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.
Whoa! Your baby is born prematurely. With my second child, A.J., I developed a sudden case of severe pre-eclampsia. Waiting to deliver wasn't an option, so I had another C-section at barely 32 weeks. I'm not alone. Birth rates for preemies (babies born at less than 37 weeks' gestation) have been rising for 40 years, says Errol Norwitz M.D., chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tufts Medical Center. About 13 percent of babies in the United States are born prematurely. That's nearly one in eight, says the March of Dimes. Two major factors are largely responsible: giving birth at an older age and the higher incidence of multiples births resulting from fertility treatments. But most women who deliver preemies (like me) have no known risk factor. “I tell people all the time, ‘This is not your fault,’” says Dr. Norwitz.
If it happens to you: Don't panic. Most late preterm infants (34 to 37 weeks) do almost as well as their full-term counterparts, says Dr. Norwitz. “The most important factor is the baby's gestational age,” he explains. “By 28 weeks, the vast majority survive, and babies born after 34 weeks do almost as well as full-term babies.” If your baby needs to stay in the hospital after you're discharged, you can still bond and be involved in his care. Visit and hold him as much as possible. “The more skin-to-skin contact, the better for mom and baby,” says Dr. Norwitz. Even if he needs to be in an incubator most of the day, you can usually hold his hand. Pumping breast milk every few hours is another way to help your baby and feel close to him. “Make friends with the team of nurses and doctors who'll be taking care of your baby,” says Dr. Norwitz. “For a short time, you're giving your baby up to them.”