Pregnancy has flown by, and the estimated due date (EDD) is fast approaching. At this stage, the mom-to-be is likely feeling excited, emotional, and ready. Childbirth preparation classes are a great way to learn what to expect during labor, but most patients still have lingering questions and concerns. Here are 3 important questions to ask the obstetrician (OB/GYN) before giving birth in a hospital.
1. When should I arrive?
No one wants to get to the party too early, and that advice also applies to pregnant women. A good rule of thumb for when to head to the hospital is the 5-1-1 rule. If contractions happen every 5 minutes, last for at least 1 minute, and have been happening for 1 hour, the baby is on the way. If the water breaks, the patient should also head in to be checked even if contractions have not started. Upon arrival, the triage nurse will determine if the patient is in active labor. This is done by attaching an electronic fetal monitor (EFM) to the belly to track the baby’s heart rate and monitor contractions. The cervix may also be checked for dilation. Depending on the results of this exam, the patient will either be told to go back home until things progress or be admitted.
2. Do I need a birth plan?
A birth plan is a way to explain birthing preferences to the labor and delivery team. The plan can outline the people allowed in the delivery room, pain management requests, and desired fetal monitoring approach. Women can also think through decisions about the birthing environment, such as whether the lights should be dimmed, if music will be played, and if hydrotherapy is part of the plan. Although some patients prefer to have these details typed out, a written plan is not required. The nurses and doctors will always work with the patient to provide a comfortable and safe experience.
3. What types of pain management are available?
There are various ways to manage pain during labor. Inhalation of nitrous oxide can be helpful when experiencing contractions. Opioids can be given via an intravenous (IV) line to help with the pain. An epidural can numb the lower body and provide immediate pain relief. Remember that the anesthesiologist administering the epidural may be busy, so ask for one before the pain gets too severe. Some women may opt for a natural medication-free delivery. If this is part of the plan, communicate this preference to the healthcare team when first admitted to the hospital.
Time to have a baby
Figuring out details like when to arrive, how to make a birth plan, and what type of pain management will be used can be helpful. By ironing out a plan ahead of time, heading to the hospital doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Prepare as much as possible before those contractions start, but remember, nurses and doctors can always answer any questions once admitted.