Nothing in life is as exciting — or nerve-racking — as preparing for the birth of your baby. As thrilling as the experience is, there’s a lot of prep work that goes into having a baby. By the time you hit your third trimester, preparing for labor and delivery is probably constantly on your mind.
Here are some things you should do to make sure you’re ready for childbirth!
Decide what kind of birth you’d like
I have four kids, so I know all too well that when it comes to the birth process, you mostly get what you get. I am blessed to have all of my babies, but only one of them had a smooth, uneventful birth (Way to go, Baby #4!).
Still, it’s important to think about your basic preferences when it comes to childbirth.
Do you plan to have an epidural? Are you going to try natural pain management techniques? Are you planning to use a hospital or a birthing center (or possibly even your own home)?
Answering these overarching questions is an important part of preparing for childbirth. Even if things change (for example, you planned for a natural delivery and later decided to have an epidural), it’s still beneficial to have weighed your options ahead of time.
Preparing for birth with a birth plan (or not)
Some women want to write down their preferences for childbirth and communicate them to their providers. A birth plan can make that communication process easier and clearer.
Other women prefer to have conversations with their providers at their scheduled appointments and leave it at that.
There is no right approach here. Do whatever makes you feel most comfortable. Just know that if you do have a birth plan, try to hold onto it loosely. Things can (and often do) change during labor, so flexibility is important.
If you do decide to make a birth plan, there’s a lot of helpful birth plan templates here that can make it easy to put one together.
Preparing your body for labor and delivery
The great news here is your body will do most of the preparation for labor all on its own! Hormones and biology are your friends (though at times it may not feel like it).
As your due date approaches, you’ll likely notice several changes. Baby may drop his or her position, you may feel some increased pressure and/or swelling in your pelvic region, and contractions may begin (either Braxton Hicks or the real thing). These are all signs your body is preparing for birth.
But there are some additional things you can do to prepare your body for childbirth. If you’ve been exercising, try to keep that up (within reason and with your provider’s approval).
Labor and delivery are intense physical events. You’ll appreciate any stamina you’ve built up or maintained during your pregnancy.
You may also want to try perineal massage. You can perform this technique in the last few weeks of pregnancy to help prepare the delicate perineal tissue for the inevitable stretching of delivery.
Make a postpartum plan
Preparing for postpartum life is often overlooked amidst all the prep work for labor. Still, there’s a lot to be done in this department as well.
Do you have all the supplies you’ll need for your recovery? The hospital will provide everything you need during your stay. Definitely take those supplies home with you! (My postpartum nurses sent me home with mesh underwear, pads, ice packs, numbing spray, Tucks pads, and a peri bottle.)
But there are other things you’ll probably want as well. Ibuprofen, stool softeners, nursing pads and supplies, etc., are all great to have at the ready.
Of course, you can always send your partner or family member to the store on your behalf. But it’s a lot easier if you already have everything ready for you at home.
It’s great to prepare for labor, but try not to obsess
As with most things in life, it’s usually better to overprepare than to under prepare. Still, when you combine the natural urge to prepare for the birth of your baby (called “nesting”) with the anticipation and anxiety of the unknown, it can be a pretty powerful combination.
As difficult as it may be, try not to spend the final weeks obsessing about what’s to come. Make the necessary preparations and then do your best to rest.
You’ll need to save your strength and sanity for the main event — birthing and meeting your sweet baby!