The decisions that women have to make during pregnancy aren’t just about the colors and decor of their baby’s nursery theme 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.
14 Major Decisions to Make During Pregnancy
Get prepared before your baby’s big day, and 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 they may be super friendly and you have known them for years, that person may practice differently than how 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 was very nice. But once I became a doula and saw how she and her fellow partners practice during labor and delivery, I knew 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 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 making this decision, I want you to imagine where you would like your baby to be born: in a hospital, birth center, or home. I highly recommend getting friends’ recommendations and listening 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.) Exploring different options is probably a good idea if they are negative stories. 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 not finding out the gender and being surprised in the delivery room.
I will say that the families 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 with a gender-neutral nursery theme
- 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 ones 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 them 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 necessary. 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, 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 during pregnancy is how long you will take away from work after childbirth. It’s super easy for some women 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 significant consideration, so calculate whether you can afford to stay 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. Places fill up fast in many areas 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 during pregnancy! Some women have a long list of potential baby names in hand even before they are pregnant, while others don’t know 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 fits your baby.
7. What Childbirth Education Class Will I Take?
Some doulas, birth centers, and hospitals offer childbirth education classes to teach you and your partner what to expect from labor and birth. There are so many different types of childbirth classes, so it’s good to research and ask for recommendations to see which class is best for you and your needs. Some of the options are:
Some classes you can take during pregnancy are just one day, 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 have policies on how many visitors you can have in the labor and delivery room. Be sure to ask how many people can be in the room with you on your big day. Some hospitals will allow you to have as many people as you want. Others may only allow three visitors in the room (including you, the laboring mom). So, if you would like to have your spouse, mother, doula, birth photographer, or friend, everyone will have to rotate throughout your time in L&D.
Many women 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. Stand your ground if you don’t want anyone other than your partner at the hospital during labor and delivery! It is your decision who will be in the room during your delivery, and you need to feel as calm and supported as possible, so only surround yourself with positivity and people who 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. 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. Remember that this decision 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 know 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.1 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 breastfeeding or bottle-feeding is entirely 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 necessary. We are all doing the best we can with our 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. Research 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 highly controversial topic. Choosing whether to circumcise your baby boy is a big decision during pregnancy. Hospitals 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 an expired policy statement from the AAP, the health benefits are not significant enough to recommend the procedure for all male newborns. However, the benefits of circumcision are enough to just the procedure for families choosing it. They go on to say parents should ultimately decide whether circumcision is in the best interests of their male child.2
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?
A few parents 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 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 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 vaccination schedule. That way, you can determine if they are the right doctor for you and your baby.
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 you need to consider are: who would you like to see your baby right after birth? 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 baby’s due date approaches, share your wishes with your friends and family, even if it’s to lay some ground rules. But keep an open mind about visitors at home, and line up as much help as possible for your first days and weeks at home. The third trimester is a good time 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?