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


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.

soothing your baby's pain

Soothing your baby’s pain

It can be very nerve-wracking when babies become sick, but with the right treatment they do tend to recover quickly. But always check your little one’s condition with your doctor.


Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.