5 Steps for Creating a Tranquil Birth Environment (As originally published on Your One Birth 01/02/17)
Imagine you go to a spa for relaxation and all the lights are on, the music is booming, people are talking loudly, the air is a bit chilly, and you’re not given privacy while getting undressed and onto the massage table. Yikes! That doesn’t sound relaxing at all.
Now imagine you are going for a relaxing day at the spa where the lights are dim, soft music is playing in the background, everyone is talking in a whisper, scents of lavender or eucalyptus permeate the air, and you are given the time to go slow, enjoying the tranquility and privacy. Being in this type of setting allows the stress to melt away, your muscles to release, and for you to become fully relaxed. This is exactly the type of environment that is needed for birthing your baby. Whether you’ve decided to birth your baby at home, in a birth center, or in a hospital, keeping your surroundings calm and quiet is key to helping you remain relaxed throughout labor and for your baby to feel safe. You’ve created such an incredible home for your baby to grow in, now it’s time to encourage that little one to come out.
- See — Turn off or dim the lights
This is the first step in creating an intimate private space. If you’re giving birth at home you have a lot of options for keeping lighting to a minimum. A fireplace, candles, tea lights, or simply leaving all the lights off are just a few things you can do. If you’re in a hospital you can turn on the bathroom light and leave the door cracked, keep most of the lights off except one, draw the curtains, and/or, my favorite, bring in battery operated candles to really set the mood. Laboring in the dark, or with a soft glow of light will help you to feel more relaxed. If there is a reason lights need to be on, wearing an eye mask, like the Bucky 40 Blinks, will keep you in that focused space. People also tend to talk more quietly in a darker room, which leads us to the next step.
- Hear — Turn off the talking and turn on the music
It’s really hard to stay focused on relaxing when people are chatting and phones are ringing. A great way to encourage people to talk quietly (or not at all) is to turn on soft music. I love Pandora’s Liquid Mind station (just make sure not to use the free version of Pandora for labor…nothing like a car commercial to interrupt your labor). It really sets that spa like mood. If people still aren’t getting the hint, have your birth partner or doula ask them to step outside or into the hallway to finish their conversation.
- Touch — One minute you’re cold, the next minute you’re hot
Most likely you’re going to switch from hot to cold, and cold to hot a few times throughout labor. Try to keep things warm as much as possible. Being cold makes your muscles contract and you want them to release and open. In many cultures pregnancy is seen as a hot condition and during labor that heat and energy is lost. At home you can control the temperature quite easily, but if you’re in a birth center or hospital you might not have access to the thermostat. To restore warmth in the body, sip on warm teas and/or broths and bring a warm robe and socks/slippers with you. As your body continues to work, you may start stripping off the layers and enjoy a cool rag around your neck or forehead, but soon after birth be sure to bundle up.
- Taste — Eat & Drink
Eating and drinking in labor not only helps to keep your energy up, but it can also help create oxytocin. I’m a big foodie; certain meals have been known to make me cry (out of pure joy). In early stages of labor food can be a comfort. Eat your favorite foods! Good proteins, fats, and carbs are great sources of fuel early on. As labor progresses, food may not sound so appealing. Snack on foods like avocado, Phat Fudge, Gummy Bears, frozen grapes, and nut butters. I once heard that in France women were encouraged to eat chocolate at the start of labor (to get that oxytocin going) and then would drink a glass of champagne once their baby was born (the bubbles were said to help the uterus to contract after labor). I personally love this. The birth of your baby is a momentous occasion, so celebrate!
- Smell — One of our most powerful senses
Essential oils are incredible for a labor. Your sense of smell is very strong during labor and we don’t know when you will get tired of a certain scent, so I hesitate to apply anything to the skin. However, I’ve found it useful to diffuse a scent in the air or simply leave the cap off. Lavender (relaxation), peppermint (nausea), and grapefruit (energy) are some of my go-to labor oils. Bring your own pillow or blanket if you’re giving birth at a hospital or birth center. The familiar smells will make you feel more at home. If your partner can’t be at the birth, bring one of their worn shirts with you or a scent they always wear.
Use your five senses to help you navigate your labor as smoothly as possible. Each of the suggestions can help make you feel safe, secure, and relaxed.