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Supporting you through pregnancy and the early stages of motherhood
Planning for the birth
It is worth thinking about what you will need to do to prepare for the arrival of your baby well in advance and I think in most cases women do anyway just through pure excitement or worrying about not being prepared enough. Even if the actual birth seems so far off, believe me it does actually fly in and with all the getting the nursery ready, buying clothes and the multitude of equipment that you seem to need, not to mention the whole nesting instinct kicking in, you may be surprised when all of a sudden you are in your final few weeks. There are about 5 weeks (between week 37 and 42) during which it would be entirely normal for your baby to be born. So it makes sense to think about what you will need to have ready for when your little one decides to make an appearance, well in advance.
Your labour bag
You will have to pack a basic kit for during the birth and afterwards. You may be tempted but try and not do what I did and pack everything but the kitchen sink. For some reason it did not occur to me that my husband could bring some things to me at the hospital, as and when I needed them (especially considering we only live about 5 minutes from the hospital). So we turned up at the hospital, 2 o'clock in the morning with loads of bags and my TENS machine, the midwife probably thought I was moving in permanently. Anyway things to consider packing are:
For you:
Nightdresses-an old nightdress or baggy T-shirt, preferably front opening, for labour. Plus two or three nightdresses or pyjamas and a dressing gown for the next few days. If you plan on breastfeeding then make sure to get ones that are front opening.
Two or three maternity bras (feeding bras if breastfeeding).
Breast pads (a big box)
Super-absorbent sanitary towels (again a big box).
Several pairs of pants, either cotton or disposable.
Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, flannel or a pack of cleansing wipes is handy, towel, hairbrush, shower gel, shampoo, make-up, small mirror, and deodorant. Basically all the usual stuff.
Plastic bags for the dirty washing.
Clothes to come home in.
Slippers.
2 copies of your birthing plan.
Change for the payphone.
Something to tell the time, whether it is a watch or wee clock. I don't always wear a watch so I didn't have one with me and I could not see the hospital's clock from my bed. It was really annoying not being able to see the time particularly at night, and you need to know the times when you feed your baby.
For baby:
Nappies.
Cotton wool, wipes.
Babygrows and suitable nightwear (plenty in case your baby is quite sicky).
Vests.
Cardigan or warm coat/snowsuit and a hat to come home in, depending on the weather.
Blanket.
Remember to fit a suitable baby seat in the car that you will be using to take the baby home in.
Comfort aids for during labour
In addition to the basic items that you will pack in your labour bag you may want to pack some extra things for your own comfort. Some of the following may help during labour:
Aromatherapy oils (ask the midwife when you visit the maternity unit as some hospitals offer aromatherapy during labour if you would like it), a massage roller, or homeopathic remedies.
TENS (Transcutanaeous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine.
An extra pillow.
A thick pair of socks.
A CD player (check with the hospital they may have one) and some relaxing CDs plus some spare batteries.
A hot water bottle to help with pain relief.
Two face flannels.
Massage oil.
A big box of tissues.
Lip salve (your lips can get quite dry).
A spray bottle, filled with cool water to spray your face.
Drinks and snacks for energy.
Your partner may need:
A change of clothing.
Drinks and snacks to keep his energy levels up also, for support.
Change for the payphone to phone family and friends with news.
Telephone numbers for friends and family.
Camera and film or video camera (check if video cameras are permitted).
Basic toiletries.
You may start to feel quite anxious as your due date approaches and find that you start to panic about having everything organised in time. A good way to ensure that you are calm and feel organised and ready for the arrival of your baby, especially when you actually go into labour, (the last thing you want is to be worrying about what you have forgotten) is to plan ahead so that everything is done and all arrangements have been made. Some points to consider are:
How to contact your birth partner (and/or the baby's father if they are different) when you go into labour.
Make sure you have the telephone number of your midwife or the labour ward of your maternity unit, close at hand so you can call when you are in labour and to let them know when you are on your way in.
If you have been given your antenatal notes to look after yourself then make sure they are in your labour bag or somewhere that will ensure you take them with you to the hospital.
Pack your labour bag.
Write up a birth plan.
Plan your route to the hospital and take note of how long the journey will take. Have a back up route in case of traffic jams etc.
Check if you will need to pay for the car park and how much change you will need.
If you have older children then make sure to arrange who will be watching them while you are at hospital. Make sure your other child or children understand what will happen, who will be looking after them and when they will see you again (this is especially important the younger the child).
Pain Relief During Pregnancy
Writing a birth plan is a great way to consider your options and ideas for the birth. It also allows your caregivers and birthing partner to know what kind of birth you want for you and your baby. It is important to remember that when writing your birthing plan you are not stating your ideal birth as even although we would all love a natural, pain free labour, this is reality and sometimes things don't run as smoothly as we would like. You should be using your birth plan as a discussion of how you would like your labour to progress, your feelings on certain procedures and what pain relief you would like to use if needed. Most importantly be realistic, if you produce a birth plan that says you want all natural with no intervention at all and you end up having to have some form of intervention then you will end up really disappointed. It is better to think of all possibilities and look for the best outcomes in all eventualities. When you go into labour make sure to take two copies, one for your midwife and one for your own reference.
Points to consider
in birth plan
Support Person - who this will be (partner, mum, sister etc).
Monitoring - electronic fetal monitoring, sonic aid etc.
Positions - whether you want to be mobile and using active birth aids rather than being restricted to bed.
Pain Relief - will you be using a TENS Machine, if you need more will it just be gas and air or do you want an epidural early on (mobile epidurals allow you to walk about).
Amniotomy - would you prefer not to have your waters broken artificially?
Episiotomy - would you prefer to tear naturally?
Plan ahead so that
everything is done and
all arrangements have
been made
Preparing for a home birth
If you are planning on having a home birth then your midwife will go through what you will need, which is actually relatively minimal. If you want to have a home water birth then obviously you will need to rent a birthing pool for a few weeks in case you go early. It is worth spending time beforehand working out which room you would like to use to give birth in: somewhere private, with easy access to a bathroom and hot water, is probably best. Your midwife will bring round a sterile pack with all the things she will need for the birth, about 2 to 3 weeks before your due date. Keep these in a safe place and do not interfere with them, as they must remain sterile. It is still worthwhile to pack a labour bag as it is a good way of having everything you will need to hand and if for whatever reason you need to be transferred to hospital you will have everything ready in a bag.
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