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Ages & Stages

Preparing for Delivery

As the weeks and months pass leading up to your delivery date, you’re probably eagerly planning for the new addition to your family, and adjusting to what is going on in your own body. During the third trimester, you’ll notice many changes that may affect how you feel:

  • You’ll gain weight, typically at a rate averaging about one pound a week during the last trimester. 
  • As your baby grows in size and places pressure on nearby organs, you may experience episodes of shortness of breath and back pain.
  • You may urinate more frequently as pressure is placed on your bladder, and you might have episodes of incontinence. 
  • You may find it harder to get comfortable, and sleep may become more difficult. You may prefer to sleep on your side.
  • You could experience more fatigue than usual. 
  • You may have heartburn, swelling in your feet and ankles, back pain, and hemorrhoids. 
  • You may have “false labor” contractions known as Braxton- Hicks contractions. These Braxton-Hicks contractions begin to soften and thin the cervix, preparing it for the delivery of the baby. But unlike true labor contractions, they are irregular, do not occur more often as time passes, and do not become stronger or more intense.

While you’re pregnant, you and your spouse/partner may be participating in childbirth education classes, which will give you information about labor and birth, provide the chance to meet other parents-to-be, and help you prepare for the birth. Several types of classes are available in many communities. The Lamaze method, for example, uses approaches such as focused breathing, massage, and labor support that can be used during the actual childbirth process.

The Bradley method emphasizes natural childbirth, and relies heavily on deep breathing techniques. Many childbirth education classes discuss a combination of these as well as other methods to teach expectant parents about the birth process and ways to make the delivery successful, comfortable, and enjoyable.

Whatever class you’re considering, ask in advance about the topics and methods of childbirth that will be emphasized, and whether the classes are primarily lectures or also involve your active participation. What is the instructor’s philosophy about pregnancy and birth? Is he or she certified? Will you learn proper methods for breathing and relaxation? What will the classes cost? Is there a limit on class size?

At the same time, consider signing up for other classes that can help prepare you for the parenting challenges ahead. Ask your doctor for referrals to breastfeeding classes, infant care programs, or instructional courses on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Some education classes encourage their participants to develop a “birth plan,” and may provide guidance in helping you do so. The birth plan is usually a written document for both you and your doctor in which you’ll record your own preferences for labor and delivery. For example:

  • Where will you be delivering your baby?
  • Based on your doctor’s instructions, do you plan to go directly to the hospital when labor begins, or will you call the office first? What arrangements have you made for transportation to the hospital or birthing center? Do you have a doula or want to participate in a doula program? (A doula provides various forms of nonmedical support in the childbirth process.)
  • Who would you like to deliver your baby (an obstetrician or a nurse midwife)?
  • Who do you want to be present to support you during the childbirth experience? 
  • What position would you prefer to be in during delivery?
  • What are your preferences for pain medication (if any is going to be used)?
  • What options would you consider if unexpected circumstances develop (e.g., the need for an episiotomy or a Cesarean section)? 
  • If you deliver prematurely, does the facility have adequate resources to take care of your prematurely born infant?

Not only should you talk about and share this document with your doctor, but also let your family members and friends know of your decisions.

Last Updated
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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