Labor is the process through which a pregnancy ends and a baby is born.
The birth of a child is one of the most rewarding and memorable
experiences a person can have. At the same time, the labor process can
be difficult, painful and confusing, particularly if you have not
previously experienced the process before, or are going into it without
having been educated as to its complexities. No two births are the
same, and no two mothers have the same experience during labor. The
best way to prepare yourself for this important last stage of pregnancy
is to know your options and to know yourself and what you want for the
birth of your child.
It is a good idea that you establish a plan for labor and delivery well
in advance of your due date. The first decision you need to make when
thinking about the birth of your baby is where you would feel most
comfortable delivering. There are many options for where your baby can
be born, and how your baby will be delivered. For example, with the
approval of your health care provider, you may choose to deliver your
baby at home, or even in a tub at a birthing center. Many women find
the idea of delivering their baby in the comfort of their own home to
be very appealing. Others feel more comfortable delivering in a
hospital where they can receive immediate medical attention should
something go wrong. Even if you choose to deliver within a hospital,
there may be various options you can choose from which will affect your
As you consider where you want to have your baby, also start thinking
about who you want to be present throughout your labor and the delivery
of your baby. Many facilities allow several people, including partners,
family members, any of the baby's siblings, and even friends to be
present during the birth of the baby. Some women also choose to enlist
the services of a Doula. Doulas are women who help a birthing mother by
providing emotional, physical, and educational support for labor. More
information about Doulas can be found at the website for the Doulas of
North America website: http://www.dona.org.
Take the time to decide whether you want the birth of your child to be
a private event between you and your partner, or if there are others
that you would like to share in the experience with.
Another choice you will need to make in preparation for labor is
whether or not you want to use pain medication. It is impossible to
predict how much pain you will feel when you are in labor, and
therefore it is impossible to know whether or not you will require
medication in order to remain comfortable during the process. Talk to
your health care provider about the various methods for pain relief
that are available (both natural and medical), and do your own research
to narrow down the methods you find most appealing. Note that you can
choose more than one method so that if one fails, another is ready to
go. It is important to come up with a plan that you can be comfortable
with, as it will make your birthing experience more satisfying.
In preparing for a delivery, you may choose to take relaxation and
breathing technique classes, or to do exercises to help strengthen the
muscles you will use during labor. Lamaze classes teach breathing
exercises that have been popular among pregnant women for many years.
More information about Lamaze is available at http://www.lamaze.org.
Check with your health care provider or your local hospital to see
whether they offer classes for expectant mothers; it is very likely
that they do.
Labor can be a highly stressful, painful, and emotional time.
Therefore, it is best to make decisions about how you want to
experience this time before you find yourself in labor. Once you
understand your options, you may choose to write a birth plan, which
can give your health care providers, friends, and relatives specific
instructions for how you want to experience each stage of labor. If you
do decide to write a birth plan, be sure to review it with your health
care provider prior to your labor, so he or she will be familiar with
your wishes when the time comes.