As a first time parent, you might have some questions—and even worries—about labor. If that applies to you, read on for tips that will help you rock your first birth. Overall, the best thing you can do to rock your birth is to be as prepared as you can be. Unexpected things can and likely will happen, but when it comes to birthing, knowledge is power.
Talk to Your Care Provider
Consult with your doctor or midwife throughout your pregnancy. They are the experts and have supported lots of families going through many of the same things that you are now experiencing. Prepare questions to ask them ahead of your appointments about what kind of treatment they provide. Understand the differences between doctors and midwives and find out more about how the practice you’ve chosen handles labor and delivery. If you’re facing an induction (medical start of labor), this blog post outlines some questions you can ask your provider. Don’t ever be afraid to call your doctor or midwife between appointments—that’s what they’re there for!
Take a Childbirth Class
There are lots of different types of childbirth classes out there—from hypnobirthing to mindfulness-based opportunities. The goal of childbirth education is generally to support you (and your partner and family, too) in knowing what to expect during labor and birth. Many childbirth classes teach breathing techniques and help you think through your birth preferences. Another benefit of childbirth classes if you are able to do them in a group setting is that you will meet other expecting families in your area—possibly your baby’s first friends. Pregnancy and early parenting can feel really lonely, but having support from other people going through similar experiences can help.
Practice Coping with Discomfort
Regardless of the kind of labor and birth you have—medicated or unmedicated, vaginal or caesarean—birth can come with a lot of discomfort and even pain. And while discomfort is often about physical experiences, sometimes the emotional aspects are just as challenging. You can practice for coming discomfort simply by noticing it in your daily life. For instance, whenever you notice cold wind on your face, a drop of boiling water on your hand as you cook pasta, or just the typical pregnancy discomforts, rather than wishing the discomfort away or complaining about it, take a moment to just notice it. Observe how it feels in your body and whether one discomfort makes you notice other things that are uncomfortable. See if you can use breathing techniques to cope for a moment or two. With minor discomforts, sometimes just noticing and accepting them can help them go away.
Take Care of Your Physical Body
Pregnancy and labor can be really hard on your body, but doing things like eating nourishing food, getting enough water, and exercising might help. It can be hard—especially if you are feeling nauseated—to eat well and stay hydrated, but do the best you can. And in this essay by Katy Bowman, PhD, she highlights why physical activity, particularly walking and squatting, are great for labor prep. Again, it can be tough to fit in taking care of your body while you’re pregnant because there is so much else going on, so see if you can find a friend to take walks with or a prenatal yoga class to attend, which is another great way to meet other expecting parents.
Hire a Doula
One of the best evidence-based recommendations for rocking your birth is to hire a labor doula. Doulas are professionals trained to support birthing people in the emotional and physical aspects of labor and birth. They don’t do anything medical, but instead work alongside you, your partner and your doctor or midwife and nurses to support you as you have your baby. Doulas have experience attending births and often extensive training in comfort measures, appropriate support during labor, and information about what might happen during your birth. They also stay with you throughout your labor and birth, and continuous support is one of the things that has been shown to both decrease the likelihood of needing a surgical birth and also decrease the chances that you will feel unsatisfied with your birth experience.
Expect the Unexpected
Even if you do everything in this blog post, unexpected things can still happen during your labor and birth. Before you go into labor, think about how you might feel if everything does not go according to your preferences. Identify ways that you might be able to cope with unexpected outcomes, both on your own and with the support of your family and friends or even a mental health professional if needed.