Are you getting to the point in your pregnancy where you’re thinking about birth? Looking for actionable ways to prepare for labor so that you can feel more confident when the day arrives?
Girl, you are in the right place! As a labor and delivery nurse, I know that there is a LOT of info out there regarding birth preparations. And it can be tricky to take it all in and weed through what’s actually necessary to do and what’s not.
In a perfect world, I think we would all try to do #allthethings, but that’s just not possible for a lot of us. So today, I boiled it down to 10 things you can do to prepare for labor and birth. Things that will have a positive impact on your birth and transition into motherhood, and things I don’t want you to skip!
Ready mama? Let’s go!
- 1. Keep a positive mindset
- 2. Think through the logistics
- 3. Pack a hospital bag that counts
- 4. Prep your body for labor and delivery
- 5. Create a birth plan, but stay flexible
- 6. Don’t skip the childbirth class
- 7. Help your partner become a knowledgeable source of support
- 8. Practice your pain coping strategies before you’re in it
- 9. Do some nesting activities
- 10. And set things up for postpartum, too!
- Ready to get prepared for labor? You’re gonna birth it up, mama!
1. Keep a positive mindset
This seemingly simple labor prep tip packs a serious punch! If you can stay positive in your mindset and vision for your upcoming birth, I can guarantee it will be better. I’m going to be honest – this whole buzz word notion of ~*manifesting*~ isn’t something that comes naturally to me.
But there is no doubt in my mind that the mindset you bring to your birth is going to impact your perception of the experience.
What do I mean by this? Well, simply having a positive mindset probably can’t reduce your risk of something unexpected happening (ie: an unplanned C-section or a stalled labor), but it can help you approach unexpected outcomes with grace and a sense of peace.
What’s more – a positive mindset can help with your perception of the pain of labor, too! In fact, that’s one of the big principles of hypnobirthing.
If we change our attitude towards birth (and the pain especially), and even the terminology we use to describe birth (for example calling them surges or waves vs. contractions), we will be better prepared to handle the pain.
So how can you encourage a positive mindset surrounding birth?
- Listen to positive and redemptive birth stories! We have featured SO many right on the Mommy Labor Nurse Podcast, and The Birth Hour is another great place to find them
- Use birth affirmations and mantras! Print them out, write them down, and actually say them out loud to yourself. You CAN train your mind to trust your body and feel positive about your upcoming birth instead of anxious or worried
- Get educated! More on this below, but the less sense of unknown that’s there, the easier it’s going to be to stay positive and feel GOOD before labor starts
2. Think through the logistics
I see a lot of birth prep checklists out there, but I often DON’T see this item on them, and I think it’s so important. It may seem obvious but working through and planning out the logistics surrounding birth can eliminate so much mental burden from your mind (thus leading to the positive mindset in tip #1!).
The thing about birth for anyone that’s NOT having a planned induction or planned C-section is that we don’t know when it’s going to happen. For a lot of us, that makes us feel a lack of control, and can even provoke a sense of paralysis in the planning department.
But actually, you CAN plan for the logistics of heading to the hospital and being away for a few days during your hospital stay. Here’s a little list of logistics to plan for and other tips to reduce planning stress:
Do a dry run to the hospital with your partner before you’re in labor
This way, you’ll know exactly where to park, where you can get dropped off, and which door to enter. You can get a sense of how long it takes to get there, and the best route to take.
I know a lot of people don’t regularly go to their local hospital, and their appointments are at another location – so don’t make your first trip to the hospital while you’re in labor.
Oh! And definitely ask if there is a different entrance during overnight hours at one of your prenatal appointments so that you can check that out too!
Install baby’s car seat when you hit 37 weeks
Once you install it, it’ll be waiting and ready when you need it. What’s more, by getting it done early, you can have it inspected for safety.
Usually, local fire departments or your town hall have a car seat safety technician available on certain days of the month. Check your town’s website or make a call to find out!
Have your packed hospital bag at the door
Or keep it in some other easy to access spot! You want this to be super easy to grab when labor begins and eliminate it from your mental load by getting it done early.
We’ll go over what should be in it in the next tip!
Make childcare arrangements for other children
Okay, this can be one of the most stressful logistics to plan for, but it’s not impossible! The biggest thing to make sure of is that you have someone on-call OVERNIGHT! Ask them to keep their phone on loud and near where they sleep from 37 weeks on, just in case. This was my biggest worry as a second-time mom re: my first.
And if you really don’t have anyone local that you can coordinate for childcare, this is one of the instances where an elective induction might make sense. It’s never something I recommend lightly, but I understand it’s a reality for some of you.
You might also consider looking into childcare options on a site like Care.com. If you start looking early in your third trimester, you can take the time to find a wonderful caregiver and have plenty of meetings with them so that everyone feels comfortable with the plan.
Make arrangements for your pets
Similarly, if you have pets that will need care while you’re at the hospital giving birth, coordinate this ahead of time, too. You’ll need to find someone that is available on-call and has a flexible schedule!
Create a household cheat sheet
If you are going to need someone to care for your pet or other children, create a little cheat sheet/info guide for them about your house. Include important safety information, details about sleep/nap/eating schedules, foods they like, places to go, etc.
This will be especially important if the caregivers are from out of town, or don’t typically spend extended periods of time with your other children (or pets!).
You can also include information such as when trash pick-up happens, any household help that comes, errand/grocery lists if they’re looking for ways to be helpful, and chores they can do around the house to help prepare for you to bring baby home.
3. Pack a hospital bag that counts
On a basic level, most pregnant mamas know they need a hospital bag. Just like you’d pack for any 2-3 day trip away from the house, right? Well, yes, but when it comes to your hospital bag, you want to put a little more thought into it.
I have an entire article with hospital bag checklists for mom, partner, and baby that you can check out, but here’s a quick rundown and some tips:
- Pack individual bags for labor, recovery, partner, and baby. This is hands down the best advice I can give you as a labor and delivery nurse. This way you’re not rooting through a black-hole bag of stuff looking for something you need during labor
- ONLY bring the labor stuff in during labor (and maybe partner’s bag.) Bring the recovery and baby bag in when you’re settled in your postpartum room
- Think comfort when it comes to clothes you pack, and emphasize nursing-friendly options if you plan to breastfeed. For me, this meant lots of wide-waist band lounge/PJ pants, comfy nursing camis, and lightweight cotton robes. Kindred Bravely is my FAV for this kinda stuff
- Include birth/breastfeeding props with your hospital bag if your hospital doesn’t provide them. A birth ball, nursing pillow, and your pump are a good starting point
- Don’t pack too much stuff for baby! Seriously, the hospital will provide all of what you need. You could literally bring nothing for them but the car seat, hah. But most do like to pack a special going home outfit, and maybe a cute swaddle for some pics in the hospital
- Put a little list of last-minute items on top of the bag. Things like chargers and your favorite pair of maternity leggings might not get thrown in until the last minute. Make sure you don’t forget by putting a visual reminder on your bag
4. Prep your body for labor and delivery
An alternative title for this tip would be to prepare physically! When it comes to preparing your body for labor, there are a few things to consider:
- Helping to get your cervix ready for labor
- Encouraging baby into an optimal position for birth
- Strengthening and activating the muscles used during childbirth (and postpartum recovery)
So, you might be wondering how to the heck to get that done? Let’s unpack each physical preparation for labor a little bit more:
Prepare your cervix for labor
As your due date gets closer, some changes are occurring inside of your body (usually without you even knowing!) that help your body push out a baby.
This includes ripening, where your cervix gets softer, effacement, where your cervix gets thinner, and dilation, where it starts opening up (this is the one we hear most about!).
For many women, these things will happen naturally, but there are a number of things that you can do to encourage these physical changes and help promote spontaneous labor. This includes drinking red raspberry leaf tea, eating dates, and using certain supplements like primrose oil!
Read More Details: 6 Natural Ways to Induce Labor
Encourage baby into an optimal position
This is another key way to prepare your body for labor. Because if baby is in a head-down position, looking at your back (known as an OA position), you will increase your odds of spontaneous labor. This is because baby’s head will actually help do those three things I talked about above (ripen, efface, and dilate). Yup! It’s true!
Strengthen muscles for birth and postpartum
And of course, I can’t talk about physical labor prep without talking a little bit about fitness. Did you guys know that there are a TON of research-backed benefits of prenatal fitness related to birth? A few of my favorite points include:
- Shorter labor and delivery: This 2018 study showed that women who exercise during pregnancy will have a significantly shorter labor AND delivery than those who don’t
- Higher chance of an epidural-free birth (if that’s your goal!): The same study showed a correlation between regular exercise during pregnancy to less epidural use during labor
- Keeps mood swings at bay and may decrease risk of PPD: Exercise releases feel-good endorphins that literally make you happier
- Easier postpartum recovery: Doing a fitness routine designed for pregnant mamas will help you strengthen your pelvic floor and core now for an easier recovery after birth
Want some help with prepping your body for labor?
We actually have a video-based course, Induction 101 ($29), that includes detailed, evidence-based info, and demonstrations on 20+ natural induction methods – almost all of which help prepare your body PHYSICALLY for spontaneous labor.
Whether that’s by encouraging readiness in your cervix, toning those muscles, or helping baby get head down and engaged – it’s all in there!
5. Create a birth plan, but stay flexible
Birth plans are something that I encourage every pregnant mama to create! Whether you have a strong birth vision, aren’t totally sure, are scheduled for an induction, or even have a planned C-section, there is so much value in the PROCESS of creating a birth plan.
A good birth plan template will alert you to choices and options you may not have known existed. It’ll spark knowledge and curiosity, and begin to remove some of the uknowns of birth. It’s a wonderful jumping off point for dialogue and conversation with your provider. And it’s also a great way to make sure your partner or other support person is on the same page as you.
But the big caveat here is to remember that a birth plan is not a binding contract! Keep that positive mindset that we talked about in tip #1 (and add in a healthy dose of flexibility) in place to make sure that your birth plan enhances your experience (and helps you visual alternative outcomes), instead of making your birth wishes more rigid.
Read more tips and info for getting the most out of your birth plan! And be sure to snag the FREE Mommy Labor Nurse birth plan before you go >>
6. Don’t skip the childbirth class
No prepare-for-labor guide would be complete without advice to take a childbirth class. I am a firm believer in the power of education when it comes to birth, and the best way to KNOW you’re learning what you actually need is with a comprehensive, high-quality, expert-taught birth class.
The good news is that in today’s day and age, that DOESN’T mean dragging yourself to a hospital-hosted birth class at 7pm to sit in uncomfortable chairs, or to an all-day-event where you don’t retain any of the information.
Online birth classes make it SO easy to get totally educated and prepared for birth on your schedule, from the comfort of your own home.
Learn more about my online birth classes and take a proactive step towards erasing the unknown and having a better birth today!
Related: Are Birth Classes Necessary?
7. Help your partner become a knowledgeable source of support
A story that I often tell is how much I prepared MYSELF for labor and birth (yes, even as a labor and delivery nurse) but how little I did to prepare my husband before our first son was born. Honestly, I took it for granted that he’d know what to expect, and didn’t encourage any kind of concrete prep for him.
This was a big mistake! He had no idea what to expect when we were in it and felt totally lost on how to support me when he saw me in so much pain.
So, learn from my mistake and help your partner prepare, too. Here are some things you can do:
- Complete a childbirth class together and actually practice the things it teaches
- Create your birth plan as a team and review it when you are full term. This will help your partner better advocate for your wishes
- Talk about birth with friends who are veteran parents. Ask for the birthing partner to tell things from their point of view
- Share labor and delivery content that you find useful with your partner. You know, like the IG posts, articles, and weekly pregnancy emails you get here in the MLN community ?
8. Practice your pain coping strategies before you’re in it
It’s all well and good to read about pain coping strategies, breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, etc. but if you don’t practice them, it can be really hard to put them to use when you’re actually experiencing the pain of labor.
I love to tell mamas to practice their breathing and relaxation techniques while holding an ice cube! It gets real uncomfortable, forcing you to put a lot of mental effort into using your strategies.
Read more about: Breathing and Relaxation Techniques for Birth
9. Do some nesting activities
I think a lot of you can agree that when things feel organized and accounted for, our minds can better relax. And that’s probably where a lot of the nesting instinct comes from! We want to feel like everything is totally ready so that our minds aren’t cluttered with to-dos.
So, I say as you work on prepping for labor and birth, lean into the nesting instinct and get your house totally organized, stocked, and prepared to bring home your new baby.
10. And set things up for postpartum, too!
To round out this list on preparing for labor and birth, I want to make sure you give some attention to postpartum prep too. Stocking your house with postpartum essentials and doing some things ahead of time to make your transition into life with a baby easier are two super valuable things you can do!
Here’s what I recommend:
- Stock your freezer with easy to heat, nourishing meals. Whether you cook them yourself, get a loved one to handle this, or just load up in the freezer aisle at the grocery story – your postpartum self will thank you!
- Get personal care products for after birth. At the minimum, you’ll need some good pads for postpartum bleeding, witch hazel pads, and padsicles in the freezer
- Gather breastfeeding essentials, too. Nipple cream, a nursing pillow, and breast pads are a solid start!
- Have a safe sleep space ready for baby in your room in addition to that perfectly coordinated nursery. Room-sharing is recommended by the AAP for the first 6-12 months
Ready to get prepared for labor? You’re gonna birth it up, mama!
With this list as your guide, you’ll be well on your way to a more confident birth! These actionable tips will get you totally prepared and ready to rock your birth in no time.
Have a tip to add to the list? Let’s keep the conversation about labor prep going in the comments!