Getting ready for the birth of a new baby can feel overwhelming, but there are things parents-to-be can do to prepare.
Evie Robison, RN, pregnancy navigator at Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital in Lafayette, shares her tips to help expecting parents plan for the big day in this ParentingU podcast episode.
As a pregnancy navigator, Robison meets with moms and dads during their maternity journey, serving as a touchpoint. She calls herself “a human what to expect when you’re expecting” resource.
Birth Prep Basics
While ParentingU helps you earn your degree in exceptional parenting, no studying required, the journey to child birth does take some preparation. That might even include a class or two. Our birthing hospitals offer a variety of prenatal classes including Baby Basics, Infant CPR, Breastfeeding and Natural Childbirth.
Pre-registration is an important step, and it saves so much time once mom is in labor and checking in on delivery day. In addition to a basic physical history with number of pregnancies and any allergies, pre-registration includes getting insurance and financial details squared away.
Packing The Bag
The birthing hospitals across our health system, Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Our Lady of the Angels Hospital, and St. Francis Medical Center, offer digital resources, including a checklist of what you should consider packing in your hospital bag.
Robison says a phone charger is crucial to bring, along with toiletries and any other comfort items to help mom through labor.
“Whatever’s going to make you the most comfortable,” Robison says. “Have your iPad charged with movies, books and music to distract you until you can no longer be distracted.”
Making a Birth Plan with Flexibility
Our hospitals’ digital resources also including a downloadable birth plan worksheet, which can help you think through your birth experience wishes.
No matter how detailed or straightforward the plan, moms should be sure to discuss it with their OB-GYN. “It’s a partnership, and when they know your wishes they can speak for you,” Robison says. “We all work together so we can get things done as smoothly as possible.”
Flexibility is important if things don’t go according to plan, and a pregnancy navigator like Robison or OB-GYN can help walk through possible scenarios that may arise. Robison helps patients understand reasons a C-section might be needed, Pitocin, differences between induction and augmentation of labor and more.
Install Baby’s Car Seat
Baby can’t come home from the hospital without a car seat for that first ride.
Robison recommends having the car seat installed by the third trimester, around the seventh month of pregnancy. It’s easier to get comfortable with putting the seat in and out of the vehicle before baby has arrived.
“Keep the base installed, but only put the seat part where the baby sits in when you come to delivery,” Robison says. “If you were in a car accident you’d need to buy a new car seat.”
How to Know When It’s Time
It can be hard to know when it’s time to come in to labor and delivery, and there’s no harm in coming in to be checked. Sometimes dehydration can cause contractions and getting rehydrated can stop them. Braxton Hicks contractions are the body’s way of practicing with irregular contractions, but they don’t lead to dilation of the cervix.
Robison recommends the 5-1-1 rule to decide when to come to the hospital for delivery. Contractions should be five minutes apart, each lasting for one minute, and the pattern has lasted for one hour. If that pattern is unchanged, those contractions are building up and getting stronger, so the cervix is likely dilating.
When her water breaks, mom should come to the hospital. Note the time it broke and whether it has a color or smell. Amniotic fluid is typically clear, straw colored and odorless.
Once mom arrives in labor, if she’s pre-registered she can get put on her monitor, check her and her blood, and get another history and physical.
Pain management can include an epidural, and if mom chooses to have one she’ll receive a bolus of IV fluids to prevent a drop in blood pressure. The anesthesiologist will numb her back before inserting the epidural.
For moms who choose not to have an epidural our hospitals offer resources to support them including birthing balls and peanut balls, which can help all moms dilate.
How a Support Person Can Get Ready
Mom isn’t the only one who can prepare for childbirth. Robison likes to meet with the whole family, including dad or whoever is going to support her during labor.
“One thing we talk about is whatever mom’s frustration signs are and when she’s had enough,” Robison says. That might be a clenched jaw or white knuckles. Partners especially know those frustration indicators and can stay tuned in to help her manage and be an advocate.
During labor that can look like helping her refocus, getting a cool washcloth for her neck or forehead, ice chips or even calling the nurse for her to help reposition.
If a C-section is a possibility or is scheduled, knowing what to expect can alleviate some anxiety.
“Dad or a support person is just as needed as in a vaginal birth, sometimes even more because it’s surgery,” Robison says. After being gowned up while mom gets her spinal from the anesthesiologist, her support person will sit on a stool near the head of her bed.
The entire labor and delivery team is great about talking through everything so mom and her support person understand what’s happening.
When Baby is Here
Another important support person job is to cut the cord after birth. There’s no right or wrong, but it’s always offered. And then the baby can get right onto mom’s chest.
Modesty goes out the door for most new moms during the first postpartum days. There is vaginal bleeding, and a nurse will rub and press on her stomach to expel the placenta and any clots and encourage the uterus to contract to its pre-pregnancy size.
Baby will undergo some screenings and assessments, including a heel prick to test blood sugar, a shot of vitamin K to help with blood clotting, erythromycin in their eyes to prevent any congenital eye infections, and their first hepatitis B vaccination.
Their pediatrician will also come in for baby’s first exam. If parents choose to have their son circumcised that’s usually done the day of discharge by his pediatrician.
Embrace the Journey
Having a baby is a remarkable time in parents’ lives, and it’s important to embrace the journey. “We can do plans, but babies are going to do what babies are going to do,” Robison says.
We’re with you through all maternity and beyond, as we navigate this amazing journey we call parenting, together.
Learn more about the birthing hospitals in our health system:
Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital in Lafayette
Our Lady of the Angels Hospital in Bogalusa
St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe