8 Ways to Create the Best Birth Environment

I would have rather given birth at home, but between my insurance, being a first time mom, having a partner that was a little scared of the idea and living a mile off a dirt road that was very difficult to traverse in the rainy season, the hospital was where I needed to be. I was uncomfortable with hospitals because of past experiences with sick family members as many of us are. I was able to understand though that I was going to the hospital not because I was sick or anything was wrong, but to give birth.

While laboring at home you can mostly control the environment. No one is watching you or interrupting you, the temperature can be controlled, the lights can be adjusted, you can move around freely, take a bath or shower, light candles and go outside.

At the hospital your partner and/or doula can do their best to create an environment that works for you. By creating a birth environment that connects to the “old” part of the brain you will be thinking less, trusting your instincts and able to handle pain better because your body is releasing endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers.

Components of a good birth environment:

  1. privacy
  2. warmth
  3. low lighting
  4. access to water
  5. freedom of movement
  6. familiarity
  7. pleasing scent
  8. having nature present

Here are some ways to make these work in a hospital.

Privacy – Always close the door and pull the privacy curtain every time someone enters or leaves the room. Also, if there is someone there and you do not know who they are or why they are there, politely ask their name and how they will be helping you.

Warmth – Most hospitals have individual thermostats for each room. Many times they are set at 65 degrees so check it as soon as you get in the room and make it so the temperature is comfortable for the laboring woman. Also, ask for (or find out) where the heated blankets are and drape one over a laboring mom.

Low Lighting – Find out where all the light switches are and turn the lights off. If a care provider enters the room they will ask to turn on lights if they need to. Feel free to turn them off as soon as they are done.

Access to Water – Get in the shower or tub if provided and you are able too. Soak washcloths or small towels in cool and warm water and apply to the mom’s upper or lower back or chest and/or abdomen.

Freedom of movement – Don’t get hooked up to an IV unless it is medically necessary and if you are hooked up don’t be afraid to move around, your partner or doula can move the stand as needed. If you are hooked up to an EFM move around if you need too. If the sensors slip and are not picking up the baby’s heartbeat the nurse or your doula will readjust it.

Pleasing Scent – Make a massage oil with your favorite essential oil to be used during labor. You can also bring in a plug-in diffuser that you add essential oils to. Try filling a spray bottle with water and your favorite essential oil and spry the room and linens.

Having nature present – Open the blinds if you have a window to see outside if there is a nice view. Play nature sounds. Tape pictures of nature around your room or create a slideshow for a tablet or laptop.

If you are unsure what you are or are not allowed to do the hospital room just ask!

Lauren Ryan is a Supported Birth Childbirth Educator and Supported Birth Certified Doula who teaches childbirth education and newborn care at A Mother’s Haven and privately.