Many women don’t realise where they give birth has quite an impact on labour and birth.
An undisturbed, natural labour happens under certain circumstances.
As the vast majority of women choose to birth in a hospital setting, it can be difficult to achieve the right environment.
During labour, your body is producing a number of hormones which work together to increase contractions and bring your baby down and through your body.
These hormones are released under certain conditions, mainly when you are feeling safe and relaxed.
The perfect environment for giving birth is when you have:
If these conditions aren’t being met, the part of your brain which controls labour feels threatened and releases stress hormones.
This means your contractions can become more painful, irregular, slow or even stop.
Whether you are giving birth at hospital or at home, if you take some time to think about your environment and how it may impact on your labour, you can avoid unnecessary interventions and enjoy a positive natural birth.
5 Steps For Creating A Perfect Birth Space
Here are 5 ways to set up your perfect birth space:
#1: Create A Birth ‘Nest'
Women who plan to give birth at home often set aside a certain space or a room as their birth space.
In hospital you are allocated a room and have to make do with what you have or can bring in.
You might like to display certain items which hold special meaning to you. This might be affirmations, special gifts from your mother blessing, images of birth, music, essential oils, pictures of your other children, or even baby clothes.
Cushions, beanbags or birth balls are great props to use during contractions. You might like to put a mat down on the floor or lean over a chair, to encourage more upright positions. If you are in hospital, ask the midwives to move or cover any clinical equipment if it’s not being used, and cover the clock!
You often find the hospital bed is the central feature of the birth suite when you arrive. If you have no intentions of getting near the bed, have it pushed to the side to discourage you from being stuck on it on your back. Or have the bed adjusted so you can use it in an upright position.
#2: Dim The Lights
Ever wondered why many women go into labour at night-time? Maybe you’ve heard of a hormone called melatonin, better known as the hormone responsible for sleeping.
During labour, melatonin also works with oxytocin, the hormone which stimulates contractions. Our bodies increase production of melatonin in darkness and levels tend to peak in the early hours of the morning. Daylight and artificial light reduce melatonin production.
So to encourage labour progress in hospital, dim the lights or close doors and only leave one light on at a distance. At home you can use candles or fairy lights to create soft lighting.
If it’s bright daylight outside, draw curtains over the windows. If you can’t reduce external light, try shading or covering your eyes as much as possible.
#3: Keep Your Cool
When we feel warm our oxytocin levels rise. During labour, feeling cold can have the reverse effect and encourage your body to produce stress hormones, which as we know have a negative effect on contractions.
Hospitals are notoriously over-warm so you may have to ask the staff to adjust the heating until you are comfortable. At home make sure your heating works well and have ways to block out any cold draughts in the space where you are birthing.
Labour increases your temperature naturally, especially in the second stage when you are most likely to strip down and sweat buckets. Don’t be tempted to take a cold bath or shower at this point – instead use cool flannels on your face and cold water or ice to help keep you cool.
#4: Authorised Personnel Only
Sex and birth require the same hormone production and if you can’t imagine having sex in the room you are giving birth in, then make some changes. Privacy is important to labouring women, it allows their neocortex (the thinking part of our brains) to quieten down and let labour unfold.
Dimming the lights and covering the windows can enhance your sense of privacy, as can labouring in a deep pool – although in hospitals the lights need to stay on when you’re in the bath so perhaps pack an eye mask in case.
Birthing at home means you may have to be prepared to deal with unannounced visitors so a sign on the door may be a good way to let people know not to knock or ring the bell. You can cover your windows to make sure no one can see you from outside and allow you complete freedom to move around as you like.
Music can help to drown out any noise from neighbouring areas or traffic but it also allows you to make as much noise as you need. In hospital you may feel unsure about making noise, so pop on your headphones and listen to your labour playlist. Remember everyone there has either heard it before or is too busy having a baby to listen to you!
Noise and interruptions are fairly common in hospital settings. Speak to your midwives about minimal staff and interruptions or put a polite sign on the door asking staff to respect your privacy at all times.
#5: Lose The Distractions
In the early stage of labour, you might find watching a movie or checking Facebook a great way to keep your nerves and excitement at bay. But as labour progresses, you will start to focus inwards more and distractions can interrupt the production of labour hormones.
Put your phone on silent or leave it in a bag or another room. Your focus in on being in labour, not giving latest updates to your family and friends!
A calm, peaceful and dim environment indicates to others this is a sacred space and they will automatically adjust their behaviour and speak softly or be silent. If you like music, it can be helpful to create a labour playlist which will fill the silence and help you to focus on your breathing.
Creating a birth space, whether at home or in hospital, is a positive way to manifest your intentions of having a peaceful and empowering birth. Your birth space is sacred and should be treated as such by all those in it. Setting up your birth space gives you access to a place where you can let go and tune into your baby, body and instincts.