There’s something special about being pregnant in the run-up to Christmas, whether it’s stroking your bump as you curl up in front of a roaring fire, feeling your baby kick as you sing him your favourite Christmas carol, or picking out that super-cute Santa outfit. But, because the festive period is so uniquely different to any other time of year, it can mean that as well as feeling incredibly excited, you might feel nervous too.
‘When your due date is around Christmas, it’s natural to worry about the practicalities,’ says midwife Lesley Gilchrist. ‘You might be travelling further to visit friends and family, and be considering the extra traffic or unpredictable weather conditions, not to mention uncertainties around hospital staffing. However, with a little extra preparation and a chat with your midwife about any worries you might have around your birth plan, the practicalities around having a baby over the Christmas period aren’t much different – and you might find it makes it even more special.’
Read on to discover everything you need to know to help your Christmas delivery run smoothly, so you can get ready to welcome your baby into the world at this most wonderful time of year...
Wave goodbye to the 'what ifs'
The biggest cause for worry can be all the unknowns. Alongside your usual routine, there will be Christmas parties, visits to and from relatives, and Christmas shopping and events – all this can leave you feeling unsure what will happen when labour begins. ‘The best thing to do is plan, plan and plan some more,’ says Lesley. ‘Keep your car in tip-top condition, well serviced, filled with fuel and ready to go, especially as it can be difficult to book a taxi at this time of year.
‘If it’s your partner’s Christmas do, have a friend or relative on standby, so there’s definitely someone to take you to hospital, should you need to go. And if you have other children that need dropping off on the way, choose someone who lives on the route to hospital, if you can, to help prevent any last-minute detours. Have two or three different routes to hospital saved in your phone, and try out a couple of dry runs of your route ahead of your delivery date, including one at night and one at rush hour, so you’re fully prepared for every eventuality,’ says Lesley.
‘There’s no need to change your travel plans drastically though – just make sure that, wherever you go, your hand-held maternity notes go too. These are incredibly important as they contain every piece of information about your pregnancy, your medical history, your birth preference and birth history, and will help the midwife at your local hospital – or another hospital – get quickly up to speed and prevent you from having to have unnecessary checks or tests. So keep them in your bag when you go to work, out shopping or visiting friends and family.
‘Remember, all hospitals will be able to support you if you do go into labour while you’re away and, of course, you’re able to have your baby in any hospital you choose. However, if you’re travelling further afield and have specific needs or requests, it’s worth calling the nearest hospital maternity ward to ask if they’d be able to accommodate you. If you have any complications, your midwife may advise you to stay put around your due date to ensure you get the care and support you need.’
Ease labour worries
‘Labour wards are quieter on Christmas Day, as most women will try not to come in unless they really need to,’ says Lesley. ‘However, if you do come in, there will be plenty of staff to support you. Some smaller hospitals do have a reduction in staff on Christmas Day and don’t actively plan inductions or caesareans as a result, but it can vary between hospitals, so check with your midwife if you have concerns.
‘Larger hospitals will always have a consultant or anaesthetist available, and smaller hospitals will have them on call on Christmas Day. There will be doctors on duty, so if you go into labour and choose to have an epidural or need an emergency caesarean, there will always be someone to assist, and you’ll be looked after in just the same way as any other day. While your care will be the same, there’s usually a lovely, festive atmosphere and you might even get a Christmas dinner, making it a wonderful day to welcome your baby.’
Having a Christmas home birth can also be magical, with gentle Christmas music and lights twinkling in the background. ‘Your midwife will have chatted through your plans and will know your due date, so having a home birth at Christmas won’t be any different to any other time of year,’ says Lesley. Talk through your birth plan with your midwife as early as possible – if you’d like a birthing pool, specific pain relief or need any specialist support, it may need to be arranged quite far in advance.
‘As well as preparing for your baby’s arrival, there are still all the other practicalities of Christmas to prepare for, so getting organised way ahead of December can help relieve stress and give you more time to put your feet up,’ says Lesley. ‘This Christmas is going to be a completely different experience, so it’s fine to make plans that work best for you – and even make some new traditions.’ So, if you usually hit the high street in mid-December, this year shop online or delegate to your partner to take the strain off your feet. And if you usually host Christmas dinner but don’t feel up to it, or need to say no to a few Christmas invites, that’s fine too! Being pregnant at Christmas is all about doing what’s best for you and your baby – make the most of it!
Real mum experience
‘I cooked some big sharing dishes in advance and made sure all the yummy Christmas food I’d bought had long best-before dates, so I could tuck in once my baby arrived.’ Gayle Lui, from Bath, mum to Elena.
'Both of my boys were due around Christmas, so I kept Christmas dinner plans flexible. With my eldest, Alex, we went to the in-laws for Christmas, with my hospital bag in the boot just in case, and with my youngest, Ben, I had my parents on standby to come and cook us lunch!’ Sarah Wilson, from Bristol, is mum to Ben and Alex.
Meet the expert
Midwife Lesley Gilchrist has 16 years experience in the NHS and is the co-founder of My Expert Midwife; myexpertmidwife.com