HealthAgenda

Pregnancy & Birth

How to prepare for childbirth

Getting your body and mind ready for labour will help you feel more prepared. We ask a midwife for her tips on preparing for birth.

Lucy E Cousins
July 2018

As any new or expectant mum will tell you, counting down to your due date starts as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. Many women feel both excitement and fear, especially if it’s their first birth.

According to midwife Edwina Sharrock from Birth Beat, a participant of the HCF Catalyst health tech accelerator program, there are some simple and effective ways to prepare your mind, body and support team for the birth of your child.

1. Listen to your body

Your body is coping with a lot of changes in pregnancy, and you may be feeling tired, faint or nauseas, particularly in the first 12 weeks. Although you may want to keep up your routine, it is important to recognise you may not be able to do as much as usual.

“A lot of women… just keep soldiering on. But it’s okay to have a quiet weekend or go to bed at 8pm – especially in the weeks leading up to the birth,” says Sharrock.

2. Exercise

Pregnancy is about looking after yourself and the baby, and listening to what your body needs, says Sharrock. She recommends including exercises such as prenatal yoga, which can build up muscle strength, reduce lower back pain and decrease anxiety, as well as pelvic floor exercises. Your doctor or health care team can advise you on how to perform these.

3. Learn about labour

Being aware of what happens during labour and the pain management available to you is incredibly important, says Sharrock. Education empowers parents and this can help to reduce your fears.

Many couples find antenatal classes, which cover areas including the signs of labour, relaxation and breastfeeding, help them feel more confident about the labour and caring for a newborn. If this is something you’re interested in, it’s a good idea to book early; aim to finish the course by the time you’re 36 weeks pregnant (or earlier if expecting multiple babies). Ask your doctor or midwife which classes they recommend.

Sharrock stresses that it’s important to include dads or support partners in this educational process because if they’re not fully aware of what happens during birth, it can be hard for them to see their partner in distress.

4. Write down your ‘birth wishes’

Whether you opt to give birth in a hospital or birth centre, it’s important that you choose somewhere you feel comfortable. You might choose to tour hospitals and birth centres before making decisions on the right place for you to give birth.

Making a plan can help you decide the basics of your labour – which health professionals are you going to choose? What pain management options are available to you? Even though you might have an idea of how labour will go, it’s important to understand that it might be different – and that’s okay.

“I actually advocate for ‘birth wishes’,” explains Sharrock. “If we have something written down and we call it a ‘plan’, then it doesn’t go our way, we see it as failing. But birth is the first step in your parenting journey and it’s the first step to realising that you don’t have much control in the process.”

5. Create a support village

Your support network may include your healthcare team, as well as family and friends.

In the lead up to your due date, spend time with positive and uplifting friends if you can.

“The minute you’re pregnant, everyone wants to share their advice, opinions and horror stories with you,” says Sharrock.

Sometimes negative stories can increase your fears, so try to focus on your own experience and stay positive.

Likewise, when you’re choosing who will be in the birthing suite with you, make sure they’re people who make you feel safe and secure, and they understand your birth wishes. Discuss what photos they can take during or after labour, and when they can post to social media or any other communications.

6. Trust in the process

Finally, one of the most important ways to prepare yourself is to trust in the birthing process, says Sharrock. Be prepared and then be prepared to go with the flow.

“It’s important for mums to remember that there is no right or wrong way to give birth,” says Sharrock. “It’s something we’ve been doing for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s beautiful, normal, natural.”

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