Why Clothing Matters in Labor
By Michal Klau-Stevens, The Birth Lady
Did you know that one of the first important decisions you will make when you are admitted to the hospital when you are in labor is whether to wear the hospital gown they give you?
It seems like such an inconsequential matter – to wear the hospital gown or to bring your own clothes to wear while laboring, but what you choose can change the course of your labor.
Hospital gowns have rich psychological meaning for patients and their caregivers. Hospital gowns bring to mind people who are sick, weak, or have something wrong that needs surgical intervention. When you put on a hospital gown, you can unconsciously take on those characteristics because they are so deeply set in your mind. According to anthropologist and birth expert Robbie Davis-Floyd, in her book Birth As An American Rite of Passage, changing into the hospital gown is more than just a change of clothes; it is a hospital ritual. It takes away your individuality and symbolizes your transformation from a person who makes her own decisions to one who is under the control of the hospital and its staff. That’s pretty potent medicine!
Pregnant women are usually healthy and able to take an active role in their births. Wearing your own clothing during labor sends a powerful message to yourself and those around you that it’s important to you to stay active and participate in your labor. Wanda Miller, a nurse and mother, describes it like this; “Sick people wear hospital johnnies. I wasn’t sick. Plus, wearing my own clothes made me feel just a bit more like me. In control and confident.”
When you make the choice to wear your own clothes in labor, especially an outfit as unique and vibrant as a Pretty Pusher dress, you stack the deck in your favor in a few ways.
First, no one is going to look at you and think that you are sick. You will see yourself as healthy, upbeat, and prepared for an active labor, and others will see you that way too.
You’ll be wearing clothes that are comfortable, fit you properly, and which look and smell familiar. These elements allow you to focus inward on your labor, instead of being distracted by unfamiliar oversized clothing that leaves you feeling exposed.
Also, you’ll be able to move freely and stay cool. Movement and comfort are important for helping labor progress.
Finally, your choice will set the tone for your labor, establishing that you have done your research, prepared yourself for labor, and are taking an active role in decision-making for your birth.
All these things combined can keep your labor moving along by keeping you in the mindset of a healthy individual, instead of a sick patient. The choices you make and the approach your caregivers take with you will be influenced by your choice of clothing in labor. As Laurie Sweet, a DONA Certified Doula, says, “Wearing your own clothes in labor makes you less of a patient and more of a person.”
Michal Klau-Stevens, The Birth Lady, is a maternity consultant and the creator of the Mastering Maternity™ system, a program that helps expectant parents confidently approach pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, early parenting, and navigating the maternity healthcare system. To receive a FREE mini-guide by email and receive more tools and information on mastering maternity, visit www.TheBirthLady.INFO.