If you’re giving birth for the first time, it can be hard to know how to prepare for the big day. Even if you’ve had other children, you may wish to do things differently than your previous experiences, so here are 9 helpful ways you can mentally and physically prepare for labor so you are comfortable and ready for the arrival of your precious baby.
The more you know, the less you’ll worry. Know what to expect, know the basics of the various procedures involved, and even read various birth stories to hear personal experiences that offer uplifting, positive messages. Avoid negative stories, blogs, threads or horror stories, because these are usually the extreme exception and will do nothing to help you prepare. Take a childbirth class through the hospital where you’ll give birth and ask all the questions you have without hesitation.
2. Choose a doctor wisely
Think about what’s important to you as far as medical support for your labor, and make sure you’re seeing a doctor who fits your criteria. You should feel comfortable asking him/her questions and have no problem expressing all of your concerns and wishes for your labor.
3. Practice breathing
Whether you choose a non-medicated labor or opt for pain-relieving drugs, breathing exercises will help you no matter what. Even with an epidural or other pain medication, you will still feel some pain or pressure before, during, and after labor that can be managed through effective breathing techniques. Research various forms of mindful breathing and practice them all the time.
4. Prenatal yoga
Prenatal yoga is designed specifically for pregnant women, and incorporates movements and exercises that will strengthen muscles used during childbirth. By doing squats, kegels, pelvic tilts, and other movements that target muscles used in childbirth, you will strengthen them and learn how to isolate and contract them, which can help you feel and use them efficiently when pushing.
5. Round-up a support system
The old, “it takes a village” saying applies to much more than raising a child. You’re going to need your village even before your child arrives, so start thinking about tasks or responsibilities with which you’ll need help, and who you can count on to help you with them. Organize friends and family members who are willing to support you, and delegate chores, meals, rides, pet care, etc. so that you can rest and recover as much as necessary during and after labor.
6. Embrace a relaxing smell, seriously
It is believed that smell is the sense most associated with memory, so use this to your advantage during labor. Find a candle, lotion, spray, or some other form of a scent that you associate with good memories. It could be a coconut scent that reminds you of suntan lotion and relaxing on the beach. Maybe it’s the scent of your husband’s cologne that makes you feel calm. Maybe it’s a floral, wood-inspired scent that reminds you of your childhood home growing up. A scent can influence our mood and emotions, so don’t overlook this tip when you’re trying to establish a calm, comfortable setting to deliver your baby.
7. Keep a journal
This is helpful for remembering the special moments and feelings, but can actually be helpful as you recover. Looking back and noticing a change in behavior, thoughts, or mentality can help you acknowledge an imbalance that could be caused by postpartum depression or anxiety. Since these changes happen to ourselves it can be hard to notice that we’re behaving or thinking differently, but by documenting how you feel you can get help for any changes your body is going through that is throwing off your health and wellbeing.
8. Stay Hydrated and Well-nourished
Once labor begins you probably won’t be allowed to eat anything until baby comes just in case you’ll need to go into surgery. This could mean that you go quite a few hours without eating anything and without drinking very much. As you feel labor drawing close, make sure to never let your body go without adequate water and food intake. Keep taking those prenatal vitamins and eating as you should so you have plenty of energy for the big event.
9. Expect to be flexible with your plans
A healthy baby and mother is the ultimate goal of labor. Sometimes achieving this goal means taking a detour from your original plans. If you have a very specific, step-by-step picture in your mind of how the event will go you will likely be disappointed. Stay true to yourself and your wishes, but trust in those providing your care that they have your and your baby’s best interest in mind. If you keep perspective about the ultimate goal, you’ll feel comfortable no matter what curveballs you’re thrown.