Preparing for Birth: Setting the Stage
Most women have a clear image in their mind when they think of childbirth. Shaped by stories from family and friends, snippets from movies, and their own personal imagination. While some look forward to the arrival of the baby with joy, for others, the thought of giving birth is often associated with fears.
If you are expecting a baby and have found your way here because of that, then: congratulations! Wonderful things are ahead! But even if you are just preparing for a possible pregnancy, you are in the right place. We will not only show you how you can best prepare for the birth of your child, but also how to deal with your fears, to start this exciting new chapter of life as relaxed and calm as possible.
What decisions must I make before childbirth? Before giving birth, you should decide where you want to give birth and who you want to be present during the childbirth. You should also have a clear idea of the sequence of the birth in your mind and share these with your companion. Decide which procedures you will allow and which methods should only be used in an emergency.
We have prepared a small guide for you with the most important framework conditions to prepare you for the upcoming birth.
Preparing for Birth: You've Got This!
Even if it scares you, you can approach the birth of your child with confidence. Birth is a natural process, and your body is made for it. You can also trustfully turn to a midwife and your doctors, for them births are routine and they will support you as best as they can.
The midwife can play an important role because, with her experience, she can help you find the right doctor and the perfect clinic for your needs. Start looking for a midwife early and, during the initial meeting, pay attention to your gut feeling. After all, this person is supposed to accompany you throughout the pregnancy and the first few months after birth.
Tip: If intensive care by midwives is important to you, a birthing center might be the right place for you. But more on that in a moment.
Even though midwives are an important source of support, you should also familiarize yourself with all topics related to childbirth to be mentally prepared for the birth and to approach it with optimism. Below, we have created a guide that perfectly prepares you for the birth. We mainly focus on the following topics:
The place of delivery
Your birth team
Your birth plan
Hospital bag and authorities
Being prepared for anything
The first time after birth
You should include your partner in all decisions; however, in the following, we will focus entirely on you.
Choosing the Place for Birth
One of the most important decisions in preparing for birth is choosing the place of birth. Where should your child come into the world? How you optimally prepare for the birth depends heavily on this decision.
Below, we introduce you to the three common places for delivery:
A birthing center
Your own home
The Hospital as a Place of Birth
A hospital offers you the greatest medical safety. Childbirth is routine here, and skilled doctors are within seconds' reach. Statistically speaking, however, birthing centers are just as safe as hospitals - more on that shortly.
In hospitals, modern delivery rooms are largely furnished to be homey and cater to various needs. Besides birthing pools, there are exercise balls and many other materials available that you can use during birth. Moreover, if desired, you can have an experienced midwife by your side at all times.
To avoid being separated from your family during your stay, family rooms are often made available. Alternatively, you must decide for yourself whether you would better withstand the potential loneliness of a private room rather than a shared room, which you would share with other women who are about to give birth or have just given birth.
Finding the right hospital for the delivery is not that easy. Opinions among acquaintances and on the internet can vary widely for the same clinic. I would recommend taking advantage of the labor ward tours offered by different hospitals. These usually take place once a month or even once a week. Here you will be guided through the maternity unit by labor ward staff, get a glimpse of the patient rooms and the delivery rooms, and can get a rough idea of the staff. Ask all your questions and listen carefully to your gut feeling: Is this the place where you want to give birth to your child? Do you feel safe? Well cared for? Factors that can influence the decision include:
General impression of the hospital and the staff
Spatial conditions (Does the hospital have what I desire?)
Does the hospital have a pediatric ward? Are they prepared for premature babies?
Would a birth plan be accepted?
What is the rate of cesarean births compared to other hospitals?
Home Birth and the Birthing Center
Home births are currently steadily gaining popularity. As the name suggests, you give birth to your child at home. To optimally prepare for such a birth, you should look for a midwife who specializes in home births. The birthing center, on the other hand, is a middle ground between home birth and hospital. These houses are cozily furnished, operated by midwives, and still have good medical care access. A special feature of birthing centers is that the expectant parents meet and get to know their midwives (yes, it's often a whole team) regularly in the months before the birth. This creates a close relationship of trust that helps many during childbirth. As mentioned above, births at a birthing center are statistically as safe as in the hospital. At the same time, birthing centers often manage with fewer interventions (for example, PDAs are not allowed at all).
Who Should Be Present During the Birth?
A birth is a special and intimate moment. Think carefully beforehand about who you want to share this moment with and who can be a help to you. The birth is your moment, and you don’t have to share it with anyone you don’t truly want there. Besides your partner, your own mother, sister, or other relatives and friends can also enrich your birth team.
The companion can significantly and positively influence the overall mood during birth. Ideally, you choose someone familiar who radiates calm and security, even when things get turbulent. On the other hand, people who can't stand the sight of blood or get nervous easily are not much help.
You and your companion should understand that the birth will proceed according to your rules, which is why you should involve them in the birth preparations. During the birth, needs can change drastically, and what feels good in one moment might be entirely wrong in the next. Your companion should be able to adapt to your needs and not take it personally if you push them away. In addition, you could and should discuss beforehand how your companion can support you best. Share with them before the birth what relaxes you, what music you enjoy, and any wishes you have for the birth. If you’re unable to think clearly during the birth, they must be able to act without specific instructions.
Apart from your companion, you can also set additional conditions. Hence, you decide yourself when, how long, and whether you want a midwife by your side at all. Maybe you feel more secure if someone regularly checks on you or stays with you. Maybe, however, you want to focus entirely on yourself. In that case, you can arrange with the staff that they only enter the room if you press the call button.
Birth Plan: How Should the Birth Go?
To properly prepare for the birth, you should consider what your ideal birth looks like. For this, you should ask yourself the following questions and discuss your ideas with your midwife:
How much space do I need? Do I want to stay active during the labor phase? Like walking around or bouncing on an exercise ball? Or do I prefer a bed or a cozy recliner?
Do I need music?
What room temperature will be comfortable for me?
Can I imagine spending the labor phase in the bathtub or even having a water birth?
How much support will I need? Would I like to have a companion and midwives around me, or would I rather be left alone?
Which exceptional situations scare me and how can I tackle them?
What medical interventions can I accept and which should only be used if my health or the health of the child is at risk? (epidural, episiotomy, cesarean section...)
What procedures and interventions am I allowed and would I like to decline as a patient? (regular CTG, preventive placement of an IV or an epidural...)
What is important to me after the birth? (Bonding, meaning intense cuddle time, should your baby stay naked? How do you involve your partner?)
Create as detailed a plan as possible for the birth and share your vision with your midwife and companion so they can stand up for you in exceptional cases.
The Birth – Be Prepared for Anything!
As the saying goes: First, things happen differently, and second, as you think they will. After my first son was born through an unplanned cesarean section and I had hardly any positive memories of the birth, my daughter was supposed to be born at home surrounded by family. The plan was set, we were prepared and full of anticipation. Shortly before the birth, around the 36th week of pregnancy, it was discovered that my old cesarean scar would not withstand a natural birth and both my life and the life of my unborn daughter would be at risk.
Instead of a home birth, it became a planned cesarean section. Since I was prepared for everything this time, received a fixed date for the cesarean, and the doctors explained to me lovingly all the details of the upcoming birth, I had a great birth experience. The doctors also stayed continuously in touch with me during the cesarean, my partner was by my side and was able to cuddle naked with our baby until I came out of the operation.
What I want to say with this: Be prepared for anything. In addition to natural birth, inform yourself about the cesarean process and also compile your wishes for it. It was important to me that we could have two hours as a family to ourselves after birth and our baby could remain naked except for the diaper.
Talk to your midwife, your partner, and the doctors about everything that concerns you, so that you have an acceptable solution in mind for any eventuality. This way, you can also mentally prepare optimally for the birth.
The Hospital Bag and Arriving Home
Finally, I’ll give you the tip to pack your hospital bag early. Think about what comforts you the most. Besides comfortable clothing, my hospital bag mainly consisted of snacks, because hospital food just isn’t my thing. For my children, I brought along a favorite outfit for the journey home and a cuddly blanket.
Also, prepare for the first few days after birth. Find out which administrative tasks need to be done in the first weeks, which issues you can handle before the birth, and whether your partner can take care of things in your name. Also, stock up the pantry, because no one wants to head to the supermarket with a newborn. Make sure you have food in the house that can be prepared quickly to save time. For this, you can also cook in advance or ask your family to support you. The initial time after birth should be spent in bed with a baby and, if possible, your partner, enjoying the arrival of the new family member.
Photo by @ablondesgirljourney
Plans for the Initial Phase with a Newborn
Even during pregnancy, you should consider what the first time after birth will look like. Do you want to breastfeed and what do you need for that? Maybe you want to take a course with a lactation consultant. Who will take care of the meals during postpartum? Where should your baby sleep?
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