As a doula I have worked with and know a lot of new moms. Their questions usually centralize around a few topics; health care provider, birth location and preparation. If I had a 5 minute window to give the best advice I know to newly pregnant or attempting pregnancy women it would be these things:
- Get healthy and stay healthy. There are so many statistics about how dramatically your health affects you pregnancy, your labor and your baby. Good diet and exercise through pregnancy decreases complications, length of labor, complications, and improves the health of the baby throughout the first moments and years of its life, as well as improves mother’s recovery time and decreases risk of postpartum mood disorders (depression). If you don’t exercise and eat well right now, it’s never too late to start! Women who have been diagnosed with serious conditions like gestational diabetes can minimize their risk and sometimes even eliminate the disease by simply exercising and eating right. And if you don’t know how to get into these good habits now, it’s not gonna get any easier with a baby! You wanna know now how to do these things right so you can keep up with these habits with a baby, set a good example and keep your baby healthy.
- Choose a health care provider (HCP) that cares about your preferences and agrees with your priorities. Do not choose a HCP based solely on insurance!!!! Can I say that again? Don’t do it! It is not worth the money to have a terrible pregnancy and labor and possibly risk your health, your child’s health and your happiness. Invest in your future and find someone who believes in what you believe in. Someone you can trust to help you make good decisions for your life and your child’s life. PLEASE consider midwives as well as doctors. OBs are trained in the medical, surgical, complicated side of birth. Midwives are trained in the healthy, support and encourage mind and body side of birth. There are midwives that work in hospitals if you still want a hospital birth. Midwives will NOT take on clients that have any complications in pregnancy that would make it risky for an out of hospital birth.
- Where do you feel the safest? Do you view hospitals as a place to go when you are sick or ill or when something is wrong? Have you had bad experiences at a hospital? Do hospitals make you nervous, anxious, stressed or fearful? Then consider a birth center or an at home birth! Your comfort and frame of mind SIGNIFICANTLY affect the labor process. If you don’t feel safe or comfortable labor will be more difficult. However, if hospitals feel like a safe place that you go to feel better, get help, and relief, than a hospital could be a much better place for you to give birth than at home. If you are having a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy, the risk of complications arising during labor that require a transport to the hospital are low.
- Prepare but don’t obsess. Moms tend to be on one side of the spectrum or the other when it comes to preparation. There are the borderline obsessed, need all of the information, contemplate everything, plan everything, need to have control kind of moms, and then there are the I don’t care, I don’t have any preferences, I don’t do any research, I don’t mind not knowing what to do and I’m just gonna wing it kind of moms. Both moms are putting themselves at risk. You can’t control everything or know everything. The more stressed you are, the less healthy it is for your baby and the labor process. There are going to be things that happen during labor that go outside your birth plan. Don’t freak out! For my Christian clients I advise them to focus on the peace that God gives despite your circumstances. God grants us peace in the midst of chaos and turmoil. Being comfortable or getting what you want or expect is not always the best thing and does not guarantee peace. Trusting God’s plan for your birth, not matter how it looks, will bring you peace no mater the circumstances. On the other side, not preparing or not having preferences does not mean you will be without stress or disappointment. The biggest regret I hear from parents after the birth of their child is “I wish I had known more or had been better prepared”. You are right Ms. Unprepared, things never go as planned. But when things go wrong and you are forced to make a life or death decision for your baby, are you going to wish you had done a little more research? And there’s nothing wrong with having preferences. In fact, preferences are what make the birth unique, memorable and make you and your partner feel more like you are apart of this amazing experience. Don’t know where to start? Try taking a childbirth class or reading some books like “Pregnancy Childbirth and the Newborn”, “The Birth Partner” or “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”.
- Finally, have a doula. Read my previous post on the “Why everyone needs a Doula”.
Any other good advice out there?