Pregnancy and birth are unparalleled life experiences. After nearly ten months of the adventure that is pregnancy, the time comes to meet the little person you’ve been incubating. It’s an exciting time for sure, but it’s not without an endless amount of questions and big decisions. With a little education and a lot of support, empowered pregnancy and birth experiences are possible. Here are some tips for having your own empowered pregnancy and birth experience.
Choose prenatal care providers who you feel comfortable with
This decision may start with your preference for birth setting as prenatal care providers are typically associated with specific birth settings. For example, the providers in an obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN) practice deliver patients on the maternity unit in the nearest medical center or hospital. An OBGYN practice includes physicians and nurse-midwives. If you are having a high-risk pregnancy or depend on health insurance to afford prenatal care services, seeking this type of care may be ideal.
Other options for prenatal care providers include nurse-midwives or certified professional midwives. These care providers may work in conventional settings such as hospitals. You may also find them working in birth centers, or helping families deliver their babies at home. Both types of midwives are equipped to help you have a safe, natural childbirth. It’s worth noting that women experiencing high-risk pregnancies may not qualify for these services. Homebirth and birthing center services are not always covered by health insurance. However, it’s worth a conversation if this interests you. Keep in mind that many birth providers will work on a payment plan.
If at any point you are not comfortable with your prenatal care provider, advocate for yourself and find another health provider.
Hire a doula
What is a doula? Doulas are trained professionals who provide support to expectant families during birth, postpartum, and beyond. They are available to educate during pregnancy, throughout labor, and after birth. They may provide physical support during labor if that’s something you desire. Have some fears, trepidation, or doubts about birth? Yep, a doula can help you with that! Want to write a realistic birth plan but don’t know where to start? Uh huh…a doula can help you do just that. And best of all – they help your partner feel supported too. Ultimately, a doula’s purpose is to honor your wishes, intentions, and goals so that you have the safest, most empowered birth experience possible.
As their popularity grows, some health insurance policies are now covering doula services. But if you find that your health insurance does not cover doula services, consider asking for a doula on your baby registry!
Take all the classes
Childbirth education classes can really fill in any gaps of understanding for you and your partner. Topics include information about what to expect during labor and delivery, relaxation and breathing techniques to manage discomfort during labor, coping strategies, pain management options, and information about Cesarean section. Most hospitals and medical centers will offer these classes, but there are also childbirth classes that center on specific birth methods. Hypnobabies, the Bradley Method, and Lamaze are a few examples of such childbirth classes. Even experienced families can benefit from a review of these topics.
Other classes that you may want to consider taking are prenatal movement classes such as yoga and water aerobics. The benefits of regular activity during pregnancy can’t be understated. Pregnant women who move their bodies regularly report fewer aches and pains, improved mood, better sleep. Other benefits include a reduced risk of developing gestational diabetes, shortened labor, and faster postpartum recovery. Can’t get to a class? Take a walk most days of the week to enjoy these benefits.
Have reasonable expectations
Each pregnancy is unique. Each birth experience is different. It’s good to have plans. It’s really important to understand that even the best-laid plans might not come to pass. For example, you may have decided prior to labor that you did not want any pain medications. However, after several hours of active labor, you’ve determined that you would really appreciate some relief. It’s important to be flexible and make changes as needed for the best outcome for you and your baby.
In the end, the goal is to have the empowered pregnancy and birth experience that serves you best. Remember that you are powerful and that the resources you need to help you make informed decisions are available in your community.