When Whitney Hilts was pregnant with her first child four years ago, she armed herself with information, anything that might make her labour and delivery as easy as possible. “I took a prenatal class and attempted—and failed—at daily Kegel exercises,” she says. With her second, born in August 2016, she had a different plan. There were a few things she did the same (cord blood banking and bringing just one bag to the hospital when it was go-time), as well as a few new strategies she wished she’d thought of with baby No.1.
“The second time, I brought a sports bra to wear while labouring so that I wasn’t just in that flimsy hospital gown, popping out all over the place,” Hilts says. “I had hoped to have the exact same family members in the delivery room with me—they really helped create a very calming experience—but none of them made it because it was such a quick delivery.”
There are plenty of ways to ensure you have an easier labour and delivery, and almost all of them start before your contractions do. Here are six things you can do now for a better delivery on labour day.
1. Find the right caregiver If you’re not jiving with your doctor or midwife, now’s the time to find another healthcare provider, one you have a better rapport with. “Find a caregiver you trust and connect with,” says Michele Buchmann, a registered midwife in Brentwood Bay, BC. “One of the most important preparations for childbirth is to limit fear and anxiety around the birthing process. Trusted caregivers, who are well informed and flexible, will help.” You’ll want to choose someone you can be open with—and someone who’s a good communicator from day one. “The first time you have a good chat about the choices and options you have shouldn’t be during childbirth,” says Jessica Austin, a doula in Vancouver. “By having good talks prenatally, you get used to the way your attendants respond and communicate, so it won’t surprise you later on.” Your doctor or midwife should support your choices and birth philosophy, Austin adds. Hilts says her OB/GYN fit beautifully with her personality: “She was very laid-back and didn’t push anything on us.”
2. Eat well “Nutrition is one of the best ways a woman can set herself up for a smooth and healthy birth,” says Austin. “Eating ample protein, leafy-green veggies and reducing sugar can go a long way for minimizing risks of pregnancy-related conditions and maximizing health.” In a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, researchers found that women who ate six dates a day during their final four weeks of pregnancy were more dilated when they got to the hospital, were less likely to need oxytocin (Pitocin) or prostin to start and progress labour, and had shorter labours overall. (Hey, it can’t hurt to try—dates have a ton of vitamins and minerals, plus they keep you regular, which can be handy if you suffer from constipation during pregnancy.)
3. Keep fit Staying active during pregnancy can help you catch your ZZZs, prevent you from packing on too many pounds, increase your stamina and boost your mood. For folks who weren’t big on fitness prior to getting pregnant, most healthcare providers will still give moderate activity (walking, swimming or yoga) most days of the week the go-ahead. “Prenatal yoga is great for minimizing tension in the pelvis and lower back, and is a chance to practice using the mind and breath to stay comfortable during birth,” Austin says.
4. Consider a birth plan A birth plan can really help you feel better prepared for the big day. Do you want your partner to cut the cord? Are you going to try going without an epidural? It’s a chance for you to let your care provider know where your head is at. “Having this clarity can help make any decisions that need to be made during your birth feel less overwhelming,” says Austin. When families bring in birth plans, it’s often an exercise in reducing anxiety, adds Buchmann. “Sometimes it illuminates issues that haven’t yet been discussed.” If you’re not into the idea, though, skip it. “Our doctor told us to avoid making one because things never happen according to plan,” Hilts says. “I’m the type of person who, if I made a plan and didn’t stick with it, it would just cause me more anxiety in the long run.”
5. Take prenatal classes Enrol now—prenatal classes are still the gold standard when it comes to getting educated and informed on labour and delivery, which can make the whole process a much better experience. It can also give you the opportunity to meet other families who are at the same stage you are. “I like the fact that during these classes, questions often come up that my families may not have thought of,” Buchmann says.
6. Stay mobile Whether you’re doing a home birth or you’re waiting in the delivery room at the hospital, don’t think you have to lie down the entire time. “Just because the bed is in the centre of the room doesn’t mean that’s the best or only place to spend your entire birth,” says Austin, who adds that you should try to keep moving. “Staying out of bed and using the shower, bath or birth ball for comfort can really be helpful.” But don’t resist the bed: Austin also notes that restful positions, like lying on your side, can be very helpful, as can massage and other hands-on comfort techniques.