37 weeks. Your due date is just around the corner, but you’re not quite out of the woods yet! Over the next two weeks, your baby’s brain and lungs will fully mature. So what should you be doing? Here are some final steps every expectant mother should take before giving birth.
Prepare a Hospital Bag
It’s a good idea to prepare your hospital bag a few weeks before your due date. Your baby doesn’t know when his due date is - he’s going to come out whenever he’s ready! Pack two small bags: one for the items you’ll need during labor, and one for things you’ll need after birth.
For your labor bag, experienced moms recommend packing:
- A picture ID, your insurance card and any hospital paperwork you need
- Glasses, if you wear them
- A bathrobe, a nightgown, slippers and socks (hospitals provide them, but many mothers prefer to wear their own!)
- Anything that will help you relax (a pillow, a book, music and something to play it on, etc.)
- A camera and charger
- Change for vending machines
For your after-delivery bag, experienced moms recommend packing:
- A fresh nightgown (again, if you prefer to wear your own)
- Your cellphone and charger
- Lots of snacks
- Comfortable nursing bras or regular bras
- Several pairs of maternity underpants (in case you don’t like the mesh underwear the hospital provides. The hospital will provide sanitary pads for bleeding after delivery - make sure you have some of your own at home!)
- A book on newborn care (newborn care starts immediately!
- A notepad and pencil (to record memories, questions for the nurses and answers)
- A going-home outfit (One for your baby, and one for you! For you, bring something roomy and comfortable - you’ll likely still look 5 or 6 months pregnant!)
- A receiving blanket
Keep both bags in a place that’s easily accessible. Ideally, you’ll bring them yourself to the hospital - but if that’s not possible, ask a close friend or family member to bring them to you.
Buy / Inspect Your Car Seat
Purchase and install your new baby’s car seat a few weeks before your due date. Make sure your car seat will fit your newborn, and read the instruction manual and labels to ensure you know how to safely work the car seat. It’s trickier than it sounds! Practice loosening and tightening the straps. You may want to even practice on a doll so you’re totally ready when you finally leave the hospital.
Learn About Contractions
At 37 weeks, a lot of pregnancy symptoms you may experience can be confused with signs of labor. Heartburn, spotting, stretch marks, abdominal pressure, trouble sleeping, nausea - all very common symptoms around this time. Contractions often occur as well - but contrary to popular belief, contractions don’t always mean you’re going into labor. Your body’s just getting ready! You may find that your contractions go away if you sit or lie down. Drink lots of water, and get some rest.
Of course, it’s not uncommon for a woman to go into labor at 37 weeks. To figure out when you should go to the hospital or birthing center, follow the 5-1-1 rule - when contractions come every 5 minutes, last for 1 minute, and have been that way for 1 hour, it’s go-time! Otherwise, you needn’t rush to the hospital.
Learn About Labor & Your Hospital
Whether you’re planning on delivering at a hospital, a birthing center, or somewhere else with a doula, get to know the environment where you’ll be having your baby. Ask lots of questions, do lots of research, and get to know the people who will be guiding you through this incredible life event!
My first pregnancy, I had a hospital birth. I found it really helpful to take a hospital tour a few weeks before my due date. It made things really real for me - it helped me visualize the birth, and gave me questions and answers I didn’t even know I had! It’ll help you know how to get to the hospital, where to park, and where you should go. It’ll give you a chance to complete some paperwork, and ask lots and lots of questions. All of those things can take away a lot of stress on the big day. If possible, come to your hospital tour prepared with a list of questions.
Though giving birth will mainly just involve you, your doctor and your partner, there are other things to consider. If you have other children, plan who will take care of them while you’re in labor. Don’t just ask someone to be around on your due date - ask someone you trust to be there for you and your kids whenever your baby decides to come. You never know when you’ll go into labor - make different plans for whatever time of day or whatever day of the week it happens.
As nerve-wracking as having a baby is, remember that women have been giving birth since the beginning of time. If you forget to pack something in your hospital bag, if you can’t schedule a hospital tour, don’t sweat it! Being emotionally prepared is just as important, if not more so. Know that you’re meant to be the mother of that baby in your womb, and that he or she is going to love you just as much as you’ll love them. Take your time to relax during these two weeks, and focus on the joy that’s about to enter your life.
What advice would you give to an expectant mother? Is there anything you wish you’d done during those precious weeks before birth, or anything you think wasn’t too important? Let us know in the comments!