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Midwives' Secrets for Expectant Moms

When I was pregnant with my first child, my midwife did what any good caregiver would: She kept a watchful eye on my health and my baby's well-being; gave me sound advice for dealing with aches, pains, and anxiety; and helped my husband and me prepare for the birth. And when my due date passed and the doctors she was in practice with recommended inducing labor, Sue gently reminded them (and me) that I wasn't actually "late" until my pregnancy reached 42 weeks. As long as my baby and I were both doing well, she said, there was little reason to give nature a nudge. Sure enough, labor kicked in a day under that 42-week wire, and after the active, natural childbirth I'd hoped for, she placed my squalling son in my arms and cheered, "You did it!"

Only about 7 percent of American babies are born with the help of midwives (by comparison, about 70 percent of European babies are), but these caregivers' down-to-earth, mom-centered approach brings insights, like these, to any expectant woman:

Every mom's unique

There's a wide range of normal in pregnancy, especially when it comes to weight

Most expectant moms worry about the pounds they pack on -- whether they're gaining enough, too much, or at the right pace. But a midwife considers weight in tandem with the overall progress of the pregnancy, especially if the woman started it at a normal weight.

Take-away advice: Relax. A high or low scale reading isn't usually a concern unless it's coupled with other warning signs, such as rising blood pressure (which can indicate preeclampsia) or a small uterine measurement (which can signal poor fetal growth). Just eat a well-balanced diet and alert your provider to any concerns.

What's going on in your head is as important as what's going on in your womb Sure, pregnancy is a physiological process, but it's also an emotional one. (After all, how often are you weepy, delirious, stressed-out, excited, and terrified — all at the same time?) "I ask my patients, 'What's going on in your life? What are you dealing with at home right now? Are you getting the support you need?'" says Janice Sack-Ory, a midwife in Federal Way, Washington.

An expectant woman who's extremely anxious about getting through labor or becoming a mom, for instance, may not be able to focus on caring for herself or preparing for a new baby. A stressful job or an abusive relationship can be even more detrimental -- both have been linked to miscarriage, poor fetal growth, and preterm labor.

Take-away advice: Consider whether your caregiver is someone you can really talk to. Are you comfortable bringing up marital or work issues or your fluctuating pregnancy emotions? If not, is there a member of her staff (a nurse-practitioner, say) who's a good sounding board for these concerns? If the answer is no, you may want to look elsewhere for support, such as a local expectant-mothers' group (offered by many parents' centers) or an online "expecting club."