Nine months may seem like a long time, but there are many things to prepare for the big day and for life with your new little one. Use this time to talk with your doctor, plan for child birth, spruce up your nursery, and plan for life with your baby.
Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider
As your pregnancy progresses, new questions may arise. Before each prenatal check-up, make a list of questions and concerns you want to discuss with your doctor or nurse practitioner. Topics you may want to address include the following:
- What should I do if I think I'm in labor?
- Do I call the office or come to the hospital?
- What if it's late at night or on the weekend?
- If my doctor is unavailable, who will deliver my baby?
- What pain management options are available?
- What are the risks and benefits of each?
- How late into labor can I receive these medications?
- What natural pain management options are there?
- What are your thoughts on episiotomies?
- When would I need one?
- What if I don't want to have one?
- How often do you do them?
Be aware that an episiotomy should never be done without a medical indication (routine episiotomy is now viewed as doing more harm than good) — this is the position of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and you should expect your provider to voice a similar position.
- Are there any issues in my medical history or in my present pregnancy that may complicate delivery?
- If so, what are the issues?
- What can we do now to minimize any risks?
- What will you do during delivery to minimize any risks?
- What are the reasons I might need a Cesarean section?
- What happens if I pass my due date? Will I be induced? What does that entail?
- Should I create a birth plan?
- If I want to breastfeed, how soon can I get started?
- Will there be anyone available to help me and my baby learn to breastfeed?
- If I feed my baby formula, which one should I use? What supplies will I need? And how do I prepare the formula?
Take a childbirth preparation class
Birth classes teach you about pregnancy and help lower your anxiety about labor and delivery. A variety of topics are offered, from your baby's development to prenatal yoga. Relaxation techniques for labor and delivery are popular topics. The two most common techniques in the U.S. are the Lamaze technique and the Bradley method.
The "Lamaze" technique
The Lamaze technique teaches women to find strength and comfort during childbirth. Classes focus on relaxation methods and controlled breathing patterns to help manage pain. They also teach distraction methods, such as focusing on a photo or having a massage from your partner. The Lamaze approach is neutral about pain medication. Women are encouraged to learn about all options and decide what is right for them.
The "Bradley Method," or husband-coached birth
The Bradley method is an all-natural approach to birth. It stresses the avoidance of medications unless absolutely necessary. This method also calls for an active role for the baby's father as birth coach. Good nutrition and exercise during pregnancy are encouraged. Relaxation and deep-breathing techniques are taught to cope with labor pain.
Visit the pediatrician and hospital or birthing center
Many hospitals, birthing centers, and pediatricians' offices offer open houses for you to meet the staff and tour their facilities. Take advantage of these services.
- Ask your doctor and your friends for a referral to a pediatrician. Visit the open house for new patients. This is a good way to get to know and to choose a pediatrician. This pediatrician will see your baby within the first ten days of life.
- Take a tour of the maternity ward or birthing center where you will give birth
- Ask about the rooms; including whether you will you have a private room? Can a family member stay over?
- Ask about policies, such as who can be present for the birth, visiting hours, and bringing in outside food and flowers
- Do a dry run. See how long it will take to drive from home to the hospital or birthing center. Determine the best route if there might be traffic or other delays.
Prepare your home
When you come home with your little bundle of joy, it's helpful to have things set up. Think ahead to what you'll need for yourself, the baby, and the rest of the family. When friends and family offer to help, take them up on it! When you're only getting a few hours of sleep at a time, you'll really appreciate a home-cooked meal or someone else to walk the dog. Here are some ideas to start preparing the home front.
- If necessary, arrange for someone to help you the first couple of weeks at home
- Shop and prepare food for the first weeks back home, and collect take-out menus
- Prepare a nursery for your baby, you'll need:
- A crib or bassinet
- If you buy a used crib, make sure it meets the standards set by the National Safety Council
- A table or other sanitary place to change diapers
- Diaper bag packed with diapers, receiving blankets, change of clothes, plastic bag for soiled diapers, and baby wipes
- Diaper pail or garbage can
- Storage area for baby clothes and diapers
- If using cloth diapers, set up delivery; you'll need 90 diapers for the first week
- If using disposable diapers, stock up; buy 350 for the first month
- Stock up on clothes and accessories for the baby
- T-shirts or "onesies" (5-10 sets)
- Booties or socks (3-5 pairs)
- Hats (1-2)
- Sleepers (5-7)
- Receiving blankets (5-7)
- Fitted crib sheets (3-4)
- Soft wash cloths (3-5)
- Burp cloths or cloth diapers (3-5)
- Baby scissors or nail clippers
- Baby thermometer
- Mild soap, baby lotion, and baby powder
- Wash all clothes, bedding, towels, and wash cloths before using them with your baby
Be ready for the big moment
Once your contractions become regular, you should be ready to jump in the car and get to the hospital. Check with the maternity ward to see what they'll provide for you. Pack your bags and keep them by the door or in the car so you'll be ready on a moment's notice.
Here are some things to think about:
- Always have the gas tank full
- Bring an infant car seat; you may not need to take this with you initially but you will need it to bring the baby home
- Bring your insurance card, birth plan, and any other useful health information
- Leave jewelry, cash, and other valuables at home
- Pack these things for yourself
- Warm socks
- Hand lotion and lip balm
- Lollipops or hard candy; favorite snacks or juice
- Toiletries (dental care, contact lenses, deodorant, shampoo)
- Comb, brush, and elastics for long hair
- CD player and favorite relaxing music, books, magazines
- Several pairs of underwear, socks, and bras
- Pajamas, with button front if you plan to breastfeed (2 sets)
- Bathrobe and slippers
- Extra pillow, if you are partial to yours
- Loose-fitting outfit and shoes to wear home
- Pad and pencil, to write down questions for your medical team
- Telephone calling card and phone numbers (many hospitals do not allow cell phones)
- Camera or camcorder
Pack for your baby:
- Name and contact information for your baby's healthcare provider
- Outfit for baby's photo and an outfit to wear home (a onesie and an outer garment)
- Mittens or extra pair of socks to cover baby's nails (to avoid scratches on the face)
- One receiving blanket
- One outer blanket
- One hat and pair of booties
- If using cloth diapers, bring two diapers and Velcro diaper covers
- If the weather is cold, a heavy blanket, sweater, and hat
Your partner should pack a bag, too:
- Underwear and a change of comfortable clothes
- Pajamas, if staying overnight
- Books or magazines
- If you have children, designate someone to babysit while you're in the hospital.
Try to relax
When you are well prepared, you can go into the delivery room feeling confident. Keep in mind, though, that this is a natural process with natural ups and downs. Use your relaxation techniques and focus on the miracle of birth to help get you through the difficult parts.