Congratulations! You've just found out you're pregnant or, perhaps you've known for a while and it's just sinking in!
The information out there can be overwhelming and you might not be sure where to start!
Here are 15 ways you can start to prepare for childbirth.
Create a mindfulness practice: The months of pregnancy might be flying by! Creating a mindfulness practice using massage, breath-work, yoga, and self-care techniques such as taking a bath and walking barefoot in the grass can help you be present during these fleeting days.
Eat well and drink well:Eating a whole-food diet high in protein, fat and micronutrients helps support your pregnancy to stay low risk and will provide ample energy to stay active and energized each day, including the day(s) of your birth.
Baby whispering: Create a dialogue with your baby. Start communicating openly if you aren't already. Share with them what you are feeling and whats going on outside of the womb. Describe procedures like sonograms and infant procedures to them before they are done. After the 32nd week of pregnancy when your baby’s hearing is developed, singing a simple song to them can become familiar and soothing. You can also continue this after they are born.
Plan your postpartum support: Support after baby is born is often overlooked, when so much attention and energy is put into preparing for birth. Family, friends and postpartum doulas can be your best support. Set guidelines and help guests understand how to best help you during this time postpartum- especially the first 40 days after giving birth! Be gentle with yourself, allow the first 40 days to rest, restore, be served and taken care of.
Create a birth plan: Writing a short list of bullet points stating the way you would like to give birth. This is a great opportunity to make sure your care provider is on board with your birthing wishes and to understand the pros and cons of common childbirth interventions. Share the plan with your birth team. You may want to write multiple birth plans to be prepared for unplanned scenarios such as spontaneous birth, induction and cesarean section. As a common rule of thumb, once the birth plans are written, imagine yourself "crumpling it up and throwing it away". Childbirth is unpredictable and may not always go as planned, even when we plan for it. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be optimistic!!
Watch and Read Birth Stories: Physiological birth is much different than what is usually portrayed on TV, and most have never been exposed to it. By now you might know if you're interested in a unmedicated or medicated birth, or maybe you don't have a preference. Watching videos of natural and medicated birth and hearing birth stories might help you become accustomed with each process. On the flip side, its OK to set boundaries and not listen, read or watch any of this if it is anxiety producing or just not helpful for you. Its your body, your baby and your birth, you are in charge.
Start to plan for the future:Discuss medical interventions, vaccinations and post-birth interventions such as delayed cord clamping, Vitamin K shot and Hep B vaccine with your partner or co-parent. Ask your Doctor what their common procedures are, as well as the pros and cons of each so you can make informed decisions. Do your own thorough research, and know your rights before making final decisions. All of these procedures can be delayed or refused.
Take a childbirth education class: Even if you are familiar with the ins and outs of the process, this could be a great experience for your birth partner and a way to meet other pregnant families.
Create an awareness practice: This isn't much different than a mindfulness practice except the focus is integrating something that helps you get to know your body better and helps you build trust in its ability to give birth. Prenatal yoga is perfect for this. If you can't make it to a class, check out some videos to do at home on youtube, be sure to search for 'prenatal yoga'.
Gentle exercise: Walking, taking prenatal yoga, and swimming are all great ways to keep active during your pregnancy. Staying active with help you build strength and be strong the day of your birth. Most likely you can keep up whatever activity you did before conception, to be sure-check in with you care provider.
Pack your labor bag and birthing tool kit: Try to have bags packed and ready by 37 weeks so you can use the rest of the time to focus on nurturing your relationship and growing your baby. If you are birthing at home this means having your home birth tools ready and a hospital bag packed too.
Create a gratitude practice: Pregnancy and childbirth might not always be easy, but optimism goes a long way! An attitude of gratitude and optimism can produce an enhanced immune system and opens you up to see the goodness in life. Your experience is not separate to the experience of your growing baby - think of the positive effects this will have on your baby too!
Build your birth team and hire a doula: Your birth team includes your care provider. Do you feel comfortable giving birth at home or in hospital? Would you like the care of a midwife or OBGYN? Find out what is available where you live and don't hesitate to interview a few before making a decision. Remember, your care provider is hired by you, and works for you and it's never too late to switch providers! A doula will be by your side through thick and thin providing informational, physical and emotional support to your whole birth team. The Doulas job is solely to support you. A Doula and your partner or co-parent can be the perfect pair to support you around the clock as you labor.
Tone your pelvic floor:A good prenatal yoga class will incorporate this-somehow! A toned pelvic floor will benefit you during pregnancy, child birth and recovering postpartum. Consider learning more about perineal massage to tone and stretch the area in preparation for childbirth as well as the benefit of counter pressure while pushing and mother led pushing.
Of course there is so much more that can be done! I hope this helps you get started.
I would love to help you along in this journey. If you have any questions or would like to work together please feel free to reach out!