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How mothers should prepare themselves physically and mentally for childbirth

Talk to your baby in your belly daily? Drink herbal tea? By now, you must have heard every tip possible from friends and family to set the stage for a pleasant and easy childbirth experience. While knowledge and prep work are certainly beneficial, it’s important to avoid overwhelming yourself and feeling like you have to do every single thing, as this might just create extra and unnecessary anxiety instead.

A tip would be to list down some essentials, or the ones that will have the most meaningful impact. Here’s a checklist I share with my patients to ensure they go into their delivery physically and mentally ready.

Read up, but don’t freak yourself out

Reading up on childbirth can definitely help you make informed decisions on childbirth — but too much information can scare your socks off, especially if they’re from non credible sources. My suggestion would be to enrol in a childbirth course taught by a registered labour nurse or certified childbirth instructor. Some courses run as long as 12 weeks, which means you should ideally start as early as your second trimester.

The goal of the course or any educational material you consume should be to learn the basics of the labour process, including knowing when to get to the hospital, or preparing ahead for any interventions. Ask your instructor or gynae as many questions as you can so you know what to expect — you won’t want to arrive in the hospital clueless. Once labour starts, the best kind of surprise is no surprise.

Choose your birth team carefully

Studies show that the location of a woman’s birth has more impact on her birth outcome than her health conditions at the time of birth. While this of course doesn’t give you the free pass to neglect your health during pregnancy, it speaks volume about having a support system. Childbirth is a transformative and emotional experience; having the right people around at a place where you feel comfortable helps give you the best possible outcomes.

Do you want to give birth in a private or public hospital? Is a midwife necessary? Who would you like around with you? Other factors to possibly keep in mind include:

  • Being open to other birth methods
  • The possibility of using drugs for pain
  • The type of support you want (e.g. massage, verbal coaching)
  • Who to cut the umbilical cord
  • Whether you plan to breastfeed

Setting these tangible aspects may help you regain some sense of control, so you wouldn’t feel as anxious and lost. However, try to keep them as simple as possible — don’t overthink it, go with what feels right, and be prepared that things might not go the way as planned.

Move everyday

Moderate exercise daily can help prepare you for labour and enhance your labour experience. For example, doing a little jiggling, slow dancing and squatting may help to get the baby into position. In addition, squatting increases the size of your pelvic opening by about 28 percent, and regular aerobic activity can help with contractions and labour. It’s been found that women who exercised regularly during pregnancy were less likely to use an epidural in labour.

While prenatal yoga classes aren’t a must, they’re a good to have; as they help with qualities that help with labour, such as breathing, flexibility and relaxation. These classes are also a great way to meet and bond with other mothers-to-be, who might be the companions you need to share your struggles with!

Don’t compare with other mothers

Maybe your friend swears by a certain homemade recipe or weekly acupuncture sessions for a smooth and speedy labour. After all, if it works for someone else, it should work for you, right? Except that might not always be the case.

Talk to any new mum or search online and you’ll find no shortage of remedies to hasten your labour. However, the success of most natural birth induction methods is more anecdotal than scientific. Should you still give them a try? Sure, but always run them by your doctor first, and don’t feel like you’re doing pregnancy wrong if you choose not to spend tons of cash on herbs and other alternative treatments.

Avoid negative and stressful thoughts

What we see, say and listen to can greatly affect our subconscious and affect our mental wellbeing. This includes graphic images, words of discouragement and catastrophic tales regarding childbirth. Every time this happens, tune out or walk away; change the channel on the television; and block scary social media ads. Anytime you feel afraid or worried, get into contact with your gynaecologist. A good gynaecologist would be able to allay your concerns with patience. If he/she lacks compassion or doesn’t seem to listen, consider finding a new practitioner.

At best, negative thoughts increase your stress of going into labour; but at worst, they can actually intensify the pain.

Always remember that childbirth will come and go, and it’s just the beginning of a journey of a lifetime!

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29128739/
    Barimani, M., Forslund Frykedal, K., Rosander, M., & Berlin, A. (2018). Childbirth and parenting preparation in antenatal classes. Midwifery, 57, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2017.10.021
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31325736/
    Nieuwenhuijze, M., & Leahy-Warren, P. (2019). Women’s empowerment in pregnancy and childbirth: A concept analysis. Midwifery, 78, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2019.07.015
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