Top 10 pregnancy decisions

Pregnancy isn’t all about feathering the nest and choosing the perfect pram.

It’s also about coming to terms with how a baby will change your life forever – in the best way.

You’ll need to decide on everything from where to give birth to how you’ll manage at home in the early days with a newborn.

Being well-informed can help you make the right choice for your circumstances and prepare you for the challenges of parenthood.

Here are 10 considerations to ponder over the next nine months.

1. Where to deliver

It’s important to feel comfortable about where you have your baby. If your pregnancy is deemed low-risk, you can choose between a hospital or birth centre.

Arrange visits to both to see which facility you like best. Birth centres are run by midwives and are more homely than hospitals.

If your pregnancy is classed as high-risk because, for example, you have a medical condition or you’re carrying more than one baby, you’ll be advised to give birth in hospital.

2. Finding out the gender

Thanks to ultrasound technology, your baby’s sex can usually be determined from around week 16 and you can find out at your 20-week scan.

Some parents prefer to keep it a surprise, but knowing could help with bonding.

Fiona McArthur, midwife and author of The Don’t Panic Guide To Birth says what works for you is the perfect way.

“I do think the trend is back to not knowing the sex or keeping it private just between the parents,” Fiona says.

Just remember, the sonographer can be wrong!

3. Antenatal classes

Attending these classes can be a real confidence builder for you and your partner, but how do you find the right one?

Think about what you want to get out of the experience. If you’re on a budget or want to familiarise yourself with your local hospital’s maternity wing, opt for the hospital-run classes.

If you don’t have time to go every week, condensed weekend workshops are sometimes available.

If you’d prefer smaller groups and individual attention, consider independent classes.

Your GP can give advice on where to find antenatal classes. Whatever your choice, be sure to book in by the 20-week mark as classes tend to be very popular.

4. Your birth partner

“New dads and new babies go together, but you – the birthing mum – are the most important person in the delivery room,” Fiona says.

“The people who support you during labour are crucial to your birth experience being positive, so choose calm people. The wrong people in your birth environment can slow your labour.”

A Canadian study found women tend to have more positive birth experiences, with less chance of a caesarean or the need for powerful pain relief when an experienced woman is with them.

If your mother isn’t the right choice for you, consider hiring a doula to support you. Contact one at the Find A Doula website.

5. Pain relief options

Receiving your preferred pain relief depends on how your labour progresses and where you give birth.

Midwives at birth centres are likely to offer natural methods such as water relief (bath, shower or birth pool) and massage.

Birth centres are located within hospitals, so if an epidural or drugs are required, you can transfer to the hospital easily.

Fiona says there’s no need to be afraid of the pain relief offered in a hospital if your labour is not going as smoothly or as swiftly as you’d hoped.

“Pain relief can help you doze for a couple of hours if needed, and still wear off in time to push. Sometimes it can even speed up labour because it helps you relax,” she explains.

Three of the most common types of medicated pain relief are: drugs you breathe in that help you relax; drugs injected with a needle into a muscle or under the skin; and those injected near your spinal column that numb the area below the level of the injection.

And you don’t have to make a definitive decision about pain relief before your due date – keeping an open mind will allow you to make the right choice on the day.

6. Preparing your mind

If you feel anxious about the birth, decide if you would benefit from meditation or relaxation practices.

Research suggests pain is a perception of the mind and directly linked to emotions and sensory stimuli, so if you can stay calm and create a relaxed environment, your labour will be more comfortable.

Hypnobirthing can help, as can antenatal yoga classes. These teach breathing techniques and other methods to divert your focus from pain, which can empower women through the birthing experience.

7. Choosing a pram

Prams are big-ticket items and since your baby will be spending a lot of time in it, it pays to do your homework while you have the time.

Size matters, but you may regret buying the largest model if it doesn’t fit in the car boot or you can’t manoeuvre it around shops and cafes.

Single-handed folding is another consideration, especially if you use public transport or have more than one child.

To get value for money, choose a pram with longevity, for example, one where you can change the positions for the different stages between newborn and toddler, starting with a lie-flat position.

8. Support after birth

Organising extra help for when feeding and settling your newborn becomes a full-time job is a great idea, but consider your budget and needs.

For example, engaging a private midwife for home visits might seem a reassuring option, but it’s expensive and could be intrusive. Instead, ask family members to visit regularly in the first few weeks and help with grocery shopping or cooking a few meals.

Think about hiring a cleaner once a fortnight until you and your partner are settled into your new life.

9. Prioritise your finances

Talking about money may not be as fun as spending it on baby gear, but it’s important to make time to discuss future household economics with your partner.

Effie Zahos, editor of Money magazine, says many expectant couples will move from a two-income unit to one.

“While you may be eligible for Paid Parental Leave and other government benefits, start preparing your cash flow now. If you haven’t built up a buffer and you’re expecting soon, it’s not too late to start,” she says.

The easiest way to claw back cash is to look at your outgoings. “For instance, refinancing a $350,000 home loan from a standard rate to a discounted online home loan could save you as much as $285 per month,” she says.

“Just make sure any refinancing costs don’t offset the savings.”

10. Maternity leave

While it’s tempting to work right up to your due date, your baby is considered full term from 37 weeks and may arrive early.

Therefore, it’s safer to start your maternity leave a few weeks before your due date.

This also gives you time to shift mode from working woman to mum. You’re obligated to give your employer at least 10 weeks’ notice before taking maternity leave and you’re entitled to one year of unpaid leave.

For more, visit the Fair Work website.