In today's digital age, information on health topics is at our fingertips. But when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, there is lots of mixed information and it can be hard to know what is best.
I encourage my patients before conception to focus on improving their own health, quit smoking, avoid alcohol and start taking a prenatal vitamin at least three months before trying to conceive. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important for a healthy pregnancy. Women who weigh less than 250 pounds generally have a healthier pregnancy, so for some patients, it can be beneficial to lose weight before becoming pregnant.
Once pregnant, most women follow their baby's progress using tools like smartphone apps that provide tips and regular updates on what they should expect. I also recommend a visit to the local library or bookstore. There are many books available with reasonable advice for pregnancy that can help expectant parents to prepare.
Once a woman enters the second trimester of pregnancy, I suggest they take advantage of an array of childbirth classes available.
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Maternity education classes help first-time parents learn the terminology used in labor and delivery. They also help them to become familiar with the process of childbirth.
Classes can also empower women to have positive birth experiences and be informed about early parenthood challenges such as breastfeeding, fatigue and infant care.
Theses classes are an important gateway to conversation with your physician. Following childbirth classes, many parents will come to their next doctor's appointment with important and thoughtful questions related to their birth experience, improving the dialogue between patient and provider.
For most first time parents, learning what to expect makes them more comfortable during labor and delivery. A component of pain is anxiety. Feeling logically prepared for this event can help relieve that anxiety. In my experience, patients who are relaxed, calm and understand the process that their body is going through are able to tolerate discomfort easier.
A lot of patients have ideas about how they want their birth experience to go. In a good childbirth class, a variety of options are presented and it's not the "made for Hollywood" version. There is lots of variety in the way a baby can be delivered and there is no one best course. Understanding options can help patients to isolate the parts of the experience they want or don't want
For patients, knowing the vocabulary and being equipped with the information to express their thoughts on the best course for them is a very valuable tool. Childbirth classes at the hospital also include a tour of the birthing center so parents know exactly where to go when the time comes to welcome their little one.
Beyond childbirth, other classes I recommend include new parent classes, which teach the basics of baby care. These classes are particularly helpful for first-time parents.
I also encourage patients who are planning to breast feed to take a nursing or lactation course. These classes help explain the process of breastfeeding and prepare mothers for what to expect, including what supplies they will need.