Preparing for Labor

How exactly your labor will proceed, is unpredictable. And the best oar to sail through this unpredictability is awareness. Heres a helpful guide to help you to prepare for labor.

Last Updated: 22 October 2020

Preparing for Labor
Preparing for Labor

Millions of women have given birth. Yet when it is your turn, the million experiences cannot justify the pain and the anxiety which your body and mind is to go through. Perhaps, what can help you the most is preparing for labor by knowing the common how’s and what’s of labor.

Do your Childbirth Classes

Most hospitals provide childbirth classes in the second trimester. Check well in advance at your birthing centre or hospital about the kinds of childbirth classes provided. Make sure to enroll early so that you do not go out of seats at the time of need. Not all prenatal classes are the same. Check what your hospital covers to get a fair knowledge of what you’ll be learning.

In general, most prenatal classes cover:

·         Birthing methods: You will soon be making a decision on how you want to deliver your baby. A prenatal class will educate you and your partner the different methods your hospital offers, to help you make an informed decision.

·         Signs of labor: You may not be sitting in the doctor’s clinic with your OB and nurses around you when your labor begins. You could be in your deep sleep, you could be taking a stroll alone or you could be shopping at Walmart. It is necessary that you are aware of the signs of labor, what to do and when to call your doctor. You will learn all about labor care before you reach the hospital, in your prenatal class.

·         During labor: Once you are at the hospital under labor pain, you could get anxious if you didn’t know what you would have to undergo in the next few hours. A prenatal class will take you through the steps that you will experience after you reach the hospital. Just like pregnancy, every child birth is different and a prenatal class can prepare you mentally for the unexpected.

·         Baby care: Soon after delivery, from changing nappies to breast feeding, everything is going to be a new experience if you are a first-time mom. A prenatal class can teach you the basics of baby care and nursing. Not all prenatal classes include baby care in it. You may want to check with your hospital what it offers.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Relaxing yourself both before and after birthing is an art which can help you handle labor and emotions positively. Yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, aroma therapy, massaging or a healing method – choose one and practice regularly.

Here’s how relaxation techniques help you in preparing for labor:

·         Studies show that women who have equipped themselves with relaxation techniques find labor unintimidating and also took lesser hours for birthing.

·         It can free your mind from panic and anxiety as labor begins and proceeds.

·         It helps relax your muscles and prepares your body for labor and delivery.

·         Relaxation also increases your chances for natural birthing.

·         Let your birthing partner join you during your classes or practice. This can help bring synchronization and coordination between you two during labor.

Get Physically Stronger

Easy labor is more about your strength and stamina than anything else. Getting physically fit in order to prepare for childbirth cannot be an overnight process. Rather, the thoughtfulness and effort you put throughout pregnancy and in the last few weeks are important. Join a pregnancy fitness class like yoga or aerobics, or alternatively practice swimming or gentle exercises which are advised for you by your doctor.

Make your Birth Plan

Discuss about your birth plan with your OB, doula, spouse and/or birthing partner. It is okay to ask questions and clear your doubts even if it may seem silly to you. Make a birth plan from all the inputs, preparing for labor at your best.

Here are a few questions you may want to consider:

·         Who should be your birthing partner?

·         Do you need a doula?

·         What kind of birthing would you prefer?

·         Is water birthing right for you?

·         What are your OB’s opinion about epidurals, caesarean delivery and forceps delivery? What seems okay or not okay to you?

·         What if contractions don’t begin by your due date?

·         What will be your plan if water breaks before contractions begin?

Most importantly, make sure you and your birthing partner are open to changes in your birthing plan anytime before or at the time of labor.

Pack your Hospital Bag

Labor can surprise you in many ways including when it is going to get at you. Be ready with the hospital bag several weeks before your estimated due date to save the tension of having to pack one after contractions begin.

Understand that it would be for a couple of days and it isn’t a long distance travel. So don’t try to squeeze in as much as you can. Instead, foresee the needs wisely and pack accordingly. For instance, if you have bought 60-number pack of diapers, you do not have to pack the entire bunch to the hospital. Your baby isn’t really going to pee that much in two days. And don’t forget to educate your spouse and people around about how the hospital bag is organized because, you wouldn’t be the one who is going to open it at the hospital.

Know the Signs of Labor

While you are anticipating with the hospital bag to run to the hospital anytime, here are the sure signs of labor you must be aware of:

·         Mucus plug releases: The mucus plug that has been protecting your cervix may begin to come out all at once or little by little; you’ll see a glob of thick mucus if it’s the first case or tinges of vaginal discharge in your underwear, for the latter, over a period of weeks, days or hours. While this is a sure sign of labor, you cannot predict how far you are to labor.

·         Diarrhea: Diarrhea could be a lesser-known sign of labor. Though it is not one of the sure signs, several pregnant moms-to-be report to have had diarrhea a few hours or days before labor began. Perhaps, it is nature’s way to clean up the bowels before labor.

·         Frequent, stronger contractions: Intense contractions which occur every thirty minutes call for a close watch for true labor. With stronger contractions, you are getting dilated and when they get apart by only five minutes or closer, you are into active labor. And a sure signal to call your OB immediately!

·         Water breaks: Water leaking either as a sudden gush or a slow release in trickles, breaking of the amniotic sac needs to be immediately followed by labor. If your water breaks before going into labor, you may have to reach the hospital immediately in order to prevent infection. Your OB will do an examination to check the dilation and effacement of your cervix, depending on which, you may be asked to wait for labor to set, induction or call for an emergency.

·         Cervical Dilation:  During your regular prenatal doctor visits in the weeks preceding your due date, your doctor will begin to measure the dilation level of your cervix. Your doctor may predict how close you are to labor based on the level of cervical dilation, for example, 2 centimeters dilated or 4 centimeters dilated. Birthing process would not begin until the cervix is 10 centimeters dilated.  

·         Effacement or Thinning of the Cervix:  Similar to dilation of the cervix, the process of thinning or effacement of the cervix precedes birthing. It is measured in percentage, for example 50% effaced, and can be measured only by a doctor during your prenatal visits.

 

It is wise to keep your mind open while preparing for labor. At the end of your pregnancy, we want the mother and the baby to be safe. So, if because of an unexpected reason, it demands a C-section, it should be so, and with any of your birthing plan, for that matter. 

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