If you’re here we’re guessing you’re going to give birth and want to know what you need to do (other than show up and push at some point). Well, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide we’re going to outline how to plan for childbirth and delivery, from the minute your contractions start to the moment you bring your new baby home.
It’ll take a little more prep than just watching a few childbirth videos and packing your hospital bag (although, those things are useful too). So, let’s dive in and get planning.
A great first step is to get the lowdown on what actually happens when you give birth. This is where childbirth classes can help. You may not exactly want to dwell on all the gory details, but knowing what to expect can help you (and your partner) mentally prepare. You’ll probably find it really interesting.
You can sign up to a birth class at your hospital, and tour the birthing suites to see where the action will happen. However, it may be useful to complete additional classes to learn more about the stages of labor and natural pain management techniques.
Search for ‘childbirth classes near me’ to pull up some local classes (Calm Birth, Lamaze or HypnoBirth are all great options). Or if in-person isn’t possible, there are a suite of online childbirth classes you can do too (She Births is a great Australian-based one!).
Get to know the signs you’re going into labor, so you’re ready to head to hospital when your baby says it’s time.
Signs you’re in labor can include:
These signs of labor only apply if you go into ‘spontaneous labor’ – which is when your baby decides to come of its own accord. In some cases, labor may be medically induced in a hospital to get the party started. Either way, here’s what you can expect next…
There are three stages of childbirth when it comes to a vaginal birth:
Some people call this type of labor a ‘natural childbirth’, but we consider all forms of childbirth ‘natural’ – even if your baby is born via cesarean section surgery. There’s more than one way to do it, mama!
The two main ways to deliver your baby are via vaginal birth and cesarean section (c-section). Here’s what they involve:
When we look at what’s involved with a c-section versus vaginal birth, they’re pretty different in how they’re done. BUT, the most important thing to note is that they’re both routine, safe and natural ways to bring your baby into the world.
You’ll discuss your options with your medical team in the lead-up to your birth, and they’ll help you make the safest decision on how to deliver your baby.
It’s fairly rare these days to encounter a birth that doesn’t involve some form of monitoring or intervention. This can include things like:
Some people consider a true ‘natural birth’ to be one without any intervention at all. But again, we think that childbirth, in whatever form it takes, is natural and normal even if it does require some intervention methods.
While you may wish to have an intervention-free birth, it’s important to know what potential techniques your medical team could recommend to help you deliver your baby safely.
It should seem pretty obvious that actually writing down your birth preference (sometimes called a birth plan) is a key way to plan for childbirth and delivery. But we’ll mention it here anyway.
You may include:
Researching and preparing for birth will help you solidify your preferences so you can approach it with clarity. In saying that, there always needs to be room for flexibility in a birth ‘plan’ – because anything can happen!
Being educated yet open-minded can help reduce the likelihood of birth trauma and leave you to calmly go with the flow.
Having sayings or mantras on hand to repeat to yourself when the going gets tough in labor can make all the difference. Many women go into childbirth with fear and anxiety, but these feelings actually inhibit natural hormones needed for labor.
You’re probably wondering, ‘how painful is childbirth?’ And we won’t lie – it usually hurts like hell. But it’s a good pain that you can prepare for mentally. You absolutely can manage it.
By arming yourself with empowering statements, you can reframe the sh*ttiness of labor pain and turn the experience into something powerful and beautiful.
This can include breathing exercises, movement, and visualizations or affirmations that you can do during labor to help you cope with pain. Not only do these help you stay calm and relaxed, they can give you something to focus on other than your painful predicament.
Okay so here’s one step you don’t want to overlook when planning for childbirth: how you’ll pay for it! Being aware of what you might be up for can allow you to budget in advance, and not end up pleading with your doctors to keep the baby in.
Budgeting for your pregnancy and delivery is one thing, but keep in mind that there will be immediate postpartum and newborn expenses to contend with, as well as those pesky ongoing costs of raising a child. Creating a baby budget early on in your pregnancy is the way to go!
The average cost of childbirth varies significantly from state to state in the US. It also depends on your health insurance coverage, whether you birth in a hospital or birth center, and what type of delivery method you experience.
If your health insurance pays for most of it, you may not have significant out of pocket expenses. But it could cost upwards of $20,000 if you don’t have insurance or your coverage is limited. A c-section will cost more because it involves surgery.
The trick is to do your research! Check your insurance policy (a fun, before-bed read), or talk to someone at the hospital if you don’t have adequate insurance. Investigate different options to meet your budget.
Once you’ve done the hard job of birthing your baby, a myriad of things will happen:
Have a think about how you’d like to approach the period after birth. You might consider your feeding options in advance, decide who you’d like to visit you (or not), and plan for packing up and heading home to recover.
How long you stay in hospital after childbirth will depend on how your labor and delivery unfolded, whether you’re in a hospital or birthing center, and what sort of post-birth care you and your baby need.
For an uncomplicated vaginal birth you may remain in hospital for 24 hours to two days. For a c-section delivery you may be there for three to four days.
Whether you delivered vaginally or via c-section you’ll need to take it easy for a while. Before you’re discharged from hospital, your doctors will take you through any wound care requirements and advice for your vaginal birth or c-section recovery time periods. For example, they’ll probably advise against sex for six weeks or more.
Taking in all this info can be overwhelming. Ask your partner or birth support person to help you take notes, and get on the same page about your postpartum plan for recovery and bonding with your baby.
You’re pretty much ready to pop that baby out by now. But before you put your birth plan down, here are a few last things to think about.
Consider getting a doula to support you during childbirth, or look up ways to get your partner or birth support person up to speed to assist you in labor. (Psst! They can accompany you to birth classes to get some tips.)
Being in hospital drags at the best of times. Make sure you pack a bag filled with all the things you might need for your birth and postpartum stay. This includes:
Think about who will care for any other children or pets while you’re in hospital. Line up carers or people to check in on your house for you while you’re away.
Plan your transport home from the hospital and stock your house with food, and self-care and baby products to keep you going for a few weeks while you rest and recover. No one wants to go home to an empty fridge so please think about how you’ll eat, be it meal prep, delivery services, or a pre-planned meal train with your friends and family.
Labor and childbirth can seem like a terrifying event at the end of a long, uncomfortable pregnancy journey. But mama hear this: giving birth will be one of the most incredible and impactful experiences of your life. And by the way… You. Can. Do. It.
Your birth might not unfold exactly the way you envision, but understanding the different ways you can bring a baby earthside, and what to expect before and after, may help you prepare for however it does go down.