You can’t predict what will happen on the big day. But preparing for childbirth can help you manage expectations and get you ready for your new arrival. We pulled together five helpful insights based on what real moms had to say about getting ready for labor and delivery. Knowledge is power!
1. Don't Be Afraid to Enroll in Birth Classes
Birth classes can give you the confidence you need for the big day. They can also be fun! Here are some options to consider:
- Lamaze: This method uses focused breathing, massage, and labor support during the childbirth process. (Note: Current, hospital-based teaching makes it difficult to find classes exclusively for Lamaze education)
- Bradley: This method emphasizes natural childbirth and relies heavily on deep breathing techniques
- A combination of the Lamaze and Bradley methods can teach expectant parents ways to make the delivery successful and enjoyable
- Labor preparation classes at your hospital. These usually combine a tour of the facility, tools to aid your labor management, and education about what to expect during labor
”Becoming a mom changed everything. I was relearning the world in a whole new perspective. I started noticing things that I had never paid attention to before.” – Enfamil mom
2. Creating a Birth Plan Can Be Helpful
A birth plan is a written document for you and your doctor, so everyone knows your preferences for labor and delivery. Review it with your doctor to make sure what you want is best for you and your baby. Remember there are medical standards of care that allow for the safest possible experience. It’s also important to let your family know your decisions when preparing for childbirth. Make sure your loved ones know the answers to the following questions:
- Where will you deliver?
- When labor begins, should you call your doctor’s office first, or go straight to the hospital?
- What arrangements have you made for transportation?
- Do you have a doula or want to participate in a doula program?
- Whom do you want to be present to support you during the birth?
- What position can you be in while pushing and during delivery?
- What are your preferences for pain medication?
- What options would you consider if unexpected circumstances develop (e.g., the need for an episiotomy or a C-section)?
- If you deliver prematurely, does the facility have adequate resources to take care of your infant?
3. The Start of Labor Isn’t the Same for Every Woman
Part of learning how to prepare for delivery is separating fact from fiction. It's not always like it is on TV. In reality, it can be a bit trickier. In fact, for some women, it’s hard to tell false labor from the real deal.
False labor contractions are known as Braxton-Hicks contractions. These begin to soften and thin the cervix, preparing it for delivery. These contractions are irregular, do not occur more often as time passes, and do not become stronger or more intense. Real labor contractions have a regular pattern and last for 30 to 70 seconds.
When your water breaks, it can be a gush or a trickle. In some cases, it’s hard to tell the difference between amniotic fluid and urine. Call your doctor if you’re unsure. On the other hand, your water may not break until a healthcare provider helps it along at the hospital. This is okay, too.
”The best advice would be to trust your body and your instincts.” – Enfamil mom
4. Labor Is a Journey
The first stage of labor happens when you’re dealing with contractions but not ready to push. It can last from 12 to 24 hours. While it might be a slow process, there are things you can do and ways of getting ready for labor and delivery to make it easier.
- Take a bath or a shower (if your water has already broken, make sure to get your doctor’s OK)
- Go for a walk
- Change positions when you start to feel uncomfortable
- Try to breathe during contractions
- Using pressure, have someone roll a tennis ball on your lower back to help ease pain
- Rock in a rocking chair or on a birthing ball
- Use music to help you relax
Above all, remember that your baby isn’t on a schedule—sometimes slow and steady is best. As long as you and baby are safe, you’ll get through this.
5. Your Body Will Need Time to Bounce Back
You might experience a few unexpected things after you deliver your baby.
Afterpains. This is your uterus contracting. It may feel worse when you’re nursing, taking medication to reduce bleeding, or if this is your second birth. This is normal and goes away after a few days.
Heavy vaginal discharge. After giving birth, you’ll get what seems like a heavy period that may contain small clots. Contact your doctor if you have a foul-smelling discharge, soak more than one sanitary pad per hour, pass clots larger than a golf ball, or have a fever of 100.4ºF or higher.
Hot and cold. As your body adjusts to new hormone levels and recent blood loss during your delivery, you might feel sweaty or chilled.
Leakage. It’s not uncommon for some urinary incontinence to occur, especially after a prolonged labor. This might happen when you sneeze, cough, or laugh.
Weight. Unfortunately, you won’t lose all the baby weight right after giving birth. Sorry. However, you’ll lose about 10–15 pounds from the weight of the baby, amniotic fluid, and placenta. The next week or so, you’ll also lose water weight.
Labor and delivery can be a stressful and confusing time. It can also be an amazing and exciting one. Plus, you’ll walk out with a whole other human to get to know! Following our tips on preparing for childbirth can help you get ready for the big day and the first few months to come.
”No one knows the ‘right’ answers for motherhood, you just have to treat it like a box of chocolates—take a try at each thing to figure out what's the best option. Ultimately, our love for our little squeezy babies is what gets us through from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.” – Enfamil mom