Ideal birth environment
The importance of environment in childbirth
Your environment has a huge impact on your birth experience and whilst we don’t have saber-toothed tigers to escape from anymore, women still want to feel safe and unobserved. I’m going to share some ideas for creating a safe, calm ‘nest’ in which to labour in.
The human body is designed to slow or even pause childbirth if the woman does not feel safe. Fear can be triggered by being in an unfamiliar environment like a hospital. This is sometimes called ‘white coat syndrome’. So the first step is to inform yourself about the stages of labour and what happens in childbirth. We know that women who feel informed and supported before giving birth will feel more positive about their experience no matter what twists and turns the journey takes. Getting a good antenatal education is key and your birth partner also needs to take time to prepare themselves - don’t underestimate how significant it is to see the person you love give birth for the first time.
Try a warm candle-lit bath with lavender oil in the early stages while you’re at home. As well as gentle, calming music that encourages you to focus on your breath. We all know that athletes need oxygen during exercise and so does a birthing woman. Her uterus is a muscle working hard, so breathing in labour is crucial to oxygenating the body so that her uterus can work efficiently and not become sticky with lactic acid build up.
Many hospitals will allow you to bring a few things with you to create a more relaxed feel to the room. Try battery candles or fairy lights, soft music and get that oxytocin flowing (the love hormone needed in labour) again after the car journey. Don’t forget to close any window blinds, especially if you arrive during the night, so you don’t notice the sun coming up - you shouldn’t be aware of time passing when in labour.
It’s often assumed that you can’t ‘personalise’ your birth if you need to have a more medicalised experience like an induction or c-section. However, many hospitals are open to ideas so do talk to them. You may be able to use a playlist in theatre and you could use a sleep mask and earphones if you’re on the ward for some of your labour to create some privacy.
But by far your most powerful tool in childbirth is your mind. Feeling informed and prepared before childbirth can influence how you feel on the day. But if you really want to minimise the impact of adrenaline - the enemy of oxytocin - try visualisation techniques. We teach this in my Ultimate Birthing course, alongside breathing techniques and gentle movement. Releasing negative thoughts about birth and moving towards a more positive outlook can be truly empowering on the day.
This is why my antenatal & hypnobirthing courses and mum-only classes include time to relax and bond with your baby in beautiful surroundings. Practicing visualisations in this calm environment gives you a clear visual to return to on your birthing day.