The importance of creating the right birth environment


Your environment sets the tone for your birth experience. From home to hospital, every birth environment has challenges and benefits worth exploring.

In the early stages of labour (known as the latent phase) we understand through research; you are more likely to progress further whilst at home.

This is very true however; it is highly dependable on your environment and how confident and relaxed you are about the factors surrounding labour. Knowledge is the essence of power and you will benefit greatly if you have a realistic understanding of what the latent phase of labour is likely to entail.

When researching your options, it is vital your birth partner is on board too! Especially when deciding how you are going to manage the latent phase and where you decide to have your baby, whether that be home, birth centre or hospital.

There is no set timescale for the latent phase of labour and each woman labour’s differently.  This can be both a frustrating and daunting time, especially if you don’t know what to expect!

Oxytocin is a word you need to make yourselves familiar with! Oxytocin is the ‘hormone of love ‘and it’s important to understand, especially for first time parents, exactly how to stimulate this critical ‘life hormone’ as this is what keeps the uterus contracting.

When you hear the horror stories of women in labour for days and days it’s sometimes due to the imbalance of Oxytocin ‘V’ Adrenaline. This is the fight or flight mechanism as Adrenaline is the inhibitor of Oxytocin, so how do we increase Oxytocin and minimise Adrenaline?

Firstly, oxytocin is a lover of dark places so no bright lights! When you are at your calmest, feeling safe, secure and loved is when the oxytocin will flow at its most potential. This is where environment is key…

In the last few weeks of pregnancy create a safe place; some choose the comfort of a feeding chair in the nursery where the baby will be sleeping later down the line. This will already be a place filled with love in anticipation of the new arrival.

Spend some quiet time here each day to focus solely on your breathing and your unborn baby. Whilst doing this use an aromatherapy oil to either burn or place a couple of drops on a tissue and hold it near, creating a calming mood (lavender is a popular calming scent). At the same time play a music track that you find relaxing to distract you from any thoughts or anxieties. The use of candles to create low lighting can also be effective. Once you are comfortable close your eyes and take long steady breaths, in for a count of 4 through your nostrils and out for a count of 8 through your mouth. This type of breathing will encourage you to relax your shoulders and become heavy in your chair.

Get your partner to give you a gentle massage allowing you to feel completely safe under his protection. His role is to be the ‘guardian of the oxytocin’ by making you feel safe and secure in this environment.

By doing this regularly it will build up a memory of control and calmness that you can recall upon when the latent phase of labour begins to hot up! This will encourage balance and refocus allowing your body to continue with the build up to the more established phase of labour.

If you choose a birth environment other than your home, consider labouring at home as long as possible and explore ways in which you can make the transition to the birth centre or hospital as seamless as possible. Also consider replicating the same environment at the birth centre or hospital by taking your aromatherapy oils and chosen music with you.


The beauty of Gentle Caesarean Section

There are many reasons women may need a C-section. Sometimes the situation could present as an emergency but often the problem is that labour simply isn’t progressing. Some women will already know they are having a C-section and are booked in for a planned elective C-section, usually around the 39th week of pregnancy if it’s thought a vaginal birth is too risky.

An elective C-section could be an option if:

  • your baby is in the breech position (feet first) and your doctor or midwife has been unable to turn them by applying gentle pressure to your tummy, or you’d prefer they did not try this
  • you have a low-lying placenta (placenta praevia)
  • Previous C-section
  • You have certain infections, such as a first genital herpes infection occurring late in pregnancy or untreated HIV
  • Tokophobia

If there are no concerns over mum and baby some hospitals are now offering small but significant changes to the procedure to make it seem more like a birth than major surgery andoffer what they call a gentle C-section.

These small changes in the procedure allow parents-to-be to feel more a part of the birth.This can make a big difference to couples experiencing surgical deliveries and give a certain level of empowerment creating a much more positive and personal event.

Typically, during a C-section, you’re laid flat on an operating table in a theatre setting. A screen is raised above your waist, so you won’t have to see the incision being made.

Hospitals that offer a gentle c-section may offer these accommodations:

  • You can ask to be propped up slightly so you can view the birth through a clear plastic drape or ask for the drape to be lowered earlier and farther so you can see your baby being born. (A solid drape still blocks your view of the surgical incision.)
  • Your baby may be delivered slowly to allow time for the chest to be squeezed on the way out, as in a vaginal birth, to clear the lungs of fluid.
  • Your newborn is placed on your chest (and covered with a warm towel) right after delivery for immediate skin-to-skin contact. He may be allowed to stay with you for the rest of the surgery and accompany you to the recovery room.
  • Your IV line is put in your nondominant hand, leaving your dominant hand free to hold your baby. The ECG leads (which track your baby’s heartbeat) can be removed as soon as the delivery is imminent.

It is important to understand no one is trying to advocate for c-sections and gentle C-section is not a replacement for a vaginal birth; it’s just a way to improve the surgical experience with the following benefits to consider:

  • Studies show that women who have c-sections are less satisfied with their childbirth experience than those who deliver vaginally and are more likely to have postpartum depression, difficulty with bonding, and breastfeeding problems.
  • Being able to view your baby’s birth allows you to feel like you’re participating in the process. And research has shown that immediate skin-to-skin contact helps regulate the baby’s body temperature and heart rate and facilitates bonding and successful breastfeeding.
  • It’s an incredibly powerful experience for a new mom to be able to hold and comfort her baby right after birth. Newborns often stop crying when they hear their mom’s voice and feel the warmth of her skin.