1) You’ve got the happy news, OMG! What will you need?
One of the first things is to decide is if you want a doula (labour supporter or coach). She will offer emotional and practical support throughout your pregnancy, labour and post-birth. Doula services are becoming more popular, especially with mums-to-be who don’t want to use anaesthesia. Get recommendations from your gynae.
Then you’ll need to make a birth plan. Speak to your doctor or doula about your options but also keep in mind babies have their own schedule! Try not to be disappointed if things don’t go the way you’d hoped once labour starts! Get your labour bag ready way before your due date ― 36 weeks is about right.
Labour bag essentials:
- Pregnancy notes and birth plan
- Baggy T-shirt or nightie, several for pre- and post-bub.
- Cool-water spray and snacks.
- Camera, phone charger.
- Slippers, socks, underwear.
- Toiletries, maternity pads, nursing bras and breast pads.
- Things you’ll need to bring baby home:
- Diapers, rompers, a baby blanket, plus booties.
- A car seat for the journey home.
Remember that giving birth is natural, and your body can tell you what to do and when. Rally your support network your husband or Mum/relatives.
2) How you’ll give birth — it’s not just lying in bed
Active labour Being able to move spontaneously and not just lying in bed helps to make labour shorter and easier. Prepare a pillow or beanbag to lean on for when you’re in the throes of labour or if you’re attached to a drip. Alternatively, you could also prop yourself up on your left side to help oxygenate your baby.
HypnoBirthing This uses hypnosis to relax you and help you to focus during labour. Use a childbirth preparation CD to practise breathing and relaxation techniques or try HypnoBirthing classes at Four Trimesters and ParentLink where you can learn to relax, quell your fears and work with your body during labour.
Water birth Water offers natural pain relief and is great for easing the dull ache of contractions. It supports your body and makes it easier to get into certain positions. If you deliver in a pool, you’re less likely to tear or require intervention. The best time to get into a birth pool is during the later stages of labour, when you’re about 5cm dilated. Mount Alvernia Hospital, Thomson Medical Centre, National University Hospital (NUH) and Raffles Hospital support water births. Talk to your gynaecologist to find out more.
Birth ball This large inflated ball supports your weight and gravity as you bounce and rock, and helps propel your baby down the birth canal. Kneel and rest your upper body on the ball to lessen the pressure on your spine. You can also rock on it during contractions. You’ll need to find out more from your gynae or doula.
Read on for more ways to maximise your birth experience
3) Getting your body ready for birth
The fitter you are before the birth, the more stamina you’ll have once D-Day arrives. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London states that exercising during pregnancy can reduce the length of labour and decrease delivery complications. You can prepare for labour with gentle exercise, such as taking a 30-minute stroll a day, or a dip in the local pool. Yoga and Pilates can also help prepare both your body and mind for labour.
One other thing you can do is increase the elasticity of your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus) with gentle massage from around four to six weeks before the birth. Using a little olive oil, place one or two thumbs about an inch inside your vagina. Slowly and gently massage back and forth for about three to four minutes, gently pulling the lower part of the vagina to help stretch the skin, in the same way that the baby’s head will stretch it during birth.
It’s likely you’ll have a few false starts to labour (Braxton Hicks contractions come to mind), you’ll know it’s the real thing when your contractions are coming regularly and your waters may break.
4) So your water broke or contractions are 10 to 15 mins apart…You’ll need to do two apparently contradictory things:
Stay focused Labour requires a lot of concentration, which can be hard to maintain if it’s dragging into the 12th hour and beyond. Resist focusing too early, only begin concentrating on contractions when you really have to, this should help stop you getting exhausted early on and save your strength for later.
Relax The more tense you are during labour, the more unpleasant the experience is going to be so relax, soak in the bath, listen to some music, get your birth partner to massage your back ― anything that will help you to let go.
Try to make your environment comfortable and private You could use an eye mask and ear plugs to block out the world, or bring your own comforter to the labour ward with you. Bring your own music player loaded with soothing music will help to create the right atmosphere, relax you and may also help take your mind off the pain.
Snacks help you keep your energy levels up! Think cereal bars, nuts or toast. Try to remain upright as long as you can — let gravity assist. Some mums feel more comfortable giving birth while kneeling or squatting as it encourages natural forces to help your baby down the birth canal.
Also, during the early stages of labour, a warm bath, the Tens electrical stimulator or even paracetamol can help cope with the pain. Don’t be afraid to ask for pain relief as your labour progresses.
Controlling your breathing could be the single most important thing you do to make labour easier. Take slow, rhythmic breaths, all the way down to your abdomen. This increases the production of the birth hormone, oxytocin, which gets rid of toxins, giving you more energy and providing your baby with much-needed oxygen.
If you’ve been trying to push but aren’t succeeding, try a coughing motion — this may help in the pushing.
You may be in quite a lot of pain, but try to focus on the end goal ― you’ll get to meet the little person who’s been growing in you for the last nine months ― which will make it all worthwhile!
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