Regina Hughes was thrilled to find out that her little turkey was due on Thanksgiving last year. "What a great thing to be thankful for," the Glen Ellyn, Ill. mom says. But her wave of elation quickly pooled into worry. Will I be able to make it to the feast my mother-in-law spends all week preparing? And what happens if the midwives' office is closed?
If you're stressed that your water will break while your doctor is across the country celebrating, relax—we talked to the pros about why there's no need to be nervous.
"We get tons of questions from women about the logistics of delivery around the holidays," says Mary L. Rosser, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and women's health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "While it may be a stressful time, communicating and asking questions is the best way to ease anxiety."
The timing for Hughes turned out perfectly. She had a baby girl, Molly, three days before Thanksgiving—and yes, was able to partake in the family dinner.
Here's what you need to know if you're getting ready for the best present ever.
When your sister asks if you'll be at her house for the first night of Hanukkah, remember: You can't please everyone this year, mama. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists discourages airline travel after 36 weeks. And some doctors, like Amanda Calhoun, OB-GYN and physician director of maternity services for Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., recommend no air travel longer than three hours after 32 weeks.
Driving? If you feel up to it (and have the green light from your doc), you can take a road trip of up to six hours until 36 weeks, Calhoun says. After 36 weeks, you can still hop in the car for up to a two-hour drive. Women with high-risk pregnancies—a history of premature labor or preeclampsia—should have a talk with their doctor about what's safe, Rosser says.
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Now's not the time to take that jaunt to the mountains where cell service is iffy. But if you do journey to the in-laws' for some stuffing, know which hospitals along your route have a labor and delivery unit (not all do) and stay within 30 minutes of one, Calhoun says. Ask your physician or midwife for recommendations—she may have rock-star M.D. friends along your path. Take your hospital bag with you and ask your doctor to load your medical records onto a flash drive to stick in your purse, along with a copy of your birth plan.
The truth: Maybe not— physicians get time off, too. But that's true year-round, regardless of when you deliver. You won't pop out that bambino alone under the mistletoe. "Ask who's scheduled to be on call around the time of your due date," says Princess Lock, R.N., a nursing educator at Winnie Palmer Hospital in Orlando, Fla.—and mom to a Dec. 20 baby boy of her own. If you're uneasy, schedule one of your checkups with that doctor, Calhoun suggests. That way, you won't have to meet for the first time when you're counting contractions.
"I met one of the other doctors in my physician's practice and it put my mind at ease," says Sha'Rae Mitchell of Livermore, Calif., who's due with twins this December. Also, if you haven't already, consider making a birth plan and bring it with you, so whoever delivers your sugarplum will be up to date on what's most important to you when it's time to push.
There's a perception that rookie residents get stuck with the crummy midnight holiday shift, but it's not true. "We stack the house with a mix of new and seasoned nurses and support staff," Lock says. "Because we work on a rotating schedule, experienced nurses are available during holiday hours, too." And delivering on a festive day can be fun because hospitals may get in the spirit by passing out chocolates or wearing reindeer antlers. Not that you'll need any more reasons to celebrate!
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