Podcast Episode #135

How to create a calm birth environment

Creating a calm birth environment with Claire Fulton

Today we are exploring the topic of how to create a calm birth environment with Claire Fulton, a childbirth educator, founder of The Nurture Nest and The Hypnobirthing Podcast.

No matter if you are planning a home birth, hospital birth, caesarean or vaginal birth, this podcast episode will be helpful. Today Claire discusses some amazing ways to help create a calm birth environment, plus she has some great tips for birth partners.

We discuss:

  • Why it is important to create a calm birth environment.
  • 5 Ways to create a calm birth environment including:
    • What type of lighting is helpful for our labour and birth environment (including caesarean births)
    • Keeping voices quiet during labour and birth.
    • What kind of music is best for birth?
    • How to use aromatherapy and sense of smell during labour.
    • Why we should consider ditching the clocks.

These are practical tips no matter where you give birth or how you give birth, and I trust you will find this a really valuable episode if you are pregnant.

** This podcast has general information only. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health or medical condition. 

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5 Tips for a calm birth environment

How to create a calm birth environment

How to Create a Calm Birth Environment.

Here are a 5 ways to help you create a calm environment for the birth of your baby, no matter if you give birth in home or hospital, you will find these tips helpful.

Firstly, why is it important to create a calm birth environment?

The environment can really help to create a calm, non-stressful space in which to birth your baby.

There are two main different nervous systems in the body. 

When it comes to giving birth, it can be helpful to try and remain in your calm, nervous system. 

The parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system.  The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our fight or flight mode. And the parasympathetic nervous system is more responsible for our calm response. 

And the best place you can be during your labour?

The best place to be during labour is in your calm response, the parasympathetic nervous system.

Because when you’re in this calm mode, when you’re in this parasympathetic nervous system, your body is relaxed, you feel calm, you feel safe. And what that does is allow your body to do what it needs to do to give birth effectively and efficiently. 

The problem that we have is that many people fear birth, and that’s completely normal. We grow up in a society where the narrative around childbirth is typically that birth is scary and painful or dangerous or something like that. So we sort of intrinsically have this fear around giving birth, which I think starts actually at quite a young age. And so by the time we get to an age where we are having babies, it’s quite ingrained in us, so many people actually find themselves in their fight or flight mode during their labour.

When we are in that flight or fight mode, our body releases adrenaline, the body is in the ‘survive’ response, and the body doesn’t realise that it’s actually perfectly safe.  

In the sympathetic nervous system state, the body is being effectively told “Hey, this feels dangerous. So I’m going to protect myself.”  

And this might mean that our body doesn’t work quite as effectively as it could do, because our body’s too busy concentrating on trying to keep us alive and survive in the fight or flight response mode. 

So the environment can make a big difference.  

If you can create an environment for yourself that feels calm, that feels safe, then this may have a massive impact on how you then feel during your labour. 

What are some key elements of a calm birth environment?

Here are five things that you can do that are going to help you to create that calm space. 

  1. Lighting for labour and birth.

So the first one is to keep the lights low. Artificial light is different from natural light. If you go into labour during the day, don’t worry, you know, natural light is very different to the artificial bright lights that we often have in hospital settings. 

So if you’re in a situation where it’s daytime, I wouldn’t worry but what you could do is perhaps use an eye mask. Melatonin is a hormone that comes out at night, and it helps us relax and helps us sleep. It does only come out in the dark and it actually helps boost the effects of oxytocin, which is the labour hormone. 

And this may be one of the big reasons why a lot of people give birth at night, oxytocin is much higher. 

Typically, obviously, when it’s dark, we generally feel like we’re not being watched as much and things like that. 

So keeping the lights low can be really important. If you’re at home, that’s really easy to do. 

  • Use eye mask
  • Dim your lights
  • Put candles around
  • Use twinkly lights 
  • In a hospital setting or a midwife setting, you can still often dim the lights. So this is something that I would definitely check out and ask about beforehand. 
  • Consider battery operated candles with you that you can place around the room
  • Light projectors
  • Anything that’s going to help make that space feel really calm. 

And light has a really big impact on that.  Taking note of the effect that artificial light can havetrying to help yourself if you are in a situation where you’re not able to dim the light.

What happens during transit or triage into hospital with the lighting?

So say for example, you’re being triaged or something and you’re in a ward environment, obviously, you’re not going to be able to dim the lights in a ward, then an eye mask would be a really great idea so that you can block out some of that light, and you can focus inwards as well. 

Can lights be dimmed in a C-section?

In a caesarean birth, you may be able to ask if you can dim the lights near your head. Not obviously, where they are operating, but near your head, sometimes you might be able to ask for them to dim the lights, which just means that for you, that may be a nicer, calmer experience. 

When the baby is born, the baby generally gets put onto your chest. Babies are also not used to bright lights as well. They’ve never seen daylight before, they’ve only ever known darkness. So for babies, it may be quite a shock, you know, to come out to bright light. 

2. Keeping voices quiet during labour

Having somebody in your space who is loud or talking a lot may be very off putting, especially when you’re trying to remain in that calm space. 

If you’re constantly listening to people talking, then you’re going to be concentrating on them and your mind will remain in the thinking part of your brain, whereas often what we are hoping for is the thinking part of the brain to be asleep during labour. 

Quiet, hushed voices, you are also able to ask your midwife, your caregiver to please respect that as well. Sometimes people feel a bit nervous about asking for things like that, you know, they may be they do feel like they’re being too demanding but it is important and for many caregivers who have witnessed and supported Hypnobirthing before they will be aware of the importance of quiet voices anyway.  

For example, a good midwife will generally knock before they come into the room for example, rather than just coming in the room, and talking in nice kind of hushed tones is also really important to creating that nice calm space. 

Imagine you are going to go and get a massage. That’s a very similar kind of environment where if somebody was talking really loudly at you, it would not be relaxing. So trying to mimic that kind of space in terms of light, smells, and sound is really important to create in that calm space.

If your body is relaxed, then every part of you is going to be relaxed.

3. What kind of music is best for labour?

Sound is such a big trigger for many of us. If there is a particular song that perhaps was played at your wedding, then every time you hear that song, it reminds you doesn’t it of how you felt when you heard it the first time. 

Music can really have the power to trigger relaxation. 

Throughout pregnancy, as part of what we teach in Hypnobirthing, we teach you lots of different types of relaxation skills, and we encourage you to practise them as often as possible throughout your pregnancy. 

So while you’re doing this practice, it may be helpful to have a playlist.

It can be any type of music you like really, but most often people would choose a relaxing type of music. A massage / spa type of music is very popular as it is quite relaxing.

But music type can vary.  Some people have had a 90s playlist, cheesy music or Disney songs, because that’s what makes them happy. So whatever it is that floats your boat, in terms of music, and what you want your baby to be born to.

Hot tip – practice relaxation with your chosen music during pregnancy.

Include some practice during your pregnancy when you’re practising these relaxation techniques, so that you start to associate that music with feeling calm, and relaxed. Whether or not you have a home based, hospital birth or caesarean birth, music is generally allowed.  You can also consider headphones if you need too.

4. How to use aromatherapy during labour.

Our sense of smell can be a huge trigger for how we feel. 

A great example of how triggering a smell can be, is like suntan lotion.  For some people, when we smell suntan lotion, it makes us think of holidays and relaxation.  Or perhaps it’s a certain recipe.  As soon as you smell it cooking you are reminded of your grandmother and her cooking.

Smell can be a big trigger, similar to music. So, while you’re still pregnant, try to incorporate some type of smell / aromatherapy into your practice. And a very popular smell that people would use would be lavender, because it’s really relaxing, it is safe to use in your pregnancy. So many people find that really, really comforting. 

If you don’t like lavender, some people use lemon, which can also be really relaxing smell. 

But there are lots of different essential oil sites and aromatherapy options.  So do some research, as not all of them are safe for pregnancy, so be sure to double check before you use any. 

Incorporating aromatherapy and smells into your practice again can be done a few ways. You could:

  • Use a candle, for example lavender or lemon, or a smell of your choice.
  • Diffuse the oil in a diffuser.
  • Use a little bit of essential oil sprinkled on a tissue that you could hold up to your nose.
  • Have a pillow spray, or a room spray.
  • Use a few drops of some lavender oil in the bath. 

Using that smell around you during pregnancy when you feel relaxed can be really important because then when it comes to your labour, you can make sure that you have that smell in your space. 

Smell can be very comforting.

For example, we know the smell of our home. When people go away on trips, they may take their pillow with them because it smells like home and it’s very comforting. So having those things in your space as well are going to really help you to feel calm.

5. Remove clocks during labour

Consider covering or removing any clocks that are in your birth space. Clock watching can sometimes make it feel like time comes to a standstill.

Imagine you were at work, staring at the clock all day, or waiting for some cooking to be done, you just know that as soon as you start taking note of the time things seem to take ages.

Clock watching isn’t going to make any difference to how quick your labour is going to be.  We don’t actually need to be aware of the time.  You, as the person giving birth, don’t need to be aware of time.  Other people can be aware of the time for you, such as your birth support person or healthcare team. So I always advise people to remove the clock or cover it up in some way. If you’re at home, that’s very simple. 

If you’re in the hospital or a midwife unit, then you may not be able to remove the clock.  But you could consider taking a spare muslin cloth and putting it over the clock. 

Removing the clock can help us to relax, it helps us to take the focus off of the time, often when we’re in labour anyway, we become totally unaware of the time.  Many people say that labour felt not that long at all. But for everybody else in the room, labour might have been hours and hours, but for us as the birth person, we can often get so lost in ourselves, that we are not even aware of it. 

 


DISCLAIMER:

Please note that this transcription was completed with computer voice recognition software. Quite often unanticipated grammatical, syntax, homophones, and other interpretive errors are inadvertently transcribed by the computer software. Please disregard these errors. Please excuse any errors that have escaped final proofreading.

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