Discovering you’re pregnant can be incredibly exciting, but it can equally leave you feeling panicked, worried or overwhelmed. Not only are you facing major immediate changes to your body, but you’re also facing a major change to your lifestyle – not to mention having the responsibility of caring for a new life. With your pregnancy progressing to the baby’s timeline, you may feel you’re in a race against the clock to get everything organized in time.

One of the most useful things to create is a comprehensive birth plan. Your birth plan includes details about what you’d like to happen during and after labor but should also take into account everything that might go wrong. Keeping yourself aware of all the potential problems you might encounter means you’ll be more likely to have a game plan for tackling it should the issue arise.

It’s important to be aware of what might go wrong

A study by specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp found that almost 1 in 5 women (19%) are worried about issues relating to reproduction such as pregnancy and childbirth. What’s worse, almost half of women (47%) said they don’t know enough about the ins-and-outs of pregnancy and general reproductive health to know what’s normal and what’s concerning enough to seek medical help.

While you wouldn’t want to psych yourself out too much, it’s still important to learn about all the different factors that might affect your pregnancy and labor negatively – if only to prepare yourself in case the worst happens. This means reading up as much as you can about every stage of pregnancy – from before you got pregnant to the months after labor – so you know what to expect.

Some things you may want to look out for include:

  1. Vaginal tearing and complications: you may already have been warned about the possibility of vaginal tearing during labor. This can happen if your baby is pushed out too quickly, before your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus) has had a chance to stretch. Listen to your doctor and get the support of your birthing partner to take things as slowly as you need to. Perineum massages in the weeks before your due date can help here.
  2. Excessive bleeding during labor: excessive bleeding is the leading cause of maternal death worldwide (although this is more common in areas with poor resources), and can occur due to tears to the uterus or if the placenta isn’t delivered through the contractions of the uterus. Your doctor will be able to administer medication to help reduce the risk of bleeding.
  3. Difficulties communicating with your doctor: the study also found that almost 1 in 10 women felt they had no one to talk to about vaginal health before, during or after pregnancy – and a similar percentage said they didn’t feel supported to listened to by their doctor. If you believe your doctor, midwife or other medical professional aren’t being supportive of what you need, you have every right to find another that is more attuned to you.
  4. Weaker pelvic floor muscles after labor: in the weeks after labor, you may find that you have trouble holding in your pee, or that your vagina feels looser than normal. This is due to your pelvic floor muscles becoming weaker, after the intensive work it was put through during labor. Doing regular Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles again.
  5. Changes in discharge: after labor, you may also find changes in how your discharge looks, smells and feels. You’ll likely have heavy discharge called lochia in the weeks after birth, and you may then find changes to your regular discharge. It’ll likely go from a watery pink-brown color to a cream or yellow that slowly thickens and becomes the color and texture you’re used to. Seek medical advice if it doesn’t go back to normal within a month or so.

As you prepare to bring a baby into the world, carve out time to learn as much about the process as possible. By taking the time to get educated on the different factors that could crop up, you put yourself on the way to a smoother, happier – and hopefully trouble-free – pregnancy.

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