Four pregnant women are doing prenatal yoga together.
Prenatal yoga is an ideal approach to exercise during pregnancy, offering relaxation and muscle toning. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Labor is something most women don’t look forward to.

In fact, most men don’t look forward to it—they’ve either been warned in advance or they’ve seen their wife endure it previously.

Society tells us to expect misery and pain during labor. Movies give us stories that feature plenty of screaming and yelling during the labor process.

But I find it’s better to view labor as a passage. A passage you must make to get your baby into your arms.

In my opinion, labor is an amazing experience. Is it tough? You bet. But when you get to the end and hold that baby in your arms, it’s so worth it.

Since we know labor is necessary and inevitable, there are many things you can do to prepare in advance.

Here are my Top 5 recommendations for labor preparation:

1. Take a childbirth class

This can actually help increase your chances of having a vaginal birth. Childbirth class teaches you what is normal, what to expect, how to handle labor and more.

Most importantly, you learn about your options.

Options, you say? That’s right. The childbirth classes at Spectrum Health prepare you for labor and delivery by teaching you about coping mechanisms, relaxation techniques and medication options.

The classes also cover topics such as postpartum care, newborn procedures, breastfeeding, infant choking and CPR and infant massage.

One of the most important things the classes can do is help you understand how to handle your fears about giving birth. (In my estimation, I’d say about 95 percent of women have a fear about some aspect of childbirth.)

There are typically many class options available, all catering to a range of schedules and tastes. On the long end there is a five-week series, while on the shorter end there are weekend-only or one-night classes. There are also online classes for those who can’t make it to the in-person events.

No matter what your situation, you will leave class feeling more informed and empowered.

A 2016 study by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, which followed 14,000 women through the birth process, found that those who attended a childbirth class had higher odds of a vaginal birth.

2. Get a doula

Doulas can be very important in helping moms achieve their labor goals. They can help moms face their fears, find critical information, improve communication among those involved in the birth process, provide breastfeeding support and much, much more.

3. Exercise

Walking can be highly beneficial to a pregnant mom, but it’s not the only option. Prenatal yoga is a great option because it helps tone certain muscles by using specific positions and stretches.

Proper breathing and relaxation techniques are essential to good health during pregnancy—and exercise can help you achieve these. When you exercise, you prepare your mind and body for the work of labor.

4. Make time for yourself

You need to take time to mentally and physically prepare for the labor process. This could require anything from a weekend getaway to a baby-cation, if possible.

Pick activities and places that help you relax and let you enjoy yourself. This could be reading a book, taking a bath, sitting and listening to music or enjoying the simple quiet.

Whatever you need, you should make it happen. You should strive for something like this every day, but also try to plan for extended weekend getaways—or longer.

5. Seek out affirmations

Written and spoken affirmations are important for all of life, but they’re especially important in preparing for labor.

Our culture does not necessarily emphasize the many positive attributes of labor, nor does it encourage expectant moms to get excited about the remarkable event that will soon be happening to them.

Affirmations—read from a book or heard from a recording—can help moms nourish a positive mindset. When you read a statement such as, “I relax as I await the birth of my baby,” or, “My body knows how to birth my baby,” you’re feeding your mind with positive thoughts.

Bonus No. 6: Be creative and inquisitive

Consider this a bonus recommendation—a complimentary No. 6 in the list.

In this information age, it is easier than ever before to be creative and inquisitive about your approach to finding new information about birth and labor.

On social media, for example, I ran across a suggestion to make padsicles for after-delivery care. You can find plenty of resources online to learn more about this concept, but they are essentially cold healing pads to providing some soothing to your body after the delivery of your baby.

Some other ideas:

Prepare meals in advance. As I like to tell my childbirth class patients: Not everyone cooks, but everyone eats!

If you’re a cook, then make double or triple some foods or casseroles before your baby arrives. That way, you’ll have some ready-to-make meals in the freezer after delivery. Also, buy some healthy snacks in advance, so that you’ll have them when baby comes.

Recruit helpers. Before your baby arrives, make advance plans with friends, family or others who can help. This could include neighbors, coworkers or people from your church.

They can help with meal prep and cleaning, or help watch your other children while you tend to your newborn. They can even watch your newborn so you can get a short nap. Some people don’t live close to family, which makes it doubly important to build social connections and relationships with neighbors and others.