Birth preparation can be about reading a book and attending some antenatal classes but what do you do with that information? how do you prepare effectively for labour and birth?
Having taught antenatal classes and provided birth preparation sessions for 20 years, I know how unique birth preparation needs to be – books and classes can provide information but they may not encourage you to think, question and plan.
With birth preparation, it can make a huge difference to…
- move – listen to your body in pregnancy so you can move and rest to be more comfortable. Use different positions so you are familiar what can work right for you – leaning, kneeling, using a ball.
- breathe – it’s important to know how to use your breathing and to know how to relax your body. This is a core skill you can use in pregnancy, in all births and with your baby.
- know how birth works and how varied it can be – a foundation of knowledge means you will have a better understand of what your body and your baby need to do, along with what helps and what can get in the way.
- know where the challenges can be and how you might handle them – birth isn’t easy and it might not be straightforward so it is important you know more about your options and what you can do if you need to make different decisions, if you need different pain relief, if you need to be induced or need a caesarean.
- talk to your birth partner – preparing and planning together can mean being able to provide better support and to work together.
- ask questions – on a hospital tour, with your midwife or if you see a consultant so you know your options based on what you know can be helpful during labour.
- realistic mindset & expectations – you can’t plan a birth but you can prepare by having simple and straight-forward strategies to use for contractions, for energy, to make decisions, to be informed and to be calm and focused.
- be prepared to say what you need – it’s your labour, your birth, your contractions and your instincts so it’s really important to say what you need to do to work with them, to be calm, to be informed and to be better able to do labour and birth.
- find out more about options and facilities – does your hospital do a tour? join the maternity voices group to ask questions and hear experiences? do you want to know more about a homebirth? do you know about induction? do you know about having a caesarean?
- personalise your birth preparation – what matters to you? what might your challenges be? what might you need? what’s your ideal birth? do you have any personal challenges?
With birth preparation there can be a focus on birth being positive, easy and enjoyable and it can be that but it can also be challenging, unpredictable, exhausting and painful – my aim is for you to be better informed and equipped and better able to manage the challenges. Sometimes labour and birth just needs to be seen as a means to getting your baby, rather than an amazing experience – it’s about endurance, going with what feels right without you experiencing harm or distress.