Having a baby is a lifelong commitment. For the next 18 years of your life, you will devote countless hours to raising this human being from a tiny newborn to an educated, kind, and responsible adult. You will make sure they eats their vegetables, teach them how to read, send them to the very best schools, worry about what they’re doing with friends, and teach them how to be independent when they eventually go out on their own.
From the second you find out you are pregnant, you will be making decisions for your child. In fact, there are plenty of decisions that you need to make before you even give birth. To help you navigate through all of the information out there, here are a few of the most important details you should take into consideration.
Do you want to see a doctor or midwife for your prenatal care and delivery?
While a doctor and midwife provide much of the same care, it is beneficial for you to be educated about their slight differences. There are several unique advantages of choosing a midwife for your prenatal care and delivery. A midwife tends to spend more time with patients and offers continuous care during labor and delivery. Additionally, women who choose to have a midwife use regional anesthesia less often, and they also have a decreased risk of requiring a cesarean section.
However, there are also certain instances where choosing an OB-GYN is the best option for both the mother and baby. If you are having a high-risk pregnancy or there are increased odds that you will be delivering via cesarean section then you will want to see a doctor for your prenatal care.
Most importantly, you want to make sure you select a practitioner that makes you feel safe and comfortable. You will be spending a lot of time with this individual or group of practitioners over the course of your pregnancy, so you want to see someone whose opinion you trust.
Do you know the cesarean rate of your provider and hospital?
Certain OB-GYNs and hospitals have higher rates of cesarean sections than others, so you should talk to your provider about this before going into labor. If you are uncomfortable with the rates that are provided to you, this gives you plenty of time to change doctors and find a hospital that isn’t quite as eager to pursue a cesarean section.
Have you thought about a birth plan?
The reality is that labor and delivery don’t always go as planned. Whether the contractions are more painful than you ever imagined or complications arise, you may find yourself in situations that you didn’t expect. However, it is comforting for many mothers to at least have some type of birth plan in mind. This way, you don’t have to worry about making a lot of important decisions while you are in the middle of labor and delivery.
Do you only want your partner in the hospital room with you, or are there any family members or close friends that you would like to have there as well? Do you want to have a doula present to help you? Do you want pain medication such as an epidural as soon as they will allow you to have one, or do you want to labor on your own as long as possible? The baby won’t wait for you to do a little more research once the labor process begins, so it can be helpful for both you and your partner to lay out your expectations and goals ahead of time.
Are you aware of the risk factors of an epidural?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, over 50% of women receive an epidural during childbirth. While this form of anesthesia is extremely common and effective, it still comes with its risks. Once you have an epidural, you have to lay down. This means that you can no longer try alternative positions that can help the baby move through the birth canal. Additionally, since you can no longer feel the contractions, you are unable to help your body work through this process. If pushing becomes difficult, other interventions such as forceps or a cesarean section may become necessary to deliver the baby.
Giving birth should be an exciting time. Make the process a little easier on yourself by doing your research and making some important decisions in advance.
Dr. Charles H. Bowers, Jr. is an Ivy League trained doctor who has delivered thousands of children through his career as an obstetrician and medical instructor. He now works as a medical consultant to Ross Feller Casey in Philadelphia.