10 Things to Do Before Going into Labor

A beautiful African American woman in the 3rd trimester of her pregnancy rests in a recliner on her porch, enjoying a hot drink while anticipating her upcoming child birth. Horizontal image with copy space.

The weeks leading up to your due date are chock-full of tasks to complete, from getting baby’s nursery ready to shopping for the perfect coming home outfit. With so much to accomplish – and the physical act of childbirth looming – it’s no wonder you’re feeling a bit anxious and overwhelmed! #dyingoverhere

Calm the butterflies in your stomach by doing a bit of prep work prior to the big day. Below are the 10 things you need to do before going into labor. From readying your body for birth to simplifying your trip home from the hospital, you’ll be glad you did!

1. Hop aboard the Kegel train

These days, everyone is doing Kegel exercises and there’s a reason why: they strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which can make for an easier delivery when it’s time to push (a.k.a. move your baby down the birth canal). According to the American Pregnancy Association, doing Kegels while pregnant also helps to curtail bladder incontinence and hemorrhoids, two seldom-discussed issues that a large number of new moms face.

Work Kegels into your daily routine by doing them while watching your favorite show or while stopped in your car at a red light.

2. Take a class

Attending a class taught by a medical professional opens up the door to learning about everything from Lamaze breathing techniques and laboring positions to swaddling and breastfeeding a newborn. At the very least, consider taking a class that covers what to expect once you go into labor. Mommy books are well and good, but nothing beats hands-on learning (which can sometimes mean getting down on the floor on all fours!) and the chance to ask questions in person.

Partners are generally encouraged to attend: Studies show causal links between partner support during pregnancy and decreased maternal emotional distress.

Pregnancy classes can be a major help as your big day approaches.Pregnancy classes can be a major help as your big day approaches.

3. Do your research

Whether you’re interested in a home birth, an unmedicated hospital birth, or think you might like to request an epidural, you should study up to understand the pros and cons of each prior to going into labor. You want to do what’s right for you and your baby, and the best way to accomplish this is by becoming informed and deciding how you want to give birth before going into labor.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, several factors can cause you to be induced; you might want to read up on induction methods as well – just in case.

4. Choose a professional birthing partner … or don’t

There’s no rule that says you have to use a doula when giving birth, but many women find them invaluable, especially in cases of home deliveries or during first births. These birthing partners are focused on emotionally and physically supporting mom before, during and following labor. Doulas help bridge the gap between hospital and home, especially when it comes to the “fourth trimester” – a time when you are acclimating to your new life as a mother, which can bring with it lots of challenges.

Certain doulas specialize in postpartum care. While they can provide tips for increasing lactation or safe sleep, they are also happy to lend a hand with rocking or diapering baby.

“Creating a birth plan is a great way to make sure everyone is aware of your wishes.”

5. Create a birth plan

Creating a birth plan is a great way to make sure your doula, midwife, doctor, nurse, friends or family members are aware of your wishes. From mood music to relax you or help you focus your breathing to medications you may want to avoid, birth plans should incorporate all the important information your birth partners will need to best assist in your labor and delivery.

Of course, when it comes to childbirth, you should always expect the unexpected. Even the best laid plans can go astray when your baby’s calling the shots, so keep an open mind and be flexible.

6. Pack your bag

Every mom knows her due date, but let’s be honest: Some babies just can’t wait to make an entrance! This is why it’s important to pack your bag well in advance if you’re having a hospital birth. If your water breaks, for example, you’ll be asked to go directly to the hospital to minimize the risk of infection – the last thing you’ll want to do is run frantically around your house searching for everything you need. From comfy clothes (pajamas, slippers, bathrobe, drawstring pants) to toiletries you can’t live without (toothbrush, hair elastic, shampoo), make sure your bag is ready to go before labor begins.

Don’t forget a seasonally-appropriate outfit to bring baby home in, as well as an infant carseat.

7. Purchase the essentials

After labor, the last thing you’ll want to do is go to the store to buy baby essentials. Plan ahead for the things you’ll need upon arriving home, from baby bottles and burp cloths to newborn diapers and fingernail clippers. You’ll also want to visit the pharmacy and stock up on necessities for baby such as liquid pain medication, gripe water, saline (for stuffy noses) and petroleum jelly. While you’re there, pick up some postpartum must-haves for yourself as well. These include maxi pads, a squirt bottle and witch hazel pads, among other things. Consult your OB-GYN for a complete list.

It’s important to figure out whether or not your insurance will provide a breast pump. Take care of this in advance to avoid having to do so from your hospital bed.

8. Plan for photo ops

There’s nothing like gazing upon your newborn for the very first time: the tiny fingernails and toenails, the wispy tufts of baby-fine hair, the rosy cheeks and wide, bright eyes. Capture every perfect feature so you’ll remember them always and forever by arranging for a professional portrait session. A photographer can come to your hospital room or visit you and baby in your home following your discharge. No matter your budget, there are packages for everyone. Tip: Book well in advance to secure your session!

If you want to incorporate a family heirloom (a handmade blanket, perhaps?) or other meaningful object into your photoshoot, be sure to pack that in your hospital bag in advance.

There will be no shortage of photo ops after you go into labor.There will be no shortage of photo ops after you go into labor.

9. Select a pediatrician

With your first baby, you’re often required to visit your pediatrician almost immediately upon returning home from the hospital to ensure everything is okay; hospital staff will typically ask for that doctor’s name during your stay. Select a pediatrician you trust before giving birth to make sure you have the right team in you and baby’s corner from day one. It’s also a good idea to ask about walk-in sick hours: certain practices offer these daily, which can save you from having to visit the E.R.

If you have certain preferences surrounding vaccines or diet, be sure that your provider is on the same page.

10. Take a hospital tour

As a first time mom you likely have lots of questions. Knowing what questions to ask ahead of time will allow you plan better for the big day, which can help alleviate fear. Take a tour of the hospital and its birthing unit and maternity ward. During the tour, you can ask everything from how many people are allowed in the delivery room to what the hospital’s views on “rooming in” are. Feel free to fire away!

Welcoming an infant to the world is perhaps the most exciting thing you’ll ever do. Take a breath and enjoy the process – you’re going to do great!