So you’ve got the fetus growing inside of you, you’ve made it through the morning (or as I like to call it, all-day) sickness, the extreme sleepiness, the weird dreams and the common aches and pains. Now you’re on the home stretch! But… now what? How do you begin to prepare your body for one of the biggest physical events of your life?!
Preparing for childbirth is not super difficult, but it is very important. After all, you wouldn’t register for a marathon and head in with no training or preparation, would you? Childbirth is your marathon, and labour can be a long, strenuous journey or a quick-and-chaotic sprint, or somewhere in between. Regardless of what the birth gods bless you with, you and your beautiful bundle need to be ready for what lies ahead in order to look back on this day with love and joy, instead of disappointment or fear. Here are my tips and tricks to getting ready for childbirth:
Eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet
In my infographic you’ll notice that I say eat like a diabetic, because in my opinion (which was passed down from my L&D-nurse mother who I think is brilliant), the diabetic diet is THE healthiest diet for anyone and everyone. Especially pregnant women. The concept behind a diabetic diet is simple: balancing your carbohydrate intake with your protein intake, choosing whole-grain carbs which have a higher fibre count, being mindful of your fat intake and going crazy on your veggie intake. Any of you who have Gestational Diabetes like I did totally get what I’m saying. Keeping your blood sugars in check during pregnancy will not only keep your weight gain steady and healthy, but it will also ensure baby’s blood sugars are balanced at the time of birth. Unbalanced blood sugars in baby mean struggles with bonding and breastfeeding in the first 24 hours of life.
Go Easy on the Lifting
This one is a topic that’s important to many women these days, as fitness competitors seem to be everywhere and women are finding empowerment through being strong and muscular. However, pregnancy may not be the best time for all of the ‘gains’ (excuse my non-fit-girl lingo). It’s true that given an absence of any issues that would place you into a high risk pregancy category, you should be able to continue all of the exercises you were doing before becoming pregnant. The one thing to remember is that having craaaazy strong muscles isn’t going to help you in labour… in fact, it would possibly hinder it. One of the most important concepts that I teach students in my Edmonton prenatal classes is that relaxation is key, but women who have such highly developed muscles will naturally have a harder time relaxing the muscles enough to make labour steady and more simple. One thing is for sure, save the “kegels” for after the birth!
Get your cardio on!
Now when I say take it easy on the lifting, that doesn’t mean this is your excuse to ride the couch all day every day (unless you’re struggling with extreme fatigue or nausea… then I feel for you girl, do what you gotta do!). Light cardio is the greatest for pregnant moms as it will keep your weight gain controlled, give you a much-needed energy boost and help build up your stamina for that long journey of labour ahead. The BEST prenatal exercises, in my opinion, are: brisk walking, swimming and prenatal yoga. Walking will also do the job of balancing your pelvis and uterus (yes, your uterus can get twisted!) which will help with optimal fetal positioning… which I will cover on a different blog post.
Keep your stress levels at bay
Whether we like it or not, stress is a part of most of our everyday lives. This is especially true if you’re still working or have children to care for already, but some of us just don’t tolerate stress well (I can definitely relate to you). The big problem with stress in pregnancy is that it’s impact on our entire body, like an increase in muscle and joint pain and holding tension in parts of your body to the point of causing imbalance, is going to effect our labour. It’s important that we find effective ways to manage our stress long before our labour starts to minimize these effects and teach our minds to be calm while bringing baby down. Some excellent methods of reducing stress, and things I often indulge in on the regular, are breathing exercises, meditation, intimacy with your partner, going for a float (floats are huge in the Edmonton pregnancy industry!) and shutting off to enjoy your favourite book or TV show.
We’ve all got em! Maybe your fear stems from the pain of childbirth, or maybe the random obstacles that could get in your way, or so on. Whatever it may be, hiding your fear or pretending it doesn’t exist is not only unrealistic, it just doesn’t work. You see, childbirth has the incredible ability to bring up a lot of repressed, negative thoughts, sort of like th body expelling everything before the baby is ready to come. I’m not going to tell you that you are not allowed to be afraid, because that’s unrealistic as well. What I am going to tell you is that acknowledging and addressing these fears will significantly prevent any blocks or stalls in your labour. It’s a human, primitive instinct to stop your body from birthing a baby in a fearful environment – it was the way that our earliest species avoided surrendering our spawn to predators. With this in mind, speak about whatever fears you have with your partner, care provider, doula, mother, etc, think of ways to try to minimize this fear, and then simply embrace what you cannot change.
Select the right care provider for YOU
We are lucky enough to live in a country (if you’re reading this from Canada) that allows us choice in who delivers our baby, according to what we want. We are different in how we envision our birth going – perhaps you want all of the medical equipment at your disposal, or perhaps you get freaked out by hospitals and want to birth in your own bedroom instead. Maybe you want ALL of the pain meds, or maybe you want to try and let your body lead the way with little intervention. Regardless, it’s important to remember that you have the final say, and who you choose as your care provider will directly effect your birth outcomes. Don’t be afraid to harness your inner hot-shot CEO and interview multiple candidates before you select the right provider. Ask their standard practice with things like labour augmentation and desired pushing times, etc. There ain’t no shame in the birth preferences game!
Hire others to make your experience great
For the amount of stuff that happens while your pregnant and during labour, there’s just no feasible way that a single care provider can cover everything. This is where people like pelvic floor physiotherapists, prenatal instructors (particularly an Edmonton childbirth educator like myself), birth doulas and masseuses come into play. The best place to start is to enrol in a really good Edmonton prenatal class (or a class where you are located) and get some ideas of what you might need from there. Pelvic floor physio is a must in my opinion, but no one enjoys a luxurious pampering more than a pregnant lady with swollen feet and a sore back! As for doulas… we are just awesome. We are the factor that separates positive birth outcomes from negative ones. Just make sure you interview lots of Edmonton birth doulas and choose the one that meshes well with you, your partner and the unique relationship you have.
Birth in your happy place
Ok so maybe thats a bit of a long shot, I mean we all can’t have our babies on the white-sand beaches of Aruba (if only!). We can, however, birth in a place that feels safe. That could be your home if you dislike hospitals or a hospital if you’re a better-safe-than-sorry kind of thinker. Either way, be sure to determine where you are going to feel safe. Remember what I said before about our primal instincts… our bodies will not allow us to birth in a space that does not feel comfortable!
Keep those partners in the loop!
The fathers or other parents are so often overlooked which is a total bummer, as this is a major experience for them too! In order to break this unfortunate predisposition, why not prep them as you would prep yourself. For starters, a good Edmonton prenatal class will teach you ways of how your partner can play the comfort role in the birth space. As well, it will prepare your partner on what kind of sounds and visuals they will experience, which will prevent them being emotionally scarred. It might seem like their role is so minuscule compared to yours, but they will take away a lot from birth as well – particularly, they will remember everything and have visual memories to last forever. Let’s made sure they are positive ones!
So there you have it folks, my drawn-out list of things to do to get ready for the big day. What kind of things are you going to do to prepare for your birth? Leave me some unique prep ideas in the comments!