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Preparing for Labour
So the big day is getting closer – a momentous and possibly nerve-wracking event for you! Start your preparations at 7 months by packing your maternity bag and a separate hospital bag for baby. Use the downloadable list below as a guide.
By the third trimester, you should discuss the actual birth with your doctor or midwife, who have the knowledge and experience to advise you. Write a simple birth plan, which will communicate exactly what you want to happen during labour while you’re busy focusing on the birth. A birth plan lists your preferences regarding:
- Pain relief (none/ epidural/other medication)
- Possibility of walking around freely during early labour
- Birthing positions (squatting/ lying down)
- Having your partner cut the cord
- Photos or a video of the actual birth, though this is not for the squeamish!
- Whether you plan to breast or bottle-feed
What are the early signs of labour?
- Contractions will begin. These start off far apart and gradually become closer and more regular.
- Blood-tinged vaginal discharge. The mucus plug that seals the cervix starts to dislodge.
- Waters break. The amniotic sac may rupture and you will feel a gush of fluid.
Once labour starts, stay calm. If the contractions are still far apart, have a shower, and then contact the hospital or midwife.
When should I go to the hospital?
It is time to go to the hospital when your contractions are strong and come every 5 minutes.
What happens once I’m admitted?
Once you’re in the labour ward and have been checked, it can still take a few hours until baby is ready. Walking around during labour may help baby get into position for birth. Take small sips of water and a light snack if you get hungry.
Remember the deep breathing and visualisation exercises you learnt at childbirth classes and above all, relax. Tension and fear can cause you to feel the pain more acutely. You are in the first stage of labour until your cervix is fully dilated to 10 cm.
During the active stage of your labour, which lasts about an hour, you’ll need to push, bearing down with your contractions, to help your baby move slowly down the birth canal. Your body releases natural endorphins, which help to relieve the pain.
The final stage of labour, which lasts between 5-30 minutes, starts from the birth of your baby until the placenta (afterbirth) emerges. You’ll hardly be aware of what’s happening because all your attention is on the emerging baby.
What if I have a Caesarean?
Some women choose a scheduled C-section or pregnancy complications may indicate that this would be a safer option. The doctor will set the date and you will be admitted to hospital before labour naturally occurs. You will be put under an epidural anaesthetic to numb any pain. However, you will still be awake and able to see your baby the moment it is lifted from your uterus. Although the recovery time is slightly longer than from a vaginal birth, your experience of the birth should be just as magical.
Lastly, remember unexpected things may happen during the birth and the doctor may need to make quick unplanned decisions. To better prepare yourself, read up on any complications that can occur during labour. All that ultimately matters is that you and baby are safe and healthy.
What to pack in your maternity hospital bag:
- Your birth plan
- Camera or phone
- Snack and a drink
- Dressing gown
- 2-3 pairs of pyjamas
- Disposable or old panties
- Maternity pads
- Feeding bras and breast pads
- PURITY and Elizabeth Anne’s nipple cream
- Going home clothes (or wear the ones you arrived in)
What to pack in baby’s hospital bag: