Labour and birth: why it’s good to be prepared
As your due date gets nearer, it’s natural to think about labour and birth.
Knowing what to expect from labour and birth can help you feel calm and relaxed on the day. And staying calm and relaxed can mean better contractions during labour and a shorter labour.
To find out what to expect, talk with your doctor or midwife, ask questions, go to birth classes, and make a birth plan if you haven’t already.
Also, some preparation at home can help you feel emotionally and practically ready for your new baby. For example, it helps to know that your bag is packed, your freezer is full, your hospital or midwife’s phone number is within easy reach, and family and friends are ready to lend a hand.
Birth, antenatal or prenatal classes help you and your partner get ready for labour, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting. At birth classes you can also ask questions and get specific information about the place where your baby will be born.
You can do private classes on hypnobirth, calmbirth and so on. If you’re interested, you can look them up online to see whether they’re offered in your area, or ask your doctor or midwife for more information.
Birth plans can cover as many aspects of giving birth as you like. Your birth plan could include:
- who you want in your birth environment
- what you want to wear during labour
- who you want with you during labour and at the birth
- how you want to manage pain during labour
- whether there are any procedures you’d like to avoid
- who you want to cut the umbilical cord.
Before labour, it’s good to share your birth plan with the midwife or doctor who’ll be looking after you, so they understand your preferences and can work with you to achieve them.
Keep in mind that your baby’s plan might be different from yours. Also, what you need and want might change on the day, so think of the birth plan as a guide and stay flexible.
Some pregnant women want only female health professionals to care for them during labour and birth. You can ask for a female midwife or doctor, but it might not be possible to have one – especially if you or your baby need urgent or specialised medical attention.
Your hospital bag: what to include
If you’re giving birth in a public hospital, private hospital or birth centre, you’ll need to pack a hospital bag. If you’re planning a homebirth, it’s still a good idea to pack a bag in case you need to go to the hospital unexpectedly.
Consider packing your bag at about 32 weeks so you’re ready if labour happens early.
- your pregnancy health record
- some things for labour – old, oversized t-shirts, extra undies, warm socks, lip balm and snacks
- basic toiletries – toothpaste, toothbrush, soap or body wash, shampoo, conditioner and so on
- maternity sanitary pads
- pyjamas, day clothes, slippers and comfortable shoes
- some basics for baby – nappies, singlets, socks, a beanie, tops and bottoms, one-piece suits, and large cotton or muslin wraps.
Easy-open tops for breastfeeding, along with a maternity bra and breast pads, are also a good idea.
You might also like to bring things for your birth environment like:
- essential oils or aromatherapy
- a TENS machine
- blankets or rugs.
Before packing, ask your hospital or birth centre about what they’ll provide for you and your baby.
Getting to the hospital or birth centre
You’ll need to get to the hospital or birth centre to have your baby, unless you’ve planned a homebirth. It’s a good idea to plan:
- how you’re going to get there – for example, by car or taxi
- which route you’ll take
- where you’ll park, how much parking will cost, and whether there’s enough petrol in the car
- which entrance to go to, especially at night, because it might be different from the daytime entrance
- who’ll look after your other children, if you have any
- how you’ll get baby home – if you’re travelling by car, you’ll need a properly-fitted, rear-facing child car seat.
Before going into the hospital, it’s good to call ahead so that staff can prepare for your arrival.
If your labour is happening fast or you’re concerned about your health or your baby’s, call an ambulance by dialling 000.
Planning for coming home after birth
It’s good to plan practical and emotional ‘back-up’ for after your baby is born. For example, you can ask extended family, friends or other people to cook you a meal, drop in for a visit or give you a call. You don’t have to do everything if others are willing to lend a hand.
If you have time in the weeks before the birth, it’s also a good idea to stock your freezer with nutritious meals. In the early weeks with your baby, these meals might be handy when you need a healthy dinner in a hurry.
It’s important to register your baby’s birth with your state or territory – registering is free. Your hospital or birth centre will give you information about how to register the birth online. If you had a homebirth, your midwife will give you the information.
Support before and after birth
Support people can encourage and comfort you during labour and birth. Before the birth, talk with your support people about your birth plan and how they can help you.
Caring for a new baby is a big and important job, and parenting support can help. Support is also good for your wellbeing. Support can come from your family and friends, health and child care professionals, and community resources.
If you have extra medical, cultural, social or emotional needs, you might see people like social workers, cultural workers, Aboriginal liaison officers (ALOs) and lactation consultants, as well as midwives and doctors. They can organise support and services for you.
raisingchildren.net.au is full of reliable, practical information about caring for your baby and yourself. You could start by checking out our Newborns section.