While hospitals are known for medical safety, most wouldn’t consider the environment “comforting,” with harsh lighting, strange smells, lots of strangers, and a loss of physical boundaries. But choosing to deliver at a hospital doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on a cozy, home-like atmosphere. Research is still limited on the direct effects of relaxation in laboring people, but it’s important to us at Oula that we help you create an environment where you feel safe and comfortable, allowing you to free your mind, be more present in your body, and in tune with what you need.
Some light preparation and reflection about the sort of environment you want to be in during this experience can help bring on a sense of comfort and safety, helping you cope with whatever comes your way. And since labor often brings people into a primal state, I like to run through preferences according to the five senses.
Lighting, both soft and bright, can really set the mood. In your labor room, you can choose to dim the lights or even bring flameless candles to create that “soft glow.” You also might consider bringing your favorite sleep mask to get some rest. Alternatively, if you’re looking for an energy boost, you may choose to turn the lights back up and open up the blinds (especially at sunrise!).
It’s now very common for people to make playlists and bring portable speakers into the labor room. You might want something soothing and meditative for parts of your labor, or you might want something more upbeat to help you dance that baby into a better position. On the flip side, you might be like me and prefer silence or guided meditation. If that’s you, you might consider bringing a pair of noise-canceling headphones, and making sure your support team knows your preference for quiet.
Think about your preferences for human touch when you’re not feeling your best physically. Do you like light strokes on your head? Are you a deep tissue massage kind of person? Does a certain massage oil feel nice? This is a great role for a doula or a partner. Or do you not like people touching you at all and want everyone to go away? Does the sound of floating in warm water sound appealing? Do you like to feel heat, cold, or both? Heating pads and cold packs are always great to have on hand. It’s also important to note that while touch can be incredibly healing for some people, it can be triggering for others, so it’s helpful to communicate your needs and preferences to your support people.
Regardless of your view on aromatherapy, most of us can relate to the effects certain scents have on us. Lavender, for example, is generally considered relaxing, whereas peppermint or citrus can help us feel more alert. But scents are also pretty personal, and you may have strong likes or dislikes of certain smells. If you have some you like, you can bring some along with a diffuser, to apply to your temples or pillow, or even in a spritz for your face. Some people even like to bring their own pillow that “smells” like home.
Active labor generally turns people off of eating much, but labor can also be a marathon, and you may want or need to keep your energy up. Electrolyte drinks are perfect for this: bring one in liquid or powdered form for easier transport. Some people like honey sticks, herbal teas, broth, hydrating fruits (like watermelon) or applesauce too. Just keep in mind that nausea and vomiting is fairly common in labor and you might not feel like anything. And don’t forget to bring some snacks or protein bars for after the baby is born. You’ll probably be famished once it’s over.
Of course, this is just a start. Most other comfort items you might think of are probably fair game! You could bring photos of family members or baby’s ultrasound to motivate you, something that feels good to hold in your hands or squeeze, a robe or slippers that make you feel cozy. Just don’t bring anything irreplaceable – labor can be messy.
Your care team is completely focused on the safety of you and your baby during the labor process, but we can also help to set the tone. That’s why it’s so important to us to get to know you during your prenatal visits. We want you to look back on your birth experience and see it as supportive, calm, loving, and powerful.