“the best environment to have your baby is the same environment where you could make a baby– or at least have a good time trying”
– Dr Sarah Buckley
Whether you’re birthing in a hospital or birth centre, it’s important your space makes you feel:
In “Ten Moons”, Jane Hardwicke Collings gives the example of a cat, “Everyone knows that cats need to give birth undisturbed in a dark, secluded place- perhaps preparing a softly lined box in the darkest corner of the furthest room underneath the bed. And everyone who knows about cats understands that you must never disturb a cat in labour or a newly delivered cat and her litter of kittens, otherwise the cat’s labour will stop or she may reject her kittens. Everyone who knows cats knows this.”
As a mammal, you’re no different to the mama cat. When you feel private, safe and unobserved, your body releases endorphins, the hormone that provides natural pain relief and an efficient labour and birth. If you’ve been labouring at home and you arrive at the hospital where your room is bright, unfamiliar medical staff are speaking loudly and you’re made to put on a hospital gown, your labour may stall or slow down. However, if your room makes you feel “at home”, your labour will continue to progress.
Five Steps to Make Your Hospital Room Feel More Like Home
Lighting: You feel more comfortable and uninhabited when the lights are dim when you make love right? It’s the same for labour and birth. Draw the curtains or blinds, turn off the fluorescents or dim the lights. Or switch on a lamp or turn the bathroom light on and leave the door ajar. Or you could take your own fairy lights to add a touch of romance. Or use some LED tea lights and scatter them around the room.
Decorate: Bring photos from home of other children, pets, loved ones or your favourite place and stick them on the wall so you can feel their presence and support.
People: Only have people in your birthing room that you trust and get a good vibe from to help your labour to progress. This could be your partner, family members or a doula. If you’re not comfortable with medical students in your room, say so. You could also add this to your Birth Wishes.
Equipment: throw a sarong or sheet over any unsightly medical equipment or clocks that might throw you off your game.
Clothing: Instead or wearing a scratchy hospital gown that gapes at the back, change into your own labouring clothes. Perhaps one of your husband’s over- sized t- shirts that smells like him and your home or anything you feel comfortable in.
Robe: At times during your labour you may feel hot or cold so take a robe from home (after your baby is born you can open your robe and put your baby onto your chest but stay warm).
Sheets: put a sheet or over the plastic floor mats and bean bags so they feel softer against your skin.
Hospitals can be noisy so block out distracting sounds.
Music: Research shows that the effective use of music during labor lowers anxiety and pain perception as well as increases emotional and physical comfort.” Make playlists of your favourite songs. Choose a variety of songs that makes you feel energetic and motivated or calm and relaxed. Playing music may also make your feel more confident using sound during labour and birth.
Listening to the same music when you’re pregnant can be calming and reassuring to both you and your baby during labour.
Either play on the hospital’s bluetooth speakers if they have them or take your own or wear bluetooth headphones if you want to go deep within.
Ear Plugs: If you want to block out the noise around you, use ear plugs.
Chatter: Write in your birth wishes that you’d like any visitors in your room to speak to each other and to you calmly and quietly.
Phones: Write in your birth wishes (and remind your birthing partner) to turn their phones onto silent so as not to distract you.
Let’s face it, hospitals smell nasty! Research shows that smell triggers memories and emotions. So mask the hospital smells with essential oils. Using these same essential oils during pregnancy at times you’re calm and relaxed can evoke these same feelings in labour. Essential oils smell nice and they provide emotional support. Lavender is calming and relaxing whilst wild orange and peppermint are uplifting and energising.
Diffuser: Use a diffuser like this which also helps to humidify and purify the air. Just add water and 3-5 drops of your chosen essential oil. If you’re unable to use an electric diffuser in your birth room you can make a spritz and pack it in your hospital bag.
Spritz: Add 25 drops of essential oil to a 4oz spray bottle and top with distilled or purified water. Use as a room, linen spray or face spritz.
Apply Topically: Add a teaspoon of fractionated coconut oil into the palm of your hand and a drop or 2 of essential oil and rub onto your pulse points.
Inhale: Holding your hand like a funnel over the opening of the essential oil bottle, take a few deep breaths in breathing in all that essential oil goodness.
Pillow: take your own pillow which smells like home.
Your Partner: Cuddling up to your partner and smelling him can help you to relax.
Eat homemade snacks like bliss balls, cut up fruit and veggies, dip, a smoothie or soup to give your energy and stamina. Eating good quality snacks from home will make you feel like a strong, confident birthing woman rather than a sickly hospital patient.
From the list above, plan what you’ll need and then delegate the job of creating an environment that is private, safe and unobserved to your birth partner or doula and ask them to manage this throughout your labour and birth.
To ensure your labour continues to progress when you arrive at the hospital or birth centre, stay at home as long as safely possible, ideally with support from your midwife or doula.
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