Every first-time mom is anxious and curious about what happens during labor and delivery. I know that I certainly was! Being prepared is very helpful in getting yourself mentally ready before the big day. Below are eight hacks that you can implement before going into the hospital or birthing center to deliver your baby.
My first hack for labor and delivery is to inquire in advance about the hospital check-in process. I arrived for my induction and unexpectedly had to complete a lot of paperwork. This just added to my stress and anxiety as a first-time mom. Most hospitals have an online check-in process that you can complete up to 24 hours before admission. Getting this paperwork done in advance will help expedite your hospital admission. You won’t have to worry about doing paperwork while you are in active labor! Also, if you have any advance directives in place, you may consider putting those on file with the hospital in case of emergency.
You will also want to inquire in advance regarding the hospital policies. If you are being induced, are you allowed to eat until they administer Pitocin? While admitted, how many meals per day does your support person get? How many support people are you allowed? This is particularly important if you want to have a doula present during labor. Because of COVID precautions, many hospitals are only allowing one support person (including doulas). This is something that you want to be aware of in advance. There may be a hospital list of approved doulas that can attend your labor and delivery in addition to your one support person!
Once you check in to labor and delivery, it’s likely going to be a little while before you can eat again. Be sure to eat something hearty, and that will stick with you. I opted for a Wendy’s burger, fries, and a frosty. If it’s motivating to you – plan that first post-baby meal while you are at it!
A doula’s tip: It is common for some women to vomit during labor. Whatever you decide to eat before you go to the hospital, make sure that it isn’t too acidic.
Check with your hospital to see if you can tour the delivery suites and the recovery suites. Due to COVID, tours might be virtual at this time. Going on a hospital tour, whether in-person or over Zoom, will be so helpful for expectant mothers and their support person to better anticipate the environment. They will also go over what supplies will be provided, which will help you better anticipate your needs for your hospital bag.
Influencers abound on the Internet and make you think you need to bring several rolling suitcases of items for labor, delivery, and recovery. You don’t need as much as you think that you do! A few must-have items: a long phone charger and shower shoes! That first post-delivery shower is glorious. While you are at it, you may want to consider packing your hospital bag in advance and keeping it in the car when you go to appointments. I have seen some women get admitted straight into labor and delivery from a routine third-trimester appointment due to a complication such as preeclampsia. While this is not common, it is always good to be prepared!
Your birth plan may be as simple as “healthy mom, healthy baby.” Or you may have a more lengthy list of items you need your care team to consider while you are in labor and delivery. Also, please remember that birth plans are just that – plans. Plans need to be flexible and adapt as the safety of you and your unborn baby are of the utmost concern.
In addition to your birth plan, there might be some particular details that you wouldn’t even think about while you’re in labor. Another labor and delivery hack is to get to know your care team during the check-in process and while they help you settle into your room. I knew that I would not be able to eat food until after I delivered, so I did not think about the impact of any catering during labor. Let me preface that I (unfortunately) had a severe coffee aversion during my entire pregnancy. Sometimes, catering will still bring liquids such as chicken broth and coffee (!!!!). When I say I screamed at the nurses to get that coffee out of my room, I mean I screamed.
If you choose to have anesthesia during labor, a few things are important to know. I recommend speaking directly with your OBGYN at one of your third-trimester appointments to discuss your anesthesia options. I was unaware that if your care team has to break your water while in labor, you can ask for the epidural before they break your water! This would have saved me about an hour or two of absolute pain and misery since it can take a little while for the anesthesiologist to come to your room and get the epidural started.
I hope that these labor and delivery hacks help you before you head to your hospital or birthing center to have your baby. There’s so much information to know. It’s hard to know what’s important without having gone through the experience before. I am thrilled to pass along these “lessons learned” to all of you!