The decisions that women have to make during pregnancy aren’t just about the colors and decor of their baby’s nursery or which stroller they should get. Now that you and your partner have made the ultimate decision to become parents, there are much bigger decisions that you two need to make before your little one arrives. Too many women wait until the last minute to make these choices, and because of that, some of their options are no longer available. This is why it’s time to sit down and consider those important questions. Get prepared before your baby’s big day, and take a look at our list below of the 14 major decisions to make during your pregnancy.
1. Who Should Be My Care Provider?
As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, it’s time to start thinking about the type of practitioner you want to work with throughout your pregnancy and for the birth of your baby. I want to let you know that this doesn’t have to be your current provider. Even though he/she may be super nice and you have known him or her for years, that person may practice a little differently than the way you want your labor and birth to go.
Take me, for example! When I first moved to Houston, I googled “great OBGYNs” that accepted my insurance and picked an OB/GYN group that had good reviews and seemed nice. My doctor was super lovely, and her staff is very nice. But once I became a doula and saw how she and her fellow partners practice during labor and delivery, I knew that I had to find a new provider. The way they worked compared to other doctors I saw was not what I wanted. This is why it’s important to ask around and really think about what type of experience you want and which person will be able to give that to you, whether it’s an OB/GYN or a certified midwife. In my opinion, it’s the biggest decision to make during pregnancy. (Get more information on what to ask your OB or midwife to make the best choice for you.)
Once you have chosen the practitioner you would like to work with, that decision will dictate where you will have your baby — in a hospital, a birthing center or at home, which leads me to your next decision . . .
2. Where Should I Give Birth?
When you are making this decision, I want you to imagine where you would like your baby to be born: in a hospital, birth center, or at home. I highly recommend getting recommendations from friends and listen to their labor and birth experiences. (NOTE: I also recommend talking to doulas. They know the scoop on all the hospitals and doctors in your area. They can tell you the truth about the type of experience you can probably expect.) If they are negative stories, it’s probably a good idea to explore different options. Once you have a few ideas of where you would like to give birth from the recommendations you’ve heard, visit the places you’re considering. Then check with your insurance plan to confirm your coverage. This needs to be done early on in your pregnancy.
3. Should I Find Out My Baby’s Gender?
Nowadays, most expecting parents choose to find out their baby’s gender during their pregnancy. Knowing can help them feel better prepared. (You can determine the gender through a blood test as early as 8 weeks or at your 20-week ultrasound). Others like to go the old-fashioned route of being surprised in the delivery room. I will say, the families that I have worked with that have waited to find out the gender have the most magical experiences. Talk to your partner about this and decide what feels right to you. Finding out the sex of your baby allows you to:
- narrow down the name instead of choosing one name for each gender
- decorate the baby’s room (nursery) with the colors that you would like rather than going gender-neutral
- buy specific baby clothes ahead of time
- have a gender-reveal party!
Keeping it a surprise can be a great motivator during labor and delivery, though. Women are so determined to meet their little one since they have been waiting so long to find out if they have a daughter or a son. And when they finally get that moment to meet their child and welcome him or her into the world, it is absolute pure joy.
4. What’s My Maternity Leave Plan?
Telling your boss about your pregnancy and sorting out your maternity leave plan is a must. Most women usually tell their employer about the big news at 12 weeks (or before their pregnant belly begins to show). This news is always appreciated since it allows several months to plan for your absence. I understand that revealing your pregnancy to your employer can be nerve-wracking, but there is nothing to worry about. Once you have announced it, this is when you can discuss your maternity leave options at your company and decide what works best for you and your family.
5. What Are My Plans After Maternity Leave?
Another big decision to make during pregnancy is how long you will take away from work after childbirth. For some women, it’s super easy to make this choice, and for others, it can be tough. Most moms have an idea of their plan before giving birth. However, your plans may change depending on your physical or mental health after giving birth, your baby’s health, and other factors you can’t predict. Family finances are a major consideration, so calculate whether you can afford to stay at home. Also, learn about the pros and cons of staying at home versus returning to work, and if you do plan to return to work, begin researching childcare options during your pregnancy. In many areas, places fill up fast and have waitlists many months in advance. Try to start your research early.
6. What Should I Name My Baby?
This is one of the most fun and difficult decisions to make during pregnancy! Some women have a long list of potential baby names in hand even before they are pregnant, while others don’t have a clue where to begin with this monumental decision when it comes time to name their baby. If you can’t decide before you go into labor, make a shortlist of about three potential names (per sex or baby, in the case of multiples) when you head to the delivery room. It can help you and your partner feel excited rather than overwhelmed by your selection. It also allows you to meet your baby first and see if the name truly is fitting for your baby.
7. What Childbirth Education Class Will I Take?
Some doulas, birth centers, and hospitals offer childbirth education classes that can teach you and your partner about what to expect from labor and birth. There are so many different types of childbirth classes, so it’s good to do your research and ask around for recommendations to see which class is best for you and your needs. Some of the options are Lamaze, ICEA, Hypnobabies, Hypnobirthing, Bradley Method, Birth Boot Camp, and so much more. Some classes are just one day, some are a few days, and some are a few weeks long. You need to take your childbirth class during your third trimester, so it’s important to register for the class by your second trimester. These classes will cover everything from breathing and relaxation techniques to help you cope with labor pains to medical procedures and what to expect during labor and birth.
8. Who Should Be Present at the Birth?
Some hospitals do have policies on how many visitors you can have in the labor and delivery room with you. Be sure to ask how many people can be in the room with you on your big day. Some of the hospitals will allow you to have as many people as you would like. Others may only allow three visitors in the room total (including you, the laboring mom). So if you would like to have your spouse, your mother, your doula, a birth photographer, or a friend, everyone will have to rotate throughout your time in L&D. A lot of women that I work with usually have their spouse with them and their doula with them. Their families are waiting in the waiting room coming in every now and then to check in on them. If you don’t want anyone other than your partner at the hospital during labor and delivery, stand your ground! This is your decision to make during pregnancy, and you need to feel as calm and supported as possible, so only surround yourself with positivity and people that support you and your wants.
9. Should I Use Pain Relieving Medications?
The question of whether to have pain medication during your labor and birth or to have a natural birth is something to think about and research before making a decision. You may think you want one thing, but then change your mind in the end. It’s always important to learn about the pros and cons, the benefits and risks of each procedure and medication because there is more than one option for pain medication during childbirth. Keep in mind that this decision that you make during pregnancy isn’t set in stone. Even if you have a written birth plan, you may change your mind at the last minute, which is okay. But it’s important to educate yourself and have an idea of what you want your experience to be like.
10. Should I Breastfeed or Bottle Feed My Baby?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding is recommended as the healthiest way to feed your newborn. However, it does come with a few barriers and challenges. Bottle feeding is a fine alternative and, in some cases, is the only way some women can feed their babies. The choice of whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed is completely up to you. If you haven’t already experienced this, it’s one of the touchiest and most controversial subjects for new mothers, so be kind to yourself about whatever decision you make. You need to tune out other people’s judgments (even though it can be difficult) and be open to changing plans if you need to. At the end of the day, we are all doing the best we can with our own circumstances.
11. Should We Bank Our Baby’s Cord Blood?
Some parents choose to save and store their baby’s umbilical cord blood because it is rich in stem cells that could be used later to treat many different types of illnesses and disorders. Private cord blood banking (where the blood is available only to the donor’s family) can be costly. In contrast, public cord blood banking is usually covered by insurance and makes the blood available to anyone in need. However, a lot of what is donated is discarded. Some studies have shown that private cord blood banking may only be cost-effective for families with an increased risk of certain medical conditions treated with stem cells and, even then, it is not a guaranteed treatment. Do your research on cord blood banking and weigh the options with your partner. It never hurts to be extra prepared because those stem cells could be used for that child or your next child.
12. Should My Baby Boy Be Circumcised?
Along with breastfeeding and bottle-feeding, this is another extremely controversial topic. Choosing whether to circumcise your baby boy is a big decision to make during pregnancy. At hospitals, they usually perform this procedure 24-hours after birth, but you could also go to a mohel and have it done at your home or a clinic. Circumcision, the surgical removal of the foreskin that covers the tip of the penis, has multiple pros and cons. According to AAP, they don’t go as far as recommending the procedure for all newborn boys. However, one of their latest policy statement’s acknowledges that the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks of the procedure. This is a personal decision for you and your partner to make. Do your research and decide what you think is best for your son.
13. Who Will Be My Child’s Pediatrician?
There are a few women that forget about this question and don’t choose a pediatrician before their baby is born. If you don’t choose your baby’s pediatrician before you give birth, the hospital will assign you one to while you and baby are there. You may not like the pediatrician that is assigned to your baby. This is why it’s a good idea to start researching by the end of your second trimester. Ask your primary care physician and friends for recommendations, then interview your top picks to find the right fit. Pediatricians allow for you to come in for a prenatal consultation so you can interview them, see if you both will be on the same page about everything and if you like your baby’s vaccine schedule. That way, you can determine if they are the right doctor for you and your baby. (Read here for 22 questions to ask when interviewing a pediatrician.)
14. Who Can Visit and Help After the Baby Arrives?
It’s important to have a plan for when you bring your baby home. Some questions that you need to consider are: who would you like to come see your baby right after he/she is born? When would you want them to visit? Either at the hospital or at your home, and for how long? Discuss some reasonable visitation plans with your partner so that you both feel comfortable during your first hours, days, and weeks as parents. As your due date approaches, share your wishes with your friends and family, even if it’s hard to lay some ground rules. But keep an open mind about visitors, and line up as much help as you can for your first days and weeks at home. It’s a good time in your third trimester to consider if you would like a postpartum doula to come and help you as well. Their assistance can really help during your transition to becoming parents. You might be surprised by how much help you need and how much a friendly face can cheer you up as you adjust to motherhood.
What are some other major decisions that you had to make during pregnancy?