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How to Make Your Hospital Birth a Positive Experience: Tips from a Birth Doula

There is plenty of research to support the safety of home birth, but as a birth doula I understand that it is not for everyone. Whatever birth you choose - with a bit of preparation and the right mindset, you can create a warm, positive, and empowering experience. Here are my top tips for making your hospital birth the most positive experience possible.

A women in labour being monitored at the hospital, peacefully sitting in the lotus position while being hugged by her partner.

1. Create a Birth Plan

First of all, a birth plan is a great way to educate yourself, so use it as a guide and get curious! It can assist in communicating your preferences and expectations with your healthcare team. It helps ensure that your wishes are respected, as long as they are safe and feasible. Include details such as:

  • Your preferred pain relief options.

  • Positions you’d like to try during labor.

  • Who you want to be present in the room.

  • Any special requests for the environment (e.g., dimmed lights, music).

  • Preferences for immediate postpartum care, like delayed cord clamping or skin-to-skin contact.

Remember, a birth plan is a guide, not a guarantee. Research the alternatives and the “what ifs”, so you feel confident in your choices, but also so you can be open to flexibility as circumstances can change. 

See my “Crafting Your Birth Plan” blog post for more.

2. Choose the Right Support Team

Surround yourself with people who make you feel safe, supported, and empowered. This includes your partner, a trusted family member or friend, and a birth doula. A doula provides continuous emotional, physical, and informational support, helping you navigate the birth process with confidence.

3. Educate Yourself

Knowledge is power. Attend childbirth classes and do your own research to understand the stages of labor, common interventions, and your options for pain management. Knowing what to expect can reduce anxiety and help you make informed decisions during labor. Good place to start is my "Fear Free Pregnancy and Birth" guide, that has a list of resources (books, documentaries, TEDtalks etc) to help you get started. Also, check out the “Making Informed Decisions in Pregnancy and Birth” blog post for links to reliable resources for independent research.

4. Personalize Your Space

Even in a hospital, you can create a more home-like and calming environment. Consider bringing:

  • Battery-operated candles or soft lighting.

  • A playlist of your favorite soothing music.

  • Essential oils and a diffuser (with hospital permission).

  • A favorite blanket or pillow for comfort.

I have created birth affirmation cards that you can color in during pregnancy and decorate the labor space to help create a positive mindset around birth. Surround yourself with something that has good energy and/or good memories and makes you feel safe and calm.

5. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Labor can be intense, but relaxation techniques can help manage pain and stress. Practice deep breathing, visualization, and mindfulness during your pregnancy so you can easily draw on these skills during labor. A doula can also guide you through these techniques.

6. Stay Active and Change Positions

Movement can help labor progress and alleviate discomfort. Walk, sway, use a birthing ball, or try different positions to find what feels best. Even in a hospital, you should have the freedom to move around as much as possible. Have a look at Spinning Babies® Three Principles: Balance, Gravity and Movement to understand how balancing muscles, aligning with gravity, and moving your body toward flexible strength may enhance the overall birthing experience while adding comfort in pregnancy.

7. Communicate with Your Healthcare Team

Open and honest communication with your midwife and the rest of the team is key. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and express your concerns. Remember: they are there to provide service FOR you and should respect your wishes and work with you to provide the best possible care. It often helps to have your birth partner communicate with the healthcare team, so making sure your partner is involved in the birth preparation and on board with your wishes is the key!

8. Focus on the Positive

Keep a positive mindset and trust in your body’s ability to give birth. Surround yourself with positive affirmations and remind yourself of your strength and resilience. Here are some ways to stay focused on the positive and trust in your body’s ability to give birth:

  • Surround Yourself with Positive Affirmations:

Create a collection of affirmations that resonate with you. Statements like “My body knows how to birth my baby,” “I am strong and capable,” and “Each contraction brings me closer to meeting my baby” can be incredibly empowering. Write these affirmations on note cards and place them where you can see them during labor, or have your support team read them to you when you need encouragement.

  • Visualize a Positive Birth:

Visualization is a powerful tool. Spend time during your pregnancy visualizing your ideal birth. Picture the environment, the support from your team, and the moment you meet your baby. By repeatedly visualizing a positive birth, you train your mind to expect a good experience, which can help reduce fear and anxiety.

  • Trust in Your Body:

Your body is designed to give birth. Trust in the natural process and your body's ability to handle labor and delivery. Remind yourself of this fact regularly. Your body knows what to do, and each contraction is a step closer to bringing your baby into the world.

  • Focus on the End Goal:

During labor, it can be easy to get caught up in the intensity of each moment. Keep your focus on the end goal: meeting your baby. Every contraction, every effort, and every push is bringing you one step closer to that incredible moment. Holding onto this thought can provide a powerful sense of purpose and motivation.

  • Reframe Challenges as Opportunities:

Birth can be unpredictable, and challenges may arise. Instead of viewing these challenges as setbacks, try to reframe them as opportunities to grow and demonstrate your strength. For example, if you need to adapt your birth plan, see it as a chance to practice flexibility and resilience.

9. Plan for Postpartum Care

A positive birth experience extends into the postpartum period. Research and discuss your plans for breastfeeding, newborn care, and postpartum support with your healthcare team and family. Ensure you have a support network in place for the first few weeks after birth.

10. Celebrate Your Birth Story

Every birth story is unique and special. Regardless of how closely your experience matches your birth plan, celebrate the incredible achievement of bringing your baby into the world. Take time to process and share your story with others.

While hospital birth can sometimes feel clinical and impersonal, you can make it a positive, empowering, and memorable experience with the right preparation and support. As a birth doula, I’ve seen firsthand how a positive mindset, a supportive environment, and a strong support team can transform the birth experience. Remember, this is your birth and your journey. Embrace it with confidence and joy, knowing you are creating a beautiful beginning for your family.

By focusing on these elements, you can make your hospital birth a positive, empowering, and memorable experience. Trust in yourself and your body, and lean on your support team to help you through this amazing journey. Wishing you all the best for a beautiful birth experience!

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