Comfort Measures in Labor: Birth Location
We all know we our emotions can be greatly influenced by our environment. Some people feel energized by certain aspects of an environment while others feel anxious and emotionally drained by the same situation. Some feel relaxed and calm at home while others feel lonely and isolated.
How a woman responds emotionally to her environment impacts her body’s production of hormones that affect how she labors. An environment that causes stress, fear, and anxiety can increase the body’s production of adrenaline. Adrenaline impedes the production of oxytocin which is the hormone that causes contractions. Elevated adrenaline can also reduce the effectiveness of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain reliever. The higher your production of adrenaline the less effective contractions may become. Your pain may increase, labor may prolong, or labor may stop all together requiring intervention.
A birth environment that helps a woman to relax and encourage her confidence will result in much better outcomes. Relaxation encourages the body’s production of oxytocin, endorphins, and melatonin (a hormone that helps support the production of oxytocin). This will, in turn, shorten her length of labor, make contractions more effective, greatly reduce her need for interventions, and will leave her with a positive birth experience.
What women find relaxing and comforting differs from woman to woman. There are three common options for women in America today: hospital, birth center, or home birth.Our emotions can be greatly influenced by our environment. Click To Tweet
Having a baby has become the most common choice for most women in America today. This has not always been the case, however, and is not the rule in most other countries. Birth didn’t move to the hospital until about the 20th century. Until then, most children were born at home with the assistance of a midwife. When birth moved to the hospital, it began to be looked at as more of an emergency situation and male doctors were the ones who oversaw the delivery. With the improvements in disinfection mortality rates due to childbirth dropped. However, with the more prolific use of anesthesia, women were often unconscious during the delivery of their child. This was seen as a way of helping women deal with the pain of childbirth but, for some women, it had a negative effect on how they looked back on the experience. Since they were not aware of their child’s birth, some women struggled with the emotional side of things. Some women who experience c-sections today can relate to how these women felt. There is a bit of a disconnect between being pregnant and then holding a baby in your arms. Since they do/did not experience the act of pushing the baby out, the break in the transition can be difficult for some women.
Some women find the hospital environment stressful and feel like she may be pressured to make changes to her birth plan that she does not desire. Other women find it comforting to be in the hospital surrounded by highly trained individuals who are prepared for changes that may occur in birth.Hospital birth has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades. Click To Tweet
Hospital birth has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades. In the last couple of decades, hospitals have been grown more friendly to the idea of natural delivery and many hospitals today are taking action to make changes to policies and procedures so that women can have the birth she desires while still being in a hospital setting.
Many hospitals still have a way to go and all these changes take quite a bit of time, so I highly recommend checking your local hospital’s policies and asking lots of questions. A hospital will not change unless they see a demand for change either, so make your wishes clear to the people who are in place to encourage these changes: nursing supervisor, hospital administration, and your physician. Some hospitals have committees formed of local citizens and patients in order for them to understand what the public wants in a hospital. If you are the type of person who would like to see changes in your local hospital, I would encourage you to speak with the hospital administration about being on such a committee and if they do not have one, encouraging them to start such a committee.A hospital will not change unless they see a demand for change. Click To Tweet
The concept of birth centers didn’t arise until the 1970’s. Today more and more birth centers are popping up as the demand for them increases. Statistically, maternal outcomes are actually better than hospital outcomes and infant outcomes are comparable to hospital birth.
“Expecting families who choose the birth center setting in the U.S. can expect high-quality, family-centered care.” (National Birth Center Study II)
Many families choose deliver at a birth center due to wanting a home birth style environment but with many of the amenities of a hospital. They also prefer the “clean up” to be in a location other than their home. Most birth centers have wonderful relationships with the local hospitals and transfers are often very smooth, so families feel more comfortable with the continuity of care should a transfer situation arise. If you are interested or even curious about what a birth center is like, I highly recommend scheduling a tour of one near you. I have toured several and although each one has been dramatically different, I have been very impressed every time. (This coming from someone who worked in hospital settings for over ten years.)A birth center offers a home birth environment with many of the amenities of a hospital. Click To Tweet
There are several birth center in the DFW area, including Denton. I personally have worked closely with many of the women who work at Inanna Birth and Women’s Care in Denton. They are wonderful ladies, highly trained, have lots of experience, and very impressive statistics.
Home birth is becoming more and more popular. Personally, I believe this may be in part due to the internet. The internet has made researching and learning about other options much easier than in times past. Today we can speak with other mothers around the world, hear their experiences, learn from other practices, and find evidence based research much easier and faster than ever before. Home birth has become less of a case of something that happens when you don’t have time to get to the hospital or something only hippies do to more normalized and accepted form of birth. Many midwives and doulas specialize in home birth, as well.
Many women chose to birth at home because that is the place they feel most comfortable and relaxed. Other women feel it is taking too great a risk and opt for a birth center or hospital, instead. Statistically, home birth attended by a midwife has outcomes similar to birth center and hospitals. In many cases, home birth has better maternal outcomes than hospital birth. Keep in mind, however, that hospital birth include many more high risk and surgical births that bring lower outcomes than home birth. As long as a woman is healthy, the baby is healthy, neither show any signs of distress or complications, and the pregnancy and birth are attended by a highly trained midwife, home birth is a safe option.When mom and baby show no signs of complications, home birth can be a safe option. Click To Tweet
Improving the environment
Regardless of whatever location you decided to birth at, there are changes you can make to improve the environment. Keeping the environment relaxed, calm, dark, and quite seems to have the best results. Here are a few suggestions you may want to think about when planning your birth environment.
- candles (battery operated)
- affirmations, letters, Bible verses, lyrics, poems hanging on the walls
- blankets covering the windows
- running water
- nature sounds
- surrounding yourself with your loved ones
Whatever you can do to make you feel more relaxed in your environment, will improve your birth experience.Whatever you can do relax in your environment, will improve your birth experience. Click To Tweet
There are many options for women in America today. When choosing a place to birth, do your research, ask questions, and choose the place you feel most confident in, the place you feel most relaxed, the place with the people that you trust.