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6 Steps to Creating a Relaxing Birth Environment

Photograph by Getty Images

I've long believed that birth is a powerful event in a woman's life. No other time is she so vulnerable—and often with an audience—as she embarks on such a life-changing event.

Many birth books emphasize the importance of the birth environment. It's a key component when preparing for birth. And, it goes far beyond the location. To allow your body to open up and push forth a child, a soon-to-be mama ought to have a realm of peace surrounding her. This can happen in a hospital, at home, or at a birth center. Whatever location you choose, take these thoughts into account when imagining and organizing your birth space. They've proved to be valuable tools in all three of my births!

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Your Birth Team

Ina May Gaskin wrote it best when she described the influence of those around a birthing woman, "My midwife partners and I ... learned by observation and experience that the presence of even one person who is not exquisitely attuned to the mother's feelings can stop some women's labors. All women are sensitive. Some women are extraordinarily so. We learned this truth by observing many labors stop or slow down when someone entered the birth room who was not intimate with the laboring mother's feelings. If that person then left the room, labor usually returned to its former pace or intensity."

Be fully aware of who you welcome into your birth, their presence can make or break your laboring groove.

Mood Lighting for Labor

I like to birth in the dark. Maybe because it feels quieter and more private, maybe because the glimmer of candles calms my sometimes anxious heart. Think about your preferences and plan accordingly. With my most recent labor, blackout curtains and battery-operated candles were a must!

It may seem like overkill to plan such intricate details of your birth environment, but the point is this—a relaxed, calm mom will birth quicker and easier.

Sounds of Calm

Ready to rock your contractions to the beat of a special playlist? Or perhaps you prefer white noise and want a fan or heater blowing in your birthing room? I can almost guarantee that what you are drawn to on a daily basis for relaxation will suit you during birth too.

The Scent Matters

Often you can't control this, but do what you can! Feel empowered to request that your birth team not wear strong scents or eat certain foods. In the midst of early labor with my third child I ordered my husband away when he popped into my birth room with a breakfast full of eggs. I couldn't take the smell! Just the same, know what scents calm you and consider diffusing a particular essential oil during labor.

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Seeing Encouragement

I'm all about birth affirmations and positive imagery! Give yourself a boost of encouragement by creating uplifting visuals for your birth space. I love these free birth affirmation cards, this artist's work, and pages from this coloring book.

Temperature Is Key

A cold mama can't relax during birth, just like a hot mama feels a frantic need to cool herself. First, don't be hesitant to ask for temperature adjustments during your labor. Second, think about various options for your birthing attire. I've had summer, fall and winter babies, and all three times I've been happy to have a variety of layering clothes, a heavy and lighter weight robe, as well as socks. Always socks! Heating pads and ice chips are other wins for managing my temp.

It may seem like overkill to plan such intricate details of your birth environment, but the point is this—a relaxed, calm mom will birth quicker and easier. And who doesn't want that?

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