There is only a certain amount of actual preparation to do for birth, particularly when you factor in the very hectic schedules of today’s busy expectant parents. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed -- pick and choose a few things that feel right to you, that help you feel good inside and out about this impending birth.

EMOTIONAL PREPARATION

Human beings tend to worry and fret and focus on what ifs; this is not helpful. It creates more anxiety, hence more fear. Every time you notice your mind becoming a ticker tape of concerns, stop and take a big, deep breath, sending a rush of oxygenated blood to the baby and releasing pent-up tension from your body. This requires some awareness on your part, which is an important part of maintaining a healthy pregnancy – and will be a vital skill as a new parent. Start practicing now.

Take five minutes a day to tune into this growing baby. It could be sitting in your favorite chair, inside or outside, with a cup of tea or a small notebook to jot down your thoughts. You could simply close your eyes for a few minutes and direct your attention inward, focusing on your breath: breathe in calm and confidence, and exhale anxiety and concern. It’s very easy to do and takes only a couple of minutes out of your day. Again, many women think that to derive benefit they need to spend hours. This isn’t so – something is better than nothing, and both of you will benefit.

Talk with your partner. When couples carve out time prenatally to prepare for what I consider to be the biggest event of their lives, it makes a difference. Tell your partner what worries you and what you anticipate needing in labor. Go out on dates, sleep in, go to the movies, take walks, sip tea in bookstores – whatever it is that you enjoy doing together, stock up on it! Newborns do one thing: inhale you whole! Invest in each other now; it will help to hold you over during the early days of parenting.

PHYSICAL PREPARATION

Move. Keeping your body in motion will help you feel better now and benefit you later in labor. Do not begin a brand-new exercise regime, and get your OB/midwife’s OK to continue your current regime. The point being, that as the pregnancy progresses, you may need to modify your exercise schedule. Walking, swimming, stretching, and prenatal yoga are almost always OK. You will need to tune into your body, though, stay hydrated, and pace yourself.

Breathe. Become aware of taking big, deep, audible breaths. Like a weightlifter’s rather than a little wispy puff of air! You’ve heard that breathing is a key ingredient in giving birth, and I agree, it is an important human function – to stay alive, one must breathe! It is also a bit overrated as far as helping with the pain. So start now, while you are pregnant, practicing soft moaning sounds. You can start off humming, and then add in a little haaaaa sound in the shower (a long exhale that has a little noise involved).

Say no to loofah pads. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT scrub your pregnant nipples with a loofah! This is a throwback from the ’60s, a theory that toughening up your nipples will help prepare them for breastfeeding. This does zero to prepare you to feed your baby; all it does is hurt.

Try prenatal perineal massage. Another outdated prenatal ritual. Massaging the perineal tissues during pregnancy will help you become familiar with that part of the body and, for some, prove to be a good time! It won’t, however, affect whether you have an episiotomy or not.

AUTHOR BIO: Sarah McMoyler, RN, BSN and mother, is the founder of McMoyler Method. As a specialist in Labor and Delivery of more than 5,000 babies, her personal view and in-depth professional experience has been integral to McMoyler Method's success in graduating over 10,000 San Francisco Bay Area couples to confidently approach pregnancy, prepare for delivery, and care for their newborn babies. She has released The Best Birth DVD, as well as the book The Best Birth: Your Guide to the Safest, Healthiest, Most Satisfying Labor and Delivery.