Giving birth is one of the most amazing things women experience, but the months leading up to the time baby arrives can be very overwhelming. So many decisions to be made!
Where will baby sleep?
Breastfeed or bottle? Cloth or disposable diapers?
Should I get an epidural?
What will we name our baby?
All of these are important items to think about before baby arrives, but one of the most significant decisions you’ll need to make will have to be answered before you focus on these other questions:
Who will care for me and my baby during my pregnancy and childbirth? Like every other decision related to childbirth and parenting, it’s a very personal choice.
Before you decide, it’s a good idea to think about what pregnancy entails, how a midwife or doctor fits into your birthing philosophies, and if you have any pregnancy risk factors.
How to prepare for an easy delivery
It is no secret childbirth is not exactly a painless process. Fortunately, nature has a way of making the painful parts magically disappear the minute you see your sweet baby’s face.
That being said, there are some proactive steps you can take to prepare to increase the chances of an easier, less-painful, delivery.
- Take a childbirth class. Understanding the birthing process and knowing what to expect can increase your comfort levels and reduce stress.
- Keep fit. There are many exercises specifically designed for pregnancy. Staying in shape during pregnancy tends to increase endurance levels and decrease hours in labor.
- Consider hiring a doula. A doula works with women during pregnancy to prepare them for labor and delivery. Talk with your partner and healthcare provider about any labor support you’re considering.
- Learn your options. Consider ahead of time if you might want any sort of pain management—or not. This includes pain-relieving drugs, an epidural, or even spending part of labor in a hot tub to relieve the pain. Do your research, ask questions, and, when you decide, let your provider know your wishes.
- Know signs of labor. The more you understand pregnancy, changes happening in your body, and birth processes, the better prepared you’ll be when the time arrives.
- Learn labor strategies. Once labor starts and childbirth is imminent, eat lightly, drink lots of water, and try to relax. The better rested you are, the easier it’ll be.
Deciding your labor and childbirth preferences is a good idea, but keep in mind, labor and delivery can’t be controlled.
Unexpected events can happen, and you want to be sure your healthcare provider aligns with your wishes and philosophies if conditions warranting intervention arise.
Different types of emergencies that can arise during labor and delivery
Unfortunately, different types of emergencies can arise during labor and delivery. Women who experience high-risk pregnancies are usually aware of possible emergencies, but the reality is all women should be aware complications can arise.
- Preterm labor and premature delivery
- Prolonged labor
- Abnormal presentation (i.e. breech)
- Premature rupture of membranes
- Umbilical cord prolapse or cord compression
- Amniotic fluid embolism
People often think if a pregnancy is considered to be low-risk, nothing will go wrong. Everyone should be prepared to take action in case something does happen to reduce the risk of a birth injury to baby or Mom.
Warning signs labor is going wrong
Most women experience at least part of the labor process at home. An exception might be if you’ve been classified as a high-risk pregnancy. If you experience any of the following during your labor, be sure to call your healthcare provider immediately.
- Bleeding or bright-red discharge
- Water breaks and the fluid is greenish or brownish in color
- Blurred or double vision
- Severe headaches
- Sudden swelling
It’s always OK to advocate for yourself if you aren’t getting the treatment you expect or a caregiver dismisses your concerns.
When it comes to the health of yourself and your baby, you should never feel uncomfortable voicing or standing up for yourself, especially if you are exhibiting warning signs, symptoms, or pain that is outside the normal realm of pregnancy or childbirth. You know your body best.
Should I go with a midwife or a doctor to deliver my baby?
When deciding whether a midwife or doctor would be a better fit to deliver your baby, it’s a good idea to understand the role of each, their credentials, and how their approach to pregnancy and childbirth fits into your preferences, risk factors, and overall birthing philosophy.
Certified Nurse Midwives are thoroughly trained in all things related to pregnancy and childbirth. They hold a master’s degree and must pass a minimum of two board exams, a registered nurse and certified midwife before they can practice.
They generally care for low-risk patients, which means a typical patient is under 35 years old, not overweight, and doesn’t have any pre-existing health conditions or a history of pregnancy difficulties.
During labor and childbirth, midwives tend to spend more time with their patients during the entire process. Many women who do choose midwives do so because they are generally known to have a “less aggressive approach to monitoring and intervention.”
Additionally, with midwives, there is often the flexibility to have a home birth.
OB-GYNs are full-fledged doctors who have gone through their initial first four years of college with an additional four years of medical school that specialize in women’s healthcare.
Once their education is complete, they are required to finish four years of OB-GYN residency training before becoming certified. Women placed in a high-risk category, such as age 35+, previous history of miscarriage or difficulties with childbirth, or has existing medical conditions, are usually cared for by an OB-GYN.
OB-GYNs are trained as doctors and, as a result, typically have a more clinical approach and tone to healthcare.
Doctors will monitor you during your labor but typically don’t spend the entire labor with you, you’ll be primarily cared for by nurses until you’re ready to push. Women choosing OB-GYNs should prepare to have a hospital birth since most don’t typically do home births.
Both doctors and midwives have the same goals to provide a safe pregnancy, labor, and delivery, but they do have different approaches to reaching them.
Neither way is considered “better” than the other, it more or less comes down to circumstance and Mom’s (and Dad’s!) personal preferences. Do your research and you’ll come to the right decision for you.