If you are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the newest addition to your family, you’ve probably read more lists and tips than you can count. You can get advice on just about everything — from what to expect during the last trimester of pregnancy to what to pack in your hospital bag.
But it’s important to take time to talk with your doctor or midwife about the details of labor and delivery. Not sure what to ask? You can get started with this handy Q and A with Ob/Gyn Erin McKelvey, MD.
A: If your doctor is a solo practitioner, chances are she will be the one who delivers your little one — but not always. If your doctor is part of a group practice, you might not know which doctor will be there to help you deliver until you go into labor.
“Most of the time, it makes sense to actually see the doctor who will be there for your delivery,” Dr. McKelvey says.
If your doctor is part of a group, she suggests scheduling some of your prenatal appointments with other doctors in the practice to help you feel more comfortable when delivery day arrives.
A: Keep in mind that when you choose a doctor or midwife, that may affect where you’ll give birth. Talk with your doctor to find out where she or he has admitting privileges. If your doctor has privileges at more than one facility, ask which facility she recommends and why.
It’s also worth doing some research to make sure the hospital’s policies and approach to childbirth fit your needs, Dr. McKelvey says.
“Take time to learn as much as you can about the facility where you will deliver, including birthing options, whether the facility promotes kangaroo care and if the facility is designated as Baby-Friendly,” Dr. McKelvey says.
Understanding your facility’s procedures ahead of time can help you feel more at ease when it’s time to deliver your baby.
A: Many variables can impact what happens during your labor and delivery. But doctors differ in how and when they use interventions to help bring your baby into the world.
Ask your doctor ahead of time about his or her approach to managing pregnancy, labor and delivery, Dr. McKelvey advises.
Is your doctor intervention-focused? Or do you have a provider who looks at labor and delivery as a well-designed system that should run its own course if things are going smoothly?
“Sometimes interventions are necessary,” Dr. McKelvey says. “There are times when moms need help. There are times when babies need help. But the decision to use an intervention is one that you should make as a team — and that includes mom, dad, doctors and nurses.”
Talk with your doctor about possible circumstances and outcomes ahead of time. While it’s not possible to talk through every possible scenario, finding out whether your doctor’s style is more hands-on or hands-off can help you get a better sense of what to expect.
A: Philosophies have shifted over the years about when induction (using medication or other means to bring on labor) is medically appropriate. But doctors have different opinions on the ideal time for inducing labor.
Barring medical issues, many doctors prefer to wait until you are 41 weeks along before scheduling induction. But it’s a good idea to talk with your provider to see where he or she stands, says Dr. McKelvey.
A: While questions like this sometimes might make doctors cringe, it’s important to understand their thoughts about when cesarean sections, more commonly known as c-sections, are necessary, Dr. McKelvey says.
You’ll probably find that the decision to recommend a c-section isn’t one your doctor takes lightly.
“I never take the decision to do a c-section lightly, as I’m sure all obstetricians do. We always try to avoid that first c-section, because it is likely that more c-sections will follow,” Dr. McKelvey says. “But sometimes a c-section is what’s best for the baby and the mother. Looking back on the many c-sections I have performed, I feel satisfied that I made the right choice for my patients.”
A: Unless your doctor has a crystal ball, she probably can’t pinpoint exactly when your labor will begin. But she or he can help you decide when it’s time to head to the hospital.
Among the more obvious signs to look for is when your water breaks. Or if you’re having intense contractions that last one minute every five minutes for an hour. Contractions are considered intense when you aren’t able to walk, talk or laugh through them, Dr. McKelvey says.
Discussing these questions with your doctor can go a long way toward helping alleviate your fears or concerns about your labor and delivery experience. But don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor about any other questions that might come up.
“Any time we can help put your mind at ease, we are happy to do so,” Dr. McKelvey says.