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Make the big 'birth day' that bit easier – and calmer – with some clever planning. Here are our top 10 tips to help you prepare
1 Join a class
Don't miss out on the excellent – and free – NHS-run antenatal classes on offer (these are sometimes called parentcraft classes). They'll help you and your partner learn how to stay healthy throughout your pregnancy, make a birth plan, prepare for your baby's birth, and give lots of advice on how to look after and feed your new-born. You could also join a local NCT (National Childbirth Trust) class, which you have to pay for. They're a great way to meet others, pick up tips and get loads of help and advice.
2 Start a list
Create your own to-do list that you update throughout your pregnancy. You can keep it on the NHS Choices website, which will give you helpful pregnancy tips as you go along. You could create an online list that you and your partner both have access to, or buy a journal to keep a hard record of this special time.
3 Get your body ready
Exercise is good for you and it's not dangerous for your baby, with some evidence showing that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour. It will not only help you to cope with preg-nancy weight gain and labour, but also help you get back into shape after the birth. Try swimming, walking, yoga, Pilates or dancing. Don't overdo it, though; you need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses. If you didn't exercise much before you were pregnant, don't take up strenuous exercise now.
4 Ditch the stress
Pregnancy can be a stressful time – with stress impacting on the beneficial brain boost that pregnancy hormones trigger – so it's important to stay calm for both yourself and your baby. If you feel yourself getting anxious, find a quiet space and take a few minutes to try some deep breathing. Downloading a mindfulness app, like head-space.com (sign up for free on android and iPhone), could also help.
5 Pamper yourself
Yes, you really are worth it, especially when you're preparing for a new baby, so make time for yourself every day. Book a pregnancy massage – a great way to ease tension and alleviate any back pain you may have. Too pricy? Ask your partner to do it instead. It's best to avoid essential oils before 12 weeks as they can be quite powerful. Later on in pregnancy, a drop or two of calming lavender, neroli or geranium oil can be used with a base oil for massage, or dropped into a warm bath.
6 Prepare the family
If you have other children, start preparing them for the new arrival. There are some great kids' books that will introduce the idea to them or give them a baby doll to play with. Talk to them about what will happen when the baby arrives. Suggest things like them helping you get the baby's clothes ready to ensure they feel involved.
7 Try a perineum massage
OK, you may not have thought much about your perineum before now (it's the area between your vagina and anus), but massaging it in the last four to six weeks of pregnancy can really help prepare for birth, reducing complications and tears. First, relax in a warm bath, then have a wee to empty your bladder. Wash your hands thoroughly and find a comfortable position to massage – either squat or lie on your side. Dip your index and middle fingers in a perfume-free oil (olive oil is fine or you can buy perineum massage oil) and insert them in the rear of your vagina working from side to side. Apply some pressure to stretch the area a little, massaging for 3-4 minutes. As the area becomes more flexible you can insert your thumb to help knead. Avoid the front of the vagina near the urethra to prevent infection.
8 Drink raspberry leaf tea
Some mums swear by this herbal remedy, believed to tone the muscles of your uterus to help prepare it for la-bour. You can try it towards the end of your pregnancy, but there's no need to drink loads – a couple of cups a day is fine.
9 Pack your bag
Unless you're having an elected Caesarean, you won't have a clear idea of when your little one will decide it's time to make their entrance. Whether you're having your baby at home or in hospital, keep a bag ready well in advance. Pack it with everything you'll need for during and after labour – from the clothes you may want to wear to music, drinks and snacks, hair clips, toiletries (don't forget your toothbrush!) and maternity pads. Don't forget the baby clothes, nappies and wipes.
10 What if you're having twins?
Around 12,000 sets of twins are born every year in the UK and most are identical. You'll have more scans if you're expecting twins, particularly in the last two months to monitor their position and growth. At around 34 weeks your midwife will decide the best way your babies should be delivered. Many twins arrive early, often at around 37 weeks, but it could be earlier as premature births are common. You may also experience premature contractions. Although normally not actual labour, do let your midwife know if you experience them.
By Anna Penniceard