Comfortable surroundings will help both your mind and body relax during labor. Whether you're giving birth in a hospital, at home, or somewhere in between, outlining your preference for what you'll be seeing and hearing around you is an important component of the birth plan.
The Perfect Place
First, know what you have to work with. Hospital birthing facilities are starting to recognize the value of a homey, warm atmosphere. You may find that yours is already set up to suit your needs well.
However, if the setting looks a little sterile and spartan, there are ways to make it more welcoming. Easy and acceptable additions include a cozy blanket and pillow from home, a picture or two (which can serve double duty as focal points during contractions), and fresh flowers. You might also be able to adjust the lights and sounds to make the environment more relaxing. More on that coming up.
Home birth is an option if you feel strongly about giving birth in familiar surroundings and among family. However, home birth doesn't mean you should opt out of a health care professional's help; in fact, this is even more important since you won't have access to the medical monitoring and diagnostic equipment that a hospital offers. In many uncomplicated pregnancies, a home birth can be a completely safe and emotionally rewarding choice. However, women who might experience high-risk deliveries for any reason need to seriously contemplate the benefits and safety of a hospital birth.
Be aware that professional and insurance restrictions may prohibit your doctor from attending a home birth. If your provider can't be there and your mind is set on a home birth, find out if he can refer you to a midwife or doctor who can attend.
An in-between alternative for some women is a birthing center, which is equipped to handle some medical problems that may occur yet can offer some less conventional laboring and delivery methods, such as a water birth.
Music and Lighting
Music is one of the easiest ways to change the mood. Just bring a portable stereo and a few diverse musical selections, in case you need a change of pace, and you're all set. Classical music can help to soothe and center you, while something fast and furious can get the adrenaline going for the hard work. Just be conscious of the fact that other moms will likely be nearby laboring and that your baby is not wearing earplugs. Keep the volume down, or use headphones if you don't mind yet another line hooking you up.
As far as lighting goes, you might not have a lot of choices beyond off/on if you're giving birth in a hospital setting. Even if you can dim the lights, you want your provider to be able to see what she's doing. But requesting that the drapes be drawn and the lights turned down during early and active labor is not unreasonable.
Chances are you will want pictures, and lots of them. Your birth plan can outline your audiovisual expectations (for example, video of the delivery, pictures of a C-section in the operating room, live webcast of baby's first breath). The plan also serves as a good checklist for you and your partner when packing for the hospital.
If you want to capture your little star's debut on video, it's best to check with your provider to make sure there's no policy against an amateur videographer being underfoot. Even if there is, in some cases you might be able to work out a compromise, such as setting up the camera in advance on a stationary tripod.