1) Take childbirth preparation classes. This is the first and most important factor. Something. Anything. Especially if you’re having your first baby. Your best bet for the best preparation is NOT a drive-thru type class where you have more questions than answers. Check out everything that’s offered in town. Many courses offer portions of the class online or will create a schedule just for you. Do some research. For example: www.bradleybirth.com
2) Do your best to stay healthy and low risk. This means eating right, exercising, resting and taking really good care of yourself. Honestly, this is really not negotiable. After all, you’re growing a human! Staying healthy and low risk means having the best outcomes possible for both you and baby and you will be able to do more of what you wish if you’re low risk. This might even mean using a birth center instead of a hospital, if you so desire. If you already have a pre-existing condition, make eating well and exercising a top priority. This will mean you will have a faster recovery if you have to have interventions or even a cesarean section.
3) Hire a doula! SE Michigan has a wonderful selection of very competent, well-respected, amazing birth doulas-especially our very own doula team at Ann Arbor Doulas.
4) Pack your bags at around 34-35 weeks gestation. Include your normal toiletries, clothes for you and baby and specialty items like honey sticks(for nutrients when you can’t eat), olive oil (for perineal massage/support to prevent tears) and your boppy pillow you got from your baby shower. If you’re going to breastfeed after delivery, have the boppy handy to get started off right. Plus it might come in handy for use during labor to stick between your knees when you’re lying on your side ☺
5) Investigate the hospitals in the area and choose wisely. Hospital protocols will dictate your experiences there. For example, a couple of local hospitals will let you eat and drink during labor, which ACOG now advises is safe for labor. Others absolutely forbid eating and will restrict you to clear fluids. Other examples would be yoga balls, squat bars and birth chairs, multi-headed showers and Jacuzzi tubs. Some hospitals will only let you labor in the tub while others will let you deliver there. Know your options. Choose wisely.
6) Consider midwifery care. Perhaps you were raised to believe that you just went to an OB/GYN for all childbirth related care. If you’re healthy and low risk, there is no reason NOT to have a midwife. The midwifery model of care is more women-centered and they are typically allowed to spend a little more time with you answering questions and such during antepartum care visits. They are trained to help you with the natural process but work with physicians closely and still can make sure you get an epidural or other type of anesthesia should you wish. And, if your insurance covers maternity care, it will cover a Certified Nurse Midwife in the hospital. We have some amazing options for midwifery care in Ann Arbor and some hospitals considered in the ‘suburbs’ of Detroit. Check them out!
7) Pack Wisely. For while you’re at the hospital, consider bringing your own nightie to wear and even a pair of throw-away flip flops. The nightie is nice because sometimes the hospital Johnny can feel like what you were as a sick patient… your own clothes may help you feel more relaxed. And the flip flops are for, well, hospital floors… you can always toss those in the trash on the way out the door
8) Have a plan! Making even just a simple list of wishes for birth will ensure that you look into your options and know what’s available to you. It can make your wishes known for those moments when you’re busy focusing on that next contraction or your pushing and can’t possibly answer a question. A birth plan is not the enemy here. Keep them simple and short and above all be flexible! Let the staff know you have wishes and desires but that you’re fully willing to compromise. It keeps everyone enthusiastically supporting you and your wishes. After all, we catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
9) Talk with your partner about your wishes and desires. If you don’t have someone to talk with, hire a doula! It’s so important to discuss your fears and work through them BEFORE labor begins so you can concentrate on the wonderful experience you’re likely to have. Going in with a positive attitude will make a world of difference and a DOULA is a great way to do that. We are happy to hold your hand through thick and thin! Check out our options for birth doula and postpartum doula care.