I want to tell you a story about a friend of mine......

2 years ago, one of my close friends told me she was pregnant. I was thrilled and excited for her, but something didn't seem quite right. She was very quiet about it and although she was obviously pleased about her pregnancy, she didn't really want to talk about it much.
I offered a couple of times throughout her pregnancy to do a free hypnobirthing course for her and her husband but she always said she'd think about it but didn't think it was for her.

She had been really quiet about all things relating to the birth and whenever we talked about it as a group of friends, she would just shut down and said she couldn't bear to think about it.

She clearly had a lot of fear that I knew would impact her massively if she didn't deal with it so I had a quiet work with her a few weeks before her due date. Once more, she said she couldn't bear to think or talk about birth and politely declined my offer.

I was really worried for her and also really sad that she didn't want my help. I knew how beneficial it would have been for her to really arm herself with the knowledge and skills that I could have given her. But I respected her wishes and didn't mention birth again.

A couple of weeks later she announced the birth of her beautiful baby and I was thrilled for her. She was going to make a great mum and I couldn't wait to meet her little girl. But as the congratulations and questions started popping up on our whatsapp group, it became apparent that the birth had not been a positive experience for her.
She still hasn't told us all the details but she ended up with a lot of intervention, and with an emergency caesarean birth. She really felt like her birth was out of her control, she had a long stay in hospital and a long recovery time. This impacted hugely on her life as a new mum, and my heart really hurt for her. It still does. No woman should have to suffer a traumatic birth experience.
Sadly, I know that she probably feels vindicated in not preparing for her birth. She feels like there was no point because it went exactly the way she had feared it would.

But what she doesn't realise, is how much the fear that she was holding onto impacted her birth.

The fear manifested itself as tension in her body, meaning the muscles of her uterus and cervix weren't able to work effectively. The tension meant that she felt each contraction so much more acutely. The fear caused lots of adrenaline to be produced, which in turn meant she produced less of the other important birthing hormones, the ones that would have helped her stay calm, in control and feel less pain.
All the fears she was holding onto meant her birth became a self-fulfilling prophecy. That it turned out exactly how she'd imagined. She had buried her head in the sand and now felt vindicated.....there was obviously no point in preparing for birth because birth is awful and there was nothing she could have done to change it.

But what she still doesn't realise is that there were so many things she could have done to change the course of her birth.

She could have understood the impact all that fear could have on her body's physiological birth process, and ways to deal with it.

She could have learnt what was going to happen to her at each stage of labour and some coping mechanisms to deal with it all.

She could have been told about the importance of helping baby get into a good position for birth, increasing the chances of a smoother birth with less intervention.

She could have practiced some simple relaxation techniques to use throughout pregnancy and labour to allow her to work with her body, allow the physiological processes to happen automatically instead of tensing up and fighting her body every step of the way.

We will probably never discuss all of this and she may never know what a difference my course could have made to her experience. I'm not saying that if you do my course you won't need any intervention, and I'm not promising you a straightforward, easy or pain free birth. But what I can promise is that you will have all the skills and knowledge you need to stack all the odds in your favour for a shorter, smoother birth, one where you are in control and one that you look back on with pride and amazement. Now, doesn't that sound good?

If you have been burying your head in the sand, trying not to think about birth, hoping for the best but also dreading the worst then please, please contact me. We can have a free chat about how I can help you and you will immediately feel lighter and more in control. We can come up with a plan for how you will deal with labour and who knows, you may even start to look forward to it ;)

To arrange your free chat with me, please click here.

My next group one day hypnobirthing courses are Saturday 7th October and Saturday 4th November, 9.30am-5pm all held in Cardiff and are the perfect way to prepare for your positive birth experience.

“I can’t afford to do hypnobirthing”

When I was pregnant with my first baby, and came across hypnobirthing, I really worried about spending the money on a course, I didn’t know anyone who had done it and I wasn’t sure it would work for me.

It can be such an expensive time and we were trying to do everything on a budget.

But I knew that this was a day I would remember for the rest of my life, and if there was something that could help me stay calm and in control then it was definitely worth investing in.

So we bought a cheaper pushchair, we didn’t buy matching furniture for the nursery, just an ikea wardrobe and cotbed. We didn’t buy many clothes or toys.

I chose to invest in myself and the birth and I am so glad I did. It wasn’t even that much money in the scheme of things....what is £200 when you are talking about your body, your post natal recovery, your mental health, starting life as a new mum without lots of the issues that a bad birth experience can cause.

Not that there are any guarantees with hypnobirthing, and you have to put the work in. But you are stacking the odds massively in your favour. You are increasing your chances of avoiding unnecessary interventions, of staying in control and coming out the other side feeling positive about it.

That has got to be worth a couple of hundred quid!

So when I hear people say “I can’t afford to do hypnobirthing” I can’t help feeling frustrated. I want them to realise how important the birth is to the rest of their lives. What an imprint it will make on them. How it will affect their life as a new mum.

The birth to them is an afterthought, something they will just deal with on the day. They might be spending upwards of £1,000 on a designer ‘travel system', or on matching nursery furniture. They may have been persuaded to buy gadgets and equipment for the baby that it doesn’t need, and probably amassed a lot of gorgeous clothes.

Birth preparation didn’t make it onto the list of things to buy.

Perhaps they’re just going to 'go with the flow' (& I’ve written about the dangers of that before).

It just makes me so sad and frustrated, because I have seen too many women come to me following a difficult first birth, wishing they had known more, wishing that they had prepared differently. Many women wrongly assume that there is nothing they can influence about their birth, nothing they can do to make things go a different way. But I know that isn’t true. Yes, birth can be unpredictable but there are so many ways you can help your birth go more smoothly, ways to avoid unnecessary interventions, ways to stay in control!

So when you are putting together your list of things to buy for the baby.... please remember your birth preparation. And don’t pick an antenatal class just because you’ve been told it’s a good way to make friends! Pick one that is going to completely prepare you for birth and equip you and your birth partner to deal with it.

There are plenty of other ways to make friends during your pregnancy (like my weekly pregnancy yoga class) or after the baby is born (I will be arranging social events in my facebook group)

Please note, if you genuinely can't afford the cost of a hypnobirthing course, I offer one space on each group course at a 50% concessionary rate and have regular special offers.  I also sell gift vouchers, so why not ask your friends and family to contribute to your course instead of buying you more clothes than a baby could ever wear!

I have one space left for my September hypnobirthing course so if you’d like to find out more go to www.youmeandbaby.co.uk

What have Coldplay got to do with hypnobirthing?!

All will become clear!

There is a question that comes up time and time again in various groups and forums so I want to answer it today.

"Why bother doing a hypnobirthing course when you can listen to the tracks and/or read the book?"

How do Coldplay come into this?!

My home city, Cardiff, played host to Coldplay this week; they played 2 gigs and for each one, the city was bustling with the extra 60,000 fans who had tickets. I hadn’t got tickets I’ve just spent the morning looking at photos and watching videos of the gig and thinking how good it would have been to be there. I love listening to live music, it can be so powerful, moving, emotional and exciting. It can evoke memories and feelings.

Coldplay in Cardiff

Then I found this quote about the Coldplay gig and it really reminded me of that hypnobirthing question:

“I don't own any of their albums... I might never do, but I would not miss the chance to see them live again.” Kathryn Williams, Wales Online
 

That shows just how powerful it is to see a band live. You might not have like a band beforehand, you may never have bought their album or bothered to listen to any of their songs on the radio, but then you see them live! There is a whole different feel and vibe;  you hear different parts of the songs, or new songs, and you can fall in love with a band that you might not have bothered to listen to if you were driving in your car listening to them on the radio. It brings the music alive, adds vibrancy and a new dimension. You have an experience, more than any you would get from listening to an album.

And that is just one of the benefits that attending a hypnobirthing course can have over just using CD’s/books.

The subject comes alive. You really experience the learning in a variety of different ways. You interact and ask questions. Your birth partner is with you and takes in all the important information to be the best support to you throughout each stage of your labour.

You begin to understand the birth process, and what your body needs to do (and not do!) in order to birth your baby. You practice relaxation and can discuss how you feel. You hear other women talking about their worries and realise they are the same as yours. You take comfort in knowing your fears are totally normal.

Your birth partner realises that they have an important job to do, in keeping you calm and relaxed and helping you create the perfect birth environment.

And as any questions or concerns crop up, you can ask throughout the course and ensure you really understand everything.

With my hypnobirthing course, you also get full support from me all the way up to your birth. If you have an appointment with a midwife or consultant, and have questions about how something might affect your birth plan, or if something crops up that makes you nervous or upset, I will be there to support you and help you find a way to deal with it so that you can still achieve your positive birth.

Yes, there are many women out there who have had a very positive experience just using the CD’s/books and it is fantastic that it is accessible for everyone, whatever you budget.

But equally, many women feel the CD’s/book didn’t work and their labour left them feeling really let down and disappointed. There are many reasons for this, but for me, the biggest issue is that my hypnobirthing course is so much more than just learning to relax and breathe for birth (which is all the CDs tend to focus on). The books contain a lot of vital information but you don’t always get the right emphasis. And although you may have read the book, your birth partner probably hasn’t and therefore the birthing woman doesn’t get the full support she needs during the birth.

I have had lots of clients come to me for their second birth and some of them say that they used the hypnobirthing CDs for their first birth and didn’t have a great experience. So second time round, they realise the importance of taking the full course, come to me for help and support, and the results have been very contrasting.

So if you have been thinking you’ll just buy a book/listen to the tracks, perhaps you should think again. Yes, a course is more expensive, but do you think any of the people at that Coldplay gig were regretting buying their ticket, and thinking “I should have just bought the CD instead”?!

Your baby’s birth is a day you will remember for the rest of your life, invest in yourself and make it a positive one.

For more information about how I can help you stay calm and in control of your birth, avoid unnecessary medical intervention and have a positive experience whatever happens, contact me.
I am currently taking bookings for my August, September and October group hypnobirthing courses.


 

What happens when the unpredictable happens?

Some people think there is no point in preparing for birth because it is so unpredictable and you’ll just get your hopes up and then be disappointed when things don’t go to plan. (FYI I totally disagree and have written about the dangers of 'going with the flow' before).

So what happens when the unpredictable happens?

Well firstly, the knowledge you gain on my hypnobirthing course means that you can really stack the odds in your favour by understanding how to help baby get into a good position for birth, and knowing what labour and birth positions can make for a smoother labour, as well as a lot of other important tips and tricks to help you out during your labour.

But there are still many things that can throw a curveball at you, before and during your birth, so then what?

I have worked with women who’ve had to deal with so many twists and turns during their pregnancy and birth but were able to stay in control of the situation. They knew what questions to ask, how to gather all the information they need to make an informed choice, and were confident in their decisions.

Some mums have needed to make big decisions regarding whether or not to opt for a caesarean due to baby’s position, or for other medical reasons, decisions regarding where they will give birth due to certain risk factors they face, decisions regarding monitoring of themselves and the baby, decisions about induction for a variety of different reasons, decisions regarding pain relief, and decisions about whether to undergo tests for certain conditions/concerns.

They have been able to make these huge decisions and remain calm and confident, because of all the knowledge they’ve gained from my hypnobirthing course.

And because they have been confident and in control, they have then found themselves extremely well support, treated with respect and have come out the other side feeling totally in control and extremely positive about the whole experience.

Unfortunately that isn’t many women’s experience. Many women go into labour and have no idea what to expect, how to make decisions, what the real risks or benefits are for them, that there is often an alternative course of action they can take. They lose control, other people make decisions for them, and they come out the other side feeling totally let down, unsupported, not listened to and really disappointed in the whole experience. So then they think there was no point in planning for their birth because all of that would have happened even if they had.

Wouldn't it be better to stack all the odds in your favour to make things go smoother, to stay calm and in control, and come out the other side feeling powerful.

Your baby's birth is a day you will remember for the rest of your life....make it a positive one.

To find out more about how my course will help you, check out http://youmeandbaby.co.uk/hypnobirthing

***There is still time to claim your £50 off the July course, on Saturday 15th July 9.30-4.30 in central Cardiff.***

What does Chuck from TV show Billions have to teach a birthing woman?

I was watching the Sky Atlantic show ‘Billions’ last night and heard a quote that made me immediately want to write about birth! (For fans of the show, I’m a bit behind with the series so apologies if this is an old episode!)

 

Chuck and Axelrod from Billions

Chuck and Axelrod from Billions

Chuck                    “We don’t have kings dad, we live in a democracy.”
Charles                 “You sound like a fucking hippy.”
Chuck                    “I know that this is difficult to grasp, but the age of the Kingmaker is passed....

......I don’t need a power broker, I have my own power.”


“So what has this got to do with birth?” I hear you asking!
Well when I was pregnant with my first child and preparing for birth, I had no idea that I had my own power. I felt helpless and scared, I had mostly heard stories about how awful birth is, how painful it is and how out of control women feel during labour.

I assumed I needed a ‘power broker’ in the form of a midwife, doctor or consultant, and plenty of drugs of course!

But then I discovered hypnobirthing and it changed everything. I realised that I did have the power, that I could take control of my birth, that I could make all the decisions, that I had options.

[And funnily enough, when I first discussed hypnobirthing with my husband he said something along the lines of ‘you sound like a fucking hippy’ just like Chucks dad!]

The sad fact is, many women these days just don’t know that they have this amazing power inside of them. They are bombarded with people telling them what they can and can’t do, what they should and shouldn’t do.

This covers everything from what to eat, drink, wear, how to lie down, what to put on their skin and hair, basically everything they do.
On top of that there is their antenatal care, which may immediately label them as high risk, and even if not, there is test after test, and with all the tests come niggling worries and ‘what ifs’. It is difficult for medical professionals to treat us like individuals, to take time to explain everything and ensure we have all the information we need to make our own decisions. Often it is easier, in the time allowed, to steer us to a course of action that fits within the hospital trusts guidelines and policies. Add to that the portrayal of birth in the media; as something horrific, scary and painful. TV shows and films mostly still show women lying flat on their backs screaming and swearing.

All of this negativity leads to many pregnant women feeling totally disempowered and ready to hand themselves over to someone else, to let someone else make decisions about their body, about their baby.

I am an individual

It takes a strong person to stand up and say “I am an individual, and I would like to be treated as an individual”.

I have written before about the dangers of ‘going with the flow’ during your labour and how important it is to research your options, find out alternatives, understand the risks and benefits.

Sadly not many women are supported to do this.

So what can you do if you want to take back control of your labour? Well hypnobirthing of course! It will help you discover that, as you plan for the birth of your baby, you don’t need a power broker,

you have your own power!!!


Want to find out more about how hypnobirthing can help you? See www.youmeandbaby.co.uk/hypnobirthing.
[I run monthly group hypnobirthing courses and weekly pregnancy yoga classes in central Cardiff.]

Top 10 alternative forms of pain relief for labour

I recently wrote about the effects of pain relief drugs on mum and baby. Many women say to me that they would like to try giving birth without them if possible, but they worry about how they will cope with the pain. This is exactly how I felt when I was pregnant for the first time. I had no idea if I could do it on my own.

Now, I'm not going to lie and tell you that childbirth is easy or painfree. Because that, my friend, would be a lie! (athough some women do experience an easy, painfree birth but that isn't the experience of most women) It is one of the hardest things a woman will ever do. It is worth remembering though, what is causing the pain so you can keep it in perspective throughout your labour. The pain is mainly from the muscles in your uterus working really hard, and just like when any other muscle in your body works extremely hard, you experience some discomfort and pain. And don't forget, you get a rest in between each contraction :)

So accepting that you will probably experience some pain, here are my top 10 alternative forms of pain relief that will get you through your labour.

1. Hypnobirthing

Obviously this has to be top of my list, mainly for the reason that it is so effective, but also because, on my hypnobirthing course, we discuss all the other options on this list so you will have lots of different tips and tricks up your sleeve that you can bust out on the day.
Hypnobirthing teaches you how to get your body into deep relaxation so that you can work with your body and not fight against it (which causes your muscles to tense up and increase pain sensations).
The 'hypno' in hypnobirthing and the bit that scares some people off....hypnosis is becoming more and more widely used for pain relief in many different settings, and "hypnosis not only has analgesic effects in acute pain, but it also serves to relieve chronic pain such as fibromyalgia, cancer pains, and headaches" [Patterson DR, Jensen MP. Hypnosis and clinical pain. Psychol Bull. 2003;129:495–521.] There are many proven benefits of the use of hypnotherapy for childbirth and one of the main ones is less need for medication. There are no negative side effects, and anyone can learn. Some may take more practice than others but everyone can find it useful. So what's not to love about it?! It is more effective when practiced regularly throughout pregnancy so the earlier you start, the better.

There is a LOT more to my course than this, all of which will help you avoid unnecessary interventions and help your birth go more smoothly.

2. Relaxation

The best way to avoid heightened pain sensations during birth, is to keep your muscles relaxed. This is much easier said than done as for most women, relaxing is pretty difficult at the best of times, let alone when you're trying to birth a baby! But when you are tense, your muscles all tense up (including the muscles of your uterus) and this makes contractions less effective and more painful. So I teach couples some simple relaxation techniques and the more mums practice relaxation in the lead up to the birth, the easier and quicker she will find it to become calm and relaxed in labour.

3. Breathing

Ok so we all know how to breathe, but we don't always breathe as effectively as we could, especially during labour. Deep breathing can have a powerful relaxing effect on the body and again this is something mums should practice as much as possible throughout pregnancy. Deep breathing also helps with my next point......

4. Your natural birthing hormones

Us humans are pretty well evolved! Our bodies are designed to produce a complex cocktail of hormones, some of which help with pain relief. Deep and effective breathing increases the levels of these important hormones so that your sensations of pain become smaller, and you are able to manage the pain more easily. Clever huh?! There are many other things you can do to maximise production of these hormones, all of which you will learn on my course.

5. Yoga

Pregnancy yoga

Practicing yoga throughout your pregnancy has many big benefits. With a good pregnancy yoga teacher, you can learn the importance of pelvic alignment for getting your baby into a good position for birth. You will learn simple ways to keep alignment in your day to day movements, which can also reduce your chances of suffering from Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP), or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) in pregnancy. Having baby in a good position for birth will minimise your pain sensations and reduce the chance of having a longer labour. Yoga will also help you practice the deep breathing as discussed above which has so many benefits throughout pregnancy and in labour. Each of my yoga session ends with a lovely relaxation session to help you practice relaxing each muscle group, and to train your body into relaxing quicker and easier each time.

6. Acupressure and acupuncture

There are a few different acupressure points that can be used during labour, and studies have shown that using acupuncture or acupressure during labour can help relieve labour pain. Acupressure is very accessible to everyone and I teach birth partners which points may be beneficial for you in labour. Again, there are no negative side effects and anyone can learn.

Acupressure

7. Massage

Massage

There are many reasons why massage is beneficial during labour. It can stimulate release of some of those powerful hormones we discussed above. The rhythm of a massage can help with your deep breathing, and can relax your muscles. Massage can also bring you closer to the person massaging you, giving you an increased sense of security and connection, also helping with hormone production. It's great for your birth partner to practice on you during pregnancy too, I mean, who doesn't love a massage ;)

 

8. TENS machine

TENS

An often overlooked option, TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. A TENS machine is a small handheld device with electrode pads that you attach to certain points on your back. The pads emit a small, safe electric current and this reduces the pain signals sent from the spinal cord up to the brain. Many women find TENS very effective, particularly in the early stages of labour. You can hire the units, or buy your own. You, Me & Baby have a unit for clients to borrow, you just need to buy replacement pads. There are no known side effects for either mum or baby, so it's another no brainer to have in your toolbox of tricks to help during labour.

9. Heat and cold

Heat applied to lower abdomen, back, groin or perineum is very soothing and can provide relief from pain. You can use an electric heated pad, hot water bottle or a simple hot compress (a flannel soaked in hot water and wrung out). 

Cold can also provide pain relief, particularly on the lower back, or on the perineum immediately after birth to reduce pain and swelling. You can use a simple ice bag or a frozen wet flannel, a bag of frozen peas or buy special cold gel packs.

It is important to keep yourself comfortably warm throughout labour, as if you get cold, your body will produce adrenaline (that's what makes you shiver), and this will interfere with the other birthing hormones and can therefore increase your pain sensations.

10. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses the healing power of plants with the essential oils to enhance physical and mental wellbeing. The oils may be massaged into the skin, in a bath or inhaled using a steam infusion or burner.  Some women use aromatherapy to relax their body which reduces their sensations of pain. Others use the oils as part of their massage routine (as above). One study carried out in Oxford, showed that women in labour consistently rated aromatherapy as helpful by aiding relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety. The study also showed that women using aromatherapy were less likely to request diamorphine or an epidural for pain relief.  Many midwives are undertaking training in this area so they can use it on women in labour.


So there you have it. An extensive list of alternatives to artificial pain medication. If you would like to learn more about how you can use some or all of these things in your labour, and how they can reduce unnecessary interventions, I run monthly group hypnobirthing courses for you and your birth partner, and weekly pregnancy yoga classes for women. All held in a central Cardiff location. Private sessions can also be arranged. Please contact me for more details.

"Give me all the drugs!"

This is something I hear often when I talk to women about how they are planning to give birth.

I always wonder to myself how much they know about these drugs and the effect they can have on birth, are they making an informed decision?! (yes I know I'm banging on about this again, but its really important!)

Drugs in labour

Pethidine

Do they know that pethidine is a narcotic, the common side effect of which is that it makes mothers vomit. Babies are more likely to be in a poorer physical condition at birth when pethidine has been administered(1), it can cause breathing difficulties in newborns(2) and can negatively impact on a newborn babies ability to breastfeed?(3) It also means baby is more likely to cry, and have difficulty quieting themselves. (4)

Epidural

Epidural

So how about epidural?

These require an anaethetist to administer so can be dependent on availability at the time, but are widely used in the UK.
One study(5) showed that babies born when an epidural was used were far more likely to be admitted into neonatal care, and to stay there for a longer time. And because epidurals can cause a raised temperature in the mother, the babies were 5 times more likely to undergo distressing and invasive tests for sepsis, and twice as likely to be given antibiotics, even though the babies were not more likely to have infection.
Epidurals can cause mothers blood pressure to drop which can restrict blood flow to baby and lead to foetal distress.

"It is interesting how our society is highly critical of women who smoke, drink or take drugs during their pregnancies, but it is totally acceptable to give them far more powerful drugs during their labours without a thought of the possible implications for the baby."(AIMS - Does medication administered to a woman in labour affect the unborn child?)

Now I am not saying no one should use drugs for childbirth, I know many women use them without any adverse affects on them, their baby, or their labour, and they find it a really useful way to cope with labour. I welcome women having a choice, but they must be able to make an informed decision. Many women simply do not know enough about the risks of these drugs, or what their alternative options are, to be able to make an informed decision.

If you would like to learn more about your options for pain relief, and other ways to cope with labour, then you need to book onto my hypnobirthing course!

 

References:

  1. Chamberlain G et al. (1993). Pain and its relief in childbirth, Churchill Livingstone.
  2. Yerby M, (1996). Managing pain in labour - Part 3: pharmacological methods of pain relief, Modern Midwife, May, p22-25.
  3. Ransjo-Arvidson et al., (2001). Maternal analgesia, during labor disturbs newborn behaviour: effects on breastfeeding, temperature, and crying, Birth, 28, pp5-12.
  4. Belsey EM et al., (1981). The influence of maternal analgesia on neonatal behaviour: I. Pethidine. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, April, pp398-406
  5.  Brigham Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 1994-1995

Will my placenta start to fail at 42 weeks?

When a pregnancy reaches 42 weeks, a LOT of pressure is put on a mother and she is expected to make some huge decisions regarding her baby, and in many circumstances, she may not be presented with all the evidence she needs to be making those decisions.

Ticking clock 42 week

I recently discussed the ridiculous origins of your due date, and how crazy it is to be suggesting a myriad of interventions to women based on that one date.

And today I want to discuss your placenta. You may not know much about it, other than it is keeping your baby alive so here are some.....

Interesting facts about your placenta:

  • Your placenta provides your baby with all the nutrients, oxygen and fluids that he or she needs.
  • Although it is often thought of as a mother’s organ, the placenta is formed from the same cells as your baby, so both mum and dad.
  • Your placenta can be blamed (at least in part) for your hormonal rollercoaster! It is acting as a gland and secreting all the important hormones your baby needs to grow and develop, and preparing your body for breastfeeding.
  • Even when you’re chilling out, your placenta is working extremely hard taking blood from your uterus which carries the nutrients your baby needs. No wonder you are so tired all the time!
  • Your placenta is providing all your baby’s oxygen. This is why I tell all the mums at my pregnancy yoga classes “You don’t need to eat for 2, but you need to breathe for 2!”
  • Your placenta is designed to be disposable, it serves its purpose and is then expelled from the body…..and although consuming your placenta has no proven benefits, there are many anecdotal benefits.
 
Photo by treeoflifebirthphotography.com

Photo by treeoflifebirthphotography.com

So now you know how amazing it is, we need to talk about what happens to your placenta at the end of your pregnancy. Some of you may have been told that at 42 weeks, your placenta begins to deteriorate, often called ‘placental insufficiency’.

So what is the evidence for this?

evidence

Nothing more than speculation, an educated guess.

Theories, of course, have their uses and they are what ultimately leads to scientific breakthroughs, but let’s not forget all the theories which have been proven incorrect and are now considered absurd.

A theory should form the basis of further research, to gather evidence that either proves or disproves the assumptions. It shouldn’t form the basis of policies that affect millions of women, when there is no proof!

“There is no evidence that shows a direct correlation between the quality of the placenta, and the length of pregnancy” (1)

“A review of the available evidence indicates that the placenta does not undergo a true aging change during pregnancy. There is, in fact, no logical reason for believing that the placenta, which is a fetal organ, should age while the other fetal organs do not” (2)

This doesn’t mean that placental insufficiency doesn’t exist, but it does mean that you should be treated as an individual. Assuming that all placentas deteriorate at 42 weeks means that lots of women are put through unnecessary intervention, but most importantly it might mean that cases of placental insufficiency prior to 42 weeks are missed because it isn’t expected to happen at that point.
 

What can you do to help your placenta function well?

There is very little evidence in this area, but here are some things you can do which will help blood flow to the placenta and increase oxygen levels for baby:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in nutrients for both you and baby
  • Stop smoking (liaise with your midwife about this)
  • Reduce anxiety and stress with regular relaxation. Yoga and hypnobirthing can help with this.
  • Stay hydrated
  • Massage can help with relaxation and blood circulation
  • Practice deep breathing - again you will learn this on my yoga or hypnobirthing courses
Fresh fruit and veg

One final note

Take responsibility for your birth. Ask questions, demand evidence, get the answers you need to make informed decisions. You are an individual and you deserve to be treated as one.

Kicks count

Always trust your instincts, keep track of your baby’s movements and report anything unusual to your midwife.

Please be aware that there are conditions which may affect placental function such as gestational diabetes(3) so it is important you discuss with your midwife how this will be managed.

References:
1 [Sara Wickham (2016), ‘Post Dates Pregnancy Course’]
2 [Fox H (1997), ‘Aging of the placenta’, published in the British Medical Journal]
3 [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3215769/]

Birth Trauma....are you suffering in silence?

It was with a heavy heart that I decided to undertake the training I recently did in the Rewind technique. It is used for many purposes but I am focusing on the symptoms of PTSD that many women suffer from, following a birth trauma.

I have put it off for a long time, primarily because I want to work with first time mums to prepare them for birth, to help them avoid birth trauma as much as possible. Unfortunately the vast majority of women I meet have already suffered some form of birth trauma before they discover hypnobirthing, and it often requires treatment before they can begin to prepare for their next birth.

Birth trauma is on the rise, and the number of women (& their birth partners) who are suffering is probably a lot higher than reported, as many women don't ever speak about their feelings with a professional. 

Some women may feel that, on paper, their birth wasn't particularly traumatic, but may still be suffering from some of the symptoms of PTSD listed below.

There are many things that can lead to birth trauma, these can include: loss of control, loss of dignity/lack of privacy, not being heard or listened to, high levels of medical intervention, poor postnatal care, emergency delivery, baby requiring a stay in SCBU or NICU, fearing for their own or their baby's life.

If you experienced any of these during your labour, and have since experienced some of the symptoms, then you may be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. The symptoms can include: anxiety, panic attacks, disconnection from baby, loneliness, low mood, sadness, numbness, depression, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, flashbacks, anger, resentment, irritability, difficulty concentrating, avoidance of anything related to the birth (i.e. other babies, hospitals, pregnant women).

You don't have to have been diagnosed formally with PTSD for this treatment to be effective for you. In the majority of cases, people report a significant reduction or complete elimination of PTSD symptoms in only 2 or 3 sessions. Treatment can take place anytime from approx 4 months post birth and  it is just as effective a few months after as it is a few years or more.

Birth Trauma Recovery

Birth is a life changing event for everyone, but when you have suffered a traumatic birth, it can have huge repercussions for your whole family.

If you would like to see how the rewind technique can help you please contact me.

The benefits of my Birthlight pregnancy yoga based classes

The benefits of yoga during pregnancy are well documented. The main benefits are:

  • You learn how to improve your breathing techniques, breathing all the way to your abdomen, working the diaphragm. With the deeper breath, you take in more oxygen which is passed to your baby.
  • You practice relaxation which is extremely important during labour and birth. When you focus your breath, you are able to relax all your muscles, releasing tension. The more you practice this during your pregnancy, the easier your body will find it to relax throughout labour and the birth.
  • You are able to focus on good posture which will alleviate many symptoms often associated with pregnancy such as lower back pain, pelvic discomfort and you will strengthen your core.
  • You will sleep better, and find it easier to fall back to sleep when you wake up at night (with all those middle-of-the-night trips to the loo!)
  • You will reduce stress and anxiety.

What makes Birthlight different?

Not all yoga is beneficial for pregnant women, many practices can be uncomfortable, and even harmful, during pregnancy.

Birthlight pregnancy yoga incorporates carefully selected and long tested classic yoga practices for the specific benefit of you, the pregnant woman. The aim is to enhance your enjoyment of this special time.

Birthlight pregnancy yoga is simple and accessible to all women, regardless of their fitness levels, condition and cultural background. My pregnancy yoga based classes offer social, emotional, psychological and physical awareness of pregnancy, providing good preparation for birth and the postnatal period.

I am trained in using yoga based practices to relieve many specific pregnancy ailments such as SPD/PGP, leg cramps, headaches, heartburn and indigestion, lower and upper back pain, sciatica, and oedema (swelling). I discuss ways to help your baby get into the best position for birth, and we always end with a lovely relaxation session which helps to reduce anxiety and teaches you ways to relax your body during labour.

The biggest difference with Birthlight compared to most other pregnancy yoga classes is that the emphasis is on preparing your body and mind for the birth. We discuss many aspects of birth so you are fully informed and well prepared. We spend time looking at positions and techniques you can use throughout your labour and birth, including ways your birth partner can support you.

My Birthlight pregnancy yoga based classes are a fantastic way to prepare your body for birth and really complement my hypnobirthing course, with many women choosing to take both and finding them both extremely effective.

"Beginning or continuing a moderate course of exercise during pregnancy is associated with positive outcomes for birth" (NICE guidelines 5.10) 

Our first Birthlight pregnancy yoga baby has been born!

One of the mums from my first block of pregnancy yoga classes has given birth!

I was so excited when I read her message telling me how useful she had found our sessions:
"It was a very calm experience and helped along by the breathing we have done in our sessions. The birth positions we did on Monday were AMAZING and I delivered him in the squat position which helped him along the final hurdle. Thank you so much Jenny for your advice and support. I'll miss coming to the sessions"

"I'm so grateful for the birthing session, all the techniques that were suggested I used and made me feel in control."

Huge congratulations, and enjoy this special time with your gorgeous new bundle!

The ridiculous origins of your due date!

Have you ever questioned the accuracy of your due date?

It might not be something you’ve thought about yet, but when you get to the end of your pregnancy, you may suddenly find that a lot of importance is placed on your due date, so it is worth understanding how it is calculated, and how it can affect your birth.

Due Date

I have recently undertaken a fascinating course in this subject and the overall message I have for you, is that there is no evidence backing up the 42 week rule. That is because women are all different, our pregnancies are all different and our babies are all different!!!

Post term pregnancy

It is really important that you are aware of the ridiculous origins of your due date, because once you reach 40 weeks (your due date), you are immediately treated like a ticking time bomb. A lot of women are offered sweeps at 40 weeks (and then at every subsequent appointment). And a lot of women are automatically booked in for induction of labour at 42 weeks. Unfortunately, there isn’t always a proper discussion about this, and what it can mean for you, your birth and your baby.

So a lot of intervention can occur purely based on this due date…..but what if this due date was totally inaccurate, dates back to Ancient Greece, is based on the stars, and has no evidence to back it up?!

Well that is the frustrating truth in all of this.

The current method used to calculate your due date is based on a formula called Naegele’s rule. This takes the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) and adds 280 days to it.

Variations in menstrual cycles
As you already know, our cycle lengths are all different, so if you have a longer cycle than average, you are likely to ovulate, and therefore conceive, later in the cycle. But this is rarely taken into account when you are given your due date. In fact, in a recent study among natural conceptions where the date of ovulation was known, the variation in pregnancy length (even after excluding preterm and complications), was 37 days. That is a huge variation in length and shows that it is absolutely ‘normal’ to have a longer pregnancy.

And where does the 280 days come from?
Well Aristotle was the first person to document that the average pregnancy was 10 lunar months which was then interpreted as 280 days (because a lunar month is 28 days from a fixed point in space). So we’re already on slightly shaky ground because Aristotle wasn’t in a fixed point in space, he was on earth, and lunar months vary depending where on earth you are.

To add even more scepticism to this arbitrary number, there are a couple of researchers who think that Aristotle may have picked this number based on what was astrologically significant in ancient Greece. So it is essentially a number based on the stars!

Aristotle

When you do look at the average length of pregnancy in real women, you find that it is more than the 280 days used in the current calculations, more like 283-288 days.

Research has shown that a woman’s height, age and ethnicity can all influence her baby’s gestational length.

It therefore seems crazy to me that so many women are being induced or told they might need to be induced, based purely on their 'due date', which has been calculated using observations from the Ancient Greeks and takes no account for individuality.
How can we all be treated with broad sweeping policies?

You deserve to be treated as an individual, to be provided with the information to make an informed decision, to trust in your body and your baby.

I work with my clients to help you understand your options, point you in the direction of up to date research, and help you to stay in control of the decisions around your birth.

I run monthly hypnobirthing courses in Cardiff. I also offer private sessions in the comfort of your own home, which can be completely personalised to your circumstances and arranged at a time to suit you.
Included in all my courses are 4 hypnobirthing downloads so you can practice at home all the way up to your birth, a fantastic resource pack with all the important information you need, and email or phone support from me right up until your birth.

Don’t forget to sign up to my newsletter to receive a copy of my ‘Top Tips to prepare for a calm and confident birth’, and have a look at my website for more details on the services I provide.

I look forward to helping you prepare for your calm and confident birth!

Why you shouldn’t ‘go with the flow’ during your birth

I often hear women saying they aren’t going to prepare for birth, they’ll just ‘go with the flow’.

I get that birth can be unpredictable and you may have heard stories from friends or family members whose birth went out of control and they have made you feel like there is no point in planning for your birth. Going with the flow means you haven’t put pressure on yourself to perform, to have the ‘perfect’ birth. It shows that you are totally relaxed about the whole situation and will put your trust in the experts around you and hope that you’ll be ok.

And I get that you don’t know what to expect so you feel there is no option but to go with the flow.

The term ‘go with the flow’ implies that your birth will gently unfold, stage by stage, and there is little that could be done to influence the outcome. You accept any interventions suggested by your support team (midwives/obstetricians/birth partner etc) as inevitable, and assume that every suggestion made is the best option for you and your baby.

What if going with the flow actually means that you hand your birth over to the experts and aren’t even given the chance to consider your other options, to weigh up the risks and benefits of an alternative course of action, and to make an informed choice (which is something I bang on a lot about!)? What if the flow you end up going with is based on a general population and not you as an individual? What if the decisions that are made, are made from a place of fear rather than a place of knowledge?

What if, by going with the flow, you end up disappointed with your birth experience and wish there was something you could have done differently?

What if going with the flow means you are missing opportunities to understand how your body works during labour, missing opportunities to learn how to take control of your birth, missing opportunities for your birth partner to learn simple ways to help you manage your labour and most importantly, missing opportunities to learn how to make your birth different to theirs.

Wouldn’t you rather take control of your birth and understand all the ways you can influence the outcome?

Birth preparation is not about planning for a ‘perfect’ birth (whatever you think that is).

It’s about understanding birth, how you can work with your body instead of fighting against it, all the things you and your birth partner can do to stay in control throughout your labour, whatever direction your birth takes.

So to find out more about how I can help you prepare for your birth using hypnobirthing and Birthlight Pregnancy Yoga then please contact me.

Group courses are relaunching in March!

I'm so pleased to be running my group hypnobirthing courses in Cardiff again. The first course will run on Saturday 11th March 2017 at Cardiff Central Youth Hostel.

The group courses are a great way to learn everything you and your birth partner need to know in order to have a calm and controlled birth, and also to meet others in the same situation. They are a complete antenatal class and a great way to prepare for your positive birth.

Everyone who attends my course can join my facebook group where you can continue chatting, get support and advice, and arrange social get togethers,

Mums, we will work on letting go of any fear and anxiety you have about birth, you will know what to expect and how to stay calm.
Birth partners, I will teach you some really practical skills to help mum stay calm and in control throughout her labour. No more feeling like a spare part!

Some quotes from past clients:
"Jenny has great knowledge and was able to answer and put to bed a lot of fears."
"Loads learned and lots of fun had."
"Jenny was very confident and professional in her approach. Has a very calming and relaxing nature."


Check out the special offers for recommending friends.

If you'd like any more information about the course or any of the special offers, please contact me.

I look forward to speaking to you :)

Think a birth plan is a waste of time? Think again!

"There's no point in writing a birth plan, I'll just go with the flow."

"I'll only be disappointed when things don't go perfectly."

"No one ever reads it anyway."

These are comments I hear frequently when the subject of birth plans comes up and I want to set the record straight.

  • Birth plans are not about planning a perfect birth, and are not setting you up to fail.
     
  • Going with the flow doesn't work if you haven't researched your options and have enough information to make an informed decision. It is important to be flexible, but not to blindly allow other people to lead you down a path which may or may not be appropriate for you.
     
  • The process of researching and writing the birth plan is as important as having anyone else read it. It is important that you and your birth partner/doula are aware of your birth plan and can pass on the information to the midwife or other professionals involved in your care. You can put a copy in your notes and discuss it with your midwife at one of your routine appointments and then explain the key points to the people you deal with during the birth.

So now you have (hopefully) decided that a birth plan is a good idea(!), here are my top tips of what to include:

Pain Relief - Find out what pain relief would be available to you. Understand the benefits and risks of the different types of drugs available. If you would like to try to avoid drugs then think about using hypnobirthing techniques, a birth pool, a tens machine, massage of your lower back from your birth partner (I recommend all 4!)

BIrth position - There are many benefits to an active birth so think about the different positions you can use during birth (I teach lots to couples on my course)

Monitoring - Continuous foetal monitoring (STUDY LINKED TO BY SARA WICKHAM). It can restrict your movements and has not been proven to improve outcomes for mum or baby so question whether you would be happy with this.

Students - especially relevant here in Cardiff as our hospital is a teaching hospital. Are you happy with students to attend? Would you prefer to limit the number of people who attend?

Birth pool - Is there a pool available in your desired place of birth? What are the chances it will be available? If you need to hire one for a home birth you should research availability and prices now. If you are hiring a doula they often provide one as part of their package.

Place of birth - Have you considered all your options? Did you know that you have the right to give birth at home even if it isn't advised? Hospital procedures are based on a population risk and are not specific to your situation. Understand your own personal risk factors and how place of birth can affect this.

Sweeps - A routine procedure often performed on or around your due date and in the subsequent appointments. It is a form of intervention and so you should ensure you understand the procedure and what the purpose of it is. It is entirely your decision as to whether you accept a sweep so don't feel pressured into it, and if your body isn't ready to go into labour, a sweep won't help.

Artificial rupture of the membranes (breaking your waters) - This is performed occasionally to induce or speed up labour. It introduces a risk of infection into the uterus and can lead to further intervention. Discuss the risks and benefits before agreeing to this course of action.

Vaginal examinations - These introduce a risk of infection into the uterus, and can make mum feel tense, interrupting the natural flow of labour. You may wish to reduce the amount of examinations you have, or you may be happy to have them as and when the midwife suggests.

Induction - Did you know that you don't have to be induced at 42 weeks? An alternative would be to have regular monitoring to check on the health of the baby and the placenta. Consider how arbitrary your due date is and understand the risks and benefits of both induction and waiting it out.

Things to have available during labour - music-will you take your own speakers/headphones. Do you want your birthing ball? Things to make you comfortable.

Delivery of the placenta - it is standard for women to be injected with artificial oxytocin to assist with the delivery of the placenta. The alternative is to allow your body to do it naturally. Understand the benefits and risks of a managed 3rd stage.

Interventions - Would you accept the use of forceps or ventouse, both of which carry a significant likihood of an episiotomy.

Skin to skin - It is really important for mum and baby to have as much uninterrupted skin to skin time as possible after the birth. This improves bonding, increases oxytocin levels which will help with the delivery of the placenta, assist with the uterus shrinking back to its original size, reduce blood loss, facilitate breastfeeding.....the benefits are endless! If mum is unable to have skin to skin with baby for whatever reason, then next best is dad.

Delayed cord clamping - this is when the cord isn't cut until it has stopped pulsating, and all the blood has passed back to the baby. It is now standard practice in most areas and has numerous benefits for baby. Even if your baby is born by Caesearean, it is usually still possible to allow the cord to go white before cutting it.

Vitamin K - Are you happy for baby to be given the vitamin K injection? Did you know it is also available orally? Do you understand why it is routinely given?

There is a final tool I would like to make you aware of, and that is your brain :) I always teach the birth partner this as it helps them to remember if they are in a situation where they are being asked to make a decision during the birth:
B - Benefits       What are the benefits of the proposed intervention
R - Risks            What are the risks of the proposed intervention (often you are only told the benefits)
A - Alternatives  What are our alternatives? (often you are led to believe there is only one option when you may feel an alternative is better for your situation.
I - Instincts          Trust your body and your instincts, what is your body telling you?
N - Nothing         What happens if we do nothing/wait another 30 mins? If there is no immediate danger this can give you time to try a different position, try and increase oxytocin production or to have a discussion about the alternatives in a calm manner.