Build the perfect birth space
“The environment you give birth in is going to have a direct impact on your physical and emotional experience of birth, and even on the way that your labour and birth unfolds” Milli Hill, The Positive Birth Book
Making your birth space special can help to make your experience of birth special too. To have the best possible birth for you, you need to give birth in a place and an environment that makes you feel safe, comfortable and relaxed and allows you to produce oodles of the important birth hormone oxytocin - read more about oxytocin in birth here. This will not be the same place or environment for every woman – we are all different. If we remember that we are mammals, and all mammals have similar criteria for their birth spaces, that is - dark, warm, private, safe, undisturbed, quiet it can help us to think what might be a great birth space for us. Wherever you decide to labour and birth you need to make sure you create a birth spaces that ticks all these boxes. It can be harder in some places and easier in others, but it’s still possible. So at home you have free reign and all the time you like to do this. But its still really possible in hospital or a birth centre too - think of these rooms a bit like your hotel room for the duration of your labour and birth, and make it how you would like it. This might be in one small or lots of bigger ways, do whats right for you. Move the furniture, bring things with you to add to the space, stick things on the walls - its your space for the duration so have it how you'd like it.
Here are some ideas for your birth space:
If you are labouring at home in the daytime, craw the curtain and turn off bright lights. Keep the spaces(s) dimply lit, using side lights, candles and fairy lights - whatever you choose.
If you are in hospital or birth centre, you can again lower the lights, and take in battery operated tea light and fairylights if you’d like to. Another great doula trick I've heard is to bring a string of battery fairy lights for the bathroom - one of the most underrated places to labor but which often has bright lighting.
In an operating theatre you can request for the lighting at mums head end to be lower, so that when baby comes skin to skin it’s not so bright.
You can put up positive affirmations on the wall or around your house. And you can take this into a hospital or birth centre with you and do the same. Some people make ‘affirmation bunting’ or just print out A4 sheets or even colour them in to make larger sheets of affirmations.
Move the furniture around so it suits you. Take into hospital your birth ball or extra cushions if you'd like to so you can move around freely into different positions.
Photos or other pictures that fill you will happiness and oxytocin can be great to have around your birth space, whether at home or in hospital. These could be of family or friends, of happy holidays or even pictures drawn by your other children.
You can make a playlist or playlists for all moods and needs. One to increase energy and bring good memories, one to dance and move to (can be great in early labour), and one to calm, relax and to chill out to. You can also have your hypnobirthing music playing in the background if you have used that in pregnancy, or play one of the hypnobirthing tracks. Or your partner could read you a hypnobirthing script. A small mobile speaker can be great to pack in your birth bag if you are going to a hospital or birth centre. Having your own music can also balance out any other noises going on in the hospital/birth centre around you that might be distracting to you. And your birth partner can to ask the medical staff to use low voices while you're laboring, and to reducing ‘chit chat’ so you can keep in your 'birth bubble'.
Our sense of smell is so strong, and attached to memories in an instant. So you can take items from home like pillowcases with you, to make a hospital or birth centre setting more homely and smell familiar - less like a hospital!.
You can also use smell as an anchor for relaxation throughout pregnancy and then in labour. Essential oils can be brilliant for this (make sure they are pregnant safe ones you chose). Lavender can be great to relax, and citrus oils great for energy, Frankincense can help you breathe better. There are many ways to use aromatherapy. They can be used in a massage oil, in the bath, in a vaporiser or on a tissue to sniff (never neat directly onto the skin), or even a flower water spray (nice and cooling too) or a simple roll on. There's loads more information in the ‘Aromatherapy For Child Birth Guide’ you get on the For Modern Mother hypnobirthing & birth preparation course.
Feeling comfortable with the people in your birth space is important. At home this is easy, there will only be people there you let in! But in a birth centre or in hospital then you still control this, your birth partner can act as a guardian of the space, meeting and greeting anyone at the door (like in a hotel room) and inviting them in (if their presence is welcome!)
Everyone on your care team should introduce themselves, and having this familiarity is important to feel safe. Some women find that a birth pool has feelings of privacy and safety, as well as the benefits of the water itself and this is often (although certainly not always) a feature of a home birth space. And women often move into the smaller space of the bathroom to labour (both at home or in hospital) as it feels small and safe and private.
Good Vibes Only
Keeping your mind focused on your labor and your baby is so important, and it can be easy to get distracted in a busy hospital with machines beeping. The paramount responsibility of your birth partner is to give you positive energy and keep your mind present for the work your body is doing. They might read you a hypnobirthing relaxation, do some massage or light touch stroking, or simply keep reminding you what an amazing job you're doing (because you definitely are)! Positive energy and interactions increases oxytocin, the hormone responsible for bringing your baby into the world.