Yes, it's true. That sweet little baby growing inside you eventually has to come out. Despite the stories you heard as a child from the stork lobbying group, your baby has two ways out: a vaginal delivery or through a Cesarean section.
How you choose to deliver is (mostly) up to you, but, of course, sprinkled with a little bit of fate. So while it's great to have a birth plan, just remember you may have to roll with the unexpected once the big day arrives. Here's the rundown on some of the most common ways you may wind up delivering.
Although the percentages are shifting annually, 70% of women are giving birth vaginally. How they choose to go about it varies: Some will prepare with classes from Lamaze or the Bradley Method, some plan to opt for pain relief from the start, and others choose to explore a different method like HypnoBirthing or water birthing.
This method, developed by Dr. Fernand Lamaze in 1951, incorporates childbirth education classes (averaging six weeks), breathing and relaxation techniques and techniques in how to respond to pain (including walking, using a birth ball, changing positions and massage). It's all about giving a woman confidence to make choices that are right for her during pregnancy and birth. There is no one hard line here for or against any choices; drugs/no drugs… you be the judge.
Lamaze International recommends that you enroll for these classes 6-8 weeks in advance of your seventh month of pregnancy.
The Bradley Method
If you like the thought of natural childbirth (read: no drugs) and you like studying, this one's for you. Over a course of 12 classes (which is supplemented by a 125-page workbook), parents-to-be learn how to give birth naturally, ways to handle pain by working with their bodies, tips on staying healthy, how to create a birth plan, and training for the couch and/or doula.
Note: If you're going this route, it's suggested that you begin your Bradley class series in the fifth month of your pregnancy. Learn more at BradleyBirth.com.
Looking forward to giving birth naturally but not keen on pain medication? Say hello to HypnoBirthing. Another natural childbirth choice, HypnoBirthing is a form of self-hypnosis that reduces pain and stress during labor through guided imagery, affirmations, and special breathing techniques. It teaches the mom-to-be how to calm, control, and relax her body (without being in a trance), allowing endorphins to replace the hormones that cause pain.
If you're a person who's all about your bath (or is just on the adventurous side), you might want to consider bringing your baby into the world through a water birth. Seen as "the gentlest of gentle births," mamas-to-be hop in a tub of warm water, usually heated between 90–100 degrees. Advocates of water births cite the physical relief for the mother and the easy transition for baby since the temperature of the water is similar to the mother's body temperature. Sometimes a tub is used just during labor to help moms relax and ease their pain.
You'll first want to check if your hospital or birthing center offers water births. Or you can have this experience at home by renting a tub. Of course, if you choose to stay at home, you'll want to have someone with you who is experienced in assisting with water births.
Note: Be sure to check with your OB/GYN first regarding complications that could arise. Read more at Waterbirth.org.
Whether planned or unplanned, Cesarean sections are now making up 30% of US births. The rise in numbers can be attributed to the decline of VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean), but despite the recent controversy over the procedure's frequency, C-sections are common whether they are planned or not. Either way, that baby is coming out through your belly (well, the abdomen and uterus, to be exact). This surgical procedure allows your baby to be born through a small incision made just above the pubic bone (or the bikini line).
Unplanned Cesarean Section
Unplanned C-sections happen when complications arise during labor. Your doctor may encourage you to opt for this surgery, and it may be the safest option on hand due to circumstances (for example, if the baby is too large to be delivered vaginally, or if the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby's neck).
Always be informed of your risks and options. Some doctors are eager to perform Cesarean sections for convenience or to minimize risk.
Planned Cesarean Section
Why go for a planned C-section? There are medical reasons why you might need to plan a Cesarean section. These include but are not limited to: placental problems like placenta previa where the placenta is sitting low and covering part of or all of the inner opening of the cervix, a maternal infection like genital herpes, certain cases of maternal diabetes or high blood pressure, or if the baby has a certain type of birth defect.
Aside from medical necessity, some women with busy schedules want — or need — to know exactly when their baby will be born.
They are usually scheduled between 39 weeks and your estimated due date.
Whatever path you decide to take, be sure to talk thoroughly with your doctor or health care provider about all of your available choices.
This article was reviewed by Anthony Chin, MD. Dr. Chin is an OB/GYN in Beverly Hills, California.