Although an expectant mom has nine months (sometimes) to prepare to welcome her little one into the world, there are many details that can unfortunately slip through the cracks.
Although it’s impossible to fully plan out every aspect of a baby’s entry into the world, some preparation by a smart moms can enhance their labor experience whenever possible. Taking each step as a new task to complete on a weekly basis can lead up to a mom that is ready for whatever the labor process may throw at her.
Today’s moms have to worry about a lot of factors that moms didn’t even 30 years ago. This includes the creation of a birth plan or even if family members can post pictures of the new baby to Facebook.
Greater information and research on what can make for an easier labor and pain management experience also means women are more in control than ever of their personal comforts during childbirth. Exercise techniques can also help a woman arrive more physically prepared for the labor process. This can improve her recovery time following giving birth as well.
From choosing a hospital to a pediatrician, making as many decisions as possible in the months leading up to the delivery day can take stress off a mom, so that all she has to do is grab her hospital bag and head to the hospital to welcome her new little one into the world.
15 Take A Birthing Class
One of the best ways to mentally prepare for labor and delivery is to take a birthing class. These classes are often available via a woman’s OB/GYN or at a local hospital. Examples of topics covered at such a class include information regarding the stages of birth.
Pain management options and possible pain-relieving methods are also discussed. Medical equipment used and advice on creating a birth plan are also often components of a birth class.
Even if a mom-to-be’s local hospital doesn’t offer a birthing class, there are still available options. These include YouTube channels and instructional movies to help a person understand some of the aspects of giving birth that may otherwise be a mystery. Of course, there is a fine line between knowing enough and knowing too much.
Moms should ensure their information is coming from reputable and reliable sources of information.
14 Prepare Pets For Baby
Not only do parents have to prepare for baby, pets must be prepared as well. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends enrolling a dog in obedience classes at least four months before the baby arrives.
Skills that are important for a dog to have include being able to sit, wait, leave and drop toys, and to greet others without jumping on them. These habits will all serve a family well when baby does arrive.
Sometimes people will hire a dog walker or sitter or take their dog to a doggie daycare. This allows a dog to release enough energy while new parents adjust to a new baby. Another surprising technique is to avoid giving a dog too much attention before the baby is born. This prevents future frustrations a dog may experience when baby comes home.
13 Take A Tour Of The Hospital/Birth Center
Knowing where to park, enter, and sign in to a hospital can take away a significant amount of pressure when it is time for the baby to arrive. Some hospitals offer a tour as part of a prenatal class. Others may offer a tour, usually free of charge. The tour should be scheduled between one and two months before giving birth.
However, if an expectant mom is uncertain where she wants to have her baby, scheduling several tours earlier can help.
From a logistical standpoint, there are several questions expectant parents should ask when taking a tour of the birthing center. Examples of these include “Where do I park?,” “What are the hospital’s visiting hours?”, and “Is there registration paperwork I can fill out in advance?”
Other questions may include the hospital’s rooming-in policies, if there is a lactation consultant available, and if the hospital limits the number of visitors.
12 Consider Getting A Perineal Massage
Some doctors recommend starting perineal massage as a means to reduce the likelihood a mom will need an episiotomy. Starting at 36 weeks, perineal massage is a way for moms to promote skin stretching to accommodate for baby.
Some moms may be able to perform this technique themselves while others may recruit a partner to help. Holding a large mirror or sitting in front of a mirror may help.
Starting with clean hands, sit in a reclining position with the knees bent and feet on the floor. Utilize a vitamin E oil or personal lubricant to insert the thumbs slightly into the vagina. Move downward, stretching the sides of the vagina as you move toward the rectum.
The movement should not be painful, but should feel stretched. Hold this position for at least two to three minutes.
11 Plan An Outing With The Girls
The first weeks after giving birth can be extremely busy. Taking some much-needed time to see friends can be a special way to prepare for baby’s birth instead of the usual baby shower fete. One active way to spend time with friends is to schedule a fun class.
Examples could include a belly dancing class, ballet barre, or a painting class. Following up with dinner at a favorite restaurant can be a way to reminisce together before baby arrives.
During the outing, a mom can communicate to her friends any of the plans she may have regarding labor and delivery. Some moms want lots of visitors at the hospital or birthing center while others would prefer to hold a "sip and see" after the baby is born. Getting everyone together before baby is born is a low-key way to communicate these wishes.
10 Practice Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are a way to help prepare the body for childbirth by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. Regular Kegel exercises can reduce the occurrence of pregnancy-related conditions, such as hemorrhoids and leaking urine.
The same muscles a woman uses to stop urinating are the muscles she should be working through Kegel exercises. One way to exercise the muscles is to try and stop a urine stream while going to the bathroom. Hold the muscles for 5 to 10 seconds, then release. Repeat throughout the day.
A mom-to-be can also complete Kegel exercises throughout the day by tightening the pelvic floor muscles and holding the contraction for anywhere from 3 to 10 seconds. Relax the muscles, and repeat the exercise for as many as 10 times.
To mix up the exercise, contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles many times in quick succession.
9 Practice Deep Breathing For Pain Relief
The Lamaze technique is famous for using breathing techniques to help a laboring mom focus and gain control over her pain. To prepare for labor and delivery, an expectant mom can learn and practice breathing techniques in advance of labor. A deep breathing technique she can practice includes the following.
Close the eyes and focus on your breathing. Listen to the sound of each deep breath moving in and out. Picture taking the breath in as being “Re” and then the breath out as being the syllable “Lax.”
Slow the “Relax” breathing as much as possible, pacing yourself with slow and deep breaths. Sometimes turning the lights down low can help an expectant mom to relax and promote a sense of calm. She may also wish to practice visualization techniques, such as picturing herself and the happy baby or the child’s nursery.
8 Check Out Pediatricians
It is important parents choose a pediatrician for their child before giving birth because the pediatrician will usually come and see the baby at the hospital. Following this visit, new parents will go to the doctor’s office to ensure the newborn hasn’t lost too much weight after birth.
Finding a pediatrician can be a matter of asking around to friends as to a pediatrician they like. Reading Google reviews and asking your OB/GYN for recommendations are other ways to find a pediatrician for your child.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also maintains a list of board-certified pediatricians on its website, AAP.org. After this, contact each doctor to determine if the pediatrician is taking new patients and accepting your insurance. Scheduling an office visit to meet the pediatrician can also help.
Asking questions about office hours, availability, and after-hours calls can help determine the best choice for you and your family.
7 Practice Prenatal Yoga
In addition to deep-breathing techniques, prenatal yoga is a way for expectant moms to make a connection between mind and body for delivery. Yoga not only emphasizes a sense of overall relaxation, it also encourages flexibility and muscle strength.
According to “Parents” magazine, practicing yoga before delivery can help strengthen needed pelvic and hip muscles. Yoga poses such as pelvic tilts may also encourage baby to progress into a head-down position needed for birth.
Many yoga centers will offer special prenatal yoga classes as well as yoga for new moms after giving birth. Most women can practice all yoga moves when pregnant with a few exceptions. These include inversions where a woman is upside-down and backbends, which may be too stressful for a mom’s back.
Poses that require excessive twisting may be best avoided as well. Otherwise, a mom is free to practice various yoga poses to help her stay in shape for the big day.
6 Pack The Delivery Bag
Although ideally a mom will carry her baby to full term, it doesn’t always work out this way. By packing a delivery bag in advance, a mom or partner can grab the bag on the way out the door to the hospital or birthing center. Sometimes a birthing center will provide a list of recommended items.
However, some general tips on packing lists include a birth plan, bathrobe/nightgown, slippers, a comfortable pillow, reading materials, batteries, phone charger, toiletries, snacks, and a nursing bra. Sometimes the hospital will have a photography on-site to take pictures of the new baby.
When this is the case, bringing multiple outfits and a soft baby blanket can also help. A going-home outfit for baby is also a must. If a partner or friend will be staying with mom at the hospital, packing another bag isn’t a bad idea so everyone can have what they need.
5 Create A Birth Plan
While a birth plan may sound like a fancy document, it doesn’t have to be. At its most basic level, a birth plan is a written or typed-out reflection of what a mom is hoping for in terms of her delivery. By preparing this list in advance, a mom has the greatest likelihood her wishes will be carried out.
A birth plan should contain wishes for a mother during labor, birth, and in case of emergency. Examples of considerations during labor include pain management techniques, who is present, and how much movement.
During-birth considerations include positions for pushing, use of assisted devices such as forceps, and who will cut the umbilical cord. If an emergency should occur, emergency planning includes wishes for an episiotomy, induction medications, or episiotomy.
The birth plan should always be discussed with a woman’s OB/GYN as well as with her loved ones (if any) that will be present during the birth.
4 Study Up On Pain Management Techniques
While some women prefer natural childbirth, others opt for pain management techniques, such as an epidural or medications taken. It’s important to be as informed as possible regarding these techniques so a laboring mother can decide what is best for her.
Asking an OB/GYN, reading information from the American Society of Anesthesiologists, or reviewing other trusted websites can help.
Because medications can cross the placenta, medical providers cannot administer excessive pain medications because the baby’s breathing may be affected once the baby is born. However, taking some pain medication is a possibility if a mom desires pain relief, but not epidural anesthesia.
An epidural involves injecting local anesthetic into the spinal column so the nerves can’t transmit pain sensations to the brain. Epidural anesthesia may sound scary, but is very safe if correctly performed. Note that epidural anesthesia is different from spinal anesthesia, which is used to provide pain relief for a Cesarean section.
Spinal anesthesia involves injecting pain-relieving medication to a deeper level into the spinal column than an epidural. It also typically lasts about two hours while an epidural can be re-dosed with medication.
3 Create A Labor Playlist
Some moms will bring a wireless speaker or other device where they can play their favorite music during the labor and delivery process. Music has powerful effects in providing calming and even pain-relieving properties because a mom is able to focus on the music instead of discomfort.
A mom-to-be can create a playlist of favorite music, soothing tunes, or even music that has a personal message to her baby. By preparing this playlist in advance, she can ensure that she listens to the music that best suits her birthing plan and personal tastes.
Some labor and delivery suites will offer speakers or other ways to play music during the birth process. A mom-to-be can check with the birthing center to ensure the method she uses to bring the music (such as a zip drive) is compatible with the birthing center’s technology.
2 Create A Communications Plan
There are a lot of people who will want to hear that a mom is laboring or when she has had the baby. However, a plan for communicating to all these people may be difficult in the heat of the moment. That’s why creating a communication plan in advance can help a mom prepare for labor and delivery.
Considerations include who will let people know mom is in labor (here’s a hint, it’s best if this person isn’t mom herself) and how this information will be communicated. Some people will opt for a text message while others will send information on social media websites, such as Facebook.
If a new mom doesn’t want others to post pictures of the new baby online, she should specify this to loved ones before the big day arrives so everyone can be on the same page.
1 Focusing On Enjoying And Being In The Moment
By preparing for delivery in these “smart” ways, moms are more able to focus on mindfulness, or being in the moment before a baby is welcomed into the world. Ways to prepare to focus on mindfulness during labor and delivery include picturing and focusing on a healthy baby.
Interacting with a partner and sharing how much you love each other can be another way to turn the labor experience into a positive one.
Focusing on a positive energy and warm environment during delivery can also help. Examples include calming music, low lights, photos of children and family, or a favorite blanket.
Each of these elements can create a home-like environment that puts a mom at ease and allows her to focus on the labor process. While labor may not always go as planned, living in the moment and going with the flow can help.
Resources: AmericanPregnancy.org, AAP.org, Parents.com