Labor Prep 101
The last few weeks of pregnancy seem to go on for-ev-er. I’m writing this post on the first day of my 39th week, and the babe (obvi) is still snuggled up in my belly. I had pretty much stopped working around 37 weeks, but then got the itch to get a few more posts up before she gets here. Frankly, the waiting game was killing me! So it’s a win-win for us all :)
I got such a great response to my birth plan that I thought you guys would enjoy hearing more about how we’re prepping for labor. It’s difficult for me to think about all of the things that are going to happen after baby is born—like going home, settling in with our night nurse, getting into a sleep training routine (yes, we’re starting this as soon as possible!)—because all I’m focused on right now is staying healthy and strong for what could be a breezy or long labor process.
The days seem long right now, but the weeks go by fast. It’s crazy to me to think that no matter what, within three weeks of today, Ryan and I are going to be parents! We’re so excited and the fear that I’ve felt previously subsides every single day as we get closer to our due date. The full moon came and went with no baby last Saturday, but I have no doubt she’ll come when she’s ready!
More on what we’re doing to prep below. Would love your thoughts in the comments as to what worked for you and what didn’t! I’ve seriously learned so much from you guys from your comments here on the blog and messages on Instagram. Thank you for sharing your wisdom! I separated the topics into the three categories that have been a part of my labor prep: education, body, and nesting. Enjoy!
We decided to hire a doula after doing some research early on. Originally, I wanted a home birth, but Ryan preferred a hospital setting for our first baby. So, we compromised and will be in a traditional hospital working with an OB and a doula. Think of a doula as a woman’s BFF throughout pregnancy and labor; she is a trained professional who provides emotional, physical, and informative support throughout the entire nine months and in the moment of labor (there’s also postpartum doulas as well).
Our doula’s name is Dawn, and she’s affiliated with Birth Partners, a local company here in Connecticut. She’s been fantastic and has helped support me throughout my entire pregnancy.
Every working relationship with one’s doula is different, but I’d say we speak at least twice per month over the phone and have met in person once at my home. This was all I felt was necessary to update her on my progress and feel comfortable with having her around for what will no doubt be the most vulnerable moment of my life.
I know Ryan is grateful for Dawn as well, since there’s only so much he’ll be able to support me with in labor. He’s well aware of our birth plan, but isn’t as savvy as Dawn when it comes to things like the medical terms, in-the-moment decision making (pain meds, labor positions, c-sections, etc.), and birth hypnosis. Speaking of…
One of my photographers sent me her birth video and it was the most amazing experience I had ever witnessed. After watching it, I knew I wanted to do whatever she did to have such a peaceful, soulful birthing. She told me she did the Hypnobabies self-study course, and I ordered the course shortly after finding out I was pregnant.
Ironically, I got pregnant only a few days after our last photo shoot together in San Diego and after watching her video. Total synchronicity!
Hypnobabies is a great course, but it does require time and effort. There’s a pretty thick book to read through and quite a few recordings to help train you for self-hypnosis that are mostly 40+ minutes in length. I did read the entire book, but I didn’t listen to the recordings every day as suggested. I started the course around week 20, and took it slow from there. The recordings would put me right to sleep most days, but oddly enough, I would remember them almost word for word during times when I wasn’t able to fall asleep. I feel prepared and well trained, and have the list of recordings for Ryan to play for me during different aspects of labor (onset of contractions, early labor, transition, pushing). Whether or not I use them the entire time will be my choice, otherwise I have music.
Either way, the course helped me learn a ton about what to expect. The one thing I will say is that Hypnobabies is pretty anti-medical intervention and establishment, so you have to take the advice with a grain of salt. I don’t believe all doctors are out to disregard a pregnant women’s wishes and rush c-sections, but I do believe it’s important to educate yourself so you understand what you’re getting into when the time comes.
The Parent Collective
If you’re local, this is a great course to take instead of the hospital courses if you want to get out of the hospital setting. And, you’ll meet other couples in the area who are around your due date. I had done so much prep work beforehand and we took the course from weeks 34-38, so I didn’t learn anything new necessarily, but the review was super helpful for me (because…pregnancy brain!) and it was incredibly valuable for Ryan. And, I have another crew of women to connect with before and after baby. We’re getting lunch together this week!
I’ve been nesting literally since day one of my pregnancy. I’m an overly-organized, Type-A kinda gal, and we had moved just weeks before I found out I was pregnant, so there was a ton to do for me to feel settled. I literally spent months prepping for baby, but the most important piece of the puzzle was creating a safe and welcoming environment in her nursery for all of us to enjoy. I’m not going to say too much here as our nursery reveal is coming out in a blog next week!
Aside from the nursery, I felt like I had to organize every room and closet in our house. And I did! Even though it drove Ryan crazy on occasion!
We are still in construction, so there was always something that needed to be done. Every weekend Ryan and I had a list of chores—from arranging our office to putting together baby stuff to cleaning out the garage—and we literally just finished last weekend. After that moment, it was a huge “phew,” and we both felt so ready for baby to get here once everything was organized! (At least the non-construction areas, ha).
Evening Primrose Oil
I’m not buying into all of the induction techniques you read about on the internet, but there are a few that I’ve heard are tried and true, and EPO is one of them. I take it orally and insert it vaginally every night. I started at around 36 weeks. Not gonna lie, my belly gets in the way of me inserting it “up there,” so Ryan (being the most awesome hubby ever) does it for me using a little coconut oil. Oh, and remember to wear a pad if you do this, because the capsule will leak throughout the night! Here’s the brand I use.
Raspberry Leaf Tea
Another method that has worked for some and not for others is drinking this tea. The reviews are mixed but from what I’ve learned the tea doesn’t necessarily induce labor, but it does soften the cervix and make dilation and recovery easier to handle. Well, that was enough for me to drink two cups of it per day! I steep it in the morning in a water bottle, allow it to cool, and sip it throughout the day.
I’ve been pretty active throughout my entire pregnancy, and I know this will help me through the labor process, especially with stamina. I’m still taking barre classes and both prenatal yoga and regular vinyasa (with plenty of modifications and no heat). I try to walk a few times per week, but baby has been so low since early on in my pregnancy that walking isn’t always the most comfortable (not to mention the constant urge to pee!). My goal is to move my body at least five days per week, whether it’s for 10 or 45 minutes, and I usually make it happen because I take the pressure out of workout expectations.
This is definitely not for everyone, but from what I’ve read, it really does help with tearing and comfort during pushing. The perineum is the area between the vagina and anus that usually tears during labor, either on its own or surgically via your doctor. It’s recommended that you massage this area a few times per week from week 36 on to help alleviate the pain and avoid (or more likely reduce) tearing. Here’s a great blog on how to perform the massage.
It’s difficult to do perineal massage with a big belly and can be painful if you’re not lubricating, so I do mine in the shower using a little coconut oil. It’s not comfortable, but worth it in my opinion from what I’ve read. I don’t do it for 10 minutes every day, but I do make the effort most days and can actually notice a difference, even in my comfort level with what’s going on “down there.” We plan on bringing a heating pad and coconut oil to use during pushing to help with tearing as well. The heat helps loosen the area since I won’t be immersed in water (like a water birth) and the coconut oil will provide additional lubrication for my doctor to use while she’s doing the massage. Most doctors do this nowadays during pushing, so have a convo with yours about it if you’re unsure!
Another method that has worked for many is acupuncture. I’ve been going throughout my entire pregnancy, from once per month in the beginning to twice per week now. There are certain pressure points that are proven to help ripen the cervix, although again, acupuncture is not proven to “induce” labor. I also love it because it helps calm me down during a time when I easily get anxious. Waiting for baby to come is definitely anxiety-producing!
TMI, but you guys know I’m not afraid of some real talk! Apparently, the prostaglandin in semen is supposed to help soften the cervix. Also, having an orgasm may help stimulate your uterus to start contractions. If you decide to do it, make sure to hang out for a few minutes afterward to allow the semen to do its job. My doula suggested propping a pillow under my bottom and just hangin’ out. So yeah, we’ve been having sex more than we did throughout the rest of the pregnancy—which is surprising because now is when it’s the most uncomfortable! Hey, Ryan’s certainly not complaining ;)
I've been seeing a chiropractor since January, about a month before baby was conceived. I was experiencing some back issues and funny enough, I had mentioned to her that we were planning to start a family at some point this year, and she warned me that many of her clients get pregnant very easily once they start chiropractic and their bodies are in alignment. Whelp, I found out I was pregnant weeks later, so I would say she was spot on!
My back and hip issues only worsened as the pregnancy went on, and in the latter weeks I've been dealing with some not-so-fun SI pain on my right side. Working with her has helped tremendously and I can't recommend chiropractic enough during pregnancy. I went once per week throughout then started going twice per week at 36 weeks. If you're local, Dr. Kim Krug is my girl!
This one I’m not paying much attention to. I’ve eaten some pineapple and spicy eggplant parm, but I don’t believe particular foods truly induce labor. Honestly, I’m doing it for sh*ts and giggles at this point, and am open to trying anything for fun!