The perfect birth space
One of the key factors in achieving a calm and relaxed birth is ensuring that you feel as safe, supported and secure in your environment as possible. In this module we will take a look at what makes the perfect environment for giving birth and how you can go about creating your perfect birth space (regardless of whether you are at home, in a birth centre in in a labour suite).
It’s really important that you feel as relaxed and secure as possible and there are five factors which are the key to helping you create the perfect environment for giving birth. The perfect birth space is:
These are the basic elements that will help you to feel relaxed, secure, safe and undisturbed, and will enable you to focus on giving birth to your baby. Whether you're planning to have your baby at home, in a birth centre or hospital, it’s important to take some time now to think about how you can create your own perfect birth space.
How to create your own perfect birth space
Creating the right environment is just about a bit of forward thinking and planning. Make a list of what you'll need to make any space (whether it be home, hospital or birth centre) perfect for you and your birth.
Think about what relaxes you. A nice long bubble bath. Listening to your favourite music. A favourite smell. All the things that you enjoy and which help you to relax in everyday life will have the same effect during labour. Understand what these things are and find ways to encorporate them into your birth plan. This is easy if you are having a homebirth as most people feel relaxed in their home environment and all of your favourite things are already there. If you are planning a hospital or homebirth you just need to find ways of taking the comforts of home with you - take a favourite blanket/throw, spray your pillow with your favourite pillow/roomspray, a playlist of favourite tunes, pack your favourite nightshirt/t-shirt and some snuggly slippers.
Another way of approaching this is to think about creating a romantic atmosphere. What would you need to set the scene? Mood lighting. Privacy. The right music.
Bright lights can make you feel observed and the environment feel harsh and uninviting. A darker space with more subtle lighting can instantly feel less intimidating, more relaxing, safer and more intimate,
At home it’s easy to create a calm environment using candles, tea lights, fairy lights and dimmer switches to make soft, ambient lighting. You can get this set up and ready towards the end of your pregnancy and even make use of it while you're listening to your MP3s to help you relax fully.
A hospital/birth centre setting just requires a little bit more planning, but you can still adapt the lighting to suit you and help create the right environment. Find out what facilities are available locally to you. Most birth centres have high tech lighting systems with different settings for creating the perfect mood. Labour suites may not be quite so well kitted out but you can request for the lights to be dimmed and take along your own mood lighting (check what you are allowed but electric candles or battery powered fairy lights work well).
Or why not take an eye mask in your hospital bag, just incase. Whatever the lighting, wherever you are, whoever is with you, you can shut it all out and focus by simply putting your eye mask on.
You need to be comfortably warm, whatever the season. Feeling cold in any way will impact your ability to stay calm and relaxed.
Hospitals are generally warm but, in colder weather, you can take socks and/or a blanket to keep you nice and toasty and keep the oxytocin flowing. If you need more blankes just ask your midwife. At home, if you're cold at all turn up the thermostat, snuggle up in your duvet, or put the fire on to keep you feeling cosy and warm.
Some women find that they fluctuate from feeling really cold to having hot flushes. To help keep you at a comfortable temperature it would be worth having a handheld fan or a cooling mist spray to help keep you cool during any hot flushes or during the summer months when it's likely to be warmer.
In the same way as some children have 'comforters' - toys, blankets, dummies or other special little items that make them feel safe and secure - as adults we can feel safe when we surround ourselves with familiar or sentimental things. Do you have a favourite t-shirt/comfy pair of slippers/snuggly blanket/special pillow? Have them with you during labour.
Some women like to create 'affirmation boards' for the birth. These can include favourite birth affirmations, pictures of special places and people you love. Focussing on this board during labour can act as a positive distraction and as a visual comforter. There are some great ideas for how to create an affirmation board on Pinterest.
Also think about the little things that you can't live without. Maybe you love your make-up and can't leave the house without a fully made up face? Take your make up bag so that you can touch up and feel like yourself any time you need to. Or maybe you get dry lips and are addicted to lip balm? Take some with you.
Using your senses
Your subconscious processes experiences through emotions, feelings and the senses. For example, you and your partner may have a 'special song', maybe the first dance from your wedding or a song that was playing when you met. How do you feel when you hear that song? It will evoke the feelings that you associate with the memory - happiness, love etc. The same can be said of a 'break up song' when you may feel a huge wave of sadness whenever you hear it. Smells can also evoke an emotional response. Such as when you smell your partners perfume/aftershave when you're not with them. Or when you smell a food that you dislike or have eaten before being sick in the past.
These strong emotional responses can be used to help us feel how we want to feel. Play music that you know relaxes you (you can create a playlist of music that you find relaxing or that have a positive emotional association for you to play during the birth). You can also create positive emotional triggers now which you can use when you need them. For example, light a scented candle while you're listening to your MP3s. You will then assoicate that particular smell with how lovely and relaxed you feel whilst listening to your MP3s. If you do this enough times, when you smell the candle it will trigger the feelings of relaxation. You can then light the candles while at home during the early stages of labour to promote feelings of relaxation and calm.
Your Hospital Bag
Many women find that they put off packing their hospital bag. I think this is because, once you pack the bag, you're acknowledging that you are actually going to give birth sometime very soon. It becomes real and imminent, rather than something that is months away.
Don't leave it to the last minute. Packing your bag is an important part of the preparation process and I would aim to have it done by no later than 35 weeks into your pregnancy.
To help you start getting organised, here is a comprehensive list of what to pack in your hospital bag (click on the button):
It's always worth having a hospital bag packed, even if you are planning a homebirth. It's a lot less stressful to have an unpacked bag sitting somewhere in your house than to be rushing around trying to grab everything you need last minute if you have to go to hospital for any reason.
Write your list of things that make you feel relaxed. This is an exercise that you can do on your own or with you partner. Think about all of your senses and think of ways you can incorporate all of them to help you feel as relaxed and calm as possible. Consider the different environments you may be birthing in and how you can make them feel safe and secure environments for you - what you have at home & what you can take with you to a hospital or birth centre.