7 Ways to Help Prepare Your Body and Mind for Labor and Delivery
From eating dates to prenatal yoga to selecting your birthing playlist, there are countless ways you can try to prep your body and mind for a smooth, stress-free childbirth experience. Pregnancy is a time in life when many women feel fairly limited control over their bodies; knowledge and prep work can feel empowering. To other women, pressure to do all the things in order to have an ideal birth experience can feel a bit overwhelming. For them, the endless checklists and advice just create unnecessary anxiety. That said, there are things you can do to have a more peaceful, positive birth experience. Here are a few of the most meaningful steps you can take to prepare your body and mind for labor and delivery without losing your marbles in the process.
1. Broaden Your Knowledge
Being able to make an informed decision during labor and delivery can give you peace of mind if anything unexpected arises. Too much information, however, may just end up scaring you to death.
Enroll in a childbirth class led by a certified childbirth educator or labor nurse. Your partner should attend the class with you as well. Your aim should be to learn how to identify when you’re in active labor, along with the basics of the labor and delivery process. It should also prepare you for what you may see and the types of intervention that may be necessary.
Avoid randomly Googling topics like episiotomies or pain medication. Instead, consult directly with your healthcare provider about how they practice in order to gain a better sense of understanding and comfort.
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2. Select Your Location and Healthcare Team
Childbirth is a complex, chaotic, emotional event. Surrounding yourself with people you trust in a place where you feel safe is essential to having a positive experience. Research indicates that a woman’s birthing location has a greater impact on her birth outcome than even certain health conditions (e.g., diabetes or labor complications). Take the time to research your options before delivery and think about the type of labor experience you hope to have.
An increasing number of women are opting to use the services of a midwife. These healthcare providers sometimes provide a more customized, empowering labor and delivery experience. There’s also growing evidence that midwife-led care produces better results and higher satisfaction with the birth experience than some other models of care.
Many women also enlist the aid of a doula. A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during, and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible. Research shows that having continuous labor support in the room during labor (whether from a doula, a partner, or a friend) improves maternal health and increases positive outcomes.
3. Get in Motion
It’s called labor for a reason – delivering a baby is hard work! Moderate daily exercise will help improve your stamina and strength and could help reduce your labor time. In addition, it can lower your risk for preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, hypoglycemia, low birth weight, and other complications. Find a routine you enjoy, whether it’s swimming, walking, or prenatal yoga. Strive for half an hour of exercise per day for at least five days a week.
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4. Ready Your Mind
Research has shown that mindfulness meditation can help new mothers stay relaxed and focused on delivery day, as well as decrease symptoms of prenatal and postpartum depression. Visualization, hypnosis, and stretching techniques can all relieve anxiety and fear. Start with as little as five minutes per day and gradually increase your time.
5. Create a Birth Plan…but Be Willing to Adapt
Creating a birth plan that sketches out your ideal vision of how labor and delivery should go can help boost your confidence and help you feel a bit more empowered. But stay flexible. Your birth plan is really just a list of your preferences, and it’s important to understand going in that not all your preferences may be accommodated. Some of the things you might want to cover in your birth plan include:
- Who your labor support is (doula, partner, friend, relative)
- Whether you’re open to using pain medication
- What type of labor support you prefer (e.g., verbal coaching, massage, etc.)
- Whether you want the option to get up and move around
- Whether you plan to breastfeed
- Whether you want the baby to stay in the nursery or with you after delivery
Talk to your healthcare provider about what options are available and mentally prepare yourself that things may change when the big day finally arrives.
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6. Avoid Negativity
Hearing other women’s labor horror stories, watching graphic childbirth videos, and even just listening to casual negative observations can wreak havoc on your subconscious and make labor far more stressful. Try to walk away or redirect the conversation when the topic arises, change the television channel, or log off of any social media feeds about scary labor stories.
7. Ask Questions
Childbirth is a major life event. It’s normal to have questions and a little anxiety. Talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns at your regular office visits. Ask your childbirth educator questions during class (you’re probably not the only person who has those concerns).
The Bottom Line
Every person’s labor and delivery experience is different, and regardless of how much prep you do, the actual event may look different from what you’d originally planned. Try to take the changes in stride and keep your eye on the ultimate goal: a healthy mother and baby.
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