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About childbirth

We hope you don't have any expectations for yourself about childbirth because every one is different and it can be very unpredictable, even with the best laid plans! We hope the information below provides peace of mind in terms of what you can expect, and helps you plan for the childbirth that is best for you and your baby. 

Stages of labor

When to go to the hospital

Options for delivery

Perineal tearing

Having a natural childbirth

Medical intervention during childbirth

Pain management

Stages of labor

Stay tuned for more information about how you know you're going into labor, including Braxton Hicks and False Labor as well as what you should know about the stages of labor. 

When to go to the hospital

Once you are in the early stages of labor it can take days to deliver your baby. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you stay at home until you reach the active stage of labor or where contractions become 5-7 minutes apart. You should always go to the hospital if any of the following symptoms occur:

  • If your water breaks (when the amniotic sac surrounding the growing fetus breaks) which could range from a slow trickle to a big gush of fluid

  • If you begin to have regular contractions 5-7 min (from beginning of one to beginning of next) apart for 1 hour

  • If you have abnormal bleeding

  • If the baby’s movement decreases

  • If you feel uncomfortable at home or have a general feeling of unwell (trust your intuition!).

Options for delivery (Vaginally or C-Section)

Birth is a deeply personal experience. You should discuss the delivery option with your doctor or midwife to decide which is best for you and your baby, from where to deliver your baby to preferred levels of medical intervention. 

Vaginal delivery

A vaginal delivery is a human’s natural delivery method for giving birth. It usually occurs without surgical intervention. During a vaginal delivery, your baby will enter the vaginal or birth canal before entering the world for the first time. This provides the baby with protective bacteria to initiate their immune system. Passing through the birth canal also allows mucus and amniotic fluid to be cleared from the baby’s airway in preparation for their first breath. Another benefit of having a vaginal delivery includes less recovery times for the mother leading to less time in the hospital.

Caesarean or C-section

A Caesarean or C-section is the surgical delivery method where an Obstetrician surgically removes the baby through the mother’s abdomen and uterus. A mother usually is offered this method when complications with vaginal delivery occur or occasionally when a previous baby was born by Caesarean. Specific complications may include: fetal distress, vaginal canal too small for delivery (cervical dystocia, where the cervix fails to dilate), health problems with mother, the placenta is covering the cervical opening (known as placenta previa), or undesirable positioning of the baby.

Elective C-sections are also done which can provide peace of mind for the mother by knowing exactly when her baby will arrive. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you schedule a planned C-section in the event of placenta previa. Other reasons for a planned Caesarean include multiples (i.e., twins), severe preeclampsia, or a breeched baby.

There is a risk of preterm delivery with elective C-sections if the due date was calculated incorrectly. Complications are similar to any surgery including increased risk of blood clots, infection, and a slightly higher mortality risk.

For the majority of women it is possible to have a vaginal deliver following a C-section delivery, this is termed VBAC - vaginal birth after caesarean. However, a subsequent birth to a C-section delivery may also require a C-section especially if there is a lack of medical emergency support in your community, if your previous C-section was a vertical incision (which increases risk of uterine rupture), or if you had two consecutive Caesarean deliveries and no vaginal deliveries.

Perineal tearing

The tissue in the space between the vagina and the anus known as the perineum can become strained during vaginal childbirth and is at risk of spontaneous or surgical tearing. There are different degree’s depending on how deep the tear is and what tissues are affected. There are also anterior tears – the top portion of the vagina, and posterior tears – involving the bottom portion of the vagina.

  • A first degree tear involves the top layers of skin or the frenulum of the labia minora.
     
  • A second degree tear goes a bit deeper involving the muscles below.
     
  • A third degree tear involves the vaginal tissue. 
     
  • A fourth degree tear is more serious and occurs from the vagina to the anus and surrounding tissue.

Third and fourth degree tears should be repaired by an experienced obstetrician. Approximately 50% of all mothers will have some degree of perineal tearing, however, most tears are first or second degree and require stitches to promote healing.

The more common reasons a mom may experience a perineal tear include: first time moms, larger babies, and use of forceps, however, this is not always the case (note 2). There does not seem to be a correlation with oxytocin use or epidural anesthesia and increased risk of tears. 

Having a natural childbirth

A natural childbirth is where no invasive techniques or medications are used during labour and delivery. Instead, techniques such as breathing exercises, self-hypnosis, and massage are all used for pain management instead of medications such as with an epidural. Some women feel very strongly about having a natural childbirth and in most circumstances this can be achieved; however, it is important to be aware of the scenarios where intervention is necessary to prevent harm to the mom or the baby. See this post for when this may be the case. 

Refer this post for tips on how to have a natural childbirth. See below to download a sample natural childbirth birth plan.

Medical intervention during childbirth

Induction

Induction is the stimulation of uterine contractions before labor begins. An induction may be recommended or required for a variety of reasons, including: 

  • if there is concern for the health of the Mother and/or baby
     
  • if the baby is more than two weeks overdue or there are growing restrictions for baby
     
  • if a woman’s water breaks before she goes into labour (premature rupture of the membranes).

Consult with your midwife or healthcare provider about what method (or methods) is best for you if you require an induction, and before you try any of the methods listed below. Consider including your preferences for induction in your birth plan

Natural methods of induction

  • Walking - To increase head pressure on the nerves to stimulate contractions. Other options that could be helpful include standing, slow dancing and exercise (consider gentle exercise to avoid tiring yourself out)

  • Sex, as much and as often as possible - Semen contains prostaglandins, the same hormone-like compounds found in medications that cause the cervix to ripen

  • Nipple stimulation - Your parter can help with manual stimulation of the breast and nipple to increase oxytocin, a hormone that causes the uterus to contract. You could also try using your breast pump for up to an hour if your prefer

  • Acupuncture - Ask your doctor about the use of acupuncture and acupressure to hit trigger points which stimulate labor

  • Castor oil - Known for stimulating the uterus to contract a result of getting the intestines to start contracting. Castor oil must be taken with caution and on the strict direction of your midwife or healthcare provider as it can cause diarrhoea and vomiting and can lead to dehydration. Your practitioner may recommend between a tablespoon to an ounce of castor oil with a cup of orange juice, coconut water or other fruit drink

  • Relax and avoid stress

    • Massage - Consider a foot massage or pedicure as there are trigger points on the foot known to induce labor

    • Yoga - See this post for yoga during pregnancy. There are a few yoga poses that you should not do during pregnancy specifically to avoid inducing labor like sitting back on your feet with the top of your feet crossed while in a kneeling position!

    • Meditation and deep breathing - If you're not doing guided meditation, try breathing 3 seconds in through nose and out through mouth (give or take a few seconds on each breath depending on what comes naturally to you) and breathe in positive thoughts or think about the things that you are grateful for :)

    • These top 6 essential oils can help with relaxation during pregnancy and childbirth

  • Optimize nutrition - Some suggest that eating certain foods can assist with induction, such as spicy foods, dates and pineapple. We recommend optimizing nutrition which you can read more about in the Preparing for childbirth section below)

  • Tone the uterus and thin or soften (ripen) the cervix - Read more about these and other methods of preparing for childbirth below. 

Conventional methods of induction

After your midwife or healthcare provider uses one or more of these methods of induction, expect your contractions and baby's heart rate to be monitored continuously:

  • Vaginally - Synthetic prostaglandins typically placed inside the vagina to ripen the cervix

  • Intravenous - A synthetic version of oxytocin (Piton) through an IV to cause the uterus to contract

  • Membrane stripping (or sweeping) - A medical procedure that involves separating the amniotic sac from the cervix, releasing prostaglandins to induce labor.

When some women are induced, it escalates contractions to a high level very quickly and they become so powerful that you aren't able to make it through without having an epidural to relieve the pain. But having the epidural can cause labour to be long and drawn because it makes pushing more difficult. You then may need further medications and intervention like a c-sectionepisiotomy or use of forcepts or a vacuum which can cause severe perineal tearing. Discuss your options with your midwife or healthcare provider. 

Episiotomy

An episiotomy is a surgical incision along the perineal tissue to enlarge the outlet during delivery. Your healthcare provider may decide an episiotomy is necessary to prevent severe trauma to the vagina and perineum especially if instrumental assistance is needed (i.e. with forceps or vacuum) or to accelerate birth when there is evidence of fetal distress. Episiotomy’s are not routine procedures anymore and are generally not recommended as healing from a spontaneous tear heals quicker and is less risk to mother and baby.

Ask your healthcare provider about risks of severe perineal tearing associated with having an episiotomy, and how they would make an incision if the were to perform an episiotomy during childbirth. Some practitioners prefer to make an incision at a slight angle starting at the right or left side of the bottom of the vagina (rather than starting in the centre at the bottom of the vagina) to avoid the risk of tearing straight from the vagina to the anus. Consider including these types of preferences on your birth plan.

Vacuum and forceps

A vacuum or ventouse applies suction by placing a cup to the baby’s scalp to help draw the baby out of the pelvis. Forceps are typically metal prongs that slide over the baby’s head to also help draw the baby out of the pelvis but are also used in some caesarean births. Indications for use of these tools include delay of second stage labour due to insufficient contractions, epidural analgesia, improper rotation of baby’s head, or maternal fatigue. They may also be used if baby’s health is compromised and quick delivery is required. Epidurals increase the risk of requiring an instrument to assist with delivery.

In Canada, instrumental assisted birth is approximately 15% of all births. 

Complications for both vacuum and forcepts procedures are similar. For the Mother these include soft tissue damage and hemorrhage -- the use of forcepts or a vacuum can cause severe perineal tearing. For baby risks include bruising, trauma to the head or face, and worst but rare case nerve or brain damage.

If baby’s health is compromised and quick delivery is required, a Mother may have the option to elect for an episiotomy rather than using vacuum or forceps. Discussing the risks of these procedures to both Mother and baby with your healthcare provider can help in making more informed decisions. Consider including these types of preferences on your birth plan to help with quicker decision-making during childbirth.

Pain Management

There are various types of medication that can be helpful for pain management during childbirth and you should discuss all options with your midwife or healthcare provider. Refer to the discussion below for preparing how to cope with childbirth, including breathing techniques.

If the basics don't cut it there are a number of options to help which range from homeopathic remedies, to opiates, walking and non-walking epidurals and spinals. There may be side effects associated with different types of medication both for Mother and baby, including making baby less awake when born.

Homeopathic and other natural remedies

Your Naturopath or midwife can provide you with a homeopathic kit for labor and delivery, symptom by symptom. One option to assist with pain management is Actea Compose (also known as Actea Racemosa/Ez-Birth) homeopathic which can be taken at the end of the third trimester for pain management. Read this post to find out when, how much and how often one girlfriend took this to facilitate a more manageable labor and delivery. Note that Actea Compose has been known to induce labour if take in large doses. Consult with your healthcare provider before taking this or any other medication.

If a medical doctor or OBGYN is delivering your baby, ensure that any homeopathic remedies are also included on your chart so that nurses are aware of the medication you are taking.

Conventional pain management

Medication may vary by clinic and be administered:

  • orally

  • by IV (intravenous) drip where a needle is inserted into a vein with a plastic tube on the arm or back of hand

  • through a Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) pump which allows you to push a button to control doses of pain medication

  • by a needle directly into the spine.

Your available options may include...

  • Laughing gas

  • Narcotics - Opiates available to you may vary but could include Morphine, Stadol, Fentanyl, Nubain and/or Demerol (note 1)

  • Epidural - An epidural is administered through a needle into the spinal fluid and is generally given when a pregnant woman is 5-6 cm dilated, when contractions are strong and makes it so that you can no longer feel contractions. It takes about 20 minutes to kick in after being hooked-up to the IV and a catheter. There are both walking and non-walking options.

    Side effects may include fever, itching, feeling shivery or getting a headache. You may get low blood pressure which can affect oxygen to the baby. Having the epidural can also cause labour to be long and drawn because it makes pushing more difficult. You then may need further medications and intervention like a c-sectionepisiotomy or use of forcepts or a vacuum which can cause severe perineal tearing. 

  • Spinal Block - Anesthesia is injected directly into the spinal fluid,. Sometimes used in the event of a C-section.

Discuss all of the available options and side effects of each with your midwife or healthcare provider. Since childbirth is unpredictable, consider being open to all pain medications your healthcare provider can make available to you and simply include the pain medication in order of preference in your birth plan. This can help with quicker and more informed decision-making during childbirth.

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Preparing for childbirth, mentally and physically 

You won't get a hero cookie or other special recognition for having a natural childbirth. And there's no shame in taking pain medication to help make labor and delivery more manageable. Some girlfriends are all about taking every possible drug they possibly can, from laughing gas to an epidural. On the other end of the spectrum, you hear of women who have the ability to climax during vaginal deliveries without taking any pain medication at all! Every pregnancy and delivery is different and women should feel comfortable doing what works best for them.  

Here are ideas for preparing for childbirth for purposes of discussing with your midwife or other qualified healthcare provider.

Preparing the area

Figure out how you will best cope

Optimize nutrition

Optimize your baby's position for delivery

Preparing the area

Make space for your baby 

If you're having a vaginal delivery, your baby will need to squeeze out of a hole about 10 cm in diameter. Our top three recommendations to help prevent perineal trauma during childbirth:

Delivery position

To prevent or minimize perineal trauma, the best positions to deliver is on hands in knees, side lying, or in a squat position. These positions alleviate pressure from this area. Your midwife or medical doctor will also apply pressure to this area during delivery of the head and face and may even tell you when to push to ease the perineum during labour.

This and other positions for labor and delivery are coming soon.

Prepare the area (warm compress and perineal massage)

Applying warm compresses to this area and encouraging the mother to relax her muscles will also reduce risk of tearing, the more a mother is tensing the more risk of tearing. In a recent Cochrane review (note 1), it was determined that perineal massage during pregnancy significantly reduce the incidence of perineal trauma during birth.

For a perineal massage, start around 34 week’s gestation and repeat this motion for 4-5 minutes 3-4 times per week.. Your partner can help with this but you may want to use a mirror if you're doing this yourself.

  • Start by getting into a comfortable position with your back supported, spread legs  
     
  • Apply oil (organic olive or coconut) or organic lubricant onto your or your partner's fingers, thumb, and on your perineal
     
  • Place thumb or finger approximately 5cm (2 inches) into your vagina and apply downward pressure to the 3 o’clock side then slowly slide to 6 o’clock, then 9 o’clock positions applying pressure.

Use firm pressure but always be gentle – it is normal to feel a slight tingling sensation but you should not feel a burning sensation or pain.

Tone and strengthen your uterus

Labour prep teas

Drinking red raspberry leaf tea has been known to help to tone your uterus and prevent miscarriage as well as postpartum hemorrhaging (due to a relaxed or atonic uterus). It has also been known to help in the pain of delivery and enrich breastmilk. Starting in the third trimester, drink three cups of organic red raspberry leaf tea each day, hot or cold. You can drink it during labor and delivery as well. 

Labour teas can promote relaxation. Add 1 tsp of any of the following herbs to your labour prep tea: Skullcap leaf, passion flower, or valerian.

Mother's cordial tincture

Mother’s Cordial tincture (1/2 tsp per day) can be helpful for strengthening uterus and in post-partum to help uterus go back to regular size.

Thin or soften (ripen) your cervix

Evening primrose oil

Evening primrose oil has been known to help the cervix to ripen (or thin) by increasing prostaglandins, and promoting effacement, which the cervix prepares for delivery. As you get closer to delivery, your baby will gradually drop lower to the cervix, and the cervix will gradually become thinner, softer and shorter.

Ask your healthcare provider if you should take evening primrose oil (500 mg capsules):

  • from weeks 36 to 38, one capsule three times a day

  • from weeks 38 to 40, two capsules three times a day, and
     
  • beginning at week 39, apply it topically to the cervix by making a hole in the capsule and inserting it internally.

Acupuncture

Pre-birth acupuncture helps to increase your chances of a natural childbirth by helping the cervix to ripen, moving the baby into the proper position, increasing stamina, and resolving other pregnancy related concerns. Some healthcare providers recommend: 

  • from weeks 36-37: 1 time per week

  • from weeks 38-40: 2 times per week, and

  • after 40 weeks: 2-3 times per week.

Ask your doctor about whether acupuncture is right for you, and if so, frequency of treatments. 

Figure out how you will best cope

Breathing and relaxation

Master a method of breathing and relaxation that works for you (and, as mentioned below, conduct with your healthcare provider for pain management solutions that will work best for you). A girlfriend once described the pain of childbirth like slamming your hand in a car door 10 times. In short, be prepared for you body to be full on fight or flight mode during the entire childbirth.

Start by asking how you react when in a state of total panic then discuss suitable options with your qualified healthcare provider. Discuss breathing techniques with your healthcare provider, such as lamaze, Bradley or hypno-birthing. Basic rhythmic breathing may also work for you, taking deeper, more relaxing deep belly breaths between contractions and only when necessary, shorter, more vocal, shallow breaths. More specific types of breathing may make sense for you depending on the stage of labor:

  • deep abdominal breathing (3 seconds in through nose and out through mouth)
     
  • during “active stage” may choose shorter breaths in and out (when out make puffing sound)
     
  • during “transition stage” may choose “pant pant blow”
     
  • if told not to push, go on your elbows and knees (bum up) and pant through contractions.

Physical endurance and mental resilience play an important role during childbirth. But it is also important to recognize that you need to accept things you simply cannot change. Childbirth can be messy, unpredictable and unbearably painful. If possible, try to recognize patterns in your contractions to help determine when you might have time to rest between contractions (and before contractions become more and more intense). 

We recommend eating healthy throughout your pregnancy, including to satisfy your pregnancy cravings. Many women don't feel like eating much during labor. Plus there's a good chance you'll throw up what you've eaten in the process. Keep a few solid food options available while in labor and delivery and check out this natural energy drink

As discussed iin this post, there are a number of benefits to exercising during pregnancy. Some believe that being in good shape helps with a quicker and easier delivery :) 

Effective labor techniques

Coming soon!

Know all of your options for pain management

As mentioned above, ask your healthcare provider for options relating to pain management that will work best for you. Include them in order of preference in your birth plan to be prepared. Even if you prefer to have a natural childbirth, your birth plan may go out the window at anytime especially if there is a complication. 

Practice makes perfect!

When you've got your game plan figured out, practice! Whether it's a tape you listen to every night to help you relax or a method of breathing, make it part of your daily routine in your second/third trimester. One idea for practicing dealing with uncomfortable situations is to sit and hold an ice cube in each of your bare hands until they melt. This isn’t the same level of pain most women experience during childbirth but it can give you a general idea of how you'll cope.

Optimize your baby's position for delivery

As your tummy gets bigger, your healthcare provider will begin to pay more attention to the position of your baby. The closer to the end of your pregnancy, the less likely your baby will be to flip around, mostly due to size constraints. 

Best birthing position

Your baby may be in one of many positions in your tummy at any given time. There are a few ways a baby could be delivered vaginally, some less desirable than others. Baby positions are generally characterized as: 

  • Occipito-anterior position - Baby's head is down (cephalic) and facing your back (their tummy to your back). This the best birthing position for a baby. It is the easiest way for a baby to move through the pelvis during a vaginal delivery
     
  • Occipito-posterior position - Baby's head is down and facing your tummy (their back to your back). Women can typically deliver babies vaginally when their baby is in this position
     
  • Breech position - Baby's legs and bottom are down. Your healthcare provider may recommend a planned C-section for delivery of a breeched baby. 

Changing your baby's positioning

Your healthcare provider may recommend a planned C-section if your baby is in an undesirable position in your third trimester. Some practitioners recommend acupuncture or taking a dose of Pulsatilla 200CH to try to turn a baby. If your baby is not in the best birthing position, consult with your healthcare provider about what is best for you. 

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Your birth plan (and doctor, midwife and doula)

What is a birth plan and why have one

A birth plan is a written document that outlines your preferences during labor and delivery. Even though the plan is not set in stone, it can be a helpful guide for you personally - and it can also help inform your birth partner, doula and healthcare provider about your preferences.

Step one, speak with your healthcare provider

There are a few options for medical and assistance with respect to childbirth.

Midwife versus doctor

Midwives provide primary care to healthy pregnant women and their babies throughout pregnancy, labour, birth, and the postpartum period. Depending on where you live, midwives may deliver babies at home or in a hospital. They can order and interpret medical tests and results (laboratory tests, blood work, ultrasound scans, etc.), have home visits after your baby is born, and help with postpartum care, breastfeeding and transitioning into life with a newborn. Some midwives also offer monthly group appointments which allows the opportunity for patients to connect with other pregnant women and receive additional information about things like pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum care and newborn babies.

In Canada and the U.S., midwives are regulated by states and provinces. You can either have a midwife or a doctor, but not both. A referral is not required for using a midwive, however they are specialized in assisting with healthy pregnancies and normal births. If you have a high risk pregnancy or experience complications, you may be referred to a doctor or OBGYN. Approximately six weeks after delivery, you and your baby will transition back to your family doctor for ongoing care.

Start looking for a midwife as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Depending on community and practice volume, finding an available midwifery practice can be difficult, especially if you switch from a doctor to a midwife mid-pregnancy. 

More and more of our girlfriends have started to use midwives, including Moms who previously had positive experiences delivering babies in a hospital. Feedback has been predominantly positive, particularly the high level of at home care postpartum. But girlfriends emphasize that it is important to find the right midwife for you! 

There are a number of important questions to ask all midwives you meet with before selecting one that is right for you. Download a detailed checklist of questions to ask midwives here.

Doula

A doula is a birth companion or coach that provides emotional support to mothers before, during, or after childbirth (and physical support, as needed). Doula's may also provide support to the mother's partner and family members. Although doulas are typically certified, they are not classified as medical professionals and therefore, are not able to administer medication. 

Start looking for a doula as soon as possible after you find out you are pregnant, as the popular ones tend to book up quickly! 

There are a number of important questions to ask all doulas you meet with before selecting one that is right for you. Download a detailed checklist of questions to ask doulas here.

Information to include in your birth plan

The content and level of detail in your birth plan is completely up to you. You may want to consider including the items referred to below.

  • Describe the level of intervention and type of experience you would prefer to have - This includes things like the atmosphere and ambience of the delivery room, your birth strategy, labor and delivery techniques, whether or not you prefer to have a natural birth (even though you will not receive a gold star if you do!) and the type of pain medication you would prefer to take.
     
  • Flexibility - Give yourself a few options just in case things don’t go exactly as planned (not every woman will have a textbook labor and delivery). Your entire birth plan could go out the window depending on the circumstances of your labor and delivery, especially if you need to be induced or if there is an emergency. It is okay to include a list of all available options in order of preference.  

Download our free, user friendly sample birth plans for ideas when you are preparing your birth plan for a standard birth and natural birth preference

Planning and timing

We encourage you to prepare your birth plan as soon as possible during your third trimester in case your baby comes earlier than you expect.

What to do with your birth plan (where to keep it and who to give it to)

  • Your heathcare providers - Give a copy to your healthcare providers and review it with them during your pregnancy to make sure you are on the same page. 
     
  • Your birth partner and others who you have asked be in the delivery room to support you - Give a copy to your birth partner and doula (if you have one), and review it with them when you are pregnant so that they can advocate for you during labor and delivery. 
     
  • Keep it in a safe, easily accessible place - Put a copy in your hospital bag. You may also want to email yourself and your birth partner(s) a soft copy so that it is easily accessible from a smartphone. 

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Hospital bag packing checklist (for you and your birth support) 

Your packing checklist

Babies can come earlier (or later) than you expect, even if it's your first pregnancy. It doesn't hurt to pack your hospital bag at the beginning of your third trimester, especially if the preparedness will give you peace of mind. Below is a sample packing checklist to help you prepare for labor and delivery. If you're planning to have a home birth check out this post to find out what you'll need.

Clothes and hygiene

  • Toiletries - body wash, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hair brush, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, chap stick and make-up, etc.
     
  • Outfit to wear home - sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you probably won't get your bathing suit body back immediately after giving birth (you will likely be the size you were when you were around five months pregnant)
     
  • Flip-flops or sandals, for the shower
     
  • Outfit for labor and delivery - underwear, socks and sweatshirt for over top of your hospital gown that you are okay to throw out if they get dirty
     
  • Warm clothes to wear after delivery - robe or sweatshirt as well as socks and slippers, since hospital temperatures may vary
     
  • Nursing bra, and breast pads, breast shields and nipple cream if you plan on breastfeeding or expressing milk

For your baby

  • Outfit to take baby home in - sleeper, hat and bunting bag (don't forget warm clothes or a blanket if it's cold outside)
     
  • Scratch mittens (so baby doesn't scratch her face) and Pee-pee Teepees (for little boys, so you don't get peed on!)
     
  • Receiving blanket  
     
  • Diapers, wipes and rash cream if you prefer to use certain brands
     
  • Sterilized soother (with an attachment to clip on to baby's clothes so you don't lose it!)
     
  • Ensure the base of your bucket car seat is installed in your vehicle or in your trunk so you can take your baby home from the hospital (it's not a bad ideas to install the car seat before you go to the hospital, if possible, just in case something goes wrong)

Miscellaneous items, as applicable

  • Copy of your birth plan (and list of baby names!)
     
  • Health insurance cards (you may not want to bring cash or valuables in case they get stolen)
     
  • Cell phone and charger
     
  • Medications and other things for labor and delivery, and for after delivery - for example, if you plan to use natural painkillers, homeopathic medicine, or natural botanicals that promote tissue healing of the perineum to spray on frozen maxi pads (and bring your own maxi pads if you have a preference!)
     
  • Snacks and drinks, including this natural energy drink to help keep your stamina up
     
  • Gum or mints since you may not have an appetite during labor and delivery (and because when is it ever a bad idea to have these handy?)
     
  • Entertainment, distractions and comfort items for labor and delivery - books, magazines, playing cards, iPod, iPad, massage oil, etc.
     
  • A pillow, if you're particular about them, as long as you're not fussed about having to throw it out if it gets dirty
     
  • Breast pump you purchased or rented along with attachments and sterilized bottles/storage bags
     
  • Ear plugs and an eye mask, in case don't have a private room and it is loud or bright and you would like to get some sleep (and nurses tend to check on newborn babies pretty frequently)
     
  • Supplies and contact information for cord blood storage and placenta encapsulation
     
  • Perineal cushion or wipes (in case it hurts to sit or wipe down there with TP after delivery, but the hospital should provide a spray bottle which helps with this)
     
  • Pen (to complete forms)  

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Your birth partner's checklist

Your birth partner may also want to bring a hospital bag with them containing things such as a change of clothes and bathing suit or shorts and sandals for the shower. You may also want to task your birth partner with handling placenta encapsulation, blood cord storage, and installing the car seat while you are in the hospital. 

More coming soon!

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What you need of you're having a home birth 

Many women who have had home births swear by them, including those who have had the experience of delivering a baby in a hospital to compare it to. 

Here is a list of things you should have on hand if you plan to have a home birth (aside from making sure your midwife arrives on time!). 

  • Birth ball, stool or other props such as a birth pool to assist with labor. If you rent a birth tub, you will also need a garden hose to fill the tub with because the water needs to be as sanitary as possible (a used garden hose won't cut it!). You will also need an adaptor for the kitchen or bath tap so the garden hose can hook up to it. Make sure the rental comes with or that you buy a pump to take the water out after.
     
  • Fresh linens and towels. Use a tarpaulin or plastic sheet (a shower curtain may be a handy splash proof surface) and old sheets to cover the floor, bed and other furniture. You will also want replacement covers for replacing the dirty ones. Keep a supply of clean towels on hand especially if you are using a birth pool.
     
  • Clothes to wear during and after delivery. Shirt (and other layers of preference) to wear during labor and delivery that you won’t mind throwing out if they get dirty. Warm clothes and blankets for after delivery – you can expect to be about the size you were when you were around five months pregnant.
     
  • Items for your baby. It is helpful if you keep the things for your baby readily available including: 
     
    • diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream and change pad
       
    • sleeper and receiving blanket to swaddle
       
    • bassinet, cradle or crib
       
    • sterilized soother

A list of baby basics for 0-3 months can be found here.

  • Nursing paraphernalia. If you are using a breast pump, you will want to have the attachments and sterilized bottles/storage bags nearby. You may also want to have a nursing bra, breast pads, breast shields and nipple cream.
     
  • Hospital bag (and birth plan). Just in case you need to go to the hospital.
     
  • Supplies for cleanup. Stain remover in case it is required for spots on carpets, and garbage bags for waste.
     
  • Miscellaneous items, as applicable: 
     
    • Entertainment, distractions and comfort items – books, magazines, playing cards, phone, iPod, iPad, candles, massage oil, mints, gum, etc.
       
    • Light food and drink for yourself including Dr. Beverly's natural labor aid drink. Also have food and drink for birthing partner, midwife and other children. 
       
    • Medications and other things for labor and delivery, and for after delivery – for example, if you plan to use natural painkillers, homeopathic medicine, or natural botanicals that promote tissue healing of the perineum to spray on frozen maxi pads. (For more on preparation for childbirth, read this post). 
       
    • Container if you are keeping the placenta and contact information for pickup for placenta encapsulation service (if you are not keeping the placenta, ask your midwife if she plans to bring something for the disposal, etc.). For more about placenta encapsulation read this post.
       
    • Cord blood kit and contact information for pickup.
       
    • Perennial cushion, spray bottle and wipes (in case it hurts to sit or wipe down there with TP after delivery).
       
    • Padsicles (with natural botanicals to help you heal faster) and healing brew.

Consult with your midwife before you buy anything as she may bring pads to put under the bed, medical supplies and other items.

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Your other children

Childcare

If you have other children, be sure to arrange alternate childcare unless you plan to bring them with you to the hospital.

Sibling gifts

Depending on the age of your other children, you may also want to bring them each a present when you return home from the hospital from their new baby brother or sister. This can help clear the air if there's any tension or jealousy.

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Important things for you and your new baby

There are a number of things to think about when it comes to the birth of your baby and getting your ducks in a row before the big day. Life will feel like a whirlwind when you have a newborn. The last thing you will want to do as a sleep deprived Mother recovering from childbirth is read (or shop) in those few precious moments between feeding and snuggling with your baby, doing chores and handling all the other responsibilities on your plate.

Things to think ahead about for the care of you and your baby postpartum include: 

  • Baby basics that you can buy during pregnancy to help prepare for when your baby arrives
     
  • Baby proofing your home
     
  • Thinking about a baby feeding and sleep program that will work for you and your family
     
  • Getting your postpartum healing stuff and other support ready.

Read more about preparing for life with your newborn and postpartum care, including a Mother's survival guide, baby feeding and sleep program and a list of must-have 0-3 month baby basics, here.

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Sources

1Using Narcotics For Pain Relief During Childbirth, Americana Pregnancy Association [Last accessed: December 2017]. 
2. Christianson, et al., Risk factors for perineal injury during deliveryAmerican Journal of General Obstetrics and Gynecology Obstetrics: 2003. 

Other Sources

American Pregnancy Association (http://americanpregnancy.org)
Government of Canada: A Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/healthy-pregnancy/healthy-pregnancy-guide.html)
Mayo Cinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org)


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