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What-Can-I-Do-To-Prepare-Myself-for-Birth

What Can I Do To Prepare Myself for Birth?

When thinking about labour, most of us fall into two camps.  Either you throw yourself headlong into what feels like an ocean of information, classes, and groups; or you go into full-on denial mode, and sing ‘que sera, sera…' while thinking: 'What use is preparing, when you have no control anyway?'

Pregnancy and birth is a huge transition for your body and your mind, so being fit mentally and physically is really important. Mums who exercise in pregnancy tend to have fewer complications; and in some cases shorter labours, and healthier babies.  Yoga, swimming, and walking are great options – if you already have a fitness program you follow, listen to your body and don’t push it further than feels right for you.  Exercise also releases happy hormones in your brain.

But what else can you do to prepare?

Physical Preparation

Perineal Massage

Perineal massage in the third trimester sounds like the last thing you’d ever want to do; but for first-time mums, this simple technique can reduce your risk of having perineal injury.  This is a great video to help you get started:

Eat your way to a better birth!

Increase your fibre intake and vegetables (not too much fruit as they can be high in sugar too.)  Dump the junk foods, except for occasional treats.

Have your iron levels checked to make sure you’re getting enough in your diet – talk to your GP before starting any supplements.

Practice slow deep breathing

Slow breathing helps turn down the stress response, and gives your growing body and baby much needed extra oxygenation.

Sleep

This may seem like a no-brainer, but nap/sleep whenever you can. Expectant mums who sleep less than 6 hours a night on a regular basis, experience more pain in labour, and more complications.  Sleep for two when you can!  It’s hard work growing a human!

Mental Preparation

It’s totally normal to feel a little anxious in pregnancy, but if you’re being kept awake at night worrying, or not feeling like yourself for more than 2 weeks; talk to your GP or contact Nurture.  Being in a state of chronic stress and worry in pregnancy is associated with premature birth, longer labours and more mental health concerns after your baby arrives.

To prepare mentally for birth really means learning how to focus, and how to regulate your emotional state – fear slows labour, but you can retrain your brain not to overreact to your thoughts (most of our stress is caused by always believing what we think, instead of actual stressful events) that you worry will happen; but most never do! Talk to your midwife/GP about your worries – sometimes a sympathetic ear can make all the difference.

Reality Shows are a No No!  

Turn off One Born Every Minute – it adds to stress levels, and convinces nervous mums-to-be that birth is an accident just waiting to happen (high drama = high viewing levels!)

Think Positive

Focus on what can go right in labour, instead of what can go wrong.  Birth tends to go really well for most women – something we tend to forget.

Pregnancy Apps

Download the GentleBirth App and follow the daily recommended mindfulness, hypnosis exercises and breathing techniques.  A few minutes a day will make a big difference in how you enjoy the rest of your pregnancy.  You’re also building emotional resiliency for after your baby arrives, as you adjust to life as a new mum.

In a recent study in CUMH (Cork University Maternity Hospital,) women who used GentleBirth had more positive expectations and experiences of birth, compared to women who didn’t use GentleBirth.

Write down your birth preferences

Mums who have done their research and have written birth preferences, tend to feel more confident, and more in control.  No need for a 10 page thesis – just bullet points of how you’d like to be cared for on the big day, will go a long way as a communication tool with your midwife (it’s not a contract or a guarantee.)

Avoid the Negative Nellies

I’m sure you’ve met a few already, who can’t wait to rain on your pregnancy parade.  The pregnancy police, and negative nellies, are most definitely related.  Be sure to avoid the temptation of listening to the stranger in Starbuck’s, who tells you her 60-hour birth story….Tell her your baby is listening!

Choose your reading materials carefully! 

Put down the scary books ('What to Expect...' should be renamed 'Expecting Everything to go Wrong' in my honest opinion.) Pick up a copy of 'The Irish Better Birth Book' (I’m biased, but trust me: It’ll change your whole outlook on having a baby in Ireland.)  Another great book for bedtime reading, is Ina May Gaskin’s 'Guide to Childbirth'.  It’s packed full of positive birth stories, that will leave you feeling excited and inspired for the big day.  Read as many positive birth stories as you can find.

For more information on having a positive birth in Ireland follow Tracy's posts in our Expert section, or on gentlebirth.com; or pick up a copy of The Irish Better Birth Book for a more in-depth look at birth options.


About the Author

I’m Tracy Donegan, registered midwife and mum to 2 gorgeous boys. I’ve been working in Irish maternity services since 2005 and really enjoy helping Irish families have the best experiences possible. You may be familiar with my books – The Irish Better Birth Book and The Irish Caesarean and VBAC Guide, as well as the very popular GentleBirth Positive Birth app.

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