Pregnancy is a time for preparing. Mom's body is preparing to grow a little one and bring that little one into the world. Meanwhile, both parents are busy preparing for the arrival of their new addition. They have to get the nursery ready - paint the walls, buy the crib and set up the change table. They need to buy their other big baby gear, like a stroller, car seat and high chair.
They also have to buy clothing, blankets and the tiniest little socks and shoes. There's the safety gear, like baby monitors. And then there's all the stuff you'll need for feeding. Plus, that's on top of mom and dad actually preparing to be parents! Their lives are totally about to change - they're going to be responsible for a baby soon!
But what do most parents, and moms, forget to prepare for? Labor and delivery! Many moms prefer not to have to think about the most painful part of pregnancy. They would rather gloss over labor and just fast forward to holding a sweet baby in their arms. But labor is coming and it helps to be prepared. Plus, by preparing for labor, you can actually make it much easier and more comfortable. It won't be a breeze, but it can be a lot better than you think!
20 Stay In Shape
They say that labor and delivery are a marathon. And how do you prepare for a marathon? You train! You can't spend your entire pregnancy lying on the couch, eating all of the ice cream, doing absolutely no exercise and expect labor to be something simple. It's physically draining and tough on your body. Working on your fitness means you will have the endurance and strength to get yourself, and your little one, through labor and delivery.
Plus, they say fit moms have easier and shorter labors! Check in with your doctor to see what kind of physical activity and exercise is okay for you to take part in. If you're not super into fitness, start slow with some easy walks around the neighborhood.
19 Get Regular Massages
You don't have to tell me twice! Go get a massage? DONE! Pre-natal massage therapy is a real thing and something you should invest in if you have the money and the resources in your area. And if you don't have a qualified pre-natal masseuse or massage therapist around or one isn't in your budget, then look up some techniques online and get your partner to help you out.
Regular massages not only help pregnant women with pain management and relaxation, but they will also teach you how to breathe into discomfort and relax tight muscles. Being able to relax muscles can help your body recover faster between contractions.
18 Practice Yoga
The benefits of practicing yoga are plentiful - especially for an expecting mama looking to make labor and delivery easier.
Janet Balaskas, the author of Active Birth and a huge proponent of prenatal yoga, explains the benefits, "Yoga prepares the body to be upright in labour—standing, kneeling, hands and knees and squatting—and these positions keep the pelvis loose and open for easier positioning and descent of the baby... Concentrate on the exhale, and relax after, then stay relaxed for the inhale. Learn to breathe away the tension in your body and that will help you to breathe away the pain in labour."
17 Take A Child Birthing Class
The best way to get prepared? Get educated! For first time moms who are scared of the unknown and don't know what to expect out of labor/delivery, going to a birthing class is the perfect first step. In class, you can understand what is going to happen to your body and ask as many questions as you'd like.
You can also share this experience with your partner, which may help to ease his/her anxiety too. If you go into labor feeling anxious because you don't know what's going to happen, you can stress your body out and actually prolong labor. Ouch!
16 Have A Birth Discussion, Not A Birth Plan
The old wisdom was for expectant moms to come up with a birth plan so that they can control what happens during labor/delivery and set their plan in stone. But as it turns out, you can't control everything when it comes to labor and delivery!
You may want to have a water birth with your sorority sisters present. But if the baby is in distress and your Greek girls are stuck in traffic, you may need to switch to Plan B. A birth discussion, as opposed to a birth plan, is when you and your partner write down your preferences/wishes for the birth and discuss them with your medical team.
15 Practice Focused Breathing
If you have ever watched a birth scene on TV or in a movie, you're familiar with the intense breathing moms in labor are always doing. It's a lot of, "HEE HEE HOOO!"
So what's with the crazy breathing? Well, it's actually not that crazy; it's focused. Girls Gone Strong breaks down the benefits of focused breathing as,
"1) Manage sensations of pain;
2) Bring yourself back into your body and into the moment, helping labor progress;
3) And, will affect how the core and pelvic floor muscles are able to generate strength, plus how they’re able to relax."
Since this breathing technique is so beneficial and used often during labor, you'll want to start practicing now.
14 Gather Your Support Team
It's important to surround yourself with good people always. But it's especially important during a stressful, vulnerable and emotional time, like labor. And it's not a decision you want to be making when your water breaks and you're rushing to the hospital. Decide now who you want to be with you and at what stage in labor. Perhaps you just want it to be you and your partner. Or maybe you want your parents and siblings to be there.
Choose the people who will make labor easier for you - and let them know! Tell your team that you want them there and what you need from them, so they can be ready. You may want to consider professional support, like a doula, to join your labor team too.
13 Tour The Hospital (Or Place You Will Give Birth)
Another important way to prepare for labor and delivery and make them easier is to tour the hospital or place where you're planning to give birth. Just like taking a birthing class, taking a tour is all about reducing anxiety by getting rid of the fear of the unknown.
Imagine your water has broken, you're having regular contractions and it's time to head to the hospital. Only, you don't know where the hospital is and you get lost on the way. Once you finally get there, you have no clue which floor you are supposed to be on, where your doctor is or what a room looks like. Easy to see how that would make labor much worse, right? Avoid all of that by touring your hospital, or birthing place, and getting comfortable with your surroundings.
12 Consider Hypnosis Or Meditation
When I hear the word hypnosis, I usually think of those kooky magicians who put people to sleep by getting them to stare at a spinning clock and then ask them to quack like a duck. But hypnosis is so much more than a silly magic trick. And no, it's not mind-control either.
Think of hypnosis as another form of relaxation and stress relief. The key to getting through labor, especially if you're not planning to use any medication for pain relief, is to stay relaxed and stress-free. Hypnosis, as well as meditation and focused breathing, are all ways to do that. But the skills don't come overnight. Start practicing now so you're ready to go on labor day.
11 Be Open-Minded
As much as you prepare and plan for your labor, you won't be able to control every aspect or ensure everything goes your way. Even if you do yoga, get massages and work on your breathing, you can't guarantee a perfect labor and delivery. The key is to remain open minded and ready yourself for change.
Yes, it helps to be prepared. But you can't be prepared for everything. Work on accepting that somethings won't go according to plan. As The Bump says, "Labor is different for different women, and it can’t be controlled or planned by the patient or their doctor." Trust the process.
10 Practice Bearing Down
Part of preparing for labor is preparing your mind, your support circle and your emotions for what is going to happen. But you also have to prepare your body. While you can't exactly practice for labor, you can work on some of the motions. One movement you may want to practice is bearing down, which is different than pushing.
Girls Gone Strong explains, "You need to will the perineum to stay open, to stay yielding to the pressure. Dr. Brooke Kalanick recommends practicing this sensation of allowing the pelvic floor to yield under pressure during pregnancy, while taking a bowel movement. Instead of straining down on your pelvic floor, you think of the core from the diaphragm down, doing the effort while the pelvic floor can relax."
9 Find Good Distractions
Sorry to break it to you, mama. But Parents.com says active labor lasts on average 12-14 hours for first time moms. That's a long time to actively be in labor. If you start panicking and worrying the moment your water breaks or you feel your first contraction, you're going to tire yourself out.
And you'll really need your energy to get through the most intense parts of labor as well as the delivery. So, distract yourself! As you deal with the discomforts of pregnancy, come up with some good ways to distract yourself and plan to use those during labor. Some good distractions include taking a walk, taking a shower, watching a movie and baking.
8 Think About A Water Birth
Have you thought about having a water birth? Now would be the time to consider it. While water births are not for every mama, they can be really beneficial and are worth considering. Or if not a water birth, you can even consider spending some part of your labor in the tub. The warm water is relaxing and can ease your aches and pains.
Plus, in water, it's much easier for you to move around and find a comfortable position. And if you're in a jetted tub, you may be able to take advantage of the jets for lower back pain relief. Warm water also encourages the production of oxytocin, which promotes dilation. Todays Parent reports that many laboring moms with get in the birthing pool instead of having an epidural.
7 Work On Optimal Fetal Positioning
What is optimal fetal positioning? Todays Parent explains, "Optimal fetal positioning (OFP) is a concept developed by New Zealand midwife Jean Sutton, which may help get baby into the best position—facing the mother’s back—before labor begins. If the back of a baby’s head is turned to press against the mother’s tailbone, the mother experiences intense back pain in labor and often a slower labor as well. Sometimes these posterior babies require assistance with forceps or vacuum extraction to be born. Spend time every day sitting upright with a slightly forward lean, or kneel on the floor while leaning forward into the couch."
Advocates of OFP suggest spending 30 minutes twice a day in this position, starting at 34 weeks pregnant.
6 Do Your Kegels
Ladies! We all know how important it is to do our kegel exercises, right? Well, if you don't know, now you do. And if you're pregnant, it's especially important to be doing your kegels.
Todays Parent shares, "The weight of the uterus creates continuous and increasing stress on the pelvic floor muscles, the hammock of muscles that support the uterus. Strengthening these muscles, by squeezing the walls tightly together and holding for a count of as much as 20, may make pushing more efficient and prevent poor bladder control and hemorrhoids."
Want to avoid medical issues during labor? Do your kegels!
5 Massage Yourself To Promote Healing
We've already talked about the immense benefits of prenatal massage. But there's another type of massage that can be very helpful for pregnant mamas to do before labor. We're talking about giving yourself a massage down there. This type of massage may reduce the chance of tearing, help you to stretch more easily and relax the area, and promote faster healing post delivery.
Paula Jaspar, a registered massage therapist, "argues that the perineum is made of muscle (it’s the hammock of muscles that support your growing uterus in pregnancy) and muscles need time to learn to be supple. Jaspar advises her clients to begin massaging the perineum as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy."
4 Talk To Doc About Different Positions
In all of the movies, we always see the laboring woman lying back on a hospital bed with her feet in the air. But did you know that's not the only way to give birth? In fact, many feel that this position actually makes labor and delivery much more difficult and painful.
Girls Gone Strong explains, "Birthing on your back is often described as trying to ‘push your baby up a hill’. Essentially, the pelvis is in a tucked under position, mom is fixed on her back so the pelvis is unable to shift or move, and baby is unable to really use the forces of gravity to help themselves move downwards."
Other options include lying on your side, squatting, getting on all fours, leaning forward, etc. Practice these positions now and discuss them with your doctor.
3 Stay Hydrated
We always need to stay hydrated - especially when we're pregnant and especially when we're in labor. Having plenty of water is one of the best ways to ease pregnancy and labor pains. Water will give you energy, endurance and help you to avoid medical interventions, like an IV.
It's never too early to start increasing your water intake. We know it can be a pain to drink more water, especially if your bladder is already being squeezed and you are going to the bathroom every 15 minutes. But we promise, it helps. At the hospital, you can also opt for ice chips to stay hydrated and provide a soothing sensation.
2 Plan Your Snacks
Many hospitals don't allow laboring mothers to eat. Of course, many folks are divided on this issue. If a woman in labor is eating big meals, she may be at risk if her birth gets complicated and medical interventions are needed. However, it's tough to ask a woman to labor for 12, 15, 24 or more hours on an empty stomach.
Thankfully, some hospitals are relaxing on this policy and are allowing light snacks during labor. Still, it's important to plan your pre-hospital snack. When you're still laboring at home, you'll want to eat something that will give you energy for the active labor coming up.
1 Use Essential Oils
Essential oils have the powerful ability to fill us with emotions using just the power of scent. If you're into aromatherapy, have a strong nose or have always enjoyed using essentials oils, we encourage you to bring them into your labor.
For example, lavender is known as a calming scent. You could bring some lavender essential oil with you to put in a diffuser, or a lavender cream or scented towel. You could even have your partner or member of your support team massage you with your oil of choice.
If oils and scents are important to you, gather them now so it's one less thing to think about on the big day. You can also practice using the oils now to help you relax.