How to create your ideal birthing space within a hospital labour room

by Suzanne Swan

You can create your ideal birthing space with a little forward planning. It may not be obvious but you are free to change the layout of your allocated hospital room and individualise it to suit you. You can alter the birth environment to suit the normal physiology of birth.

Here are my top tips for creating your ideal birthing space:

Ensure you have privacy

Your birth space needs to be comfortable, safe and feel private.  Ensure curtains are pulled across the door so that if someone walks in the room, you still have your privacy. Pop a sign up on the door telling people to knock and wait before entering the room. Studies have shown that the labouring mother is more likely to choose a corner of the room that faces away from the door, clock and medical equipment.  Remember the most private place in home or hospital is the toilet or shower.

Dim lighting

A dimly lit room will enhance the relaxing atmosphere required for birthing.  Oxytocin, the hormone that creates uterine contractions, is a night hormone so releases best under a 40 WATT globe lighting or less.  If your room does not have dimmers you can have some battery operated tea lights to keep the room dimly lit.  Hospital staff should be sensitive to your need for privacy and darkness and use torches to .

In a hospital labour room, work with what natural light is available. If labouring during the day you can close the curtains to ensure the room remains dimly lit.

Change the room layout to suit you

It is best to move the bed from the central position, and most importantly, it should not have sheets drawn back ‘inviting’ you to get in.  In the beginning place your bags on the bed letting those around you know your intention is not to use the bed.  If you’ve arrived in good established labour you probably don’t intend on being in hospital a long while.   You could raise the bed so it’s a good height for you to lean forward on or to sit on a ball and rest your arms on a pillow on the bed.

Make your bed your own by throwing a colourful cover over the bed adding visual warmth to your room.  The bed could be designed as a day bed and your support people could use the bed as well.  The bed could be raised or lowered and covered with cushions or pillows. 

You might like to move the bed to the side of the room or against the wall and place other equipment such as a mat and exercise ball/bean bag around the room to give you more options in the positions you choose to give birth in.

Position the mat, birth ball, beanbag, chairs or birth stool somewhere visible and available so when you leave the shower you will see it as an option for rest. i.e. centre of the room positioned away from the door instead of being hidden.

Bring calm to your space with colour, light and music

Bringing colour into the room with flowers, pictures of nature or coloured lamps will have a calming effect.  Have any lamps from home checked by an electrician and have label attached to the cord.

Music is often used for pain management in different areas of health, so consider putting together a playlist for the day.  Whilst relaxation, classical and nature music is good to promote relaxation you may like to add a few tracks of songs that make you dance and sing.  Sometimes it’s useful to let your hair down and lighten the mood in the room.

Remove medical equipment and other distracting items from plain sight

You should be able to walk into birthing room/suite and not feel overwhelmed by the medical equipment. Ideally, medical equipment should be removed or hidden so you and your partner do not need to see them, whilst ensuring they are easily accessible by midwives when needed.

Clocks could be covered so as not to disrupt your confidence or make you feel like you are birthing to a time line. If the bath or shower is in a separate room, the bathroom door should be kept open so that the bath/shower is in sight.

What to bring on the day

Check with your midwife during a hospital visit or tour, there should be a mat, birth ball, bean bag, birth stool, mirror, bath and shower available for you.  As there is often only one birth stool for several birth rooms you may need to remind your caregivers in your birth plan of your requirements.

Along with your own birthing tools such as kneeling pads, yoga mat,  yoga bolster, cushions or pillows remember to make use of familiar items such as a soft night lighting, a favourite blanket, a picture to focus on, and music.

You and your partner should feel like the room in the hospital is ‘your’ room, so make it as comfortable and homely as possible.  Ask your midwife where the water, face cloths and vomit bag, etc.  Partners could bring a flannelette shirt to wear after baby is born to do skin on skin, letting the smells wrap up in the shirt and use for the next few days.

Hints for birth partners

Remember a woman births best when her mood is altered to be dreamy and relaxed.  Look at your hospital room from the eyes of a lover, ask yourself ‘Would I make love here?’, if the answer is no, change the environment to be one of warmth, privacy where intimacy and love can flourish.  Dim lighting, music, warmth, plenty of room to move and privacy will all contribute towards her getting in "the mood to give birth".

You are her birth guardian like a Silver Gorilla pacing the lowlands looking after her birth territory and making sure she feels protected and safe from any invasions of her privacy. 

I hope you have found the above tips helpful?

You and your partner should feel like the room in the hospital is ‘your’ room, so make it as comfortable and homely as possible.

Written by Suzanne Swan, 2017, founder of yogababy, Senior Yoga teacher and Childbirth Educator.  www.yogababy.com.au.  Suzanne can be contacted at info@yogababy.com.au