Planning for pregnancy, childbirth and post-delivery
HealthSmart! Planning for pregnancy, childbirth and post-delivery (Printable PDF, 493 KB)
Meeting with an OB/GYN or maternal-fetal
medicine specialist before becoming pregnant
is one of the most beneficial planning activities
a woman can consider.
Preconception counseling is the process of
taking a very careful history of the mother
and her family and the baby’s father and his
family before becoming pregnant. It can help
determine any factors, illnesses or conditions
– such as a genetic defect or history of preterm
deliveries – that might impact the health of the
mother or the fetus.
If you have an underlying medical condition,
you should ask your doctor:
• What effect could my medical condition
have on a pregnancy and baby?
• How would becoming pregnant affect my
By understanding your health and possible risk
factors, along with those of the baby’s father,
you can decide when and how to start a family.
The health you bring to a pregnancy is one of
the most important influences on the outcome.
It is important for women to manage any
underlying medical conditions leading up to
and during pregnancy.
Prenatal genetic testing
Many families have a history of genetic-based
diseases. These families might desire more
information about how this could affect a
baby. Several prenatal tests are available to
determine whether a fetus might be born with a
genetic disorder such as Down syndrome, cystic
fibrosis or a neural tube defect.
Genetic-testing options include:
• Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) – Between
10 and 12 weeks of pregnancy, a sample of
tissue is taken from the placenta and tested.
• First-trimester screening – Between 11 and
13 weeks, the pregnancy is evaluated with
an ultrasound and blood work.
• Amniocentesis – Between 15 and 20 weeks,
a small sample of amniotic fluid, or the fluid
that surrounds the baby, is collected and
• Quad screen – Between 16 and 18 weeks,
blood is drawn and tested.
Discussion of prenatal genetic testing should
begin with your obstetrician. If at any time
during your pregnancy you become a high-risk
patient, your obstetrician will refer you to a
Labor usually starts two weeks before to two weeks
after the estimated date of delivery. Signs of labor
vary among women, as every woman experiences
labor differently. If you feel unsure whether labor is
beginning, it is important to contact your physician.
Common signs of labor include:
• Bloody show – A small amount of mucus, slightly
mixed with blood, might be expelled from the
• Contractions – Uterine muscles might spasm at
intervals of less than 10 minutes. Contractions might
become more frequent or severe as labor progresses.
• Rupture of amniotic sac membranes (bag of
waters) – Amniotic fluid might leak or gush from
the vagina. A woman who experiences a rupture of
the amniotic sac membranes should contact her
physician immediately. The majority of women with
ruptured membranes go into labor within 24 hours.
If labor still has not begun after 24 hours, a woman
might be hospitalized for labor to be induced. This
is a common step to help prevent infections and
Pain management options
Women have many options to help manage the
discomforts that occur during labor and delivery.
Generally, mothers and their physicians want to use
pain-relief methods that are the safest and most
effective for both mother and baby.
There are three main types of pain management for
labor and birth:
• Non-medicated measures – Many woman learn
special techniques to help them feel more
comfortable and in control during labor and
• Analgesics – These are medications, such as
meperidine, to relieve pain. The smallest dose
possible is given because of the potential adverse
effects of these drugs on the fetus. Analgesics easily
cross the placenta to the fetus, and they might take
a long time to clear from the baby’s system after
birth. If given in large amounts or repeated doses,
many analgesics can cause respiratory depression
(slowing of the breathing center in the brain) in
mothers and babies.
• Anesthetics – These are medications that
cause loss of sensation and include pudendal
block, epidural anesthesia and analgesia, spinal
anesthesia and analgesia, and general anesthesia.
Breast-feeding is a valuable gift that has many benefits
for mother and baby alike. The skin-to-skin contact of
breast-feeding promotes brain development and helps
you and your baby get to know each other. Hormones
secreted during breast-feeding can help with bonding.
Benefits for the baby
• Breast milk can help the baby build its own
immune defenses or even save preemies’ lives.
• Breast-fed infants have fewer respiratory
infections and allergies and have less colic and
• Breast-fed infants are hospitalized less often for
pneumonia and meningitis.
• Breast-feeding helps with brain development,
and breast-fed babies have a potentially higher IQ
when they are older.
• Later in life, people who were breast-fed are less
likely to develop diabetes or heart disease.
• Breast-feeding reduces obesity throughout life.
Benefits for the mother
• Breast-feeding helps the uterus contract, which
leads to reduced bleeding after delivery.
• Mothers who breast-feed have lower risk of
ovarian, breast and uterine cancer; osteoporosis;
and heart disease.
• Breast-feeding burns calories and helps mothers
get back in shape sooner.
• After the first few weeks of the baby’s life,
breast-feeding is easier than bottle feeding.
Lactation consultants are available to help your baby get
“latched on” and make sure your baby is drinking your
milk. We will help you learn to manage breast-feeding
and plan for how to do it once you go home.
If your baby is in the Neonatal ICU, we will help you
pump milk for your baby. We also provide follow-up
support at the “Mommy and Me” clinic. You can call
the Lactation Office at 859-323-4880.
“Baby blues” are normal feelings after delivery.
These symptoms include feeling sad, afraid, angry or
nervous. These symptoms usually go away within one
to two weeks after the baby is born.
In postpartum depression, those symptoms get
worse and last longer than one to two weeks. If you
experience any of these signs or symptoms, please
contact your doctor immediately:
• Becoming easily irritated and confused
• Frequent crying
• Lack of energy
• Trouble concentrating and making decisions
• Inability to sleep
• Feeling hopeless
• Lack of interest in eating
• Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
Planning ahead before you go into labor can help
ease your return home.
Here are some tips and factors to consider from
• If you have small children at home, make
arrangements for child care.
• Plan for transportation before and after the baby
• If you live or work in an area far from your
hospital, ask your physician where you need to go
in an emergency.
• Prepare a list of emergency contact phone
numbers, and make it available in several places.
In your cellphone, change the name of your
emergency contact to the acronym ICE (In Case
• Ask your doctor if it is safe to travel. If you
are driving out of town, take a cellphone and
overnight bag with everything you need in case
you go into labor. Bring a friend who can help if
there is a problem.
• A cesarean birth, significant blood loss or
physician-ordered bed rest after delivery could
all require a longer recovery period after delivery. You might require help with
cooking, cleaning and child care. Prepare
a list of support services such as house
cleaners, baby sitters or nannies, and
include phone numbers.
• Some women experience social isolation,
especially if they are on bed rest. Plan how
you can still participate in appropriate
• Prepare for behavioral issues with older
children if they resent a mother who is on
bed rest or has other complications and
cannot spend time with them.
UK HeathCare resources
Childbirth Education classes
For information on classes offered, visit
Birthing Center tours
Having as much information as possible before
you go into labor will help give you peace of
mind. Find information about our Birthing Center at ukhealthcare.uky.edu/OBGYN/Services/Pregnancy/Birth/.
Breast-feeding support services
Information on breast-feeding is available at
The Mommy and Me Breastfeeding Clinic
is available to all moms who would like to
breast-feed and are interested in having a
breast-feeding assessment performed by
a Kentucky Children’s Hospital physician
and/or lactation consultant. The physician
and lactation consultant will work with the
mother to develop a plan that meets the
mother’s goals, answer questions, suggest
resources and assist with any problems. For
an appointment, please call 859-323-6211.
UK Women’s Health Obstetrics & Gynecology
Specializing in providing medical care and
treatment of the normal and abnormal female
reproductive system, UK HealthCare offers
a variety of primary and subspecialty care
and accepts referrals of all types. Specialties
include high-risk pregnancies, the reproductive system, treatment of gynecologic malignancies,
infertility and a range of difficult gynecologic
problems. Visit ukhealthcare.uky.edu/obgyn for
Ronald McDonald House offers local lodging for
families with seriously ill children. Visit
www.rmhclexington.com for more information.
March of Dimes helps moms have full-term
pregnancies and researches the problems that
threaten the health of babies. Learn more at www.marchofdimes.com.
The American Diabetes Association works to
to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the
lives of all people affected by diabetes through
research, services, information and advocacy.
Information is available at www.diabetes.org