Anticipating childbirth is one of the most accelerating events in a woman’s life. Whether you are a mom to be or you are getting ready to have your third baby, preparing for labor is something that is never underrated.
Because no labor and delivery story is the same, and things differ so much from woman to woman, it is important we have all our bases covered. Being as prepared as we can for birth will help us feel more empowered and less overwhelmed.
* Disclaimer: I am a Registered Nurse but I am not your healthcare provider. Please ensure to consult with your doctor, OB-GYN, and/or midwife with pregnancy and labor related questions and concerns, and before trying any of the following suggestions.
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Preparing for Labor Overview
Getting ready for childbirth it is more than learning breathing techniques and watching prenatal videos. There are many things that we can actively do to ensure we are ready for the big day.
In this list we will discuss how to prepare for labor by covering the following 4 important categories:
- Things to Get Ready Before the Baby Arrives
- Preparing for Labor Physically
- Preparing for Labor Mentally and Emotionally
- Additional Resources to Help Prepare you for Childbirth
Things to Get Ready Before Baby Arrives
Getting things ready before the baby comes is also an important aspect of preparing for birth. After all, feeling prepared going into labor helps boost confidence and decrease stress and overwhelm.
Postpartum Care Plan
It is normal for new moms to focus all their attention on pregnancy and childbirth. However, as a mom of two and someone who learned things the hard way, getting ready for postpartum recovery is a must!
Having a postpartum care plan helps you take control of your postpartum care and heal faster.
Postpartum Recovery Kit
Part of your postpartum care plan is putting together a postpartum recovery kit with natural and non-toxic postpartum essentials.
This is a critical aspect of preparing for labor. The last thing you want to worry about when you bring your baby home is having to run to the drug store for some witch hazel pads and a cleansing spray. Trust me!
Having you postpartum care essentials ready ahead of time will help you stress less and heal faster.
Hospital Bag for Baby, Mom, and Dad
Finally, in the list of important things to do before baby comes and preparing for labor is making sure the hospital bag is ready to go.
But, not just the baby bag… also your bag, AND dad’s bag.
If you haven’t prepared your hospital bags, or need help putting them together… no worries. Here is a full checklist of what to pack in your hospital bag for baby, mom, and dad.
Believe me, when is time for labor, this is the one thing you will want to have ready!
Preparing for Labor Physically
Now that we have all of our labor and postpartum essentials put together, it is time to get ready for labor itself. Here are some great things you can do to help prepare you for labor from a physical standpoint.
Preparing for Labor Exercises
A big part of preparing for childbirth is getting your body ready for the task at hand.
There are a series of exercises that experts recommend you do to prepare for labor. Ideally, you start these exercises early in your pregnancy (unless contraindicated by your doctor), as they are part of a healthy pregnancy routine. Or, you can start incorporating them on your daily routine a few weeks before your due date.
Important: Please check with your doctor before you attempt any of these exercises.
Kegel Exercises are extremely useful not only for preparing you for labor but also as part of your postpartum recovery plan. As per Web MD, Kegel exercises help strengthen the muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and bowels. In turn, you may develop the ability to relax and control the muscles in preparation for labor and birth. To do Kegel exercises, pretend as if you are trying to hold in your urine. The contraction that you feel as you are doing that, are the muscles of the pelvic floor. The beauty about these exercises is that you can do them anywhere!
Sitting on an exercise ball (birth ball). This might not sound like an exercise at all. But the truth is that simply sitting on an exercise ball helps maintain pelvic alignment, strengthen your core, and may help the baby settle in optimal birthing position. Simply, inflate your birthing ball (not too much), and sit on it with your feet apart. Roll your shoulders back to attain optimal posture and try doing small hip circles to stretch the pelvis.
Butterfly Stretches is another great exercise that may help prepare you for labor. It not only helps with improving posture but it also keeps your joints flexible, improves blood flow to your lower body, and eases delivery.
Squatting helps expand the size of your pelvis allowing more room for the baby to descend.
Pelvic Tilts and other pelvic flexing exercises strengthen the muscles of the abdomen and lower back, increase hip mobility, and help relieve low back pain during pregnancy and labor, as per Cleveland Clinic.
Managing Labor Pain
One of the biggest concerns of moms to be is dealing with labor pain.
I know how intimidating this might feel, specially if you have never experienced labor pain before.
The intensity of childbirth pain depends on many factors: baby positioning, mom’s pain tolerance, confidence in being able to cope with labor pain, pain management techniques, support system, environment, etc.
It for that reason why is so important to learn all you can about pain management techniques before is “go time”.
Here are some ways you can prepare for labor pain:
- Learn all you can about labor position changes
- Practice different breathing methods
- Learn relaxation techniques (such yoga, mindfulness, music, and hypnobirthing)
The key to all of these techniques for managing birth pain is to learn all you can about them. For a full list of great “preparing for labor resources” including managing birth pain naturally, read on.
Prenatal and Labor Massage
Another thing you can do to help prepare you for labor is to schedule a pregnancy massage. Massage is a great technique to not only include in your “preparing for labor” plans but also to use during labor. Massage during labor can help relieve pain and pressure.
A study concluded that prenatal and labor massage had the following effects:
- Massage therapy has been demonstrated to be effective during pregnancy. The women reported decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain.
- In their study on labor pain, the women receiving massage therapy experienced significantly less pain, and their labors were on average 3 hour shorter with less need for medication.
So, enlist the help of your partner and have him learn all he can about labor massage. Supporting Her Online Classes is a great resource for this.
Important: Check with your doctor to see if pregnancy massage is something you should look into to, to help get you ready for labor.
As you get closer to your due date, staying active is a great way to prepare for labor.
Something as simple as walking, can help your baby move down onto your cervix and improve the chances of your baby getting in the right position for birth. Regular exercise in general, can help you have an easier labor, birth, and recovery process.
You do not need to do anything excessive or aggressive to receive the benefits of physical activity.
Here are some great ways to get moving in preparation for labor and delivery:
- Take a gentle walk around the block
- Water aerobics
- Any of the “preparing for childbirth” exercises we discussed earlier
When performing any these pre-labor activities, don’t forget to:
- Stay well hydrated
- If doing any of these activities outside avoid the hottest times of the day (11am-4pm)
- Eat something light and nutritious 30 minutes before exercising
- Try using comfortable clothes and comfortable shoes if you will be going for a walk or will be on your feet for a while
Important: As always, consult with your doctor before engaging in any physical exercise.
Mentally Preparing for Labor
Being in a good mental space throughout pregnancy and as you get ready for childbirth is vital.
Your ability to be able to control your emotions, cope with changes, use relaxations techniques to manage pain, have a positive mindset, and have confidence in yourself will make all the difference in the labor and delivery room.
Next, are some of the best ways to prepare for labor from a mental standpoint, so that you feel ready and empowered when it is time to have your baby.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
A series of studies which examined the effects of mind‐body relaxation techniques for pain management during labor which included relaxation, yoga, music and mindfulness, concluded that they may be a helpful modality for pain management in labour.
There are great prenatal and birthing courses that focus on these specific techniques, specially if you are looking to have an unmediated, natural birth.
My favorite prenatal and labor classes are Kopa Birth’s® Online Childbirth classes because they prepare you for a natural hospital birth (more information on this resource next).
Find your focus
Another thing you can do in preparation for childbirth is to find your focus. Focus exercises are meant to help you reduce fear, anxiety, and pain.
Here are 3 focus techniques you can practice:
Find a Focal Point
Some birthing classes will teach you to find a focal point during labor by looking at a specific place in your labor room. For instance, a spot on the wall, a painting, or you partner’s eyes. The idea is that by looking at your focal point while doing your breathing exercises it can help you get through you labor contractions.
It sounds a bit weird, but it turns out that it is proven by science as something scientists call the Gate Control Theory.
Basically, by using a focal point the brain processes the information you’re seeing, thus leaving less brain activity to process what your are feeling. In other words, the more you focus, the less your brain processes the pain, and the less pain you feel.
Although the Gate Control Theory might not work for every mom, it is worth trying, especially if you will be opting for a natural birth.
Tactile Stimulus and Distraction
Another technique is to use an object you can palpate and place all of your focus on.
I used this method during the birth of my son.
Back Story: When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I went on a mini vacation to a local city beach. While on our stay, I found a shell on the sand which called my attention. As I sat on our beach chair, staring at the ocean I felt a connection to that shell. I don’t know if it was a message from God, pregnancy hormones, or heat exhaustion. All I can tell you is that holding that little shell and visualizing my contraction pain transfer to it as I held it was one of my best coping mechanisms.
Whatever works, right?
Mental Focus and Visualization
As humans in general, we tend to underestimate the power of the mind.
Mental focus and visualizing is one of the most powerful techniques to learn as you prepare for labor.
Visualizing what is happening such as the opening of your cervix and imagining the baby moving down, is a great example of visualization.
Envisioning in your mind your desired outcome as you move along your contractions can help you stay focused and push through the pain as you move closer to the end goal.
Have a support system
Dads and partners have a vital role in any successful birth team. A great resource for dads is the Supporting Her Childbirth Class (more about it next).
Before you go into labor, ensure you have a designated team of those who will be helping you during labor and delivery.
The team size will different for a lot woman, and that is totally fine.
For both of my deliveries I opted to have my husband, mom, aunt, and in-laws in the room as I as progressed though the labor stages.
However, when the time got closer to pushing, my husband and I decided to have everyone out of the room.
Whatever you feel comfortable with is what you should so. Just make sure that you have a clear plan before it is time to have your baby.
Avoid Negative Energy
Waiting to give birth can trigger an array of emotions and it is very easy to get stuck in an anxious and worry bubble.
Although worry and anxiety are normal feelings of pregnancy in general, keeping your emotions in check and not letting negativity and pessimism enter your thoughts will serve you well during labor and thereafter.
You will hear horror stories about birth and labor from friends and family. Social media posts will also expose you to a whole degree of worse case scenarios. Even most prenatal classes will possibly worry you by showing you all types of possible emergency situations and outcomes!
Do NOT get caught up in other people’s stories or outcomes when you have yet to write your own.
Having a positive mindset through pregnancy, specially as you get closer to having you baby, will be a key factor in helping you have a more productive labor.
Here are some things you can do (and avoid) to keep or develop a positive mindset before labor:
- Surround yourself with people and things that make you happy and that exude positive energy.
- Avoid or unfollow social media accounts that often post negative pregnancy, labor, postpartum situations as these may trigger worry and anxiety.
- Start visualizing positive outcomes of your labor process, such as holding your baby, presenting your baby to you parents, etc.
- Identify your fears vs reality. Often, our fears are the ones causing all the stress and anxiety. So, knowing the differences between what your worries are vs what your reality is will help ease your mind.
For me, my biggest saving grace through not only pregnancy and birth, but also my postpartum recovery, was relying on God.
For each hurdle I faced, reading Bible verses that addressed those issues, brought me peace and confidence to know that with Him, I could overcome anything.
It could be something as simple as struggling with irrational fears, or something more challenging like giving birth or getting facing some rough postpartum body changes. Whatever it is, having God always close to your heart, in the good times and in bad times, is an antidote for many things.
If you believe in God, and in the power of His Son Jesus Christ, make a list of Bible verses that tackle you biggest fears and anxieties before you go into labor.
Don’t forget to put them in your hospital bag and read them in your labor and delivery room as a source of inspiration and strength.
If you don’t believe in God, find something that brings you peace and joy, and grab on to that as you navigate through your childbirth journey.
Additional Resources: Prenatal and Birthing Classes to Help Prepare you for Labor
There are many resources out there that can help prepare you for labor. Anything from magazines, books, videos, hospital classes, articles, your doctor or midwife, and so on. But I know how overwhelming it can be to learn something with scattered information.
The following resources are two of my favorite online birthing classes. They cover everything you need to know to help prepare you from childbirth, by teaching you and your partner the all you need to know, from the comfort of your home.
Kopa Birth® Childbirth Classes
Kopa Birth® Classes are specifically designed to help prepare you to achieve a natural hospital birth.
The Kopa Birth® Online Classes are taught by Katie Griffin, a Registered Nurse, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and mom of 6. Kopa Birth® was founded in 2009 and since then, their team has helped to prepare thousands of couples to experience confident, empowering natural hospital births.
They offer two versions of this course: The KOPA Prepared Essentials and KOPA Prepared Plus.
An outline of the key elements you will learn in the Kopa Essentials are:
- CLASS 1: A Foundation of Relaxation
- CLASS 2: The Birth Process & Early Labor
- CLASS 3: Patterened Breathing & Active Labor
- CLASS 4: Labor Positions & Sensory Techniques
- CLASS 5: Transition and the Pushing Phase
- CLASS 6: Medications, Cesareans, & Labor Inductions
- CLASS 7: Benefits & Risks of Hospital-Based Interventions
- CLASS 8: Birth Plans & The Mock Labor Experience
The Kopa Plus option includes all the above classes, plus:
- Kopa Meal Plans
- Relaxation Trigger Class
- Prenatal Fitness Program
- Newborn Babywearing Basics
- Partner Labor Guides
- Additional Audio Downloads
Despite then version you opt for they are both incredibly valuable. They will prepare you and your partner for a successful hospital vaginal birth.
Supporting Her is another great and inexpensive online childbirth preparation class.
What is unique and extremely helpful about this online class is that it focuses mainly on teaching dads and birth partners tips, techniques, and actionable skills to help and support you before, during, and after labor.
Supporting Her is taught by Alice Turner. She is a birth expert with more than 13 years of experience as a doula and 7 years as a Lamaze certified childbirth educator.
- What to Expect During a Hospital Vaginal Birth (Step-by-Step)
- 17 Important Things to do Before the Baby Arrives
- The Complete Hospital Bag Checklist for Baby, Mom, and Dad
- A Postpartum Care Plan for Faster Healing After a Vaginal Birth
- The Ultimate DIY Postpartum Care Kit (Natural and N0n-Toxic)
Childbirth is painful and often unpredictable. But, being prepared for birth by learning the process and helpful techniques ahead of time, will make all the difference.
Remember, not all pregnancies and birth stories are the same. What works for some women might not work for others. All we can do is be informed and prepared so that we can make the right decisions for our unique journey.
Happy and healthy labor mama!
Do you have any questions about preparing for childbirth? What is the one thing you are the most excited or anxious about when it comes to giving birth?
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