If you have chosen to have your labour and birth in hospital, the room allocated can often look very medicalised and distinctly unhomely. This, of course, can affect how comfortable and relaxed you feel during one of the most important days of your life. You will be pleased to know that it doesn’t have to be this way though! With a few easy adjustments and added extras you can take control of your birthing environment and make it your own.
The levels of hormones such as oxytocin (the ‘love hormone’ you need to labour and bond with your baby) and endorphins (naturally occurring pain-killers) are affected by your environment and are known to increase when you feel safe, warm, relaxed and are free to move. Oxytocin can be reduced during exposure to stressful situations and environments when the hormone adrenaline takes over. Therefore, keeping a relaxing and calming environment around you can help your labour to progress more naturally and effectively.
Here are some ideas on how you may want to adapt your hospital room to help you to own your birth environment and feel more comfortable with your surroundings.
Versatility of the bed
The bed can often make your labour feel patient focused and give a medicalised impression. However, the bed can be a useful tool in labour, or if you prefer can be removed totally from your room to create more space for you to be upright and mobile.
- Move it against the wall - This can give you more room to mobilise and more floor space to use equipment such as mats and birthing balls.
- Move it out of the room - Out of sight, out of mind! Without a bed in the room, you’ll be more likely to stay upright and mobile and use other equipment which supports upright positions.
- Adapt it to your advantage - Labour ward/delivery suite beds are amazing pieces of engineering. They can be converted into wide, comfy chairs, be used to safely squat or kneel on or they can act as a comfortable surface to lean on when you’re standing or whilst you’re sat on a birthing ball. They also have supporting bars underneath to hold onto, which can be unclipped to use during labour.
Small changes can make a big difference
- Turning the overhead lights off and drawing the curtains can help the room feel less cold and clinical. You can move the spotlight to face the wall or use battery-operated lights to give your room a soft and warm glow. Birthing hormones prefer dark or dimmed lighting, so labour often progresses better.
- Clocks in the room can be taken down or covered and equipment noises put into silent mode.
- On the newly available floor space, you may choose to place a birthing mat on which to comfortably kneel, squat, be on all-fours or simply rest on over a beanbag or ball. Cover it with a sheet or a throw from home for extra comfort.
- In some hospitals there are specially designed foam beds, which can provide somewhere lower down and comfortable for you and your birthing partner/s to relax.
- Birthing balls, ropes and stools can be brought into the most ‘high-tech’ rooms. Not only can they help to ‘de-medicalise’ the environment, but their use will also support you in labour.
What you can bring from home
- Battery operated LED tea lights or fairy lights can transform your hospital room into a calm and cosy birth environment.
- Birth affirmations that you can have around the room. These are to remind you of how strong and powerful you are, especially helpful when you feel tired or need an energy boost.
- A photo that makes you feel happy and calm. This could be of your pet, your older children, your wedding or your favourite beach!
- Your own pillow or cushions. Hospital pillows are usually sparse and have a wipeable plastic cover which can make them feel a little ‘crinkly’. Your own is bound to feel much nicer!
- Music can totally change the way we feel. Listening to your chosen playlist during labour can really transport you to your happy place. Bring headphones if you want to focus and block out external noises.
- A throw or blanket from home will bring with it smells and textures that help you feel safe and calm. As there’s a high chance of contact with bodily fluids, you may want to consider leaving your merino one at home.
- A heat pack to use as pain-relief or to warm your cold feet- most hospitals will have a designated microwave to rewarm heat packs.
- A fan to help you cool down- labour can be a hot and a cold experience!
If you can, try to go on a tour of the labour ward or, alternatively, ask your midwife what equipment your hospital of choice has so you know if there’s anything you’d like to bring from home.
Regardless of where you decide to have your baby, you can make the hospital room feel more intimate and homely. Making your labour room your own is part of personalising your experience and making both yours and your birth partners time there a more relaxing and positive one.