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Some people always bring along a travel guide when they go on a trip. They pore over the maps, study the local customs, and try to learn a bit of the native language. This additional knowledge makes their trip both more comfortable and more enjoyable.

You can think of How Your Baby Is Born as your travel guide on your journey through the process of birth. Although the distance is short just a few inches from inside your uterus to the outside world and into your arms-the trip you take with your baby is indeed a new and wondrous journey. Like a travel guide, How Your Baby Is Born offers you detailed maps, an introduction to the local customs, and a smattering of the native tongue. In this book, the color illustrations are your maps; you will learn about the local customs and procedures that are related to your visits to the hospital; and you will be able to add terms like amniocentesis and placenta to your vocabulary.

Read this book before you visit with your practitioner. Take it with you to your doctor's or midwife's office and use the illustrations to enhance his or her explanations. In fact, your doctor might find the illustrations a helpful aid in answering your questions. Take this book with you to the hospital or birthing center so that the new place won't seem strange or frightening. Use it to help you make the decisions you need to make to help ensure the kind of birth experience that you hope to have.

Like a traditional travel guide, the goal of this book is to help you feel less foreign and more familiar with new surroundings and the new experiences of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. You should know what the amniocentesis procedure will be like before you have one done. If your baby is breech, you should understand what that means and not become alarmed by the term. When you walk into the hospital birthing room, you should recognize the various pieces of equipment and what they are used for. Above all, you should feel neither frightened nor threatened by the new environment and experiences.

And, just as a travel guide cannot tell you exactly what you should see or do to have the best possible trip, this book cannot tell you what you must do to have the best possible birth experience. That's because, like a trip itinerary, what's great for one person may be disappointing for another. Your journey toward becoming a parent is a deeply personal one. Use this book to understand your options and explore your preferences. Do you wish to minimize intervention during labor and delivery, or do the high-tech tools and equipment of the modern hospital provide you with a sense of security during an anxiety-provoking time? Use this book to decide what a good birth experience means to you. Then, don't hesitate to share your preferences with your obstetrician or midwife. Your practitioner will not know what you want unless you discuss it beforehand.

Unlike a traditional travel guide, this one intends that everyone wind up at exactly the same place: with a healthy baby and a healthy mother. Most of the time, no special effort is required to reach this outcome. Unfortunately, we cannot predict which labors might be difficult or which babies might not easily withstand the strain. Above all, be flexible. It might turn out that your baby needs more intervention than you would have wished. That can be a disappointment, but may be less of one if you keep in mind that your deepest wish is for a healthy child.

How Your Baby Is Born covers the following four territories: Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery, Common Obstetrical Procedures, and The Newborn. While the organization within each section is chronological, it is not necessary to read the chapters in a sequential order. Each chapter is a self-contained discussion of a topic that does not rely on information that is covered elsewhere in the book.

This book does not contain every possible situation encountered in pregnancy, nor is every possible obstetrical procedure described. Because mastering the practice of obstetrics takes many years of study and experience, no single book could encompass the entire subject.

The information in this book is not intended to substitute for consultation with your own obstetrician or midwife. You can compare reading How Your Baby Is Born to working with an experienced travel agent in planning a lengthy and extensive excursion. Each pregnancy, labor, and delivery is unique, just as each baby is unique. Only someone familiar with every detail of your situation is qualified to make recommendations about your obstetrical management. However, this book will provide you with detailed explanations of the most commonly encountered issues and obstetrical practices, which will allow you to participate as a full partner in any decision making that may be required.

The ultimate goal of a travel guide is to make your trip as easy and as enjoyable as it can be. How Your Baby Is Born shares this goal. Giving birth to a new life is nothing short of a miracle. Enjoy your part in this miracle to the fullest and celebrate your role in creating and nurturing the new life within you. Prepare to bring your child forth to share in the excitement of your world and the security of your love.