What You Should Ask Your Doctor During Labor

Depending on a hundred or more variables, your birth experience can vary wildly from someone else's. Still, most new moms can agree that being informed during labor and delivery, and knowing what decisions are being made and why, is vital (and a protected right). That's why knowing the questions you should ask your doctor when you're in labor, and not being afraid to speak up and ask them, is so very important.

Childbirth is physically and emotionally exhausting, so it's completely normal to feel a range of emotions as you prepare to meet your new baby for the first time. These could include fear or apprehension of the birth process, anxiety about any necessary or possible interventions, excitement at what lays ahead and, perhaps confusion when faced with all the decisions and medical jargon. It is no wonder that many women feel they need some expert advice during such an exciting and intense time (I mean, I know I did.) That's when your doctor, and other health professionals including your amazing nurses or midwife and doula, can be a source of information, a comfort, and even a shoulder to cry on.

I initially wanted to have a midwife at the birth of my son, but due to popularity, the wait list exceeded my pregnancy. However, and in hindsight, I am so grateful for the medical team I had. My doctor was a genuinely caring, respectful practitioner who answered all my questions, made me feel informed, and listened to me. When you're writing down your birth plan, be sure to include a list of questions you may want to ask your doctor during the process, like the following:

"Is It Time?"

Most doctors suggest laboring women don't leave for the hospital until their contractions are coming every 4-5 minutes, and have been consistent for an hour or two.

However, the majority of first time moms (myself included) go to the hospital far too early, only to be sent home or told to wait. So, it makes sense to ask the admitting doctor or nurse (via phone, mind you) whether or not they think it's time to go (or not).

"Is Everything Ready?"

Remind your doctor and nurses of anything you want during the birth, especially if it's very important to you. Once labor really kicks into high gear things can move quickly, and the fact that you wanted an epidural or didn't (or that you want to labor in the birthing pool) can get overlooked.

Once you are settled in, remind your health care providers of your birth plan and any "must haves."

"Give Me The Numbers"

Ask your doctor for the facts and figures from any examination you undergo.

Knowledge is empowering and, depending on how much you understand, it can be helpful to know exactly what stage of labor you are at, how many centimeters dilated you are, and any other essential findings from the many times you'll be checked and measured.

"How We Doing?"

Childbirth can take a really long time. For example, mine took two days. If your doctor can provide updates on the stage and timings and what you can expect next, it can help you to pass the time and see some hope in the distance.

"Is That Neccassary?"

You are not required to submit to any procedure without your informed consent. Far too often, women can be intimidated or bullied into agreeing to treatments they don't want or do not fully understand.

Before things happen, ask if they are necessary. If the doctor does say they're necessary, ask them why.

"What's The Alternative?"

Usually, there is more than one way to deal with a particular medical issue. So, if you can and have the time, always ask what the alternatives are and, if you refuse a particular course of action, what else can be done? Is there a less invasive option? Can you wait a few moments and think about your choices?

My doctor was very clear about every step being my choice, until it wasn't anymore. When an emergency arose and I had to trust the knowledge and skill of my medical team, he still let me know what was needed, why, and the consequences if we didn't act quickly.

"What Else Can I Do?"

If labor stalls, there are lots of things women can do to try and encourage things to get back on track before resorting to medical interventions. Ask your doctor if you can walk around, use the balance ball, or if he or she has any other tips and advice on how you can help your baby to make their grand entrance.

"Can I Eat?"

For the most part, laboring moms are asked not to eat or drink anything in case surgery is needed. However, nowadays most doctors allow laboring women to refuel, which makes sense. I mean, labor is called "labor" for a reason.

I was incredibly thirsty during my labor, and especially found isotonic drinks gave me a boost of energy to complete the marathon ahead.

"What Are Your Newborn Policies?"

You'll want to know exactly what procedures your hospital follows regarding the care of newborns. Can you hold your baby right away? Do you want them placed on you directly after they're born so you can practice skin-to-skin? What vitamins and eye drops will be given to your baby?

Your doctor's number one priority is the safe and healthy delivery of your baby, but all good doctors care about their patient's birth experience and want moms to feel empowered, in control, and respected. So ask questions, inquire about alternatives, and ensure you understand everything that is happening. After all, it's your body, your baby, your choices.