Congratulations if you have just found out that you are pregnant! You’re excited, curious, and at the same time you may even be fearful of the process of childbirth. For the majority of Americans, this process is only briefly explored in high school during a sex education week. After that, the dialogue takes a hiatus and seems to abruptly resurface as soon as you realize you are pregnant. Regardless of whether you are a single mother, have a loving & supporting partner or a scared-silly partner, there are always support and resources available to you. It’s never too early to start preparing for childbirth, and in this case, the sooner the better. Here are my top 10 tips to help you prepare for childbirth.
1. Choose Your Doctor or Midwife Early On in Your Pregnancy
Take your time and interview yours and your baby’s primary care practitioner. Do not feel obligated to select a practitioner because they were recommended to you by your insurance provider or a colleague. You need to feel comfortable with your practitioner, and they need to answer all of your questions and respect your wishes. Be aware that should it be necessary, it is possible to switch doctors or Midwife during your pregnancy. Click here to see a great list of questions you should ask while interviewing practitioners.
It is important to have your pregnancy monitored, especially in the early stages, to obtain an accurate medical assessment of your pregnancy’s progress. It’s important to make sure that your placenta is healthy, and your blood pressure is normal. Should there be any abnormalities, early detection allows for more time to address concerns.
2. Educate Yourselves: Read Relevant Books and Sign up for Classes
Refresh your knowledge of childbirth and begin to connect to your body and growing baby. Visit your local library, borrow books from friends, or purchase such books as Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin or The Complete Book of Pregnancy & Childbirth by Shelia Kitzinger. Research local available childbirth education classes, Lamaze and Bradley Method courses and sign up for whichever approach and course works best for you.
Explore the various laboring options such as birthing at home, in a hospital or at a birthing center. Begin to ask questions and take the appropriate measures to solidify your labor environment.
3. Create a Pregnancy Journal
Whether you prefer to write or type, it is very helpful to journal or blog what’s going through your head during pregnancy. By clearing your thoughts or addressing your concerns before labor begins, you will be helping yourself and your baby. In childbirth, unsettled thoughts and emotions can rise to the surface and form mental blocks. Such blocks can hinder the process of labor and induce complications with heart rates and tension. These complications can lead to interventions such as C-sections. So if you had a fight with your partner, are upset because your mother can’t be with you during childbirth, whatever it is, write it out. This is especially important for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
Taking the time to write about your pregnancy allows you to connect with your baby, your inner strength and personal joy. It can be a wonderful collection of words to revisit in the future.
4. Maintain a Healthy Diet
A good diet is extremely important for both you and your baby throughout pregnancy. Sustaining a healthy diet, sustains a healthy pregnancy which enables a mother to perform at her highest level during labor. Marathon runners do not load up on cheeseburgers, fries, and shakes before a big race, right? A pregnant woman only needs an extra 100 to 300 calories per day for her growing baby. A good balance of protein, calcium, fats, carbs, vitamins, folic acid and iron is essential for your body to operate at its peak performance.
Exercise is EXTREMELY important throughout pregnancy. Strengthening your core, building endurance and stretching out your achy joints throughout your pregnancy will help you out tremendously during pregnancy, labor and postpartum. Women who exercise during pregnancy get back to their pre-pregnancy weight and activity levels more quickly than those who do not.
6. Get Enough Rest
Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, and if needed, a nap during the day is key. Your body needs to restore itself daily for it is being required to work harder than normal. One does not have to be pregnant to know that being tired causes us to be cranky, achy and weaker than usual. You want to be as rested as possible to endure your labor. Labor can be a 4 hour event, a 12 hour event, or even a 30+ hour event.
7. Establish a Good Hydration Routine
Drinking at least 9 glasses of water per day is essential for you and your baby’s health. Water helps to build new tissue & carry nutrients to your baby, it keeps your baby floating in its cushion of amniotic fluid, and prevents the uterus from contracting before its time. Dehydration may cause preterm labor, so carry your eco-friendly water bottle around with you.
8. Connect & Talk with Your Partner, Friends, Family and Community
If you are able to do so, have a conversation with your own mother and ask her to tell you her birth story. You can become inspired and learn about potential hereditary tendencies that may occur in your own birth. Often a mother’s mother has a similar birthing style and patterns.
Speaking with other mothers and partners about their birth experiences can be such a valuable educational tool as well. It can help you and your partner create your birth plan. You will hear stories that will touch and inspire you, while others may horrify you. Learn from them all.
9. Interview and Find a Labor Doula
A doula provides continuous labor support for a mother during her labor. A doula is like that of a coach/cheerleader/advocate. You two are the players who will be on the court. Any questions and concerns about the process of labor, the orders the medical staff may call out, etc. – your doula is there to help guide you and give you the emotional and physical support you need during labor. To learn more about doulas, click here.
10. Create Your Birth Plan
After you have researched, taken classes, and talked with others, you and your partner are now able to create or finish your birth plan. A birth plan is not a checklist of everything that you want to happen, or has to happen. It is more so a very necessary exercise which will prepare you for your labor experience. Here is an interactive birth plan tool to get you started.