pregnant woman reading a bookI’m nervous about labor and delivery. Can you give me the nitty-gritty details about what’s going to happen on the day my baby is born?

Of course you’re nervous! Labor and delivery are such an unknown. And it is really difficult to completely prepare for labor. The course of labor and delivery are variable, determined by your genes (if your mom had a fast labor, yours may be faster than average), your size and the size of your baby, the position of the baby inside of you and many other factors. And the experience of labor is even more variable, depending on your tolerance of discomforts, the support you receive, the policies of your hospital, availability of anesthesia (if you want it) and even what time of day it is and if you start labor tired or fresh.

Since I can’t tell you exactly what to expect, here are three pieces of advice for preparing for the big day:

  • Read a lot about labor and delivery, and if possible take a childbirth preparation class. If you want natural (no epidural) childbirth, or if epidurals aren’t available to you, a class that focuses on preparation for natural childbirth, like hypnobirthing or Bradley method, may be more helpful than a typical hospital-based childbirth class.
  • Go for a tour of your hospital or birth center. It can help to have an image of where you will be and how things will look. They will probably show you the sort of room you will be in, and talk about routines in their birthing unit. Also be sure to ask your doctor or midwife how their practice works and who is likely to be there when you give birth.
  • Plan ahead for your birth experience. A valuable asset at a birth is someone who can mother you during labor. This might be your mother, a friend or doula (a professional labor assistant). Although labor nurses can provide terrific labor support, they typically have several patients and, until the baby is about to be born, can’t stay in the room with you.
  • Help prepare your partner. The baby’s father may be the person who knows you best, but he may have a hard time if it looks like you are suffering, and he may not be familiar enough with the process to be totally reassuring. He is probably nervous as well. A great book to help your partner get ready to help you through birth is The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin.

You can’t know exactly what labor and delivery will be like, but you will get through it, and you will remember the joy of seeing your new baby for the first time.

Answered by Dr. Marjorie Greenfield