Only 5% of babies are born on their due date, so it is a good idea to start getting ready for the birth from around 36 weeks.
Writing your birth plan
A birth plan is a record of what you would like to happen during your labour and after the birth. It is not essential to have a written birth plan. But it can help you and your partner to agree and share your choices before labour, birth and the early days after your baby is born.
How you write your plan is up to you. There is a page in your hand-held notes to write your plan or you can use your digital PCSP (Personalised Care and Support Plan) if you like.
Some ideas for things to include:
- Preferred place of birth
- Who you want to support you through labour and birth
- How you plan to cope with labour pain (do you want to use birthing pool, pain relief medications, gas and air, tens etc.)
- What do you want to happen straight after birth (skin to skin, cord cutting, announcing gender)
- How do you want to deliver the placenta?
- Would you like your baby to have Vitamin K?
- How are you planning to feed your baby?
If you are trans or non-binary, you may also want to include terminology you’d like to use.
Packing your bag
Wherever you plan to have your baby you need to have a bag packed just in case of an emergency or if you need to transfer to hospital. From 36 weeks it is a good idea to have your bags packed and ready to go.
- Handheld notes
- Any medications that you usually take
- Comfortable clothes for labour
- Nightie (preferably with front opening if planning to breastfeed)
- Wash kit (toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush, flannel, soap and other toiletries)
- Maternity pads/super-absorbent sanitary pads
- Cotton knickers/disposable knickers
- A sponge or water spray to cool you down
- Things to help you pass the time and relax e.g., books, magazines, music
- High energy snacks
- High energy drinks (not fizzy) e.g., isotonic sports drink, coconut water, squash
- Phone charger
- Cotton wool/water wipes
- Vests (x4)
- Babygro’s (x4)
- Swaddle/cellular blanket
Please do not bring your baby’s car seat to the ward until your baby is born and you know you are going home.
Preparing your body
During a vaginal birth, the area between your vagina and bottom (perineum) stretches a lot and sometime tears.
To gradually soften and stretch this area before you go into labour, we recommend during perineal massage in pregnancy. Research has found that perineal massage from 34 weeks of pregnancy can reduce the chance of tearing. It can also reduce the need for forceps or ventouse (suction) to help you birth your baby.
It is particularly beneficial if you are having your first baby, are over 30 years old, and if you have had an episiotomy (vaginal cut) before. Perineal massage will also help you to become familiar with the feeling of pressure or stretching that you will feel when your baby is being born.
Your midwife can discuss perineal massage, its benefits and how to do it. They will also answer any questions you may have.
If you are planning to breastfeed your baby or give your baby expressed breast milk you can start trying to hand express before your baby arrives, any time after 36 weeks.
We recommend antenatal hand expressing for all people planning to breast feed. It is especially useful if you have gestational diabetes or know that your baby is likely to be born early or need special care at birth.
If you can express colostrum (early milk) you can store it and give it to your baby when they are born. Ask your community midwife for some syringes to store your expressed breast milk or use a sterilised container. Remember you will only be collecting very small volumes of colostrum.
Some babies are quite sleepy for the first day after birth. If you know how to hand express, you can hand express colostrum directly onto baby’s lips on the first day until your baby wakes up and is ready to feed.