5 ways to prepare for childbirth
6 minute read
We all have our own priorities during pregnancy, so there’s no single “right” way to approach the big day. But someone with antenatal expertise can certainly point you in the direction of tried and trusted methods that have worked for others. For a helping hand in preparing for childbirth, here’s the perspective of Vhi Midwife Hannah Willis…
Even if you’ve generally enjoyed your pregnancy, the final weeks and months for any expectant mother can both drag and feel somewhat daunting. With physical changes to handle and the weight of expectation building, you’d be excused for wanting to get it over and done with!
However, with the right mindset and some proactive steps, it can be a busy, yet calming period that proves invaluable in getting yourself properly prepped for childbirth.
There will be plenty of advice and suggestions coming your way. Just remember that this is your unique experience and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to preparing for birth. But these five key areas might help…
1: Get organised
Talk to family and healthcare providers about your thoughts and feelings as you approach your due date. Seek out people who will listen. Treat all information and advice given as your toolbox of suggestions – it should work for you, not put pressure on you.
It can be reassuring to think ahead to life with your newborn. Make a list of the things you may need for your baby. You do not need loads of expensive items. The main things are how you are going to feed your baby, clothes, and all the love they require.
Speak to your midwife or lactation consultant if you plan to breastfeed. Along with online birthing classes, there are also antenatal breastfeeding classes available online and in your hospital. Ask your midwife and she will be able to direct you to the best resources.
Establish a safe place for your baby to sleep. This should be in your bedroom and wherever you are during the day for at least their first six months. Spend time bonding with your baby by talking and singing to them – they can hear from five months gestation and will feel more secure when they are born if you do!
It’s important to also make time for yourself. You deserve to be pampered, catch up with friends, relax. Batch cook and store nutritious meals to take the daily stress out of food preparation.
Structured, expert support will come from antenatal classes. These birth classes are essential for first time parents and a great refresher for subsequent pregnancies. You should book them in your third trimester. Some women attend their childbirth preparation class alone while others bring their partner or another support person.
2: Stay active
Exercise is very important throughout your pregnancy. It strengthens your muscles to allow you to comfortably carry the extra weight, increases your chances of maintaining a healthy weight, and helps the body in preparing for labour and delivery.
You should be getting at least 150 mins of exercise over the course of a week.
You can continue the exercise you did before your pregnancy, with the exception of contact sports or activities that could cause you to lose balance or sustain trauma. Don’t exhaust yourself and recognise you will get slower as pregnancy progresses. As long as you can hold a conversation, and you are not out of breath, it is safe to continue. Drink plenty of fluids and do not exercise in hot weather. The following activities come recommended:
- Swimming (it helps to take the pressure off your back)
- Aqua aerobics
- Cycling a stationary bike
- Any low impact aerobic exercise
All pregnant women should do pelvic floor exercises – and make it a life-long habit thereafter! Ask your midwife or physiotherapist for instructions and go to them with any doubts you have around your exercise routines.
By being fit and active, you will find it easier to adapt to your changing shape and centre of gravity as pregnancy progresses. There are myriad benefits to be drawn from exercise, including:
- Increasing your energy levels
- Improving your feeling of wellbeing
- Helping reduce blood pressure
- Helping reduce varicose veins
- Helping reduce backache, constipation, bloating and swelling
- Improving posture
- Assisting with a good night’s sleep
You should also speak to your midwife about perineal massage as part of your perineal preparation for labour, as it may help prevent any damage to the vaginal area and back passage during delivery.
3: Focus on your mental health
Your mental wellbeing needs as much attention as your physical wellbeing. Tiredness, nausea and hormones can affect your emotional state during pregnancy. Occasional bursts of emotions, both positive and negative, are to be expected. Most of these changes in mood are normal and it’s beneficial to talk to someone about how you feel.
If you feel anxious, especially if it is affecting your life and enjoyment of your pregnancy, check in with your midwife, obstetrician or GP. They can offer help and referral to another professional if necessary.
As best you can, try to stick to a mantra of “relax, relax, relax.” Oxytocin is the hormone required to go into labour and it is inhibited by fear and anxiety. In fact, anxiety drives adrenaline, which has the opposite effect. So, go easy on yourself and share your concerns with others so you can move past them.
4: Practice breathing techniques
Learning the art of relaxation will help you during pregnancy and labour. It may even also help you with the transition to parenthood. But developing a relaxed state of mind takes practice. Focused breathing can direct your thought process away from any discomfort you may feel, reducing muscle tension and reversing some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. Here’s how to breathe with purpose:
- Practice taking deep slow breaths into your abdomen (stomach area).
- Rest your hands at the bottom of your ribs, so that your fingertips are touching.
- Breathe slowly (for a count of 5)
- Your fingertips should move apart slightly as you breathe in, then come together again as your lungs empty.
- Breathe out slowly, so the diaphragm is pulling air into the base of your lungs.
5: Visualise the future
For relaxation techniques to work during childbirth itself, you need to have thought ahead of how it might play out. Know that contractions during labour are important. By listening to your body, you will know what positions work best for you, how to move, and how to breathe.
Every contraction/surge is bringing your baby closer to birthing. As contractions get stronger, your body will produce natural pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins.
Labour starts a series of events in your body. These result in your body producing hormones, to help you bond with your baby, and to breastfeed your baby.
Looking ahead, women often worry about when exactly to go to hospital. If your waters break or you are experiencing bleeding, go to the hospital. You also shouldn’t wait if you are concerned about your baby’s movement.
The usual rule of thumb – though you should discuss it with your own midwife! – is to ring the hospital if you are concerned or think you are in labour. They will generally tell you to count your contractions. When your contractions are coming at least every 5 minutes and lasting for 60 seconds, it’s time to come in and get ready to welcome your child into the world!
These are just some of the ways you can prepare for childbirth and channel your energy during pregnancy. Overall, my number one nugget of advice would be to keep an open mind and surround yourself with positive people who will champion you on this special journey.
This content is for information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek advice from your GP or an appropriate medical professional if you have concerns about your health, or before commencing a new healthcare regime. If you believe that you are experiencing a medical emergency call 999 / 112 or seek emergency assistance immediately.
Meet our Vhi Verified Expert
Midwife Manager at Vhi Midwife Support at Home
Registered Nurse, Midwife, Public Health Nurse and Lactation Consultant