If you’re pregnant for the first time, childbirth can be one of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of your personal journey. If you’ve never experienced it before, it can be hard to know exactly what labor and delivery is like — and it’s easy to spend the entirety of your pregnancy worrying about you’re your upcoming childbirth experience will be like.
We completely understand the fear and anxiety that most expectant mothers have when it comes to labor and delivery. However, preparing for labor and delivery as early as possible in your pregnancy can play a huge role in making it more manageable when it does come time to head to the hospital.
Getting ready for labor and delivery is different for every woman, just like every pregnancy is. But, whatever your situation is, there are steps you can take in preparing for childbirth that will make the actual experience better than you may expect. Of course, medical emergencies do happen, and your delivery may not always go as planned — but going through preparation before delivery of a baby can help you and your labor team be prepared for whatever might happen.
Preparing for Labor: 5 Steps to Take
When it comes to preparing your body for labor, there are a lot of different things you can do. You can focus on physical preparation and mental readiness, your post-delivery plan and more. In preparing for delivery, you should make sure that you focus on the things you are most worried about — so that you can feel the most confident that you can.
Looking for ways to start getting ready for labor and delivery? Here are a few steps you may consider:
Step 1: Talk to Your Doctor.
The first and most important step when preparing for delivery is to always consult with your doctor. Your doctor is the only professional who can give you personal, accurate medical advice for your situation. This information is crucial as you prepare for hospital labor and delivery; your pregnancy may include certain circumstances that will affect how your delivery progresses and what kind of special attention you may need.
If you have been receiving regular prenatal care from your obstetrician, your doctor should play an active role in your delivery preparation during pregnancy. If you have not yet visited an obstetrician, do so as soon as possible.
Your doctor should talk to you in detail about what he or she expects your delivery experience to be like, as well as what medical options are available for your specific pregnancy. If your doctor will be delivering your baby, he or she will often help you create a delivery plan and help you prepare for hospital labor and delivery.
Step 2: Create Your Delivery Plan.
When you are preparing for labor, there are a lot of things to think about. Your labor and delivery plan is more than just how you plan to deliver. Either your doctor or a delivery professional (such as a doula) can walk you through all of your options for delivery to make sure you are 100 percent prepared for the experience ahead of you. This means you’ll first need to decide whether you want to have an additional advocate like a doula assisting you during this process.
Once you have determined that, you will also need to decide:
- Where you plan to give birth
- Who you wish to be in the room with you
- The atmosphere of your delivery room, such as lighting and music
- Whether you want photos or video taken during delivery
- Your labor preferences, such as whether you will use birthing props
- What medication you wish to take
- What medical steps you are comfortable with (for example, an episiotomy, epidural, emergency C-section preferences)
- Whether you wish to bottle feed or breastfeed after delivery
- Where you want your baby to stay after delivery (for example, in your room 24/7 or some of the time in the nursery)
- Which medical treatments you wish to have performed on your child (i.e. delayed cord clamping, circumcision, etc.)
- And more
You’ll want to provide a copy of your birth plan to your doctor and your delivery professional. You might also wish to involve your baby’s father or your spouse in preparing for childbirth; they can serve as your advocate during labor if you are too exhausted or preoccupied to do so yourself.
Step 3: Take Childbirth Classes.
Another important part of getting ready for labor is taking a childbirth class. Birthing classes are popular options for expectant mothers, especially those who are going through their first pregnancies. They are a great option to learn about what to expect during delivery and how to manage the physical and mental challenges that you will experience.
Most women sign up for childbirth courses as early as possible. Because they are intimate offerings, they often only hold so many mothers and their partners in one session. You should start looking for childbirth classes as soon as you decide you are carrying your pregnancy to term — and definitely by your second trimester, if not earlier.
If you are preparing for birth in a hospital or birthing center, professionals often offer location-specific classes that walk you through the facilities and allow you to see the birthing staff in action. They may also offer more than one class. It will always be up to you to determine how many classes are necessary for you when getting ready for labor and delivery — but being over-prepared is always better than under-prepared.
Step 4: Talk to Those Who Have Been Through it Before.
While information found on the internet can certainly be helping in preparing for labor and birth, it’s equally important to talk to someone in person who has been through the childbirth experience. While every woman’s experience is different, speaking with someone who is honest about their experience and who can offer helpful guidance can be invaluable.
Try to find a friend or family member who has recently delivered a baby. Talk to her about her experience while it is still fresh in her mind — the good and the bad parts. Ask her the questions you really want to know — How much does it hurt? What is your physical recovery like? — to feel as confident as possible going into your childbirth experience.
Step 5: Recognize the Signs of Delivery.
After you have taken all the previous steps in getting prepared for labor, you will be almost ready to go through with your childbirth experience. But, there’s one thing you need to do first — educate yourself on the signs of labor.
All of your meticulous planning and preparation before giving birth can be for naught if you don’t make it to the hospital in time to deliver. Therefore, you need to be in tune with your body during your last stages of pregnancy and listen to any signs that it might be time to deliver. When in doubt, always call your doctor for more medical advice.
So, what are some signs that your body is preparing for labor and birth — and that you need to get to the hospital as soon as possible?
- Your water breaks.
- You can breathe easier, due to the baby “dropping” into a lower position for childbirth.
- You notice stringy mucus or discharge in your underwear as the mucus plug covering the cervix is expelled.
- You get a burst of energy to accomplish tasks around the house, otherwise known as “nesting.”
- You start feeling consistent contractions at five minutes apart.
- You feel pain in your belly and lower back.
If you think your body may be getting prepared for labor or that childbirth is imminent, always contact your medical professional. They will ask questions to determine if you are really in labor and, if so, will tell you the next steps to take at this time.
Preparing for delivery day can be equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking, especially if this is your first experience with pregnancy and the childbirth process. Just remember that your doctor is there to help you every step of the way and that you have the right to receive the service and support you want throughout your pregnancy and when giving birth. Stay strong, momma: You can do this!