There are a lot of unknowns about labor and delivery. One thing we all know is you can carefully plan, hope for the best scenario, but prepare for things to not go as planned. But these 12 decisions to make before labor will set you on the path towards the labor, delivery, and aftercare you’re hoping for.
I’ve known many people who say they don’t want to read about anything baby, labor, or delivery related because they simply don’t want to know what happens. Or because they don’t want to freak themselves out.
I completely disagree because I think that it’s really important to be informed about what’s happening to your body and baby during and after birth. Otherwise interventions may happen that you aren’t ok with or you may not have the experience you were hoping to have for the birth of your baby.
In general out of the friends and people I’ve known who have had kids, the people who were more knowledgable and made these decisions were more satisfied overall with their birthing experience. The people who didn’t want to make any decisions were overall less satisfied with their birthing experience.
There are several decisions to make before labor that need to be made by you or else someone will make them for you.
1. Do you want an unmedicated labor and delivery?
Are you hoping for a natural vaginal delivery? If so, you should create a birth plan that details that you do not want any unnecessary interventions. You should strongly consider hiring a doula for your delivery. A doula will advocate for your ideal birth with the doctors and nurses when you are unable to do so, (like during labor/contractions).
It’s nice to have them because sometimes your significant other is so focused on helping you that they aren’t in a place to tell the medical professionals your labor or delivery decisions. A doula will never force you to do anything, but they will remind you of your end goal to help you achieve the labor and delivery you desire.
You should also become familiar with the interventions that may be used during labor and delivery so you know what you are comfortable with should you want or need them.
Related: How To Have A Natural Birth
2. What do you want to do with the baby’s cord?
You have 3 options when it comes to your baby’s cord. You can wait to cut it, save the cord blood, or cut it right away. Some things to consider when making this decision is when your baby is born, there’s up to 30% of their blood supply still in the placenta. Leaving the cord unclamped will allow the rest of that blood to be pumped into your baby. There are studies that show benefits of delaying cord clamping so be sure to do your research. You can read more about that here.
Also you can decide if you want to save the cord blood from the umbilical cord and placenta right after birth and save it in a cord blood bank. You’ll want to decide if you think the benefits are higher for allowing your baby to receive all of the blood right away or if the benefits are higher by saving that blood.
3. Do you want skin to skin immediately after birth?
There are many known benefits for mom and baby by doing skin to skin, or kangaroo care, with your baby directly after birth. Some of the benefits are; your baby’s body temperature is able to regulate better, their breathing rate is more stable, breastfeeding is easier for the baby to initiate, mom and baby can bond, and babies cry less because they are soothed from being with mom. (babygooroo.com)
Find out ahead of time if the hospital you’re going to deliver in advocates for skin to skin. If you want to wait to do measurements and weight until after you’ve had a chance to do skin to skin, be sure to put it in your birth plan.
You will also want to find out beforehand if the hospital allows for skin to skin if you have a c-section. This is becoming more common, but it’s still good to be aware of this.
4. Do you want to save your placenta?
You can choose to save your placenta to make placenta pills, eat it, have someone make a ‘tree of life’ picture with your placenta, etc. If you do decide you want to keep it, you will need to make sure you put that you want your placenta to be saved, in your birth plan.
I didn’t deliver in a hospital, but I’m sure there are consents you will need to fill out and accommodations will need to be made to take it home with you.
5. If you have a boy do you want him circumcised?
To be clear, this is NOT something that will be done to your baby unless you give consent! But you should do your research on the pros and cons to decide if this is a procedure you want for your son.
6. Where do you want to deliver?
Do you want a home birth? Do you want to give birth in a hospital or a birthing center? This is a decision you’ll probably want to make early on because if you have a home birth you will need to find a midwife, (as I don’t believe doctors will deliver at home). If you want to deliver at a hospital or birthing center you’ll want to find one that supports the type of labor, delivery, and aftercare you want to have.
7. Who do you want delivering your baby (or assisting)?
If you want someone other than a doctor, (a midwife) delivering your baby, you will need to do research to see if there are midwives in your area that will deliver you where you want to deliver.
Do you want to hire a doula? Again, a doula is a critical part of helping you achieve the type of labor and delivery you want. But if you decide you want one, you should find a doula ahead of time to make sure you get along as that person will be a big part of your labor and delivery.
8. Do you plan to breastfeed?
If so, you will want to make it known to the nurses that you plan to exclusively breastfeed. Another decision for breastfeeding mothers is if you want your baby to have a pacifier or not (as pacifiers given at birth can promote nipple confusion and create problems with breastfeeding for some babies) so that will need to be included in your birth plan as well.
9. Do you want your baby bathed or do you want to wait?
There are studies that show benefits of waiting to bathe your baby. This is something you’ll want to look into because a baby is automatically washed unless you specify not to wash them.
10. Choosing your baby’s pediatrician
This is a decision you want to make ahead of time because you want to make sure your baby’s pediatrician supports your parenting decisions. For example, if you plan to exclusively breastfeed you want to make sure they are in full support of that. If you prefer a more holistic approach to medicine, or if you vaccinate/don’t vaccinate, you want to be sure they are supportive of those choices.
11. Do you want your baby to get a Hepatitis B vaccine?
You’ll want to research the pros and cons of newborns receiving this vaccine, and make the decision on if you want to hold off on your baby receiving this at birth. This is again something you will want to have put in your birth plan.
12. Who do you want in the room with you?
You should find out how many people are allowed in the room with you, (if you’re giving birth in hospital or birthing center) and decide who you want to be there while you give birth. You want to consider if they will be supportive of your labor and delivery decisions as an unsupportive person can possibly stall your labor or make the situation uncomfortable for you (NOT what you want!).
These may be overwhelming questions to think about but they deserve a lot of thought and research to ensure no one else is making these crucial decisions for you and your baby. If in doubt about who at the hospital or birthing center you need share your decisions with, put it in your birth plan! Once you make these decisions you are one step closer to the birth experience that you’re hoping for!
*Please note, I am not a medical professional so be sure to discuss any medical or health questions or concerns with your healthcare provider.