You need to be prepared for an arrival any time from 37 weeks onwards. A small number of babies make an early appearance before 37 weeks! So try not to leave all your preparation to the last minute.
Giving birth and meeting your baby for the first time is the most exciting time of your pregnancy. It’s a truly life-changing experience. The journey your baby makes from the safety of your womb to the outside world is the most important journey they will ever make. For the vast majority of babies they make this journey safely and without any problems. But in a small number of births things don’t go to plan.
Learning About the Process, Early.
Knowledge is power and the value of understanding the process of birth cannot be underestimated. The more you are informed about the birth process, the more relaxed you will be. This will maximise your chance of your body doing what is was designed to do. It is recognised that stress hormones can slow down natural labour. Taking time during your pregnancy to read about birth and consider your birth preferences is time well spent.
It’s important to view this as birth preferences, rather than a plan. Babies have a habit of declaring their own will and the best laid plans can go awry and without notice. If you decide on your birth preferences, keep an open mind if matters don’t progress as planned. Then it’s more likely that your birth will still be a very positive experience. Building a relationship of trust with your obstetrician through the pregnancy is essential. That way you know you are working together if things take an unexpected turn.
Your birth preferences should include who you want to support you during the birth. This might be your partner, a family member or friend or the services of a Doula. [hyperlink to support in birth] You may also like to choose the music playing and lighting. It’s also important to consider what you would like in terms of pain relief and your preferred mode of delivery. But try to keep an open mind throughout. Babies have a knack of declaring their own birth preferences too.
Packing Your Bag
It’s good to have a bag packed and ready to go for when you go into labour. [hyperlink to baby bag] Even if you are having a planned caesarean section, it’s worth being prepared in case your baby decides it wants to make an early entrance into the world. Don’t be tempted to pack your best underwear and night attire. You need to be comfortable and clothing is likely to get stained. Don’t forget front opening clothing so you can breast feed if that’s your plan.
Your paediatrician may recommend that you start to express colostrum (the first breast milk) before you give birth. Especially if you have gestational diabetes or if you are going to need a preterm delivery. The milk produced at this stage is packed full of goodness but is only a very small amount. So its’ important to save every drop of colostrum that you produce. It is important not to try to produce your colostrum too early as this can trigger contractions. [hyperlink to breastfeeding]
Vaginal delivery involves dilatation of the vagina as well as the cervix. Some authorities suggest perineal massage before birth to soften and prepare your pelvic floor muscles before birth. This is to try to minimise tearing during the delivery. The evidence about this is conflicting. But you can’t cause any harm by massaging your perineal muscles.
Remember that even if you do perineal massage, you might still tear. Or your obstetrician might suggest an episiotomy to protect the muscles around your anus. Again it’s important to understand why an episiotomy might be recommended. This might need to be considered during the birth process. During the birth time for discussion is limited, so pre-preparing yourself is essential.