From the moment you take that pregnancy test, you’re embarking on an exciting new life. But it’s not all about nesting and buying the perfect Moses basket. Having a baby involves making decisions about giving birth, as well as how to prepare for the early weeks with a newborn. Yes, it’s a time of immense excitement, but there’s no denying it’s going to push you out of your comfort zone. You’re going to face a fair few decisions, so make the best call for you then get on with enjoying the rest of your pregnancy.
Discovering the sex of your baby
Thanks to ultrasound technology, a baby’s sex can usually be determined from around 16 weeks, and you can ask to be told at your 20-week scan. Some parents prefer to keep it a surprise, but finding out could help you bond before the birth.
Where to give birth
Feeling comfortable with where you have your baby is crucial. If your pregnancy is low-risk, you can choose between home, hospital or a unit run by midwives. Arrange visits, so you can see which you like best.
Choosing an antenatal class
Think about what you want to get out of the experience. If you’re on a budget or want to get to know your local maternity wing, opt for free NHS Parentcraft classes. If you’d prefer a smaller group and individual attention, consider an independently-run class. Fitting it in weekly a problem? Some places run weekend courses, perfect if you want to learn a technique like hypnobirthing. Or, if your budget allows it, you might want to consider a hotel-based babymoon that features parenting classes.
Preparing your mind for birth
If you feel anxious about the birth, prepare yourself mentally. Research has shown that your state of mind has a direct effect on your perception of pain so, if you can stay calm and relaxed, your labour should be more comfortable. Hypnotherapy could be a help here.
Buying a buggy
The average baby spends two hours a day in her buggy, so it pays to do your homework while you have the time. Size matters, but you may regret buying the largest buggy if you can’t wheel it into shops and cafes. One-handed folding is also an important consideration, especially if you live in a city and use public transport.
Arranging things for after the birth
It’s worth setting up extra help now for when feeding and settling your newborn becomes a full-time job, but the type you get will depend on your budget and personality. For example, a maternity nurse can be reassuring, but it’s pricey and won’t suit you if you like your own space. You might prefer to ask your mum over to cook some meals or set up a few hours with a cleaning lady.
How to handle your finances
Talking about money may not be as fun as buying baby gear, but it’s important to discuss future cash flow with your partner. Having your income change during maternity leave can feel like you’re losing your independence, so think about putting some money aside before the birth.
Choosing the best birth partner
Most fathers attend the birth and this strengthens the bond between dad and baby. However, watching the person you love in pain can be hard and some men can’t face it alone. This means you may want someone else present - there can be benefits to having an older woman with you, be it your mum or a doula.
Finding the perfect pain relief
Your pain relief options depend on where you choose to deliver your baby. If you opt for a home birth, you can have gas and air or pethidine. At a midwife-led unit, you’ll have access to these, plus a birthing pool. In both cases, you’d need to transfer to hospital for an epidural. Ask your midwife if your medical history rules out any type of pain relief, then read up on the risks and benefits of each one. An open-minded approach will let you make the right choice on the day.
When to leave work
It’s tempting to work right up to your due date, but your baby is full term from 38 weeks and could come early. It’s best to start maternity leave a few weeks before your 38-week mark, so you can shift from work to mummy mode. Plus, sitting at a computer all day won’t help your baby get into the right position for birth.