Your Birth – Your Space

It’s strange.  When we get married we often obsess about the venue details.  What it must look like. The atmosphere.  Our children’s birthday parties?  Where it is and how it looks are important to us – well at least if you are a Pinterest Mom that is *wink*.  Why does so little though go into our birth environments – the space in which a new life will begin and where we will be stepping into parenthood?


How we got here is a topic I am continuously researching and I think there are many cultural, historical and other contributing factors which I won’t bore you with, but I think it is safe to say that the medicalization of birth initially played a big role (albeit unintentionally).  Whilst medicine in itself saves lives on daily basis, I think the heart of the birth environment, over time, got lost in a series of protocols, procedures, policies and practices that are rooted in a culture of business and not a culture of medicine. 

It’s important not to throw the baby out of with the bath water here (which sadly also happens when guilt is used to influence our choices – this in itself is not respectful of choice in birth).  Many procedures and policies have solid safety and clinical foundations.  But I do see many instances where greed, ignorance, selfishness and a refusal to change hide behind so-called ‘safety & privacy’ measures whist it infringes on those very rights it claims to protect. This gives medicine a bad name and irks me – as a mother, but also as a birth professional who has a holistic approach to birth and the utmost respect for medicine, physiological birth and the humanities, as well as how they interlace with one another.

Soapbox moment & history lesson over and back to your birth space options and choices:

There should in my opinion be no wrong or right choices when it comes to your birth environment. I myself was born in a nunnery and gave birth 3 times and 2 different general hospitals.

Here is what I think does matter when it comes to choosing your birth space:


1.    That you are given options when it comes to your birth space with consideration to both your clinical and physical needs.

2.    That both the pros and cons of the options are discussed with you so that you can make an informed choice.

3.    That you decide what is important to you and base your choices on that.

4.    That you feel heard & respected in your choices as far as possible.



In terms of location you have the following options:

1.    A general hospital with maternity unit (e.g. Mediclinics, Life, Netcare)

2.    A maternity clinic or hospital (e.g. Genesis Clinic in Johannesburg and Origin Clinic in Cape Town)

3.    An active birthing unit

4.    Home

When considering your birth location you need to think of neonatal (care of your baby) and post-natal care as well and not just of the birth itself.



It’s a good idea to find out what your location of choice offers in terms of birth equipment and to know what sort of delivery support you want in the room.  There might even be items that you do not want in the room because you feel they might inhibit you.  If your location does not offer you what you need it may be rented from a reputable company such as Birth Options.

Equipment considerations include but are not limited to:

1.    Birth pools

2.    Birth stools

3.    Birth balls

4.    Yoga mats

5.    Birth beds


Some atmosphere choices to consider include:

1.    Lighting:

–       candles provide beautiful soft light but some hospitals do not allow them in proximity to oxygen tanks (if you use them make sure you have enough fresh air as they can lower the level
oxygen levels in the room)

–       dimmed lights can be a good alternative to harsh florescent lights

–       when you have a professional birth photographer on your team you might want to make sure that she does not use a pop-up flash (I don’t even use speedlight flashes but I am a natural light

2.    Sound:

–       some people prefer a silent birth so that the ‘thinking’ part of the brain is not engaged

–       you might want music

–       you might want to listen to your birth affirmations

–       you might prefer idle conversation or you might not

3.    Other:

–       Clothes (hospital gowns or own clothes)

–       Fragrance (you might want aromatherapy as a form of pain management)

–       Privacy

–       Your birth team (midwife, doula, OBG, birth photographer etc.) has a presence in your birth space and it is important that they hold the birth space for you in a manner that you desire

Again there is no right or wrong here.  Birth should be a celebration of a new life and parenthood and your environment should honor that celebration.

I’ve only touched the surface here.  For an in depth understanding of the birth environment and other maternal matters, as well as your own free Birth Preference e-Book, please register at

If you are a birth professional (birth photographer, OBG, nurse, doula, midwife, hospital experience manager) who wants to learn more about creating the ideal birth space and experience for your birthing mothers feel free to register at You will receive 3 free infographics for birth companion education upon registering. 

PS: I’d love to hear what is important to you when it comes to the birth space.  Why don’t you let me know by commenting now?  And if you think this article was helpful, it would mean the world if you could help me empower others by sharing it!

PPS: Join me, Alda Smith, as I and other birth professionals guide you towards optimising your birth experience. No stigmas. No choice-bashing. No Pressure. Just a whole lot of empowerment and compassion in the comfort of your own home!

This article was first published on the Carmien Kiddies Blog.

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