How to Prepare for Labor: Classes, Labor Methods and More
It may seem like your pregnancy will last forever and that delivery is still far off, but labor prep is still crucial. A mother who has prepped for her labor and delivery is empowered to voice her desires and make informed decisions in the moment.
While in the planning stages, some topics you will want to cover are how to:
- Choose and educate yourself on labor methods
- Choose your care team
- Choose a birth setting
- Create your birth plan while remaining flexible
Educating yourself on the options helps you make the best choice for you and your baby. Be sure to consult with your partner and doctor or midwife to ensure all parties are on the same page. Talk to friends and veteran moms — they may have some experience-based advice that can help with your decision. Remember, no two births look alike, and flexibility is key.
Learning about the birthing process is one of the first steps in determining how to deliver your baby. There are several methods for you to choose from. Keep in mind, however you choose to deliver your baby should be what feels right to you. With an understanding of the process and a plan in place, you will be armed with the knowledge you need to prepare for labor and delivery.
The Lamaze method was first introduced in France in 1951. The Lamaze method consists of childbirth education classes, relaxation, breathing techniques and continuous emotional support. The Lamaze education and practices are based on the Lamaze healthy birth practices, which were developed over years of research.
- Let labor begin on its own
- Move during labor
- Have a support system in the room
- Avoid interventions unless medically necessary
- Avoid giving birth on your back
- Keep the mom and baby together after birth, not in the nursery
The Alexander technique
The Alexander technique is considered a natural birthing technique. The technique was first developed as an educational course on self-awareness to release muscle tension. When applied to pregnancy, pregnant women learn techniques for sitting, standing and moving with safety and efficiency. During labor and delivery, the Alexander technique provides the tools to modify your movement and positions, which lets you breathe better, calm yourself, focus during birth and help your cervix dilate when it comes time to push.
The Bradley method
The Bradley method, developed by Dr. Robert Bradley in the 1940s, helps women deliver naturally with very few or no drugs. Bradley method training places an emphasis on a partner-coached birth and encourages mothers to trust their bodies and focus on diet and exercise throughout pregnancy. The Bradley method consists of 12 weekly classes that teach prenatal nutrition and exercise, relaxation for easier birth, partners as coaches and more.
Hypnobirthing is a method that uses self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques to help women feel prepared during childbirth and manage fear, anxiety and pain. The hypnobirthing program is built around an education program that teaches breathing, relaxation, visualization, meditative practice and positive body toning. Hypnobirthing classes are taught in multiple formats.
A water birth means that part of your labor, delivery or both happen while you’re in a birth pool filled with warm water. According to waterbirth.org, the premise behind water birth is that immersion in warm water during labor or delivery improves birth outcomes and substantially reduces the costs of health care. Because a baby has already been immersed in fluid, birthing in a similar environment might be less stressful for the baby.
Cesarean section (C-section)
A C-section is a surgery used to deliver a baby. In this surgery, the baby is taken out through an incision in the mother's abdomen. Many providers do not offer C-sections as an elective — typically, the reasons for performing a C-section are:
- Health problems for the mother
- The mother carrying more than one baby
- The size or position of the baby
- The baby's health is in danger
- Labor is not moving along as it should
Childbirth classes come highly recommended by most OB-GYNs, especially for first-time parents. Once you’ve narrowed down the type of labor and delivery you’d like to have, enrolling in birthing classes is an excellent way to prepare for the big day and help you build your desired plan for your delivery.
Many classes are in-person courses that vary in length from two to 12 class sessions. Classes are available at hospitals, birth centers and other community resources for women.
- When should you take a childbirth class?
- Generally speaking, any time before you go into labor is a good time to take a class. As you enter your second trimester, begin researching class options in your area and sign up for a few so you are able to get in. If you take your classes in the sixth or seventh month of pregnancy, you should have plenty of time to complete the courses before your baby arrives.
- Where can I find a childbirth class?
- When looking for childbirth classes, determine what type of teaching or method you’re interested in for your labor and delivery. Classes are available at hospitals, birth centers and other community resources for women. You can also find information on childbirth classes from your physician's office or doula.
- Are birthing classes necessary?
- In short, no. Childbirth classes are not required and not necessary. You don’t need a doula, a midwife or a plan to have your baby. But self-education, preparation and planning lead to less stress and anxiety on the actual day you go into labor. Taking childbirth classes is a personal choice and a great way to help you prepare for the road ahead.
- Are Lamaze classes worth it?
- While we can’t give you a solid yes or no here, it’s important to check in with yourself and determine what classes you will find value in. If you are looking for a class that will teach you techniques to get you through childbirth and prepare you for what might occur, then Lamaze could be for you. If you are set on a water birth or other alternative delivery method, then you may want to look into other available courses.
Other ways to prepare for childbirth
Completing your birth plan, selecting your preferred birth method and attending a birth class puts you well on your way to being ready for the big day. There are a few other things you can do to prepare your mind and body for the birth of your child.
- Tour where you’ll be giving birth: You can choose to give birth in a hospital, a birthing center or at home. If you’ll be giving birth in a medical facility, it may calm your nerves to see the location in person before birth.
- Exercise throughout your pregnancy: Making a point to stay fit throughout your pregnancy can help prepare your body to better handle the stress of labor. Building up strength and stamina through a regular exercise routine is definitely a good idea if cleared by your doctor.
- Prepare your mind: Labor may be physically demanding, but it’s also a very emotional process that requires great mental strength. Consider preparing by taking up meditation or learning relaxation techniques you can use during labor.
- Avoid comparison: No two people are alike, and no two pregnancies are alike. While it can be helpful to reach out to other moms who have been there or to make some friends going through pregnancy at the same time as you, it’s a slippery slope to think too much about the decisions others make and start questioning your own decisions. Your pregnancy is your own, and so is your labor experience. Listen to advice, but go with your gut.
- Educate yourself, but don’t over educate yourself: Knowledge is power, but there’s something to be said for turning off the computer or shutting the book every now and then. You can become so overwhelmed with the amount of information available that it can become a burden when it should be a benefit. If you feel overwhelmed, take some time for yourself — the internet and all its knowledge and advice will still be there in the morning.
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