Having a baby is an exciting and sometimes overwhelming experience. While there’s no way to predict what will happen once labor begins, there are a few things you can do to help you feel more prepared physically, mentally, and financially.
Exercise and eat healthy
Labor is a marathon! And just like any runner, you should be training for that marathon. You may have heard stories about women laboring for many hours and sometimes, even days, but the actual strength it takes to push your baby into this world is not talked about enough. It’s one of the things I was most surprised about after having my first child. After enduring the pain of contractions every few minutes for hour after hour, which is exhausting in and of itself, you then have to start the process of pushing. Pushing uses every muscle in your body, not just the ones you’d expect. On average, a first time mom will push for one to two hours. Talk about a workout!
So, what’s a good way to train for this marathon of labor and delivery - stay active. Walk, take a yoga class, go for a swim. If you can, aim for at least 30 minutes of low impact exercise 5 days a week. The goal is build up your endurance and overall body strength. You’ll need all that stamina to stay strong and push effectively towards the end.
Besides exercise, eating a nutrient dense, well-balanced diet will also prepare your body for labor. And don’t forget Pink Stork’s Labor Prep Tea and Labor Prep Supplement. Both are great ways to support a strong body for labor and delivery.
Practice labor positions
Before you have that first contraction, know that there’s no one right way to labor. Listen to your body when the time comes – advice I wish I had for my first labor. If you feel like you need to walk around or rock on a birthing ball, then do that. I thought I had to stay in bed, which made my contractions unbearable until I got my epidural. With my second baby, I felt the urge to be on all fours so that’s what I did. What a difference listening to my body made!
According to The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), changing positions during labor is actually recommended and can help mom feel more comfortable. Some positions you should practice are:
- Rocking on a birthing ball
- Standing or squatting while leaning on your partner
- Leaning forward over a chair or birthing ball
- On all fours with your partner applying counter-pressure to your hips
You won’t know what’s going to work for you until the time comes. Try a few different positions until you find one that allows you to labor more comfortably.
Take a birthing/breastfeeding/parenting class
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about what can happen before, during, or after labor, try taking a class with your partner. Classes will vary depending on where you live but most hospitals will offer some sort of education to help prepare you for your baby’s arrival. Birthing classes will walk you through what to expect as well as techniques to help with breathing and labor contractions. And since babies unfortunately don’t come with an instruction manual, breastfeeding and parenting classes are a good way to learn about what to do after the baby has arrived. Classes can ease some stress, build your confidence, and give you the opportunity to ask any questions.
Work on reducing stress with meditation and breathing exercises
Meditation is a great way to reduce anxiety and help you visualize the labor and delivery process. Keeping calm is so important, especially if a problem begins to surface. Breathing exercises are also a great way to release stress and help you work through the pain of contractions. Meditation and breathing exercises help to prepare you both mentally and physically for labor.
Write out your birth plan
A birth plan is a guide for your labor and delivery team on what your wishes are during labor. It’s not mandatory, but discussing your plan can help you prepare mentally for birth. It may help you gain a sense of control and empowerment. This is your labor so grab the reins and steer! Keep in mind the need to be flexible though. Not all deliveries go according to plan and decisions may have to be made quickly in certain cases.
Pre-register and visit the hospital
If the hospital or birthing center allows it, schedule a tour to see the facilities. This way, when the day arrives, you’re walking into a familiar place. You’ll get to see where you’ll have your baby and ask any questions you have. You’ll also be able to see what kind of equipment will be available to you during delivery, such as birthing balls. By pre-registering with the hospital, you’ll have less administrative stuff to worry about when you go into labor. They’ll already have your information and insurance on file.
Set up the nursery
Putting the nursery together is another great way to prepare both physically and mentally for the new arrival. For most women, the urge to nest and set up a safe space for the baby is strong. If you’re having any anxiety about the pregnancy or delivery, arranging the baby’s things can help you visualize your new baby in the space you’ve created for them.
Get your finances in order
Kids are expensive and getting your finances sorted before the baby arrives can ease some anxiety. Talk to a financial advisor for advice on setting up a savings plan for your child’s future. They can help you with a life insurance policy as well, if you don’t already have one. It’s also a good idea to contact your insurance company to get an idea of what they’re going to charge for your delivery and hospital stay.
Sutter Health. (2023). Pushing: The second stage of labor
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. (2021). Exercise during pregnancy.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. (2023). Labor and delivery