Photo credit Julia Lorraine

Birth can be transformative. Research shows that for birthing people with the goal of natural childbirth, preparation and education greatly increases the likelihood of having a natural birth free of unnecessary intervention. While birth is unpredictable, there are many things you can do to prepare your body and mind for the challenge. We’ve put together this list of five things you can do to prepare. At San Francisco Birth Center, our goal is that your birth is an empowering and transformative experience that shapes and informs the start of your parenting journey.

Prepare yourself physically. Preparing your body for a natural birth is just as important as preparing your mind. Your body will go through some impressive  changes as it grows a placenta, a baby, adds fluid, and prepares for future breastfeeding.  We suggest eating small frequent, high protein meals with plenty of fresh vegetables. Drink lots of water and limit refined foods such as sugars, white flours, packaged foods and chemical sweeteners.

Get plenty of exercise! Exercise in pregnancy is not about weight control, it’s about mental well-being and preparing your body for birth. Giving birth is a bit of an endurance event  (kind of like a long run) for most women, so regular, exercise is really helpful. To help prepare yourself try prenatal yoga, walking, swimming, and squats. Another way to prepare your body physically for the work you will do during labor, is by taking a prenatal partners classand practicing positions and massage techniques at home.

Prepare your mind. For women wanting a natural birth, preparing your mind and soul is as important as doing squats. Get plenty of good sleep. Take naps as your due date approaches. There are hypo-birthing classes, audio programs, meditations for pregnancy, and plenty of books and podcasts to help you learn and relax during pregnancy. It is important to meditate and cultivate a state of deep relaxation that is easy for you to access in times of intensity. You also want to prepare your mind by seeking out positive labor stories.

When you’re pregnant, it seems like everyone has a story to share with you  Some stories are inspiring and some negative, as we know birth can be unpredictable. If you hear a scary story, know that it is that person’s experience and it’s real, and should be honored, but hear it with a grain of salt. Listen to positive birth stories to hear the wide range of normal. Seek out your friends who have had natural births and ask them the details, , watch  and read our birth story blog, and books, such as Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth  Prepare your soul by filling your heart with positive experiences and being careful with the negative ones.

Prepare your space. The most important detail in preparing for a natural childbirth is finding a care provider who you feel comfortable with. Research shows that women’s relationship with their provider is the number one factor in determining their level of satisfaction with their birth experience – regardless of outcome. When you find a care provider, it will determine what your options are for the location of delivery. Find a care provider who will deliver your baby where you feel most comfortable whether it is a birth center, at home, or in a hospital.

Prepare your team. The support that you have during labor has a big impact on the outcome and  the way you feel about your birth. . Make sure that you have a great support team.  Invite family or friends who you know will support you. Have a birth team meeting with your whole team and make sure they understand how they can best support you. Give them specific jobs, talk about the logistics, and ask for what you need, such as “make sure I’m drinking water” and “remind me to breathe”.

Some women choose to have doulas, along with their family or friends. A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience. You explain exactly what your needs are, and your doula is there to make sure that your needs are met.

Prepare your bags. Pack your bags! If you’re planning a homebirth, stock your fridge and prepare your space. Bring your music, food, drinks, and anything that will  make your labor and postpartum experience comfortable for you. Maybe your favorite pillow or a picture of your dog? Make a few playlists, one for relaxing and one for more high energy. At SF Birth Center, we sometimes have a dance party to get things moving and love to have your favorite song ready to go. Think about what you may want to sip on and snack on and make sure you have a few options of each.

You only birth your baby one time, it is a precious day,  Prepare your mind, body, and soul for the most natural, transformative, empowered childbirth you can have.