When you’re pregnant, especially for the first time, it can be scary to think about labor. You wonder what it will be like, how much it will hurt, and if you’ll be able to have the birth that you want.
The more you prepare for birth, the less nervous you’ll be about it, and the better condition you’ll be in to have a fantastic labor and delivery. Here are some simple things to do throughout pregnancy to help you prepare for birth.
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Prepare for birth by taking care of your body
Taking care of your body is a super important part of preparing for birth. Unfortunately, lots of women use pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever they want and give up on exercising because they just don’t feel like it.
That’s not a great approach to pregnancy and childbirth. Eating right and exercising is more important now more than any other point in your life.
I’ve often heard childbirth compared to running a marathon. If you knew you had to run 26.2 miles 9 months from now, there’s no way you would prepare for it by sitting on the couch with a banana split every night, right?
Birth is one of the most physically challenging things you will ever do. You want to do everything you can to prepare your body and set yourself up for a fantastic labor and delivery.
Eating the right foods is one of the most important things you can do to prepare your body for labor. Choose foods that fuel your body and make it stronger. I know it’s really hard not to give into those pregnancy cravings. Certainly it’s fine to indulge once in awhile, but you should be eating real, whole food most of the time. Try to go for whole grains, lean meats, lots of fruits and vegetables as often as possible.
Your body won’t be properly prepared for labor if you help yourself to that bowl of ice cream every night and insist that your husband brings home Taco Bell for you three times a week to satisfy your cravings.
Eat 6 dates a day
Weird but true, eating dates helps prepare your cervix to dilate and makes it more likely that you’ll go into labor on your own.
Use evening primrose oil
Similar to eating dates, evening primrose oil helps prepare your cervix to dilate and may induce labor. You can take the pills by mouth and/or vaginally, but only once you’re considered full term in your pregnancy (37 weeks or later). And make sure to talk to your doctor or midwife before taking any supplements! (Source)
Drink red raspberry leaf tea
Red raspberry leaf tea is very good for you when pregnant. It helps to strengthen your uterus, which makes your contractions more effective and may result in a shorter labor. It also has tons of minerals and nutrients that help maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Prepare your body for birth exercise: Go for a walk!
Walking is a fantastic form of exercise during pregnancy! It’s generally not a good idea to start a new exercise routine once you get pregnant. But walking is usually fine, even if you didn’t do much exercising before you became pregnant. It’s low-impact, safe, and easy to do.
In addition to helping you get fit, walking can help relieve stress, give you more energy, and help you sleep better at night! (Source)
Swimming is great exercise to prepare your body for labor
If you find that you have a lot of aches and pains during pregnancy or if you find that’s its really uncomfortable to exercise on land with all the extra weight you’re carrying around, then swimming might be a great way for you to get exercise!
Swimming takes all the extra pressure off your body and allows you to move freely without the extra pregnancy weight. It’s no-impact, and it’s very safe!
If you aren’t super comfortable in the pool, you might want to consider investing in some swimming lessons, or take a water aerobics class in the shallow end.
If there’s one exercise you should do to prepare your body for labor, it’s squats. Squats work a ton of different muscle groups in your body. Doing them regularly has oodles of benefits in pregnancy. Squatting is also a great position for labor because it opens up the pelvis and makes more room for the baby to come out. It’s a great idea to practice squatting now so that you can hold the position for long periods of time during labor.
Do your kegels
Kegels are an awesome way to prepare your body for childbirth. There’s obviously going to be a lot going on with your pelvic muscles during childbirth. You’ll need to know how to use them, and they’ll need to be properly strengthened. Kegels can help a lot with both of those things, so make sure you practice them daily. Try making a habit of doing them any time you find yourself sitting at a stoplight.
Try perineal massage
Unfortunately, tearing is a common problem during childbirth. There is evidence that if you massage and stretch the perineal tissue before you give birth, you’ll be less likely to tear. It can be tricky to do perineal massage yourself, so you might want your partner to help you out. Click here for instructions on how to perform perineal massage.
Get a massage
Getting a regular massage is good for you too! It can help relieve stress, improve circulation and even regulate hormones. Not to mention it feels amazing!
Sit on the birthing ball
A birthing ball is great during pregnancy for a number reasons. It’s more comfortable to sit on than regular chairs, it can reduce hip and low back pain, and it opens up the hips and allows the baby to descend further into your pelvis as your due date nears. (Source)
Visit the chiropractor
Pregnancy can really throw your spine out of whack. Your body compensates for your growing belly in all sorts of weird ways, so a visit to the chiropractor to get things realigned can be very beneficial. It can reduce pain as well as help the baby get into the proper position for birth. A properly aligned spine can help you have a faster and easier labor as well! (Source)
Prepare your mind for birth
Just as important as preparing your body is preparing your mind for birth. It’s important to go into labor with the right mindset. You want to be confident in yourself and in your body’s ability to bring this baby into the world. It will make birth a lot less scary and you’ll have a much better experience!
Use birth affirmations
What you tell yourself and fill your mind with has a lot to do with how well your labor goes. If you go into labor nervous, scared and worried, your body will react to that and be inhibited from doing what it’s supposed to do. But if you are positive and confident about what lies ahead, you’re much more likely to be able to have the birth that you want. Affirmations are a great way to train your mind to be confident. Tell yourself things like “my body is designed to do this,” or “my body knows how to birth this baby.” You can even order affirmation cards from Etsy to put around the house as reminders, or take them with you when you go into labor. It will make a big difference!
Read birth stories
Hearing about your great aunt’s 367 hour birth horror story at the baby shower isn’t very conducive to having a healthy mindset about your upcoming birth. But reading positive birth stories is a great way to prepare your mind for labor. It helps to hear other women’s experiences and read about what labor was like for them. Labor doesn’t have to be a nightmare, and reading birth stories will help cement that into your mind.
Pregnancy is hard, so give yourself a break! Yes, you should be trying to fit in some time for exercise, but it’s also important to relax and get plenty of rest. Take a bath. Get a massage. Try not to spend too much time worrying about what labor will be like (easier said than done, I know).
Get a doula
If you want to have a birth with as few interventions as possible you’re definitely going to want to hire a doula! Before birth, a doula will educate you, help you make a birth plan and be available to answer any questions that you may have. During birth, she’ll be there with you every step of the way. She’ll help you think through your options and help you not feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do by medical staff. She’ll offer physical and emotional support as well. Women who have doulas attend their birth have much lower C-section rates!
Decide who will be in the delivery room with you
Everyone and their mother will want to be in the delivery room with you. It’s important to decide ahead of time who will be in the room with you while you give birth. The fewer people, the better. You don’t want people sitting around idly just watching you be in pain for 12 hours. Only allow people in who will be there to actively support you.
Be sure to let everyone know ahead of time who you plan to have in the room with you. That way you won’t have to deal with that drama while you’re in the midst of labor pains.
Make a birth plan
You can’t predict what will happen during labor, but it’s helpful to think through what your ideal birth would look like. You want the doctors to know that you don’t want to be induced unless absolutely necessary, and you want them to know that you’d like the baby placed on your chest immediately after birth to facilitate breastfeeding. There’s lots more to consider. If you get a doula, she’ll help you work through all of it. Or you can find sample birth plans with a quick Google search!
Take a birth course
The more you know about and understand labor, the less scary it will be. It’s important to understand the stages of labor, to understand why contractions feel the way they do, and ways to cope with the labor pains. The hospital where you plan to delivery may offer a birth course, or you could find one on your own. The Bradley Method course comes highly recommended. If you don’t have the time or money for a long and expensive course, here’s an inexpensive online birth class you can take!
Read books about childbirth
If you can’t or don’t want to take a birth class, you can still learn a lot just by reading books! I recommend The Birth Partner and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Check them out at the library or order them on Amazon.
Phew! That was quite the to-do list. It may take a lot of time and effort to do all of these things throughout your pregnancy, but know that the payoff will be totally worth it!!
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