It’s the third trimester. You’re on the home stretch and getting closer to meeting your baby!
While you count down the days until showtime, stock up on newborn diapers and fold and refold all those cute little outfits, it’s essential to prepare physically and mentally for the hard work of labor.
Here’s the PishPosh Baby guide to getting ready for birthing your baby – and how to make it easier.
How To Prepare For Labor: Empower Yourself
Every mom-to-be is different. Your body and baby are different and no two births are the same. That’s why it’s useful to find out as much as you can about labor and birth.
Knowledge is power and enables you to make your own decisions. There are a lot of options out there when it comes to giving birth: home or hospital? Birthing pool or bed? Medicated or drug free?
Doing your own research on anything you want to learn more about or are worried about can help you feel more confident about labor and birth. Find out more about some of these options via the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Childbirth Connection.
Think About Your Birth Preferences
A birth plan is a document that communicates your wishes, concerns and choices for labor and birth quickly and effectively to your care providers and the people supporting you. It covers labor, pain control, delivery, after delivery and newborn care.
Start by thinking about what matters most to you on the big day. You could consider:
- Are my wishes realistic in a hospital/home setting?
- Who is going to be in the delivery room?
- Will I know the doctors/nurses/midwives?
- Will there be staff in training?
- What happens when a hospital shift ends?
- What does ‘unmedicated’ mean to me and my healthcare provider?
- What does ‘no interventions’ mean to me and my healthcare provider?
- Will I be able to move around in labor?
- Can I have non-continuous monitoring of the baby’s vital signs?
- Do I want access to a birthing ball, stool or pool during labor?
- What pain relief do I want?
- Can I delay clamping of the umbilical cord?
- Can I have immediate skin-to-skin contact with my baby?
Bear in mind that this plan should have flexibility built in, because things don’t always go as expected in labor and birth, particularly for first-time moms.
You could think of the plan as your ‘preferences’ or ‘wishes’ to remove some of the pressure of things not unfolding in the way you would like. It’s also useful to provide your wishes for two or even three scenarios.
You could make a plan A based on the kind of pain relief you want, a plan B based on the failure of plan A and a plan C for when you end up somewhere other than you expect to be.
Don’t feel you have to plan everything. Keep it short, simple and talk about it with your healthcare provider before you give birth so there’s no disappointment.
Ensure your partner, doula and anyone else who’s there to support you know your wishes so they can advocate on your behalf.
Choose The Right Healthcare Provider
Your choice of provider and birth facility can impact your birth experience. Ensure the protocols of wherever you choose to have your baby are in line with how you want to labor and give birth.
If you’re planning an unmedicated birth, for example, choose a healthcare provider that doesn’t use a lot of interventions and is familiar with birth plans, working alongside doulas and has a low rate of cesarean births.
Or, you may want a birthing pool but find that the hospital where you want to give birth doesn’t provide a tub. You may need to hire your own or reconsider water birth completely.
Don’t discount the little things! Being able to play your favorite music, dim the lights and have familiar things around you to make you feel comfortable and at home in a hospital setting can give you a sense of control.
Ensure your healthcare provider embraces your ideas – if they don’t, keep looking.
Exercises To Prepare For Labor
It’s not called labor for nothing. Giving birth to a baby is hard work! Whatever kind of birth you’re planning, it will require strength and stamina, so it’s important to prepare your body for it.
Any type of movement during pregnancy is good. Not only does it keep you fit, but it’s also a great stressbuster.
You may already have a solid exercise regime – great. Keep going. But you could try finding out about pregnancy exercise classes near you.
A pregnancy yoga class, for example, can be really helpful. Stretching improves your flexibility – a valuable quality in childbirth. Yoga can also help get your baby in a good position for birth, teach you positions to help you through labor and provide some relaxation and breathing techniques to help you stay calm.
Aquanatal sessions are a great work out, increasing energy and stamina, and strengthening core, pelvic and back muscles. Training in water is fun and supportive because you’ll feel weightless, making you freer to move. You’ll also stay cool and the water’s buoyancy will reduce the risk of injury.
When exercising, be safe. Listen to your body. If something feels wrong or you’re in pain, slow things down or stop completely and seek advice from your healthcare provider.
How To Mentally Prepare For Labor
For all the birth horror stories out there, there are just as many positive tales of beautiful births. Even if you’ve had a negative first experience, remember every baby and birth is different. Having a positive mindset can alleviate fears and help you stay calm and relaxed.
Here’s how to stay upbeat:
- Listen to positive labor and birth narratives and try to ignore the negative ones. Diplomatically change the subject if your well-meaning friend/mom/aunt/colleague embarks on her nightmare experience.
- Believe it’s possible to labor without stress and minimal intervention. Believe in yourself: you’re in control and you can do it.
- Look up positive birth stories on the internet and read positive books to impact your positive state of mind.
How To Make Labor Easier
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Breathwork, visualization, meditation and self-hypnosis, such as HypnoBirthing, can help calm your nerves before and during labor, as well as control pain.
All these techniques center on the fact that the more relaxed you are, the more your body will physically, mentally and emotionally open up to contractions, or surges, instead of resisting them.
These techniques won’t eradicate pain, but they will help you get to a place where you can manage the pain and reduce fear of pain. You’ll also feel calm, in control and equipped to deal with any situation as it arises, rather than panicking.
For best results, it’s recommended that you practice these tools throughout your pregnancy so you’re comfortable with them when labor kicks in.
They’ll enable you to have the best possible labor under your particular circumstances.
Take Advantage Of Pain Management Methods
Known as the midwife’s epidural, water is a great pain reliever for many women. Even if you haven’t opted for a water birth, you could take a warm shower or bath to comfort and reassure.
Physical touch, from hair stroking to back kneading, can be an effective pain management technique during the first stages of labor. Bear in mind that during the latter stages of labor, the idea of someone touching you might be the opposite of what you need!
Don’t underestimate movement to help relieve pain during labor and help you find the best position for you to give birth.
Bounce on a birthing ball, get on all fours and rock, roam around your room, lean on a table or your partner, straddle a chair, or walk up and down the hospital corridor.
Expect to change position as your baby moves and feel free to move around as much as you need to.
Consider Hiring A Doula
A doula is a non-medical professional trained to provide support during and after labor in addition to your healthcare provider.
They can give guidance, encouragement and reassurance during the birthing process, and act as an advocate of your birthing wishes.
Whatever happens during labor and birth, be kind to yourself. It may not go as you wish, and it’s natural to be disappointed, even if you and your baby are healthy. Planning for all eventualities and practicing techniques to stay positive, relaxed and calm are great ways to manage the best possible outcome for you and your baby.