Please stop telling me I’m brave!

Whenever someone asks me where I’m going to give birth and I tell them I am having a home birth, the majority of people respond by telling me how brave I am.

But to me that implies that I’m taking a risk, risking my safety or that of my baby. Why else would it be brave to birth at home?
And I guess that is what the vast majority of society think. That birth is risky and it’s better to be in hospital in case anything goes wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, birth is risky, as is EVERYTHING in life! I take a risk every single day by driving my car or crossing the road. I make decisions when taking everyday actions to reduce my risks, and I accept the remaining risk as part of life.

In the same way, I will make decisions about all the things I can do to help reduce the risks of giving birth, and I will accept the remaining risk (as I would no matter where I chose to give birth).

I am educated and informed. I know that the statistics prove that I am just as safe at home, as I would be in a birth centre. And in fact I am safer at home than a delivery suite/obstetric unit.

I understand the process of birth.
I know what will be going on inside my body, and I know all the ways in which I can influence my birth to go as smoothly as possible.
I will have my birth partner(s) to support me, to help me stay calm and relaxed and they will use all the tools I’ve taught them to help me if I start to freak out!

I’m not saying that homebirth is the right choice for everyone, it doesn’t matter to me where you plan to give birth, I can help you.

If you don’t know much about labour, how your body will work in labour, and how you can help the birth process then you need to attend my hypnobirthing course. I will teach you everything you need to know.

And this isn’t about a 'perfect' birth. This is about a positive birth. One where you feel in control. One where you make the decisions. One where you aren’t left traumatised.

If you are currently pregnant and freaking out about the thought of giving birth then I would love to chat to you about the ways I can help, and the options you have available to you.

Induction, or no induction, that is the question

I have just been reading some threads in local facebook groups, and also in a national forum where women were being asked for opinions about the information given before and during the induction process.

It made for very sad reading. There was post after post about the bad experiences women had suffered. There were different issues that came up in the various birth stories and comments, but there was one common theme…..that the vast majority of women had not been provided with sufficient information to make such an important decision. That they hadn’t been given the full picture, that they felt let down and frustrated in a system that doesn’t treat women as individuals. Most of them didn’t have the knowledge to cope with the intensity of induced labour and felt like they had failed.

Induction isn’t the bad guy
Now I want to make it clear from the outset that I am not against induction at all. When needed it can save lives. And more importantly, induction can be a positive experience (more about that in a minute) BUT the rates of induction are rising rapidly (1 in 3 births are now induced), as are the number of women suffering from birth trauma, so it is vital that women are aware of the issues and that they have sufficient education and knowledge to make INFORMED DECISIONS (something I bang on about all the time!). Induction isn’t the only option.

So what are the issues surrounding induction?
The issues surrounding the increasing intervention rates are complex and there is no black or white answer to any of this, but what we do know is that the rise in intervention is not leading to better outcomes for mums and babies, and the World Health Organisation is trying to reduce intervention rates back down to what has been agreed as the optimum level.
We know that induction can increase the risks of other interventions which is one of the main pieces of information women are not told about.

And most importantly, there are often other options which many women aren’t even told about.

Why induce?
There are a few reasons why induction may be suggested, here are some of them.

Going past your estimated due date
If your waters break before labour starts
If your baby is suspected to be large
If you have gestational diabetes
If you are pregnant with twins
If you are classed as an older first time mother

There may be other situations as well and each different reason requires in depth discussion and investigation. I don’t have time to be able to do that in this blog, and your decision must be based on your personal circumstances so I recommend booking an appointment with your consultant, or a consultant midwife, to find out all the information you need to make an informed decision. I will focus on the most common reason for induction which is going past your estimated due date.

What do you mean by informed decision
It means you need to find out the benefits of having the induction (for both you and baby) alongside the benefits of any alternatives. The same for risks of induction vs risks of any alternative. What all the alternatives are. And don’t be rushed into making a decision. Most cases of induction are not emergencies so there should be no reason why you can’t take another day to think about, discuss it with people around you, do your own research and don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion if you feel you aren’t getting all the answers you need, or if you feel you aren’t being supported in your decision.

Overdue?
One of the most common reasons induction is recommended is because a woman has gone ‘overdue’ (to understand why I use quotation marks please read 'the ridiculous origins of your due date'), you should be told about your other options at that stage….mainly that you can choose not to be induced. You can take a wait and see approach and have additional monitoring. You can take it day by day. Women are often treated like a ticking time bomb once their pregnancy reaches 41/42 weeks which is so ridiculous. Our body doesn’t suddenly stop working properly once we get to 42 weeks. And who can measure exactly when 42 weeks is anyway. Maybe your cycle was longer than average. Maybe you ovulated later than usual. A scan can not 100% accurately predict the day your baby was conceived, and even if it could, all babies and mothers are different and we won’t all grow our babies to the exact same gestation.

Where can I get information to help me with my decision?
You can read reliable, unbiased information at Evidence Based Birth
And the best place to get support and advice is AIMS (association for improvements in maternity services)
I also have a variety of books published by AIMS that contain valuable information and advice and these are available to borrow.

I think induction is right for me, how can I make it a positive experience?
See my top tips for a positive induction.
I work with all my clients to help them navigate their options, to gather all the information they need, and to help them understand how to have a positive induction. 

Are you put off by the 'hypno' in hypnobirthing?

Well there really is no need.

Perhaps it conjours up images of dodgy entertainers on holiday or TV shows, or someone waving a watch in front of your face?

Maybe you're worried about being under someone else's control? Being made to do something stupid?

Or perhaps it's just that you think it's all a load of rubbish and wouldn't work on you?

Well I can reassure you that none of that is true!

The 'hypno' in hypnobirthing simply refers to a natural state that we all experience many times a day. A bit like a daydream, where you mind wanders.

And there are a few reasons it is so beneficial:

1) You can learn how to relax your body so that it can do what it needs to do without you tensing up and fighting it.

2) You can reprogramme your mind to respond in a positive way to your contractions or the thing that causes you anxiety or fear.

3) Relaxation is absolutely vital during pregnancy. It will help your baby get maximum levels of nutrients and oxygen because you will have more effective breathing and better blood flow. Hypnobirthing means you spend time relaxing frequently, and also increases the time you spend bonding with your baby.

4) The techniques you learn will help you recover more quickly after the birth, and give you vital coping mechanisms for your new life as a mum

Everyone can learn how to enter this deep state of relaxation, the more practice, the better.

During my one day hypnobirthing course, I won't be waving my stopwatch in your face, I will just teach you simple but effective ways to deeply relax. There is nothing sinister about it, I’m not putting you under my control, or anyone elses. You are in charge at all times and the purpose of the course is to teach you how to relax yourself. You will listen to hypnobirthing tracks as often as possible to really train your body to be able to relax more easily and more quickly so that by the time you go into labour, your body will relax to allow your uterus and cervix do what they need to do to allow your baby to be born.

And it’s not all relaxation, you’ll also get all the antenatal information you need, practical tools and techniques to help you cope with your contractions, and to be able to make any difficult decisions that may arise during pregnancy or labours so that no matter which direction your birth takes you, you remain calm and in control, and I’ll be here to support you through it all.

Check out upcoming course dates and early bird offers here.

Birth doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’ to be positive!

When I was pregnant for the first time in 2013, I was petrified of giving birth. I couldn’t get my head around the fact I had to get this little human being out from my body! I was so worried about being totally out of control, and I was really scared about the pain.

So I was eternally grateful that I came across hypnobirthing early on in my pregnancy. I began to research it, and the more I found out about it, the more I wanted to try it. I read so many lovely, positive stories and once my husband and I had taken our hypnobirthing course, I allowed myself to believe that I would have one of those perfect births that I’d read about where I would be serene and calm throughout the whole thing, and my baby would just glide out of me.

I had so many people around me basically laughing whenever I said I was going to be using hypnobirthing for labour and that I was planning on not having any medication. It felt like everyone around me was waiting for me to ‘fail’ so they could say ‘I told you so’.  But the more I learnt, the more confident I became that I could have a good experience. I was so excited to give birth to use all the tools and techniques we’d learnt.

But as I’ve written about before, my birth was far from ‘perfect’ and, initially, I did feel like I’d failed.

It had all seemed so black and white before I gave birth. I was either going to have a ‘perfect hypnobirth’ or I was going to lose it, be screaming in pain, have loads of intervention and a terrible time.

Until I gave birth for myself, I didn’t realise that you didn’t have to have a ‘perfect’ birth to have a positive birth.

I got so hung up on the fact that I hadn't had a 'perfect' birth, that I hadn't realised just how positive my experience had been. It was only when I went on to meet loads of new mums who had not had a good time at all, who hadn’t really understood what had happened to them, who felt really disappointed in the whole thing, some even traumatised by their experience that I realised the true power of hypnobirthing. It was in those first few weeks as a new mum that I knew I had to spread the message to as many women as possible that there is a better way to prepare for birth.

Now I teach a hypnobirthing course I have written myself and I am always totally honest with my clients about my imperfect but positive and empowering births. We discuss what might happen to throw your birth off track and all the things you can do to manage if that happens.

And it's not to say that you won't have a perfect birth, many of my clients describe their births as just that. But it means you will be prepared even if it isn't perfect, and you will still come away feeling positive about your baby's birth, a day you will remember for the rest of your life.

So if you would like to find out more, call me for a free chat to find out how I can help you, or book your place on my group course.

What have scary movies got to do with birth?

As it's Halloween I thought it is a good day to talk about fear, the effect it has on our body and how it can interfere with your birth.

Have you ever watched a scary film and when something scary happens on screen, it makes you jump. Your heart beats faster, your breathing becomes short and fast, you may even get sweaty palms. You can feel your heart thumping for a little while afterwards.

Your body went into fight or flight mode and produced an adrenaline rush which caused all those physical symptoms....but you were never in any danger. You were safe and sound in your house, or the cinema. 

Your mind was tricked into thinking you were in danger and got ready to fight the danger head on, or to run away from it.

So what happens if you go into labour full of fear? When your body produces adrenaline and you go into fight or flight mode?

Well it can interfere in so many ways, here I'm just explaining the 2 most important ones to be aware of.

Firstly, the adrenaline can cause your blood to flow away from your core, to your limbs. Away from your uterus, away from your placenta, away from your baby. This is one of the causes of foetal distress and is often what leads to medical intervention which could so easily have been prevented.

Secondly, the adrenaline interferes with the levels of all your other important birthing hormones and this can slow labour down, can cause you to feel more pain and all of this will often lead to medical intervention, again usually easily prevented.

So what can you do about fear?

Well this is one of the biggest differences between hypnobirthing and other antenatal preparation. You will deal with your fears in advance of labour and learn ways to manage it so that it doesn't impact your birth experience.

Each course I teach is personalised to your particular circumstances, to your particular fears and concerns. And I'm always here for you if anything else comes up after the course. I'm here to support you throughout the rest of your pregnancy.

There is just 1 space left for the next group course on Saturday, and December is booking up fast so nab your place before someone else does. head here to book 

Do you hate the thought of being out of control?

Are you a control freak, a planner?

Do you often spend hours researching things?

Do you take control of decisions and schedules?

Do you like to plan every aspect of your life?

How about now you’re pregnant? Do you feel like things are happening that you have no control over? And when you think about giving birth, how does it make you feel?

Do you feel frightened? Do you have any idea what to expect?

Perhaps you have had friends and family members tell you their horror stories about their births which went on for days, which involved lots of medical interventions such as induction, forceps or emergency caesarean section, which were horrible experiences.

Perhaps you’ve been told there is no point in preparing for birth. Perhaps the people around you think you should just take all the drugs and not try to think about it too much.

You worry about how you will react during labour, will you cope? Will you be screaming in pain? Will your partner support you, will they be involved enough?

You need some way of taking back control, you want to understand what you will be going through and learn some ways to help you to cope with the pain, and you want to try and avoid unnecessary medical intervention.

If any of this describes how you are feeling then you really need to book onto my hypnobirthing course! I will help you regain control. I will teach you what your body will be doing during labour, and how you can work with it to make things go as smoothly as possible, rather than fighting against it, tensing up and feeling unable to cope.

You will come away with a new sense of confidence in your ability to birth your baby. You will feel excited and looking forward to the day you meet your baby.

I’ll give your birth partner all the information and tools they need to fully support you, so you can work together as a team to welcome your baby into the world.

Don’t just ‘go with the flow’. Don’t allow others to take control of your birth. Don’t have a birth partner who doesn’t have a clue how to help you.

Take control of your birth. And let me help guide you on your journey into motherhood. I am here for you. I will support you and help you understand your options. I have got your back, so you can get on with growing that gorgeous human being inside you and enjoy this amazing experience.

I have only one space left for Novembers group course, and am taking bookings for December and January now so don’t leave it until it’s too late. As soon as you book, you will get your first hypnobirthing track to start listening to, to start training your body and mind to relax, to enjoy time bonding with your baby, taking time out from your busy life to focus on your baby and the birth.

And I am here for you every step of the way.

To book your place, go here>>>>

www.youmeandbaby.co.uk/bookgroupcourse

Cardiff Baby and Toddler Show 2017

I am so excited to be exhibiting at the Cardiff Baby & Toddler Show this weekend!

If you are wondering WTF hypnobirthing is all about.... 
If you are scared about birthing the tiny human you are growing in your uterus.... 
If you want to take control of your birth experience... 

then you need to come and see me. I will be available to chat to you throughout the day on my stand, and I am also doing a talk at 3pm during which I will tell you

- WTF this hypnobirthing shit is all about, 
- Why I bang on about it all the time, 
- How you can get a super special offer
AND
- I will teach you a really useful technique to teach your birth partner which will help get you through your contractions :)

I also have a very special show offer for anyone who books their hypnobirthing course on the day - a massive 25% off the group course, and a goody bag to take away.

So if you are wondering how you can prepare for your labour, how you can learn to stay calm and in control throughout your birth, then come and see me to book your place on the next course :)

If you are unable to make the show but really want to book the course this weekend, contact me and I may have a cheeky offer for you as well!

Can I decline vaginal examinations during labour?

Just like all other decisions throughout your pregnancy and birth, it is up to YOU. You have the option to accept vaginal examinations. You have the option to decline vaginal examinations. You have the option to just have an examination at a particular point in your labour if you really want to find out how dilated you are.

But why wouldn’t I want to have internal examinations, why would I decline.

Well the choice is always a personal one and one that needs to be made in the moment. It should ALWAYS be something that your midwife gains your consent for.

Reasons for potentially declining internal examinations:

Well, firstly, it is worth noting that cervical examinations can interfere in the natural birth process, and that they are only ever really a snapshot in time, they aren’t a predictor of what has happened, or what is going to happen. i.e. if you find out after hours of intense labour that you are only 2-3cm, that can impact on your confidence, on your anxiety and can interfere with your hormones which can then slow down progress because you think you are going to be in labour for hours. But if you weren’t interfered with, your labour may have progressed much quicker from that point. It isn’t an indicator of how your labour is going to go. Conversely, you may be examined and find out that you are 7-8cm progressed and think it’s nearly over, but could then slow down and take a lot longer. Knowing how dilated you are doesn’t really help you progress.

Secondly, vaginal examinations can be really uncomfortable. It isn’t usually pleasant having a strangers hands rummaging around your most intimate area.

Thirdly, cervical examinations can lead to accidental rupture of your membranes which can have a knock on effect on the rest of your labour and could lead to unnecessary interventions.

And lastly, they can introduce a risk of infection, and if your waters have broken early in labour, it is advisable to avoid internal examinations altogether so as to minimise the risk of infection.

But how will the midwife or me know how far progressed I am?

Well a skilled and experienced midwife will be able to assess your progress using other observations:

1.    ‘The Purple Line’ or ‘The Bottom Line’. This is a purple line that appears on a labouring women and runs up the natal cleft (aka the bum crack!) The more dilated she is, the higher the line goes. Studies have shown this line to be present in approx. 80% of non induced labours. It usually shows up at around 3-4cm, is at its strongest around 7-8cm and then seems to fade at almost full dilation. So it is a good sign for your birth support team to watch out for.

2.    Your emotions. You may not always notice the change in your demeanour as your progress through labour, but those around you most certainly will. I definitely felt the change myself as I progressed, much more focused and unable to concentrate on anything else. On my hypnobirthing course, we discuss the distinct emotional stages most women go through, and this is really good for the birth partner to understand so they can also assess your progress.

3.    The sounds you make. Many women are able to control the sounds they make in the early stages of labour, and will usually be laughing and joking, going about their normal business. But as things progress, many women will be unable to stop themselves making very instinctive sounds more like groaning and moaning. This can be a sign that things have progressed, and then as the woman reaches full dilation she may quieten and not make much noise at all.

All these different observations can show how your labour is progressing, so you see it really isn’t necessary to have examinations if you choose not to.

If you’d like to learn more about the stages of labour, how you can tap into your natural birthing instincts, all the things you can do to stay calm and in control at each stage then you need to book onto my hypnobirthing course. Group sessions run once a month, on a Saturday. I also offer private sessions in the comfort of your own home. 

 

 

 

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.