When it comes time to choose where you’d like to give birth, you may decide on a hospital over a birth center or home birth — in fact, 98.6% of births in the U.S. take place in a hospital. But just because you don’t want a home birth doesn’t mean that you don’t want to be able to enjoy the comforts of home in the hospital. During labor, small, familiar touches can make your experience even better — and help you feel safe and calm throughout.

Oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone,” is crucial in the process of pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum stage. It’s responsible for feats including mother-baby bonding, milk flow, and triggering contractions. Oxytocin is released in “safe spaces” — think of it as a shy hormone that can be coaxed out when a woman feels safe and comfortable. Unfortunately, hospital rooms aren’t places that make most of us feel safe and secure. Taking small steps to make a hospital room more comfortable and conducive to birthing can go a long way.

Dim the lights:

It’s soothing, quieting, and can help you focus. Most hospitals have dimming lights or easily accessible switches. Close the blinds or curtains if sunlight is coming into the room.

Play some music:

Hospitals are full of noises, whether it’s other patients, doctors and nurses chatting, carts rolling down the hall, or machines beeping steadily. A white noise machine or music — soothing instrumentals or a playlist of your favorite songs — can drown out some of the hospital sounds and help you relax. Sign up for a 3-month trial of Spotify Premium to ensure that your labor won’t be interrupted by pesky advertisements.

Try intermittent monitoring:

Ask your medical team about intermittent monitoring, in which the nurses may check the baby’s heart rate approximately every 15 minutes, instead of having you hooked up continuously to a machine. In the case that the staff permits this, it will allow you more freedom to move, walk, and try different positions for labor.

Add some ambiance:

Hospitals typically don’t allow candles or incense, but battery-operated tea candles or a string of white lights can go a long way. A vase of flowers, photos of older children or loved ones, or printable affirmations on the wall can also be a nice touch.

Add soothing scents:

Scent is a powerful sense. If the hospital allows, try an essential oil diffuser with a calming lavender scent, or dilute essential oils with water in a spray bottle and mist throughout the room. You can also bring your Crock-pot: keep a bath of water with a few drops of calming essential oils on low, and fill with washcloths. During contractions, wring out a warm washcloth and place it on your belly.

Bring your own clothes:

hospital gowns can be scratchy and uncomfortable. If you prefer to wear your own clothes, bring something loose and comfortable to wear — just make sure it’s something that you don’t mind getting messy!

How did you create a comfortable environment during a hospital birth? Share your tips in the comments below!

Image courtesy of This is Family