7 Practical Tips for Creating Your Best Birth Environment
Updated: Oct 4, 2023
Before I get to the practical tips for boosting your birth environment, I need to talk about Oxytocin - your birth super hormone! You can read my birth hormones blog to find out more about the awesomeness of oxytocin, but essentially it's vital to getting baby out, no matter how you birth your baby. Oxytocin is a shy hormone and is released when we feel calm and safe. The ideal environment for oxytocin is one that is Warm, Feels Safe, Unobserved, Quiet, Dimly lit.
These are all things that support you to be in your calm rest and digest nervous system - the body system needed for birth to work best.
Avoiding stress triggers, interruptions, fear and anything that produces adrenaline, the hormone that blocks oxytocin release, is also super important.
Where to Birth Your Baby:
It’s your choice where you birth your baby...ultimately the best place to birth is wherever you feel safest and most relaxed.
Like everything with pregnancy and birth, it’s your choice where you birth your baby.
Your options in the UK include:
Free birth - no midwife, obstetrician or medical care or assistance
Home - at home with midwife care and support
Freestanding Midwife-led Birth Centre (Midwife are and support, not connected to a hospital labour ward)
Alongside Midwife-led Birth Centre (Midwife care and support, connected to a hospital labour ward)
Hospital Labour Ward (Might be called Delivery Suite - Midwives, Obstetricians, Anaesthetist, Paediatrician (if needed) care and support)
Theatre - Caesarean or Instrumental Birth
I recommend you get informed about your options and use the acronym BRAIN (thinking about the Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Information / Instinct, Nothing) to work out what feels best for you. You are free to change your mind at any point, including during labour. e.g. if you planned a home birth and decide to go to hospital, you can do that.
To help you work out what's best for you, you can search the NHS website for maternity services in your area and how they rate based on patient surveys. Alternatively, ask your health care team for this information. Ultimately, the best place for you to birth is wherever you feel safest and most relaxed. This has the best effect on your birth hormones.
Birth Environment Tips:
A great test of a good birth environment is:"Could I have a sleep in here? Could I have sex in here?" If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.
There's lots of ways you can adapt you birth environment to boost your oxytocin levels, wherever you birth your baby. These practical tips are designed to help you feel centred in your care during birth and support your birthing body.
You are your birth room boss, make it your own.
Having a supportive birth team including a birth partner who understands your needs and how to advocate for you is really important. Ideally you birth partner is confident and calm and understands how to boost oxytocin. Your birth partner are essentially the guardian of oxytocin and they can support you to feel safe and listened to.
It's also ok to ask people who are not supporting you effectively during your birth to leave your birth space.
Unlike most birth's you see on TV, where the room lights are bright, take some tips from Lizzo's song About Damn Time and "Turn up the music, turn down the lights". This simple action can really benefit your birth hormones.
Oxytocin thrives in dimly lit environments so draw the curtains, turn off the big lights, take fairy lights or battery powered tea lights – No naked flames! Often birth centers have mood lighting or light projections in the rooms to help with birth physiology. If you are birthing in theatre, you could ask for the lights to be dimmed at your end (you'd need to agree it with your obstetrician first), or you could use an eye mask.
You could also use an eye mask during transfer to hospital to help you remain in your para-sympathetic nervous system and keep your adrenaline levels down.
Create a birth playlist with songs and sounds you love, it could include Hypnobirthing tracks or be a rave mix. It’s personal to you and whatever makes you feel happy and relaxed. Remember a battery speaker too, there might be a speaker available but plan for if there isn’t. Theatres do have speakers, you can request your playlist or you could listen on headphones. You could also listen to your soundtrack during transfer to hospital.
Smell is a powerful anchor for relaxation and memory. Take a scent diffuser or spray of your favourite scent to make the room smell familiar. If you are birthing in theatre, you could take your scent on a handkerchief.
You can take blankets or pillows from home to hospital to make your birth environment your own. You can use photographs or visual affirmations to help you focus your mind. Remember oxytocin thrives in warm, familiar environments where you feel safe. You can adapt your birth room to be as familiar as you like.
You should be free to move if you wish. If you have chosen to have an epidural or continual monitoring throughout labour, there are ways you can be supported to keep your pelvis and tail bone mobile during birth, which helps baby be born, using birth or peanut balls. Contrary to what you very often see in films and tv, you don’t have to birth laid flat on your back if that isn’t the most comfortable position for you.
Moving instinctively or even dancing helps your baby move through your pelvis, this works with gravity too, and boosts your oxytocin and endorphins (body’s natural pain killers). You could put on your playlist and dance your baby out.
It’s ok to ask for privacy. Very often women and birthing people will instinctively go into a bathroom during labour as this offers privacy. A birth pool is also good for this. Alternatively, hospital birth rooms will have curtains within the room, you can draw these. You could also put a sign on your door asking for privacy.
A great test of a good birth environment is:
Could I have a sleep in here?
Could I have sex in here?
If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.
Dealing with a Change of Plan:
If your birth evolves away from your Plan A, it is still possible to implement many of these suggestions, if you can't do them all I encourage you to use the affirmation
"I focus on what I can control and let go of what I can't"
It's all about you! This is YOUR birth and your birth environment. You are your birth room boss, make it your own.
Visit your potential place of birth, talk to your midwife or care team about this. If you can’t go in person, some trusts offer virtual tours.
Ask questions. You can ask as many questions as you like. It’s important you feel heard and supported in your decision making.
Birth Plan: Write how you want your birth environment to be in your birth plan (read my Birth Plan Writing Tips Blog Here)
I'm always happy to chat.