As your due date approaches, the next critical step is start thinking about the birth. While the actual birthing process may be uncertain, it is important to become aware of what will make you most comfortable as you give birth. Creating a birth plan gives you the opportunity to become familiar with relevant terms, such as “membrane stripping” or knowing whether you’d like your placenta encapsulated. Understanding the terminology is crucial in order to avoid medical interventions you might not want later.
Here are 9 things to consider before you give birth:
- What kind of birth are you hoping for? Natural, spiritual, quiet, non-invasive, epidural or a planned c-section?
- Who is part of your birth team? Partner, birth coach (doula), your mother, your best friend? Make sure your OB/midwife is okay with having more than one birth partner in the delivery room.
- What comfort measures would you like? Just to name a few: would you prefer to have music, food (make sure your OB approves of snacking during labor- most don’t), no IV fluids, massage, aromatherapy or acupuncture?
- When would you like to get induced (if ever)? Would you prefer a week past your due date or longer? Or are you okay when your OB wants to induce you on your due date? In addition, would you like to try natural induction methods first, such as teas, membrane stripping or acupuncture?
- Are you okay having your fetus monitored constantly during labor? Most moms prefer to be able to move around and have only intermittent monitoring.
- What position would you like for the actual delivery of your baby? Some birthing options include squatting, hands-and-knees, water-birth, and side-lying. Depending on what you are hoping for, check with your OB/midwife if they are doing non-supine positions.
- How would you want the placenta to be handled? Delayed cord-clamping, placenta-encapsulation or cord blood banking are options to consider.
- Would you like to have your newborn on your chest right away? Or are you planning on seeing the baby after it’s cleaned up.
- Are you okay with your baby getting medications/shots after birth? Some US states require a Hepatitis B vaccination after birth. Vitamin K shots are mandatory, while antibiotic eye-cream for your little one can usually be discussed. Make sure you know before the birth what your baby will be getting.
Though this may feel like a daunting and extensive list, work through the questions with your birth team to craft the birthing experience that you want and are comfortable with. Knowing what you want is the first step in creating the experience you want.
Stephanie Heintzeler is a German educated midwife, acupuncturist and US-educated doula. Born in New York City but raised in Germany, Stephanie found her enthusiasm for midwifery at 12 years old when her brother was born. She successfully finished her midwifery-exam in 2000 in the Black Forest of Germany. After moving back to New York in 2003, her book “New Yorker Geschichten” (“New York Stories”) was published, and she then began her own Doula business after becoming certified with DONA in 2006. For more information, visit her website: www.thenewyorkdoula.com
You will make a series of important decisions during your pregnancy, but none greater than choosing where and how you’ll welcome your child into the world. Sure, family members, friends and even strangers will want to share their childbirth stories and opinions with you, but remember that every childbirth experience is different. Here’s a brief guide to educate you on typical locations to deliver, as well as common childbirth options:
Where To Deliver Your Baby
Hospital: A hospital, the most common place to deliver a child in the United States, will provide you with standardized care led by an OBGYN and/or a midwife. You will deliver your baby and then be placed in the hands of a team of caregivers for, on average, a period of one to five days, depending on your childbirth experience and insurance coverage.
Birthing Center: Led by a midwife, your labor and delivery experience at a birthing center will include more personalized care, including coaching both during and after childbirth. The use of interventions and anesthesia are not commonplace, and most birthing centers cannot provide for emergency care, so it is vital that you have a back-up hospital notified, in case a transfer is necessary.
Home: The least common of all three locations, but rising in popularity, is within the home. Similar to a birthing center, your labor and delivery will be led by a midwife, who will provide you with specific, personalized care. Delivering at home appeals to expectant mothers who seek a comfortable labor and delivery experience, in addition to a natural transition for baby from womb to world. Again, it is essential to have a back-up hospital notified, for neither medication nor emergency care can be given within the home.
How To Deliver Your Baby
Natural Birth: Free of all pain medication, a natural, vaginal birth is achievable with the support of a physician, labor coach and/or partner. You will power through the discomfort by focusing on deep breathing, visualization and body positioning learned during prenatal childbirth classes, thus making you an active participant in your labor and delivery experience.
Medicated Birth: Given during labor, an epidural is regional anesthesia injected into the lower back to provide pain relief from contractions and delivery. While many expectant moms plan for a natural birth, some laboring moms will ultimately decide that anesthesia is necessary. You will have the option to change your mind up to a certain point in your labor; so don’t feel bound to what is documented in your birth plan.
Water Birth: For a planned water birth within a hospital or birthing center to be approved, expectant moms must meet specific medical criteria. Once approved and when the times comes, you’ll labor in a large tub of warm water to help reduce contraction pain. When the urge to push begins, you will remain in the water allowing your baby to experience a gentle, calm transition as he or she enters the world. A physician and/or a mid-wife will be present to aid in the process, especially after childbirth to ensure that your baby is healthy.
Cesarean Section: Although sometimes planned, most C-sections are recommended as a solution to an emergency situation where either mother and/or child(ren) are in distress. A C-section is a surgical procedure used to deliver your baby through a primary incision in your lower abdomen and a secondary incision in your uterus. If no complications arise for either you or your baby, you can expect to stay in the hospital for at least three days post surgery. You’ll feel discomfort at the incision site for many days and/or weeks following your C-section, so try to avoid heavy lifting and bending.
To make the best childbirth decision for you and your child, you must be informed. Keep this information with you as you interview caregivers, visit potential locations for delivery, and create your birth plan. As always, remember to consult with your healthcare provider before making any final decisions!