How to Handle the Unexpected When Giving Birth
You've taken classes, written a detailed birth plan and packed your bag. What you've not done is prep for the unexpected. Here's how to handle labor and delivery curveballs so you can focus on the beautiful baby you're welcoming into the world.
Yikes! You need a C-section. Like it or not, Caesarean births are still near an all-time high — a whopping 33 percent of U.S. births in 2010 (the most recent figures available), says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Even elective C-sections are on the rise, says Pamela Berens M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical School, Houston. “Some moms are requesting to schedule C-sections instead of going into labor,” she says. “It's a trend that's growing in some parts of the country.” There are also many medically necessary reasons for having a Caesarean, including fetal distress, breech presentation, an abnormally placed placenta or labor that simply isn't progressing.
If it happens to you: If you're disappointed that you didn't deliver vaginally, look at the big picture: You did what it took to have a safe birth. “Any way that you end up with a healthy baby is fine,” says Dr. Berens. “We don't get to choose what labor is like, and the experience is very seldom what moms think it's going to be.” Instead of dwelling on what didn't happen, focus on the positives, she says. “I try to discuss recovery after a C-section with the whole family present,” Dr. Berens notes. “For six weeks after the birth, a C-section mom should recover, sleep and nurse the baby. That's her job, period. It's someone else's job to cook, clean and entertain relatives.”
Oh no! You need to be induced. Sometimes, labor just doesn't happen on time. Or there's some medical reason that makes it necessary to deliver the baby early. Cathy Hale's doctor decided to induce her two weeks before her due date because she was suffering from a condition that causes severe itching and is only relieved by delivering the baby. “I was nervous about being induced because I had heard bad stories about labor with Pitocin,” says the Austin, Texas, mom. “I was also sad that it wouldn't happen naturally.” After she took Pitocin, Hale's water broke. “The contractions were fast and furious and completely overwhelmed me,” she recalls. “I had no idea what to expect.”
If it happens to you: Inductions are becoming more and more frequent: more than 22 percent of births between 1990 and 2006. Doctors will induce labor when there's a medical condition that puts mom or baby at risk, for example, pre-eclampsia, diabetes or an abruption of the placenta. Moms who get to 41 or 42 weeks of gestation are also likely to be induced. And in recent years, says Dr. Berens, some women want to choose their due dates, so they ask to be induced. Whatever the reason, the drug Pitocin is generally used to bring on contractions. “[Pitocin-induced contractions] tend to be closer together and much more regular than natural contractions,” says Dr. Berens, who has experienced both natural and induced deliveries with her four children. Fortunately, Pitocin is a short-acting drug, and the aftereffects are minimal, notes Dr. Berens.