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Why Birth Environment Matters - A guide for parents-to-be

During our antenatal classes we spend a great deal of time talking about a whole range of topics. All types of birth, all types of pain relief, all the ways to feed your baby. For those of you who have done our workshops, you will know that we aim to provide honest and reliable information about all things birth and baby! One topic that we like to spend a little bit of time on is the birth environment; what this means and why it is important. Fostering a helpful birth environment is so important for the production of oxytocin, and therefore the overall progress of birth as well as allowing you to feel calm, confident and (hopefully) more comfortable. But let’s be clear, it isn’t just about a couple of tealights or listening to whale music, it is a whole range of things (that encompass all of your senses) that contribute to an overall feeling of safety and calm. Let’s delve into why the birth environment matters and how you can create an optimal setting for your labour and birth. 

Why Birth Environment Matters:

  • Impact on the progress of labour: A calm and supportive environment can help facilitate the progress of labour. When you feel safe and relaxed, your body is more likely to produce oxytocin, the hormone responsible for contractions.

  • Reduction of Stress and Anxiety: High levels of stress and anxiety can hinder labour and increase discomfort. A calming, relaxed environment can limit the hormone adrenaline which can directly affect the strength of contractions and therefore the length of your labour.

  • Promotion of Bonding: Creating a warm and nurturing space can foster a sense of intimacy and connection once baby arrives. This can have an impact on the delivery of your placenta, breastfeeding, bonding as well as overall healing too.

  • Enhancement of Comfort: Factors such as lighting, temperature, furniture and smells can all significantly impact your levels of comfort. A more comfortable environment will help give you tools to manage each contraction making you feel more calm, in control and empowered.

  • Support for Birth Preferences: Regardless of whether you are having a homebirth or choosing to have your baby on a labour ward or birth centre, the birth environment is crucial. Obviously giving birth in a theatre room changes things a little but otherwise we would really urge you to consider your birth environment closely. 

Grow+Gather’s Top Tips for an Ideal Birth Environment:

  • Choose the right location for you: Ask yourself; where do I feel most relaxed and at ease? Whether it’s hospital, birth centre or home choose the location where you feel most comfortable. For some people this is very much the hospital and for others it’s being at home. This is a very personal decision. Do some research, come and speak to us at one of our antenatal classes and speak with your own midwife about your options.

  • Personalise your space: if you are  having your baby in hospital it can sometimes feel a little sterile so bring items to hospital that give you a sense of calm and familiarity such as music, photos, essential oils. This can all promote oxytocin levels and help you feel more at ease.

  • Foster a sense of safety and security: oxytocin is a shy hormone and its release is closely linked to feelings of safety and security. In a calm and supportive birth environment your stress levels are reduced, allowing oxytocin to flow more freely. Factors such as privacy and familiarity, as well as emotional support, all contribute to a sense of safety and facilitate the release of oxytocin.

  • Control your atmosphere - Adjust the lighting, change the temperature, put some music on and get a calming ambiance on the go. Dimming lights, playing familiar music (music that you know and love - doesn’t need to be whale song!) and maintaining a quiet, private space can all promote relaxation and reduce stress levels

  • Communicate your preferences to those around you - this might be a job for your birth partner but discuss your preferences with your birth team and any birth partners who are with you. Try and have a conversation with your birth partner prior to your birthing day so that you are both on the same page. Birth preferences are a good idea for noting things down and making others aware of your wishes

  • Stay flexible - sometimes, plans change. You may have intended to have your baby at home or on the birth centre but are having to make a location change during your labour. Being on labour ward doesn’t mean you have to completely change your birth environment. And if there is a need for the birth environment to change, then this will be communicated with you! 

Your birth environment can play a really important role in your birth experience. It would be easy for discussions around birth environment to become quite flippant, that it’s merely about lighting a wee candle and having a whiff of lavender oil. But it’s so much more than that (though candles and lavender oil might also be a good idea!). Your birth environment is personal to you and everyone’s preferences are different. By prioritising a calm, supportive and personalised space you are doing so much to enhance your comfort levels, reduce your stress and hopefully, promote the progress of labour.

Why not come along to one of our antenatal sessions to find out more. As well as 10 hours of awesome antenantal education and parenthood prep, we also include a two hour active birth class as part of all bookings. This is held in the evening and allows all those who participate in our antenatal classes to find out more about birth environment, breathing and movement. Get in touch to find out more!

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