Decisions, decisions! Once the exciting news of your pregnancy sets in, it's time to sit down and consider some important questions about everything from your birth plan to your baby's name. Take a step-by-step look at some of the decisions facing parents-to-be (and let us help you make them!).
Where Should I Give Birth?
Picturing where you'll give birth isn't exactly something most women dream of years in advance. Explore whether you would like your baby to be born in a hospital, birthing center, or at home. Get recommendations from friends, visit the places you're considering, and check with your insurance plan to confirm your coverage early on in your pregnancy. Many times, the question of where to give birth involves who you would like to deliver your child: an obstetrician/gynecologist, a nurse-midwife, a midwife, or some combination of these professionals. Get more information on choosing a doctor and where to deliver your baby.
Should I Find Out My Baby's Sex?
Most parents-to-be choose to find out the sex of their baby ASAP (usually at the 20-week ultrasound), while others like to go the old-fashioned route of being surprised in the delivery room. Decide what feels right to you. Finding out the sex allows for better planning in choosing a name, decorating the nursery and buying baby clothes (not to mention the fun new trend of gender-reveal parties), but keeping it a surprise can be a great motivator during labor and delivery, and comes with that magical moment of reveal when the baby makes his or her entrance into the world. If you can hardly wait to learn the sex, check out these 10 gender-predicting old wives' tales.
What's My Maternity Leave Plan?
Announcing your pregnancy at work and sorting out your maternity leave plan is a must for working moms. Most women tell their manager before their pregnant belly begins to show, which allows several months for planning for your absence. While revealing your pregnancy to your employer can seem daunting, in most cases the laws are on your side to help you keep your job and pick it back up after your maternity leave. Print out this sample maternity leave agreement to help guide your plans with your manager.
What Are My Plans After Maternity Leave?
Staying at home to raise your baby vs. returning to work after your maternity leave is another tricky topic for moms-to-be. Most moms have a sense of their plan before giving birth, but 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 vs. returning to work, and if you plan to return to work, begin researching childcare options during your pregnancy. In many areas, places fill up fast, so try to begin your research early.
Should I Breastfeed or Bottle Feed?
Breastfeeding is widely recommended as the healthiest way to feed your newborn, but it comes with some barriers and challenges. Bottle feeding is a fine alternative. The choice of whether to breastfeed or bottle feed is totally up to you. It's one of the touchiest subjects for new mothers, so be kind to yourself about whatever decision you make, tune out other people's judgments, and be open to changing plans if you need to. Learn more about breastfeeding and bottle feeding, and watch this Cloudmom video for all you need to know about bottle and feeding essentials.
What Should I Name My Baby?
Some parents-to-be arrive at pregnancy with a long list of potential baby names in hand, while others don't have a clue where to begin with this monumental decision. Having a short list of about three potential names (per sex or per baby, in the case of multiples) when you head to the delivery room can help you feel excited rather than overwhelmed by your selection. Our NameLab is packed with baby name resources, such as the current top 100 names for girls and boys, and a name popularity tracker. If you and your partner are keen on compromise, this decision can be the most fun one of your pregnancy!
Should My Baby Boy Be Circumcised?
Choosing whether to circumcise your male baby is a not-so-fun decision. Circumcision, the surgical removal of the foreskin that covers the tip of the penis, has various pros and cons. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't go as far as recommending the procedure for all newborn boys, but their latest policy statement (August 2012) acknowledges that the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks of the procedure. Learn more about the pros and cons of circumcision.
Who Should Be Present at the Birth?
Hospitals have their own policies regarding the number of visitors who can be present during labor and delivery. Perhaps you'll want both your spouse and your parent(s) around during your labor, but only your spouse in the delivery room. Many women select one person as their primary birthing partner, and that person attends childbirth classes with the mom-to-be in order to prepare for the main event. If you don't want anyone other than your partner at the hospital during labor and delivery, stand your ground, mama! Get more tips on deciding who to have in the delivery room.
Should I Get an Epidural?
The question of whether to opt for an epidural or try to take the route of natural childbirth is something that looms large throughout many women's pregnancy. Don't get too worked up about it. Gather the facts on your pain relief options during labor and delivery, and decide what your "best case scenario" involves. But keep in mind that this decision isn't set in stone. Even if you have a written birth plan you may change your mind at the last minute (even in the delivery room) — and that is completely fine. Learn more about epidurals and other pain management options.
Should We Bank 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 on to treat medical conditions ranging from leukemia to cerebral palsy to metabolic disorders. Private cord blood banking (where the blood is available only to the donor's family) is very costly, while public cord blood banking is usually covered by insurance and makes the blood available to anyone in need. 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, is not a guaranteed treatment. As such, the AAP encourages public cord blood banking but discourages private cord blood banking. Get more information on cord blood banking, and weigh the options with your doctor.
Who Can Visit and Help After the Baby Arrives?
Who would you like to come see your baby right after she or he arrives? And when would you like them to come? If a hospital visit from your in-laws in the hours after you give birth cues the theme song of Halloween in your head, discuss some reasonable visitation plans with your partner so that you both feel comfortable during your first hours — and 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. You might be surprised by how much help you need and how much a friendly face can cheer you up as you adjust to new motherhood.