This post explores 6 ways to make a Labour Ward hospital room feel more comfortable when you give birth. As an Independent Midwife and Pregnancy Yoga Teacher, I’ve learnt that there are some things you can do to reduce stress during labour. And things are getting stressful in the land of maternity care and specifically labour care.
Current COVID-19 situation and how it affects Maternity Services
As we are now in our second week of lockdown, many NHS home birth services are being stopped, some Birth Centres are closing its doors, and women herded to the Labour Ward. Many women want to know how to make the Labour Ward feel more comfortable.
The NHS is overstretched – with 1 out of 4 healthcare professionals not at work due to self-isolation. Midwives who are also dual qualified as Nurses are being pulled into caring for Covid-19 patients. This leaves a very short supply of midwives to look after women.
Furthermore, London Ambulance Service (LAS) has reported that the pandemic has overstretched their resources. Due to this, anyone requesting their attendance may receive a delayed response or be guided to use alternative methods of transport. The LAS have said it may be necessary for a midwife to consider recommending that the woman prepares to utilise her own transport, or taxi should this situation arise. It is due to this, that many NHS Trusts are closing their homebirth services.
However, two London hospitals that remain fully committed to homebirth services are Chelsea and Westminster and West Middlesex University Hospitals. I applaud them.
I can also understand women who do not wish to go into hospitals amongst Covid-19 patients and would rather stay at home. Or women who planned on going to Birth Centres where the environment is less medicalised but see themselves being forced to go to Labour Ward due to closures.
The first piece of advice would be to remain at home for as long as possible. You’ll be more comfortable in your own home and your labour will progress more easily as a result. You are also protecting yourself by limiting your exposure to the outside world.
Here are 6 ways to make your Labour Ward room more like home.
- Home comforts
One way to make your Labour Ward room feel more comfortable is to bring in your own fluffy pillow. The ones at the hospital are as flat as a pancake and each woman is only limited to one. Use a colourful pillowcase so no one can mistake it for the hospital’s pillow. Keep your toothbrush and face wipes handy. They can leave you feeling refreshed during a long labour.
2. Create an ambiance
Buy some battery-operated candles to dot around the room and turn the room lights off. Room lights should only be switched on if there is a medical necessity. Curate your favourite tunes to make yourself your birth playlist – whether that is meditation music, hypnobirthing tracks, or energetic house music. Bring a diffuser and your favourite essential oils. Aromatherapy is a great tool in labour. My favourites are frankincense, orange, lavender, peppermint.
3. Stay mobile
Sit on a birthing ball (ask for one to be brought from Birth Centre or bring your own). Stay Upright, leaning Forward and Open the pelvis – UFO. In my pregnancy yoga classes we practise movements and poses that all contribute to UFO. It is so easy to lie down on the bed. But your labour will go a lot quicker if you stay upright and move around. You can ask the midwife if there are any mats or beanbags available. You could raise the bed height so you can stand and have something to lean on. Gravity will not only help your baby navigate your pelvis, but also will take away the back pain that is common during labour. You can learn these in my pregnancy livestream yoga classes.
4. Keep hydrated and nourished
Bring snacks that are easy to digest – energy bars, bananas, coconut water, smoothies. The best bottle is a reusable bottle with an incorporated straw. Cups are such a faff and often water can be spilled or the angle isn’t easy to drink from when you’re moving around in labour. These straws mean you can be in the strangest position and still get your thirst quenched. You also know how much you are drinking. Just remember to go to the toilet frequently!
5. Use warm water
Even if you don’t have access to a birth pool, you can still have a shower. All labour ward rooms should have access to your own bathroom with a shower. Water works so well as pain relief. Just remember to take off your TENS machine before hopping in the shower! How about slowing down your breath during surges – see my post on Breathing during Labour.
6. Prepare for the long-haul
I don’t mean to pack for a month’s stay, but if you are in there for an induction of labour then it is likely you will be there for a while. Take items to keep you occupied – audiobooks, download tv series, magazines. Bring ear plugs and eye mask – because your rest is also important, and there will be lots of noise both inside the room (from various machines) and perhaps noises from outside the room from your neighbour.
However, there is also the alternative of giving birth at home with the two hospital Trusts I mentioned above (if you live in London) or with Independent Midwives. Find your nearest Independent Midwife on www.imuk.org.uk.