As your due date approaches, you’re probably feeling a mix of emotions, excited to finally meet your little one while also anxious about the delivery. A great way to calm nerves is to prepare. While every woman’s delivery experience is different, there are some tried and true ways to help it go as smoothly as possible. We’re sharing our best tips to help you prep physically and mentally for your delivery. Don’t worry, you got this, Mama!
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1. Breathe In, Breathe Out
If there’s one thing we know for sure, your delivery will involve a lot of deep breaths. It’s never too early to start practicing your breathing techniques. Not only will this help you get in a good rhythm, but it’ll also help you better manage stress.
Often when you’re in a stressful situation, your breaths become shallow and hasty. While you might not realize it, you’re probably not giving your brain the optimal amount of oxygen. To ensure you’re alert and ready to take on the next challenge, focus on your exhales and practice taking several long ones.
If you’re having difficulty with this, try to visualize a relaxing environment. Think about the smells, sounds, and sights that bring you joy and peace. Before you know it, you’ll feel relaxed and more aware of your mind-body connection. This is a great first step in preparing your body for labor and is a powerful tool for putting yourself at ease so that you can deal with decisions with a calm and clear mind.
If you’re interested in enhancing these techniques, prenatal yoga classes can help you hone in on this ability. These classes can improve flexibility and help you better connect your movements to your improved breathing patterns. All of which are big helps come delivery day.
Another technique to put on your radar is HypnoBirthing. It teaches self-hypnosis to get moms in a deeply relaxed state of mind, making it easier to manage anxiety and discomfort. According to a University of Florida study, it has the added bonus of contributing to fewer complications, and shorter hospital stays.
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2. Focus on Nutrition
Moms-to-be need proper fuel to prep for delivery day and each day after that; because let’s get real, this is only the beginning. Good nutrition will help you and your baby thrive as you near the finish line. The proper nutritional intake will do wonders for you, giving you more energy and fighting fatigue while putting you in a better mood.
When thinking about nutrition, focus on pregnancy superfoods. Consider foods dense in nutrients, like lean meats, yogurt, lentils, wild salmon, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains. Aim to keep your diet mainly consisting of natural produce or proteins, and skip the processed foods as much as possible. This will keep you alert and ready for whatever comes your way.
You might also want to consider having raspberry leaf tea and dates; some studies show these unusual ingredients can benefit moms. Dates can boost oxytocin, the same hormone that drives your body’s pre-birth preparations, as well as folate.
Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and taking any vitamin supplements your doctor recommends. In terms of foods to steer clear of, skip any unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses, hot dogs, raw seafood, or undercooked meat.
Treat yourself to healthier meals, and be sure to stay well-nourished during your pregnancy. It will not only help you feel great but will get you prepped and ready when it comes time to push.
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3. Rest Up
Make sure you give your body plenty of “me” time before delivery day. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the things that need to be done, but you need to focus on yourself right now. It’s sort of like when they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first during those airplane safety videos. By giving your body the attention it needs now, you will help your baby’s welcome into the world go as smoothly as possible later.
Rest is a significant part of this equation. Right now, you’re carrying another life, and that is a whole lot of work. That’s not even to mention all the other things going on in your life. Take time to listen to the signs your body gives you when it is tired. See a yawn, go to sleep. Feel run-down, time to sneak in a nap.
We all know you can’t wait to meet your beautiful new baby, but stay mindful that this is not a sprint, it’s a mama marathon, and the way to win is to keep steady. Nurture yourself with great rest; you will not only feel physically rejuvenated but mentally and emotionally refreshed.
As your due date closes in, listen to that inner voice telling you to take it easy, take it down a notch, and just get some rest. Your baby will thank you! Be sure to cherish these moments, too; in a few months, you might find yourself exhausted from middle-of-the-night feeding and burping sessions.
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4. Prep Your Pelvic Floor
Your pelvic floor muscles are the rockstars behind all of that labor pushing. Why not give them a good workout before delivery day, so you are ready to handle marathon levels of pushing?! Plus major bonus, these exercises will also help prevent post-pregnancy incontinence.
Your innermost transverse abs and your pubococcygeus or the “PC” are the primary muscles used during childbirth. Consider them like a corset that holds your core together from front to back. Squats, lunges, and Kegel exercises are the best ways to get them ready for action on the big day. Just make sure to start as early as possible to reap the most benefits.
The best thing about Kegels, in particular, is that you can do these exercises a few times a day without anyone even knowing about it. If you haven’t tried them before, just give a squeeze to the muscles around your vagina, almost as though you were trying to hold in your pee while waiting on a long bathroom line; hold for 10 seconds, breathe as you typically would, then release slowly.
When doing squats or lunges, just remember to engage your core. This will help strengthen your traverse abs, which play a big role in stabilizing your pelvis and spine. Putting in the extra effort beforehand will reduce post-pregnancy pain and keep your muscles flexible when it matters most.
If you’re looking for a team sport, just know that sex is also a great way to exercise these muscles and ready your body to give birth. As long as the doctor gives you the green light, go for it. Orgasms tone the walls of your vagina, plus all of those euphoric hormones released are transferred to the baby too.
5. Get Aligned
Back pains are a common complaint after giving birth. Those core and pelvic floor-strengthening exercises will certainly help avoid this. If you are already experiencing pain, you might also want to consider a chiropractic adjustment.
Ensuring your spine and pelvis are correctly aligned will be especially beneficial for those expecting twins or a big bundle of joy since it allows more room for babies to adjust their positioning.
If you’re not big into chiropractors, consider getting a birthing ball as an alternative. It helps promote good posture, keeping your body aligned and your core engaged when you sit on it. All of which help your baby get in an optimal fetal position for labor.
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6. Like You Need an Excuse to Get a Massage
We’ve been speaking a lot about putting your needs first and taking the time to relax. We can’t think of a better way to do this than with a prenatal massage. Typically massages are safe after the first trimester, just make sure you speak with your doctors first and let the massage therapist know that you are pregnant.
The power of touch can be so healing, especially when given to you by your partner. The endorphins, those “feel-good” hormones released during a massage, can help release tension and take your mind off any aches or pains.
Start small with a gentle foot or scalp massage if shoulder and body rubs aren’t your speed. These aren’t just relaxation techniques; they also have been shown to reduce pregnancy swelling, cramps, and headaches.
You might even want to consider a perineal massage, which involves manually stretching near your birth canal to prevent vaginal tearing during pregnancy. Not all practitioners agree, but some believe it significantly reduces the chance of perineum damage. If it’s something you are interested in, consider asking your partner for help, and be sure to use a good lubricant.
7. Keep Moving
One of the best things you can do during pregnancy is go for a relaxing half-hour walk each day. Labor is a major workout and increasing your body’s endurance and stamina before your delivery day is a great way to prepare.
Studies have found that moderate, low-impact exercise can help moms in a multitude of ways. It can help you sleep better and lower anxiety while reducing the risk of complications like preeclampsia, low birth weight, gestational diabetes, and congenital abnormalities. A few studies have even shown that regular aerobic exercise can reduce labor times by an entire hour.
If you don’t have nice walking paths nearby, here are some other forms of exercise you might want to try: swimming, Thai chi, prenatal yoga, low-impact Pilates, or dance classes like Zumba. These will help keep your muscles agile and flexible and will aid the baby in getting into the best birthing position.
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8. Acknowledge Your Fears
Afraid of giving birth? You are not alone. Labor is intense, and it’s normal to have some fears. It’s important to acknowledge those fears and address them with your medical team too.
Try to confront them head-on early in your pregnancy if possible. If you wait until you’re almost ready to give birth, you will be depriving yourself of the opportunity and time to work through those fears. So, this definitely isn’t the time to procrastinate.
Sometimes even just talking about your concerns can help lessen any anxiety. It also allows you to gauge your medical team’s compassion and level of care and to think about your birthing plan and pain management. These are all important things to find out early in your pregnancy so this fear can serve a useful purpose.
It might even help to commit early on to tactics to reduce your anxiety and fears. Apps like Calm or Headspace can assist with mindful meditation. Be sure to also speak to your partner and rely on them as a support system too.
9. Take a Class or Two
Sometimes it’s the unknown that is most scary, especially for first-time moms. Being informed and learning as much as you can is half the battle against any worries. Most doctors recommend taking a general childbirth class before going into labor.
You’ll want to know about the different stages of labor and what to expect, and how to know when it’s time to head to your birthing center. If there is something specific you want to know more about, perhaps something that you are concerned about, there are plenty of resources available.
Rather than relying on the internet, you should ask your doctor, midwife, or hospital for referrals. When it comes to learning about pain management, you want to tap into your team’s expertise too. For this especially, the more you know, the better prepared you will be to select the right option when the time comes.
All of this will prepare you for a positive experience delivering your new love. When it all comes together, and you aren’t surprised by the process because you are so informed, it is a much more stress-free experience.
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10. Don’t Psych Yourself Out
Have you ever had a family member share her pregnancy horror story? I don’t know why they feel the need to do this. Rather than psyching yourself out and going down a very unproductive internet rabbit hole, try to keep an open mind and prepare mentally for your baby’s birth.
Keep in mind that everyone on this earth came from their mother’s womb. Birth is a completely natural thing, that is as old as time. Many women before you have gotten through it and you will too. And, when it is all over, there will be a cute little treasure in your arms.
This doesn’t mean just wing it (hint: see above). Prepare for what you can and accept what you can’t, and please stop scaring yourself. One of the products we’ve started offering at The Belly Bundle is affirmation cards because we want you to focus on your strengths and recognize how amazing you are.
That is so important as you venture closer to your due date. Negative thoughts only intensify your fears; try your best to ward them off. When the pushing is all over, you become the mother of a new baby that you and your partner birthed, and that is something to be celebrated!