How to Support Your Loved One During Pregnancy

From early pregnancy through recovery, Care Partners are critical

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Quick facts that may surprise you

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of all developed countries in the world. California is the safest state to give birth and Louisiana is the most dangerous.

Many pregnancy complications can be prevented by providing good health care during pregnancy, and enlisting midwives for guidance and care. Hospital safety plays a big part, too.

Some things to keep in mind…

    • Persons of color, especially black mothers, have been more likely to die than white mothers during pregnancy and childbirth
    • Those age 40+ (all races) are most at risk
    • More than 50% of pregnancy-related deaths occur the day after birth.

Other causes of pregnancy-related death (in order) are:

    • Heart disease
    • Infection (especially sepsis)
    • Severe bleeding
    • Heart muscle disease
    • Blood clots
    • High blood pressure
    • Stroke
    • Amniotic fluid embolism
    • Anesthesia complications

Whether you are the dad-to-be, best friend, mother, auntie, or any other relation to a mom-to-be, use these simple checklists to be the best Care Partner you can be.

How to support your loved one during pregnancy

Pregnancy Care To Dos

Pregnancy can be a complicated mix of emotional and physical feelings, different for every person. The common denominator is that the mom-to-be and infant have the best chance for a healthy pregnancy and delivery when supported by an informed and engaged Care Partner. 

As a potential Care Partner, look over all the “To-Do’s” for supporting someone you care about through pregnany, delivery and recovery.  Do you feel capable or have the time to participate? 

Have a frank conversation together too… are you and the mom-to-be good partners tempermentally?

If not, no worries and no shame. Sometimes the best Care Partner is someone who can help their loved one find another!

PREGNANCY RISKS:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Use of recreational drugs
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages 
  • Underweight or overweight
  • Age 40+

Care Partner “To-Do’s” with Your Pregnant Loved One

  • Read reliable sources about pregnancy and what is happening in each trimester.
  • Discuss getting care with a midwife or doula (with/without doctor)
  • Go to all doctor appointments/as many as you can: together, make up a list of questions to ask the doctor/midwife and take notes.(Create a notebook just for the pregnancy so all info will be in one place.)
  • Tour the hospital where the baby will be delivered and ask for its C-section and infection rates. Look up its safety rating.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR OR MIDWIFE ABOUT:

  • Vitamins and nutrition, esp. folic acid (for brain development for the baby)
  • Urgent warning signs to watch for during pregnancy.
  • Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia: What are they?  Warning signs?
  • The birth plan, along with any concerns and preparations for labor and delivery
  • C-section rate
  • Lamaze classes
  • All anticipated costs, your insurance coverage and out-of-pocket expenses
  • Monitoring blood pressure or oxygen saturation at home with a pulse oximeter or blood pressure cuff (find at Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc.)

CONTACT A DOCTOR OR GO TO AN URGENT CARE ER FOR ANY OF THESE PROBLEMS:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Clear fluid leaking from vagina
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Redness or pain in leg that feels like a charley-horse cramp that won’t go away
  • Trouble Breathing, shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure (if you have a cuff at home)
  • Chest pain
  • Severe nausea or throwing up
  • Headache that won’t go away, worsening
  • Cramping
  • Changes in vision
  • Inability to pee or fully relieve bladder
  • Puffiness, fluid build-up

How to support your loved one during childbirth

Most babies in the US are born in hospitals. One out of every 25 patients[2] will pick up an infection in the hospital. These can be deadly and cause about 100,000 needless deaths every year.

So, a big priority for Care Partner is helping  keep moms and babies infection-free!  Fortunately, The Care Partner Project has a quick, simple checklist that explains what you can do to help prevent a hospital infection. Download it download it to take with you to the hospital!

We have checklists for two other risks for new mothers, too: blood clots (also known as pulmonary emboli/PE) and medication mix-ups!  Download those and bring them – or look up on any device. Just use them!

RISKS & CONCERNS:

    • Failure to spot problems early and respond quickly
    • Hospital infections
    • Excessive bleeding (hemorrhage)
    • Blood clots
    • Complications from chronic health conditions (heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure)
    • Complications due to age (40+, especially)

“Care Partner “To Do’s” during labor and childbirth

  • Help prevent infections for mother, baby and youself! Make sure you and everyone else who comes close to your loved one washes their hands first with warm, soapy water or antimicrobial hand gel
  • During labor, ask how you can help. Time contractions? Get ice chips? Massage back? Make calls to friends and loved ones? Offer supportive words, provide encouragement to help minimize stress.
  • Get to know everyone involved on the medical team, make note of their names and roles.
  • Make sure you have records of medications your loved one normally takes and if necessary, ask how/when they will be administered. Ask about other medications that may be needed and when they will be given – look them up and make a note. 
  • Ask about risks of severe bleeding/hemorrhage and prevention. Ask: “How do you monitor blood loss?
  • Watch the monitors measuring heart rate and oxygen levels. No worries if you need help understand the readings – just ask the nurses. They’ll be glad to have you as a 2nd pair of eyes! 

AFTER DELIVERY

Be prepared to stay in the hospital 24/7 until discharge day. Bring a notebook and pen– ideally the notebook you started during the pregnancy.

Organize a support team of friends and family during the first weeks following birth. There are good apps to help you, also LotsaHelpingHands.org. 

 

GET A NURSE for any signs that the mother or baby are in distress – or things seem to be “going downhill”– especially if you see,  or your loved one tells you, about:

  • Vaginal bleeding, clotting blood
  • Fast heartbeat (watch on the monitors)
  • Redness or pain in leg that feels like a charley-horse that won’t go away
  • Trouble Breathing, shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure (if you have a cuff at home)
  • Chest pain

 

  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Mental confusion, unusual sluggishness, slurring words, fainting
  • Headache that won’t go away, worsening
  • Trouble breathing, shortness of breath

NOTE: If you alert nurses and they are not responding to your concerns, you may call for a Condition Help.

How to support recovery at home

Help During Recovery at Home

Bringing a new baby home is cause for celebration and utter joy for many new mothers and their families. It is also a time of sleep deprivation and other adjustments that can feed unexpected anxiety and depression. Fluctuating hormones after pregnancy don’t help either!

As a caring Care Partner, continue to look and listen for the signs that your loved one is having a tough time emotionally as well as physically. For all its joy, pregnancy and childbirth is a trauma to the body and the “4th trimester” is a time of healing. Be on the lookout for any setbacks in recovery and help make sure your loved one gets immediate medical attention.

Arranging for good food and some good sleep are amazing recovery gifts you can give, too!

COMPLICATIONS TO WATCH FOR:

    • Excessive bleeding
    • Infected stitches (if C-section or episiotomy performed)
    • Hospital infection
    • Blood clots
    • Anxiety
    • Depression, from “the blues” to suicidal thoughts

Safeguarding recovery at home begins at the time of discharge from the hospital.

  • In the hospital, think ahead to recovery at home: ask about specific instructions for home care of both the mother and newborn.
  • Be present for discharge conversation your loved one will have with a nurse just before going home. (Often, Care Partners leave to get the car, but that can wait!) Final instructions are critical and a good time to ask questions! Take notes or ask to record the conversation.

Make sure the discharge care plan includes:

  • List of warning signs, especially life-threatening complications and how to respond with contact info for doctors, hospital help line, and any other resources for immediate medical help
  • Warning signs of excessive bleeding and blood clots 
  • Signs of depression and anxiety
  • Lactation and breastfeeding support contact information
  • The time and date of first follow-up appointment with the doctor/midwife.

A Care Partner is also essential during the first three months of a new baby’s life — aptly called the 4th trimester.

  • Make sure everyone in the household understands and takes all infection prevention steps to protect mother and baby.
  • Go to any follow-up doctor appointments prepared with a list of all questions the new mother and you may have (use your notebook!).
  • Have candid conversations often with the new mother about their emotions and feelings: Ask “How are  you really doing?”

 

Help your loved one contact a doctor, go to an emergency room or urgent care center for any of these problems:  

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Trouble breathing, shortness of breath
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Redness or pain in leg that feels like a charley-horse cramp that won’t go away
  • Trouble Breathing, shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure (if you have a cuff at home)
  • Chest pain
  • Redness, pain and swelling at stitch areas
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Severe nausea or throwing up
  • Headache that won’t go away, worsening
  • Cramping
  • Changes in vision
  • Inability to pee or fully relieve bladder
  • Puffiness, fluid build up
  • Fever, chills, body aches

Sharing is Caring ❤

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