How to prepare for birth
Updated: Jun 3, 2020
1. The #1 way to prepare for birth to my way of thinking is to learn and think about what it is you want in your birth. We all want healthy babies, so after that...
Do you have a philosophy or way of thinking about birth already? Do you feel informed? Do you have the evidence you need to make the best decisions for yourself and for your baby? Do you have a health condition that needs special attention? How does the evidence and your own health mesh with your philosophy toward birth? What are your options in your community for provider type and birth place? Would you travel for the care you would like?
But where to get information... the internet is full of good information and some that's. . . not so great. Many pregnant folks turn to birth groups on social media sites which be helpful in developing a sort of community but when it comes to accurate information, they can contain well-meaning advice yet miss the details of your health and the resources to back them up. Any group that advocates a singular way or mentality is not likely to be in anyone's best interest. Good health care is nuanced and personalized so it is hard to make choices based on community groups, though there may be avenues of information or resources that you can find through these sorts of groups. When it gets to the nitty gritty, use credibly sourced information.
There are some excellent resources online though that provide information without dogma. These tend to have references so you can follow the information contained to the original sources. One such site is Childbirth Connection. It provides information and guidance to help you make choices about your perinatal/maternity care starting with planning pregnancy but going into choosing a type of care provider, who that may be, choosing a place to give birth and through postpartum. Another great site is Evidence Based Birth founded and run by Rebecca Dekker who holds a PhD, is a nurse, and an excellent researcher. You can find a wealth of information on many topics related to birth through this site. There's also a podcast. And since 1 in 3 births is by cesarean in the US I have to share the International Cesarean Awareness Network a group which works to improve rates of vaginal birth and Vaginal Birth after Cesarean (VBAC) while providing support and information for family centered cesarean as well as recovering from cesarean. There are a host of other online resources I'll be sharing a page on this website with internet resources soon.
I'm a big fan of books. And there are quite a few good books for obtaining information to help you set out on a course for what your preferences are. My #1 book choice for getting started is The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer. It provides unbiased reference information that can aid you in figuring out what you want out of your care.
When you get to number 2, you can ask the providers you interview about your questions too.
Select a care provider who shares your philosophy and respects your choices. Look at all your options and interview care providers to find the right health care provider for you. And don't be afraid to change providers if you realize you're not a good fit for each other.
Prioritize healthy eating. Eating for two actually requires about 300 extra calories per day for most pregnant people. Get enough protein to build your little human's body without taxing your own. Eat plenty of plant food (veggies, fruits, legumes like beans and lentils) your fiber to keep regular and get your vitamins and minerals from food. Choose whole grain for greater satisfaction and longer lasting feeling of fullness. Take a whole food based prenatal vitamin with folate.
Drink water! Healthiest people drink 13 cups of water a day during pregnancy. We can get by with less, as food contains a lot of water, but to keep regular, avoid bladder and urinary tract infections, and feel your best 2-3 liters/pints of water is a good place to aim.
Move your body 30 minutes a day 5 days a week. It may be hard to find the motivation when you're nauseous or tired, but the movement pays off in so many ways. Mood can improve. It may actually energize you. Folks tend to feel better toward the end of their pregnancy when they get exercise throughout. It's easier to keep moving when you get closer to labor. A little prenatal yoga can be great for aches. Walking with a friend, maybe another pregnant friend, can provide the cardio exercise you need while giving an outlet for thoughts and opportunity to socialize.
Involve yourself in a pregnant/postpartum support group. If you don't have one locally, ask your provider if they could host a group or consider starting one in your community. It's helpful to have people to talk with who are going through pregnancy too. For baby plans, meal trains after birth, the most up to date baby products reviews, parenting ideas, and camaraderie, pregnancy and postpartum groups are fantastic.
Chiropractic care and spinning babies!
To get ready for birth, visits to a chiropractor, especially one trained in the Webster technique can improve your alignment and make baby's positioning better for birth. The Webster technique is used specifically to align the pelvic bones and can alleviate some of the discomfort that comes with pregnancy.
Spinning Babies is a program developed by a midwife Gail Tulley to help with babies' positioning. There's a wealth of information and exercises on the website and parent classes are available in some communities.
#8 Birth Classes
Learn about birth. Even with a knowledgeable provider, spinning babies, doing some research on your own, it's worthwhile to attend a birth class and develop a firm foundation in case you have any choices to make during labor and to have coping skills for the work of labor. It's great for birth companions, partners or other parents to learn what they can do to support you during labor too.
9. Doula support
Wonder if you need a doula because you have a midwife? Plan a home birth? Took a birth class? Plan to get an epidural? A doula can be a valuable part of your birth team in most any birth situation or plan.
A doula is a trained birth support person who focuses on the non-medical aspects of birth. Doulas help pregnant folks and people on your birth team whether they're your partner, parent or pumpkin by demonstrating coping techniques, providing hands on support, giving partners a chance to take a nap or care for an older child, taking pictures, reminding you to ask questions about your care and by being there for you. Some will help you with your birth plan too. Doulas can be helpful in all settings and with any and all settings and with any type of provider. Having a doula reduces chances of interventions in labor and increases satisfaction with birth.
If you don't know where to start in looking for a doula, try Doula Match.
10. Know your power.
Ask questions in your pregnancy, labor and in your postpartum, advocate for yourself, share your thoughts and feelings. Only invite people to the birth who you can be your most vulnerable with. If you need something, let your birth team know, even if what you need is hard to say. You have the right to make informed choices in your care, to do so you may need to ask question which can be hard in labor. Birth and becoming a parent, whether the first or the fifth time are major events in your life. It's your experience as well as your baby's and that's important. Parenting begins before your baby is even born while you make choices about your health care. Empowerment comes from within. So don't hesitate to speak up.
Sorry, I need a number 11 because with all the planning for birth and baby, the postpartum recovery is often overlooked!
11. Have a postpartum plan. Invite people to join in a meal train before you have baby. They can sign up to bring meals to you and your family while you recover and adjust to life after the birth through a website called Meal Train . Make a list of chores people can take care of when they visit. Plan on being busy with your own recovery from giving birth and in caring for your baby during the first week or two after giving birth. Many people are surprised by how consuming it is just taking care of themselves and their babies after birth.