Why is it that discovering you’re pregnant makes every decision you struggle with over the next nine months seem as if your life depended on it? Do we want to find out the gender? Should the name be traditional or unique? What color should we paint the nursery? Cloth or disposable?
While those are details worth considering, don’t let them overshadow one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make about having a baby: the birth plan.
Where to Deliver
First, you’ll want to choose the hospital where you will deliver your baby. This decision is a major factor in your birth experience and recovery. Choose an obstetrician or midwife who delivers at the hospital of your choice. Or, if you already have one, find out with which hospital he or she is affiliated.
Remember that each hospital’s services and approach to birth are unique. For example, a woman with a high-risk pregnancy may require a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit in case the baby needs specialized care. For another woman, a comfortable recovery room that offers a place for her husband to sleep may be a priority. And for another, the ability to have a doula in attendance is essential.
The hospital you choose will be more than just the place you head for when going into labor. You’re likely to attend childbirth-preparation, newborn-care and breast-feeding classes there as well. To be sure you’re making the right choice, take a tour to learn about policies, view the birthing rooms and get a sense for how things will go when you walk through the door, overnight bag in hand.
Who’s on Your Team
The nonprofit health care research group The Cochrane Collaboration found in a review of more than 13,000 births that women with early and continuous labor support were more likely to have a slightly shorter labor, less likely to use pain medication and generally reported a positive childbirth experience.
“Continuous labor support from a doula, partner, nurse or midwife has been shown to improve patient satisfaction and coping during labor,” says Janna Jones Kersh, a certified midwife at Beaufort Memorial.
This is why choosing your support team is a key decision and should be one of your top priorities. In addition to your spouse or partner, this team usually includes an obstetrician or midwife but also might include a doula, a friend or a relative.
Doulas provide emotional and physical support throughout labor and delivery but have no clinical duties. A certified nurse-midwife is a registered nurse with a degree from a university-affiliated nurse-midwife program (most have master’s degrees) and has the credentials to perform most duties of an obstetrician except certain procedures such as a cesarean section. Whomever you choose for your birth team, make sure it’s someone whose first goal is to be there for you and help you make informed decisions.
How to Manage Pain
Using epidurals or other pain-suppressing drugs remains the norm in the U.S., but in recent years, alternative natural childbirth methods have been accepted and encouraged by a growing number of hospitals.
Movement and positioning techniques to manage pain can be suggested by a doula or a midwife. Techniques include hot/cold applications, counterpressure, hip squeezes, lunges and use of a birthing ball. “Most women find that being up and out of bed while laboring eases pain,” says Kersh. “You can sit on a birth ball, lean over the bed, sway as partner or doula supports you or sit on a stool or chair.”
Make Your Opinions Known
Once you know what kind of birth you want, write down your preferences and make copies for each member of your team. With a detailed plan, the hospital staff can do its best to accommodate you—even if things don’t go exactly as expected. Which isn’t to suggest that this amazing day will be anything less than what you’ve been anticipating! You’ll be in a comfortable place with a team you trust, about to star in one of life’s more spectacular experiences.
Now all you have to do is figure out that car seat.
Expecting? Enroll in Baby University! Get ready to meet and care for the new member of your family with LifeFit Wellness Services’ class offerings. Click here to sign up and learn more.