Whether you plan to give birth at home, a hospital or a birth center, the space you surround yourself with can have a big impact on your mental state before, during, and after birth. Harsh lights, beeping machines, smells, uncomfortable linens, the noises of other patients and doctors, and even the tone of voice that is used by you and your support team can all work together to make you uncomfortable, anxious, or scared. We have put together our collective birth experience as both mothers and doulas, to bring you a few simple and inexpensive ways to make your birth environment as zen as possible.
What we see around us can have a big impact on our mental state. Intense space can often make us feel tense, frazzled and uncomfortable. Setting the mood in the room and trying to keep only the things that make you feel happy and relaxed in your sight will make a big difference.
Cover The Clock
I cannot emphasize this enough! If you can see the clock you will be constantly looking at it. Wondering if too much time has gone by and possibly getting discouraged. You might start actively timing your contractions, anxiously waiting for the next one to start- causing your body to tense up, perpetuating the fear, tension, pain cycle. Find a picture or a piece of artwork that you can place over it and you'll find yourself instantly more relaxed.
Hang Up Your Affirmations
Printing out and hanging up your affirmations will keep you focused, grounded, and relaxed. They can be a key element in calming down if you start to feel out of control. Here's a link to our printable affirmations!
Light Your Space
If the light in your birth space is too harsh, bright, or even too dark, there are many ways that you can make it more comfortable. Battery operated string lights, or battery operated tea lights like these can do wonders for making your space calmer and cozier, and can also make it harder to see things that might make you feel anxious like monitors.
Personally, I love a big bouquet of fresh, beautiful flowers. They cheer me right up and remind me of the beauty of nature. Your doula or birth partner could easily zip down to the gift shop and pick up the perfect bouquet to change the whole feel of the room. As a bonus, they smell great too!
Pictures of Family & Friends
We often derive our greatest strength from the knowledge that the people we love and who love us are there supporting us, whether in the room or 1000 miles away. Bring a few photos of your favorite people and animals to remind you that you have love and support near and far.
Create an "Altar"
This is a space that can hold anything that brings a positive thought to you about your birth. It might be a crystal, an ultrasound photo, candles, items given to you by friends or family- anything that gives you strength!
I don't know about you, but I am easily distracted and unnerved by sounds, especially ones that are annoying or unexpected, or that I can determine what it is. When you are in the zone for birth, sounds both inside and outside of your birthing space can have a big effect on your ability to remain calm and relaxed. A few simple changes can help cover up those sounds so you can birth as uninterrupted as possible.
Create a Birth Playlist
When you close your eyes and think about music that you want to surround yourself with while giving birth what comes to mind? Classical music? Red Hot Chili Peppers? Garth Brooks? A combination? Birth playlists don't have to be limited to spa music or lullabies. Create a playlist of music YOU like, and gives you the feelings that YOU want to feel during birth. Don't know how you'll feel on the day of? Make several playlists and feel free to switch it up whenever you want. Music will also help cover up the noises from the hallway, bathroom, monitors, and the rooms around you. Try this bluetooth speaker so you can position the music anywhere you like and keep your phone with you.
Try A Noise Machine
Musics not your thing? Try a white noise machine. It will also help drown out the various noises around your birthing space. As an added bonus you can use it to help ease your baby transition into the world during the fourth trimester. We love this compact, portable one (make sure to take it to your birthing location!)
Make A Sign For Your Door
Are you using hypnobirthing or another form of childbirth relaxation? Or just want everyone to be reminded that you are attempting to create a calm and relaxing atmosphere? Print out a sign for your hospital bag to hang on your door to remind people to keep their voices down and their energy positive when entering your room.
Touch is an essential element in remaining calm during childbirth. Soft Linens, comfortable clothing, hot and cold herbal packs, massage, and simply holding the hand of someone who supports you, are all ways that you can remain calm and focused on your breathing and your baby.
Pillows, Blankets, Linens
Lets be honest here. No one likes hospital linens. They can be scratchy and uncomfortable, and in my experience the pillows are flat and not supportive at all. Bring a blanket from home that is soft and warm, but also light to easily kick off as your temperate rapidly changes from cold to hot. This plush throw is a favorite among the families we work with! Buy a few extra pillows so you can prop yourself up exactly how you want. The pillows later can help support you while holding your little one or nursing. If you're at home or in a birth center, think about investing in some new sheets that are soft and cozy to labor in, keeping in mind that you might want to throw them out!
Hot & Cold Packs
Herbal hot and cold packs like this one, will cool you off or warm you as you go through various temperate changes during labor and birth, and postpartum. They can be frozen or microwaved- most hospitals and birth centers will have both capabilities and can be easily taken care of by your partner or doula.
Massage & Other Tactile Pain Relief
A childbirth class will help you understand tactile comfort messages and how they can help you relax and work through contractions. A doula can show your partner various techniques to support you through your contractions, and they can work together to provide you continuous support. Even just holding the hand of your partner, doula, or even nurse can help you calm down.
Even smell something and immediately feel like wrenching? Or have you ever inhaled a scent so nice that you immediately feel calm, relaxed, and ready for anything? I feel like smell is often overlooked but is one of the most powerful motivators in how we feel and react to things. You can harness the power of smell in your birthing space to relax or invigorate you.
Bring A Diffuser & Essential Oils
A diffuser is an excellent way to bring nice smells into your birthing space. I have this one going right now next to me. I really like it because its small and unotrusive. It also cycles through colors or you can stop it on a particular color that you like. It has a small reservoir but goes for hours, and has an automatic shut off. This set of essential oils on amazon is rated nearly 4 stars with over 1500 reviews! With 14 different oils you can find the right combinations of energizing and relaxing.
Bring Your Favorite Room or Linen Spray
If you don't feel like using a diffuser, a DIY room spray or even a Febreze spray could help set the mood.
Its amazing how many birthing families forget to nourish themselves through food and drink while in labor. It is so important to make sure you keep your energy up and proper nourishment is key!
**The type of food that is suggested to eat when you are in a hospital will vary from practitioner to practitioner, so we encourage you to talk with them BEFORE you go into labor so you know what you can bring.**
What would you eat before a hike? What would you pack along the way to help sustain your hike? Protein bars are a great item to keep handy. Bananas have wonderful vitamins and are great for an upset stomach. Still munch on your favorite foods you might be craving; we just suggest not eating anything you know your stomach does not agree with already! Good protein, natural sugars/fats, natural carbs are all very important.
Most practitioners will suggest only clear liquids once you get to the hospital. Broth, water, lemonade, coconut water, whatever you like to drink are excellent choices. As labor progresses, its likely that you will not want to eat, so getting good nutrition and hydration in early will help you feel good throughout labor and birth. Find a water bottle you like and make sure your partner and doula keep it filled up with your drink preference.
As labor progresses, its unlikely that you will want to eat anything substantial, so candies, ginger, peppermint and honey to help combat any feelings of nausea, are excellent choices to give you a bump of energy when you need it.
The spaces around us have more of an impact on us than we think, whether its our home, work, car, or the sacred space of birth. We should treat the space of childbirth as we would treat any space in which we want to be relaxed, calm, and in control. Use any of all of the suggestions we've provided here to make your birth space as zen as possible so you can focus on your breathing, your body, and your baby.
Author: Renee Corbino
Renee keeps Balanced Birth Support organized and amazing as the Administrative Manager. She lives in Sarasota, Florida with her husband and two cute little boys. She is a breech birthing mama and supporter of empowering births.