Health Library

Preparing for Labor and Delivery

There are many things to think about before the birth of your baby. It can easily overwhelm expecting and new parents. A little knowledge and planning can help to ease stress during busy times.

Talk With Your Healthcare Team

Your team is there to help you have a safe and healthy pregnancy. Talk openly with them about your concerns. The team can talk to you about options and you can share what is important to you.

Keep a list of questions you would like to ask. Bring them to each appointment. Some examples include:

  • What should I do if I think I’m in labor?
    • Do I call the office or come to the hospital?
    • What if it’s late at night or on the weekend?
    • Who will deliver my baby if my doctor is not available?
  • What pain management options are available?
    • What are the risks and benefits of each?
    • How late into labor can I get it?
    • What natural pain management choices are there?
    • Will I be able to walk or move around during labor?
  • Episiotomies are cuts made between vagina and anal opening. It may be done if certain problems arise. It is not done as a routine part of birth. You may want to ask - What are your thoughts on episiotomies?
    • When would I need one?
    • What if I don’t want to have one?
    • How often do you do them?
  • Are there any issues in my health past or in my present pregnancy that may complicate delivery? If so,
    • What can we do now to lower the risk of these problems?
    • What will you do during delivery to lower the risks?
  • Would a cesarean section (c-section) be needed? What would be the reason for a c-section?
  • What happens if I pass my due date? Will I be given treatment to help start labor? What does that treatment look like?
  • Should I create a birth plan?
  • If I want to breastfeed, how soon can I get started? Will there be someone to show us how?
  • If I feed my baby formula, which one should I use? What supplies will I need? And how do I prepare the formula?

Take a Childbirth Preparation Class

Knowing what to expect can help to ease worry about the birth process. Childbirth classes can:

  • Teach you and your partner or coach what to expect. It will cover changes to your body during pregnancy, birth, and after birth. The class will also talk about what the delivery process is like as well.
  • Show your partner/coach how to best support you during labor and delivery.
  • Explain choice to help manage pain. Medical choices may include medicine like epidurals. Relaxation and breathing techniques may also be covered. Lamaze and Bradley method are two common choices.
  • Explain medical steps that may be done if problems do happen. Knowing basics ahead of time may help make decisions if a stressful event occurs. Your choices may also be part of your birth plan.
  • Help you get answers for things that are worrying you. You will have support of class leader and others who are expecting a baby.
  • Offer other steps that may help during pregnancy or labor such as music, aromatherapy, and movement.

Visit the Pediatrician and Hospital or Birthing Center

Many offices and birth centers offer open houses. You will be able to meet the staff and tour their birth center. These tours can help you learn if the center is right for you. When choosing a place to give birth:

  • Ask about the rooms and if you have a private room. Can a family member stay over?
  • Ask about policies, such as who can be in the room for the birth. Ask about visiting hours and bringing in outside food and flowers.
  • Do a dry run. See how long it will take to drive from home to the center. Plan the best route and remember to consider traffic at different times.

Ask your doctor and your friends for a referral to a pediatrician. Visit the open house for new patients or talk to the doctor. This is a good way to get to know and to choose one.

Prepare Your Home

The first few weeks at home will be busy. Everyone will be getting used to the new schedule. Some planning before birth can help you get a smoother start. Prepare a nursery for your baby, you’ll need:

  • A crib or bassinet
  • If you buy a used crib, make sure it meets the standards set by the National Safety Council
  • A table or other sanitary place to change diapers
  • Diaper bag packed with diapers, receiving blankets, change of clothes, plastic bag for soiled diapers, and baby wipes
  • Diaper pail or garbage can
  • Storage area for baby clothes and diapers
  • If using cloth diapers, set up delivery; you’ll need 90 diapers for the first week
  • If using disposable diapers, stock up; buy 350 for the first month
  • Clothes and other items for the baby such as:
    • T-shirts or onesies, 5 to 10 sets
    • Booties or socks, 3 to 5 pairs
    • Hat, 1 to 2
    • Sleepers, 5 to 7
    • Receiving blankets, 5 to 7
    • Fitted crib sheets, 3 to 4
    • Soft wash cloths, 3 to 5
    • Burp cloths or cloth diapers, 3 to 5
    • Baby scissors or nail clippers
    • Baby thermometer
    • Mild soap, baby lotion, and baby powder
  • Wash all clothes, bedding, towels, and wash cloths before using them with your baby

Don't forget to take care of yourself as well. Shop and prepare food for you for the first weeks back home. Collect take-out menus. If friends and family offer to help, take them up on it! Ask for help when needed. A home-cooked meal or help walking the dog will be very helpful when you’re only getting a few hours of sleep at a time.

Be Ready for the Big Moment

Have one less thing to think about when your labor starts, have a go bag ready a few weeks before your due date. Keep it in the same place in our house or in the car so you’ll be ready. Things that you may want in your go bag:

  • Copy of your birth plan, insurance information, or other medical info
  • Warm socks
  • Hand lotion and lip balm
  • Lollipops or hard candy; favorite snacks or juice
  • Toiletries—dental care, contact lenses, deodorant, shampoo
  • Comb, brush, and elastics for long hair
  • Something to play favorite relaxing music, headphones, books, magazines
  • Several pairs of underwear, socks, and bras
  • Pajamas, with button front if you plan to breastfeed (2 sets)
  • Bathrobe and slippers
  • Extra pillow, if you are partial to yours
  • Loose-fitting outfit and shoes to wear home
  • Telephone calling card and phone numbers—many hospitals do not allow cell phones
  • Phone charger

Other steps that may help include:

  • Don't let the gas level in your car fall too low.
  • Bring an infant car seat. You will need it to bring the baby home.
  • Leave jewelry, cash, and other valuables at home.
  • Pack for your baby:
  • If you have children, designate someone to babysit while you’re in the hospital.

Have a bag ready to bring your baby home. The bag should have:

  • Outfit for baby’s photo and an outfit to wear home (a onesie and an outer garment)
  • Mittens or extra pair of socks to cover baby’s nails (to avoid scratches on the face)
  • One receiving blanket
  • One outer blanket
  • One hat and pair of booties
  • If using cloth diapers, bring 2 diapers and Velcro diaper covers
  • If the weather is cold, a heavy blanket, sweater, and hat

Try to Relax

This is a natural process with natural ups and downs. The more you know the better you will be able talk to your care team about your needs. Preparation can also help you feel more confident and decrease stress during exciting days ahead.

Resources

Kids Health—Nemours Foundation
http://kidshealth.org

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org

Canadian Resources

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
https://sogc.org

Women's Health Matters
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

References

Birthing centers and hospital maternity services. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/birth-centers-hospitals.html. Accessed Feburary 1, 2021.

Episiotomy: When it's needed, when it's not. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/episiotomy/art-20047282. Accessed Feburary 1, 2021.

Packing for the hospital or birth center. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/planning/packing-list. Accessed Feburary 1, 2021.

Relaxation Techniques to Help Contractions. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/labor-and-birth/relaxation-techniques-861/#:~:text=Progressive%20relaxation%20techniques%3A%20Begin%20by,and%20more%20with%20each%20exhalation. Accessed Feburary 1, 2021.