Finding out that you are pregnant can feel like magic. While it is a moment to celebrate, it is also the start of a journey that will last nine months and leave your life forever changed. Pregnancy can be overwhelming as well dotted with doctor appointments and decisions to be made. It is important to assemble the right team to guide and accompany you on this adventure.
Your Medical Team
Prenatal care is essential for a healthy pregnancy and birth and reducing the risk of complications in the baby. In some countries you can choose from a midwife, a family doctor, or an obstetrician, and birth at home, in a birth center, or in hospital. Before choosing your care provider, consider your financial situation: do you have insurance that will cover prenatal visits and/or childbirth? Will you have to pay for your care yourself? What can you afford? It is important, when pregnant, to prepare for complications, including premature birth that might require a lengthy stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Wherever you receive prenatal care, it often follows the same schedule of monthly appointments to check on you and baby, including checking your blood pressure and urine, at least two ultrasounds at 12 weeks and 20-ish weeks, gestational diabetes screening, regular blood tests, and screening for group B streptococcus (GBS) at 36-38 weeks. However, your choice of provider becomes more important when you begin to consider your birth preferences.
Your Education Team
In a perfect world prenatal care would include prenatal education, but while a good provider will provide the basic information that you need and answer any questions that you have, the responsibility of learning about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum tends to fall on the birthing person. How much information you want depends entirely on you, but consider balancing your own research with your provider’s knowledge and experience.
Enroll for prenatal classes that include a range of topics covering pregnancy, childbirth, posntatal recovery, breastfeeding and babycare. (At Veira Life we have curated prenatal classes covering all these topics and more that are designed by experts and vetted by OB/Gyns. The classes are conveniently available online and have various resources such as audios, videos, step-by-step guides, planning templates and checklists.)
A general pregnancy book, like ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ or ‘The Healthy Pregnancy Book’ are easily available in most countries. If you like data, Emily Oster’s books ‘Expecting Better’ and ‘Cribsheet’ examine all that you’ve been told about pregnancy and childbirth so that you can make informed decisions about your body and baby. The Evidence Based Birth website is another valuable resource with well researched articles covering various aspects of labor and birth.
You could also join local parenting groups to ask questions and read about other people’s birthing experiences. There are countless opportunities to learn, both online and in person, depending on how much you want to know and how you prefer to learn.
Your Birth Team
Your third trimester is the perfect time to begin thinking about your birth preferences. Do you want an unmedicated birth? What pain relief options do you want? How do you feel about episiotomies, delayed cord clamping, skin-to-skin immediately after birth? This is a good time to craft your birth plan. (Register on Veira Life and avail of the personalised birth planning sessions on the platform. A certified childbirth educator or doula will work with you and your spouse 1-on-1 to help you create your desired birth plan)
As you learn about labor and birth and clarify your birth preferences, you may find that those do not align with the provider you have been seeing. It is not uncommon for families to switch providers later in pregnancy—sometimes even a couple of weeks before their due dates—for the birth experience that they want.
In some hospitals, the partner is not allowed to be with the birthing person. A hospital may take your newborn away for observation immediately after birth while another will allow uninterrupted bonding time before newborn examinations. Thus, it is important to figure out what your non-negotiables are when it comes to your birth experience and see if your preferences align with where you are giving birth.
You might also consider adding a doula to your birth team. A doula is a knowledgeable and experienced professional that supports families through pregnancy and labor and birth. Evidence shows that continuous support by a doula decreases interventions and Cesarean sections and increases satisfaction of the birth experience.
Your Postpartum Team
While pregnancy and birth are important, the postpartum is where support is most needed. The degree of postnatal support you will need will depend on what your pregnancy was like, your birth experience, your baby’s health, and any complications that might have occurred. You are going to recover more quickly physically after a straightforward vaginal birth with minimal tearing than a long labor that ended in a Cesarean section. Because we can’t know in advance how things will unfold, consider the more difficult scenarios and assemble the right team for that.
Think about the following:
How much time does your partner have off work?
Who will be at home supporting you in the first few weeks postpartum?
Who is responsible for cooking and cleaning?
Who will watch your baby while you eat, shower, and sleep?
Who will support you in the middle of the night when your baby wakes frequently?
Who will you call if feeding isn’t going well?
Who will you call if you are struggling after birth?
Your postpartum team may be the same or an extension of your pregnancy support team. It could be a combination of family, friends, and professionals—or one of the three. If your partner has several weeks off from work they may be all the support you need, though I believe in adding a third pair of hands whenever possible. If you will have family in your home, consider if this will make your life easier or more difficult? Surround yourself with supportive people who will follow your parenting preferences while helping you learn to care for your baby.
Some families find it helpful to hire a temporary night nurse or a full-time helper who can cook, clean, and help with the baby when they need it. Make note beforehand of how and where you can have access to postpartum doulas and lactation consultants. You will need this information in case you’re struggling with feeding or parenting so any problems can be fixed right away.
Pregnancy and birth can feel overwhelming, but there is a lot you can do to make the experience both empowering and positive. Do your research and put together your team to help you navigate this special time of your life. It takes a village and the right village can make the transition into parenthood gentler and a lot more joyful.