When you’re pregnant, it can feel like there’s so much to think about, and so much to learn. But there are some really easy, but important things to focus on, in the run up to giving birth… Decide where you want to give birth. You can choose to give birth at home, in a midwife-led unit or in a hospital. Read up on the differences between them, ask around local friends to find out their experiences and discuss your thoughts with your midwife.
If you decide to give birth at home, you’ll be supported by a midwife who will be with you while you’re in labour. If you need any help or your labour is not progressing as well as it should, your midwife will make arrangements for you to be transferred to hospital.
If you’d decide on a hospital birth, have a tour of your nearest ones and decide which feels right for you – ask lots of questions, like whether your birthing partner can stay in the delivery room at all times, and whether they can stay overnight in the maternity ward.
Decide what kind of birth you want and make a birth plan Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of Babycalm says “Keep it short, one page of A4 maximum, bullet points are good, start with a list of what you really do want and what you really don’t want, keep it realistic, keep open minded and don’t state the obvious (e.g. ‘I’d rather not have a C-Section’), lastly make sure it’s read and print at least 3 copies, one for your partner to keep, one for the midwife and one for spare!” Watch natural birth videos on YouTube If you’re planning – or hoping for – a natural birth, many experts advise against watching TV shows like One Born Every Minute, but if you search on YouTube, you’ll find lots of amazing natural birth videos, which will show you what giving birth is really like. Knowledge is power!
Do perineal massage Daily perineal massage from around 34 weeks pregnant may increase the area’s ability to stretch, leading to less need for an episiotomy and fewer natural tears. Love Boo’s Perineum Massage Oil is 100% natural, fragrance free, rich in wheatgerm and sweet almond oils to helps your skin stretch when giving birth!
Do pregnancy yoga There are so many benefits of pregnancy yoga – it improves sleep, reduces stress and anxiety, increases the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth and decreases lower back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, headaches and shortness of breath.
Take hypnobirthing classes Hypnobirthing techniques aim to teach you ways to stay in control and calm during labour and birth, whatever happens. Evidence suggests that the benefits of hypnobirthing include a shorter, less painful birth and a shorter stay in hospital. You’ll learn relaxation techniques, self-hypnosis and breathing techniques which will lessen the likelihood of adrenalin flooding your body during birth and the muscles in your womb working less well. It will also encourage the release of oxytocin, which helps labour along.
Decide who will be at the birth Your birthing partner is there to give you emotional and practical support during labour, so it’s important to choose the right one. Most women choose their partner, but you don’t have to, if you’d rather have someone else there! You could ask a friend, a relative or a paid doula to support you instead of, or as well as, your partner. There is evidence to suggest that having another woman to support you can help labour and birth to go smoothly.
Pack your birth essentials in a bag Sarah Rockwell-Smith says, “Think about the environment, battery candles for dimmed lighting, sunglasses to keep the light out, a battery aromafan to scent the room with smells you love rather than antiseptic! A photo of somebody or somewhere you love to concentrate on, an iPod with your favourite relaxing music, some magazines, some food.”
Attend an ante-natal class Whether it’s an NCT class or another ante-natal class, they can be invaluable for information, support but also connecting with other mums-to-be in your local area. Try to meet up with at least one of the other mums before you give birth, to discuss your feelings and thoughts, and then afterwards to talk about how it went.
Question everything Sarah Ockwell-Smith says, “The acronym BRAINS is useful here: B = What are the Benefits, R = What are the Risks, A = What are the alternatives, I = What are your instincts telling you? N = What happens if we do nothing?, S= Remember to smile!”