Today's moms have less pain, more perks in childbirth.
It’s not your mother’s maternity care, or even your older sister’s. From new services to the latest education and support, here are some current pregnancy and maternity care trends.
Start (way) early
Doctors recommend a visit before pregnancy occurs. “A pre-conceptional consultation can identify risk and provide appropriate care to ensure the best outcome for mother and baby,” explains Katherine Lackritz, MD, an OB/GYN at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. “Use the opportunity to get whatever screening you can do ahead of time and get up to date with vaccines.”
“Prenatal counseling is important so that women who are at high risk can be identified and better understand how to get their health under control before they get pregnant,” says Vivian Vega, MD, of Premier Women’s Health of South Jersey. “We can get them started on the correct regimen of medication, for example, as well as starting them on prenatal vitamins to build up folic acid, important for the baby’s development.”
“The pre-conception visit is a good idea but underutilized,” says Joshua Johannson, MD, Penn Medicine’s director of labor and delivery. “It is an opportunity to talk about potential health or genetic issues, fertility and the best way to go about getting questions answered as well as anticipate needs.”
The right information
“Women can now go online and find a plethora of information on pregnancy, childbirth and child-rearing,” says Stacy McCrosson, MD, an OB/GYN based in Cherry Hill, NJ. But she warns that “most online information is not edited and is being offered by people with varying levels of experience and knowledge.”
She recommends using a qualified source of information, such as VirtuaBaby, which is part of the Virtua website. “It is reliable and comes from the experts at one of the highest-volume hospitals for deliveries in New Jersey. “Patients are getting information from books, family members, friends and online,” says Dr. McCrosson. “As OB practitioners, it’s our job to help them sort through this information.”
Education and services
“Patients today have access to a wide range of patient-education classes and services geared to making their pregnancy enjoyable and stress-free,” says Rudolf Laveran, MD, an OB/GYN at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, PA. Basic services include prenatal care, lactation instruction and support, and baby basics. Auxiliary services include sibling preparation, infant massage, car-seat safety and baby CPR. Women can customize care with options such as delivery in a homelike setting.
“Following the birth, many hospitals offer professional photography services to capture a baby’s first minutes or days of life — a wonderful keepsake for parents,” says Dr. Laveran. Cooper University Hospital offers a special class that covers going back to work while breastfeeding. Penn Medicine features a special program called The Pavilion that offers “a guaranteed private room, catered meals on china, robes and even a concierge,” says Dr. Johannson.
“Natural childbirth” is much less popular today than in previous generations. “There is a trend away from natural birthing classes,” says Dr. Vega. “Nine out of ten patients have a plan that includes an epidural for pain management.” Today’s new moms “are more educated about pregnancy and delivery,” says Dr. McCrosson. “As practitioners, we need to supplement and support this knowledge from early on in their pregnancies. We need to establish what type of delivery experience they have in mind, so we can utilize some of the complementary therapies available.”
With the emphasis on a comfortable, pain-free birth, new services are available. Says Michelle A. Iavicoli, MD, co-head of Cooper’s Division of General Obstetrics & Gynecology, “Our anesthesia department offers pre-delivery consultations about pain management in labor…before the pain begins.”
Mary Ann Romans is a local freelance writer.