17 Labor Questions to Ask Your Health Care Providers During Pregnancy - A Midwive's Perspective
By: Fiona Chapman of Passionate Parenting
The definition of labor is; "work, especially physical work" (dictionary.com). Labor in childbirth is certainly a physical workout but it needs a much broader description. Some words l would add to the description of labor: ‘painful, excruciating, intense, amazing, life changing, anxiety provoking, awkward' and I'm sure there are many more we could add.
Questions about the impending labour need to be asked to decrease our fear and allay our anxieties. The more prepared we are, the more we are able to deal with the event itself as we feel more confident and empowered. I always remember and tell pregnant women;
KNOWLEDGE = POWER.
Pregnancy is a time of excitement, fear, anxiety, happiness and l bet you could name a lot more as stated above in my definition. I think l have experienced every emotion known to man during my labors. Laboring women that l have cared for experience similar and different emotions depending on their circumstances but all concur that it’s one hell of a roller-coaster ride. You can compare labor to parenting except it’s at time warp speed instead of spread over the rest of your life. Everyone's experience of pregnancy is different and unique.
When it is your first pregnancy, you have never been through 'the event' before, so all of these feelings can be exacerbated. What will labor be like? Will l have a vaginal birth? What happens if my water breaks at home? How will l get through the pain? Will l tear? Some questions cannot be answered before the event. Being a midwife, l would have loved a dollar for every time a woman and her partner asked me 'how much longer?'. I would be even richer if l had a crystal ball! Unfortunately, we are not fortune tellers - although at times we can make an educated guess and be right!
Your health care provider does not know what your labor experience will be like and how you will birth. No one knows what their own experience of labor is like until they have been there. You will hear a number of stories, but they can be completely different. One thing I can say with certainty - contractions are pretty painful! However, thanks to the medical advances today, there is pain relief options available to dramatically decrease the pain.
This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Please discuss any of this information with your health care provider. I am going to provide some general questions one can ask, but there will be many specific questions you'll want to ask that are pertinent to your individual circumstances.
In most countries there is education you can participate in during pregnancy to prepare for labor, birth and the parenting journey. This is a great time to discuss and explore in detail any of these questions and others you may have.
Questions to ask about labor:
- How will l know my labor has begun and when do l need to go to the hospital?
- What are the numbers l need to call if I am in labor? Keep them somewhere easily accessible.
- If I’m at home and l have some general questions about the pregnancy or birth, is there someone l can call or reputable websites l can access that provide accurate information?
- What happens upon arrival to the hospital?
- What pain relief will be available for me to use in labor? Remember to ask about medical and natural types of pain relief that you can use.
- Where will you be having your baby? Can you have a tour of the birthing unit? This will be helpful as you'll know if advance where to go during labor and it will hopefully make the entire experience less stressful.
- Who will look after me in labor and who will be present when l have my baby?
- How many support people can l have with me in the birthing room? There can be restrictions but it depends on the hospital policy.
- Is there a bath or shower available for me to use? Water is a great source of pain relief in labor.
- What do I need to pack for labor? Do l need to bring my own hot packs, snacks, drinks etc.
- What positions are more helpful to give birth in? Note: The most uncomfortable position is to be lying on your baby pushing up hill. It’s better to be in any other position than this unless you are having an assisted birth (with vacuum extraction or forceps).
- What happens when I’m pushing my baby out? Will l know how to push? What support is given to me at this time?
- What type of monitoring will be used for my baby in labor. Will l be able to walk around?
- When is an episiotomy performed? Will l need one?
- What happens once my baby is born? Can the baby be on my chest for skin to skin contact? When would you need to take the baby away?
- What do l do after l have my baby? Do l need to be moved into another room? Can my partner stay?
- What happens if l need a caesarean?
This list is not exhaustive and you will have your own questions that you will need to ask. Remember again, knowledge = power. Good luck on your pregnancy, labor and birth journey!
Fiona Chapman is a mum of two beautiful boys and has extensive experience as a midwife and Child and Family Health Nurse. She is passionate about inspiring and empowering parents on their parenting journey in today’s world by sharing her knowledge and experiences. You can find her on her website Passionate Parenting, or follow her on Facebook.