Don't let the title fool you. I am all for, and encourage every expectant woman to take Childbirth preparation classes. With the caveat that preparing for childbirth is somewhat like taking swim lessons without ever getting in the water. There's only so much you can do without jumping in. Unfortunately, there's no way to get your feet wet in the labor department. However, there are additional things you can do to be more prepared. Here are a few suggestions:
- Learn your doctor/midwife's philosophy of birth. Know their protocols, their cesarean section rates, who their partners are (you should meet them ahead of time), their call schedule, and make sure they attend at the hospital you want to give birth at.
- Read a variety of books on childbirth there's a lot of good info out there as well as philosophies on labor and birth. (Check out our suggested reading list)
- Know your options. There's a wonderful book by Henci Goer, "A Thinking Woman's Guide To A Better Birth" that gives you all the research-based data on the pros and cons of the medications and interventions offered for labor.
- Exercise. Take a prenatal fitness, water aerobics, or yoga class to help you be strong and flexible.
- Massage. Find a massage therapist who specializes in pregnancy massage. Massage improves circulation, relieves the stress and strain of pregnancy, and most importantly helps to build the body awareness and breathing that will help optimize your labor experience. As a bonus, a nurtured woman becomes a nurturing mother.
- Practice, Practice, Practice. All those breathing and imagery techniques your instructor has been showing you. All the positions, all the comfort techniques. Labor is no time to be in the learning stage. (If you are confused or uncomfortable about doing this in a group setting many instructors will arrange one-on-one time with you).
- Hire a Doula. As a birth doula I would be remiss if I did not stress the importance of having a professional labor support person to help guide, support, and nurture you through this momentous moment in your life.