If you are expecting a baby, the anticipation of giving birth can seem overwhelming. There are steps you can take, however, to assure that you are well prepared for the labor and birth process. Here are some suggestions:
- Research labor methods. One of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby is to take advantage of hospital childbirth classes. You will spend time with other expectant couples and you will learn all about the labor and delivery process. You will also learn about different laboring methods such as Lamaze, as well as helpful breathing techniques.
- Choose your labor coach. You may want your husband or partner to be in the delivery room to help coach you through labor, or perhaps you would like to ask a friend or a family member to be there. No matter who you choose, make certain that your labor coach is in sync with your views on labor and delivery. In addition, some women prefer to hire a doula, which is a professional labor coach who will assist you during the labor process.
- Make a decision on pain medications. Perhaps you have already decided that you want to have a medication-free delivery, but then labor hits and you aren't prepared for the pain that you experience. It is a wise decision to do your research on all pain medication options -- from epidurals to general anesthesia -- so that you can make an informed decision on what you want and don't want administered to you during your labor.
- Create a birth plan. Once you have done your research on labor methods and pain medications, consider making a birth plan. A birth plan is a document that lists all of your expectations during the labor and delivery process. You can list your preferences during labor and delivery as well as your wishes for care for your newborn immediately following the birth. Some women draft a birth plan for their own personal use, so that they can refer to it during labor. Others make a copy of their birth plan and give it to their obstetrician's office so that it can be placed in their file. There are many websites available that have wonderful birth plan templates that you can customize to suit your needs.
- Pack your bag. You may not be due for 4 weeks, but then your water breaks and all of the sudden -- you're having a baby! Pack your hospital bag well in advance of your due date. Be sure to include all of the essentials, like your favorite robe and slippers, and other items like reading material and a going-home outfit for your baby. Also, be sure that you have a properly installed car seat to drive your baby home in -- the hospital will not let you take your baby home in a car without an infant car seat.
- Expect the unexpected. Labor is a very unpredictable process, so you should make plans for every scenario. Read several different pregnancy books to get a variety of perspectives on the process. If you have done your homework beforehand and are well prepared, you will have a more gratifying labor and delivery experience.