CHAPTER 1 Approaching Birth with Confidence Congratulations! As a pregnant woman planning to bring a new life into this world, you are embarking on an amazing journey. Pregnancy and birth are as ordinary and extraordinary as breathing, thinking, or loving. Whether you are pregnant for the first time or are already a mother, pregnancy will call on your creativity, flexibility, endurance, and humor. You will face many choices that will affect your pregnancy, birth experience, and life as a new mother. As you consider your options, you'll want to learn as much as you can about your developing pregnancy and various childbirth practices and think about the experiences you hope to have. What kind of care do you want to receive during pregnancy? Where do you wish to give birth? Who would you like to be with you when you are in labor? Most pregnant women are bombarded with advice from well-meaning friends, relatives, and even strangers. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what you should or shouldn't do, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed by their conflicting recommendations. This book will help you sort fact from fiction. By drawing on the most accurate research, the personal experiences of many individual women, and the advice of midwives, physicians, and other health care providers, it will give you the information you need to make wise decisions and approach birth with confidence. CLIMATE OF CONFIDENCE, CLIMATE OF DOUBT Pregnancy and birth are normal, healthy processes for most women, the vast majority of whom have healthy pregnancies and babies. But when was the last time you saw a newspaper article titled "3.5 Million American Women Had Normal Labors and Healthy Babies This Year" or a TV episode that showed a healthy woman giving birth to a healthy newborn, without a sense of emergency or a heroic rescue? The media's preference for portraying emergency situations, and doctors saving babies, sends the message that birth is fraught with danger. Other factors, including the way doctors are trained, financial incentives in the health care system, and a rushed, risk-averse society, also contribute to the popular perception that childbirth is an unbearably painful, risky process to be "managed" in a hospital with the use of many tests, drugs, and procedures. In such an environment, the high-tech medical care that is essential for a small proportion of women and babies has become the norm for almost everyone. Some advocates for childbearing women describe this as a "climate of doubt" that increases women's anxiety and fear. In contrast, a climate of confidence focuses on our bodies' capacity to give birth. Such a climate reinforces women's strengths and abilities and minimizes fear. Some of the factors that nourish a climate of confidence include high-quality prenatal care; healthy food and time to rest and exercise; a safe work and home environment; childbearing leave; clear, accurate information about pregnancy and birth; encouragement, love, and support from those close to you; and skilled and compassionate health care providers. As your pregnancy develops, do what you can to seek out such resources. When I found out I was pregnant, my blood pressure was a little on the high side. But I had a great doctor who helped me take care of myself and my baby. She knew all the details of my personal problems -- being unmarried, and with a partner who had an addiction problem -- and she treated me with nothing but respect. I think it made all the difference in having a healthy baby. In spite of my difficult circumstances and the stress, I actually had a very good pregnancy and had a lot of love and support. My husband loved my pregnancy. He'd want to play jazz to my belly and sing to my belly. He'd rub cream on the stretch marks and tell the baby the play-by-play of the baseball game. He and our cat both seemed more protective of me and I felt very lovedBoston Women's Health Book Collective Staff is the author of 'Our Bodies, Ourselves', published 2008 under ISBN 9780743274869 and ISBN 0743274865.