The last few weeks of pregnancy are incredibly special. As I write this article, I find myself in this exact season, almost 38 weeks. Some days the quiet, slow pace of maternity leave is just what I need, I relish alone time with my partner and the leisurely nesting that comes along with it. Other days, I am edgy, filled with anticipation and find myself willing labour to start (something as a midwife I know does not work).
Despite the yo-yo of emotion, there are things we can do to prepare in the weeks leading up to birth which are both practical and a beautiful source of distraction.
If you haven’t already completed childbirth education, you are not too late. There are strategies to prepare your body, but the real game changer in labour and birth is preparing your mind. If you have had trouble accessing face to face classes, that’s okay! There are so many options.
Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin, Birth Skills by Juju Sundin and Birth with Confidence by Rhea Dempsey are all amazing reads that will fill you with confidence ahead of this next stage. If you are not a reader, and crave something more interactive The Birth Class audio series by Sophie Walker and Power Birth online birth class by me are comprehensive audio/visual options that you can take with you on a stroll, enjoy on the couch or settle into your local café with. You are after all waiting for a baby – why not dedicate this time to feeling as calm and confident as possible?
If you took classes earlier in pregnancy and felt they served you well, now is the time to look back on learning materials they provided, refresh your memory and get excited.
Write down your birth plan/preferences
Having spent some time and energy educating yourself on your options, now it’s time to consider – what’s important to me? How do I want to be cared for during this process? I have written a comprehensive guide to writing a birth plan for Mumli, which you can access here. Make sure you share the birth plan with your midwife or doctor at one of your appointments.
Spinning Babies daily activities
Have you heard of this incredible resource? Spinning Babies is a website and guide to optimising your baby’s position, which has long been loved by midwives and mothers. Incredibly, the guide offers free insight into ways you can be moving and stretching your body in pregnancy to help guide your baby into the pelvis ahead of birth. You may also find that your body feels tight and your pelvis heavy in late pregnancy as you edge towards full term. These movements can help keep you comfortable in those final weeks. You can check them out here.
If you haven’t heard of this practice before it can be a little strange to think about, but massaging the area of skin between the vagina and the anus (aka your perineum) is an evidence-based strategy for reducing perineal trauma in people giving birth for the first time.
While there is no evidence that perineal massage reduces the risk of perineal injury in second and subsequent births, the research DOES show that it reduced perineal pain in the postpartum period, regardless of if a tear occurs (win!). For this reason, the practice is encouraged. With your care providers okay, commence perineal massage from 34-35 weeks pregnant. This free guide offers more insight.
Hot tip: Discomfort at the height of the stretching sensation is normal and usually improves with each session, however, if you feel it’s painful or difficult, a women’s health physio can teach you correct technique.
Consume 6 dates/day
That’s right, date fruit can help your body prepare for labour. To read about this in more depth, check out Mumli’s article on ways to induce labour naturally. But in short, research has shown that the consumption of around 6 dates per day may help soften, shorten and thin out your cervix ahead of labour, reduce the length of labour and reduce the need for intervention such as induction. Get snacking!
Express colostrum antenatally
Colostrum is the first milk your body produces for your baby. The stuff is nothing short of AMAZING and has rightly earned the title of ‘liquid gold’. Many midwives encourage Mums to express their breasts in late pregnancy (usually 36-37 weeks onwards) to extract colostrum ahead of time and store it in the freezer, ready to go. The benefits of this are twofold.
Firstly, research has shown that nipple stimulation improves ‘cervical favourability’ aka how soft, short and thin your cervix is ahead of labour. Secondly, extracting some milk prior to birth can support your breastfeeding journey by ensuring bub gets some of the good stuff, even if they are still learning in the early days and haven’t quite mastered their latch.
Pack your hospital bag and it put in the car
Finally, get organised, pack your hospital bag and pop it in the car. Nothing will throw your labour more than racing around the house in between contractions chucking ad hoc items in a bag. No no, we want a calm, easy atmosphere on the day your little one decides to join you and some basic organisation will help you achieve just that.
Good luck mama, this is such an exciting, transformative time of life. Don’t forget to pause for a moment and soak in the magic.
Expert author: Beth Ryan
Beth Ryan is a registered midwife with a Masters degree in Public Health. You can find out more about her by following her on instagram here.