Bringing a new life into the world is an exciting and transformative experience. Now more than ever, we recognise the importance of being well prepared for labour, birth, and any unexpected twists that might come our way. Couples should be encouraged to inform themselves and take an active role in their birthing journey. Gone are the days of simply “going with the flow”. In this essay I will be exploring 10 ways women, and their partners can prepare themselves for labour and birth.
1. Childbirth Education Classes: Knowledge is Power
Enrolling in childbirth education classes is the first step that many expecting couples take on their path to parenthood. While it is important to learn all about your preferred childbirth journey, it is equally important to educate yourself on what happens during the unexpected. For example, if you are preparing yourself for a natural, drug and intervention free vaginal birth, it is still important to educate yourself on what may happen in the case of an emergency cesarean section so you can make a plan to experience a positive outcome either way.
2. Craft a Thoughtful Birth Map & Embrace Flexibility
You might have already heard of a birth plan, but what about a birth map? While a birth plan primarily focuses on what you do and don’t want to happen during your labour and birth, it rarely touches on what you want to do if plans get railroaded. A birth map essentially asks you, if this happens, then what? Make a plan for each possible scenario so you have your preferences written down before you get to that point, and then you can put it to the back ofyour mind and get back to enjoying your pregnancy.
3. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Amongst the whirlwind of emotions, practicing relaxation techniques can offer a sense of calm during labour. Deep breathing, visualisation, and mindfulness techniques can reduce anxiety, manage pain, and promote a more positive birthing experience. Many couples choose to enrol in Hypnobirthing classes online, or face-to-face.
4. Embrace Physical Wellness: Stay Active
Staying active during pregnancy through activities like walking, prenatal yoga, and swimming can enhance physical fitness and stamina. These exercises may contribute to improved circulation, muscle strength, and overall well-being, making labour a more manageable process.
5. Pack Essentials for the Big Day
Whether you are choosing to birth at home, in a hospital or birthing centre, preparing a collection of necessities that you can grab and go when the time is here will make the stressful situation a little bit better. If you are birthing at home you can create a basket or trolley of items you might like to use during labour, such as a peanut ball, birth comb or birthing pool. If you are birthing in the hospital, it is important to pack spare items of clothing for you, your partner and your baby, as well as some snacks to keep your nourished and energised during labour. You can also take grounding items such as affirmation cards, essential oils and comfort items like your own pillow, dressing gown or comfy socks!
6. Build Your Support Network
In recent times, we no longer have a “village” that so many people tell us it takes one of to raise children! Educate your partner on your pregnancy, birthing and postpartum preferences so they can be there for you when the plan seems shaky. Consider hiring a birth doula to nurture, emotionally and physically support you, who can work alongside you and your partner and educate you, so you are able to make the best, informed decision for your family.
7. Prepare for Postpartum
In the months or weeks leading up to your babies estimated arrival, consider cooking some extra family meals to chuck in the freezer for the nights where you just don’t feel like cooking. You can also arrange a meal train with your extended family and close friends so they can drop meals off to you when you need them. If you have hired a birth doula, see what postpartum packages they offer to support you in the first few months after your baby is born. They can come to your home with nourishing meals, do some light housework and even help with siblings so you can focus on bonding with the newest addition.
8. Create A Sleep Plan
While it is important to discuss things like what pain relief you do or don’t want during labour or what you’d like to name your baby, it is also so important to have a plan in place to make sure you are getting adequate rest during the fourth trimester. Ideally, you will be able to get around 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Talk to your partner about taking shifts so you both can get a long stretch of sleep. This could be you taking a nap when they get home from work, or having them take one night feed so you can get some extra sleep.
9. Connect with Other Parents
As I mentioned above, mothers these days are lacking the village that our ancestors once had. Connect with other local mums and parents in your area so you have people in your life that just understand what is going on. This can also be virtual support, such as a due date group or online mothers group set up by your child health nurse.
10. Emotional Wellbeing
Many women experience “baby blues” in the early days after giving birth, but approximately 1 in 7 women go on to experience postpartum depression in the year after giving birth. In Australia, as many as 1 in 5 women feel as if they did not receive proper prenatal and postnatal follow up screenings for PPD.
An important factor to consider is that PPD does not discriminate. It can affect both the mother and father, from all races, ethnic backgrounds, cultures, educational and economic backgrounds.
Learn about postpartum depression and its signs and risk factors, set up a support network of friends, family and professionals who can help and understanding. Prioritise self-care, communicate openly with your partner and be vigilant about your mental health, seek professional help if needed.
If you are struggling with postpartum depression, there are many resources out there that can provide you with support.
PANDA – https://panda.org.au/
BeyondBlue – https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
The Pink Elephants Support Network – https://www.pinkelephants.org.au/
My name is Kaylee Race, and I am a qualified doula who has trained at the Doula Training Academy.
If you would like more information about my doula services, please contact me:
0401 772 707