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5 expert-approved ways to prepare for giving birth in hospital

Netdoctor (UK) logo Netdoctor (UK) 17/01/2019 Claire Lavelle

a close up of a hand: When having a baby and preparing for birth, it's often difficult to remember what you should do and bring. We've spoken to the experts to get their advice on how to prepare for delivery and birth, so it's one less thing to worry about. © Getty Images When having a baby and preparing for birth, it's often difficult to remember what you should do and bring. We've spoken to the experts to get their advice on how to prepare for delivery and birth, so it's one less thing to worry about. Giving birth is one of the biggest life-changing events that can happen to a woman, so it's understandable if you start to feel nervous in the lead up to your due date.

However, there are a few simple steps you can take to prepare and (hopefully) make things feel a little less daunting before the big day. 

We speak to midwife Rebecca Tieken, of Independent Midwives UK and consultant obstetrician Mr Michael Heard of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists about how best to prepare for giving birth in hospital: 

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1.Do your research

Pregnant lady reading © Getty Pregnant lady reading Step one: do your research and read up on what to expect. 'During your pregnancy, read as much as you can about labour and birth, from pain relief to breathing techniques to whether or not you want medical intervention to help you expel the placenta,' says Tieken.

'The emotional health and wellbeing of the mother during the birth experience is very important, not least because it can affect the bonding process.

It's essential that she feels in control, abreast of what's happening and that her wishes have been respected as much as possible.'

2. Take a flexible approach to your birth plan

If you're rigid in your planning, it can make any unexpected changes come as a shock, so be flexible.

'I tell women to make three (short) birth plans,' says Tieken. 'It helps to get mums-to-be asking questions and visualising different scenarios – whether they might need an epidural, or a forceps or ventouse (instrumental) delivery, or a C-section, for instance. Of course we try to follow a birth plan as closely as possible but if for some reason that's not possible, it means alternative procedures won't come as a complete shock.'

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💟 Tieken recommends the following three birth plans:

✔️ The first is for if everything is going optimally, and it looks as though the birth is going to be straightforward.

✔️ The second is for when some deviation is necessary.

✔️ The third is for where there are significant interventions to ensure safe delivery and protect the health of mum and baby.

💟 Is a detailed birth plan a good idea?

'Bear in mind that very detailed birth plans can be hard to fulfil,' says Heard. 'It's important that women feel confident as they approach their due date but try not to over-medicalise the birth process if possible. Be aware of what can go wrong, such as suddenly high blood pressure in the mum or the baby being in a tricky position, but try not to get overly worried.'

'Let your midwife know well before the birth if you have any particular needs or anxieties – telling us on the day means we might not be in a position to do much about them,' adds Heard.

'And try to be flexible in your approach as you can - a mother who doesn't want to accept a forceps delivery when intervention is needed puts us in a very difficult position. We won't intervene unless necessary and it's important to remember we're here to help.'

a person standing in front of a window: pregnant woman [28 weeks] checking bump © Paul Viant - Getty Images pregnant woman [28 weeks] checking bump

3. Develop a positive state of mind

Attitude is everything. 'Hypnobirthing, a practice that teaches simple breathing, visualisation and relaxation techniques, helps to cultivate a positive attitude and teaches relaxation techniques that you can practice throughout your pregnancy in preparation for use during birth,' says Tieken. 'It's empowering to feel you've done something positive that can help you get the birth you want.'

4. Look after your health

Eat well and exercise regularly throughout your pregnancy. 'The risk of an unplanned Caesarean section rises in direct correlation with body mass index (BMI) so try to keep weight gain within normal limits,' says Mr Heard.

Pregnant woman exercising on fitness ball © Getty Pregnant woman exercising on fitness ball 'Gentle, regular exercise, such as walking, is also really important, especially towards the end of the pregnancy when you want the baby's head to engage in the correct position within the pelvis. Aim for 20 minutes every day – start early in pregnancy and carry on as long as you can.'

'We also recommend massaging the perineum – the area between the vagina and rectum – for a few minutes each day from 34 weeks onwards,' advises Tieken. 'It helps to make the tissue and muscles in that area more flexible so they're better able to stretch during labour.'

5. Don't overthink your hospital bag

Perhaps most important are your birth plan and medical notes. Pack plenty of water, fruit juice or sports drinks - in the throes of labour you might not feel like eating but fruit juice or an isotonic drink will help keep energy levels up.

'It's nice to have a neatly packed hospital bag but don't spend too much time worrying about it – the hospital will be able to provide basics like newborn nappies and maternity pads,' says Heard.

'You might want to bring a couple of sets of babygros – often newborn sizes are too small. You'll need to take your baby home in a car seat, too, so make sure you have one of the appropriate size.'

Pregnant woman © Getty Pregnant woman

💟 Hospital bag essentials for mum

  1. Snacks – high energy and quick to eat
  2. Old T-shirt to give birth in (you might prefer an old gym top or bikini top if you're hoping for a water birth)
  3. A dressing gown and slippers – you might be pacing the corridors
  4. Socks – feet get surprisingly cold during labour
  5. Lip balm – lips get dry on hot labour wards
  6. Massage oil for relaxation / pain relief
  7. Maternity pads and big comfy knickers – you'll bleed quite a lot after giving birth. This is normal, but be prepared.
  8. Breast pads – whether or not you're breastfeeding
  9. Travel-sized toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush
  10. Flannel
  11. Mirror and make-up essentials
  12. Hairbands
  13. Mobile phone and charger
  14. Change for car park
  15. Tablet/book/music
  16. Clean clothes for journey home

💟 Hospital bag essentials for baby

  1. Newborn nappies
  2. Cotton balls for cleaning
  3. Muslin cloths
  4. Newborn outfit, including hat, booties, scratch mitts, cardigan and / or coat
  5. Cosy blanket

💡 If you're planning to bottle-feed your baby, most hospitals provide formula milk – but double check with yours beforehand.

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