birth preparation plan
Labour & birth

Your labour preparation plan

The nine months of pregnancy will give you plenty of time to prepare yourself emotionally and physically for labour and birth – Research Midwife Paula Barry advises how the following steps can help to get you ready for the big day.

You can start preparing for the birth of your baby from as early as the time your pregnancy has been confirmed. Many people do by exercising and taking care of their body, while some spend more time physically preparing the baby room than they do themselves. So in preparation, if you’re not doing it already, what is needed?

1. Get moving

Exercise during pregnancy will not only make it easier to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain, it will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth. Keep up your normal daily exercise for as long as you feel comfortable. You may need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses or if your midwife /doctor advises you to.

Try to keep active on a daily basis. Half an hour of walking every day can be enough, but if you can’t manage that, any amount is better than nothing. If you go to exercise classes, make sure the teacher is properly qualified, and knows that you’re pregnant and how many weeks pregnant you are. Swimming will support your increased weight, so aquanatal classes can be a good idea.

2. Strengthen your pelvic floor

Pelvic floor exercises help to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which come under great pressure during pregnancy and childbirth. The pelvic floor consists of layers of muscles that stretch like a supportive hammock from the pubic bone in front, to the end of the backbone. Your pelvic floor muscles support your uterus, bladder and bowels.

Weak pelvic floor muscles can cause urinary incontinence. This can happen if you laugh or sneeze and it is very common after birth. By doing pelvic floor exercises, you can help to strengthen these muscles. This can help to reduce or stop urinary incontinence after childbirth. All pregnant women benefit from pelvic floor exercises, even if they are young and not suffering from incontinence.

3. Count on a friend

Having someone to support you during labour, such as your partner, husband, friend or a relative, will help you to stay relaxed in labour. You can ask your partner to massage you. Having a relaxing bath can also help.

birth preparation plan

4. Massage your perineum

The area between the vagina and anus is called the perineum. Birth increases pressure on this area and it may be torn or bruised during the process. In some circumstances, the perineum may need to be cut (episiotomy), however massaging your perineum can help to avoid having an episiotomy.

Apply lubrication to the area and insert clean thumbs 2cm – 3cm into the vagina, pressing downwards toward the anus. When tingling is felt, stop and hold. Then massage the vaginal walls in a U-motion for a few minutes as well as the opening of the vagina. It is recommended you do this three to four times per week in advance of the birth at around 35 to 36 weeks.

5. Chill out

Knowing what to expect during labour can make you feel more in control and less frightened about what’s going to happen. Attend antenatal classes, talk to your midwife /doctor, and ask them questions, it will help you become empowered and let you make an informed choice when the time comes.

Learn how to stay calm and breathe deeply and slowly. Research has shown that women who move around in labour and who are allowed to give birth in the position of their choice have shorter labours than those who are confined to bed and push when they’re flat on their backs. Ask your maternity unit about various birthing aids they may have such as beanbags, birthing balls, mats, stools, baths or pools.

Mum’s tip

“I made sure not to listen to other people and not to read other people’s stories. I had huge anxiety around the labour. However I read one quote and it was my mantra during my labour, “It’s one minute, you can do anything for a minute.” – Kacy Downes

More like this:

Outlining your birth preferences
The ultimate hospital bag checklist
Everything you need to know about labour positions

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.

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ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….