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Maintaining modesty in labor
Q: I'm a private person and rather shy, so I'm very worried about delivery and letting everyone peek at, poke and prod me. Is there any way I can keep my modesty and carve out a little privacy? Or by that point, won't it matter as much anymore? That's what other new mothers have been telling me.
A: I have to agree with your friends. Most women in the throngs of active labor abandon their efforts to maintain modesty. But I do understand your concerns, especially if you are shy and private by nature.

If you deliver in a hospital, you may be surprised at the number of people present at your delivery. In a private hospital, for example, you may be attended by your physician or midwife, one or two labor and delivery nurses and one or two nurses/doctors to assess the baby. If you choose to have an epidural, there may be an anesthesiologist present. If you deliver in a teaching hospital, you are likely to have student nurses or doctors present. Add to that your personal choice of friends and family and you may have more than seven people in your delivery room!

You certainly have the right to set up parameters about privacy upon arrival at the hospital. It is your right to decide whether student nurses, student doctors or visitors are present in the delivery room. I would suggest that you write up a birth plan ahead of your due date that includes your preference for privacy. You can ask that only your doctor and your delivery nurse be allowed to examine you, and you can tell your family members and friends whether you would like them out of the room during exams and the actual delivery.

While it is perfectly possible to be discreet during labor examinations (use a sheet to cover the lower half of your body), the delivery itself is usually quite revealing. Your birth attendant won't be able to cover your body completely at this point. Discuss your sense of modesty with your doctor or midwife during one of your prenatal visits. See if he/she has any helpful ideas, given his/her knowledge of your hospital protocol. On your big day you will more than likely become so focused on the process of labor and delivery that your sense of modesty will temporarily fade.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist