The birth environment at birth centreBookmark this page

Your birth environment can affect your experience of labour and birth. The ideal labour environment is one where you feel safe, have access to pain relief, have privacy and feel secure and well supported.

Birth centres aim to help birth be as natural as possible in a home-like, less clinical environment. In this kind of environment, research shows that women have less need for medical pain relief and caesarean, and are often happier with their care.

Many birth centres have:

  • air-conditioned birthing suites, usually with ensuite, shower and a big bath
  • birth balls, heat packs, electric oil burners and other equipment
  • televisions (you might have to pay to use them)
  • telephones (you might have to pay)
  • small kitchens
  • double beds and home-like furniture.

Most birth centres have birthing pools.

Staying active and using upright positions might help your labour to progress and help you avoid interventions. Using mats, beanbags, cushions, water or birth balls can help. Talk with your midwife before the birth about how you’d like your birth environment to be.

You can bring things like:

  • music
  • essential oils or aromatherapy
  • a TENS machine
  • pillows
  • blankets or rugs
  • special food or drinks.

Many women prefer soft lighting during labour and birth. You might be able to use dimmer switches or lamps to adjust the lighting in the room. It’s OK to ask if you can close doors or draw curtains for privacy. Music might help you focus. Covering visible clocks might also help you to be ‘in the moment’.

Check with the birth centre about having family, friends and/or other children at the birth if that’s what you want. You and your midwife can let support people know how they can help you.

Most birth centres don’t have postnatal wards (where you stay after the birth). If you need to stay overnight, you'll be transferred to a postnatal ward at the adjoining hospital. Otherwise, you'll be discharged within a day of giving birth.

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