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Mother and newborn in bathtub after giving birth

Preparing for Birth

Preparing for birth will help you physically, mentally, and emotionally

Rebecca Bartsch, LM, CPM

It’s no secret that natural childbirth is a challenging endeavor. Natural childbirth is healthy, normal, and empowering, but I think it’s important to balance those beliefs with some honest perspective: giving birth is hard. It is physically tiring, emotionally trying, and in the moment, it can feel like it will never end. It is important to prepare yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally for the experience of labor and birth, as proper preparation will help you greatly if things get tough. Here are some things to consider as you begin preparations for your amazing labor and birth.

Self-care during pregnancy is important

Commit to self-care during pregnancy and during labor: A healthy pregnancy is likely to result in a healthy birth, so eat well during pregnancy, avoid harmful practices like smoking, and stay active! Daily brisk walks and deep squatting are excellent and simple ways to strengthen and tone your body for labor. Prioritize sleep in the last weeks of pregnancy as you will want to be well-rested when labor starts. During labor, plan to have plenty of simple foods available so you can eat and drink often. Food and water are necessary to fuel the work of labor!

Educate yourself about labor and birth: If you understand what is happening in your body during labor, you are likely to cope better with the experience. Consider taking a childbirth education class, reading books about natural childbirth, reading positive birth stories, or watching videos of women giving birth naturally, and ask your midwives lots of questions! And definitely ignore unwanted advice, negative opinions, and birth “horror stories”.

Surround yourself with a supportive birth team

Gather a loving, supportive birth team: Surrounding yourself during labor with people you trust and with whom you feel safe is one of the most important things you can do to ensure a positive birth experience. Some women want only their partner with them, others want an extra friend or doula as well, and some choose to include several friends/family members for a larger group. Ask only those who you think will help you, not sit and watch you, and give everyone a job so they know what to do.

Prep your support people: Educate your support people about what to expect during labor as much as you can, and let them know what you think will be helpful from them during labor. In what ways do you anticipate needing their help? What words or phrases would be helpful to hear from them? What words or phrases would you find annoying? Will you want physical closeness (hand holding, massage, etc.) or will you want space? Will you want constant eye contact or to sit with your eyes closed? Talking about this ahead of time is useful for giving everyone a starting point for what to expect, but of course your preferences may change once you’re in labor and that’s okay!

Create the perfect environment to give birth

Design your birth space with intention: As best you can, set up your birth space to reflect what makes you feel calm and safe. Will you want dark lighting or bright sunlight? Will you want quiet music, loud music, silence? Is there a particular focal point you might like to have, like a photograph or piece of art that inspires you?

Practice relaxation: Labor and relaxation might sound like complete opposites, but it is totally possible and totally necessary to relax during labor. When relaxed and calm, labor hormones flow better, the cervix dilates more efficiently, and the baby is able to pass through the pelvis more easily. During pregnancy, identify times when you feel stressed or like you aren’t coping well with a particular situation, and use that as a time to practice relaxation
techniques to bring calmness to your body despite the challenge you are facing. Try taking slow, deep breaths with your eyes closed for several minutes. Try visualizing that you are in a “happy place” or that the outcome you’d like to see from your challenging situation is unfolding. Try giving yourself an encouraging pep talk, even if it feels silly and inauthentic to say positive things to yourself, learning to do so despite the negativity you may actually be feeling will help train your brain to jump to positive thinking faster. These types of relaxation techniques are helpful during labor when you need some grounding.

Most importantly: Trust yourself, trust your baby, and trust your team!