When a woman feels calm, safe and private in labour, it is the perfect environment for her to labour and birth in. Her mind will tell her body that it’s safe to relax and her body will respond by surrendering to the birthing process. The act of surrendering will allow the perfect cocktail of birthing hormones to be released, which will help her uterus to contract, her cervix to soften and open and her baby to come down into her pelvis and out into the world. The following tips can help you create your safe, calm and private labour and birth environment…
Create a birthing environment which promotes feelings of safety and privacy.
Have you ever noticed how mammals, such as cats and rabbits like to give birth?
Well, many mammals prefer to give birth in the dark, safely hidden somewhere private, away from danger and predators. Much like our furry friends, we too, need to labour in an environment which makes us feel calm, safe and private. According to Dr. Sarah Buckley (2018), “we need to be able to turn down the alert, rational parts of our brain and sink into our more primitive “limbic system”. If a labouring woman feels scared, observed or has her ‘labour land’ bubble disturbed, the ‘fight or flight’ response can be activated, releasing stress hormones-adrenaline and catecholamines, which can negatively affect her labour. So, think about what environment will make you feel safe, calm and private? The ideal birthing environment is similar to how you would make love in, in private, in a dimly lit room, minimal noise and distractions and with your trusted partner.
Surround yourself with things which hold ‘special meaning’ to you. Things that will make you feel calm, ‘at home’ and happy.
Do you have any favourite photos of you and your partner, or of your family, a favourite holiday photo or perhaps a funny photo of your pet that makes you smile? Then, place these around your birthing space. What about a special piece of jewellery someone close gifted you? Then wear it. Or, you may have some healing crystals. Then place them around the room. And if you have a favourite scented candle- then burn it.. Surrounding yourself with these special items will help you feel connected and calm and will evoke positive memories and emotions during your labour. Don’t forget to take these items into the hospital birth suite with you.
Stimulate your 5 Senses to create positive emotions , connection and a focused mind set in labour: Sight, Smell, Sound, Touch and Taste:
Sight –Surrounding yourself with familiar, relaxing and positive things to look at will help you feel loved, supported and calm. Think about what things you can look at which will evoke these feelings. It may include familiar support people, familiar caregivers, relaxing holiday photos (of the beach or nature) or perhaps positive birthing affirmations scattered around the room. As mentioned above, having a dimly lit room (battery operated tea lights or string lights are great for hospital) can keep you feeling calm and safe. Once in the hospital, you can ask to have the lights turned down, have the clocks and medical devices covered and you could also lay out your baby’s clothes to look at (and visualise your baby wearing them soon!).
Smell – The sense of smell can directly influence your emotions and memories. Since the hospital has an unfamiliar smell to you, you may wish to create a relaxing aroma by diffusing your favourite essential oil. Commonly used oils in labour are: lavender, clary sage, peppermint, frankincense and citrus/ orange. There are also specific ‘labour/birth blends’ available too. Be sure to choose one that suits you and makes you feel happy and relaxed. You may also wish to have freshly cut flowers in your labouring space or burn your favourite scented candle.
Sound – In order for the labouring woman to feel focused, calm and safe and for her to enter her own ‘private world within’/ ‘birthing bubble’, she will often require peace and quiet or prefer to listen to soft, familiar sounds. Loud voices, stressful noises (such as a loud fetal heart monitor and alarming machines) can invoke the stress hormones. Many birthing mamas create a labour/birth playlist with a mixture of their favourite music. Your playlist doesn’t have to be limited to relaxation music. You can mix it up with songs that make you feel happy and energized (these songs are particularly useful to play during the second stage of labour- when you need energy to push!). Listening to your calmbirth meditations, the sound of your own breathing and the sound of your partner’s voice reading out aloud your visualisations can also be soothing sounds during your labour.
Touch – touch can be a therapeutic way to bring calm and relaxation to a mama and it can also act as a natural painkiller. Gentle touch “stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation, oxytocin and endorphins” (Daniel Goleman, 2007). Soft touch massage can be performed to the labouring woman’s head, arms, legs, feet and back, with stronger massage to the sacrum. Holding hands, acupressure (if trained) and lovingly rubbing the belly can also be comforting. It is important to note that not all birthing women like to be touched during labour or that her need for touch may change throughout each stage. Birth partners need to be adaptive to her individual needs. A labouring mama may also find comfort through wearing soft, comfortable clothing, resting her head on a soft pillow, being immersed in warm water (shower, bath or birthing pool) and through the use of heat packs or cold face washers.
Taste – as a labouring mama, you may not feel hungry, but you do need to be kept well hydrated. You can try sucking on/ crunching ice, sucking an icy pole, or eating energizing snacks such as nuts, dry biscuits, bananas, mints, or lollies to keep your taste buds satisfied. Keep up your fluids by drinking water/herbal tea, juice or an energising drink.
Equipment – there are many different kinds of equipment you can use for comfort in labour. Things such as birth/fit balls, peanut balls, yoga mats, pillows/cushions, blankets, rebozo (a long piece of material originating in Mexico, which has many uses in labour, including abdominal sifting), a TENS machine (which stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. It is a therapeutic device which sends mild electrical pulses through the skin which interferes with the way pain signals are sent to the brain and it can also help release endorphins, our body’s natural pain relievers), water: shower, bath or a birthing pool, heat: heat packs, water, warm compress, a birthing stool, massage oils, essential oils, ipod/phone for music, cold washers, squeeze balls and lip balm to name a few.
No matter what your labour and birth environment looks like, the main thing is that it feels right for you and makes you feel calm, safe and private.
Best Wishes creating your very own calm, safe and private labour and birth environment.