two right off the bat: when the water breaks and when the baby comes.

Water break? Grab your COAT

In many movies I’ve seen, there’s this huge gush of water when the mom goes into labor. And the “gush” happens before labor starts, with water pouring all over.

The reality isn’t always so dramatic.

But first let’s look at the water. It’s actually amniotic fluid, which is produced by your body and by the baby urinating. March of Dimes explains why amniotic fluid is important:

  • It helps baby’s muscles and bones developed as the baby floats in the fluid.
  • It helps keep the umbilical cord from being squeezed.
  • It helps protect baby from harm, acting as a sort of “fluid cushion.”
  • It helps the lungs continue maturing.
  • It helps with digestion, as the baby swallows the fluids and the vernix.
  • It helps stabilize the baby’s temperature.

In the first trimester and partly into the second, the fluid is maintained by the mom. After about 20 weeks, the majority of the fluid is now made by the baby’s urine.

The truth about the water breaking? Only about 15 percent of women will experience their water breaking on its own before labor starts. Most women don’t have to be concerned about this.

If you are one of the 15 percent, keep in mind the acronym COAT: Color, Odor, Amount and Time.

  • Color: It’s typically clear, although you may see bits of vernix or lanugo. Some babies get stressed in pregnancy, however, and they may have a bowel movement before they’re born. This is known as meconium. It can turn the fluid a more greenish color.
  • Odor: When your water breaks, there should not be an odor. If there is, your provider will want to know about it. An odor could mean an infection.
  • Amount: This is also important. TV shows lots of water going all over. While you may have a large gush, you also may have a small trickle of fluid. Some women aren’t even sure when their water breaks, or if they’ve leaked some urine. That’s something health care providers can help you determine at the hospital.
  • Time: Your provider wants to know right away when your water breaks—not in a couple of days, or even later in the day simply because you wanted to wait until your scheduled appointment.

Falling into place

This is another one of those movie gems, where Hollywood likes to make you think the baby can just somehow pop out or fall out of you.

One movie I saw even featured the mom sneezing and, voila! The baby was born.

While this sounds like a great thing, it’s not true at all. Your baby doesn’t just “fall out.” Your baby actually has to make many adjustments and rotations to actually be born.

There are seven cardinal movements baby goes through before being born: engagement, descent, flexion, internal rotation, extension, external rotation and expulsion.

This turning and rotating allows your baby to fit through the pelvis and vaginal canal.

Even a short labor will require a mom to push to deliver her baby. There are certainly cases in which the baby is delivered quickly and suddenly, but the baby does not just fall out.