Common Questions in Pregnancy

Photo by Julian Marks at Picture Your Birth

Pregnancy is full of so many new and beautiful things (and let’s be real here… a few not so beautiful things.) With those things come questions. Oh, so very many questions. As doulas, we hear a lot of these and we have some incredible members of the Utah Doula Association here to answer a few for you. 

But first: A disclaimer-  We are not medical providers. Please talk to your doctor or midwife about any questions/concerns you have. After all, that’s one of the reasons you’ve hired them… They want you and your baby to stay happy and healthy!

Now onto the questions! We chose the questions we see and hear most often from our clients and community and collected answers from some of our local doulas.

What foods should I avoid?

”Eating well-balanced meals during pregnancy is very important for you and your developing baby. Most foods are safe; however, there are some foods that should be avoided. Here is a list of the top foods to avoid during pregnancy.

  • Raw or undercooked meats, seafood, and shellfish
  • Deli meats or refrigerated meat of any kind, unless heated until steaming (165° F)
  • Fish containing high levels of mercury including: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Canned, chunk light tuna usually contains less mercury than other tuna, but should be limited to less than 6 ounces per week.
  • Organ meat more than once per week
  • Raw eggs or any foods containing raw eggs
  • Unpasteurized milk, cheeses, or fruit juice
  • Salads from the deli containing eggs or meat
  • More than 200 mg of caffeine per day
  • Alcohol
  • Unwashed produce
  • Raw or undercooked sprouts
  • Junk foods

If you have questions about the safety of a certain food, be sure to speak with your care provider.”

– Karina Robinson,

Can I still workout?

“I would say always check with a doctor before beginning a new exercise routine, if you have been
active before it is ok to continue being active, and be sure to talk to your instructors and ask them for modifications if you do any type of high impact workouts. Yoga, moderate cardio, and moderate weight training have shown to actually be beneficial in pregnancy.”

– Bonnie Baker,

What should I put in my hospital bag?

“Of course some of the more obvious items come to mind: toothbrush, phone charger and hair brush. But maybe you have a comfort item such as a blanket or picture that relaxes you? Is your pillow amazing and you can’t sleep without it? Pajamas, slippers and a bathrobe can help you feel more comfortable in the sterile environment of a hospital. Bring whatever is that helps you feel like you. It could be mascara, lip gloss or a curling iron. Hospitals are dry so bring lotion and chapstick as well. And don’t forget the car seat!!”

– Melissa Olson,

What is a birth plan and how do I write one?

“A birth plan is a tool for communicating your needs and desires for your birth experience to your doctor, nurses, midwife, and/or doula. When writing yours, consider how you want your birth to be. What would you like to have as part of it? What procedures would you like to avoid? If you aren’t sure, Google some examples of birth plans to see what’s included. A good rule of thumb is to keep it to one page with bulleted points. Clear and concise. Focus more on what you DO want than what you don’t. And make sure your doctor, spouse or partner, and anyone else supporting you reads it before you go into labor.”

– BreeAnn Moore,

How can I make sure I stay hydrated?

“Staying hydrated is so important for mother and baby. Get yourself a leak-proof water bottle that you LOVE (you’re more likely to use it if you love it!) Keep it with you at all times to sip throughout the day. Make a habit of taking a few swallows every time you use the bathroom, whenever you receive a text, when you feel your baby move, or whatever other small task will help you to remember. If plain water is hard to drink, consider adding a squeeze of lemon, a few muddled mint leaves, or a small handful of fresh or frozen berries. Try eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content too. Apples, oranges, melons, leafy greens, and celery are great options.”

– Melissa Nanes,

What stretches can help relieve pregnancy aches and pains?

“Aches and pains are very common in pregnancy – specifically and especially in the low back. Before I get into some of the stretches that may help, I want to say that if you are having debilitating or persistent pain you should bring it up with your care provider who can work with you to set up an exercise plan specific to you and your needs. If you’re not worried about the pain and simply seeking some comfort, here are some ideas for you: pigeon pose, modified or not, is a great pose to both externally rotate the hip and get a nice stretch in the low back – two things that will help bring relief. Hamstring stretches, like a standing or seated forward fold, will also stretch the low back. Hugging the knees into the chest – as wide as you need your knees to accommodate your growing belly – or some gentle twists can also be helpful to the low back. Three great strengthening exercises for the low back are reverse plank or simple reverse table-top position, bridge pose, and staff pose – strengthening the area may be just what you need for some added support to hold up your growing uterus and the extra bit of weight that makes up your sweet baby – or babies!”

– Stephanie Baldi,

How do I use a birthing ball/peanut ball?

“Birthing and peanut balls are amazing tools to use both during pregnancy and labor. Sitting on a birth ball can help you maintain good posture and keep your pelvis open so baby can more easily get into an optimal position for delivery. Many women find that during the early stages of labor they can help trigger contractions by bouncing on a birthing ball or doing hip circles while sitting on one. Peanut and birthing balls are also fabulous ways to be in a more resting position during labor, while also helping with maintaining good posture, positioning, and opening of the pelvis. Some great restful positions include: lying on your side with a peanut ball between your legs, sitting on a birth ball while lying/leaning over a bed or couch arm, and sitting in a reclined position with a peanut ball under one knee.”

– Charity Wheeler,

How do I write a postpartum plan?

“Expectant couples can spend months researching their perfect birth, but many  fail to consider the postpartum period and it can take mothers by surprise. Because the postpartum period inhabits so much and lasts for months, if not years, it’s essential to plan accordingly. A postpartum plan is similar to your birth plan. Here are a few things to consider…

  • Who can offer assistance by rallying family and friends or choosing a postpartum doula to support you?
  • How long will your partner be off work to bond with baby and help mom?
  • Who can help schedule the delivery of meals?
  • Who can transport older children to and from school?
  • Plan ahead for dates and travel arrangements for out of town family visits.
  • Who can come pick up toddlers and have playdates while you rest?
  • Can you pay for a housecleaning service?
  • How long will your maternity leave be?
  • Do you need to pump extra while on maternity leave to have a milk storage?
  • Do you need to start interviewing nannies or daycare providers?

Things to be done at home before your baby is here…

  • Prepare a bunch of freezer meals. Fill your freezer!
  • Buy a lot of healthy snacks to keep on hand when mom isn’t able to cook.
  • Wash and organize all baby’s laundry.
  • Create a feeding area with a water bottle, snacks, magazines, etc.
  • Talk to older siblings about your new addition.
  • Enjoy the everyday moments!”

– Tobie Spears,

What if I am not sure about the care provider that I have chosen… especially late in my pregnancy?

“Trust your gut feeling. If you are questioning things about your care provider, look into other options. It’s not too late, even near the end of pregnancy, to change your mind. You might find that it’s the best decision that you’ve ever made. It certainly does not hurt to look into your options. There are usually red flags during the pregnancy if your care provider is not supportive of your birthing choices. Don’t ignore those. It is one of the most important choices that you can make in your whole birthing experience. Even if you are in labor at a hospital and you don’t like your nurse don’t feel bad about asking for a new one.”

– Joleen Cullens,

When will I go into labor and what happens if I go over my due date?

“These may feel like the most pertinent questions as you near your birthing time. We are so used to planning and knowing what happens next and when. Being used to scheduling everything can make the unknown of the birthing time seem elusive and perhaps always on the horizon.  You may not find it comforting to be told things like, ‘Baby will come when they are ready.’  Or even, ‘It will happen when it happens.’ It won’t take away the guesswork of the unknown, but it may help you breath easier knowing that the time frame during which baby can arrive really is not easily written down to a certain day.  

So what do you do if you go over your due date?  This is a perfect question to ask your care provider.  His/her answer will give you a good idea about their policies regarding ‘over term’ births and if their policies match how you would handle the situation.  Some providers may begin suggesting induction as early as 39 weeks.  Others will follow your lead to wait for baby to come on their own as long as everyone is looking healthy and strong.  When making a decision between induction and waiting for labor to occur spontaneously, it is important that you gather all the information necessary to make a decision for you and your baby.  ACOG’s (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) current recommendation is that induction based on due dates is not recommended before 39 weeks, nor 39-41 weeks unless the cervix is deemed favorable.  Ultimately, choosing to wait for baby to come on their own is the safest option for both mother and baby, as it lowers the chance of birthing by cesarean section, and shows improved outcomes for both mother and baby.  Since there is no magical number for knowing when your baby is fully developed and ready to be born, leaving it up to him or her to choose their birthing time, when possible, is ideal.”  

– Raquel Alfaro,

How can I prepare for my VBAC?

“Read pregnancy and vaginal birth after cesarean books. I think some really good ones are The VBAC Companion by Diana Korte, Open Season by Nancy Wainer Cohen, Birthing From Within by Pam England, and Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth. Consider registering for VBAC specific courses in an independent prenatal program. These can be refresher courses if you have taken courses before. I’d also recommend participating in ICAN.  It is a support group for women that have had a previous cesarean. They are amazing, and a wonderful free resource!

Enlist the encouragement of a supportive care provider. Find a caregiver/hospital who already provides the options you want, and doesn’t need to be convinced.   Find someone who believes in you and your body’s capability to birth your baby, in VBACs, has a VBAC success rate over 75%, and a cesarean rate that is lower than the community average. If possible, consider having a midwife as your primary caregiver. Midwives have a very low rate of cesarean birth. If you are unsure about anything, get a second opinion. Trust your inner strength and knowledge.

Hire a doula/labor assistant/support person. It is worth every penny to be reassured during labor by someone who believes birth is a natural function. This person will have supportive non-medical skills to help you through labor for the birth you want. This person will assist you from the day you hire her right through postpartum, and provide in person support from the onset of labor until you have settled in to cuddle with your baby.

Throughout pregnancy, practice relaxation.  Your body has muscle memory and the more you practice releasing the muscles in your pelvic floor, legs, and buttocks the less you will have to ‘convince’ your body to do while in labor.  Use affirmations such as ‘each contraction strengthens my baby and me.’ Or ‘I will birth my baby vaginally, naturally, and joyfully.’ Discuss everything that is important to you with your care provider, putting it all into your birth plan. Make extra copies to be put in your chart. Know your hospital’s VBAC policies and negotiate well before the birth for anything different. Your doula will happily discuss with you what to put in the plan if you have any trouble at all writing it.  Research your options.  Talk with your birth partner.

You can do this!”

– Rachel Winsley,

We hope some of your questions have been answered here and that the UDA will continue to be a useful reference and resource to you. Stay tuned for future posts!