Your water broke – finally! Now, your nerves are kicking in. “The feelings of being scared, overwhelmed, excited – these are all normal feelings,” explains Maria Holthaus RN, a labor and delivery nurse at Marianna Vardaka MD’s practice.
While labor day nerves are seemingly inevitable, the right preparation can lessen your concern and set the stage for a smooth delivery.
Tip #1: Take the Right Classes
Taking a Lamaze class is especially beneficial for preparing both you and your partner for what to expect during labor and delivery. If you are planning to breastfeed, it may also be helpful to take a lactation class, too.
Tip #2: Stay Fit During Your Pregnancy
First-time moms can push for anywhere from one to three hours, on average. While you cannot fully control how fast delivery goes, exercising throughout your pregnancy is essential for strengthening the muscles, like abdominals, you use to “push” during delivery, which may shorten labor.
Dr. Vardaka says walking is the best form of exercise. “The minimum they need to do is 30 minutes of brisk walking per day.”
Tip #3: Call Your Doctor Immediately
If you go into spontaneous labor at home, call your doctor right away. However, depending on what he or she says, you may have time to take a shower, do a relaxing activity (like taking a short walk or doing yoga), or eat something before heading to the hospital. “It’s not generally an emergency to go straight to the hospital,” Maria points out.
However, when it comes to snacking during the early stages of labor, it's important to eat something light and easy to digest. Once labor is active, you are only allowed to eat ice chips, in case you need to have a C-section. If there is food in your stomach, "the risk of aspiration goes up," Maria explains. Aspiration causes food in the stomach to move up into the lungs during labor.
Tip #4: Pack Light
Most women spend about 24 to 72 hours in the hospital, which means it’s okay (and encouraged) to pack light. The hospital you are delivering at should provide items like diapers, wipes, pacifiers, nursing pads, sanitary pads, formula, bottles, toiletries, nipples, and blankets.
On the other hand, Maria's “must have” items include:
- Comfortable pajamas or pants and a shirt for after delivery
- Socks or slippers
- Baby outfit for picture day
- Nursing bra (if applicable)
- Car seat
Tip #5: Create a Soothing Environment
It’s important to make the delivery atmosphere as comfortable as possible during delivery. This may include bringing “focal points” like a family photo or a photo of your pet. Also, bring your own pillow or blanket, if you prefer that over what the hospital offers. “You can bring music – whatever you want,” Maria adds.
It is also helpful to get a tour of the hospital and the labor rooms, to familiarize yourself with the environment. “That is essential for getting the pre-admission jitters away,” Marianna Vardaka MD, explains. “Get familiar with the place.”
Tip #6: If You Want an Epidural, Inform Your Doctor As Soon As Possible
If you are planning on having an epidural, Maria recommends informing your doctor as soon as possible because it may take some time before the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) can get to your room, depending on how many women are in labor at that time.
Epidurals used to be extremely potent upon initial administration, and then they would wear off. This was problematic because the epidural was so strong that it would nearly paralyze the mom, hindering her ability to push. However, now, epidurals are given on a continuous infusion. “This is the biggest misconception,” Maria points out. “Women think that the epidural creates longer labors … now that we have continuous epidural infusions, the patient feels pressure, but not pain, so they can push.”
Also, laboring women can control the amount of medicine they receive through the use of an epidural pump. “You just push the button once and it gives you an extra dose of medicine,” she adds.