Preparing for childbirth is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and your baby. While mothers might joke that there’s really nothing anyone can do to prepare for this momentous and life changing event, the truth remains that the more you know about it, the more you’ve exposed yourself to various possibilities and alternatives, and the more you and your labor partner have “practiced,” the more comfortable you’ll be when labor begins.
To learn more about the specifics of Labor, visit our post, Know the Stages of Labor. Not only will this help you and your partner to prepare for childbirth, it will also help you to labor longer at home, which decreases the amount of time you spend in the hospital. In fact, a 2007 study showed that the more women knew about labor, the less anxious they were; the less anxious they were, the longer they labored at home and the faster their cervix dilated; the faster their cervix dilated, the less pain they reported and the shorter their delivery times were at the hospital.
That’s all worth striving for, right?
Things You Can Do to Prepare for Childbirth
Besides learning more about what your body is doing during the childbirth process, you can do other things to prepare for the big day, or the big night, all of which will make childbirth easier.
Tour different birthing centers and hospitals
Ideally, you’ll spend the second trimester touring different birthing centers and hospitals. We say second, rather than first, because this is the trimester when you typically feel the best. There’s no point in exploring your labor and delivery options if you’re feeling queasy or ultra-fatigued because you won’t be able to concentrate on a single thing.
During your tour, you have an opportunity to ask important questions:
- Do you allow doulas, midwives and others to attend the birth?
- Are you comfortable letting me get up and walk around during my labor?
- Will I have a choice about what positions I labor in (while more than half of women in the U.S. give birth on their backs because it’s convenient for doctors, studies show that other positions – being on all fours, sitting, squatting, or lying on one’s side – is often the better position for mother and baby)?
- Will you work with me to co-operate with my birth plan?
- Do you allow me to be skin-to-skin right away – taking the babies vital signs from there?
- Can we delay the cord cutting until the pulse stops?
- And any other questions that are important to you and your partner.
Asking these questions, and listening to the answers, will do much to illuminate whether the center you’re considering has the right culture or energy for your birthing experience. Never choose a place that doesn’t feel right to you, because it’s imperative that you feel as calm, trusting and comfortable as possible once you’re in labor.
Take a childbirth education class
One of the next, most important things you can do is take a childbirth education class. There are a range of ways to go about this. The simplest and easiest way is to take the course offered by your hospital or birthing center. Your doctor or midwife can tell you more about the classes they offer. Many places now offer two different courses, one for early pregnancy – which focuses on health and nutrition, and the importance of overall wellness – and one geared for later-pregnancy, to prepare you specifically for labor and delivery, nursing, and bringing home a newborn.
Private classes are also available. Some of the most reputable, childbirth education certification programs are
- The Bradley Method
- Birthing From Within
- CAPPA Certified Childbirth Education
- Birth Arts International
These courses are instrumental in decreasing anxiety, instilling confidence in your body’s ability to give birth, getting you and your partner on the same page, practicing pain management and relaxation techniques and different techniques your partner can use to provide support during all phases of labor. These classes also cover breastfeeding basics and include referrals to breastfeeding support specialists in your area.
If you are birthing in a hospital, you might want to take two classes, one from the above list that focuses on process and support, and one at the hospital that covers more specific, hospital practices.
Pack your bag and have it ready
This one gets put on the backburner for so many, but can make a world of difference – especially if the start of labor comes earlier than you intended. DO make a point to prepare your overnight bag so you have everything you need to be as comfortable as possible both in the hospital as well as on the ride home. Read, The Ultimate Hospital Packing List for inspiration.
You’ll never regret preparing for your labor and your baby’s delivery. Knowledge is power, and you deserve to be the one in charge of how you give birth, and how your baby is handled from the minute he or she arrives. Make sure you work with labor and delivery professionals who are on the same page and will support you to the best of their ability.