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What to Expect When Giving Birth

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Many moms-to-be are experts on everything to do with pregnancy; however, as the due date draws nearer, it’s important to be aware of all the in’s and out’s of the hospital for after the baby is born.

First and foremost, many moms recommend taking a tour of the hospital beforehand to avoid any surprises. It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the facilities and general practices of the maternity ward; for instance, are the rooms private or shared? Are partners able to stay overnight? Other great questions to ask during the tour are if the hospital has additional birth aids, if there is a policy on breastfeeding in recovery, if there is a policy on photography and/or video, and what the visiting hours are.

Having a baby is a momentous occasion and loved ones will want to visit and deliver their congratulations. While their love and support is appreciated, it can become overwhelming for a new mom. It’s a great idea to set aside some time within the visiting hours for people to come to the hospital. Posting this information in an e-mail is a quick way ensure that you’re not bombarded by well-wishers.

It’s also a great idea to pre-register at the hospital, which means filling out all that boring paperwork in advance. Just one less thing to worry about when you’re heading into labour!

Once your bag is packed (make sure you bring the essentials: your birth plan, a robe or Giftgown for the hospital, slippers, socks, pillows, hair bands, etc) and you’re on your way to the hospital, here are a few things to expect.

First off, skip the ER and head straight to Labour and Delivery. Once you’re there, a nurse will hook you up to a fetal monitor to check the baby’s vitals and monitor contractions. They’ll also do a quick check-up to ensure that your water has, indeed, broken and your cervix is dilated enough to proceed (otherwise you’ll be sent home).

If you are far along enough into labour, you’ll be transferred to the delivery room, where you can change either into a standard hospital gown, or your personalized and stylish gown. Here, a nurse will be assigned to you, so you’ll have a familiar face to refer to if you have any questions or requests moving forward.

The next step is pain management. There’s no specific time to have an epidural, but it must be administered by an anaesthesiologist, which means it won't happen immediately. Make sure to note you’ll probably have to wait at least 30 minutes for the procedure. As well, getting an epidural also means that you’ll have a catheter to empty your bladder.

If you want to wait before getting pain meds, or if you are going the natural route, it’s great to remain active throughout labour to manage the pain. This could mean walking around or taking a shower or bath, depending on the hospital’s facilities. Your nurse will also stop in periodically to check on you and keep measuring those contractions.

As the contractions intensify and get closer together, you’ll likely see your OB, who will come to check if you’ve dilated to ten centimeters. Even if it feels like you should be pushing, wait for your doctor to give you the OK to make sure you don’t injure yourself.

Once it’s time to start pushing (unless there’s an emergency C-section), listen to your doctor guide you through the process. There is no set time for how long it’ll be before you get to meet your little one. Labour is different for everyone, but first-time labour usually takes the longest.

After the baby is out, the doctors will clean he or she up and immediately place them on your chest. If you want to hold your baby straight from the womb, make sure to specify in your birth plan or with your midwife. You and your baby will then get a couple of hours together in the delivery room, as the doctors monitor how well the baby is adjusting, and ensure vital signs are stable for both of you.

If you and your newborn are doing well, you’ll head to the recovery unit of the maternity ward and set up camp. For vaginal birth, you will typically spent two days here, being monitored by your OB as well as a pediatrician. Most hospitals today have bunk-in policies, meaning you and your baby will never have to be separated, encouraging the bonding and healing process. Many hospitals are now offering fold-out beds for partners as well, so the whole family will be together.

Of course, it’s completely fine to have some alone time and rest. Your baby can spend a few hours in the nursery while you catch some zzz’s. Just make sure you specify if he/she can be given formula, or whether you’d like to stick to breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is an amazing way to bond with your baby, but if you’re having difficulty starting the process, you can ask for a lactation consultant if the hospital has one on staff. Again, this would be a great time to have some peace and privacy. Nursing doesn’t necessarily come easily to everyone, and it’s a big task to learn and perfect.

You’ll definitely feel sore and exhausted in the days following the birth, so make sure to drink fluids, eat healthy and keep the visitors to a minimum so as not to deplete your energy reserves. Don’t be too proud to ask for the things you need, but try to make as many requests as you can in one go (ie. ask for painkillers, juice and extra pillows all at once so your nurse can make one trip instead of three).

Giving birth is a challenging and rewarding experience, filled with as much fear and doubt as there is joy and excitement. Knowing what to expect before you check into the maternity ward will undoubtedly make the whole process go much smoother. Stay informed, and don’t hesitate to ask questions so that you’re prepared for the big day!


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