Secrets for a Smooth Birth

Keep up your strength.
We all know that the couch can be a pregnant girl’s best friend. But staying active could give you an advantage when it comes time to deliver, says Amy Downey, RN, a labor and delivery nurse at St. Luke’s Wood River Hospital in Ketchum, Idaho. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), regular exercise during pregnancy can improve your ability to cope with the pain of labor, as well as speed your recovery afterward. As long as your doctor approves, you should try to do 30 minutes of activity (such as walking, swimming or prenatal yoga) on most, if not all, days of the week. Since childbirth can be a real test of endurance, it’s also important to eat right and stay hydrated, especially during the last trimester, so you have enough energy to go the distance, Downey adds.

Don’t blow off birth class.
Childbirth education classes teach you what to expect during labor and delivery as well as techniques for easing the pain-information that could help you make good choices and possibly even avoid a C-section. From Lamaze to the Bradley Method to HypnoBirthing, a variety of classes with unique approaches may be available in your area. So before signing up, research the options and be sure the instructor will support you in the kind of birth you want to have, says Lisa Klein, RNC-OB, LRN, MSN, CNS, a clinical nurse specialist in the Women, Children’s and Perinatal Services at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax, Va. For example, if you want a drug-free delivery, look for a class that focuses on natural methods of pain management. If you’re interested in pain relief, find one that covers epidurals and other types of anesthesia. If you’re undecided, you may want to take two classes. You may even be able to find an “express” class that takes place over a weekend, Klein says-a great option if you and your birth partner are pressed for time.