Imagine trying to be intimate with your partner in a bright, sterile room with strangers walking in and out. How do you think that might go? Now imagine intimacy in a warm, candlelit bedroom with the door locked. Which scenario is more likely to lead to the best outcome? The same aspects can affect your birth.
One of the most significant factors in your labor and birth is how you react to your environment. Experts in childbirth know when a laboring woman feels safe, secure, private and relaxed, she will progress well toward birth. But a mom who feels threatened will release hormones that can slow labor.
Privacy and safety are the keys for creating an environment conducive to birth. What will it take to make you feel protected, comfortable, supported and relaxed? As you write your birth plan, imagine how you can use all of your senses to create an atmosphere that will help you to feel these attributes, so your body can do the work it needs to do to birth your baby.
Sight: Women do best during childbirth with dim lights, which create a sense of seclusion. Consider the room you are laboring in: do you need to close the blinds or turn the lights off to achieve the privacy you need? In addition, having something to focus your attention visually can help you maintain your attention during contractions, or even in between. Make it something that creates a sense of serenity for you – a piece of artwork, a photograph of your favorite vacation spot, a sonogram picture, a labyrinth or maze, etc.
Smell: Did you ever notice how connected your olfaction is to your emotions? Scents may remind you of certain people or situations – both positive and negative. And when you catch a whiff, you may have a very physical reaction – changes in breathing, heart rate, hormone production, etc. Aromatherapy can reduce anxiety, boost energy, and reduce pain. And there are no side effects that could affect your baby or your labor. What are your favorite scents? Are there ones that relax you, like lavender? Or others that energize you? Will the antiseptic hospital smells bother you? Will you need to find a way to mask them?
Hearing: If you are in the hospital, the sounds of staff coming and going in the hallway, as well as announcements on the public address system, can be distracting. How can you minimize these? If you’re at home, will there be noises from outside that will intrude on your ability to relax? Music, headphones, and closed doors all help to block unwanted noise. If you’re planning to use music to help you through labor, remember that it doesn’t all need to be slow and relaxing. You may have points in your labor where you want something fast and energizing.
Taste: While this may not have to do directly with a secure, private setting, you may want to have gum or candy on hand throughout labor. These will keep you from getting a dry mouth, which can be distracting. Staying hydrated is extremely important, too. Your favorite soothing tea might serve the purpose – keeping you relaxed and keeping all of your muscles (including your uterus) working well.
Touch: Massage, gentle stroking, even a hand lightly on your shoulder – all can ground you and help you feel safe in the unknowns of childbirth. Skin is your largest organ, and all of those nerve fibers underneath can provide a direct route to pain management during labor. Remember to add some type of lubrication for any massage (maybe your favorite scented oil or lotion) so that you’re not bothered by friction (which can work against your labor progress!). Water – whether raining down on you in the shower or surrounding you in a bath – can also provide tactile stimulation that will help you relax (and the tub or shower can be very private!).
Keep in mind one method won’t work for your entire labor, so have a “goody bag” of supplies, or at least a mental list of methods, to try. Create a setting that feels good – in which you feel protected and secure – so you can relax and ease your baby into the world. Plan your childbirth comfort measures with all of your senses in mind.
Written by Michelle, childbirth educator, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.