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.
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.
“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
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