There are the cute pregnancy announcements and the doting baby showers, but while pregnancy comes with its joys, the thought of actually giving birth can make some women anxious, especially if they’re first-time mothers. Making a plan in advance can help you feel more prepared so you can relax your mind as your due date gets closer. Here are 5 smart ways to help you prepare for labor and delivery so you’re ready when your bundle of joy arrives.
1. Learn about childbirth
Knowledge is power. Experts say women who are armed with knowledge about childbirth tend to be more active participants in the birthing process, which is generally a better option than just waiting for it to happen.
Prepare yourself by learning about various options for delivery and talk to your healthcare provider about your preferences, be it a natural birth, a water birth, a c-section, or otherwise.
And consider taking a childbirth class (or two). Approaches and length vary by class, but typically classes teach you the following:
- Signs of labor and when you should call your healthcare provider
- What actually occurs during labor and delivery
- Common labor and delivery issues and the corresponding solutions
- Ways you can prepare for labor pain and how to cope with it
- How your partner can help you through labor
The type of childbirth class you attend can depend on the type of birth you prefer. For example, if you want to give birth without an epidural, you’ll want a class that focuses on natural pain management methods. Don’t wait until the last minute to sign up for these childbirth classes. Some take months to complete, while others fill up quickly.
2. Find the right support system for your childbirth process
Having a baby is a big deal and it’s important to find the right healthcare and support personnel to guide you through your pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
While more than 90 percent of women go with an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) as their main medical provider, you also have other choices such as a family doctor or a certified nurse-midwife. Your birthing preferences, such as natural versus medicated birth, are important, as is the risk level of your pregnancy. Don’t be afraid to talk with several medical professionals before you decide on one. After all, you’ll want someone you can feel comfortable with throughout your journey.
Some women will also opt to have a doula in addition to their medical personnel. A professionally trained doula can provide the emotional, physical, and educational support needed to make the pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum experiences safer and less stressful.
And should you choose to deliver in a hospital or birthing center, signing up for a tour one to two months before your due date can also be useful. Tours typically include every room you’ll visit during your stay, including nurseries, and visiting can help you feel more prepared and less anxious when it’s time to go. Many hospitals will also allow you to pre-register so you have less paperwork to take care of on the big day.
3. Prepare your body for labor
While childbirth is a natural process, preparing your body for labor can help the delivery and recovery period go smoother. Regular, low-impact exercise is not only an important part of a healthy pregnancy, it also prepares your body for the strength and stamina that childbirth requires. Plus, it can reduce stress.
Prenatal exercise classes such as prenatal yoga can also reduce the pains and aches that are common during pregnancy and labor. In addition, you can prepare your body via labor exercises such as pelvic tilts and Kegels.
Labor can be as much a mental exertion as a physical one, so make sure to prepare yourself by practicing your breathing and meditation. Learning specific pain management techniques such as visualization and rhythmic breathing ahead of time can help you manage in real-time, especially if you’re preparing for natural labor.
4. Plan for the big day
Prepare for labor and delivery with a birth plan, which can address everything from what type of pain management you want to who will be in the delivery room with you. Consider the things important to you, and write up and share your birth plan ahead of time. You, your partner or other support personnel, and your healthcare provider should all be aligned on your birth plan, and you should be flexible as your birthing team may need to make changes as necessary.
Packing your bags is another way to plan for the big day. You won’t want to be frantically gathering things you’ll need after your water breaks, so prep ahead of time by making a list and packing a bag to bring with you to the delivery room. In fact, you may even want to pack two separate bags: one with the things you’ll need during labor and the other with the things you and your baby will need after delivery. Preparation for delivery bags should occur a few weeks before your due date, as that can always move up.
5. Prep yourself and your family for after the birth
Labor and delivery may seem to be the big elements to plan for, but don’t forget to prep yourself and your family for after the birth. Here are some key things you can do ahead of time to prepare for your baby and to help make the days after the birth go smoother:
- Make sure you and your partner or other support personnel are on the same page on important things such as what to name your baby and how to share baby duties and responsibilities.
- If you have other children, prep them for the arrival of their new sibling.
- Similarly, craft a plan to introduce any furry family members you may have to the newborn.
- Make sure you have a pediatrician or family physician lined up for your newborn.
- And don’t forget to update your health insurance to include your new addition. Having a baby is a Qualifying Life Event that opens up a Special Enrollment Period for you.
- Prep your home with baby essentials such as diapers, clothing, and wipes. Make sure to include things you might need as well, such as nursing pads.
- And finally, if available to you, schedule some help around the house, be it from a relative, a maid, or a babysitter.