Creating Your Birthing Environment For An Easier Birth
When you are about to go to sleep you are likely to adjust the room. Perhaps you make it more comfortable, perhaps you change the lighting and temperature. You know that environment is going to make a big difference to your ability to fall asleep and have a good sleep.
The same is true for birth. Your environment matters.
Imagine your friend’s pet cat is pregnant. She tells you she’s had her kittens. Where are you picturing she birthed them?
Maybe you’re imagining she took herself off to the under stairs cupboard, the old shed in the garden or even under the bed. Most of us would expect other mammals to take themselves off somewhere dark, small, and familiar to them.
Now lets face it other mammals don’t get their information about where to birth from an antenatal course, a book or even a blog post. They simply follow their instincts. Their instincts guide them to the places where they are able to birth the easiest.
We are mammals too. We need similar conditions to birth easily too. And no I’m not suggesting that you take yourself to the old shed in the garden. But for birth to work best we need:
- A feeling of safety
- A feeling of privacy
- Dimly lit lights
Just like other mammals we have instincts that guide us to these things, however quite often these instincts have been messed up by what we’ve seen or heard about birth.
So what do most humans in the western world do?
Take themselves to a place with lots of strangers, lie on a bed in a place we associate with being ill and look up at bright lights. Then we wonder why things slow down.
Now, let me be very clear. I’m not for one moment suggesting that you should never birth in a hospital. If you have decided that a hospital is the best place for you to birth your baby, well that truly is the best place for you. Your decision is always the right one. In addition referring to a feeling of privacy does not mean birthing on your own. You can feel like your have a ‘feeling of privacy’ even in a busy labour ward.
Wherever you choose, know that you can fairly easily adapt that environment to make it more birth friendly.
Here are my top tips:
- Lighting- The hormones of birth work best with dim lighting. If you are birthing at a hospital or birth centre Battery Tea lights are a birth bag essential. Switch off bright lights and dot them around your room and you’ve created lighting perfect for the flow of Oxytocin- the hormone that powers your surges/contractions. Whilst at home or if you are birthing at home you could even use the real deal. If you find yourself in a shared environment during labour e.g. a ward, adjusting the lighting might be more difficult. You could use a Lavender eye pillow or an eye mask to create a dim lighting for you.
- Scent- Our sense of smell is said to be the closest sense linked to our memory. We relax when we feel things are familiar. Based on this, having a room spray or a couple of drops of essential oil on a tissue that you have been using at home when relaxing will help your mind and body feel more at ease. If each time you relax during pregnancy you smell this scent you are building a strong trigger for relaxation that you can use at your birth.
- Privacy- Birth is a pretty intimate event. If you think of other intimate events in life, yep I’m talking sex, MOST of us would choose to do that without an audience. Feeling watched whether this is sex, going to the loo or giving birth is highly likely to make a difference. Wherever you are birthing you might want to consider how much privacy you’d like. Would you like the constant presence of a midwife in your environment? Or would you prefer them to give you as much privacy as possible, quietly joining you for checks? How do you feel about student midwives? Dim lighting can also help create a feeling of privacy even if you do have other people within your environment.
- Familiarity- When our surroundings are familiar we are more likely to relax. A relaxed body births more easily and comfortably than a tense one. Consider taking with you items from home, perhaps your own pillow, photographs, and even your own blanket. Anything that reminds you of your home surroundings. Obviously if your birthing at home this is already sorted.
- Sounds- Sounds/music can impact our mood. You want to feel relaxed and positive, music can help us feel this way. Plus the bonus is it means you are less likely to hear sounds from other rooms.
- Comfort- Most women feel most comfortable fairly upright in labour. Lying back is likely to be uncomfortable and lets face it lacks the aid of gravity. Despite what TV and film would have us think, beds are pretty useless in labour and birth. So get your birth partner to push the bed (if there is one) out of the way, empty your possessions out onto it so you are less likely to be drawn to it and you get to make the most of the space.
- Time- Remove the clock in your birth space. Oxytocin speeds up the sense of time, however constant clock watching is likely to mean time feels longer than it actually is. Plus the focus on time can create frustrations that might not be there if you distract yourself from the time.
Enjoy thinking about how you are going to create your birth space and know that these suggestions are not to just look good on photos they can actually help your lovely birth hormones work more optimally. Happy Birthing!