Preparing for Labour
The preparations you do in pregnancy can contribute to a positive birth experience and smooth transition into parenthood. While it can be tempting to focus on preparing for what the baby will need upon arrival, it is worth taking the time to think about your own needs mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically as you prepare to bring your child into the world. If you have a partner, encourage them to participate with you.
Choose a health care provider that takes the time to get to know you, answers your questions, respects your right to informed consent, and honours your role as a decision-maker in your health care.
Take a prenatal class to learn about the physiology of birth and your birth options, including pain management options.
Tour your hospital (even if you're planning a home birth, it can be helpful to know what your local hospital offers, just in case).
Hire a doula. Use her wealth of knowledge to learn more about pregnancy and childbirth, discuss your specific pregnancy and childbirth questions and concerns, and use her connections to access local resources.
Create a birth plan, birth wish list, list of preferences, or birth intentions (whatever resonants with you). This could be written, drawn, and/or shared in conversation with your birth team.
Read and/or listen to birth stories (there are plenty of books and podcasts to choose from).
Identify your support people (partner, family, matriarchs, Elders, doula).
Use affirmations, such as, "I can birth my baby"; "My body is strong"; "Each contraction brings my baby closer to my arms"; and "My ancestors are with me."
Use language that resonates with you. Some people prefer "rushes", "surges", "pressure", or "waves" to describe their contractions. Ask your birth team to use the language you are most comfortable with.
If you have a partner, schedule some time alone together.
If you already have children, spend some quality time with them. Remind yourself of how far you've come already as a parent. You can do this.
Talk and sing to your baby. Visualize your baby.
Sit in ceremony. Pray.
Bathe, brush off, smudge, or another practice significant to you to release your fears or tension and prepare your mind, body and spirit for birth.
Talk to your matriarchs and Elders about childbirth. Learn about your traditions.
Prepare your birth space, whatever that looks like for you. Cleanse the space. Bring your medicine with you. Call upon your ancestors to be with you.
Sit in circle with other expectant parents, aunties, grandmothers and grandfathers, and Elders.
Physically (these apply both in pregnancy and in labour)
Relax your shoulders and your jaw. Breathe deeply.
Keep upright, moving, and changing positions. Follow your body's lead. Do what feels right.
Stay nourished and hydrated.
Use water. A shower or bath can provide relief.
Set the tone of your environment with music and lighting.
Ask your birth partner or doula to provide massage, counter pressure, or hip squeezes. Lean on them for support.
What a partner can do to help
Mentally: Carry the mental load. Research, plan, and sort out details so your partner doesn't have to. Read the books, take the classes, go to the appointments, ask questions of your own, and discuss options. Prepare yourself to be an advocate.
Emotionally: Learn the warning signs for perinatal mood disorders. Be prepared to help your partner access support if needed. And don't forget to take care of your own emotional well-being. Roughly 1 in 10 new fathers will experience postpartum depression and anxiety.
Spiritually: Honour your partner's role as a lifegiver. Thank your partner for carrying this gift and responsibility. Learn about the traditional ways of supporting lifegivers during pregnancy and childbirth. What is your role in the ceremonies of birth and welcoming your baby into the world? Are there protocols for you to follow? Talk to your partner about what spiritual practices are meaningful to you.
Physically: Help your partner to stay nourished and hydrated (during pregnancy, labour, and postpartum!) by preparing healthy meals and snacks and offering water. Be present: rest together, walk together, breathe together. Do the heavy lifting. Offer comforting touch. And be sure to take care of your own physical needs too, so you have the energy to support your partner.