25 August 2011

Pregnancy Resources - Preparing for Birth

Finding out you're pregnant can be tremendously overwhelming; whether that pregnancy was planned or not. Trying to navigate the sea of information once you're pregnant is a daunting task. What books should you read? What things do you need to buy in preparation of the baby? The many choices and decisions you have to make over those 9 months can sometimes feel like a huge weight.

No matter who you ask, everyone will have a different opinion about what sources and information you should surround yourself with as you journey into parenthood. The easiest way to start figuring out what will work for you is by thinking through what type of birth you want to experience and what your parenting style will be. (Ah, but then there's the catch 22: how can you possibly decide if you don't know what your options are?)

Let me share a secret with you: I have yet to spend money on any pregnancy, birth, and/or parenting books. And I have no intention of doing so. Every piece of research I did, I did through the internet (thanks, Google!). I checked out one solitary book from the public library. Every piece of medical information I wanted verification or futher information on, I discussed with my midwife. I do wish that I'd taken the time to learn more about a few things, but overall, I felt ready when my labor started, and because I knew and understood my options, I felt empowered and in control of my birth experience. And those few things that I wished I'd know more about I will look into and be ready for if and when we ddecide to add to our family. Because I took the time to educate myself well before birth, I know absolutely what I could and will try differently next time around.

When you first start meeting with your healthcare provider(s), whether it will be an Ob/Gyn, a midwife, a doula, and/or your family doctor, the best first step you can take is to discuss expectations. What are your expectations for the pregnancy and birth? What sort of testing and prenatal appointment expectations does your healthcare provider have? If you will be declining any of the recommended testing, will this affect whether or not this provider will keep you as a patient? In some cases, health care providers may refuse to continue to provide care if you decline some tests. If this will be the case, it's good to know this ahead of time so that you can find a provider who will be a good fit to your prenatal care preferences and expectations. A sample prenatal testing schedule can be found here. Not all of these tests apply to everyone, but it gives a fairly good overview of what standard tests are done and during what stage of pregnancy.

One of the things that got me thinking about my birth options was making a birth plan. I found a fairly comprehensive one at http://www.birthplan.com/ that got me thinking about things that I hadn't even considered, like episiotomies, delayed cord cutting, and pitocin use. It also helped give my midwife a good idea of what my husband and I expected of birth and delivery and for us to discuss our preferences, her recommendations, and where the two may not have coincided and why.

Another important resource is having others you can talk to about your experiences. I found the forums at BabyCenter extremely helpful in finding women that I could share my experiences with. They automatically add you to a forum for women who share your same expected due month. Granted, as you progress in your pregnancy, there will be wide variation between the women at the beginning of the month and those at the end, but it's a good way to meet other women who are experiencing pregnancy at roughly the same stage you are. A year later, I still stay connected to a small group of these women (about 50ish or so of them), although we were all due in July, our babies range from being born in May to Mid-August. There are other sites with discussion forums for expectant mothers, but most of my baby-related forum time was spent on BabyCenter, so I can't personally name or recommend any of them.

What books, websites, and/or other miscellaneous resources did you find helpful in knowing what to expect during pregnancy? What tips can you offer others?

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