Childbirth can be an exciting or worrisome event, depending on how you look at it. Childbirth fear has been linked to lower labor pain tolerance and difficult adjustment postpartum.
Using mindfulness when preparing for your baby has been shown to alleviate chronic and acute pain related to childbirth. Knowing how to prepare for your baby can make your transition smoother.
Know the Stages of Labor
There are three stages of labor. Knowing what each stage looks like will help you determine when to head to the hospital and when your baby’s coming.
The first stage. During this time, your contractions get stronger, they last longer, and they happen more often. They are also more painful. These contractions make your cervix start to dilate. At 4-5 cm, you’re in active labor.
The second stage. This happens when your cervix is fully dilated at 10 cm. You’ll have to start pushing at this point. Your contractions may be longer and more spread out. Your body will have a natural urge to push. You’ll rest between each contraction and push. This stage can take up to two hours. It can also be exhausting.
The third stage. This is after your baby is born. At this point, your placenta will come out. You’ll still feel contractions, but they won’t be as intense.
Train for Childbirth
Pregnancy can be hard on the body. Training with a professional can help you work on injury and pain prevention during and after pregnancy. Exercise strengthens your muscles that’ll be used during labor. Strengthening them can alleviate muscle aches and pain.
Yoga is another great method of easing pregnancy pain and preparing for your baby. Certain yoga poses can stretch and relax your muscles. Find a prenatal yoga instructor who can help you maintain safe poses.
Learn Stress Management
Preparing for a baby can cause stress and anxiety. Emotional stress during pregnancy can cause headaches and trouble sleeping and impact your baby’s development. Managing your stress while pregnant has many benefits postpartum and long-term. Natural ways to deal with your stress include using self-care, getting plenty of sleep, exercising, and avoiding stress triggers.
Learning mindfulness can help you address your fear of childbirth and your pain during labor. Practicing mindfulness can help you cope with pain, in some cases, better than medication. Another benefit of mindfulness is preventing postpartum depression symptoms.
Know Different Labor Positions
If you’re giving birth vaginally, you’ll have more options for labor positions. Cesarean birth is limited to one position because you’ll undergo major surgery. Being familiar with the positions will help you decide what’s comfortable for you. Here are the different positions:
- Kneeling with a birthing ball. This can ease back pain and help open your pelvis.
- Swaying. Lean against a partner and lightly sway to each side. Standing and walking reduce the amount of time you're in the first stage of labor.
- Lying on your side. Use this position to rest in the first stage of labor. Place a pillow between your legs.
- Rocking. Sitting on a secure edge of a chair or bed, gently rock from side to side.
- Leaning forward. This can help back pain.
- Lunging. This can alleviate back pain. Put one foot on a chair. During your next contraction, lean forward into the lunge.
- Squatting. This position opens your pelvis and gives your baby room to move down the birth canal.
- Getting on hands and knees. This position can take the pressure off your spine and improve your baby's oxygen supply.
You can also practice these positions before labor to find what works best for you.
Pack a Hospital Bag
If you plan to give birth at a hospital, you’ll need an overnight bag. Pack a month in advance to be ready for early delivery. Your hospital bag should include:
- Clothes for labor, like old, comfortable t-shirts, extra underwear, socks, snacks, etc.
- Maternity sanitary pads
- Pajamas and day clothes
- Basics for your baby, like blankets, socks, beanies, onesies, and large cotton wraps
Other things you might want to include for after labor are:
- Something for entertainment
- Sound machine
- Comfortable pillows
- Extra blankets
Check with your hospital about what they’ll provide you in your room.
Plan for Coming Home
If you have support from a spouse or family and friends, you may want their help. Scheduling people to be around and help you welcome your child home can alleviate stress and anxiety. It’s also a good idea to prepare your home for your baby, making sure everything is clean and ready. Stocking your freezer with easy meals is a good idea.
Welcoming your baby home is a big event, but with the right preparation and support system, it’ll be easier.