Why is it important to be warm?
A warm environment means the mother is more likely to relax. We tend to clench up when we are cold. Being cold also releases adrenalin and this can slow down labour. Warmth is very important after the baby is born as well. It helps oxytocin to be released so the placenta can be safely birthed.
Loving touch and massage is also wonderful for helping the labouring woman to relax, let go of tension and release oxytocin. Practice in pregnancy to find out what you like. Usually massage on the lower back and also the shoulders feels great and helps you focus on positive sensations.
Low lighting encourages the hormones oxytocin and endorphins to be released. These hormones are very important in natural birth. Being in a dimly lit room allows you to focus inwards and go within during contractions. It creates a relaxing space that isn’t too over stimulating.
Make your space smell lovely!
Aromatherapy can really enhance the labour environment. Good smells can be relaxing and some oils like clary sage can actually help your uterus to contract. Aromatherapy used in a diffuser or in a massage oil can really transform your head space and the birthing environment. Citrus oils sprayed around the room can act as a ‘pick-me-up’ and can be refreshing and give you energy.
Soothing music gives a focus
Try to find some music like what you may listen to in a yoga class or when having a massage. Some of the artists that are on my birthing playlist are: Deva Premal, AesDana, Ayla Nereo, Chillosophy, Cool and Nina Lee. Other music like belly dance music can be good if you feel like moving and dancing in labour (this is great for helping the baby into a good position too!).
Some women like to have many people to support them during labour. Whereas other women may prefer just their partner/doula/midwife to be present. It's good that the people that have been invited to your birth know about honouring the birthing space and know their role. The last thing a labouring woman wants is to feel 'watched'. People that are positive and helpful can make all the difference.
Feeling safe is super important
Labour is more effective and is usually shorter when women feel safe. This has to do with the hormones again. If we feel fearful or worried, then we release adrenalin (the fight or flight hormone) and this sends blood to the arms and legs so we can run away from danger or fight. This means blood is transported away from the uterus. The uterus is a muscle and it needs a good supply of oxygen and blood in order to be able to contract effectively during labour. If there is fear, this can't happen. Fear creates tension in the body and this tension can create unnecessary pain (this is turn can create more fear and so the cycle continues in a negative feedback loop). Labour is more likely to progress smoothly if a woman feels safe and undisturbed. Adrenalin will slow or stop labour until the danger passes or the woman feels safe again.
Actually no. Hospital birthing rooms are usually brightly lit so that midwives and doctors can see what they are doing. They are air conditioned which can cause chills and they can often be noisy or have unfamiliar people and smells. Some midwives are sensitive to creating a conducive environment for birth so they will dim the lights and push the bed aside and encourage you to be active if that's what you want.
It’s ok to ask for what you want. Creating a birthing space that is private, dimly lit and warm helps the birthing hormones to be released effectively so that labour and birth can be safer for both you and your baby.
Kirrah is a doula, pregnancy masseuse, childbirth educator and placenta encapsulator helping women and families in the northern rivers area.
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