Common Sense Pregnancy: Navigating a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth for Mother and Baby

When you’re pregnant, your friends, the Internet, and even your doctor often give advice that leaves you anxious and overwhelmed.

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kk: From The Parent’s Club, I’m Karsen Kolnicki. This is your briefing.


kk: Today, we’re discussing Common Sense Pregnancy: Navigating a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth for Mother and Baby by Jeanne Faulkner

This title reveals all you need to know about the experience of pregnancy and childbirth. There are many things to consider, including what to eat, who to call for help, and what kind of childbirth to have. This book empowers parents with the knowledge to get a good idea of what to expect.

kk: Vincent Phamvan on the key takeaways [pause] and what you need to know.


kk: Vincent, there is so much information that goes into preparing for pregnancy and birth. Where should parents-to-be even start?

vp: That's a good question and one that many people have. When faced with all the information and advice, it's hard to navigate what to follow. The author, Jeanne Faulkner, is a labor nurse, women's health expert, and mother. She wrote this book for not only expecting mothers but their partners as well, to answer the important questions on pregnancy, birth, and challenges after birth.

According to Faulkner, finding out that you’re pregnant can lead to a number of overwhelming thoughts. Your first reaction to learning you’re pregnant might be to get in touch with your doctor. But, you don’t need to see a doctor as soon as you become pregnant, unless certain problems arise.

kk: My first thought would have also been to call the doctor. So if not right away, when should you set an appointment with your doctor?

vp: Faulkner says you shouldn't be surprised or concerned if your doctor sets an appointment for six-eight weeks down the line. Since it’s too early for ultrasounds or screening exams, there isn’t much for a doctor to do at this stage. But there are some simple things you can do to help ensure a healthy pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins are a good source of folic acid and iron, which are important at this stage. You can also use this time to select a healthcare specialist that you’d like to have by your side throughout the journey.

kk: Going back to what you mentioned earlier about not going to the doctor early unless certain problems arise. What are signs of possible problems that can you should look out for?

vp: The author points out the signs that you should not ignore such as, bleeding or persistent spotting that gets worse or severe nausea. These circumstances do require an early doctor's appointment.

kk: Those are good to know. So when you are using this time to choose a healthcare professional to support you, what options are you weighing? How much of the actual birth can you plan in advance?

vp: If you’re planning on giving birth in a hospital, you might be in for a surprise. Faulkner says, when the time comes, you’ll probably find yourself surrounded by strangers, meaning the doctors and nurses that happen to be on duty that day.

Just giving birth is stressful enough, so you might want to consider hiring your own team to help you feel as comfortable as possible.

Most pregnant women choose an obstetrician, but Faulkner argues a midwife is often the better option. Obstetricians specialize in dealing with high-risk and complicated pregnancies that very few women have. This is why Faulkner says if you’re expecting a normal pregnancy, the better option is to find a midwife with whom you’re comfortable.

kk: For those of us not as familiar with a midwife, what are the benefits?

vp: According to the author, one of the benefits of having a good midwife is that she’ll have more time to provide you with personal care. Midwives can also competently handle all aspects of giving birth. And, if you’re concerned about any complications, don’t worry, midwives are trained to recognize situations where an obstetrician is needed to step in.

kk: That sounds a good way to have a more personalized birth experience. Another option we've heard people choose is a Doula. What is the difference between doulas and midwives and obstetricians?

vp: Doulas are childbirth specialists and assistance in getting through the labor process. A doula provides emotional and physical support to you during your pregnancy and childbirth. But, Doulas are not medical professionals. The author noted that since there are no regulations regarding doula certification, their qualifications can vary greatly. So it’s important to do your homework and check their background. Ideally you want to find a doula who's familiar with how hospitals handle patients in labor and have a good relationship to the hospital staff.

kk: These are a lot of good options for expecting parents to be choose a path right for them. Okay, so, I've seen a lot of members ask questions about what to eat or what not to eat during pregnancy. Does the author say anything about this?

vp: Oh, yes. This is a big area with an overwhelming amount of advice out there. Specifically, Faulkner addresses the idea that since diets were healthier in the past, pregnant women now need to be strict about what they eat.

kk: Yes, I've heard that, is it true? Is that why there are so many diet programs for pregnant women?

vp: Well, the author says that believe it or not, 50 years ago there weren't any detailed lists of the foods pregnant women shouldn't eat. Pregnant women pretty much ate whatever they wanted.

kk: That sounds ideal.

vp: People did have overall healthier diets back then. This may sound worrisome, but that meant there was far less risk of a women gaining too much weight during pregnancy and endangering her child’s future. One examples the author gives on of how food changed over the years is high fructose corn syrup. This simply wasn't used in products in the past. Today, it’s used in almost everything, and its prevalence has tripled the amount of calories in staple foods.

Also, fast foods also had far less preservatives, chemicals and artificial flavors.

kk: Plus, portion sizes were a lot smaller back then.

vp: Exactly. These changes all contributed to the need for pregnancy-related diet changes. During the 1950s and 1960s, pregnant women typically wouldn’t gain more than 30 pounds. Today that number is up to 60-80 pounds. This weight gain isn't only detrimental to their own health, it also puts the future health of their child at risk.

kk: And this is why we have those detailed lists to guide pregnant women towards a healthier diet. So what goes into these?

vp: Some of these diets seem complicated, but if you stick to it, they can really provide the optimal nutrients for an expecting mother.

Part of a successful diet is knowing what to avoid. The author notes that things like soft cheeses, unpasteurized beverages and raw or undercooked animal products can contain seriously harmful bacteria and toxins.
To maintain a good diet, it’s also important to know which foods contain the vitamins and nutrients that expecting moms need for optimal health. These include fruits and vegetables, whole grains and a good amount of lean protein. She advises that, every meal should have these elements, as well as things rich in calcium, such as milk, leafy greens and tofu.

kk: Other than getting enough nutrients, what is needed to help the baby grow in the womb?

vp: Like a fish in a puddle, for the baby to survive there needs to be enough water. Part of the reason for routine checkups is for your doctor to ensure there's enough amniotic fluid in the womb. The author says this is to check and see if you have a rare condition called polyhydramnios. This is where the womb contains too much fluid. It's no cause for panic, only 1% of expecting mothers will experience this and even then it's usually harmless and goes away on its own. However, it has been known to cause some serious complications, such as premature births, stillbirths or having the baby get stuck in an uncomfortable position, which is why it's important to routinely check.

kk: What if there isn't enough amniotic fluid?

vp: The authors says that having less amniotic fluid than normal can occur. But, this is also rare, four percent of pregnant women experience it. But, it can have dire effects, including miscarriage and still or premature births in the early stages. In the later stages, especially after the water breaks, it can cause the umbilical cord to get pinched, which restricts the blood flow and oxygen supply to the baby.

kk: Other than visiting the doctor, are there any signs or symptoms that pregnant women can look out for?

vp: The author says there are two potential signs of oligohydramnios that women can look for. If you’re leaking fluid or haven’t been gaining weight, check with your doctor to make sure your amniotic fluid levels are okay. These levels should be monitored up until labor or labor induction.

kk: Going off of that, how common is inducing labor?

vp: Faulkner argues that although it is pretty common, it should only be done in emergencies. The last few weeks of a pregnancy are an exhausting mix of cramps and aching and swollen body parts. It can feel intolerable, and, to make matters worse, the baby is regularly punching or kicking a vital organ every time it moves.

kk: No wonder that inducing labor is such a popular procedure.

vp: Yes, while it's understandable, some argue it is over-prescribed. According to obstetrician research, between 1990 and 2012, induced labor increased dramatically, from just 9.5 percent of pregnancies to 23.3 percent.

kk: Why should natural labor be preferred over inducing labor?

vp: The main reason the author notes is because naturally occurring labor prepares the mother's body for giving birth. An artificially induced labor usually leads to a C-section operation, which has higher rates of injuries or even death. This is why Faulkner and others argue that inductions should be limited to emergencies and instances when the mother or the child’s life is at risk.

kk: What is a case where C-section would be used?

vp: An example of an appropriate case the book gives is when the mother's blood pressure is dangerously high. According to gynecologist Corine Koopmans, high blood pressure is closely related to birth complications, since it can weaken the mother’s organs, especially the kidneys. As a result, the baby can become weak, underweight and susceptible to injury.

kk: So, in cases like this, both the mother and the baby are better off with induced labor.

vp: Yes. But, there’s really nothing that can prepare you for the real experience of going through labor and giving birth. But one thing you can prepare for is knowing the important distinction between pre-labor and actual labor.
Pre-labor pains can start as late as ten days prior to the expected due date, and the pain can leave women feeling so exhausted that they’ll think your labor has begun. What's more likely is only being a little dilated. These initial contractions are to help the baby get into the right position for delivery. As painful as this can be, if you’re still able to breathe and speak normally, and are able to move around to get things done, you likely have another day or two before the real labor starts.

kk: Are there any other ways to tell that contractions are just pre-labor contractions?

vp: Yes, the author says another way to tell is to go for a walk. If the contractions are not regular or settle down and become less painful, it's not real labor. When the actual labor beings, the pain will be worse. Faulkner says that at this point, the contractions will no longer feel like bad menstrual cramps. You’ll feel excruciating pain shoot along your back and legs, and the contractions will come at faster intervals until they’re happening every two or three minutes, with only a minute of respite in between.

When this happens, it's time to go into labor.

kk: For everyone listening to this and dreading the pain of labor, are there techniques to help expecting mothers manage?

vp: Yes, if you’ve ever seen a movie or television show where a character who goes into labor, then you probably know that being in labor is made easier by employing certain breathing techniques.

How you breathe is essential for managing labor pain. The most popular breathing technique that you’ll see in movies is the Lamaze **method. This method involves inhaling twice and then exhaling twice, while making the sounds “hee-hee” (when you breathe in) and “hoo-hoo” (when you breathe out). The important thing is to focus your attention away from the pain by concentrating on your breathing. This can also relax the mind, increase the flow of oxygen and provide a helpful boost of energy. But if you really want this technique to work when it matters most, you will need to practice.

kk: Another reason to practice mindfulness regularly. When should expecting mothers start practicing these techniques?

vp: Whether you’re going with Lamaze or another technique, you should practice it for the duration of pregnancy. Remember, when it comes to the pain and excitement of childbirth, you’ll have a lot of distractions to cope with. But you will find, that with practice, an effective breathing technique will help you dilate much quicker than you might expect.

Another method of easing labor pains is to use a bath. Lying in hot water is one of the simplest and most effective ways to relax and provide much needed pain relief. Nowadays, many hospitals provide the option of having a water birth, either in a tub, a Jacuzzi or an inflatable pool. So if this sounds like the procedure for you, make sure to do your research and find a hospital that offers it.

kk: That's a great option for hospitals to offer. So what happens after the birth? Do you finally get a break?

vp: Exactly, mothers do the most work and deserve a break. But, unfortunately the book mentions a number of physical ordeals and discomforts awaiting you after birth.

kk: Like what? What should mothers know so there are no surprises?

vp: Faulkner says don't be surprised if during the first six weeks following a birth, you experience cramps, bleeding and a soreness in your lower abdomen and vagina.
Feeding your child is also an ordeal. Breastfeeding often entails swollen, bruised and leaky breasts with dry and cracked skin.

And then there’s the sleep deprivation, for the entire household. You should be thankful for the hours of rest before being interrupted by your child’s cries for milk and attention.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to help you through this trying time.

kk: Thank goodness. What are some things to help?

vp: According to the author, warm baths are a great way to cope with the common swelling and soreness that follows a traditional, vaginal birth. Another useful tip is to buy extra-large hygiene pads, soak them in water and put them in the freezer. A couple of times a day, you can place an ice pad in your underwear for about 15 minutes for some soothing relief.

Of course, there is also pain-relief medication which Faulkner says is especially useful when trying to deal with the strong pain following a C-section delivery. This pain can last for a few weeks, and you shouldn’t hesitate to take medication if it’s been prescribed to you. However, you should remain in contact with your health care provider during this time, as there is a risk of becoming addicted.

kk All of this makes it sound like childbirth is a lot of pain and hard work, which it is.

vp: But we must remember the amazing rewards once your child is in your arms. As parents, my wife and I can say it is all worth it.

kk: Aww. It sounds like the key takeaway from this title is; pregnancy and childbirth are experiences that are both beautiful and challenging. So it’s best to be well prepared. Get organized so that you can make your birth as easy and comfortable as possible.


kk: That’s it for your briefing. I’m Karsen Kolnicki.

vp: And I’m Vincent Phamvan.

kk: We’ll see you next time.


When you’re pregnant, your friends, the Internet, and even your doctor often give advice that leaves you anxious and overwhelmed. You deserve a calm, straightforward, no-nonsense pregnancy. It’s time to dial down the stress and dial up the common sense. Common Sense Pregnancy is a breath of fresh air: accessible, authoritative, funny, reassuring, and personable, while still chock-full of comprehensive, medically-sound advice. Women’s health expert, labor nurse, and mother of four, Jeanne Faulkner has been at the bedside for thousands of deliveries and provides the honest insider advice you need during pregnancy, labor, birth, and beyond.

Whether you want your pregnancy and birth to be all-natural, all medical, or something in between, Common Sense Pregnancy eliminates the fear and puts you in charge of your body and prenatal experience, and helps you make the right choices for you and your baby.

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