Yay! You’re pregnant, what an exciting time this is. The next step in your journey towards parenthood is to begin to prepare for your birth. Our midwife, Caroline May suggests what you need to do – and think about – next.
I’m often asked by pregnant women how to best prepare for birth. It’s common and practical question that everyone should give thought to.
Of course, how to prepare for birth comes down to how your pregnancy goes and how you want to deliver your baby – and then all those plans can be undone in a moment. Now you’re not (finally!) thinking about conceiving, it’s time to start thinking about carrying your baby and delivering her.
1. Lock in your birth arrangements early
Among other things, now is the time to think about where you want to have your baby. Public hospital? Private hospital? Birth centre? Home? Some places limit the number of birthing women they can take so it is a good idea to book in early. You can always change your mind! Research your options and ask questions. Are you likely to get the type of birth you want in the place you have chosen? If you know you definitely want an epidural for example, then a birth centre is obviously not for you, but if you know you want to avoid drugs then a home birth or birth centre might be your perfect choice. You might like to read more on choosing where to have your baby.
2. How to prepare for birth – physically
Get prepared physically and mentally. Pregnancy is not the time to begin an exercise regime if you are not usually active, but swimming, walking and pregnancy yoga or pilates are good low impact forms of exercise that can be done by most people. Make sure you discuss this with your midwife or doctor first though if you have any pregnancy or medical complications or haven’t exercised for a while. Preparing for birth is about making sure your body is in the best possible condition for this big, big event coming its way. Putting additional strain on your body right now can do wayyyy more harm than good. It’s vital to choose a fitness routine that is going to benefit your changing body. Don’t do anything without talking to a health professional as strenuous exercise in pregnancy can cause hernias and other complications.
3. How to prepare for birth mentally
A lot of the birthing process is about mental strength so think positive. Everybody loves to share their stories about birth, be they good or bad, though more commonly the bad ones. Surround yourself with the people who make you feel good and empower you, not the ones that want to frighten you. You can do it. Mental preparation for birth is all about how you want to manage it. Childbirth is an experience that can’t be dictated by anybody else – so if you’re a yoga and meditation girl, focus on that. If you’re an epidural and elective c-section girl – mentally prepare for epidural pros and cons and the recovery from your surgery.
4. Preparing your… vagina for birth with perineal massage
If you are later on in your pregnancy and this is your first baby, or first vaginal birth, perineal massage may help to prevent tears (both pronunciations apply here!) This can be done by you or your partner and has other benefits such as getting you used to some of the sensations you may experience as the head is birthing so they are not as overwhelming. The following websites have some good information on how to perform this:
5. Preparing for when things don’t go to plan (get informed!)
Unexpected things can and do happen during pregnancy and birth. There are endless possibilities, so it is really important to read, research and get as much information as you can. By information I don’t mean those horror stories, I mean good quality, well researched information that you would be willing to make a life changing decision based on. How to prepare for birth complications is a loaded question. Dr Google is likely to frighten you and share terrible stories. Remember that preparing for birth is about knowing enough about the birthing process that if something does go wrong, you have some control to make informed decisions. There are a lot of rare and unlikely complications that will not affect you. Don’t let your research around childbirth freak you out – informed, not frightened is the best way to prepare for birth.
Want more information on preparing for birth? You can take Pregnancy and Birth Education Classes at your given hospital or birthing centre.
*This article was published in 2018 and updated in 2020 for information currency and links.