A Great Place for You and Your Baby
Updated: May 16
Life Cycle of Care
You’re going to have a baby! Congratulations! It’s a very exciting but nerve-wracking time of life. It’s an important time to take care of yourself and your unborn child. But the cycle of care doesn’t begin now; the field of obstetrics and gynecology (or Ob-Gyn) should be a vital part of every woman’s healthcare plan.
Gynecology is the medical specialty that deals with the health of the female reproductive system, including the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and vagina. Gynecologists specialize in reproductive health issues in women and provide a wide range of services, including annual wellness exams, Pap smears, breast exams, and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Gynecologists also diagnose and treat conditions such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids, and ovarian cysts; they may also perform surgical procedures and provide care during pregnancy, which brings us to the medical specialty of obstetrics.
Obstetrics focuses on the care of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and post-partum (the time immediately after childbirth). Obstetricians are trained to provide prenatal care, manage pregnancy, as well as deliver babies, either vaginal birth or via cesarean section. Prenatal care should include regular check-ups and monitoring of the mother and developing baby.
The two fields of obstetrics and gynecology are closely aligned, and most providers are trained in both fields. Since a woman’s reproductive health begins with the onset of menstruation, it’s important for women to establish a relationship with an OB-GYN early on and to schedule annual exams to maintain optimal reproductive health. At these visits, your OB-GYN can provide guidance on healthy lifestyle choices, such as nutrition and exercise, before, during, and after pregnancy. They can also address any medical issues that may arise after pregnancy such as post-partum depression and breastfeeding. You can find lots of information on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website[AS1] about all stages of a woman’s reproductive life, such as birth control, puberty, cancer in women, menopause, and many other topics.
But back to having a baby! Are you ready? Forty weeks, give or take, has passed and your little one is ready for the world. Suddenly, you begin to feel contractions. Labor typically starts with the onset of contractions, which are rhythmic tightening and relaxing of the muscles in the uterus. As your contractions become more frequent and intense, the cervix opens (called dilation) and thins (called effacement). Labor continues into various stages of contractions and cervical changes that result in the delivery of your baby out of the birth canal.
Some couples decide they want more control over their birth experience. A birth plan is a written and submitted description of your preferences for labor and delivery. You can find a template on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) website[AS2] . Be sure to go over your birth plan with your OB-GYN before your due date but know that not all birth plans get put into practice because unexpected situations can arise.
Once the baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut, and the placenta is delivered. While labor and delivery are an intense and physically demanding experience, it is also a natural process that a woman’s body is designed to handle. Being able to relax, having pain management options, and experiencing a support system of family and competent healthcare professionals can make your birth experience as comfortable as possible.
At Hardin Medical Center…