Take Prenatal Classes

Prenatal classes help you know what to expect during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and after your baby arrives. Classes are often offered by doctors’ offices, the local health department or private childbirth educators. The two most common types of classes are “Childbirth Education” classes and “Parenting” or “Baby Care” classes. Ask your doctor or nurse for information about classes in your community and ask the baby’s father to go with you.

Watch for preterm (early) labor

Usually, babies are born between 38 and 42 weeks after conception. The earlier a baby is born, the more likely he or she is to have health problems. Preterm labor is labor that starts too early (before the 37th week of pregnancy). When you get pregnant, make sure you ask your healthcare provider about the signs of preterm labor.

If you have any of the signs of pre-term labor (listed below) before you reach 37 weeks, call your doctor’s office. The sooner you are checked for preterm labor, the better the chance that it can be stopped.

Know the Signs of Preterm (early) Labor

  • Contractions of the uterus (womb) – may be painless or feel like the baby is “balling up” – 6 or more in 1 hour
  • Cramps – like when you have your period
  • Low, dull backache – like when you have your period
  • Pressure – like the baby is pushing down
  • Increase or change in discharge (fluid) from your vagina – watery, or with mucus or blood

If you have any of these signs, immediately call your doctor, clinic, midwife, or nurse! Give your name, when your baby is due, what signs you are having, and how often you are having contractions.

Keep a copy of the “Prevent Preterm Labor” card in your purse or on your refrigerator so you will always know the warning signs. (If you find the card is slow to download, try the plain text version.

Childbirth Education Classes

These classes are often offered through your doctor’s office or local health department. Topics may include: signs of labor, breathing and relaxation exercises, when to call the hospital or your healthcare provider, preparing for the hospital stay, anesthesia for labor and delivery, complications of labor and delivery, and emergency situations including the need for a C-Section.

Parenting (Baby Care) Classes

Babies don’t come with instructions. Parenting classes cover topics such as: newborn care, normal newborn behavior, how to interact with your baby, safety and child-proofing your home and when to call your baby’s doctor. Both parents should attend these classes if possible.

Create a Safe Sleep Place for Baby

As you prepare for the arrival of your baby, begin by creating a safe sleeping place. For the first few months, your baby will spend most of his or her time sleeping.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is the sudden and unexpected death of a healthy infant less than one year of age. SIDS is also known as “crib death,” because SIDS often happens when a baby is sleeping.

There are other causes of sleep-related infant deaths (suffocation, strangulation, etc.) that can be prevented.

Some risks for SIDS include:

  • Baby sleeping on the stomach or side
  • Baby sleeping in an unsafe sleep place
  • Baby breathing cigarette smoke
  • Baby born early (premature)

Follow these baby sleep safety tips. Share them with your family members and babysitters before your baby arrives:

  • Always put your baby to sleep on his back (for naps and at night) unless the baby’s doctor told you not to
  • Use a crib, bassinet or playpen that is safety approved – check the label
  • Do not put the baby to sleep on a couch, waterbed, chair, infant seat or in an adult bed
  • Use a firm mattress or mattress pad that fits well and has no gap between it and the frame
  • Use a fitted sheet that is the right size for the mattress or mattress pad
  • Do not use bumper pads, sleep position wedges or pillows.
  • Move the crib away from the heat vent
  • Make sure the baby’s room has good air-flow
  • Keep the baby’s room temperature comfortable
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke in your baby’s room, your house or your car

For more information, visit the Baby’s Sleep Safety section of this website.

Get Ready for Breastfeeding

If you’ve chosen to breastfeed your baby, here are a few tips for getting your nipples ready for breastfeeding.

Some women may leak early milk, called colostrum, while they are pregnant. It is sticky and may cause your bra to stick to the nipple. If this happens, wet your bra so you can take it off without pulling on the nipple.

When you clean your nipples, use plain water. The breasts make a special oil that keeps your nipples soft and clean. Using soap will wash away that oil.

Check your nipples. Some nipples stick out when they are touched and some stay soft or go in. If your nipple goes in when you rub it, you have an inverted nipple. Ask your healthcare provider about getting breast shells to wear inside your bra. The shells might help inverted nipples stick out so it will be easier to breastfeed.

Learn about breastfeeding before you start. Ask the nurse or nutritionist in the clinic about breastfeeding classes or support groups. These are good places to learn from other mothers. When you go to the hospital, tell the nurses that you are going to breastfeed. For more information, visit the frequently asked questions about breastfeeding section of this website.