From home to hospital, women today are choosing to give birth in a variety of environments. Gone is the notion that labor and delivery has to take place in a hospital bed with the woman attached to monitors and highly medicated.

How you choose to give birth in the 21st Century will largely depend on your birth philosophy and risk factors. Texas Health wants to help you explore your options with these five strategies for creating as natural of an environment as you desire for welcoming baby.

Labor in Comfort

A comfortable environment will help you stay relaxed. Plus, it’s crucial in allowing the physiologic process of labor to occur. Start by creating a nesting area. In the hospital, you may choose to request any unnecessary technical equipment be removed or at least placed out of sight. You can soften the room with cozy cushions and blankets as well. At home, you can use furniture pieces as props. The corner of a kitchen counter makes a good surface to hold on to as you rock your way through a contraction. Get creative in any environment.

“Don’t forget your labor tools,” suggested Jill Johnson, M.S.N., R.N., Childbirth Education coordinator at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. “Many Texas Health hospitals provide labor bars and birthing balls for moms. A peanut ball can help position your legs and pelvis while you’re lying on your side. Cool or warm packs, massagers and other aids may be brought in and can work wonders to keep you calm and as comfortable as possible.”

Surround Yourself in Familiarity

“Aromatherapy and essentials oils may be integrated into your maternity care,” said Johnson. “We often assist women who wish to fill the birthing room with familiar, homey smells such as lavender, peppermint or eucalyptus, or who use oils for massage during laboring.”

A pillow or throw from home and soothing music can create a sense of safety and familiarity. All are encouraged during the birth experience at Texas Health facilities as additional ways to create a relaxing and reassuring atmosphere for mom.

“We also teach guided imagery techniques during childbirth education classes. Here, mom practices getting into a relaxed state by visualizing herself in a happy, restful place. This might be on a beach, at home in a comfortable chair or even holding her newborn. Along with breathing and relaxation techniques, guided imagery is beneficial in helping a mother deal with each stage of labor,” added Johnson.

Remember to Move

Freedom of movement is an important factor in easing the birth of your baby. The Journal of Perinatal Education reports that movement is the best way for you to use gravity and muscles to help your baby shift downward. It allows you to actively respond to pain, and it has been shown to speed up the labor process.

Don’t be afraid to get up and walk around, unless your circumstances don’t allow for it. Wireless fetal monitoring has made its way to Texas Health facilities to help moms remain mobile throughout the laboring process. Changing positions frequently opens up the pelvis and encourages baby to find the best fit through the birth canal, while upright positions use gravity to promote delivery.

Even if you have to be monitored, Johnson provided some ideas for positions and movements around the bed that can promote the birth process. These include the use of a labor ball bedside to help you rock/sway during contractions. The head of your bed may be positioned at a 90 degree angle so you can lean over your knees and a labor bar can help you squat in bed.

Gather Your Support System

It’s important to be surrounded by those who support your birth plan. Continuous encouragement from people you trust right from the start will help your labor progress. This could be your partner, a close friend or relative, or a doula. Plan ahead as to who will be in the room. You may want to have two supporters lined up so that one can take over for the other as time goes by.

“I always recommend for mom to bring her support team to Prepared Childbirth class with her so they may all learn relaxation and coping skills and understand how they can best support mom during all stages of labor ¾ no matter where and how laboring may occur,” Johnson added.

Know You Have Options

There is no medical “best choice” for how to manage pain during labor. Instead, it’s a question of what makes the most sense for you. Hydrotherapy is an option available for pain relief at various Texas Health facilities for appropriate women. Laboring in water allows you to change positions easily, comforted by warm water, and often times can help the labor process without the need for additional anesthesia.

Women who opt to use nitrous oxide instead of or in addition to an epidural find they can control their own pain relief during labor. Nitrous oxide is self-administered via mask and is a fast-acting pain management option that should be discussed with your obstetrician and/or labor support team prior to delivery day.

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