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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Dr. Scott Rallison, OB/GYN, and Gretchen Faucett, a certified nurse midwife, both of the Avenues Specialty Clinic, will answer questions on pregnancy for the June Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Health Hotline.

SALT LAKE CITY — "People have maybe changed their feelings a little bit about when to have their children or how many children to have," said Dr. Scott Rallison. And some women are putting off elective surgeries to save money, he said.

A tough economy has tightened budgets and that's made women more conscious about having children.

"People still have a desire to have their families," Rallison said. The Intermountain Healthcare Avenues Specialty Clinic physician said educating women about their choices is one of the best parts of his job.

"I love to meet a patient and be able to have that long-term relationship, where you see them at least a dozen times throughout the pregnancy so you really get to know them," he said. "Then they come back for another pregnancy and you do it all over again. It is a great experience to help them grow their families."

Rallison and the clinic's nurse midwife, Gretchen Faucett, will be featured on Saturday's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline, where the two will take questions about conception, pregnancy and childbirth. From 10 a.m. until noon, anyone can call 1-800-925-8177 or post questions on the Deseret News' Facebook page, www.facebook.com/desnews.

"It is sometimes hard to know what labor feels like, but we try to educate women as much as possible to know what they are feeling and to know what to do about it," Faucett said. "Every woman is different."

In Utah, parents have the right to choose how and where to birth a child and midwives are becoming a popular choice, among other options. Faucett, who is certified, carries insurance and delivers babies in a hospital, is much like an OB/GYN, but she is prohibited from performing surgeries, other than repairs of the perineum if or when it tears during childbirth.

In addition to assisting in childbirth, both work with patients who want to delay having babies with birth control. Various methods have been tried by women and their partners, and scrutinized by society for years.

"There is no perfect birth control method at this point, or everyone would be doing the same thing," Rallison said. "But what we have are a number of options that are all fairly safe and fairly effective, tailored to what the individual needs and what has worked in the past and what hasn't."

Making a comeback is the intrauterine device or IUD, which Rallison said got a bad name decades ago for one device that had a design flaw.

"Once we put it in, they can forget about their birth control for five to 10 years, depending on what they choose," he said. "It has become a very nice option, especially for women who think they're probably done with their family and they just don't want something permanent."

For those who are in the process of building a bigger family, Rallison said it is important to consider the risks that come with age, health conditions and other factors. Having a balanced, healthy diet and engaging in regular activity are important for the health of mother and baby.

"Pregnancy seems to give women extra motivation to eat the way we all kind of know we should," he said. A daily multivitamin or prenatal vitamin containing folic acid is also important and helps to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

"The body is set up to make it easiest to get pregnant when you're younger and as a woman ages, her eggs age as well," Rallison said. "With older eggs, older women are not as able to become pregnant, they're more likely to have miscarriages and they're more likely to have babies with birth defects and chromosomal defects."

Down syndrome is a risk that increases gradually with the age of the mother.

Regardless of age, women should see a doctor about eight weeks from their last period and another approximately 12 times until childbirth, Rallison said.

When it comes time for delivery, Faucett said it seems that more women are opting for natural childbirths and births involving hypnosis, which gives them more opportunity to be a part of the process and not rely completely on medical practices. One type of delivery does not provide any benefit over another, Faucett said, but rather is based on personal preference.

"A lot of women like the safety of a hospital but want to have more control," she said, emphasizing that sometimes choices change with the circumstances. "Nobody can predict how the body is going to work."

Faucett said there is "no typical labor," but a woman's first could take longer than those that follow. And other than an ultrasound, there's no way to know whether it will be a boy or a girl.

"You have a 50-50 chance," Faucett said.

• Hotline Saturday

The Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline focuses on pregnancy. From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dr. Scott Rallison and Gretchen Faucett, a nurse midwife, both from Intermountain Healthcare's Avenues Specialty Clinic, will answer reader's questions. Call 1-800-925-8177, toll-free or post questions online, at the Deseret News' Facebook page, www.facebook.com/desnews.

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