Exciting times are ahead! Birth comes after lots of anticipation and preparation. It is normal to be a bit worried about the labour and birth, especially if it is your first time. Everyone has a unique birth experience and everyone feels differently about it.
Preparing for birth
- Read about birth and labour and discuss them with your medical team
- Attend antenatal classes as they will prepare you with some practical support and answer your many questions
- Prepare a birth plan letting your healthcare professionals know your preferences for the labour, birth, pain management and who you would like to be at the birth
- Research birthing alternatives so that you can make an informed decision
- Keep an open mind to pain relief options and birthing positions as you won’t know what you’ll need until you’re in labour. Things don’t always go according to plan and preparation helps to avoid feeling negative over loss of control about the birth experience
- Ask your doctor/midwife/hospital services any questions
- Visit your hospital before the birth and don’t forget to have that bag packed
- Talk to your support person about their role. You may like to read information on the role of the support person during caesarean birth
The main signs of labour starting are strong, regular contractions and a ‘show’. A show is when the plug of mucus from your cervix comes away.
Other signs that labour is starting include your waters breaking (rupture of the membranes), backache and an urge to go to the toilet. This is caused by your baby’s head pressing on your bowel.
The Women and Newborn Health Service has many resources that may be helpful.
Having twins or a multiple birth
So you are expecting more than one baby – congratulations! It is a different experience and challenging when you have more than one baby. This is why identifying support whilst still pregnant is a good idea.
There are extra demands on the mother’s body when having multiple births and increased emotional responses. It is a big adjustment, so preparation and planning are key.
Having an early labour and birth is often an unexpected or emergency situation. Parents may experience a variety of emotions including feelings of grief over loss of control over the birth as well as fear and trauma. You may not have had time to mentally adjust to or prepare for the birth.
There may be fear of loss about a mothers’ life and/or babies’ life. Both parents can be traumatised by the experience, which can put you at higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, postnatal depression and postnatal anxiety.
You may also:
- Have difficulty adjusting to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
- Be concerned about separation from your baby
- Find it hard to feed and bond with you baby
- Feel helpless and need time to gain confidence in caring for your baby
- Feel anxious about bringing your baby home particularly after an extended hospital stay
- Experience continuing feelings of loss about the “normal” or expected birth you had planned.
Seek out and accept support from each other and from professionals around you to ensure you have the best possible start to parenting.
Feeding your baby
“I don’t feel confident that I know how to breastfeed my baby.”
Breast milk provides all the nutrition and other benefits that your baby needs for the first 5 to 7 months of life.
This is one of the first skills to learn after birth and it can be challenging and will take a little time to establish. Midwives, lactation consultants and the Australian Breastfeeding Association can all provide support.
Developing a good understanding about breastfeeding before the birth will help build your confidence. Consider forming a ‘support crew’ in advance so that help is available when you need it. Try to seek support from other women who have breastfed their own babies.
You may not be sure if you want to breastfeed your baby. If so, it is important to ask health professionals lots of questions so you make an informed decision. Discuss your decision with your partner and other important people in your life. More about infant feeding.
Planning to raise your child
Parenting is a journey. As your child learns and grows so will you learn and grow as a parent. There are many opportunities to learn and people from whom you can seek support and knowledge.
You may feel overwhelmed with all sorts of advice you receive about parenting your baby. In this case you may feel doubtful about your abilities to be a good parent or you may disagree with others’ advice.
Get to know your baby. Watch, talk, sing, play and read to them. Have lots of hugs and cuddles and you will soon know them very well.
Sometimes it helps to plan for the future to relieve concerns about the unknown when you are pregnant – this gives you a sense of control. Discuss with your partner and family how you would like to raise your child and how you can support each other.
It is good to talk about how to make your environment as healthy as possible for your baby. This means having a healthy lifestyle. You might choose to quit smoking, adopt more healthy eating habits and role model the benefits of exercise and being active.
It is never too early to start role modelling the behaviours you would like your child to have in the future like helping, sharing, and being respectful, as babies and children learn from what they see happening around them.
Pregnancy loss, miscarriages, stillbirths, and infertility
Grief and loss over losing your baby at any stage of the pregnancy affects both parents and their family. Pregnancy after pregnancy loss can bring up a range of emotions. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Want to know more?
Government of WA, Healthy WA – Having a baby
The Raising Children Network – Pregnancy and birth
Women and Newborn Health Service – Pregnancy
Pregnancy, birth and baby – Having the baby