The prospect of preparing for birth can be pretty scary. Our 10 tips to help you prepare for childbirth will make sure you are prepared for labour.
Having a baby is one of the biggest events of your life. A little advanced planning before you give birth will make it easier for you to enjoy your pregnancy and cope with those exhausting first few weeks.
#1: Help your Baby get ready
Did you know that from 33 weeks you can start to encourage your baby to move into the correct position for birth? Start by regularly kneeling over a birthing ball, or if you don’t have one you can use a chair.
This simple position helps move your baby into the right space for birth. You can take a closer look at how to practice the exact position here.
#2: Keep positive and focus on coping
A good technique to get through labour is to make sure you focus positive energy on coping with childbirth itself. Try not to let other people stress you out, especially when you actually go into labour.
There will be lots going on around you when you start your labour. You will need to stay focused, concentrated, relaxed and not allow others to distract your thoughts, well being and state of mind.
Everyone seems to be an expert when it comes to childbirth. You will receive lots of helpful and unhelpful advice. Some of it might even be slightly frightening. Thankfully, our 10 tips to help you prepare for childbirth ignores the unnecessary drama. Try not to listen to horror stories because most of them are vastly exaggerated.
Remain positive about your pregnancy journey and make sure those around you are adding good vibes to your story.
#3: Stay fit throughout your pregnancy
You have a better chance of having a straightforward birth if you are strong and fit.
Make sure you check-in with your GP to get the green light for prenatal exercising. Once you are good to go, try to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day, five days a week. That might seem tough but remember activities like walking count! Try to take a short walk each day (without becoming short of breath). You can also check-in with your midwife to seek out local yoga and aqua natal classes in your area.
You should avoid participating in exercises that might place too much strain on your pregnancy. Physical activity that might result in a fall, or an abdominal injury, is best avoided. These types of exercises include; skiing, horse riding, cycling, gymnastics, skating, any racket sports, football, basketball, rollerblading, and all contact sports.
Remember to keep active throughout your pregnancy all the way to birth. If you haven’t already got a fitness tracker, you definitely want to invest in a Fitbit.
#4: Start to work on massaging your perineum
There is research available that suggests massaging your perineum (the tissue between your vagina and your anus) reduces the chances of tearing the area in childbirth and can help antenatal recovery times. This is especially pertinent if it’s your first baby.
Lots of mums don’t think about the pain from tearing when giving birth. At around 34 weeks, you should start gently massaging your perineum using oil (try wheatgerm or sweet almond). Ask your partner to help with the massaging too. This will help your body cope with the stretching and may save you a lot of tears!
Check out this fantastic video tutorial on how to massage your perineum from myPelvicFloorMuscles.
#5: Don’t rule out a home birth
Homebirth numbers have been slowly increasing over the last few years. Today, in the UK, there are still only around two percent of babies born at home each year.
Lots of mothers who have homebirths have a perfectly normal delivery. Don’t listen to all the scare stories about giving birth at home. As long as it is a mid-wife led birth, and your pregnancy is moving along without complications, there should be no reason why you can’t have a baby at home if that’s your preference.
Advantages of a home birth
- You will be able to recover from labour in the comfort of your own home.
- Higher rates of having a normal birth compared to those within hospitals.
- It is very likely that you will have the same midwife throughout your labour.
- You can have all your family close by for support.
- If there are complications you can easily be moved to the hospital.
Disadvantages of a home birth
- If your pregnancy is considered high risk having your baby at home is dangerous to the health of you and your baby.
- Gas and air will need to be administered by your midwife.
- If there are any complications, you will likely have to transfer to the hospital at a very late stage of labour.
#6: Boost and maintain your energy levels
Labour is a full-body workout! It is very important that you maintain your stamina and keep your energy levels up.
At the beginning of your labour, you should try to eat foods like wholemeal sandwiches, rice or pasta. These foods release their energy slowly and they will keep you going for longer. Carbs are brilliant for the early stages of labour but as things progress you won’t fancy such heavy foods. For the later stages of labour, remember to pack lots of high energy snacks (think wine gums and energy drinks). You will also need plenty of fluids (straws are your friend). Cereal bars are also a good source of immediate energy.
#7: Consider using a doula
A doula is an experienced birthing partner who provides emotional and practical support throughout your pregnancy and labour. The word ‘Doula’ is a Greek term for ‘slave’ and described the women who lend themselves to serve as birthing partners.
Doula’s are vastly experienced in offering birthing comfort, support, and expertise to expectant mothers. They are also very experienced in acting as a buffer between the mother and the many doctors, nurses, and your partner during childbirth.
Lots of women find comfort in using a doula because they provide expert support in breathing, positioning, relaxing, and general movement through labour. A doula should provide prenatal and postpartum support and are highly skilled at helping mothers prepare a birthing plan that fits the needs and desires of the parents.
#8: Learn to breathe correctly
Breathing is second nature to all of us and comes naturally, but the impact it can have on pain management in childbirth is quite incredible. Breathing is your gateway to successfully managing your contractions so it’s very important to understand the correct techniques.
When you are in labour, using the correct control for your breathing will help you manage the pain. You need as much oxygen as possible during labour. By breathing in rhythmic stages, you will maximise the amount of oxygen for you and your baby. The more oxygen you can provide for your body, the better you’ll feel.
In labour you will need to breathe deeply, slowly, and in a relaxed rhythm. This will prevent tension in your muscles and allow your cervix to dilate properly. This is very important, so you need to practice your breathing techniques before you enter labour. When you go into labour, if you think you need gas and air don’t be proud. Ask for it, take it and use it to help you relax if you need to.
#9: Pack a hospital bag
The last thing you want to worry about when you go into labour is packing a hospital bag. Trust us, you don’t want to arrive at the hospital crunched over in pain clinging onto a Sainsbury carrier bag.
You can read more on packing a hospital bag in our blog post here.
#10: Have your birth plan ready
A birth plan provides doctors, midwives, and birthing partners (doula) with a very clear plan on what is important to you during childbirth and the first few hours with your new baby. You should make sure you have written and shared your birth plan with your midwife and birthing partner in advance of your pregnancy. This will ensure they know what’s important for you and your labour.
Your birth plan can be a detailed guide, or just a few key items outlining what you’d like to take place over the different stages of your labour and birth. Don’t forget to include those first few hours after giving birth. Even if your pregnancy turns out slightly differently than the way you’d anticipated, a birthing plan will help the people around you to try and keep the birthing outcomes as close to your desires and wishes as possible.
Remember, every labour is unique. It isn’t always possible for doctors, nurses, and birthing partners to meet all the expectations laid out in birthing plans but they will try their best as long as they are aware of what is important to you.