by Teresa J. Mitchell
You've said your final good-byes at work. You've finished the nursery. You've celebrated the upcoming birth, baby shower or blessing ceremony.
Now you're focused on those little code-like taps coming from your belly and wondering when your baby-in-the-womb will become your baby snuggling in your arms.
For some women, these last days may seem to drag on endlessly. Others might want to dig in their heels and slow things down to make more time to get ready.
Taking time to get prepared can help you as you empower yourself with knowledge and lessen the opportunity for surprises.
Preparing for Birth
Practice Using Comfort Measures
During your classes or while listening to your tapes, you learned multiple ways to relax and manage discomfort during birth. It's hard to mimic labor, but your aches and pains during the last weeks of pregnancy provide an opportunity to practice those techniques. They'll be familiar and handy when you need them.
Even if you plan to use medication during childbirth, practicing and applying the skills you learned in classes can make you comfortable before you get medical help or medication.
Even though you may not give birth for a few more weeks, you can get ready now. Go through your checklist and to as much as you can now. You list might include:
- Write down important contact numbers, like your midwife, doula and hospital. Post a copy of the information by your phone and one in your purse and give another to your partner.
- Make childcare arrangements.
- Choose the best route and an alternate route to your birthing center or hospital.
- Confirm your insurance coverage.
- Pack a bag for yourself, one for your baby and one for your partner.
- Put together a list of phone numbers and names you'll want to call once labor begins and when the baby arrives.
- Install the baby's car seat.
Know What to Expect
How can you make an unfamiliar experience less frightening? You can learn what to expect. Depending on your pregnancy and your choices, you'll be having your baby at home, at a birthing center or at a hospital. Here's what usually happens as you arrive at each locality:
Giving birth at home: You're one step ahead! You're here. Once you suspect you're in early labor, give your midwife a call. You'll probably keep in touch via the phone or e-mail until you decide that it's best for the midwife to be in the home.
While you're waiting, take a look at your list and make your last minute preparations, like candles or aroma therapy. You'll already have chosen your birth place and maybe set up a birthing pool. This is a good time to fill it.
Once your midwife and her equipment arrive, you can expect:
- Your birth team and your midwife to get introduced
- Your midwife to ask how you're doing
- Your blood pressure monitored
- Your baby's heart rate and position to be checked
- If your birthing plan includes exams, your midwife might check you and see how your labor is progressing
- Your midwife setting up her equipment in the birthing area
Having your baby at birthing center: You and your midwife (or doctor) have decided it's time for you come in to the birthing center. Probably your contractions are steady and about five minutes apart, if this is your first baby. Grab your birth bag and head on over.
Here's what you can expect at most birthing centers when you arrive:
- Your midwife or an RN from your birthing class will meet you and get you checked.
- Your blood pressure, your baby's heart rate and position to be monitored.
- If your birthing plan includes exams, your midwife might check you and see how your labor is progressing.
- Your team will encourage you to walk, get in the tub or sit on birthing ball.
Delivering at a hospital: Your contractions are closer together and it's time for you to make the drive to the hospital. Grab your birthing bag, your partner and get ready to meet your new baby!
Here's what you can expect when you arrive at the hospital:
- You'll check in. You probably registered earlier, so all your information is there and waiting for you.
- You'll be asked questions about contractions, discharge and when you last ate
- In triage, your blood pressure and pulse will be taken. Your baby's well being will be checked on, usually by listening to the heartbeat with a doppler or through electronic monitoring.
- Probably, you'll be checked to see how your cervix has changed.
You might have a private room with baths where you can labor, deliver, and recover in one place without having to be moved. You hospital might not have this option.
If your birth isn't low-risk, you'll probably move from a labor room to a delivery room and after birth to a private or semi-private room.
Now that you know what to expect during early labor, don't you feel better? Next, take a look at the stages of labor so you'll be ready for the whole birthing process.
What have you done to get ready?