What to expect when you’re expecting: preparing for labor

Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2024
Megan Cargile
MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, NGMC Braselton Director of Labor and Delivery

You’ve decorated the nursery and stocked up on diapers. What’s next? It’s time to start preparing for labor. 

Whether you’re expecting your first baby or your third, there are lots of puzzle pieces that need to fall into place in the last weeks and months of pregnancy. As you enter the final stages of your pregnancy, turn your focus to getting yourself ready for labor and delivery—physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

Wondering where to even begin? The tips we offer below are a good starting point. 

The expectant mom’s guide for getting ready

You have enough on your mind. Let us simplify the process of preparing for labor. Start with these basics: 

Learn all you can about what to expect. If you haven’t already, be sure to enroll in a childbirth education class. You can also sign up for classes related to breastfeeding, parenting, and car seat safety, along with access to an online portal filled with helpful information. Our team of educators is here to answer your questions and help you gain as much knowledge as possible about labor, delivery, and beyond. 

Prioritize getting enough sleep. Trust us, this is one piece of advice you won’t regret taking! In the latter stages of your pregnancy, make it a priority to get enough quality sleep. Experts recommend aiming for eight to 10 hours of sleep each night, though your body may need a little more or less. You can’t store away sleep for after your baby arrives, but your body and mind will be better-prepared for labor and parenting if you’re getting enough sleep now. 

Fuel your body in a healthy way. You probably know by now that “eating for two” is a misnomer. During the last trimester of pregnancy, you need about 450 extra calories a day—so 450 calories more than you would have eaten before pregnancy. What should you eat? You want to be at your healthiest and strongest when it’s time to deliver your baby, so fill your plate with plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, lean proteins (like chicken, low-mercury fish, beans, or lentils), low-fat dairy, whole grains, and a small amount of healthy fat, like what’s found in olives or avocado. 

Move your body. Whether you exercised regularly before your pregnancy or are new to it, being physically active during pregnancy can help with preparing for labor. Talk with your women’s health provider about what activities are safe for you and your baby. Even low-impact movements like brisk walking or yoga can help strengthen your body and build up your stamina, which will both help you when it comes time to deliver. Staying physically active during pregnancy can also help you avoid some of the less-fun effects of pregnancy, such as constipation and back pain. 

Create a birth plan. Talk with your OB/GYN about a plan for your delivery, including preferences for everything from how you’d like to handle pain relief to whether you’d like to breastfeed. This plan should be documented and discussed with your providers, including your nurses when you’re admitted to the hospital. It’s important, though, to remember that labor and delivery don’t always follow a plan, so your plan should be adaptable. 

Pack your bags. When you’re preparing for labor, you’ll want to pack a bag with essentials for yourself and your baby. This bag should be all packed up and ready to go several weeks before your due date just in case. For yourself, pack comfy pajamas and a robe, slippers, a nursing bra, socks, and a loose-fitting outfit to wear home. You’ll also want to pack toiletries, hygiene products, and breast pads. For your baby, you’ll want to pack a going-home outfit, including socks and a hat, along with a receiving blanket. Tuck a copy of your birth plan into your bag, too. If you happen to forget something, don’t worry! Northeast Georgia Medical Center has everything you and baby need for a comfortable and safe stay. 

Decide on a support system. As your due date approaches, determine who will be with you. That decision has multiple layers. You want to choose a support person (or people) to be with you in the delivery room itself, for one thing. But you also want to choose who will be at the hospital awaiting your baby’s arrival, along with when and how you want to notify others about the birth. These are important decisions to make ahead of time because the last thing you want when you’re preparing for labor is to feel stressed.  

Get some R & R. When you hit the third trimester, give in to some of those urges to sit and relax. Your body needs a break every now and then, and rest will help you regain energy more quickly and prepare for the arrival of your baby. Along with simply resting, find ways to relax your mind and body, such as meditation, yoga, prayer, and even deep breathing exercises. Each of those relaxing activities have been shown to provide pain relief during labor. They can also help you calm your anxieties in the days and weeks leading up to giving birth.  

Let yourself be pampered. The next time someone offers to help in the latter stages of your pregnancy, take them up on the offer! Ask your family members and friends to provide meals, either from a restaurant or homemade, that you can freeze and easily heat up after the baby arrives. Having a fully stocked freezer will be a huge relief as you love on and nourish your child in the first weeks of life. You can also ask for help gathering up essentials for your home, like toilet paper or pet supplies. 

Learn more

Our Women & Children’s Services team gets to witness life’s most sacred moments every day. Preparing for a delivery? Call 770-525-6572, or click here for more information.