Saturday, 25 October 2014

thinking of having a water birth?

The effect of being submerged in a warm deep bath or pool during labour has a profound effect both on your physical and emotional wellbeing. Add to this the deep relaxation of hypnobirthing and a synergistic labour and birth unfolds. When you relax in a warm deep bath, free from gravity’s pull on your body, with sensory stimulation reduced, your body is less likely to secrete stress-related hormones. One of the other benefits is the production of the pain inhibitors-endorphins, which enhance your feeling of comfort and relaxation. Stress hormones such as Noradrenaline and catecholamines, released during stressful situations are inhibited, as you remain relaxed. Many women, and their midwives acknowledge the analgesic and relaxing effect of water plus hypnobirthing.

An old Chinese proverb describes perfectly the experience of labouring and birthing in water:

"Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water, yet in dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it. The soft overcomes the hard, the gentle overcomes the rigid"
--Te Ching 1021

The Benefits of Waterbirth:

• Being in water facilitates mobility and ease of movement
• May speed up your labour
• Reduces stress and its physiological effects on your body
• Empowers you, with an enhanced feelings of control
• May provide you with significant pain relief and reduce the need for chemical analgesia
• Promotes deep relaxation
• Conserves your energy
• May reduce your requirement for drugs and the need for intervention
• Provides the experience of a private protected space
• Reduces perineal trauma and the need for an episiotomy
• May reduce cesarean section rates
• High level of birth satisfaction for both you and your partner
• Utilizes the skills of your midwife, with higher job satisfaction
• Facilitates an easier birth for you, and a more gentle welcome to the world for your baby

Waterbirth Guidelines:
A joint statement produced by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Royal College of Midwives said that:

‘All healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies at term should have the option of water birth available to them and should be able to proceed to a water birth if they wish.’

If you feel that you would like to explore having a waterbirth, there is plenty of information available both from your community midwife, and other professional protocols and guidelines as below:

Recommendations and Protocols for Waterbirth:
• RCOG and RCM Joint Waterbirth Recommendations
• Guidelines for safe Water use
• Safety recommendations for Pool Use
• Hospital Waterbirth Policy in the UK

Guidelines for having a waterbirth:

In order for the use of water to be as safe and helpful as possible, the following guidelines are suggested. These suggestions are based on protocols from various hospitals and birthing units:

• Getting into the pool too early in labour may relax you too much and stall labour
• It is generally recommended that you are established in labour, and about 5cm dilated before you enter the pool
• Make sure you drink plenty of water whilst you are in the pool to remain hydrated
• The temperature of the pool is monitored hourly to maintain the correct temperature for you and your baby’s wellbeing. This is between 34 and 37 degrees centigrade
• If your labour stalls it may be advisable to get out of the pool for a short while, and try again later
• You may be advised to leave the pool if there is any change in your, or your baby’s condition, such as fetal distress, meconium liquor etc.
• Once the baby has been born it is recommended that your baby is brought to the surface of the water immediately, to allow him/her to take his/her first breath.
• Most units have a policy of delivering the placenta out of the pool. This is because women sometimes feel faint during the third stage of labour and it may be difficult to get out of the water. Most units will have a hoist to help you out.
• Some midwives may also want to deliver the placenta out of water, as the warm water may delay delivery, and also so they can gauge your blood loss more accurately

This list is just a basic guideline, and it is recommended that you check out the protocol for waterbirth in your own birthing unit, and perhaps have a tour of the unit to see the birth pool and the facilities.

In Conclusion

A planned waterbirth can be a wonderful experience for you, and a gentle introduction into the world for your baby. Following a few basic safety rules, should ensure that your experience if a satisfying one for all concerned! Be prepared to change your mind if for some reason you don’t feel comfortable in the water. There is no hard and fast rule to say that you should labour and stay in the water to give birth. Listen to your body and follow your own instincts for your labour and birthing.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Natural ways to stimulate labour when you are overdue

Welcome to my blog on natural ways to stimulate labour when you are overdue. I hope you find it interesting and informative. However, as with all natural therapies it is always advisable to see a qualified practitioner for the best advice for your own individual circumstances.

Once you reach or pass your EDD or estimated date of delivery, it is very tempting to look for ways to induce your labour. However, bear in mind that most babies are not born on their due date and research suggests that term plus eight days is the average for first time mums. After all it is only an estimated due date, your menstrual cycle could be longer than the average twenty-eight days, and there are many other factors to consider too. Babies generally come when they are ready without any need for intervention.

Medical pressure occurs once you have well and truly passed your due date, at approximately 12-14 days post-mature, and you are advised to book in for a medical induction of labour. Frantically you search for more natural methods of stimulating labour, and I have listed the most popular and the most effective natural ways to stimulate your labour below. However, it is advisable to have regular monitoring to make sure all is well for you and your baby during this period of time.

Start with the most simple ways and work your way slowly through them, until you hit the jackpot, or go back to the beginning again! Here is a brief summary of my suggestions for you:

• Relaxation – practice your relaxation techniques and release any remaining fears with your helium balloons, which may be inhibiting the start of your labour. The stress hormones can over-ride your own labour inducing hormones, and prevent the onset of labour.
• Visualisation – spend time visualising your cervix opening slowly just like a beautiful rosebud and your body working in harmony just as nature intended to bring your baby into this world.
• Make love – now this might be the last thing you fancy doing right now, but your partner’s sperm is full of natural prostaglandin, which can stimulate the cervix to ripen. It certainly beats having a prostaglandin pessary inserted vaginally by a midwife or doctor!
• Keep active – Take a walk, and spend some time rocking on your ball to open up your pelvis and make sure your baby is an optimal position for labour and birthing.
• Nipple/clitoral stimulation – if you really can’t manage to make love and even if you do, then having an orgasm and stimulating your nipples or clitoris may help stimulate your hormones if you are ready to go into labour.
• Eat labour inducing foods – many women have found certain foods such as pineapple, eggplant parmesan, and hot spicy vegetable curry have helped kick-start their labour. The jury is out on the pineapple, as you may have to eat more pineapple than any one person could tolerate to get enough bromelain to start labour.
• Evening Primrose Oil – the secret is in one of its components, gamma linolenic acid (GLA) the starting point for the synthesis of hormone-like-compounds called prostaglandins, which stimulate labour. Ideally, these supplements should be taken orally, from about 36 weeks gestation to be most effective. Check with your midwife or doctor to make sure there are not any contraindications health-wise.
• Acupuncture – in Traditional Chinese Medicine, meridians are a series of energy channels that carry ‘qi’ or energy throughout the body. Stimulating these points may help to promote balance within mind and body, release endorphins, block pain receptors to your brain, and increase uterine efficiency during labour. Ideally, you should start these sessions with a qualified professional acupuncturist during your pregnancy rather than waiting until you are overdue.
• Acupressure Points – similar to acupuncture but without the needles! Pressure points on energy meridians specific to labour are stimulated to promote natural labour and enhance close partner involvement in a vital role. Acupressure also may help with the release of natural endorphins, your own natural pain relief during labour. Here is the link for the easy to use free online manual by Debra Betts:
• Reflexology – Reflexology is an ancient skill based on the reflex points on the hands and feet. By applying gentle pressure to certain points on the feet, it will stimulate a response in the corresponding organ or system of your body. Having reflexology may help to stimulate the onset of labour if you are overdue. However, the most benefits occur when you have reflexology during pregnancy to maintain balance and wellbeing.
• Homeopathy – Homeopathic remedies are ideal for pregnant women as they are a gentle yet effective way to stimulate labour, however it is always advisable where possible to contact a homeopath for advice on the most suitable remedy for your individual circumstances. Not only can homeopathy help to stimulate labour, it is an effective way to maintain wellbeing during pregnancy and beyond. For a qualified homeopath contact the Society of Homeopaths.
• Last resort – Castor oil! Take 100mls mixed with orange juice. In a small study of 100 women, over 60% went into labour but all of them felt nauseous. For good reasons this is no longer used as a routine method of induction. It has the same effect as having a curry, but more intense. In other words it stimulates the bowel to empty, and in turn this stimulates contractions. I took it myself when I was young and impatient, but that is the only time in my life I have taken castor oil, and I don’t intend to repeat the experience. However, I did go into labour a few hours later, so it did work!

The best way to avoid induction of labour is to start using complementary therapies in the third trimester from about 36 weeks gestation, which gives them time to become more effective prior to labour and birth.

As with all complementary and natural methods it is always more beneficial to consult a qualified complementary health practitioner and discuss your plans with your midwife. Many natural options are effective if used wisely. They may reduce the need for medical induction, and the cascade of intervention that is inevitable most of the time following this procedure, which leads to a higher rate of assisted births and caesarean section.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Induction of labour

What is induction of labour? And should you be induced routinely when you are overdue? These are some of the topics addressed on this weeks blog.

What is induction of labour?

Induction of labour is a medical intervention, whereby labour is induced by artificial methods. Not to be confused with augmentation (acceleration of labour), which is introduced when labour has stalled or with slow progress.

Induction of labour is increasingly common these days with a more active management approach for post-maturity, social, other non-medical, and medical complications. However, it is important to weigh up the balance between risks and benefits of such a procedure on both you and your baby. Of course it may be a life-saving and necessary procedure on occasion, but the majority of times it is carried out on healthy women who are allegedly post mature.

An EDD or estimated date of delivery is exactly that, an estimate. Every woman and her baby are individuals and therefore if you and your baby are in good health why rush in to interfere with nature? Statistics suggest that most first time women go into labour at approximately forty-one weeks, which is a week overdue, so why the pressure for induction of labour at 12-14 days post-mature? Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that anyone should ignore medical advice when it is based on complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure etc.

If you decide that you want to wait and see if you go into labour naturally, I would also recommend that you have daily monitoring for yourself and your baby with a CTG (cardiotocograph) and, or ultrasound scans to check the placental flow and baby’s well-being. At the end of the day only you and your partner can make the decision whether to go ahead with a medical induction or not. I am a great believer in listening to your own instincts and intuition and acting on them.

How does natural labour differ from induced labour?

The main difference is that your body produces natural oxytocin, which is your love hormone. This hormone has emotional as well as physical effects. It allows you to achieve a euphoric and deeply relaxed state, and aids the release of endorphins (natures own pain relief), as well as regular and rhythmic contractions. With an induction of labour you are given a synthetic oxytocin infusion, which does not stimulate any of the emotional and euphoric benefits of natural oxytocin. Moreover, syntocinon-induced are different from natural contractions, and these differences are more likely to lead to a greater need for analgesia, and also a reduced blood flow to your uterus.

In summary synthetic oxytocin may cause:

• Intense and painful contractions which can come on very quickly therefore not giving your body time to adjust, with the need for more analgesia
• Contractions may be very close together with little respite between to rest and recuperate
• May increase the resting tone of your uterus which can lead overstimulation and fetal distress
• Disrupts the vital hormone balance for labour, birth and early bonding with your baby
• A cascade of intervention such as continuous fetal monitoring, epidurals, and assisted delivery of your baby
• A higher incidence of caesarean section, which is doubled for first time mums
• Higher incidence of haemorrage after your birth

So in conclusion, be prepared to negotiate induction dates with your obstetrician, most are very accommodating especially if you are prepared to have daily monitoring. Finally, listen to any relevant concerns based on medical facts and make your decision based on a combination of fact and gut instincts.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The dangers of wireless radiation on your unborn child

The health of their unborn child is of paramount importance to prospective parents. However, many of us are unaware of the invisible threat from electromagnetic radiation. Protecting your baby from any possible harm is a strong and natural instinct. Every stage of your baby’s development will be affected by the choices you make and the environments in which you live. And those choices you make are at the same time becoming more difficult and more important. The Baby Safe booklet explains how to safeguard your unborn child and your whole family.

To download your copy of this free booklet please go to:

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Where has the year gone? We are now in flaming June and looking forward with optimism to a beautiful summer! Meantime, I wanted to share my blog about belly dancing during pregnancy and how it helps you prepare for labour and childbirth, make new friends and stay fit! Enjoy.

The idea of belly dancing during pregnancy to aid natural childbirth is becoming very popular. Belly dancing has its origins in ancient times from the Middle East, and has spread throughout South East Asia, India, Greece, and has eventually reached the Western world. In the 21st century belly dancing has once again become a popular way to exercise safely during pregnancy.

Similar to yoga, and other forms of exercise, which facilitate the mind, body and spirit connection, belly dancing improves body awareness and encourages a woman to connect deeply with her changing body and her unborn baby. Finally, belly dancing is great fun, makes you feel good, enables you to meet like-minded women and make new friends.

In ancient times dance was an integral part of daily rituals including childbirth. A dance by women for women, belly dancing in its most potent form is a safe and effective dance expression that supports women throughout pregnancy, and helps them to prepare for natural conscious childbirth.

One of the main goals of belly dancing is to allow the woman to work with nature, by moving with and not against the rhythmic surges (contractions), which facilitate childbirth. The primal movements support and nurture a woman’s subconscious instincts and ability to give birth naturally.

Maha Al Musa author of “Dance of the Womb” says that “During labour your womb will open up completely, and you will experience a change in your normal consciousness…this great opening of the womb happens only once or a few times in your life. It is a very deep emotional experience which involves a regression to your most basic and primitive feelings.”

Belly dance is a celebration of the strength and beauty of women, and is a natural way for women to connect with their feminine side, their fertility, sensuality and creative powers of pregnancy and birthing.

The benefits of belly dancing during pregnancy are many fold:

• Increases muscle tone, flexibility and circulation
• Hip movements help to optimize fetal positioning for labour, avoiding a posterior position
• Helps to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
• May reduce tension and anxiety if present
• Helps to improve posture and reduce lower back ache
• Stimulates a deep connection with your amazing body, and your baby
• Enhances self esteem and improves body image
• Focusing on and connecting with your primal brain and the birthing knowledge which lies within

During birthing women need strong, flexible muscles to support and facilitate the progress of childbirth. Belly dancing helps exercise, and strengthen all the muscle groups to enhance optimal fetal positioning, and pelvic girdle movement to aid an easy, natural birth. Good posture and strong thigh muscles enable women to adopt more upright positions without difficulty during their labour and birthing.

As with any exercise program if you have any medical complications or injuries it is advisable to see your doctor before commencing a new form of exercise. Specific guidelines during pregnancy include:

• Good hydration during and after exercise
• Avoid overheating, by exercising in light, loose clothing in a cool, well ventilated room
• Do warm up exercises before any routine
• Do not exercise if you feel unwell or have a fever
• In the second trimester avoid exercises which involve lying flat on your back

If you are new to belly dancing it makes sense to join a class and learn the moves from a teacher of belly dancing specifically for pregnancy. Not only will you learn about the history, moves and sequences for belly dancing, but you will also meet like-minded women.

The amazing Maha Al Musa has written a beautiful book ‘Dance of the Womb’ and is a living testimony to the benefits of belly dancing during childbirth. She has kindly given her permission for me to include her words of wisdom on belly dancing in my book.

See you again soon. If you have any thoughts on topics you would like to see covered in my blog, don't hesitate to get in touch. Amanda

Friday, 28 March 2014

Why Use Hypnobirthing Techniques During Labour

Labour and birth is necessary for all mammals, including human beings as a means to continue our species. So why is the birth experience so varied between different cultures of human beings? Indeed in the Western world, labour and childbirth is considered a painful ordeal to be endured to achieve motherhood. However, in less developed cultures women seem to give birth easily and without undue discomfort and intervention. I believe birthing can be a comfortable, and even a spiritual experience for both mother and baby.

So why do women today want to explore more natural methods of childbirth? Firstly, they want to take back control of their own mind and body. They also want the choice to give birth without undue discomfort, and avoid a cascade of intervention and its common consequences of a more medicalised birth. Modern medicine offers a vast choice of drugs that can be used to control the pain of childbirth, and stimulate labour, but all of them come with side effects of some description to both mother and baby. Of course there is a place for medical intervention in situations when it is necessary, and indeed to save lives. However, the majority of times these could be avoided by a few safe, natural and non-invasive technique such as self-hypnosis, breathing, and maternal positioning in pregnancy and labour.

With knowledge, mental and physical preparation during pregnancy, hypnobirthing can help women to achieve their desire for a more natural and gentle birth for themselves and their baby. Women the world over, are learning to use the power of their minds to achieve deep physical and emotional relaxation, which leads to a reduction in tension and fear. A reduction in tension enables their bodies to perform the primal function of labour and childbirth just as nature intended.

In my antenatal classes my group of prospective parents often say they wish there was a natural, safe and effective analgesia for childbirth. I reassure them that there is indeed such a thing, called hypnotherapy! Hypnosis is safe, non-invasive, nontoxic, and most importantly allows a woman to fully experience the joy of childbirth, without fear or anxiety, and in the majority of cases without discomfort.

I discovered hypnobirthing in 2003, which led to my “eureka moment and increased my determination to offer more choice to women to help them achieve a natural and easy birth without discomfort. In an era of high tech labour and birth, where women no longer believe they can give birth without drugs and technology, I wanted to teach them that all they had to do was relax and trust in their own innate wisdom to give birth.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Fear seems to have a huge impact on women and their experiences of labour and childbirth. My blog today explores this topic. Your feedback is always much appreciated, so do get in touch.

Some stress is good in our life otherwise we wouldn’t have the motivation to get out of bed in the morning! However, too much stress, fear or anxiety has a huge impact on our wellbeing and especially on our birthing body during labour. Stress happens when we feel that we cannot cope with the unknown, or events beyond our control, which result in fear, and a hard-wired reaction to perceived threats for your survival and that of your unborn child. The life coach and author Robert Holden describes it as ‘fear experienced as reality’. It doesn’t matter if the fear is real or perceived our physiological responses are the same, and are known collectively as the ‘fight or flight’ response.

At times of danger, the body’s innate intelligence automatically takes charge by triggering a set of changes that bypass our rational thoughts. Priority is given to the physical functions which are essential to either face our enemy or to flee. To understand why such fear and tension can have a negative impact on labour and childbirth, you must first understand the physiological changes that occur within your body during the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Dr. Grantly Dick-Read observed this effect in the 1920’s and wrote about it in his book, ‘Childbirth without fear’. His theory was called the ‘fear-tension-pain syndrome’ and he found that when fear was missing during labour the body worked efficiently and easily without tension. He became a strong advocate of deep relaxation techniques to promote an easy and pain-free birth.

What is Stress?

Definition: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.

The endocrinologist Hans Selye first used the term ‘stress’ in the 1930s to identify the perceptions and responses of human beings reacting to the challenges of everyday life. Selye divided stress into ‘eustress’ and ‘distress’. Eustress enhances function both mental and physical through different activities. Distress is the result of an alarming experience either real or imagined, which activates an automatic response within the mind and body.

Simply put, stress is an ancient response within our body to get us out of danger. When we think we are in danger (real or perceived) our mind and body is put on red alert which is our ‘flight or fight’ response. All this happens instantly, allowing us to deal with the situation and then return to our natural state of homeostasis (a state of balance). For example, if we are driving along minding our own business and suddenly another car pulls out of a junction in our path within an instant we have taken evasive action and avoided a collision because of this ‘flight or fight’ response. Often for a short while afterwards we feel a bit shaken but gradually our body returns to normal again.

What actually happens to us in a stressful situation? When we are fearful or in a potentially dangerous situation as we perceive it, our body automatically switches on our ‘global alarm system’ and activates survival behaviours, or our ‘flight or fight’ response, activating the sympathetic nervous system (which provides the rapid response to stress) and de-activating the parasympathetic system (balance and harmony).

Once action has been taken and the body is no longer in danger the response to stress is terminated by inhibitory feedback and bodily functions return to homeostasis and harmony (The parasympathetic system is reactivated, digestion etc. returns to normal function).

We don’t need to understand the highly complicated functions of our nervous system to be aware of the effects the ‘flight or fight’ response has on us. I am sure at some time in our lives we have all experienced the symptoms of this ancient survival instinct. So what are the symptoms?

• A rapid heart rate
• Rapid and shallow breathing
• Cold clammy skin
• Dilated pupils
• A rise in blood pressure
• A decrease of blood to non-essential internal organs including the uterus
• A decrease of activity in the digestive system
• An increase in blood sugar levels

So how does Stress affect a woman in labour?

Mother nature in her infinite wisdom designed a complex system of hormones to nurture and support us throughout pregnancy and childbirth. A finely balanced flow of hormones enables women to ‘zone” out’ and focus deep within their maternal body, leaving the physical side of labour and birth to nature. If this natural flow of events is constantly interrupted by stress or other external factors, then the ‘fright and flight’ response kicks in, and disrupts the flow of hormones and labour stalls.

The ambience of the birthing environment is crucial to enable childbirth to flow smoothly without interruption. All mammals need a quiet, dark, tranquil and safe place to give birth with ease. This is essential to allow the intricate flow and balance of hormones to facilitate a gentle and easy birth. In nature all things exist in balance. Therefore, if our stress hormones (catecholamines) are released due to feeling fearful, then automatically our hormone levels will decrease as a survival response. It does not matter whether our fear is real or perceived by us, our body will respond the same. Modern hospital environments with their bright lights, noise and professionals rushing about to fulfill their duties, further exacerbate the fears we bring with us into hospital, absorbed from the media, stories we have heard, previous experience of childbirth etc.

I am a midwife, and believe me all this attention is given with good intent, but has changed drastically over the last 30 years. When I trained we had very little technology available, such as scans, monitors, and epidurals. Midwives used their skill to support women in labour, sat quietly with you during your labour, observed, and waited for the baby to arrive! Patience was a key skill to be mastered!

All this activity in labour wards however well intentioned, is adversely affecting the normal process of labour and childbirth, as the body moves from homeostasis (balance) into a state of stress and high alert activating our primeval response of ‘fight of flight’. The hormones released interfere with, and over-ride the hormones involved in labour, stalling and even stopping labour, as our survival instincts will not allow us to give birth in an unsafe environment!