The birth of a child is one of life’s most profound moments. While labor and delivery can be unpredictable, making plans and preparations can help you feel empowered and ready for your baby’s arrival.
Creating Your Birth Plan
A birth plan outlines your preferences and expectations for labor and delivery. Think through these key decisions:
- Location – Home, birth center or hospital? Do you want a water birth?
- Labor support – Doula? Partner? Mom? Who will be your coaching team?
- Pain relief – Epidural? Nitrous oxide? IV medication? Alternative methods?
- Delivery position – Squatting? Hands and knees? Do you want freedom to move around?
- Newborn care – Delayed cord clamping? Immediate skin-to-skin? Breastfeeding time?
Discuss your birth vision with your practitioner to create a shared roadmap for the big day. But also prepare to deviate if necessary.
Packing Your Hospital Bag
Hospital bags prevent last minute scrambles. Start gathering items by week 30. For mom:
- Insurance card, ID and preregistration forms
- Comfortable loose clothes and nursing bras
- Toiletries like lip balm, lotion, hair ties and toothbrush
- Slippers and socks with grips
- Eye mask, ear plugs, headphones and chargers
- Snacks and water
Don’t forget a going home outfit for baby! Also pack an extra bag for your partner.
Understanding the Stages of Labor
Knowing labor’s progression can help you work through each phase. The 4 stages are:
- Early labor – Contractions begin 15-20 minutes apart and gradually intensify. This kicks the process off.
- Active labor – Contractions are 3-5 minutes apart and strong. Cervix dilates 4-7cm. Time to head to delivery hospital!
- Transition – Hardest phase as cervix dilates fully to 10cm. Contractions last 60-90 seconds and happen 2-3 minutes apart. Almost time to push!
- Delivery – Pushing and birthing the baby. Second stage ends when baby is born. Third stage is delivery of the placenta.
While every labor is unique, understanding the typical sequence of events makes them less daunting.
Considering Pain Management Techniques
Labor pain has multiple causes, from muscle contractions to pressure on your cervix and pelvis. Here are some medicine-free relief options:
- Breathing exercises – Patterned breaths provide rhythm and manage pain.
- Hydrotherapy – Showers or baths using water for relaxation or massage.
- Birth balls – Sitting and rocking helps open pelvis and offsets contractions.
- Massage – Applied to lower back and other areas by a partner or doula.
- Relaxation and visualization – Imagine a peaceful scene and release muscle tension.
- Walking and changing positions – Movement and upright postures can reduce discomfort.
Some women prefer medicated pain relief like epidurals. Discuss all choices with your doctor beforehand so you know the pros and cons.
Preparing for labor is the work of pregnancy. Make your plans, ready your space, and practice techniques for an empowered experience.