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Five mistakes women make during pregnancy

By Patricia Newton

A woman’s pregnancy entitles everyone within a 10-mile radius of the large-bellied lady to give her constant, unwanted advice -- or so it seems. Truth be told, the decisions you make during pregnancy are the first ones you will make as a parent. And when it comes to pregnancy and parenting, most of us have to learn the hard way: trial and error.

In order to simplify your pregnancy, try to avoid these mistakes commonly made by others.

Mistake #1: Announce your exact due date to your family and friends.

Recent statistics indicate that women have approximately a 20% chance of giving birth during their 39th or 40th weeks of pregnancy. Chances are even smaller that you will deliver on your exact due date. Labor can safely begin anywhere from two weeks before to two weeks after your due date. That’s a total span of four weeks! Think more in terms of a “due month” rather than a “due date.”

People have good intentions, but they can become quite a nuisance as D-Day nears. You might end up with seemingly everyone you’ve ever met calling you during the last few weeks of your pregnancy, checking to make sure you haven’t had the baby and forgotten to call them with the news. This headache can be reduced by simply stating, “I’m due in April.”

Mistake #2: Worry about gaining too much or too little weight.

The amount of weight you gain is less important than the quality of the food you consume. Gaining 30 pounds on a diet consisting mainly of milkshakes and potato chips, for example, is not the same as gaining 30 pounds from fruits, vegetables and well-balanced meals.

Believing that pregnancy grants you license to eat for two can cause you to gain a substantial amount of unnecessary weight. Lisa Zaffner, nutritionist and director of operations at Healing Quest Center in Chicago, explains, “The caloric requirement of pregnancy increases by only about 300 calories, so pregnancy is an important time to eat smart.” If you fail to take in the amount of nutrients necessary for your baby’s growth, your baby will draw the much-needed vitamins and minerals from those stored in your body. According to Zaffner, “Nutrients to pay special attention to are calcium, protein, iron, folic acid, fluids and sodium.”

Mistake #3: Choose a medical care provider without knowing his or her views on pregnancy and birth.

Choosing your obstetrician because he’s who your mom went to when she was pregnant with you is not a good reason. You have a mind of your own, and it’s time to use it. What is it that you want?

If you’re hoping for a relatively intervention-free birth experience, then you had better not be attended by a doctor who insists upon routine IVs, episiotomies and constant fetal monitoring. What about pregnancy? What prenatal tests and procedures does he or she deem essential? Most importantly, do you agree?
So how do you know what your doctor thinks is necessary? Ask -- but don’t ask just the doctor. Ask other women who have been his or her previous patients. Consider all options, including midwives, birth centers and even homebirth. Take an active approach to finding the care provider who is right for you. It will be well worth the effort.

Mistake #4: Believe your body is too small to birth a baby.

Although today’s technology can be helpful at times, the frequently used ultrasound, often used to attempt to estimate the weight of a growing baby, often causes more worry than is necessary. The accuracy of ultrasound estimates is questionable. Many times, expectant parents are told that their baby weighs “five or six pounds.” Mom immediately starts calculating baby’s average weight gain per week by the number of weeks left until her due date, and suddenly we have a mother who is seriously doubting her ability to vaginally birth her baby.

According to Certified Nurse Midwife Cathy Hartt from Boulder, Colorado, “For most women, we cannot determine pelvic adequacy until labor stalls out. This may be at complete dilation or anytime the cervix does not change with approximately two hours of adequate labor (during the active phase).” Pelvic ligaments loosen and stretch during labor, giving way for your baby to be born. Making estimates as to whether your body will open “enough” prior to labor is a waste of time, causes unnecessary worry and contributes to believing that you are incapable of giving birth.

Mistake #5: Believe that childbirth education classes are a waste of time.

In today’s fast-paced world filled with the internet, television, e-books and print books on every topic imaginable, many pregnant women feel they can adequately prepare for labor with their own methods of “self study,” skipping traditional, time-consuming childbirth education classes.

For women who desire the “typical Americanized, technological birth,” this may hold true, according to Maureen Jackson, a Bradley Method natural childbirth educator and doula. “However, if you’re a woman who’s interested in trusting her body more than technology and making empowering, informed choices yourself along the way,” she says, “then a childbirth education class can benefit you.”

Today’s qualified childbirth educators offer many forms of preparation, including classes in OB/GYN and midwives’ offices and one-on-one classes in the privacy of your own home. Find out what’s available in your area and consider taking a class. Learn about every option available to you, and remember that knowledge is power. Being well-informed is key to having a healthy, satisfying pregnancy and labor experience.

Patricia Newton ia a freelance writer, certified childbirth educator and doula.

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"The media have become the mainstream culture in children's lives. Parents have become the alternative. Americans once expected parents to raise their children in accordance with the dominant cultural messages. Today they are expected to raise their children in opposition to it." -- Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe columnist


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