Planning for your baby’s birth can be one of the most exciting—and overwhelming—times in your life. You probably have a ton of questions and maybe even a vision about how you would like labor and delivery to go. But making assumptions that your care provider understands your wishes, can only set you up for disappointment and frustration.
“If your doctor has one set of expectations and you have a totally different set, everybody is going to end up unhappy,” according to Dr. Lissa Rankin, an OB/GYN and founder of owningpink.com.
Yet having an open dialogue with your doctor or midwife can be one of the most empowering and important things you do for yourself and your baby. “Be very upfront with your provider about what you’re looking for,” said Catherine Ruhl, Director of Women’s Health Programs at the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses, and a practicing nurse-midwife.
Ruhl says to explore all of your options when choosing a provider and birth setting, and to always trust your instincts. “If there are red flags raised, you don’t feel that you’re getting the answers you want, or you don’t feel like they have the time, really listen to yourself,” she said. “Even if it’s the seventh or eighth month, consider going with another option.”
So what should you be talking to your care provider about? Here are some suggestions:
1. Cesarean section rates
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 32 percent of deliveries in the United States are by cesarean section. A C-section is major surgery, and with that comes risks, complications, and a longer recovery period. Knowing the C-section rates of your doctor, his/her practice, and the hospital you plan to give birth in, can clue you into the likelihood that you may end up with one.
Some providers consider anything over 40 weeks of pregnancy “overdue,” while others are comfortable waiting until 42 weeks before inducing or scheduling a C-section. Pitocin, the most commonly used drug for induction, can also be used to augment a labor that has slowed when an epidural has been administered. Ask your provider about the circumstances she suggests interventions including induction, episiotomy, breaking your water, stripping your membranes, and using a vacuum or forceps.
If you want to spend most of your labor at home, find out when you should make your way to the hospital or birthing center. Once there, will you be required to be in bed, hooked up to an IV and have continuous fetal monitoring, or will you be able to walk around and be active? And when it comes to pushing, can you be in any position or will you have to birth on your back, which can make the delivery and recovery more difficult?
4. Pain relief
If you plan to have an epidural, find out what types of medications are offered and what the protocol is. If your plan is to have a natural birth, it’s important to find out what types of alternative pain-relief methods are available.
5. The birth plan
According to Ruhl, it’s not only important to review your birth plan with your provider, it’s also a good idea to contact a head nurse where you’re giving birth. “Say, ‘these are the things I want. How likely is that to happen on a busy day,’ ” she says. Like parenthood, childbirth can be very unpredictable, but arming yourself with knowledge can be very empowering.
“It’s essential to have clear communication with your midwife or doctor all the way through pregnancy and explore your options for labor and birth thoroughly. This is especially helpful if something unexpected happens,” she says.
Julie Revelant is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, health, and women's issues, a certified Spinning® instructor and a mom. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com