How to Prepare for Labor

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on April 19, 2023
4 min read

Having a baby is a big life event that can feel overwhelming. There is a lot to consider, but preparation can make the move into parenthood easier.

Your body naturally prepares for labor on its own, but there are a few things you can do to help lower your stress. 

Take birthing classes. Birthing classes can answer a lot of your questions about what will happen during labor and delivery. You will learn how to work through contractions and stay in control, and you will practice these strategies so you’re ready for delivery. Most women take their birth support person with them to classes so they can practice together. 

Classes are usually available at your local hospital or birthing center, but your doctor can help you find the right class for you. It’s a good idea to take classes a few months before your due date, as they can fill up quickly. 

Take breastfeeding classes. If you’ve never breastfed before, breastfeeding classes are an important part of preparing for a baby. These classes teach you about proper latch, how to hold your baby while feeding, and how to know when your baby is getting enough. 

You might find breastfeeding classes through your hospital or local support programs. Taking a breastfeeding class will also give you a chance to meet a lactation consultant who can help you after you give birth.

Take parenting classes. Parenting classes can help you understand the different stages your baby will go through, how to keep your baby safe, how to dress and change your baby, and how to tell when your baby is having a medical emergency. 

Make a birth plan. A birth plan is an outline of what you want for your delivery. This plan helps your doctor or midwife, nurses, and support people understand your personal wishes.

You should talk about your plan with your support person and your doctor or midwife. Not only will it help them understand you, but it will also help you figure out if what you have in mind is feasible and safe for you and your baby.

Birth plans should be working documents. Be flexible and open to change, as births don't often go exactly as expected.

Visit the hospital. Knowing what to expect and what to do can help you feel more comfortable on the day of the birth. Set up an appointment for a tour of the hospital. A nurse or other hospital staff will take you through where you will have your baby and what you can expect while you’re there. This will also help you figure out what options are available so that you can plan your birth.

Pack your bag. You will need supplies for both you and your baby at the hospital. Hospitals may have different rules about what they give out to moms and what you will need to bring from home.

Some things you should pack in your bag include:

  • Your birth plan
  • Loose and comfortable clothes, like a nightgown or night shirt, for labor and feeding
  • Two to three changes of clothes
  • Two to three soft sports bras or nursing bras
  • Breast pads
  • Five to six pairs of underwear 
  • Two packages of extra large or maternity sanitary napkins  
  • A cosmetic bag with shampoo, conditioner, gentle soap, deodorant, a hair brush, hair ties, and chapstick 
  • Nipple cream
  • Headphones
  • A book or something to keep you busy
  • Healthy snacks
  • A water bottle
  • A camera
  • Any medications you take
  • Sleepers and hats for your baby
  • A blanket and swaddling blankets
  • Lots of diapers and wipes
  • Clothes to go home in
  • A car seat for travel

Set up your nursery and home. Getting your home ready for your baby and making it a safe and comfortable place is an important step in preparing for labor.

You will need to plan for the cost of your hospital stay and regular check-ups for you and your baby. If you have health insurance, find out how to add your baby to your policy, which doctors you can see, and the kind of care that is covered. Find out how much money you will need to pay for your delivery and doctor’s visits. 

If you need help paying for health care, contact your local and state health departments about programs in your area. Your local hospital or social worker can tell you where to go for help and where to find a free clinic for women and children in need.

Setting up your nursery and buying the supplies you need can be a big up-front cost. Some ways to prepare for the expense include:

  • Setting up a gift registry and sharing what you need with your friends and family
  • Asking a close friend or family member to host a baby shower for you
  • Looking for supplies early in your pregnancy and buying when items are on sale
  • Shopping second-hand stores for gently used baby clothes