The average hospital delivery room can be an intimidating place with all the machines and medical devices, terrible lighting that you’d never expose your lady bits to in a million years, and the awful smells of bile, blood, and bad cafeteria food. Not exactly the dream setting you would picture yourself in as you bring new life into the world.
What if, instead, you were in a room filled with the fragrant, calming scents of nature, cuddling next to your partner in a plush queen-size bed while being virtually transported to a soothing beach surrounded by tranquil waterfalls? Believe it or not, delivery rooms like this do exist providing the best of both worlds—a comfortable home-like environment with instant access to life-saving technology that only a hospital can provide.
Unfortunately, for the majority of women giving birth, the first hospital scenario is the reality. But with research showing the benefits that a calming birth experience can have on significantly reducing physical/emotional stress during labour and medical intervention, many moms would argue that these so-called "amenities" should be considered necessities in every hospital room. So it's no surprise more women are getting creative with their birth plans and requesting, scratch that, demanding that those important little extras go a long way in creating a wonderful birth experience are part of the standard level of care in all delivery rooms.
15 Photography And Video
Some moms may cringe at the thought of recording the birth of their child or having flash photography anywhere near that area. Others want the entire event documented, including every unpleasant detail. The "bloody show" must go on!
However, not all doctors and hospitals are fans of photos or videos in the delivery room. Each hospital has their own policy. Some allow the use of still or motion photography before and after delivery but not during the actual birth. Other hospitals let you record everything from start to finish. The issue against cameras in the delivery room is usually to protect the privacy of the medical staff. Not all doctors and nurses want to be the next YouTube sensation. Then there is the "Big Brother Is Watching" scenario where some doctors fear the footage could be used against them in a malpractice case.
If capturing your child’s birth is important to you, make sure you check with your doctor and hospital beforehand. Even if you’re on the fence about putting your lady bits on display like that, you might want to press record anyways, just in case you have a change of heart down the road; you know, for those emotional mom moments when you’re snuggling your perfect baby in your arms and want to relive that momentous occasion when they took their first breath. You can’t go back in time. If you don’t record it, you may regret it. On the other hand, if you do record it and it ends up in the Cloud and your husband accidentally sends it to all your family, friends, and coworkers, you may also regret that, too.
14 A Push Playlist
If a major part of your birth plan is to have your husband be your sole guide reciting beautiful words of encouragement to ease you through contractions, I’m here to burst your birthing bubble. Sorry, ladies. Take it from someone who’s been there before. As much as you love your partner, you’d be surprised at how quickly the sound of their voice can irritate you when you’re in the throes of active labour. For this reason, make sure to bring music as backup.
The majority of hospitals allow music to be played in the delivery room, some even have their own built-in sound system with state-of-the-art speakers. But don’t count on that one. Instead, make sure you pack a portable Bluetooth speaker, so you can stream your push playlist containing the songs you handpicked for relaxation and motivation for the big day.
Studies actually show that playing music promotes relaxation and can cut down on fear and pain. It also helps drown out distracting hospital noises. If you don’t have time to make your own birthing song list, many online streaming services like Spotify offer specially designed playlists to cater to your mood, whether it’s tunes that are tranquil and soothing or happy and upbeat.
13 Your Own Wardrobe
Medical necessity aside, hospital patient gowns are the worst! They’re cold, all open in the back, leaving no privacy; although, flashing your behind to hospital staff is hardly a big deal since they're going to be seeing you buck naked anyways. But still, it doesn’t mean you have to be on display the entire time; after all, labour can be a long process.
Some pregnant fashionistas want to give birth in something comfortable and functional without foregoing style, especially if the event is being caught on camera., Also, wearing your own clothes gives you a sense of familiarity, which can be reassuring during labor and delivery. Just don’t wear anything expensive or designer. You don't want to be scrubbing out bodily fluids from your pretty Chanel tee or explaining the bag of bloody clothes to the dry cleaner.
Some other fashion tips: wear a loose or oversized top. No point worrying about bottoms since there will be lots of action around your vajayjay. And if you wear a sports bra or nursing top, make sure it’s free of metal in the unlikely event you need surgery.
12 Comfy Digs
You don’t often see the words luxury and delivery room in the same sentence. But birthing centres and a handful of hospitals are dedicated to making the birthing process as relaxing and calming as possible by creating birthing environments that resemble home. These birthing suites (designed for women having low-risk pregnancies) offer a variety of creature comforts, including double or queen soft-foam beds and comfy lounge chairs for guests. They are often a labour, delivery, and postpartum room in one, so a woman can conveniently stay in one room during her hospital stay.
Imagine being able to rest comfortably on a roomy, cozy mattress, snuggling with your partner in his loving embrace as you work together to birth your child into the world. The more relaxed you can be, the better you’ll be able to cope with the demands of labour, which reduces your chances of needing unnecessary medical interventions.
11 Satellite TV And DVD Player
For some women, labour can often be a waiting game with a lot of time spent resting. So having some binge-worthy TV series or movies on deck to help pass the time isn’t a bad idea. A TV and DVD player in the delivery room is pretty standard these days. Some hospitals even offer satellite TV, which can be a welcome distraction from contractions, especially if you’re watching something funny.
When you laugh, the body makes a cocktail of happy chemicals, including endorphins, nature’s natural painkiller. These feel-good chemicals can help calm the nervous system and eliminate stress and fear, thus allowing the body to relax and further reduce pain sensations. It also lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, and increases muscle flexion. Laughter even helps open the cervix. They do say laughter is the best medicine. So load up the hospital bag with your funniest flicks or download all the seasons of Modern Family on your tablet and you’re set.
10 Your Entourage
There was a time when a husband wasn’t even allowed to be in the delivery room. Instead, he stayed out in the hall handing out cigars until a nurse came out to bring news of his wife and newborn.
Nowadays, childbirth can often be a whole family affair where siblings, grandparents, extended relatives, even the family dog can partake. Okay, that last one was a special circumstance, but you get the point. Having that abundance of love and support from the special people in your life can really make a difference in your birth experience.
While some hospitals allow an unlimited number of guests, other hospitals may not be so keen on giving an all-access pass to the delivery room. Some have stricter rules and only permit a maximum of two or three people.
If your hospital doesn’t allow for a flexible guest list, you may need to rethink your labor and delivery plan or at least tweak it a bit. For instance, you can rotate guests and have family and friends take turns being with you, that way you can still have all the people you want in the room with you to share in your special day.
9 The Wrath Of "Pregzilla"
Childbirth is not the time to mind your Ps and Qs. If you’ve held it together this long without a meltdown or biting someone's head off, kudos to you, girl! But if there were ever a time to give into those hormones and let loose with no consequences, this is it.
Labour is the most demanding and uncomfortable experience you will ever go through in your life. You’re pushing an 8-pound human being out of your vagina, for heaven’s sake! So, if you want more ice chips or need to kick one of your guests out because they’re being too distracting, phrases like “get out now” or “get the hell out!” are perfectly acceptable. Your family and friends will understand and won’t hold it against you. Everyone is there to support you and make your birth experience go as smoothly as possible.
Don’t be afraid to unleash your inner trucker, either. If letting out some curse words helps you get through that big contraction, do it! Just make sure you’re not getting too worked up that you’re actually stressing out your body because that’s counterproductive. If your body is tense, it makes labour more painful and can slow progress. The key is finding the perfect balance of energy; somewhere in the middle between pushy pregzilla and monster mamma, that’s where you want to be.
8 Room Service
Labour is hard work and often times a long endurance ride, so it’s important to keep up your strength and stamina. Having a few yoga classes under your belt isn't enough. You need the right food to maintain your energy levels for the long haul. You wouldn't attempt a marathon without fueling up first.
The reason women have been advised not to eat before or during labour was in the unlikely event that they needed a c-section under general anaesthesia. There is a small risk that food in the stomach might be regurgitated and inhaled into the lungs. Needing anaesthesia during a c-section is very rare these days; epidural or spinal blocks are more common practice. So it doesn't make sense that women should have to starve themselves for such a small risk. Thankfully more doctors and hospitals are relaxing the rules on the no eating policy.
Research has shown that labour times can be reduced by 45-90 minutes if women are allowed eating privileges. Make sure to check with your medical practitioner about what foods you're allowed to eat and what the hospital permits. This definitely isn't the time to hit the drive through on the way to the hospital. Actually high fatty foods should be avoided—you don't want to be competing with your digestive system for energy reserves while it struggles to break down that Big Mac and fries.
Stick to carbohydrates that are easily digested and provide slow releases of energy. Think bland foods like toast with jam, plain pasta, bananas, and yogurt. To keep you hydrated, drink water and isotonic drinks that will give you a quick energy boost. And don’t forget the bottle of bubbly to celebrate and toast baby’s arrival.
7 Virtual Reality Headset
Virtual reality isn’t just for gaming anymore. Researchers are now studying whether wearing VR headsets while undergoing medical treatment is an effective pain management tool, and yes, even for labour! According to a report in the Psychology of Consciousness medical journal, adults using VR while experiencing pain reported an average 82% reduction compared to those who did not use it.
One minute you could be laying in your hospital bed, the next minute you’re on a beach gazing at a beautiful sunset, surrounded by waterfalls. At least that’s what one mother’s birth experience was like at a New York hospital. The VR headset isn’t intended to eliminate pain entirely, but rather create a wonderful distraction that can help expectant mothers regulate their breathing and focus during contractions. It could prove to be a promising drug-free alternative to epidurals, which come with risks. Using virtual reality for birth is still rare, but it could one day be available as a standard drug-free option to manage pain. Who knows, one day we might all be giving birth on the moon!
6 No Time Limits For Labour
Before you start rolling your eyes and groaning at the thought of a longer labour, the alternative, i.e. inducing labour, can have many negative side effects and a higher risk of c-section.
Doctors have often put a time limit on how long labour should last—the amount of time it should take for the cervix to dilate or how long a mom should push. Thankfully, the recommendations are changing. The current consensus among obstetricians is that women with low-risk pregnancies should be allowed to spend more time in labor to reduce the risk of having an unnecessary c-section. Since the 90s, there's been a 60 percent increase in c-section deliveries.
In addition to increased risk for cesarean surgery, inducing labor often creates the need for more medical interventions. In most cases, you will need an IV and continuous electronic fetal heart rate monitoring, which means you won’t be able to walk around freely and try different birthing positions. Plus artificially induced contractions often peak sooner, are more intense and last longer than natural contractions, which is likely to increase the need for pain medication. If there is no medical reason to induce (and no, a big baby is not a medical reason) than it’s best to let your body and baby decide when it’s time.
5 Different Birthing Positions
Often when we think of a women in labour, we picture her in a hospital bed with her legs hiked up in stirrups or her knees pulled back to her ears while her partner or a nurse hold her legs in the air. And in many hospital settings this is pretty much what happens. However, when it comes to labour, gravity is your friend and women should be encouraged to be active and use movement.
Freedom of movement can help make labour easier as gravity helps push your baby down and increases the size and shape of your pelvis. Movement can also be effective at relieving pain, especially if baby is in a posterior position and you’re experiencing back labour. Getting on your hands and knees can aid in rotating the baby and decrease the pressure on your back.
Some hospitals are better than others at encouraging women to have an active birth as opposed to requiring them to labour in bed. But keep in mind, if you choose to get drugs to induce labour or medicated pain relief, you’ll be tethered to an IV and monitor and will most likely be confined to a bed with minimal movement, which can slow down labour. With so many birth positions to choose from, it's worth experimenting with different ones to see which position is most comfortable for you.
4 Giving Birth In A Tub Or Pool
Giving birth in warm water is becoming increasingly popular, especially among women looking for an alternative to a medicated birth. Some people believe water births provide a similar environment to what the baby had in the amniotic fluid sac, and therefore, is gentler for baby and less stressful for mom. Water also helps soften the perineum, which can help reduce the risk of tearing.
Many hospitals have one or two birthing tubs on site that women are encouraged to use during labour for relaxation and pain relief. But the tubs are first come first serve, so you’re not guaranteed to get one. Also, most hospital birthing tubs are only for use during labour, you're not allowed to actually birth your baby in them, ironically. The reason being, in case there is a medical emergency and medical staff need to act quickly.
Typically, if you wanted a water birth, you would have to do so at home with a midwife and a birthing pool. Now more and more hospitals are realizing the benefits of water birth, such as shortening labour times and reducing the need for medical intervention, and are allowing them to take place in hospital under the supervised care of a midwife. For women who want the water birth experience but are hesitant to do it at home, this is a great solution with the added peace of mind that their needs can be attended to quickly if medical intervention is required.
Organizations like The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) still advise women against water births due to the risks involved like breathing problems and infection to the baby. In Canada, however, the general recommendation supports water births for healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies.
3 Essential Oils And Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy uses the healing power of plants combined with essential oils to enhance physical and mental wellbeing. When used during childbirth, aromatherapy can help reduce the need for invasive methods of pain relief. The oils may be massaged into the skin, mixed in a bath, or inhaled using a steam infusion or burner. Numerous essential oils can be beneficial during labour to help relieve pain, provide relaxation, combat fatigue, stimulate circulation and even prevent tearing when applied to the perineum.
There are certain essential oils that should not be used during pregnancy, however, including nutmeg, rosemary, basil and jasmine because of possible effects they may have on the uterus. For instance, clary sage has been known to stimulate contractions and should only be used to help naturally induce labour when that time comes.
If nothing else, you get a nice massage out of it and rid the room of that awful hospital smell.
2 Dim Lighting
Let’s face it, no one ever felt comfortable, calm or remotely confident under fluorescent lighting. When it comes to achieving the ultimate relaxation, low lighting and candles go a long way. Studies show that bright light can greatly hinder labour progress. Therefore, birth should happen in a dim, comfortable space. This may explain why most women go into labor in the middle of the night.
Darkness or dim light stimulates melatonin production, which is responsible for inducing drowsiness and sleep. Think about how relaxed you are when you are about to fall asleep. Meditation also increases melatonin and some of the best natural coping strategies for labour involve some form of meditation like hypnobirthing, visualization, and deep breathing techniques.
To set the mood, use dimmer switches, if the delivery room has them. If not, you can turn off the lights and put battery-operated LED candles, tea lights or fairy lights around the room for some nice, calm ambience. Positioning a hospital lamp towards the wall can also create a soft lighting effect.
1 The "Golden Hour" With Baby
That moment when your baby is just born and placed on your stomach is not only the most important moment in your life, but also your baby’s. Prolonged skin to skin contact after birth has many benefits to mother and baby, including promoting bonding, boosting mom’s confidence in meeting her baby’s needs, improving breastfeeding success and helping to naturally boost baby’s immune system.
The World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund recommend that all healthy mothers and babies have undisturbed skin-to-skin time immediately after birth for at least an hour, regardless of feeding preference and method of birth. A warm blanket should be placed over both mother and baby as well. Since separation can influence baby’s short- and long-term health outcomes, whisking baby away to perform routine procedures like cleaning, weighing and measuring can and should be delayed. Many of those things can actually be done when baby is in mom’s arms.
This sensitive time, sometimes called the “magical hour,” or “golden hour,” deserves respect, protection, and support, so make sure the birth attendant you choose honours your wishes and ensures that unnecessary protocols do not interfere with this special time.
Remember, only you are in control of your birth experience and you have the right to ask for certain comfort measures and refuse procedures that make you feel uncomfortable. Although it's the job of doctors, midwives, and nurses to keep you and your child as healthy as possible, decisions are sometimes made that favour protocol instead of your personal situation or best interests. So don’t be afraid to question things, be demanding, and eat that bowl of pasta if you want to.
Sources: theglobeandmail.com, whattoexpect.com, babycentre.ca, babble.com, parents.com, healthywomen.org, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, acog.org, cdc.gov, bellybelly.com, theguardian.com, americanpregnancy.org, independent.co.uk