Women who become pregnant report all kinds of emotions — joy, fear, relief, ambivalence, excitement, anxiety, anticipation, sadness and happiness. Most women expect that they will experience any or all of these feelings during pregnancy, but what they might not expect is the sense of feeling out of control.
You cry at the most awkward times, your clothes don’t fit long before you are officially showing, you need to pee all the time, you have embarrassing amounts of gas, people treat you differently, and the thought of some of your favorite foods make you gag. You can feel out of control of your body, your mind and even your relationships. It is so easy to feel a bit trapped, no matter how much you may have wanted to get pregnant.
Instead of focusing on how out of control you may be feeling — which is totally natural — you can experience a lot less stress if you focus on the opposite — what you can control. And, believe it or not, you do have options and choices. Lots of them.
Choose Your Healthcare Provider
For example, you can decide which kind of healthcare professional you want to care for you during your pregnancy. You can see an obstetrician who is in solo practice (practices alone, so you are likely to have him or her deliver your baby, but there are also likely to be longer waiting times if emergencies with other patients arise); an obstetrician who is in a group practice (has partners, so you aren’t assured of having him or her deliver your baby, but you are more likely to see this provider on a timely basis for all your appointments); a family practice doctor (who may be more likely to refer you to a specialist if any complications arise, but can also care for you, your baby and your other children after delivery); or a nurse midwife (who tends to have a more holistic approach to your pregnancy, labor and delivery, but would need to call in an obstetrician should you have to have a C-section).
You also should remember that your relationship with your provider is like any kind of relationship — there needs to be decent chemistry. If you don’t feel comfortable with the first provider you meet, make an appointment to meet with someone else. Come armed with a list of question and, ideally, bring someone with you to write down the answers, so you can totally concentrate on the conversation.
Think about what your needs are, and which kind of healthcare professional could best meet them.
Select Where You Want to Give Birth
Think about where you want to deliver as well. Most physicians will deliver at full-service hospitals, while some family practice physicians and nurse midwives deliver at independent birthing centers. If you are interested in a home birth, you will need to choose a provider who offers it. Read up on what each kind of facility offers, and write down a pro-con list for each.
Create Your Birth Plan
Another area where you have more control than you might think it in the creation of your birth plan. Complications can arise, and your might not be able to totally stick with your preferences, but in most cases your wishes will be taken into consideration.
• Do you want natural childbirth?
• Do you want an epidural the minute you walk into the hospital?
• Do you want a doula with you?
• Do you want your mom but, for sure, not your mother-in-law?
• Do you feel nervous about making your wishes known in terms of who can and cannot be in the delivery room, and would you like the healthcare team to restrict access?
These are all choices that you have, and you need to make your desires known. Your body, your baby. But note that how you feel now may not sync with how you feel when you are actually in labor. It might sound like a great idea to have parents and friends with you in the room when your baby arrives, but when the time comes, you may have other ideas. Or vice versa. You may intend to have just your partner in the delivery room, but when the time for pushing comes, you may want your mom to be there as well.
Having a baby brings with it a certain sense of power. Be sure to stay aware of it. You might feel overwhelmed by well-meaning parents, parents-in-law, other relatives and friends who make suggestions (demands?) about what to name your baby, where to deliver your baby, which provider to use and how to care for your baby. But these are your and your partner’s choices, not theirs. You can listen to their ideas, but don’t feel obligated to follow through. Follow your gut feelings. This is about you, your partner and your baby. No one else.
With all the changes of pregnancy, your body is in fact very focused on building your baby and you may well feel uncomfortable that things don’t look or feel the same. Remember, however, that this is a temporary situation, and focus on all the choices and decisions that are well within your control.
Alice D. Domar, PhD, is executive director of the Domar Centers for Mind/Body Health, director of integrative care at Boston IVF, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, and author, most recently, of Finding Calm for the Expectant Mom.
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