How to prepare for labour and birth

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You’re pregnant – congratulations! Welcome to a world where things change by the week and you slowly lose sight of your feet. 

As your beautiful bump gets bigger and due date approaches, it’s likely you’re wondering what’s to come, especially if this is your first baby. If you’re feeling anxious about giving birth or you’re uncertain of how you want to bring your baby into the world, there are several steps you can take to prepare. 

Here’s a look at some of the top tips to get you ready for the arrival of your little one. 

Take an antenatal class

There are different types of antenatal classes available and they all cover very similar topics, including breathing techniques, breastfeeding tips, and pain relief options. They also talk you through the baby’s journey during labour and the hormones involved. This is so that you can visualise what’s happening when your contractions start. 

You can choose from free NHS sessions or opt for paid-for NCT classes. Both are designed to help you get a picture of what’s to come and your options in childbirth. 

Try relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques are one of the most accessible and beneficial tools you’ll have when you go into labour. From simple, soothing breathing that helps to regulate your heartrate and lowers stress levels to hypnobirthing, which has meditative qualities, there are different ways to soothe yourself. 

These aren’t just things you can do in labour. It’s best to begin practising these techniques before you reach week 40 as you’ll feel prepared and in control. 

Speak to your midwife

It’s totally normal to be apprehensive. This is something you’ve not done before and you’ll find that whenever you speak to people who’ve given birth, they can’t tell you much about the pain to expect. 

To alleviate these feelings, speak to your midwife. They’re there to answer your questions and champion your decisions. Whether you want no pain relief or all the gas and air, or you’ve got your sights set on a c-section, talk through what you want with your midwife. They’ll explain everything and help you decide what you want for your baby and your body. 

Make a birth plan

Once you’ve spoken to your midwife, you can make a birth plan. This communicates what you want during birth and includes useful notes for the maternity team. This is especially useful when you’re in active labour and might not be able to explain your wishes. 

For example, if you absolutely don’t want diamorphine or you’d prefer to stay in the birthing pool for as long as possible, this is your opportunity to communicate these points. 

It’s important to keep in mind that this is a loose plan, however. Sometimes things don’t go to plan on the day and medical teams must act in yours and your baby’s best interests, so you’ll need to be flexible. 

What comes after the baby’s here? 

You might need to stay in hospital once the baby’s born. The medical team will check you both for signs of infection and other indicators, such as blood pressure. 

There is potential for things not going to plan. If you weren’t happy with your treatment, you may need to consider making a birth injury compensation claim. It’s unlikely this will be the case, but it’s worth noting that there is help for you if things don’t work out the way you expected them to. 

Once you’ve been checked over, it’ll be time to take your new arrival home. Go slowly and get your partner, friends and loved ones to look after you. The baby is important, but so are you. Make sure you eat to keep your energy levels up and allow people into your new baby bubble when you’re ready. 

This is your time with your little one. Take each day as it comes and give yourself time to adjust.