You can’t really plan your birth but there are things you can do and think about that will help you to be more prepared.
It can be a scary, exciting, and daunting time, especially for first-time mums. Don’t panic! Taking the time to prepare will help everything go smoothly: from getting your body ready for the physical demands of labor, to those little domestic chores.
Get ready for baby
They don’t call it labor for nothing. It’s hard work. In the weeks before baby is due, some simple exercises will pave the way for making labor easier. Try squats, pelvic tilts, and kegel exercices to strengthen abdominal muscles. These help relieve backache and ease delivery. The fitter you are, the more energy you will have for labor.
On the home front
Remember to take care of the little details at home. When you go into labor you won’t have time to do anything but get to the hospital. Tie up any loose ends using this checklist:
- Is your hospital bag packed?
- Stock up on nappies and wipes.
- Pre-register at the hospital. Stopping for paperwork when you are having contractions? No thanks.
- If you have other children, do you have a babysitter on standby?
- Pay your bills. It’s easy to forget these in the excitement of taking baby home.
Prepare a birth plan
Every person is different and you may have particular ideas about the kind of birth you want. A birth plan helps you determine what you want and sets it all out for the midwife. Discuss the plan with you partner so he or she knows what you want and can help in smooth decision-making during labor.
To make it easier for you, consider having the answers to the following questions:
- Who do you want to be there?
- How you would prefer to manage your pain?
- Do you want to be active throughout labor?
- Would you like a ‘natural’ birth?
- Would you like a water birth?
- What backup plan will you have if things don’t go according to plan?
Now, here are some surprising things you probably didn’t know about hospital births but should:
- You don’t have to wear the hospital gown. You can wear your own clothes that are comfortable and can get dirty.
- You can request a different midwife, especially if there is a personality clash.
- While traditionally, many hospitals discourage eating food, anesthesiologists are now recommending to allow healthy women to eat a light meal.
- You can say no to procedures like induction, breaking your waters or even to having a student in the room. But just make sure to talk with your chosen hospital beforehand so you’re on the same page. Battling hospital policy during labor is both distressing and futile.
Support in labor
Most men feel completely out of their depths during labor. Discuss decisions so he can inform the midwife and can make decisions you are unable to do so. The support dads, partners or a birthing partner provide can’t be underestimated. Who you have around you during labor can improve your experience of birth. In fact, research shows that having the right supporting cast can reduce your need for pain relief or medical intervention.
The people you choose make you feel safe and understand what you need, even if it’s to be quiet or to leave the room! Here is what some women say about their support partners:
“My partner didn’t say a word, I just wanted a quiet room.”
“He was chatting to the midwife. The sound of his voice was comfort enough.”
“Getting me a glass of ice chips doesn’t normally deserve a medal, but on that day in my life, it does.”
One thing is for sure; dads and partners need to have a thick skin. You may find it difficult or upsetting to see your partner in pain, and not be able to help. But your presence and encouragement is very important – despite her yelling at you or squeezing your hand so hard you’re sure bones have been broken.
The Nitty Gritty
Just when you think you can’t possibly get any bigger and you’ll need a crane to get off the couch, your body starts to get ready for childbirth.
- The first sign is usually ‘engagement’ when the baby’s head starts to move down into the pelvis.
- The baby stops moving as much. This is common a few days before the birth and signals that labor will soon begin.
- A persistent backache that will not be relieved even by a pregnancy pillow.
- Braxton hicks contractions (false labor) can often start from week 20 onwards and is the uterus getting stronger for birth. They can become stronger as true labor gets closer.
Once you get to 37 weeks of pregnancy, your baby could be born at any time. The early stage of labor sees contractions usually last between 30 and 60 seconds and are 20 minutes apart. By the time contractions are 5 minutes apart you would have been admitted to hospital. This active phase lasts 3 to 6 hours for a first-time mum.
Transition is the shortest but most intense phase. To make it more comfortable, try imagining that you are on a beach and take slow, deep breaths. This definitely can help you as you will soon have to push to deliver your baby.