At long last, you’re past the 30-week mark and nearing the finish line of your pregnancy. While you might be feeling a little anxious about labour and birth, we’re here to tell you that it is possible to prepare your body and mind for the best possible birth experience.
Follow these tried-and-tested tips from moms who have done it and start counting down the days…
Yes, you can get your baby ready!
Although it might sound strange, there are natural ways to encourage your unborn baby to get into the best position for labour. From 34 weeks, kneel on the floor over a birthing ball or chair. “My midwife told me to keep my knees lower than my bum to help turn my baby into a good position for birth,” says Nolene Steenson (37), mom to Frank (3 months). “I also swam twice a week. I had no problems during labour, so it was certainly worth doing.”
Line up your support system
There’s no doubt you’re feeling tired now towards the end of your pregnancy, and you’re more than likely not sleeping well either. So, from now, start thinking about the close friends and family members you can rely on for support, who can help with everything from grocery shopping to the labour itself (it’s a good idea to have a birth partner).
“My husband Mark kept going out of the room to try find a doctor, which stressed me out far more than the contractions,” says Sophie Hill (27), mom to Betty (2 months). “When I insisted that he stay in the room with me instead of pacing the corridor, I found I could cope better.”
Stay as strong and fit as possible
Research shows that women who are fit and healthy before and during pregnancy, tend to have a more straightforward labour and bounce back faster after birth. Go for a walk each day, or ask your clinic nurse about the best (and safest) pregnancy exercises − especially as you head into the third trimester.
Massage your perineum
From 34 weeks, start massaging your perineum (the area between the opening of your vagina and your anus) by using wheatgerm oil or sweet almond oil to help prevent tears. “A few weeks of massage made me more aware of that area when it came to giving birth,” says Kay Franklyn (28), mom to Abi (6 weeks). “I was able to focus on relaxing as I pushed my baby out – it still wasn’t easy, but I didn’t tear.”
Give hypnotherapy a go
You’ll be taught relaxation, breathing and visualisation techniques, which can also help you to release any fear, tension and possible pain during labour.
Think about hiring a doula
Research shows the benefits of having a doula present during birth include a shorter labour and fewer painkillers.
Drink raspberry leaf tea
This can help prepare your womb for labour when taken four times a day after 36 weeks of pregnancy but avoid drinking this tea too early before your due date as you don’t want to induce labour too early. There is evidence that women who drink raspberry leaf tea have shorter labours and need less pain relief.
Consider a birth pool
A birthing pool is a good option if you have no complications and a low-risk pregnancy. There’s increasing evidence that women who use a birthing pool for labour often experience an easier, more relaxed birth process. “Most of the pain was in my back, but as soon as I got into the pool it just disappeared,” says Nessy King (26), mom to Abigail (10 months). “It was like being enveloped by warm, soothing arms!”
Relax and go with the flow
When it comes to labour, it’s important to let your body do its job by being able to move around freely. Continual monitoring (where you’re hooked up to machines) isn’t ideal in a low-risk labour, as it means you’re not able to move around. The constant beeping sounds can also cause anxiety, which might slow your labour down and make it more difficult to cope with contractions.
Don’t stop moving
Moms-to-be who walk around during the early phases of labour tend to need less pain relief and are more likely to have a shorter labour as it progresses. “My midwife told me they’d run out of bedpans, so I had to keep walking up the corridor to the toilet,” says Susie Churms, mom to Alfie (6 weeks). “I’m sure it was her way of making me walk around, which was a blessing in disguise!”
Keep your energy up
Your body uses plenty of energy and burns a whole lot of calories during labour, so it’s important to build up your stamina and feed your muscles. Try to snack regularly and drink often, as this can make a huge difference to your overall birth experience “I felt like a hamster when I showed up at the labour ward with my pockets stuffed with cereal bars, but eating often really helped me to stay strong throughout the process” says Katrina Grand (31), mom to Gabriel (8 months).
Get into the best position for labour
By this, we mean the UFO position! This stands for upright, forward and over – and works wonders for a smooth labour. At home, stand and lean forward over the kitchen worktop or, in hospital, pile up the pillows on the bed and stand and lean forwards over them. Your baby’s head puts pressure on your cervix, which can make labour shorter and easier. “I stood for most of my labour, but when I got tired, I knelt on the bed, turned around and buried my head in the pillows,” says Jan Hendriks, mom to Jack (6 weeks). “As Jack was born, I was still kneeling and the midwife passed him to me through my legs. It felt so natural and secure, as I wasn’t facing anyone but my baby.”
Get your breathing right
Breathing slowly and deeply really does help you relax, causing less tension in your muscles and allowing your cervix to dilate. “With every contraction, I took a breath in and a long breath out – the gas and air helped with this too. When I frowned, my midwife reminded me to relax my face. It’s quite difficult to tense your muscles when your face is relaxed – try it,” says Elise Scott (35), mom to Will (5 months).
Try not to rush
Moms-to-be who are well informed are more likely to be able to make decisions about their care and to feel in control of their labour. Often, when you’re fully dilated, the contractions stop. If your baby’s quite happy, don’t be persuaded to hurry things along with a hormone drip, ask for the lights to be dimmed and have a rest. Before you know it, you’ll get a surge of energy to help you through the final stretch. “When the contractions stopped, the midwife turned off the lights and left us for 20 minutes. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to bear down and Harry was born 10 minutes later,” recalls Michelle Hendry (28), mom to Harry (7 weeks).
Climb the stairs
Going up and down stairs can help your baby move through your pelvis. “Every time the contractions started, the midwife got me to march up and down the stairs,” says Katie Stevens (22) mom to Freya (2 months). “I could feel the baby’s head getting lower, until I gave birth in my hallway. It was amazing!”