Getting ready to give birth isn’t just about picking baby names and packing your hospital bag. As you embark on a rollercoaster to parenthood, you will need to prepare your body and mind for the changes to come. Prepare to give birth with these great tips that will have you physically, mentally and emotionally ready for delivery day.
There are so many exciting things ahead in your pregnancy – picking baby names, buying teeny tiny clothes, kitting out the nursery, choosing all the fun baby gear, indulging in cravings for cake, and so much more!
However, there are also a number of things that can cause stress and sleepless nights, which is the last thing you need while pregnant. These tips will really help you to get ‘in the zone’ and lead you to a positive birth experience.
If you’re expecting a baby in the coming weeks or months, here are some things you will need to consider as you prepare to give birth.
Prepare to Give Birth: Get in the Mindset
Remember Your Due Date is Just an Estimate
Your estimated due date is calculated by adding 280 days to the first day of your last menstrual period, however, the chance of delivering on your assigned date is rare. Your baby is likely to come at any time between 37 weeks and 42 weeks.
Fixating on a particular date can often lead to feelings of disappointment when that dates comes and goes, and you’re still pregnant! It can also result in well-meaning calls and texts to see if you’ve popped yet – cute the first time, but annoying from then on..
If anyone asks when you’re due, give them a ballpark – the end of November, mid-June, etc.
Organise Your Maternity Leave
In Ireland, if you’re pregnant while in employment you will be entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave, with the option of 16 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave.
You will be required to give your employer a medical certificate confirming your pregnancy, and you must give your employer at least four weeks’ written notice of your intention to take maternity leave.
You may find, however, that giving your employer confirmation earlier can smooth the way if you need to leave work for check ups, and also help if you have a physical or demanding job that needs to be reviewed for health and safety.
Plan for Paternity Leave
Dads in Ireland are now entitled to take four weeks of paternity leave in one continuous block anytime in the 26 weeks following baby’s birth. You can apply for paternity benefit online at www.mywelfare.ie. Don’t leave it too late, you will need all the help you can get.
Book Your Antenatal Classes
Prepare to give birth by stocking up on informative advice and tips while building your confidence. Antenatal classes are usually free at your chosen maternity hospital and cover various topics, including making birth plans, how to look after yourself during and after pregnancy, pain relief, what to expect in labour, and how to care for your baby. It is recommended to start your classes 8-10 weeks before your baby is due.
Develop a Positive State of Mind
If is entirely normal to be nervous, to fear the pain or to be worried about how the birth will go – and, for that reason, it is really worth considering hypnobirthing.
Hypnobirthing combines the knowledge of birth physiology with techniques to help women achieve the birth experiences they desire. It is natural hypnosis and helps put things in their true perspective while also helping you to stay calm, relaxed and in control. Other benefits include faster recovery, better sleep and it can promote bonding with your baby.
Avoid Traumatic Tales
Everyone has that one friend, neighbour or well-meaning auntie who has a once-in-a-blue-moon drama story to share. It’s really important to try not to listen to any unhelpful horror stories before you have your baby, especially if you are feeling nervous or anxious.
Remember, for every bad experience there are lots more mums with a positive story to tell.
Take Care of Your Body
Looking after your health during pregnancy is extremely important, especially as your due date approaches. Eat plenty of whole healthy foods high in protein, keep hydrated, get plenty of rest and exercise regularly – even if it just a short 15 minute walk each day, try to keep active.
Not only will regular exercise help give you the strength and endurance you will need for the latter stages of pregnancy, but will also help you handle the physical stress of labour.
Prepare Your Hospital Bag in Advance
As you approach the final month of pregnancy, it is a good idea to have your bags packed and ready to go so you aren’t grabbing things in a panic. Leave it somewhere where it will be easy to grab in a hurry, and keep the stress to a minimum.
Start by getting the new baby’s clothes washed and dried, then set out all your essentials for packing. Be mindful of the space available on the wards and pack lightly. Some women opt to have a labour ward bag and another bag for their stay in hospital after birth. Remember, if you forget anything your partner, a family member or close friends can get it and drop it into you.
Prepare Your Family
If this is your second or subsequent pregnancy, it’s time to start preparing your child for a new sibling coming soon. Younger toddlers and preschoolers may not be too enamoured with the idea of a new arrival, while older children may need a little reassurance that you’ll still have time for them. Make plans for who will look after the children when you go into labour – including a middle of the night plan, just in case.
If this is your first pregnancy, you may need to plan for things like pet sitters or someone to drive you to the hospital. Whatever your plans, make sure to set them well in advance so there is no panic as D-day approaches.
New research has proven that practising mindfulness can help protect the health and wellbeing of both mums and babies. Fear of the unknown affects everyone, but with the right mindfulness skills, mothers-to-be can learn to cope with their fears while also decreasing the risk of prenatal and postnatal depression.
Think About Pain Relief
As you approach the final trimester of pregnancy you may want to consider your pain relief options. There are several ways of helping you cope with pain in labour. Some women are happy with gentle massage or spending time in water, while others prefer pain-relieving drugs such as gas and air, pethidine or an epidural. Discuss your options with your midwife or obstetrician to find out what’s right for you.
Whatever you plan for, it is always worth keeping an open mind. You may find that your labour progresses quicker or slower than expected, and your decision around pain relief may need to evolve.
Pick a Birth Partner
Your birth partner can be your spouse, a friend or family member – and the important decision factor is someone who will keep you calm and focussed, and who you trust to speak up for you.
Ahead of your baby’s birth, plan some time with your birth partner so you can let him/her know your wishes. Tell them how you would like to be supported in labour and cover every eventuality. Birth partners may feel a little helpless and lost in the labour suite, however with pre-made plans they have a clear indication of what is expected of them while being able to vocalise your wishes if you need some additional support.
Massage Your Perineum
It may sound gross to some, but one way to prepare to give birth is by massaging your perineum ahead of your due date. Regular massage increases the elasticity of the perineum by improving the blood flow and ability to stretch more easily – meaning less pain during labour.
Research has shown that perineal trauma and tearing during delivery are less likely to happen with a perineal massage.
Trust Your Instincts
If you have any worries, reach out to your care provider immediately. And finally, try to relax and take it easy in these last few weeks of pregnancy because once the baby is here, your life will change forever – in a good way!