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How to create THE most AWESOME birthing environment - and why you should care...

birth preparation Aug 07, 2016

The setting for birth can be the difference between a fulfilling and a traumatic childbirth experience*. Just take a moment to re-read that sentence and think about the impact of it...it's a pretty dramatic statement. When you consider all of the aspects pregnant women and their partners invest so heavily in, in terms of time, energy and money, virtually none of my clients spend a large amount of time considering the birthing environment, or how to influence it. And I can understand how a pregnant woman might feel they have little control or influence over their birth setting. But let's delve deeper into why the birth setting is so important and how you could potentially mold it.

In order for labour to progress smoothly, oxytocin must flourish. Oxytocin is a very shy hormone that only flourishes when the woman is calm, relaxed, not stressed and is experiencing no fear or anxiety. Fear and anxiety can interrupt the delicate hormonal interplay that dictates labour and birth, making intervention more likely. Therefore, it's so incredibly important to keep fear and anxiety at bay. Oxytocin won't be able to flow freely in the presence of adrenalin. 

What makes women feel fearful in a hospital environment?**

  1. The sterile, clinical and impersonal environment of a hospital
  2. The chances of having medically unnecessary interventions
  3. A fear of losing personal control

What can we do as pregnant women to combat these 3 main fears?

  1. The sterile, clinical and impersonal environment of a hospitalCreate a home-from-home space. I always recommend to my ladies that they stay at home in early labour until they feel they would be more comfortable or safer in hospital. When you stay at home, you are relaxed, calm and you can move around freely. You have total privacy and are in 100% control of the situation. Privacy is crucial to quieten the mind and support the optimum hormonal balance. Feeling observed is associated with an increase in the release of adrenaline. Things to bring in your hospital bag to create the home-from-home situ are:

  • 2 pairs of cosy socks
  • Your Favourite Music with earphones (don't forget your charger!)
  • Scents which you are familiar with, reminding you of home or somewhere or someone special
  • Your own pillow / blankie (don't be ashamed if you still have one...or a favourite Teddie...you can always have it for the baby ;-) )
  • Your own nightie / super comfy PJs
  • A special photo - perhaps of other children or loved ones you have which will fill your heart with happiness and joy
  • Tasty snacks and drinks which you & your body are used to easily digesting
  • The ability to move around freely, using all props you have access to in the room
  • Your own yoga mat & birthing ball. (Might you look like you are moving house? Yes, screw it.)
  • Lighting can have a huge impact on your ability to relax. Where possible, communicate in your birth plan that you’d like to have dimmed lighting during the evening/night time.

Ensure you communicate in your birthing plan that you do not want any interruptions unless medically necessary and to limit the number of people in the room ensuring privacy at all times.


2.     The chances of having medically unnecessary interventions - Birth Plan, Birth Plan, Birth Plan. I know some people really don’t approve of birth plans, and can almost laugh at them. However I definitely think there is a place in the modern day birthing environment for them.  I always advise to keep the birth plan to a simple one-page polite list, highlighting politely those aspects which are very important to you. If you explain clearly to your midwife in charge your feelings on specific interventions, you will be in a strong position to avoid them, unless medically necessary. Other ways of avoiding interventions can be hiring a doula, having an involved birthing partner who can verbalise and stand up for your birthing preferences, practicing your yoga positioning during pregnancy, practising my secret power of RUM – being Relaxed, Upright in position, and Mobile.  

3.     A fear of losing personal control – This will really come down to the Birth Preparation you undertake during your pregnancy. Your subconscious mind is actually a really pliable tool and spending several months visualising your positive birth is incredibly powerful. The preparation during pregnancy can come in many forms from dedicated meditation, breathing exercises, antenatal yoga classes, hypnobirthing & similar courses, positive affirmations and mindfulness preparation and several other options you have open to you in your area. Surround yourself with positive birth stories and at all times, politely decline to listen to any embellished ‘horror stories’ that bizarrely some are more than thrilled to share. And of course ALL of these elements are included in the NurtureMamas Online Prenatal Program

As you can see you can quite easily influence your setting for birth, even if you thought initially that little could be done about it! So take some time to go over all this information again and take action. Write down 5 things you can do over the next few weeks to influence your birth setting.

If you are interested in receiving my top considerations for your birthing plan, go to the Free Goodies section of the website and you'll find a template there!

Big love ladies,

Helen x 

Helen Plass works with women and their birthing partners to achieve a comfortable, healthy & happy journey into Pregnancy, Birth and Motherhood. She has built a successful business in Dublin, Ireland, as a Yoga Instructor, specializing in Pre- & Post-natal health and fitness, Active Birthing workshops, Baby Massage and Mama & Baby Yoga classes. She is known for her very practical & non-judgmental approach to pregnancy and the crazy times of motherhood! Helen has trained in the UK and Ireland, and is mega proud of coming first in her Yoga Teacher Training (she’s a bit of a swot) at the gorgeous Samadhi Studios in Dublin. She’s a proud wife, mama to two energetic little boys, former corporate marketing professional, keen runner and lover of all things related to sport…and is an avid supporter of Irish Rugby.

When she’s not becoming all teary and emotional with messages from her clients about their gorgeous births, you can find her walking along the rocks and beach with her boys, cheering on the sidelines of football and rugby pitches, experimenting with essential oils, baking and preparing meals for the non-stop-eating men in her life…and in general just trying to keep it all together. Check out all her communication at NurtureMamas.com, and if you are in Ireland, her local business Mumandbaby.ie

*Walsh, D., Evidence-based care for normal labour and birth: a guide for midwives. 2007, London: Routledge.

**Shin et al