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Healthy lifestyle, birthing plan key to lessening pre-birth fears

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Healthy lifestyle, birthing plan key to lessening pre-birth fears

Jeff and Maureen Jerner pose for a picture with their newly arrived son, Liam, in September 2010.

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POSTED July 24, 2012 6:36 p.m.

Jeff and Maureen Jerner are anxiously anticipating the arrival of the newest member of their family, scheduled to make an appearance in December. Despite their excitement — and the fact that this will be their third child — the Turlock couple still has fears about the big day.

The Jerners are not alone in their worrying. Many expectant parents have a bevy of questions about what they should do to prepare for the birth of a child, starting with pregnancy.

According to Dr. Kathleen Kearns, a family practitioner and Emanuel Medical Center’s chief of staff, pregnancy should start with a healthy lifestyle.

“Patients should sustain an overall healthy lifestyle emphasizing natural foods, adequate rest, and regular exercise. A daily prenatal vitamin is recommended starting prior to conception and throughout the pregnancy. Folic acid supplementation is recommended prior to conception and often through the first several months of pregnancy,” Kearns said. 

“Patients should definitely continue with regular dental care, and get tooth and gum infections treated if applicable. Regular exercise includes any activity the patient was doing before, avoiding high impact activities during the second half of pregnancy. Staying fit cardiovascularly and maintaining strength in the legs and hips can help quite a bit with the work of giving birth. Of course, attending prenatal visits and getting the tests done on time is always recommended,” she continued.

Finding the right doctor and hospital can make all the difference in having a good experience through pregnancy and the birthing process.

“As long as I have attentive nurses and a doctor I can count on, I’m good,” said Maureen.

Family physicians, friends or relatives are a good place to start when seeking recommendations for an obstetrician. Childbirth educators are also a good source for referrals.

If those avenues don’t come through, try calling the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in Washington, D.C., at (202) 638-5577 to get names of board-certified ob-gyns in the area, or visit the ACOG website — http://www.acog.org/About_ACOG/Find_an_Ob-Gyn —  to find a doctor by zip code.

For most first-time parents, what to expect during the actual birthing process causes the most anxiety. How to deal with the pain and who should be in the delivery room are just two of the issues that arise when considering an upcoming birth.

“Anticipation of the pain is way more once you’ve gone through it twice, and it never gets easier,” Maureen said.

Many moms-to-be opt for a natural childbirth, with few medical interventions, while others wish to go through labor with as little pain as possible.

“The most important thing, I believe, is for patients to remain flexible. It’s good to have a plan for pain management, but I tell my patients not to feel bad if they change their minds once labor and delivery is under way,” said Dr. Roger Lewis of Ob-Gyn Associates of Turlock.

Every expectant mother should investigate the possible pain medications given during birth before going into labor, so when the time comes she will be informed and better able to make a decision if the situation changes or the birth does not go as planned.

While in labor, keeping calm is important for pain management for mom — and making birth less traumatic for baby. Who is in the delivery room can make the difference between having a wonderful experience or a stressful procedure.

“It’s good for a mother to have a support person or even support people in the room. But make sure you don’t feel pressured to allow anyone in the room with whom you have conflicts. You don’t want any conflict in the room,” said Dr. Daniel McCauley of Ob-Gyn Associates of Turlock.

All of these issues should be thought about before the big day, written down into a birthing plan and shared with the doctor and hospital staff.

“Yes, a birthing plan is essential! Mothers should think about pain control during labor such as epidural, oral and IV medication, all of which are available at the birthing center. She should decide who will be in the room during delivery, who will cut the umbilical cord, whether or not to save the cord blood for possible stem cell research and whether to nurse or bottle-feed her baby. She should also choose a pediatrician,” said Dr. Fatemeh Pazouki of the Tower Health & Wellness in Turlock.

Once expectant parents have committed to a healthy lifestyle, found an obstetrician, researched pain management for labor and created a fully informed birthing plan, all that’s left to do is decorate baby’s room — easy, right?

“Right now it’s still up in the air,” said Maureen about decorations for the baby’s room. “I find out what I’m having in three weeks. I have one of each and boxes of stuff for boys and girls. I’m holding onto all of it until I know what I’m having. I’m glad I chose gender neutral items for the big things like crib, highchair and swing. My main concern is making sure I have enough room,” said Maureen.

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