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10 Things Every Woman Needs to Know Before Giving Birth

I had many moments in the first few months of Vienna’s life where I thought to myself “if I only knew this when I was pregnant.”
Jul 30, 2016 | Joy McCarthy

Lucky for me, two of my closest girlfriends had babies the same year Vienna was born. 2015 felt like the year of babies at least in my social circle! Many things my girlfriends went through, I went through too. Of course, every woman's experience is unique, but the similarities helped me through some of the more challenging times, whether it was figuring out breastfeeding, how to care for my lady parts post-pregnancy or discussing the challenges of pooping. Even though some of these convos weren't always the most joyous, it comforted me to know that my friends were going through the same things I was. 

After speaking with my girlfriends and other mama acquaintances, I gathered the top 10 things every woman should know before giving birth. I had many moments in the first few months of Vienna’s life where I thought to myself “if I only knew this when I was pregnant.”

I’m sure all you mamas out there could add to this list, so I would LOVE for you to post your experiences in the comments section below to grow this list and help other mamas!

This top 10 list contains some things I learned from others before giving birth, and some that I learned along the way from other mamas and my own experiences. However, I wish that I knew all of the things on this list before giving birth, because I would have done some things differently. For one, I would have seen my pelvic floor physiotherapist before giving birth. 

Top 10 Things Every Woman Should Know Before Giving Birth 

1. See a pelvic floor physiotherapist who can assess you and advise on the proper way to strengthen your pelvic floor.

This should ideally happen before you even become pregnant, but if not, while you’re pregnant. Most women see a physiotherapist once baby has arrived when they have problems, but you can get ahead of it and hopefully prevent any pelvic floor issues if you see one earlier. You can read about Vanessa’s journey to pelvic health and some tips to ensure a speedier recovery .

2. Prepare your vagina-care (aka “lady-part love” kit) with the essentials once you are 30-plus weeks along.

Your body needs as much care and attention as your baby. From “padsicles” to witch hazel, get your lady part love-kit ready because the last thing you want to be doing at 3am while breastfeeding and feeling very sleep-deprived is soaking pads in witch hazel.

3. Skip the “birth plan.”

I can just see my type-A readers losing their mind over this one! Don’t worry though, keep reading. What I mean by “skipping” the birth plan is that you should have a wish list, but be open to change for the birth of your baby. Many women get very hung up on having things go a certain way – such as having a natural childbirth – and then it doesn’t go the way they planned. You can’t really “plan” a birth because you can’t look into a crystal ball and know everything that is going to happen. Whether you have a midwife or an ob/gyn, make sure they are aware of your wishes for pain relief and other important decisions you may need to make while in labour, but don’t get too hung up on your plan. This is why a “wishlist” is a much better option. 

4. Hire a doula, if budget allows.

 A doula is a birth companion and can also be an important post-birth support. Doulas provide non-medical physical and emotional support. If you are familiar with my birthing story, I had a doula, and this helped me have a natural birthing experience. I couldn’t have done it without my support team, which including my incredible doula, my husband Walker, and my midwives. 

5. Be willing to ask for help.

Building on the previous point, support is absolutely essential when your beautiful baby arrives! For many women it's simply not a reality to have your partner at your beck and call, especially if they have a full-time job. Of course, every woman's experience will be different, but most women have trouble walking around and no woman should be on her feet for too long after delivery making dinner, doing dishes, etc. You've got a baby to look after and a vagina that needs to heal. Lean on family and friends (literally) – that's what they are there for. Or hire a doula to support you after your baby's birth. When others ask you if you need anything, say yes.

6. Have some ready-made meals.

I can’t tell you the number of mamas that tell me they ate takeout for the first three months of their babe’s life. This is both costly and probably not very healthy. While the last thing you want to be doing it is cooking when you’ve got a three-week-old, you do need to make sure you eat nourishing meals to help heal your body and produce healthy, nutrient-dense breast milk. A few weeks before your babe arrives, make meals ahead of time and freeze them. Here are some great meal and snack ideas you can easily freeze and enjoy when your beautiful bundle arrives:


7. Take it one moment at a time.

When I was first thinking about this point, I wrote “take it one day at a time.” Then, after chatting with my girlfriend Candice (who has a new blog about exclusively pumping) she said “take it one moment at a time.” She’s so right. Every moment with a newborn is different. So when you feel frustrated and doubtful you can, for example, get your crying babe to sleep, know that the next moment can and will change. Nothing is permanent with a newborn and this is a good thing. Your love is the only thing that is permanent. <3

8. Coconut oil is your new best friend, so stock up!

Coconut oil is pretty much the only product I use on Vienna on a daily basis. Since she was born, I’ve slathered her bum with coconut oil at every single diaper change. I also slather her with oil after a bath. Coconut oil is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, which is great for preventing and helping to treat diaper rash. 

9. Buy a good nursing bra before you start nursing.

I speak from experience here. I didn’t buy any nursing bras because I got hand-me-downs. While I appreciate the hand-me-downs, my boobs were way too small for the bras I was given, and I didn’t realize nipple chafing I was experiencing was due in part to having the wrong size nursing bra. I couldn’t even have a thin sheet touch my nipples the first six weeks! Looking back, I can’t believe I tortured myself further with the wrong size bra. I ended up buying Bravado wireless nursing bras. I have three of them, and they are the most comfortable bras I’ve ever had. 

10. Have a referral on hand for a lactation consultant and a chiropractor.

There are many experts that can help you ease into mamahood. Nursing was really tough for me in the beginning, so having experts was essential for my success in breastfeeding. A chiropractor may not be the first health expert you think of when it comes to breastfeeding, but my chiro was instrumental in helping to adjust Vienna so she could latch better. Here are some great tips from my chiropractor Dr. Aliya. 


Now that you’ve read my top 10 list, what do you think? If you’ve got some great tips to add, please post them in the comments section below. I would love to keep this list growing!

Jul 30, 2016 BY Joy McCarthy
Kate   •   August 3, 2016

This is such a great post! I'm 4 weeks away from meeting my little guy and I've already ordered a few of the things from your 'lady parts' post to have on hand post-delivery. I absolutely love the idea of those padcicles too! I never would have thought of that. I also have to say I've been seeing my chiropractor for a few years and even more regularly during pregnancy and it's been a tremendous help!

Heather Allen   •   August 3, 2016

Chrissy   •   August 3, 2016

Love this list. Your lady parts post really prepared me for those postpartum healing days! I would add put a cap on the # of visitors in a day or week. Felt like I didn't pick up on my baby's more subtle hunger cues in the beginning because family and friends were constantly wanting to visit and pass him around. I didn't get as much rest as I probably should have and bonding time with just baby, hubs and I.

Heather Allen   •   August 4, 2016

Sherry   •   August 4, 2016

These are all bang on. A couple I would add are: 11. Don't stock up on diapers. Your little will grow rapidly at the start and you may only need newborn or size 1 diapers for a couple weeks each. Have a few smaller packages on hand or use cloth. 12. Realize that everyone means well with any advice they give. Feel free to listen to it or let it go in one ear and out the other. 13. Don't stress over not being "ready". All you need is love, a few outfits and diapers and a place for your baby to sleep when you get home. All of the other stuff can wait (that includes cleaning!) 14. Enjoy the ride. You will be sleep deprived, you will be emotional, you will be starving at times, and you will absolutely be in love. Becoming a mother really is the most amazingly beautiful thing in the entire world. Enjoy it...because before you know it they have changed overnight before your eyes. Xoxo

Heather Allen   •   August 4, 2016

Lisa Borden   •   August 4, 2016

#3! But apply this to everything, not just the birth part! Like in life, parenting and business, planning and over-evaluation is not only counter-productive but exhausting, and who needs help being more exhausted?! Being organized is great, but just put your best effort in, and enjoy the (bumpy) ride - or some days, just get through it! :)

Heather Allen   •   August 4, 2016

Valerie   •   August 4, 2016

I struggled going to the bathroom for way too long after having birth. Plenty of water and high fiber diet was key for me, especially that cup of warm water first thing in the morning. Epsom salts and lavender essential oil in the bath helped my anal fissures heal.

Joy McCarthy   •   August 5, 2016

Allie   •   August 4, 2016

Loved these! I think it's also important to let new moms know that it's okay to experience a range of emotions (even ones you weren't expecting). I am an extremely upbeat, positive person. However the early days when my little one was born were TOUGH. I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety which were completely foreign emotions to me. I shared my experience on my blog ... I hope other moms read it and feel comfort knowing they aren't alone! Thanks Joy :)

Joy McCarthy   •   August 5, 2016

Alisa   •   August 5, 2016

Really sweet article, yah every women should know about it and its most important think is also. thank you dear


Lindsey   •   August 21, 2016

A great resource for an expecting momma! Thank you! I was just wondering what kind of coconut oil you use/used on your baby's bum? Thanks so much!

Heather Allen   •   August 22, 2016

selena   •   October 10, 2016

You have really good research on health thank you for sharing such good information.


Dhivya   •   February 9, 2017

Joy I went through a very similar situation as yours and if I had to write my 10 things it would be this identical list. Chiropractor was the best thing to happen to me and it really helped establish breast feeding. After going through weeks (read 12) of bleeding nipples, I was nearly going to give up when my chiro adjusted our daughter and things radically improved.

Rachel   •   February 9, 2017

Nicole   •   February 12, 2017

Thank you Joy for your honestly and all the tips and recommendations. I didn't know any of this my first time around and felt very blind about the whole process. I will Absolutely follow your recommendations for the second time around lol!

Rachel   •   February 13, 2017

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