Congratulations! You’re about to become a mum. As the day nears, your mind is mostly occupied with thoughts of the big day. “How will my labour be?” “Will I be able to handle the pain?” “Am I prepared enough?”. The truth of the matter is, there is very little you can predict and wondering will only lead to anxiety and fear, which we all know are not good in the lead up to birth. Luckily, a little advance planning and forethought can make it infinitely easier to relax and enjoy your pregnancy, and let go of your fears as your approach those last weeks.
We talked to Esther Kimani, Certified Doula (CD, DONA) and asked her how you can prepare yourself and your body for a smooth labour and easier birth.
Consider a lamaze/birth class
The prospect of giving birth can be daunting, and it’s natural to want to put it all out of your mind until it happens. But knowledge is power, which is why many couples choose to take a birth class. Expect to learn about the stages of labour, options for pain management, breathing techniques, and equipment that may be used during your delivery in a friendly, supportive environment. Some classes make it extra interesting with diaper-changing races for the Dads (using dolls) and discussions about what kind of parent you’d like to be. “Joining a childbirth class helps one to mentally prepare for the upcoming birth. The classes help a mum-to-be gain confidence in her ability to birth and care for her baby,” says Esther.
Familiarise yourself with the process
It is important to condition yourself to be comfortable with what possible scenarios you may face in late pregnancy and birth, so that you are familiar with the process and able to scenario-plan. Understanding birth in detail gives you more control over your options, which is essential for an empowered birth experience. “If you are not squeamish, you can learn the different ways of giving birth by watching videos of actual deliveries including natural birth, water birth, birth with an epidural and more. Remember, however, that though birth looks horrifyingly painful, the brain helps with pain management,” advises Esther. Watching videos of positive experiences also negates the many negative and highly sensationalised images of birth we tend to see in the movies.
Identify a whether you want to give birth in hospital, birth centre or at home
Bringing life into the world is a very personal and profound experience. Choosing the right environment can impact a mother’s overall feelings of empowerment and control. For many, being in a well-equipped facility provides a feeling of safety and security. As Esther says, “a maternity ward or birth centre should have adequate facilities. Aside from the obvious, the facility should have a theater, a newborn ICU unit and incubators, in case of an emergency.” What many don’t know is that healthy low-risk mothers can also choose to safely give birth in the comfort of their home or in a birth centre (which like a home-away-from-home) with qualified midwives present. Those that do can organise an ambulance to be on standby and their doctor on call, just in case of emergency. Home birth is increasingly encouraged by the NHS in the UK, although still only a small percentage of mothers take it up. In Nairobi, midwife-led home births and birth centre births are offered by Lucy Muchiri and the team at EvesMama, www.evesmama.com.
Pack a bag
Get all the things you need for the big day in one place, you certainly won’t have the time or space of mind to do it once labour starts. “A basic hospital bag should have baby clothes, mum’s clothes, a leso, toiletries, warm socks, maternity pads, maternity panties and a nursing bra. Add onto these as per your preference,” says Esther. If the hospital or birth centre allows, take with you some creature comforts such as some music, snacks and drinks for hydration. You could be there a while so don’t forget your phone charger!
Stock up on essentials
Shop ahead of time for the new addition to your life. “A new baby requires diapers, wipes, some clothing and a safe place to sleep. Ensure ahead of time that you have items for the baby such as clothes, diapering essentials, bathing essentials and bedding essentials,” says Esther. An installed car seat is also important however don’t feel pressure to have every baby product you’ll ever need ready to go straight away. Talk to mum-friends about what they really found useful to get an idea of what is a must-have. We bet it’s less than half of your list.
Decide who will attend the birth
Some mums like a full room, but most prefer as few people present as possible. Just as we see animals in the wild retreat to a private place alone to give birth, so too do some mothers desire privacy and personal space in those challenging moments. Whichever way you like, having the right people present is important. “A mother-to-be should make sure that she has a birth team to support her during the labour itself. Continuous support during labour is the most effective way to cope,” says Esther. Give some thought to what you want, and communicate it early, so that there are no misunderstandings, unwelcome observers, or offended grandmothers when the time comes.
Line up help
More than labour and birth, it is the baby’s first few weeks which require good planning. “Getting a postnatal plan is not only important when the time comes, but gives peace of mind in preparation for the baby’s coming, a mother should identify and plan for help after the birth,” Esther advises. “Mums who get help will be better equipped to help their babies, which is more valuable than trying to do it all herself. You can also hire help, such as a postpartum doula or a nanny.” Whilst you may be used to doing it all for yourself, this is the moment to allow others to assist you.
Take care of yourself
With something so monumental coming up, it’s easy to get caught up in the planning and forget about yourself. But staying relaxed throughout your pregnancy is one of the most important ways to prepare for giving birth. Do light exercises such as walking, visit a spa for treatments such as a prenatal massage, find strength and focus with some prenatal yoga…anything to keep stress and anxiety at bay. Above all, breathe and trust that everything will be fine.
About Esther Kimani
Esther is a Certified Doula (CD, DONA( and a member of DONA International, Lamaze Certified Childbirth, Educator (LCCE). She is also a Trained Lactation Manager by University of Virginia and Kenyatta Hospital Management Programme, a Certified Infant Massage Instructor (IAIM) International Association of Infant Massage as well as a Certified Infant and Young child Nutrition Counsellor.