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The Watermelon Fallacy: why giving birth is nothing like pushing out a watermelon

Have you ever heard the line that giving birth is like pushing a watermelon out of a tiny hole? I have come across this on TV shows, blog posts and even in comments made by women who say they are supportive of natural birth and empowering women. These words certainly have a powerful impact on pregnant women but it is likely to be a negative and unhelpful one. Does the watermelon line make you look forward to greeting your baby and experiencing birth? Or does it fill you with dread and make you tense up at the thought of enduring such an ordeal?

Every pregnant woman needs to know that giving birth is actually NOTHING like forcing a watermelon through a tiny hole!

Your baby is nothing like a hard, inflexible, solid watermelon. Your baby is soft, fleshy and squishy. Even their skull is soft and flexible to help your baby through the birth passage. The older baby in the watermelon picture is still clearly smaller, softer and more flexible than a watermelon. The average watermelon is much heavier and much broader than any newborn baby. There really is no comparison.

Throughout pregnancy your body is preparing for the amazing process of birthing your baby. The ligaments around your pelvis become looser to allow your pelvis to make room for your baby. Through the process of labour (especially when undisturbed) your body is prepared for the final moments of birth. Your contractions have thinned and widened your cervix so that your baby may come through. Your contractions have pushed your baby down and into the best position. Your baby’s chin is tucked in so that the smallest part of their head will come through first. By the time your baby is ready to be born, you are not pushing your baby through a ‘tiny hole’ – the birth passage is soft and open and ready to stretch to birth your baby beautifully.

The watermelon fiction does nothing to help us prepare for birth or to understand how birth works. The anxiety this watermelon image may cause is unwarranted and unhelpful.

So disregard these throwaway lines and steer clear of people who are out to scare or shock you. Find out how the intricate process of labour really works from women and men who have witnessed or experienced natural, undisturbed birth. It is amazing what your body and your baby know how to do! Learn from the stories of women who have had positive birth experiences. Seek the support of people who will help you to feel safe, cared for and confident in your ability to birth your baby. Focus on images and descriptions of labour that help you to understand, imagine and feel positive about birthing your baby.

And forget the watermelon – it’s a fallacy.