What we wish we'd known before we gave birth

Mums reveal the advice they'd give themselves if they could go back in time...

When you're in the latter stages of pregnancy, it can often feel like there's advice everywhere - books, websites, emails and well-meaning friends. But what advice would you give yourself, if you could go back in time to just before labour starts? We asked some mums, and here's the advice they'd give themselves...

"Have a plan in mind, but be flexible. I'd give myself that advice because my planned home birth for my third child ended up in an emergency dash to hospital. It meant that me and my baby were safe, which is all that really matters." Polly, mum of four

"Avoid watching any negative birth shows during pregnancy and read books / listen to natal hypnotherapy CDs to prepare yourself to trust your body and not be scared. Fear can pump your body full of adrenaline which makes labour really painful. I was terrified during my first labour and didn't cope very well. Second time round I did those things and felt calm and in control throughout the entire experience." Jessica, mum of two

"With my first baby I thought I was overreacting to the pain so nearly didn't make it to hospital in time. So I'd tell myself: Listen to your body. If it feels like this baby is ready to say hello, it probably is! That advice would have been priceless." Bryony, mum of two

"Don't worry so much about 'the plan'. Listen to your body, do what feels right, and don't worry about what people might say. This is your birth story - not theirs. Oh and make sure someone buys you Prosecco to celebrate afterwards." Charlotte, mum of one

"Don't be too fixed on a certain plan. Have one in mind but every birth is different so don't be too disappointed if you have to change it. Just try and take as much positivity out of it as you can. I would give that line because Elle's birth was quick and straight forward so I planned and expected the same with Mia. I laboured for 55 hours with her with a lot of intervention and stress. I had to just let the midwifes lead as they knew what was right for the baby and she was born healthy because of them." Keri-Anne, mum of two

"Learn to relax, breathe and focus made the world of difference second time around but don't presume you can control/predict everything either. My third labour wasn't as easy as I'd hoped and I had to adapt my expectations." Kathryn, mum of three

Be prepared for your plans to change but have confidence in your ability to birth your baby in whatever way necessary. I'd give myself that advice because the one thing I desperately wanted to avoid ended up being the only way my baby could come out, and I wish I hadn't been so stubborn about it!" Lottie, mum of two

"You should think of birth as a special occasion. It's something you'll only do a handful of times in your life. I was worried about spending £250 on a birthing pool in case we didn't get to use it, but actually I think the peace of mind it bought was well worth it. Plus we did get to use it and it was perfect. Also, if having a water birth, opt for waterproof mascara. I have lots of photos of my beautiful newborn being cuddled by a terrifying woman-panda hybrid!" Fiona, mum of one

"Don't beat yourself up if the birth you have is completely different to the one you planned. The type of birth you have will probably depend on medical factors and the hospital on the day. And remember it is important, but it's only a tiny part of the story. I had two very different experiences, one not so great and one incredibly positive, and most of it was due to factors out of my hands (planned induction first time not second, different hospitals, busy and less busy time of years). A lot of it wasn't due to anything I could have done." Gillian, mum of two

"Consider trying hypnobirthing. No matter what kind of birth you have it can really help you stay calm and manage the sensations. Another option to consider is a doula as it can be helpful to have a birth advocate who understands what you want and will support both you and your birth partner, whatever happens." Adele, mum of two

Now read: Hospital bag essentials: what to pack and Can meditation help with labour?

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