1. Attend antenatal education classes. The lessons learnt here are invaluable as you will learn everything you need to know about pregnancy, labour and childbirth. It also provides an arena for you to ask questions and receive immediate feedback. Most antenatal classes are ‘couples’ classes so that your partner can feel involved and learn about the process too.
2. Follow a healthy diet, which is proven to lessen the incidence of high-risk pregnancies. Eating well can also prevent pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness. Take pregnancy-appropriate supplements and vitamins to guarantee you are well nourished and to ensure your baby is developing appropriately too.
3. Perform appropriate exercises during pregnancy. Pilates is a great example of beneficial exercise as it can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to help during childbirth. Exercising in water provides gravity-free resistance with less risk of injury on joints and muscles, while increasing muscle tone, your strength and your flexibility.
4. Go for regular check-ups with your gynae or midwife to identify any problems and to make sure baby is growing well. This will help you feel reassured when it’s time for baby to arrive.
5. Develop your own birth plan. Your birth plan should outline everything you want and need out of birth and be sure to show this to your healthcare provider. Your birth plan should cover all aspects, such as whether you want a medication-free birth, what type of birth you’d like, even what music you want playing when you give birth. Remember, however, that not all births go according to plan – so be prepared to alter your birth plan if required.
6. Bond with your baby and establish a relationship with your baby, before you have given birth. Speak to baby, get your partner to give gentle massages, play music for your baby.
7. Be prepared in advanced. Have baby’s room ready, and be sure to have all the necessary equipment you’ll need for a newborn. Pack your hospital bag in advance. Being prepared will help you feel more calm as your labour nears, and not having a mad rush at the end of your pregnancy is essential to a calm and stress-free experience.
8. Choose the birth option that suits you best, be it home birth, hospital birth, water birth, vaginal delivery or a caesarean section. Research all the different types of birth and decide which one you are most comfortable with. Be informed and make your own decision without being influenced by others.
9. If you decide on a vaginal delivery, be sure to perform perineal massage to reduce the risk of episiotomy or tearing. You should also practice Kegel exercises. These activities will help increase elasticity as well as strengthen and tone the perineum for childbirth.
10. Formulate your own positive expectations regarding birth. Don’t expect pain, as you will then experience pain. Dreading the idea of childbirth is sure to contribute to a negative experience. Recognize birth as the welcoming of a beautiful and joyous addition into your life.
11. Have a support person with you on the big day. Whether your partner, a family member or even a doula, don’t labour alone. Knowing you have someone to support you will help you relax and feel more confident.
12. There are a variety of techniques to use during labour to make it easier and more manageable. Consider massage, aromatherapy, and music therapy to help relax you. A calm, quiet environment will help you feel more in control. Water acts as a powerful pain management method. Climbing into the bath once you’re in the active phase of labour (around 4-5cm dilated) will help greatly with your contractions.
13. Consider different birthing techniques to help you during labour. Hypnobirthing is a fairly new concept using active birthing, which alters the way in which you view birth. For example, you view pain as ‘pressure’ and contractions as ‘waves’. You allow your body to take over the process of birth. Waterbirth is becoming more and more popular and provides a quiet, serene atmosphere for your baby to be born into.
14. Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone is free to make their own choices, and everyone has different experiences of pregnancy, labour and birth. Guilt is commonplace with pregnant women. The important thing is to do what makes you happy and comfortable. Try not to question your own decisions.
15. Most importantly, believe in yourself. Know that you can birth successfully. Have a positive attitude. You have essentially had nine months to prepare for the big day. You can do it!