Wherever you want to give birth – at home, at hospital, in a birth centre or in the woods (only joking…), you’ll want to be as cosy and comfy at home for as long as you can.
Your birth environment is mega-important and impacts upon your labour. It’s quite simple – if you feel relaxed, calm and most importantly safe, you’ll create lots of oxytocin, which is the hormone you need for your surges (contractions) to happen.
In contrast, if you feel scared or stressed you’ll release adrenaline which slows, stalls or stops labour.
So, feeling safe and calm really matters. But how do you set the scene for relaxation and create the ideal birth environment I hear you say? Below our some tips and ideas that you can use at home and in hospital.
Let’s start with lights. You see, bright lights make us release adrenaline – so clinical bright rooms work against us in labour.
You want dim soft lights for your birth environment, as this will make you feel safe and less exposed.
Think about it for a minute – we’re mammals. Would a cat give birth in the middle of a brightly lit room with everyone watching? Nope, it would find somewhere nestled away – a drawer under a bed, somewhere undisturbed.
We want a nest too, the nesting instinct is something many of us pregnant women experience and can kick in from month five (it often gets stronger towards the end of pregnancy). This shows us that we want to create a nest for our new arrival too.
So, soft lighting makes you feel calm and relaxed in any situation, but in labour it’s even more important. Think fairy lights, candles, coloured lights.
For the birth of my daughter, we had fairy lights, candles and Christmas decorations up everywhere – don’t worry it was December.
Our house looked beautiful and twinkly! And just looking at the lights and decorations made me feel happy and relaxed.
Top tips – Battery candles are great too. You don’t have to worry about them going out and you can take these into the birth centre or delivery suite with you too. Some people will also take eye -masks into hospital with them, or blinds/sheets for the windows, as another way to control the lighting.
Music is such a powerful mood enhancer. A particular song can take you back to your wedding, a great party, a wonderful holiday. Ahh, music evokes memories.
In fact if you feel a bit sad putting on a favourite upbeat track will shift your mood and make you remember happier times.
Soft relaxing music calms the room and the people in it and can also help slow your breathing down.
Upbeat music gives you a beat to move to, so you can swivel those hips (and release endorphins and ease discomfort in your lower back and hips too – win win.).
Why not make two playlists for your labour? One that’s more upbeat – dance music, or sing-a-long songs are perfect, followed by a calmer playlist for the later stages – with chilled, beautiful songs, and your Wise Hippo hypnobirthing tracks.
One couple I taught used their wedding playlist during labour, and another is planning to have Disney piano music playing.
Scented candles, diffusers, oil burners. Again smells are tied to emotions and memories. If you have a favourite fragrance that you use for relaxation anyway (rose and geranium bubble bath for me) then you should choose that in labour.
Top tip: add a few drops of essential oils (check which ones are suitable first) to a bath or some olive oil for massage.
Photos of your favourite places, such as holiday destinations really help – just looking at them will make you feel happy!
Also if you’ve been doing the Wise Hippo hypnobirthing course your mind will often have been going to your favourite beach/garden/wood/riverbank so having photos of your relaxing place can help you get into that relaxed state even quicker.
Top tip: some of my couples have made boards with their favourite photos and affirmations on, they have then had these at home and taken them with them to hospital. For inspiration check out my Pinterest board.
Laughter! Yep, you might not have put laughter and labour together but laughing stimulates the production of endorphins which are our body’s natural pain relief.
Plus comedy is a great distraction for any discomfort. Choose silly comedy shows or films you’ve seen before that make you feel happy and relaxed – my clients’ top three? Friends (definitely the most popular by far), Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Blackadder …. I had Frasier on repeat during my labour.
For more on what you should pack in your hospital bag or birth bag check out our blog: What to pack in your hospital bag