Mums on how they prepared for labour and birth


My preparations:

Yoga for pregnancy (this taught breathing, visualization, different positions, relaxation);

I drank raspberry leaf tea but I don’t believe that it was very effective (though it’s probably better to try everything as you’d never know what works for you);

Perineal massage – I practiced this on both pregnancies. My first baby was 8lbs 12oz, and my second was 9lbs (born with his hand beside his head). I didn’t require any stitches after either delivery. I credit this result to the massage and of course have to give credit to the skilled hands that delivered my sons;

Birthing ball – I used to sit on this while watching TV or when ironing!

Iron tablets combined with a multivitamin – I took both at my main mealtime. Midwives were very impressed with my iron levels at the end of pregnancy and suggested that the multivitamin taken at the same time helped my system absorb more iron. As a vegetarian, it was very important to me that the levels were high, especially since low levels would have meant a hospital birth.” 


“In preparation I did prenatal yoga, perineal massage, drank raspberry leaf tea, exercised on my birthing ball, attended an active birth workshop and read loads of books.  I think lots of it helped. The labour was fast but during it I used yoga and visualization techniques to cope with the pain. I also played music and took lavender baths.”


“I was half-hearted about it all. I was too big to do the perineal massage – and as a single mum it’s not something you can ask your friends to do! The raspberry leaf tea tasted like wood, and I felt stupid on the ball. However, after 20 hours of contractions I really wish I had listened more to the midwives!”


“I did the perineal massage on the first, but still had lots of stitches. My labour was speeded up by breaking my waters, and I tore.  No amount of massage would have helped!  I drank Raspberry leaf tea on my first and the baby arrived on due date. I didn’t get around to drinking it for others as they were early.

I swam up to the day for all my babies. You could get in the pool and swim lengths and not feel the weight. This was especially good on first when I found it very difficult to walk long distances.  I practice yoga and the breathing techniques were invaluable. Though I didn’t do a specific pregnancy class until my third.”


“ I did lots of walking, perineal massage as often as possible, and I drank raspberry leaf tea.”


“I did 20 minutes of yoga daily; I listened to a hypobirthing CD every 2nd night; I listened to a relaxation CD; I did perineal massage every 2nd day towards the end; and I practiced squatting…”


“On my first and second pregnancies I did yoga. On all 3 I religiously did perineal massage, as my biggest fear was an episiotomy. I drank raspberry leaf tea; I sat on my children’s space hopper for hours on end; I went to private antenatal classes run by a midwife which were fantastic, informative and supportive; and I read and re-read Sheila Kitzinger and Janet Balaskas’ books.” 


“What didn’t I do?  I was a real pregnancy bore!  I moved from New York to Dublin during my first pregnancy so wasn’t working for much of it and had nothing else to do other than make pregnancy a real project.  I read absolutely everything on the subject.  I did pelvic floor exercises throughout the pregnancy, did perineal massage diligently from 32nd week, drank raspberry leaf tea from the 34th week, burned Clary Sage oil, exercised on birthing ball, went for walks by the sea, made sure I spent about 15 mins a day on all fours so that baby would get into the right position.  I attended an acupuncturist, and a homeopath for advice on homeopathic aids during labour. I had fairly regular massages and generally indulged myself.  I regret to say that on my second pregnancy I did very little, did a bit of perineal massage and drank some raspberry tea but not to same extent.  Although, I did attend one hypnotherapy session to see if it would help me with breathing during contractions (it didn’t particularly!)”


“I did yoga, which I had practiced for years, but pregnancy yoga is different and based on natural birthing. I also used a birthing ball to exercise.” 


“Breathing exercises, samba dancing, perineal message, squatting exercises.”


“I did the perineal massage like the midwives said but I could only manage it for a few weeks, then I had to get my husband to do it. I drank the raspberry tea from 35 weeks 2 cups a day and the last few weeks I used a gym ball. I have to say doing all this really benefited me during my labour.


I purchased a birthing ball, but it didn’t float my boat.  I also drank raspberry leaf tea to beat the band.  I’m not sure whether that helped or not but it tasted nice and it was relaxing.  


 “I swam once a week during pregnancy to keep fit because I think that helps. It puts no pressure on your joints and makes you feel weightless particularly when you’re carrying extra weight.  Importantly breath control is essential during labour.

I also practiced yoga once a week both for flexibility and breath control.

I have to say that I tried perineal massage but I just can’t do it.  As I tore during my last labour I was encouraged to do it this time to help minimize the chances of tearing.  I don’t even like inserting tampons so trying to make myself ‘stretch that skin until you feel a burning sensation’ was impossible. 

I always take raspberry leaf tea tablets from about week 35, it’s supposed to make the contractions more effective and thereby reduce the length of labour and as my labours were both relatively short I can only believe that it worked.

I also believe that preparing for birth is a mental preparation as much as it is physical.  I need to convince myself that I can do it – along the lines of, we are animals and our bodies were designed to do this (even if the design is a terrible one).  I have to say that on my last pregnancy this was much harder to do because I could vividly remember the pain of the previous one.  And towards the end I occasionally felt like I couldn’t do it, didn’t want to etc.  Thankfully when the day arrived I shifted into ‘crisis mode’ (I’m very calm in a crisis) and I was very positive about my ability to give birth.”


“Perineal massage with husband; raspberry leaf tea; yoga; pain management techniques including breathing exercises and ice on wrist.”


“Perineal massage was brilliant – it saved my perineum! I also kept as active and fit as possible without overdoing it.”


“I practiced visualization techniques and gathered as much information as possible, so I was prepared.”



Dads on how they Prepared for labour and birth


“I went to my partner’s yoga class, ante-natal classes and helped massage perineum.”


“I got change for the meter; made sure there was petrol in the car; and thought out route to hospital.”


“I watched a lot of Discovery Real Time – they had a lot of baby and birthing programmes.”


“I prepared for labour and the new baby by reading books and the web.”


“I attended an active birth workshop and listened to the midwives and other men’s experiences.”


“I prepared for the birth by going to the ante-natal classes; reading our one book “Everything you

Need to know about Pregnancy”; talking to friends; and talking to each other.”


“I read a fair bit in advance – admittedly much more the first time than the second – and went to ante-natal classes, including a very good weekend given by my wife’s pre-natal yoga teacher.”


“I was banned from the prenatal classes and my wife threatened to get an exclusion order and hire a bodyguard to keep me away from her. Only half of her was joking.”


“I had to keep the bags ready and keep double checking them. I tried to keep a cool head on my shoulders and support her with anything she needed.”


I think that we were very prepared.  In large part, this was down to my wife’s through preparation and research in advance.  Attending antenatal classes was useful but mainly as a complement to work already done – research etc.  But to be honest, I would have to say that this was prompted by my wife’s own efforts, including pre-natal yoga and wide reading.”


“J was very organized and had everything prepared. I just waited on the arrival. And because she was relaxed it made me feel more relaxed.”


“As much as any new parent, we knew there was a new baby coming I tried not to have many expectations and we didn’t over prepare. I think we got the balance right.”


“I did very little to prepare. I went to the two antenatal classes (and fainted at one, because of the heat!). I chose some music and bought some Mars bars!”