What It's Like to Have a Baby in 2016

Today's new moms are having fun during pregnancy and also taking control of their delivery like no generation before. AB stays on top of the latest trends.

Pregnant Woman in Blue Nightgown Vasilyev Alexandr/shutterstock
You're Still Exercising

"Over the last decade, so many pregnant clients started attending barre classes that studios began creating prenatal classes for them," says Burr Leonard, founder of The Bar Method, a nationwide franchise of exercise studios. And expecting women who like to do intense heart-pumping workouts, such as Cross Fit, don't assume that pregnancy will bench them, doctors told us. "Cross Fit kept me feeling energized throughout my pregnancy," says Tessa Wolff, 30, a sales rep in Minneapolis who gave birth earlier this year. Wolff made a few changes, based on her ob-gyn's guidance, such as scaling back on weights and modifying moves like push-ups and burpees. 

You're Speaking Up About Delivery

More of You Have a Midwife: Midwives attended 6 percent more hospital births in 2012 than in 2005, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. "Many women want a holistic approach to giving birth and midwives can be part of that," notes Coralie Macqueen, a midwife at Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital, in New York City. "They provide personalized care with minimal intervention."

You're Going Wireless: To relieve contractions, it can feel good to walk the hospital's hallways, but the pole full of monitoring wires is a drag to take with you. That's no longer a concern for patients at places like Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana, which uses wireless fetal telemetry. Thanks to a portable box, staff can observe uterine contractions and baby's vitals even as a laboring mom walks around.

You've Got a Stylish Bump

Maternity fashion guru Rosie Pope predicts what you'll want to wear for the next nine months.

- Pleats are back and they're terrific for hiding a bump that you're not quite ready to announce to everyone.
- Monochromatic dressing, wearing shades of the same color, is a runway trend that's flattering and chic during pregnancy. Try combining different hues of gray this winter.
- Rompers are adorable and forgiving, especially when you're trying to lose postpartum pounds. 

You're Ready for Pampering Post-Baby

Hospitals are working harder than ever for moms. Ask in the maternity ward about these perks.

  1. Recovery rubdowns: Book a much-needed massage from an on-site licensed masseuse. Sisters of Charity Hospital, in Buffalo, New York, and Margaret Mary Community Hospital, in Batesville, Indiana, are both leading the trend.
  2. Cushy amenities: Order gourmet meals from room service. Use a spa-size shower. Mercy Hospital St. Louis and Stamford Hospital in Connecticut offer both.
  3. Pretty surroundings: Decor is more hotel-like with hardwood floors, pretty paintings that hide equipment, and fewer sterile white walls. "Our rooms are decorated in blues, greens, pinks, and golds," says Kathy LiVolsi, R.N., director of maternal child health at Stamford Hospital. 

You're Benefitting From Better Research

Baby is born when he's ready: Induction rates have declined slightly since 2010, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and the drop is most pronounced in inductions at 38 weeks. "This suggests that more doctors are shying away from convenience inductions, where a delivery is scheduled for reasons other than the health of the baby," says Vincenzo Berghella, M.D., an ob-gyn professor at Jefferson University Hospitals, in Philadelphia.

Cesareans are down: After an upward spiral for nearly two decades, the rate of surgical deliveries has decreased in more than 25 states. Today, about one-third of births are by C-section, a number that's still too high, experts say. "Two decades ago, about 20 percent of all births were surgical," says Edward R.B. McCabe, M.D., chief medical officer of the March of Dimes. "We're taking measures to lower that number even more."

Birthing centers are big: Although the percentage of U.S. women choosing to deliver at home or in a birthing center rather than a hospital has grown 56 percent in less than a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the actual number is still less than 1 percent of all births. A birthing center, especially one in a hospital, is by far the safer way to go for a home-like experience. Babies delivered at home by a midwife have a greater risk of dying than babies delivered in a hospital by a midwife, says Aaron Caughey, M.D., chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University, in Portland.

Early delivery is less likely: The number of premature births is down for the sixth consecutive year; the rate is at a 15-year low, 11.5 percent, reports the CDC. "We're better at diagnosing and treating such conditions as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, which can both lead to premature birth," says Dr. McCabe. "Rates of deliveries of triplets and other higher numbers of multiples are also decreasing." 

You Delay Clamping the Umbilical Cord

"We're seeing more women request this, due to new research that shows that if you wait until the umbilical cord stops pulsating—about two minutes—the baby gets a little extra blood from the placenta, which helps protect him from diseases, such as anemia," according to Jacques Moritz, M.D., director of gynecology at Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital. 

You're Being Carefully Monitored for Preeclampsia

This dangerous condition, which can be potentially life-threatening, is getting more attention. Doctors used to wait until there was protein in a woman's urine to confirm she was at risk for preeclampsia. Now, "if a mom-to-be has high blood pressure along with low blood platelet count or high blood levels of liver enzymes, that's enough to start treatment," says Shilpi Mehta-Lee, M.D., an ob-gyn at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City. And high-risk women are more likely to be prescribed a daily low-dose aspirin (81 milligrams) after 12 weeks of gestation, thanks to new recommendations by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force. Research shows this can lower their risk by 24 percent.

You Believe the Placenta Has Power 

In hopes of decreased risk of postpartum depression and a fast recovery, women are having midwives and placenta prep services grind the placenta to take as a pill or to sprinkle over food. "The number of my clients requesting this has more than doubled in the last three years," says Washington midwife Claudia Booker. A small study found 76 percent of women reported benefits from doing so. Ob-gyns, though, suspect that's due to the placebo effect. 

You Want Fairness at Work

The good news is that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of on-the- job protection for pregnant women. Last March, the court decided employers can't deny pregnant workers the accommodations that are provided to employees injured on the job. "There are many points during a pregnancy when discrimination can occur," says Gillian Thomas, a former trial attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and author of Because of Sex, which profiles Supreme Court decisions affecting women and work. To prepare for your absence, you and your team should plan how your responsibilities will be covered. Be clear about what you're taking care of before you leave, who will handle projects while you're gone, and what tasks you'll pick up when you return. "Having this info in writing will help prevent unfair treatment down the road and protect against your boss changing your role in your absence," she says.

If you plan to nurse when you return, work with your supervisor to create a schedule to pump. Federal law (and some state and local laws) may require your employer to provide a private, clean location and reasonable break time. And be alert to any changes in how you're treated when you return. Negative stereotypes about a mother's job commitment can result in reduced responsibilities or opportunities for advancement. Keep records of any comments or other indicators that suggest you're being treated differently than before you had your baby.

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