As your due date approaches, you will want to make sure that you have completed your preparations for labor and for the arrival of your baby. The following are suggested things to accomplish by your last month of pregnancy.
Confirm Your Choice of Labor Partner
Your labor partner is the person who will be with you during labor and birth to provide you with emotional support as well as to assist you with the comfort measures and techniques that you learned in childbirth class. He will also serve as your go-between with the medical staff. Many women choose their husband, their boyfriend, or the father of their baby as their labor partner. Others choose a close friend or relative. Some choose more than one person.
Your labor partner should prepare for the birth by attending your childbirth classes with you, by helping you practice your relaxation and breathing techniques, and by reading books on birth.
An excellent book on the childbirth experience aimed at the labor partner is The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin.
In addition to a labor partner, you may also want either a medical professional or a doula to support and assist you during labor. Some women hire their childbirth instructor, or a nurse or midwife not associated with the hospital in which they will deliver. Other women hire a doula, a woman specifically trained to assist women and their partners during labor. Doulas go through a special course to become skillful in providing a reassuring, nurturing, and constant presence to help women and their partners cope during labor. Studies have shown that the presence of a doula significantly reduces the chance of complications and women have shorter labors and require less Pitocin (a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin used to induce or augment labor), pain medication, epidurals, and forceps deliveries. In addition, the risk of having a cesarean is reduced by 50 percent.
If you would like a labor assistant, you can also ask you childbirth instructor about local organizations. The payment of a fee may be required.
Take a Tour of the Hospital or Birth Center
Taking a tour of the hospital or birth center where you plan to have your baby will allow you to become familiar with your labor setting before you check in. You can also discuss your desires with the staff and learn about the facility’s policies. If you are planning a birth center delivery, you may want to tour the affiliated hospital in case you are transferred there during delivery.
Pre-register at your hospital to shorten the admittance procedure when you arrive in labor. If you are planning to deliver at a birth center, you may want to pre-register at the hospital in case you are transferred during labor. To complete the required forms, you will need your insurance information. You should also be prepared to make a deposit. Any consent forms concerning items such as medication, epidural anesthesia, and circumcision should be read carefully at this time and modified according to your desires before being signed. You may also be asked to sign a paper indicating whether you have a living will.
Make Arrangements for Cord Blood Banking
It is now possible to collect and store the blood from your baby’s umbilical cord. Cryobanks throughout the country freeze umbilical cord blood for future use. Many couples are donating this otherwise discarded blood for use in place of bone marrow transplants. There is usually no charge for this service. Some families prefer to bank the cord blood for their own possible future use. they are charged collection and yearly storage fees. These include families who have a history of leukemia or other cancers, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, or another disease that may require a bone marrow transplant. Minority and mixed-race families are also using this option to increase the likelihood of a match, since tissue matches are much more difficult to obtain in these instances.
- Decorate the nursery.
- Stock up on baby supplies when you shop.
- Baby-proof the house.
- Buy an infant safety seat and install it in the car.
- Continue to perform perineal massage on your partner.
Umbilical card blood contains a high level of stem cells. These immature cells produce the oxygen-carrying red blood cells, the white blood cells that make up the immune system, and the platelets that help blood to clot. There are many benefits to using cord blood instead of bone marrow. The concentration of stem cells is greater in cord blood than it is in bone marrow. Stem cells from the umbilical cord have not built up antibodies and rare more compatible when donated. The collection procedure is not invasive and involves no pain to the donor, as does the traditional bone marrow transplant. The collection is usually done after the cord is cut and before the placenta is delivered.
If you are interested in cord blood banking, you must contact your nearest cryobank and make arrangements prior to your due date. If there is no cryobank in your area, contact Cord Blood Registry, a company that provides the service nationwide for public donation or private storage. Another alternative is Americord Registry which is a private cord blood bank. Also, you must make sure that your caregiver is aware of your desires so that the collection will be performed.
Choose Your Baby’s Pediatrician
Begin your search for a pediatrician during your last trimester of pregnancy. You may want to ask family members and friends who have small children for recommendations. You could also ask your obstetrician, midwife, or primary care physician. Arrange a prenatal interview. This may be in a group setting or a personal meeting. Some pediatricians charge for a private prenatal consultation. Be prepared with a list of questions you want answered.
There are some factors to consider. Are the location and office hours convenient? Many practices have several locations, and offer evening and weekend hours. If this is a solo practice, find out who covers for the physician. How many doctors are in the group and can you request a certain pediatrician? Are the pediatricians board certified? Some practices also have pediatric nurse practitioners and certified location consultants on staff. Who will answer your questions if you call the office? Will you speak with the doctor, a nurse, or the receptionist? How do they handle emergencies that occur after office hours? Does the office have a sick and a well waiting room? What is the average wait time? What hospitals are the doctors affiliated with? What are the costs of care? Do they accept your insurance?
It is also important to discuss the pediatrician’s philosophy on breastfeeding, supplementing, introducing solids, jaundice, circumcision, and any other questions related to baby care. After the interview, you should have a good feeling about whether you are comfortable with his practice.
Prepare Your Home for the Baby
Gather all the baby equipment and furniture you need and set it up ready to use. Assemble the baby clothes, wash them, and put them away. The last months of pregnancy are good time to reorganize your home, making it safe for a small child. Lock up all medicines and poisons. Ask friends who have small children to help you spot potential hazards.
Organize Your Household
Organize your household for your absence and take measures to simplify your work when you return with the new baby. If relatives or friends will be coming to help you, be sure they understand that they will be there to help with the housework, not to take care of the baby. Organize your shopping and cleaning on a weekly or monthly basis. Buy ahead and store as many items as you have room for. Make double portions of casseroles and recipes such as spaghetti sauce, then freeze the extra portions for later use. Stock up on disposables such as paper plates and napkins.
Try to locate a 24-hour pharmacy or one that will deliver to your home. Some deliver only prescriptions. Others have a minimum purchase policy. In addition, stock up on sanitary pads—you will need plenty of them the first 2 weeks you are home. If you plan to nurse, you may want to purchase nursing pads. Men’s handkerchiefs and squares of old diaper material also serve this purpose well.
Plan for the Next Couple of Months
You can save yourself a lot of trouble after the baby arrives if you go out now and buy things such as gifts and cards for upcoming birthdays, graduations, and other holidays. You may also want to purchase some special gifts for your other children, as well as several “busy things”—such as coloring books and crayons, marking pens, and perhaps a video game or favorite movie—that you can bring out on a rough day.
If someone will be helping you care for your other children after you bring home the new baby, make a schedule of meals, naps, bedtimes, school, car pools, and after-school activities. Be sure to specify anything that is an absolute no-no. Leave a list of important numbers (pediatrician, school, car pool drivers, neighbors, and friends) next to the phone.
Finally, address and stamp the envelops for your birth announcements before you go to the hospital. Then you will only need to fill in the details, which you can do in the hospital.
Pack Your Bags
Do not forget to pack your bags for the hospital or birth center. Doing this by your thirty-fifth week is not too early. Prepacked bags will mean one thing less to worry about if your baby decides that he does not want to wait for his due date.
To be fully prepared, you should pack the following bags:
- Lamaze bag. This should be the only bag that you bring with you when you check into the hospital or birth center in labor. It should contain all the items that you and your labor partner might need during labor, such as the following:
- A good book in parenting for reference.
- A copy of your birth plan, signed by your caregiver. The original should be attached to your chart.
- Playing cards, books, or games to use for amusement if you are admitted early in labor.
- A watch with a second hand to time your contractions.
- Your Labor Record or paper and a pencil to record your contractions.
- A comfortable pair of shoes for walking during labor.
- An object or picture to use as a focal point.
- Extra pillows for support and comfort.
- Tennis balls tied in a sock to lie on if you have a backache.
- A wooden roller-type foot massager to help reduce your labor pain through acupressure. (Something like this wooden foot roller massager)
- Cornstarch, oil, or lotion to reduce friction while doing effleurage or having your back rubbed.
- A small paper bag to breathe into if you hyperventilate.
- A washcloth for cooling your face.
- Sour lollipops to help prevent your mouth from becoming dry.
- A toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash to help with a dry mouth.
- Lip balm or lip gloss to soothe dry lips.
- Heavy socks to keep your feet warm.
- A hand-held fan for your partner to cool you.
- Music tapes or compact disks and a player if music is not available in the labor room.
- Snacks and beverages for your labor partner to keep his energy up without having to leave the room to get food.
- A camera, a video camera, or a tape recorder to record the birth.
- Your baby book so the staff can record the baby’s footprints directly in it.
- A list of all the people you need to notify, as well as their phone numbers and your calling card.
- Hospital bag for yourself. This should be left in the car until you are moved into your room after the birth. It should contain all the items that you will need for your hospital stay, such as the following:
- Nightgowns. (If you plan to breastfeed, make sure that they button in the front or are special nursing gowns).
- A robe and slippers.
- Two or three nursing bras. (For help in purchasing this important undergarment, see “How to Select a Nursing Bra“.)
- Your usual cosmetics and grooming aids.
- A shower cap.
- Birth announcements.
- Your going-home clothes, preferably a loose-fitting dress or maternity clothes, since it will be some weeks before you regain your prepregnant figure.
- Sanitary pads (plain pads, not ones with a hi-tech woven barrier, which “catches” perineal stitches) and peri-care items such as a squeeze bottle, medicated cleansing pads, and anesthetic spray. (These are usually supplied by the hospital and charged to your bill. However, if you have inadequate or no insurance, you will save money by purchasing them yourself. Just remember to inform the nursing staff so that you will not be billed, then double-check your bill when you receive it).
- Hospital bag for the baby. Leave this in the car until after the birth. It should contain all the items that you will need for bringing the baby home, such as the following:
- A going-home outfit.
- A pair of socks or booties.
- A hat (optional).
- A sweater or warm outer covering, depending on the weather.
- A receiving blanket and, if necessary, an outside blanket.
In addition to the items listed, you may want to add items of personal significance, such as a stuffed animal to comfort you during labor or photographs of your other children to keep on your nightstand. However, leave items of value, such as jewelry, at home. Birth center clients may receive an additional list of supplies, including foods and beverages.
Prepare an Emergency Birth Kit
If you have a history of rapid labors, live some distance from the hospital, or just want to be prepared in case your baby arrives unexpectedly, pack an emergency birth kit. The items that you might need for an emergency delivery include the following:
- A flashlight for better vision or at night.
- Clean towels, newspapers, or crib pads to absorb the amniotic fluid.
- Clean handkerchiefs to wipe the baby’s face.
- Blankets, including baby blankets to dry off the infant and a larger one to keep the mother and baby warm.
- A new ear syringe to suction the newborn’s mouth and nose.
- New shoelaces to tie the umbilical cord after it stops pulsating. You do not need to cut the cord.
- A plastic bag to hold the placenta when it is delivered. Take the placenta with you to the hospital for examination.
Keep these items wrapped tightly in a clean plastic bag. Store the bag in a convenient place and take it with you when you leave for the hospital.
Buy and Install a Safety Seat
In addition to the Lamaze bag, hospital bags, and emergency birth kit, you should also have a safety seat ready for the ride home. The safest place to install a car seat is in the middle of the back seat, facing the rear of the car. A special mirror can be installed to give you a view of your infant. If your car has dual air bags, never place the safety seat on the front passenger seat. In fact, no child under the age of 13 should ride in the front seat of a car with dual air bags. The force of a discharged air bag can injure or kill a child facing forward, and can even propel an infant seat, with possible fatal results.
Read and follow the instructions that come with the safety seat. In addition, read your car’s owner’s manual. It may be necessary to obtain an additional seat belt or a locking clip to ensure that the safety seat is securely fastened. The car seat should not slide side-to-side or forward if tugged on. If the safety seat does not pass the tug test, contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Auto Safety. It may be necessary to exchange your safety seat for another model.
If you purchase a new seat, send in the warranty card. You will be notified directly of any recalls. If you have a seat that was previously used, contact the manufacturer or the NHTSA to confirm that the safety seat has not been recalled. Never use a car seat after it has been involved in an accident, no matter how minor. Such a seat is no longer considered safe. If you cannot afford to buy a safety seat, contact your local branch of the American Red Cross or your hospital to find out about renting a car seat. All fifty states have passed laws that require infants and small children to ride in safety seats.
Arrange for Care for Your Pets
If you have pets, you may want to designate someone to take care of them while you are at the hospital or birth center. Provide your “pet sitter” with written instructions and a key, and call him or her before you leave the house in labor. Ideally, the person you choose is already familiar with your pets.
Spend Time Together
The last weeks of pregnancy are a time of waiting and expectancy. If this is your first baby, this will be the last time you will be just “a couple”. Spend time together doing favorite activities, going out to eat, or enjoying quiet evenings at home. Soon your life will change forever with the addition of the new baby. If you already have other children, include them in the preparations so that they feel important.