Labor and delivery experiences vary widely, which can make planning ahead for yours and knowing what to expect a little difficult. However, going into the big day with these labor tips can help make your delivery go the way you hope it will.

Take a Class

One of the most helpful things you can do to make your labor and delivery experience easier is to take a childbirth class. These classes explain the basics of what to expect during delivery, which can increase your confidence and make you feel more educated as you move forward. These classes walk you through breathing exercises, birthing positions and options, and if you take the class at the hospital you will be delivering at, also usually includes a tour of the hospital.

Birthing classes are also a great networking opportunity. Speaking to other expectant women, some of whom may have given birth before, can also help you know what to expect.

Make a Birth Plan

Once you've taken a birthing class and have some idea of what to expect, you can work on making a birth plan. Birth plans include things like who you want in the room, how you plan to manage pain, and how you want to handle the potential of interventions. Keep in mind that you may need to be a bit flexible from this plan, but it's good to have on hand to let medical professionals know what your ideal birth would be.

Pack a Bag

Pack a bag of things you want to have with you well before your due date. This will keep you from having to gather things while you're already in labor, and can make the whole experience more laid back -- you'll be able to just grab your bag and go. Some recommended items to pack are comfortable clothing, socks, slippers, snacks, books, and an extra phone charger.

Identify Your Support Team

Decide well ahead of your due date who you want to have in the room with you when you give birth. It is important to know your hospital's guidelines regarding this; some restrict the number of people who can be in the room, which may mean you have some choices to make. You may want a parent, sibling, or significant other in the room for support, and some birthmothers also choose to allow the adoptive parents to be in the room for the child's birth. Tell the nurses on duty who you want to allow in the room, and they will ensure no one unwanted makes it in. You can also choose for some people to be in the room while you labor, but leave before the delivery.

Plan for the Long Haul

Keep in mind that labor can often take 12 hours or more, especially if this is your first delivery. With that in mind, consider how you will want to spend those hours. Having some entertainment planned can help the time go by faster, so you may want to consider bringing a laptop, tablet, or handheld game system. Some laboring women enjoy reading during the easier hours, and many also enjoy some calming music.