Pregnancy is a time where you’ll need some professional advice from your gynecologist, especially as your due date nears. Regardless if you’re a first-timer, or if you’ve done this before, all expecting moms should ask as many questions as they can before their due date.
To help you get started, we’ve outlined ten important questions to ask your gynecologist before labor begins.
This is an extremely important question to ask, especially for first-time moms. Many first-timers can become confused about when labor actually begins. In fact, there have been many cases where women think that they are in labor, but really they are only experiencing a false labor, which is often referred to as Braxton Hicks or prodromal contractions.
When true labor begins, contractions will start as mild, irregular cramps that become regular and more painful over time. These cramps can be felt in your back or in your abdomen. True contractions will push your baby’s head down, slowly dilating the cervix. In a false labor, you may feel moderate to severe contractions, but they will be irregular in pattern and will not open or efface the cervix.
Once you have established that you are in labor, call your gynecologist. He or she will likely ask you a series of questions as well as advise you to time your contractions from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next. If your contractions are strong and coming every four to five minutes, you are progressing into active labor and can get ready to leave for the hospital.
Because giving birth rarely goes as planned, it’s important to understand that certain health problems and complications can't always be prevented. While there's no way to be completely prepared for complications during labor, you should ask questions about common risks associated with the labor and delivery process.
Speak to your gynecologist about possible conditions or complications before going into labor. This will set your mind at ease in reducing anxiety about the possibility that something might not go as planned. Ironically enough, anxiety during labor can also cause complications because the more anxious we become, the more stress hormones are released. This makes labor a more tense process.
The number of people allowed in the delivery room varies by hospital. Some hospitals have strict rules allowing a maximum of two people while others are more lenient with a maximum limit of three to four people.
Your gynecologist will want you to have a comfortable delivery experience. Too many people in the delivery room could get a little hectic. As much as you want to share this precious moment with your loved ones, what’s most important is that both you and your baby are as relaxed as possible.
If you know how many people you want in the delivery room, it’s important to contact your gynecologist before and ask about delivery room attendance. If there are strict rules in place that don't allow for flexible guests, you’ll know in advance, and can then revise your plan accordingly.
The beauty of a new medicine is that there is no longer just one type of epidural out there. In fact, there are several different ways to administer an epidural during labor. If you’re certain that you’ll be getting an epidural, you may want to plan with your gynecologist as to which option is best for you.
A continuous epidural is the most common type because it offers continual relief of pain. In a continuous epidural, your spinal cord is constantly being infused with pain-relieving medication.
In an intermittent epidural, pain-relieving medication is infused periodically, as needed. This allows mothers to gauge their level of pain and how much they can tolerate.
Mix & Match Epidural
A mix and match epidural refers to the mixing of medications to match the degree of sensation and movement you wish to have during the labor process.
Patient-Controlled Epidural Anesthesia (PCEA)
With a PCEA, mothers are given a choice as to how much relief they receive by pressing a button that allows a preset computer-controlled amount of medication to be injected into the epidural tubing.
New Epidural Births
A new epidural birth allows the mother to feel the sensation of childbirth, but without the pain. These epidurals are often referred to as “walking epidurals” because they don’t restrict a mother from moving or walking around.
A spinal analgesia is one of the newest forms of labor pain relief. In a spinal analgesia, a small amount of medicine is injected directly into the spinal fluid (not the dura that surrounds) which eases the pain of labor but still allows for minimal movement.
Low Dose Epidural
Also known as “epi-lite,” a low dose epidural can be either a narcotic or a combination narcotic-anesthetic that is designed to relieve some of the pain associated with labor. All the while, it allows mothers to feel the sensation of what’s going on with the body during labor.
Because most women don’t have to report to the hospital at the start of labor, it is more than okay to take either a bath or shower beforehand. As long as there are no complications or signs of serious distress at the beginning of labor, bathing yourself is completely acceptable.
Make sure to always contact your doctor at the start of labor for further detailed instructions about the temperature and the length of your shower. Warm showers have been proven to ease contraction pain and relax muscles during labor, which could have a positive impact on the overall birthing experience. If your contraction pain is severe at the very start of labor, it may be better to take a bath so that you can sit down and relax, easing the pain in a resting position.
You may feel thirsty and hungry during labor, especially in the early stages. Eating small snacks and sipping liquids is perfectly safe and will not harm your baby. It is important to note however that eating bigger meals is not advised as this could make the late stages of labor more uncomfortable for both you and your baby. It is important to ask your gynecologist about the hospital’s policy on eating and drinking during labor.
Eating small, nutritional snacks that are low in sugar and high in water content is advised, as these foods will provide a sufficient balance in nutrition and will also help to prevent dehydration.
Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that high-fat foods can be too rich for your stomach and will likely make you feel nauseous. You also may think that sugary foods would offer a quick energy boost, but this short-lived energy could leave you feeling sluggish come pushing time.
Some good eating and drinking options during labor are:
To avoid feeling sick or nauseous, eat smaller snacks, rather than having one big meal. The blood flow is concentrated on your womb instead of your stomach during labor, so your food will generally take longer to digest.
During labor, your gynecologist will assess your progress by examining your cervix. The number of exams can vary and will depend on how much your cervix has dilated.
Cervical examinations during labor will allow your gynecologist to:
Your newborn will not have the ability to control his temperature, which is why it’s very important for him to be kept warm and dry. If both you and your baby are healthy immediately after the delivery, the baby should be placed on top of your stomach to be dried off.
Shortly after delivery, your doctor will clamp the umbilical cord for cutting. Your partner can also cut the umbilical cord if desired. The doctor will then collect a tube of blood from the cord to check your baby's blood type as well as run other types of tests.
Most newborns are aware of their surroundings almost immediately after birth. If your baby is ready, you can begin to breastfeed right away.
If your baby has trouble latching on, don’t panic – this is completely normal. Your baby will eventually latch on and begin to nurse (whether it’s from a bottle or the breast) within the first hour after labor.
Healthy, full term babies are usually able to go home from the hospital between 24 and 48 hours after delivery. Preterm babies or newborns that are delivered by Caesarean section will usually stay in the hospital a bit longer as they may require some additional in-hospital care.
Your gynecologist will inform you about any tests that need to be performed before you and your baby are released. For example, most hospitals will perform routine hearing tests before your baby can be discharged. If you and your baby leave the hospital within 24 hours of birth, you may have to return within the week to finish off the necessary testing, as some tests may not be accurate until your baby is approximately 2-3 days old.
Nobody has quite as many questions as a pregnant woman, so it may be difficult to remember them all at your checkups. This is completely common. Most pregnant mothers have too much on their mind to remember everything at once.
If you forget to ask your gynecologist a question in person, make sure to call as soon as you remember. Don’t put off or ignore any questions you may have regarding labor. The more prepared for labor you are, the more comfortable you will feel.