A Guide to Childbirth Classes

If you're an expectant mom, you'll find that childbirth classes can be an integral part of preparing for the big day, and are well worth the time and effort. Though different classes vary in their focus, most will include helping you figure out what your birth plan will be on the big day, and what you can (and should) expect from the experience. You'll probably want to sign up for a class in the sixth or seventh month of your pregnancy (or anytime before you go into labor). The earlier you sign up for a class, the more flexibility you’ll have in choosing the best days and time for your schedule. (Another option is to take an online class -- that way you'll have even greater flexibility.)

So what exactly happens in these classes? Read on so you know what to expect.

Get the info. One of the most important parts of childbirth class is learning about the labor process and how to determine if you’re going into labor. Especially for first-time moms, preparing for a new baby can be scary, and childbirth classes are a great forum to ask any and all questions you might have about the process, as well as to address any concerns.

Figure out your birth plan. Deciding on the type of labor you’d like to experience while giving birth to your new baby is a very personal decision. During the childbirth class, you can ask your labor coach questions to help determine what labor method will be best for you.

Check out the facility and meet the staff. If your class is held in a hospital or birth center, you'll probably get the chance to tour the facilities, as well as to meet some of the staff on duty. You’ll be able to ask any questions you have about the hospital’s policies and resources, including whether additional classes are offered for expectant moms, and that staff will be available to help you with breastfeeding and bathing your new baby after birth.

Learn about breathing methods. Proper breathing technique can help make your delivery easier. Childbirth classes will teach you the practice, and prep both you and your partner on how to breathe effectively through your labor.

At the end of the day, childbirth classes will provide you with pregnancy tips and labor information  that will help you feel more confident as you’re preparing for your baby. And they’ll provide you with an opportunity to meet and chat with other soon-to-be new moms -- and that’s always priceless.

A Guide to Your Pregnant Body

When you’re having a baby, your body will go through a multitude of changes. Some you’ll expect (the weight gain, for example) while others might come as a surprise (hello, hemorrhoids!). Here’s the rundown on the trimester-by-trimester changes most expectant moms experience. Keep in mind that while these symptoms are perfectly normal, if any cause you severe discomfort or stop you from going about your daily routines, talk to your doctor.

In Your First Trimester
 
In the initial trimester, your body isn’t quite used to the idea of being pregnant yet, and your increasing hormone levels are wreaking some havoc. Here’s what to expect:

  • Your breasts will most likely become swollen, and your nipples may start to stick out.

  • Morning sickness can cause some soon-to-be new moms to have upset stomachs or to throw up.

  • An increase in hormone levels can bring on acne (talk to your doctor before using any acne medication).

  • Mood swings may occur (again, blame the hormones!). Don’t be surprised if one second you’re laughing with friends and the next you’re sobbing.

  • It’s likely you’ll experience constipation or difficulty with bowel movements.

  • You may need to urinate more frequently.

In Your Second Trimester
By now your body has probably settled into a more steady pregnancy routine. Here’s what expectant moms should be on the lookout for during this time.

  • General body aches in the back, groin, or thighs may start to kick in.

  • Your skin may start to change, including a darkening around your nipples and the appearance of stretch marks, especially on your stomach, breasts, thighs, and buttocks.

  • Your ankles, fingers, and face may start to swell.

  • Other normal symptoms are itching of the abdomen, palms, and feet as well swelling of your ankles, fingers, and face. However, if any of these symptoms are accompanied with nausea, a loss of appetite, vomiting, or extreme fatigue, contact your doctor immediately, as it could be a sign of something more serious.

In Your Third Trimester
Good news: You’re almost at the finish line! Here are a few additional symptoms expectant moms may notice in those final weeks:

  • Shortness of breath, heartburn, and swelling may occur, as well as the development of hemorrhoids.

  • Your breasts may become very tender, and may begin to leak colostrum, a watery pre-milk your body produces as it gets ready to provide nourishment for your new baby.

  • Your new baby will probably “drop” during these weeks, moving lower in your abdomen to prepare for birth.

While some of the symptoms are annoying and even worrisome, keep in mind that most disappear within a few months of giving birth. And by that time, you’ll be so in love with your new baby, you won't even notice a little acne!

An Expectant Mom’s Guide to Traveling While Pregnant

Whether you’re getting there by plane, train, or automobile, traveling while pregnant definitely benefits from forethought and careful planning. While there’s certainly no reason to sit at home, you should take certain precautions to make sure that your trip is healthy, safe, and comfortable for both you and your new baby. Here are some tips on how to make pregnancy travel easier and more enjoyable, as well as advice for which activities are best left off the itinerary.

Before You Go

Check in with your doctor. Make sure you have the official go-ahead to travel from your doctor. Many heath care providers suggest that new moms-to-be consider traveling during the second trimester, when the risk of miscarriage and premature labor is at its lowest.

Find a hospital or medical clinic near wherever you are traveling. You’ll want to know where medical assistance can be found if you need it. If traveling internationally, refer to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers for a worldwide directory of doctors.

Check in with the airline. Certain airlines have restrictions or regulations about traveling while pregnant, so make sure yours knows you have a baby on board.

Traveling by Air

Request an aisle seat. This makes it much easier to take those frequent trips to the bathroom.

Move around. Get up out of your seat and walk up and down the aisle at least once every couple of hours to promote circulation.

Drink plenty of water. Flying can cause dehydration, so keep sipping on water throughout the flight.

Traveling on Land

Pack plenty of healthy snacks. Roadside fare isn’t always nutritious or appealing, so it's wise to pack your own food to help stave off nausea and to keep  you and your new baby fueled along the way.

Dress in layers. While pregnant, your body temperature is constantly changing, and it’s a good idea to be able to remove or add clothing as necessary.

Limit driving time. If traveling by car, aim for driving no more than five or six hours each day, and make frequent stops to get out and stretch your legs.

Activities to Avoid While Away

Bicycling. The shifting center of gravity affects balance, especially after the first trimester.

Scuba Diving. As you surface, air bubbles can form in your bloodstream, which can be very dangerous to both you and your new baby.

Downhill skiing, horseback riding, surfing, and waterskiing. Any activity that poses a high risk for falling should be avoided, as a tumble may increase the risk of trauma to your abdomen.

Remember, women all over the world travel while pregnant. As long as you take the proper precautions, there’s no reason not to schedule a getaway before your new baby is born!

Expectant Mom Baby Bump 101

It’s  no wonder pregnant women are constantly comparing baby bumps: There are plenty of adages suggesting your tummy holds clues to the size, gender, and even the disposition of your new baby. While high for a girl, low for a boy may be an old wives’ tale, there’s plenty of information that can be discerned from an expectant mom’s belly --although it’s not always just about the new baby!

High or Low

One of the most enduring pregnancy myths is that the position of a baby bump indicates gender. In reality, it’s an indicator of the new mom’s fitness level: A woman with a toned stomach will often carry high because her muscles can support the growing baby. However, carrying low doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of shape -- age and previous pregnancies will also make it more difficult for your body to hold that new baby up high .

Narrow or Wide

The shape of a pregnant woman’s belly has also been said to reflect the baby’s gender -- but once again, it actually says more about the expectant mom. Typically, taller women sprout narrower bumps, while shorter women tend to grow wider. This has to do with the length of your torso: if your torso is on the shorter side, there’s little room for your new baby to grow upwards, resulting in a wide bump.   And while the shape may not reveal much about your baby’s gender, it can tell you about his position: A wider tummy often means your new baby is getting comfortable by stretching out sideways.

Big Belly, Big Baby?

When having a baby, there is no right or wrong size for your baby bump -- there are a lot of factors at play. And know that the size of your stomach doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the size of your new baby. Excess amniotic fluid or diabetes can cause your belly to appear larger while a lack of fluid, high blood pressure, or pre-eclampsia can result in a smaller bump, but not automatically a smaller baby. But don’t worry: Your doctor will perform regular ultrasounds to make sure your new baby is growing properly.

It’s likely that friends, family, and even strangers will comment on the size and shape of your belly during pregnancy. But don’t take their comments to heart. Your doctor knows best when it comes to keeping your new baby healthy, so if you have any questions about what’s going on with your stomach, ask away!

Five Questions New Moms-To-Be Should Ask Their OBs

If you're an expectant mom, you know that good prenatal care involves having a practitioner who can answer questions, provide guidance, and offer reassurance. The more you know about your new baby, the better prepared you’ll be to have a healthy pregnancy. Read on for the top five questions any expectant mom should ask her obstetrician.

OB question #1: Is my pregnancy considered to be an at-risk pregnancy?

Many factors -- from being overweight to having high blood pressure to being over age -- can set you up for a riskier pregnancy. Make sure to discuss any current and previous health conditions, as well as your family’s health history, with your OB. If you are an at-risk pregnancy, your doctor will work with you to ensure that your new baby is as safe and as healthy as possible.

OB question #2: What symptoms should I call you about?

It can be unsettling to wake up with cramps or another condition, and not know whether you should call your doctor or go back to bed. Ask your OB to give you a rundown on what symptoms could indicate an emergency. And keep in mind that the reasons to call your OB can vary by trimester, so bring this question up again every few months.

OB question #3: How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?

While there are weight gain recommendations, every pregnancy is unique. Your doctor will be able to work with you to figure out what weight gain is safe for you and your new baby. Overweight women may need to gain less than recommended, while underweight women and new moms of multiples may need to gain more. While you’re at it, ask your OB about ways to gain weight wisely, such as what foods and exercises you can work into your lifestyle.

OB  question #4: What prenatal tests should I get and when will they be done?

Certain tests, such as an ultrasound exam and glucose screening, are routine during prenatal visits. But other tests, such as genetic testing and testing for Down syndrome, will be done if the expectant mom makes that choice. Ask your OB what tests she thinks are right for you, and have her weigh the pros and cons of each test, as you may decide they are not wanted or necessary.

OB question #5: When should I schedule my next appointment?

It’s important to keep up with prenatal appointments throughout your pregnancy, so make sure you don’t leave without discussing when you should next return. If your OB asks you to come back earlier than you had expected, know that the extra trips are to ensure the health of your new baby.

Of course, don’t let the questions end here! If anything else is on your mind, ask away. An educated new mom-to-be will be able to make the best decisions for herself and for her new baby.