As your due date approaches the excitement for your baby’s arrival will be building.
There might be mixed feelings about the impending birth, and if this is your first baby then it’s difficult to know exactly what to expect.
Do not worry though! Everything is going to be totally fine, and this post is all about helping you get ready for the birth!
If you’re having a natural birth, then no one can predict exactly when your baby will be born.
Only about one in 25 babies arrive on their due date, so your due date is only a rough indicator for when your baby may arrive.
But of course once you’re in the final weeks you know birth is not too far away!
Whether you’re a really organised person or you have a subconscious nesting instinct that’s kicked in as birth approaches, there are a few things you can do to prepare for labour and giving birth.
You may also want to read my posts about things you need to do in the final weeks of pregnancy and tips for getting every room in your home ready for baby.
DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. This means that for any purchases made via the links I receive a small commission but it does not cost you a penny more.
1. Arm yourself with information
Knowledge of what happens during birth will help you to mentally and physically prepare for birth.
You may want to consider taking an antenatal course which will take you through everything you need to know about giving birth.
Information you will get at an antenatal course includes:
- Writing a birth plan
- Pain relief options
- Coping with contractions
- Effective breathing
- How to know when to push
- What happens after you give birth
Chances are there is some kind of antenatal class being run in your local area. Check Google and local groups on Facebook to see what’s available near you.
You could find groups, such as the NCT in the UK running courses, or if you have the budget you could pay a doula or birth coach to give you help before and during labour.
2. Try hypnobirthing
Hypnobirthing is a technique that the Duchess of Cambridge was said to have used when she gave birth to her first baby, Prince George.
The idea behind hypnobirthing is to help you focus and deal with pain by relaxing.
Experts in hypnobirthing champion several techniques that help you to remain calm during lab our. This includes visualisation, relaxation, deep breathing, self-hypnosis and mindfulness.
Hypnobirthing involves focusing on the positive and clearing your mind so that you can visualise your labour progressing to help you relax.
The theory is that this controls your fear and stress hormones, which can ease pain and get your body to progress through labour faster.
At present, research does not support claims that hypnobirthing leads to quicker and less painful labour, but anecdotally many mothers say it has helped them. So anything is worth a shot!
If you do learn about hypnobirthing ahead of giving birth, be sure to let your midwife know you will be using these techniques so that they are aware and can be supportive of your choice.
3. Pack your hospital bag
Some mothers-to-be have their bag packed as soon as the second trimester hits! It all depends how keen you are to get organised!
But if you are a few weeks away from your due date, and it’s still not quite ready, now is the time to get your bag packed.
There’s a full post on what you need in your hospital bag for a comfortable labour, but the key items include:
- Nightie or comfy PJs for giving birth
- PJs for after birth
- Phone charger
- Outfit for baby
- Muslins – get some giant muslins that can be used as burping cloths and swaddle blankets!
- Baby blankets x2
- Going home outfit for you and baby
Have your bag in a place where you won’t forget it when you need to dash to the hospital.
Remember to pack a few essentials for your other half such as a snack (something easy like an energy bar is best) and some change for vending machines and parking.
4. Go through your birth plan
If you haven’t already written a birth plan then now is a good time to have a think about what you may want one to include.
You do not have to write a birth plan, your midwife or doctor will know exactly what to do!
But it can help if you have specific requests to get those written down.
Key things you may want to highlight in your birth plan include:
- Whether you want to give birth in water
- Pain relief choices
- Whether you want an injection of syntocinon to speed up delivery of your placenta after birth
- If you are happy for your baby to have a Vitamin K injection after birth
There’s lots more about your birth plan and how to write it over on this post. It includes a handy birth plan template too!
As well as looking at your birth plan, have a chat with your partner about how you will get to the hospital. If you do have other children, make a plan for where they will go when you are in labour and make arrangements for contacting the person who will care for them. Warn them you may be calling them in the middle of the night!
One of the best things you can do throughout all of pregnancy is keep up with gentle, regular exercise.
Pregnancy yoga is a great option that’s gentle on your body but keeps you supple and fit.
You could also try swimming or just walking.
Try to keep up with a little exercise each day in the final weeks of your pregnancy, even if you’re feeling quite uncomfortable.
You don’t have to go for miles on end, but staying on your feet and keeping active can help keep your body strong for giving birth.
6. Try massage of the perineum
You can buy oil specifically for the task of massaging your perineum or just use sunflower oil to carry out perineal massage before birth.
The theory is that this can reduce the risk of tearing in birth.
The perineum is the area between your vagina and bottom. This area may tear when giving birth to your baby.
By massaging the area you can make it more flexible so that it stretches to accommodate your baby’s head in birth.
Doing perineal massage yourself may be a little challenging in the final weeks of pregnancy with your bump in the way, so you may need your partner to help you out.
Here’s how you do perineal massage:
- Clean your hands and get in a comfy position.
- Put some oil on your fingers and thumbs and around your perineum.
- Now place your thumbs inside your vagina (just 2.5cm in) and press towards the perineum and your anus against the sides of your vagina.
- Firmly massage in a U-shaped motion, moving from the sides of your vagina down to the perineum and back again. Do this for around a minute to two minutes.
7. Avoid negative stories
Anything that increases your anxiety at this time is not going to be productive.
You may find it best to avoid TV shows focused on giving birth such as One Born Every Minute. Many of the stories in the show are positive, but also you never know if a scene in the show might trigger worries in you.
Try to focus on the positives of giving birth and understand that your birth story will be different to anyone else’s. Every birth is totally different!
8. Try raspberry leaf tea
It is thought that drinking raspberry leaf tea in the final weeks of pregnancy can help women have easier and faster births.
There are mixed results when it comes to how effective this is, but it’s been shown that drinking this is not harmful to you or your baby.
There’s tons more info about drinking raspberry leaf tea in pregnancy and the possible benefits over on this post.
9. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is all about clearing your mind of worries and focusing on where you are right now. It has been shown to help with anxiety and depression, but also in a whole range of other situations such as pregnancy.
Mindfulness is a bit like meditation, but not quite so formal. It’s about focusing on the present moment.
Using this form of focus and meditation can help to soothe you and reduce anxiety. There are tips over on the Headspace website.
10. Prepare a postpartum healing kit
Get your postpartum healing kit ready right now!
I didn’t really get myself organised properly for this particular area for my first birth. I was much better prepared the second time around.
Of course anything can happen when you go into labour and while you may have a natural birth, you could also end up needing a C-section.
There are lots of C-section recovery tips from mamas who have been there over on this post.
In terms of stitches after birth, the best thing you can do is keep them clean and dry.
Here are a few essentials that will make you way more comfortable postpartum:
- Maternity pads – stock up on lots!
- Epsom salts – a sitz bath can help to ease comfort around stitches.
- Peri bottle – this clever bottle is designed with a nozzle easy to angle towards your vagina so you can spray yourself while weeing. It can prevent stinging where your stitches are.
- Nipple cream – you may be told that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, but in my experience the first few days always hurt. Nipple cream will help to soothe the area.
11. Understand the first signs of labour
Watching movies can give you a false sense of what the beginning of labour looks like. It doesn’t start with a dramatic gush of your waters breaking.
It tends to be twinges that then develop into contractions that are uncomfortable but not too painful.
Understanding the early signs of labour can help you to get mentally and practically prepared for what’s about to happen, so be on the look out for these things:
- Losing your mucus plug – This will be a kind of discharge that may be tinged a little pink. The mucus plug is what covers the cervix at the entrance to the womb. It comes away as the cervix begins to open for baby’s delivery.
- Contractions – cramps towards the end of pregnancy are normal. Labor contractions will be more intense, last around 30 to 70 seconds and regularly spaced out. Try timing them for an hour to see if they are steady. As labour progresses contractions will become so intense you will not be able top speak when they are happening.
- Back pain
There’s a whole post all about the early signs of labour here.
12. Learn about breastfeeding
If you want to breastfeed, then read up on it right now. As with giving birth, arming yourself with information is a great way to prepare mentally and physically.
Many women are led to believe breastfeeding is totally natural, which in many ways it is of course, but it’s also very difficult for some ladies to get to grips with. I am one such lady!
You can try looking at videos online of mothers breastfeeding their babies to get an idea for good breastfeeding positions as well as how to get the latch right.
I also recommend this amazing course, which is run by a lactation consultant. It’s online, so once you pay your fee you get lifetime access and you can simply go through the course at your own pace. After baby arrives you can refer back to it for help with other issues you may be having.
13. Line up help for after the birth
This isn’t just about getting people to give you a hand with things around the house, but also about getting the space you need after birth.
It’s such a magical time, and having visitors can be great fun. But equally you will want your own space to bond with the baby and rest so that you can recover from giving birth.
Make plans with your extended family about when they will visit and for how long so everyone is clear before the event. This way everyone’s expectations are managed in advance.
These discussions don’t need to be confrontational in any way. Just be honest with people and say “we would love to see you and introduce you to the baby right away. We’re thinking we will have you over XX days after I’ve got home for a couple of hours.”
It may be that you’re happy to have your mother-in-law basically move in with you right after the birth. But if you’re not going to be happy with that, then gently set the boundaries now. Give people ideas for how they can help you, such as with food shopping, but also indicate you will not be having people in the house 24/7 after the birth.
It’s all about being diplomatic, while also being firm when it comes to your own needs.
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Final thoughts on preparing for giving birth
Right now you should be all set for labour!
Remember that while you may feel a little daunted ahead of giving birth, it’s something that women around the world go through every single day.
And, most importantly, they go back to have second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth babies afterwards!
Best of luck with your pregnancy!