Preparing to give birth and wondering whether you are actually ready for when you go into labour?
If you’re in the final trimester of pregnancy and on a countdown to your due date, now is the perfect time to start focusing on your labour and how you’re going to prepare for it.
It’s about practical and mental preparation at this stage, and in my opinion there’s no such thing as being too well informed.
Knowing what to expect and going in with the knowledge to make your own decisions is the best way to prepare for giving birth to your baby.
Here are the facts you need to know and things you need to get done in preparation for giving birth.
1. Making a birth plan
I used to be completely against birth plans, and I still don’t think it’s completely necessary to have one. However you need to at least think about whether you have any preferences for when the time comes.
Birth plans can be as long or as short as you want them to be. It’s really up to you.
Topics to include in the birth plans are pain relief, where you give birth, who your birth partner is, whether they want to cut the cord and whether you want the baby to have a vitamin K injection after birth (in my opinion, say yes to the vitamin K!).
You could just jot down a few notes on a piece of paper and slot it into your hospital notes.
2. But labour and delivery are unpredictable
If you have gone to the trouble of writing a birth plan, it’s worth remembering that anything can happen.
Many ladies would prefer not to have a C-section, but that’s not necessarily going to be an option for your to avoid.
Be prepared for things to change and roll with those changes. Whatever happens during your labour and delivery, the most important thing is that you and the baby are OK.
3. Speak to your partner before you go into labour
Being open and honest with your partner before labour is a good idea.
Things will run smoother if you agree on certain things like your route to the hospital and what your preferences are for the delivery.
Speak to your partner about how they can best support you during your labour and make sure they are aware of any specific things you feel particularly strongly about.
4. Keeping active is key
Staying fit and active will help your body cope better with labour. Keep taking gentle walks in the lead up to your due date.
When you’re in labour, stay on your feet and walking around as this can help to get things moving quicker.
5. The early signs of labour include a “bloody show”
The “bloody show” refers to the mucus plug coming away from your cervix. This will be tinged with blood, possibly a pink shade.
Once this happens, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will give birth that day. It can still be two or three days before actual labour starts.
Make a note of when it happens and keep an eye out for any other signs of labour.
6. When your water breaks, you will know
It may just be a trickle of water, however when it does happen you will know about it!
Sometimes when your water breaks there is an actual “pop” sound. Your waters may come out in a gush. It happens differently for every woman and every labour.
Sometimes your waters can break before you are in established labour. If this is the case, call your midwife or maternity ward for advice as you may need to have labour induced.
Sometimes your midwife will need to break your waters for you. This is done with a long, thin instrument with a hook on the end. You won’t feel any pain when this is done.
Once your waters have broken your baby will drop down further into your pelvis as they prepare to be born. You will notice the additional pressure in that area.
7. How to know when it’s time to go to the hospital
If you arrive at the maternity ward after feeling one twinge, you will probably be turned away.
Labour contractions will be regularly spaced and last at least 30 seconds. In general, your maternity ward won’t take you in until your contractions at around five to six minutes apart.
Some people find they are waiting several days to get to this point.
It’s a good idea to call your maternity ward when you start having contractions, just to let them know how things are going and to get advice if needed.
You can check out the NHS advice on when it’s time to go to hospital.
8. Keep an eye on foetal movements
If anything feels unusual, or if you feel the baby is not moving as much as normal, call your midwife or hospital maternity ward immediately.
Try drinking an ice cold drink, as this can encourage the baby to move around a bit.
9. How to cope with the pain
The key to coping with the pain of labour is to have a range of options to use. You may find that one doesn’t work, so you switch to another until you find something that does.
Changing things up can in itself help you with the pain. You could try breathing exercises, music, hypnobirthing tips or a TENS machine to help you cope.
You can check out my post about pain relief options during labour here.
10. You may poo during labour
We all fear this happening during labour. It’s embarrassing to think that this may happen in front of your partner and a virtual stranger, who will then have to clean it up for you.
But if it actually happens, you really won’t care at the time. You’ll be focused on bringing your baby into the world. Don’t worry about it, it’s totally out of your hands.
Remember the midwife will have seen it all before.
11. You will know when to push
The urge to push will be overwhelming, so much so that you won’t be able to fight it.
It will feel a bit similar to when you have a poo, and the pushing sensation feels very similar too.
12. Listen to the midwife
Your midwife is an expert, she does this every single day. She will help you to read the signs your body is giving you and guide you on how to push.
Midwives are amazing people. They earn a rubbish wage for working appalling hours. They do this job because they truly love it. Your midwife is your greatest asset when you’re giving birth.
If they give you advice, rest assured that you can trust them. A good midwife will listen to what your concerns are as well, so that you can make informed decision about how to bring your baby into the world safely.
13. You might tear or need to be cut
It’s something that made me squirm when I thought about it, but if you do tear naturally or need to be cut, known as a episiotomy, to ease the baby into the world, don’t worry.
If you are given an episiotomy, you may be given some local anaesthetic to help with the discomfort. Tears could be minor or severe. There are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of tearing, you can read about some of them here.
Rest assured that if you do need stitches, they will heal in two to three weeks and it’s a small price to pay for the arrival of your baby.
14. You may need a little help
A C-section is a last resort and there are other options before that which a doctor or midwife may use to help you give birth.
This intervention could include a forceps delivery or a ventouse suction cup. Both involve a little more discomfort for you, but they help to pull the baby down into the birth canal if they’re struggling.
I had a forceps delivery with my first baby and although it was uncomfortable, neither me or my baby suffered an ill-effects.
15. Contractions do hurt
I’m not going to lie, contractions do really hurt. I would compare it to really bad period pain, or food poisoning.
The sensation of a strong contraction will take your breath away and make it difficult to speak.
16. Labour is different for everyone
No two labours are the same, so remember this when reading about other people’s birth experience. Some people breeze through it, while others struggle right from the early stages.
The length and difficulty of labour cannot be predicted, so be prepared with ideas on how you will manage pain and research your pain relief options.
17. You may not leave the hospital as quickly as you would like
Once the baby has arrived, you may want to get home as quickly as possible. However you need to listen to the specialists and midwives in the hospital about when is best for you and your baby to be discharged.
While you are in hospital your baby will undergo checks to ensure she or he has recovered well and has no obvious issues. They will also monitor your blood pressure to assess whether you are at risk of preeclampsia, which can be a life-threatening condition.
Listen to the medical advice given and remember you will get home eventually!
18. Your first wee and first poo after giving birth may be tricky
If you have had stitches then that first wee might sting. The first poo may feel quite intimidating, particularly if you have stitches.
Medical staff will want to know that your kidneys are functioning OK after labour, so may ask to see your first wee.
When it comes to your first poo, don’t delay as constipation is not pleasant. You can hold a warm flannel over your stitches as this can make you feel more comfortable when pushing.
19. You will still need maternity clothes
The baby is out, but even so your bump will take a few weeks to go down. You’ll still need your maternity clothes for returning home, so remember that when packing your hospital bag.
Do not worry about snapping back into your regular clothes right now, that will come later!
20. Practice using all of the baby gear before the baby comes
The final trimester is a great time to practice using things like the buggy, car seat and any other gadgets you have for the baby.
You don’t want to be fiddling around with the straps on the car seat at hospital when you’re desperate to go home. So learn how to adjust the straps and fit the seat into your car beforehand.
21. This will be the toughest but best day of your life
It will be a tough day. Labour is not easy. But this will also be the best day of your life.
Remember to focus on the end goal, which is having your baby in your arms, whenever you feel overwhelmed at the thought of giving birth.
Good luck mama! You’ll do just fine.
You may also like to read 18 ways to survive the first eight weeks with a newborn.