Environment in Labor and Birth
Be Empowered Birth Series
The environment is an important component to your labor and birth. You can have a birth environment that is peaceful and supportive of your birth desires no matter where you choose to labor and give birth. It doesn't matter if you choose a home birth, a birthing center birth, or a hospital birth; you can set the environment to be exactly what you need. Words to describe a calm and supportive birthing environment might include warm, safe, private, quiet, and dark. These five elements will help you to feel relaxed and secure. Your body can then release the hormone you need for labor to progress (oxytocin), and the hormones that will help you through labor (endorphins). If you feel safe and undisturbed, you will be able to focus on giving birth to your baby. So no matter where you plan to labor and give birth you should spend time planning how you will create these elements.
Room Temperature and Lighting
Labor hormones work more efficiently in dimly lit rooms. Some ways to adjust lighting are candles, tea light candles, dimmer switches, and stringed lights. Hospitals don't allow open flames which is where tea light candles and dimmer switches are great options. Some essential oil diffusers offer light as well, and they can be a nice touch no matter where you are birthing. Nurses are happy to help adjust lighting, so don't be afraid to ask them to show you. Also, don't be afraid to set the thermostat to wherever you need it. You shouldn't have to worry about it being harder because you are too cold or too hot, so keep yourself comfortable with room temperature as well.
Privacy is about your comfort in those in your space, feeling comfortable in making noise, and much more. One way that often makes a woman more comfortable in labor is by wearing her own clothes. That way you aren't having to worry about showing more than you might be comfortable with, and can choose clothing that is familiar and comfortable to you.
Having a support partner and birth team that you can trust is so important. A great tool available is to hire a birth doula. Make sure that there is open communication between you and your birth team, and expectations are talked about prior to labor. It is always helpful for a partner to be prepared for what is expected of them, and for them to know what your wishes are regarding your environment. Having a birth team that you are comfortable with will allow you to rest, knowing that they will protect your space and be sure to keep the environment how you wish.
Distractions can be useful, especially early on, but as labor progresses it is important that you focus on relaxing and breathing. As labor progresses, it takes more and more of your focus and energy. Turning phones on silent and letting everyone know on your birth team that you would like them to talk quietly or whisper can be helpful. With noise and distractions, its likely your body will produce adrenaline, and this can interfere with your body producing oxytocin (which you need to birth your baby). Another thought is to have soft music playing, this might prevent people from trying to fill the silence. Wearing headphones will also encourage people to take some of their thoughts and questions to your partner, and allow you to focus on your breathing without a lot of distractions.
Create a birth space that has familiar things to you. Some ideas are your own clothes, essential oil diffusers, music, your favorite light blanket or throw, your favorite robe, your own pillow, etc. Have items in your birthing environment that calm you and help ground you.
No matter where you are laboring and giving birth, plan to incorporate things that ground you and bring you a sense of peace. Everyone is different, and your perfect birthing environment will probably look different from others', and that is okay. Spend time envisioning yourself is labor, and things that you think might help maintain an environment for you that is warm, safe, private, quiet, and dark. Spend time talking about this with your support team so that they know best how to protect that space for you, and keep you in an environment that supports your body while it brings your baby into your arms.
Learn about creating an environment for your labor and birth in our Be Empowered Childbirth Education classes. Sign up for a class below!