Doula, epidural, nitrous oxide … mothers-to-be have options for their birth plan

A birth plan can include many options, from who helps (midwife, doula, both), to what kind of pain relief (epidural, nitrous oxide, warm water labor tub) and VBAC for women who have had a C-section.

When planning for a baby, expectant parents have many things to consider. Choosing a name, finding a car seat and getting on the right daycare waiting list suddenly become priorities. But there are other options to consider leading up to a happy, healthy childbirth.

Have you ever considered partnering with a nurse midwife for your gynecologic and pregnancy care? Many women are choosing to have a certified nurse midwife as their provider. The practice of midwifery dates back to the 1700s, but the medical expertise and holistic approach are current with today’s standards. Midwives encourage patients to explore their delivery and pain-relief options.

For women who have had a cesarean section, they may be hoping to deliver vaginally this time. This is known as a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). Once they determine it’s medically safe, many physicians and nurse midwives are willing to support women who wish to have a vaginal delivery. It’s important to talk to your provider early in your pregnancy to identify risks and establish a VBAC plan.

Nitrous oxide, epidural, labor tub among supportive tools

The childbirth process and level of pain varies from woman to woman. However, mothers-to-be have more options than ever for support during labor.

The use of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is becoming more popular during labor. Nitrous oxide is an analgesic, not an anesthesia, so it can reduce pain but does not cause sedation. Using a 50/50 mix of nitrous and oxygen, patients can breathe in the gas to help ease discomfort. With nitrous oxide, patients still have the option to try other forms of pain control, including anesthesia, if they choose.

A warm water soak in a labor tub can help relax women during labor. Laboring in a tub has been an option for many years and can be part of any woman’s birth plan. Reclining waist deep in an oversized tub, the woman can labor with the comfort of her partner nearby.

The most popular form of pain relief during labor is anesthesia commonly referred to as an epidural. It is administered with a needle into the epidural space of the spinal cord. Medication blocks the nerves from feeling pain, allowing most patients to deliver with minimal discomfort and limited side effects.

Natural birth is defined by what you want

Many women want to pursue a natural birth. This is a labor and delivery with minimal medical and technological intervention. It usually involves special breathing and relaxation techniques for pain relief. A natural birth is truly defined by each woman’s preference. Many will choose to use nitrous oxide or spend time in a labor tub to help soothe labor pains.

Some families find the support of a doula helps them have a positive birth experience. Much like a coach, a doula assists a woman before, during and shortly after childbirth. Doulas are hired by the family and are considered a guest in the delivery room. You can have two guests at Norton Healthcare facilities.

Pregnant or planning?

More parents choose Norton Hospital in downtown Louisville and Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital in St. Matthews to deliver their babies than any health care system in Kentucky.

Talking with your provider about all of these options is one way to get started, but also consider prenatal classes. Norton Healthcare offers classes for expectant parents through the Marshall Women’s Health & Education Center and at Norton Hospital. These include infant CPR, simply natural childbirth and even a class to help introduce your new baby to your fur baby.

The support doesn’t stop when you deliver. Pediatricians, lactation consultants and nurse practitioners are standing by to help with your new bundle of joy. Newbie Nights at pediatricians’ offices allow parents to visit one-on-one with physicians to ask questions and get to know one another. Consider going to a Newbie Night before your baby is born.

Lactation consultants and a breastfeeding support group meet weekly, welcoming parents for baby weight check-ins and as much guidance as needed. Through Norton eCare, nurse practitioners are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for face-to-face, online secure video visits to answer questions about breastfeeding. Your first appointment is free after you recent delivery at a Norton Healthcare hospital.

As you’re planning for your special delivery, add Norton Women’s Care to the guest list and let us help you welcome your bundle of joy.

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