Creating a Comfortable Birth Environment in the Hospital
There is no doubt about it. A safe and comforting environment facilitates birth. As human beings, we are naturally wired to seek out a comforting birthing environment. This doesn’t just mean a space that is free from threat, harm, and judgement, but also a space where the birthing person feels cared for, loved and deeply respected.
Imagine this. You go into labour at home. The contractions begin slowly in the middle of the night. For a long while, it’s just you and your partner who wakes up every 10 minutes or so to rub your back in the darkness and whisper words of encouragement. By about 5 am your body begins to feel better upright and you make your way out of bed, put on your robe, and head downstairs while your husband or partner calls the doula. The doula arrives within the hour, and speaks to you with love and kindness, working with you to find what feels good for your body in each moment. The duration and frequency of contractions pick up and your doula suggests that you head to your chosen birth environment, the hospital.
When you arrive at the hospital there is a burst of activity. Bags are being brought in and there are questions from nurses. There are new people, sounds, and smells. The lighting is brighter and there is less familiarity and privacy.
Whether you realize it or not, this change in energy and environment can be perceived by the body as stressful. When we are stressed, our muscles tense, our heart beats faster, and we go into high alert. Unfortunately, this stressful state can put the brakes on labour. Stress may slow labour down and make birth feel more emotionally overwhelming or physically painful.
While many women and birthing people feel safest having their babies in the hospital, this shifting of the birth environment poses some challenges. Yes, a hospital birth requires a change in location and, therefore, a change in environment. However, there are some things that can be done to smooth the transition and facilitate a safe and comforting hospital birthing space.
It is important to remember that what is comforting is highly dependent on the individual. As birth doulas it is our role to deeply listen to what makes you feel safe, calm and nurtured. During our prenatal consultations we take time to discuss the impact that environment has on birth and to ask what makes you feel safe and supported during times of stress.
It is our job as a birth doula to remember these preferences and do our best to create this safe and calm feeling once we arrive at the hospital. If we are providing virtual doula support, we remind the partner of different ways that they can foster this environment and energy.
Do you love checklists? So do we! We have compiled a 2 page printable checklist for you to tuck into your hospital bag. This is a wonderful resource for birthing people and their partners and will give you some ideas on how to create a comfortable birth environment in the hospital. Please click on the image below to download!