On TV, labor begins with your water bursting and baby being born before you even know what hit you. In real life, labor — while dramatic and exciting — usually gives you a little more warning than that. Whether your due date is approaching or you just barely got your first big fat positive, here are a few tips to prepare you for giving birth:
Know Before You Go
Talk with your doctor about birthing positions, labor therapy techniques and hospital policies. The more you know, the less likely you’ll fear your upcoming experience. If you’re still in the early stages of pregnancy, use a due date calculator to estimate the arrival date of your baby. Consider climate factors, holidays, common sicknesses and other commitments that are based around that season.
Things to Consider
Outline a pregnancy birth plan, and add to it as you learn more. Each pregnancy and birth experience is unique and should be adapted to suit your preferences. A birth plan lists your wishes for the birth and helps keep you, your spouse and the doctor and nursing staff on the same page.
What to Pack
- Baby stuff. Besides the car seat, pack a diaper bag for the baby. Include several swaddling blankets, clothes and diapers.
- Clothes. Pack a change of clothes for you and your spouse. Include maternity clothes, comfy pajamas, underwear and nursing bras, socks and a bathrobe. If your husband plans on showering or being in the bath with you, pack a swimsuit for him.
- Toiletries. While the hospital may provide shampoo and soap, they aren’t hotel-grade items. You may prefer your own hygiene products, so pack them. This includes deodorant, hair products and accessories, makeup, lip balm and your toothbrush.
- Personal items. Nursing pads, sanitation pads, nipple ointment — you get the picture.
- Snacks. Some hospital and doctor policies won’t allow you to eat or drink anything, but some do. Pack crackers, juice, granola bars and candy. Either way, your spouse is going to need something to snack on.
- Cash and coins. Even if you pack snacks, inevitably someone is going to need something from the vending machines or cafeteria.
- Entertainment and electronics. Once you’re admitted, you may not be in serious labor the whole time. Pack something to keep you and your hubby busy, whether it’s movies, a card game, your laptop or cross stitching. Include your camera, as well as chargers for everything — especially your phone.
- Comfort items. Bring whatever you plan to use to increase comfort and help pain relief during labor. This could be a calming playlist, birthing balls or your own pillow.
- Birth plan and other vital documents. Print several copies of your birth plan so you, your spouse and the hospital staff have easy access to it. Also make sure to have all the necessary documents you’ll need, including insurance cards, photo ID and contact information for family and friends.
Signs of Labor
Your body will typically begin preparing for labor weeks before you give birth. Signs of labor include nesting (a spurt of energy, usually to clean or organize), effacement (ripening of the cervix), dilation (opening of the cervix), bloody show (loss of mucus plug), rupture of membranes (water breaking) and contractions (when labor pains begin), according to the Mayo Clinic. You may go through some of these stages without recognizing it, or you may experience a few false alarms. This is normal — consider it a practice run for the real thing.
Written by Heather Cox; Staff Writer for Mom at Last
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