1. Ask your health care practitioner about their use of internal exams leading up to your due date. Many OBs still practice internal exams in the weeks leading up to a baby's due date. Unfortunately, this practice does not tell you much about when your impending birth will take place and may in fact increase your risk of vaginal infection and emotional anxiety. Additionally, your effacement and dilation at 36, 37, 38, 39 or even 40 weeks often plays no relevance as to when you will actually go into labor. You can ask my mother, who apparently stayed at 8 cm dilation for nearly 2 weeks before I was born. To learn more about signs of impending labor check out this post and know that your baby will be born all in good time.
2. Try to sleep whenever you can. For most of us pregnant folk, we hear this advice all the time. "Sleep now because you won't be able to sleep once that baby comes!" says the old lady in the checkout line. Well I'm telling you this for an entirely different reason. I realize that just like me, you probably can't sleep comfortably and likely have to get up frequently to empty your ever full bladder, but sleep and rest is incredibly important for storing up energy for your impending labor. There is a very real reason having a baby is called "labor". It is hard work. Probably the hardest work you'll ever do in your life, including that triathlon you did back in your early 20's. An average first time mom actively labors between 12 and 18 hours and that doesn't include the days preceding where you had contractions once every 30 minutes, either. During active (also called "hard") labor you get very little time to rest and recoup your energy stores, so make sure to take that extra 20 minutes to rest or sleep that extra hour when you can because you never know when your labor will start.
3. If you're planning to give birth away from home: pack your bag. If you haven't read my post about what to pack in your birth bag check out this post. The most important thing I found to bring with me after #2's birth was the outfit to change into post birth. Trust me everything is easier in your own clothes.
|Filling out the forms while nursing and wearing my own clothes, thank you very much.|
4. Go over your plans with your birth support person/spouse and line up at least 2 childcare options for your other child(ren). This is really important. Especially if you've given birth before your partner may expect the same sort of chaos to ensue. If you want to have a different type of experience (or exactly the same type for that matter) talk it through with your person. If this isn't your first birth tell them what you were disappointed/happy with the first go round. Make sure that they also know that this birth may be faster or slower than the other(s) and that they should be prepared for that too. If you have other children figure out who will care for your children at different points during the day/night. Who would pick them up from school should you go into labor during the day? Can they stay at daycare late? Who is available to come over at 3am? Can that person be with them for at least 24 hours should the need arise? If you have a medical emergency (like a hemorrhage or c-section) who can care for your children besides your spouse? Who can be with you at the hospital if your spouse needs to go home? All of these things should be discussed well in advance of your due date so that you don't go into labor worried about what's going on at home.
5. Stay home as long as possible once your labor has started. This simple thing is the MOST effective tool you have against unwanted medical interventions and having the birth you want. In most hospitals, as soon as you are checked in you are put on "the clock" which is essentially how long they will give you until they being pressuring for a c-section. This clock does not necessarily have anything to do with the average time women labor for, and often has a lot to do with doctor's schedules and how many beds a labor and delivery ward has. Remaining home is your absolute best best for avoiding any unwanted and/or unnecessary medical interventions. If your plan is to get an epidural once the pain gets too intense, I still recommend staying home until that point in your labor. Being in the hospital you may be offered/ask for pain meds before you would have asked for it had you stayed home to labor. Early epidurals open you up to the possibility of slowing or even stalling your labor. Remember epidurals are one of the first steps in the birth intervention cascade that leads to c-sections.
That being said, always contact your provider when labor begins and should you notice anything unusual like heavy bleeding or dark/murky water leaking call your provider immediately as these are signs of a medical emergency.