It was a few weeks before my firstborn was due -- and suddenly panic set in. By night, I would dream that I forgot to feed the baby or neglected to take him along when I left the apartment. By day, I would obsess about every aspect of childbirth, from the serious (What if the cord wraps around his neck?) to the relatively trivial (Should I get an enema?).
As I later discovered, mothers-to-be often worry incessantly as they approach the end of pregnancy. After all, the dreamy fantasy of having a baby is fast becoming a reality! But hard facts and helpful tips can calm those eleventh-hour jitters. So take off your shoes, raise your feet, and read on for some reassuring responses to common concerns.
1. "I'm Concerned My Baby Won't Be Healthy"
Don't worry, a healthy baby is by far the rule, rather than the exception. According to Luis B. Curet, MD, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, more than 90 percent of pregnancies result in perfectly healthy babies. Those are pretty good odds.
Moreover, problems involving a baby's anatomy or development are often identified early, so the longer your pregnancy stays trouble-free, the more confident you can feel. "If you're nine months pregnant, you're feeling your baby move every day, you've had your routine tests, and everything's gone well during your checkups, there's more than a 99 percent chance that your baby will be fine," says Marjorie Greenfield, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology with the University Hospitals of Cleveland and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
Nevertheless, it's wise to recognize that certain health complications, though rare, can occur. One is preterm labor, which can lead to premature delivery, or delivery before the 37th week of pregnancy, resulting in the baby weighing less than 5 1/2 pounds. While certain factors predispose a woman to premature delivery (such as carrying more than one baby, or smoking cigarettes), about half of all premature births involve no known risk factors.
The good news is that premature delivery can sometimes be stopped or delayed if a woman receives prompt medical attention at the first sign of early labor. For these reasons, it pays to use common sense in the time preceding your 37th week of pregnancy -- take your prenatal vitamins, keep up with routine office visits, and contact your doctor at once if you experience contractions, pelvic pressure, bleeding, or fever.