Pregnancy is an exciting time for expectant parents, and childbirth is a miraculous event. Nevertheless,due to the innate unknowns, it can result in considerable anxiety and sense of loss of control. One means of combating these feelings is through thoughtful preparation of a birth plan based on realistic and trustful communication among all the parties who will be involved.
Since the early Roman period, pregnant women in labor had been attended by friends, relatives, or others experienced in aiding with childbirth. As time progressed, the management of the laboring woman became more involved and the advancement of technologies to better monitor the unborn child and the mother required a change in the birth place and the sophistication of the caregivers.
Currently,the vast majority (>98%) of deliveries in the U.S. occur in the hospital setting and are attended by midwives or physicians. In association with these changes came the option of operative delivery (cesarean section) which in 2012 accounted for close to 30% of all births in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Cesarean sections are known to be medically indicated for a number of reasons to safeguard the well being of baby and/or mother.
At the same time, for most pregnancies that are low risk, cesarean section may pose greater risks than vaginal delivery, especially risks related to future pregnancies. Due to the recent rapid increase in the cesarean section rate and concerns that operative delivery is overused without clear evidence of improved maternal or newborn outcomes, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued in 2014 new recommendations targeted at preventing women from having cesarean sections with their first birth and at decreasing the national cesarean rate.
Pain management is a significant component of the birth plan. Although most mothers report only mild discomfort during early labor, as contractions become stronger, longer, and more frequent, pain intensifies and may require relief with either spinal or epidural anesthesia.
Although the medications are generally considered safe, very rare complications can occur. For those women opting for a more natural childbirth, the participation in a yoga program during pregnancy or the use of hypnosis have been described.
Whatever birth plan is developed for an individual pregnancy, it should always be tempered based onthe saying “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. The overriding goal should always be a safe birth for both mother and baby. If communication and trust exist among all parties, childbirth can be a magnificent process.