By Tara Smith
& Guest Blogger
When I found out I was pregnant in September 2022, I was beyond ecstatic and overwhelmed — all the same time. I will start my story by mentioning that I am black, 36 and, if I am honest, I am having a baby later than most of my friends who are military spouses. However, I am okay with that because I have a sisterhood of mothers who can provide advice and pass down items they swore by when they had their children. So, please know that no matter what your own situation is, there are military spouses ready to support you and your decisions. I, myself, met a MilSpouse who has helped me on my journey and was willing to talk or pick up free items for me that she had seen on the curb, because I do not live on base.
5 Reasons to Deliver Off-Base:
Mothers who are age 35 years and older are considered geriatric, meaning you are having a pregnancy later in life, and the risks of delivery and experiencing complications are much higher. This also means I would be monitored carefully from Week 34 until birth. This is to ensure that momma and baby are doing well.
2. High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, you are at risk of preeclampsia after Week 20. It can cause your kidneys and liver to work abnormally, so it’s important to have the best care possible.
3. The Stories
We have all heard the not-so-great and remarkable stories about delivering on base. I have also listened to the stories at civilian hospitals, but I was not going to let that persuade me to deliver off-base. I wanted to ensure that I received the best quality of care and could advocate for myself and my baby. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics recently released a report on the mortality rate for moms in the U.S. The report revealed that mortality rates have INCREASED by 89% since 2018. Furthermore, black women are three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women.
4. Certified Doula
I hired a doula. TRICARE now allows you to hire a doula — a non-medical professional that can provide support as your birthing coach and advocate. TRICARE will cover up to six visits by a certified labor doula. These visits can be before or after you give birth. I want to deliver as naturally as possible but may opt for IV medications to take the edge off the labor pains. Knowing that I will have my husband and a doula at my side minimizes poor communication and advocacy for my needs. Learn more here.
5. Support Group
I joined a centering group where the mothers are experiencing the same gestational weeks. We come together weekly and talk about our experience while receiving medical care. This has been the most experientially rich environment I have been in. We support each other and talk about the complex emotions we are experiencing.
Whatever decision you make about where you deliver your baby, let your personal needs inform it. Your baby counts on you. Therefore, you are the best advocate for your healthcare needs. I have had fantastic support and am excited to meet our baby in May 2023. I wish you lots of success in whatever decision you make.
Tara is an active-duty Marine Corps spouse of 10 years. She is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who provides therapy to children and their families. Tara is a SpouseLink Ambassador, an expecting mother, and has one horse and two dogs. In her spare time, you will find her working out, walking her dogs, and spending time with her horse.