I decided to write an A to Z of birth, which hopefully covers some key topics women should know in pregnancy. These are only a handful of the topics I could cover. A alone could have been antenatal classes, affirmations, and P has a multitude of birth words to choose from…. placenta, push, partner, pethidine, pessary, pelvis… so if you want to learn about more than what’s in this post, and you’re in or around Bromley, come along to one of my hypnobirthing classes where we cover a wide range of topics from pregnancy to birth.
A-Z of birth
A is for adrenaline
Adrenaline is the hormone that is released when your body feels fear. When you feel afraid, threatened or somewhere unfamiliar, your primal brain, the sympathetic nervous system, triggers freeze, fight or flight mode and secretes adrenaline. What effect does this have on birth and the birthing mother? In early labour, adrenaline can reduce the flow of blood to the uterus in favour of outer extremities, causing your uterus to tense, your heart rate to raise, make you feel anxiety and panic and stall your surges (contractions) and labour.
So how can we reduce the production of adrenaline in labour in order to prevent labour stalling and the resulting interventions such as induction to kick start labour with synthetic oxytocin? We need to switch from the freeze fight or flight state to a calm state. To do this we need quiet, dimmed lights and as little distraction and chatter as possible. There’s lots you can do to help with the natural production of oxytocin to get those surges going. A Hypnobirthing class isn’t just about breathing techniques and hypnosis. Learn about the theory and basics of birth, tactics to aide your body to birth naturally and how you can empower yourself to have a positive experience no matter where you give birth and what the circumstances are.
It does however have a place in birth, and birthing women get a rush of adrenaline at the “transition” phase of labour. Most midwives will tell you a woman transitioning will suddenly start saying she can’t do this, want to get baby out and so on, but the adrenaline actually gives the mother a huge rush of energy which is needed near the end of labour, and helps with the strong contractions needed to birth baby.
B is for Birth partner
Birth partners can be anyone you chose to have at the birth… the dad, your mum, a midwife, a doula, your best friend… but whoever you choose, it’s crucial that they understand how to support you during labour. Just as an unfamiliar hospital ward full of beeping machines and screaming women can cause adrenaline and stall labour, a panicky birth partner pumped full of adrenaline can also have the same effect!
Bringing your birth partner to hypnobirthing classes, so they too understand the basics of birth, what can help and what can hinder a labouring mother, is so important. If your birth partner understands that fluorescent lighting and too much chatter can stop the vital oxytocin that’s needed to progress labour, they can help protect your birth space, advocating on your behalf, ensuring lights are dimmed and that you birth as undisturbed as possible. If they’ve listened to the breathing techniques and relaxation tracks, they can help you through the surges. Plus, bonus points, if they’re up to speed and informed, they’re less likely to feel worried, powerless and panicked (just the same as you!). Hypnobirthing can be a powerful tool in birth, for everyone involved.
C is for Cord clamping
Cord clamping refers to the moment you clamp the umbilical cord, stopping the blood flow from the placenta to the baby. Historically this was done as soon as the baby was born, but we now realise that there are numerous benefits in delaying cord clamping until the blood in the placenta has been transferred to the baby. About 30% of baby’s blood volume is in the placenta at birth. By waiting until the cord stops pulsing and has turned white, this blood is transferred to the baby. Delayed cord clamping can mean higher red blood cells and stem cells in the newborn baby which helps with growth and immunity, and improved iron stores for up to 6 months, which has physical and mental development benefits, and a decrease in anemia. There may be instances where the cord needs to be clamped and cut quickly, such as an emergency, but it’s worth considering putting whether you want delayed cord clamping in your birth plan. More information is available here.
D is for doula
A doula is a companion who supports you (and your partner!) throughout pregnancy and labour. They’re not necessarily medically trained, like a midwife is, but they do train and can register under a professional body. Your doula is there to inform you of your choices, help you with your birth plan, emotionally and physically support you throughout pregnancy and birth, and can advocate on your behalf during labour if you so wish. Unlike midwives, who you may see many of throughout your pregnancy, a doula provides continuous support throughout pregnancy and birth and beyond, and their primary focus is you and your baby. A doula can not perform medical tasks, make decisions for you, should not try to influence your decisions in one direction or pressure you to make particular choices.
Nearing to birth a doula may offer other services such as pregnancy massage, rebozo, mindfulness, reflexology, aromatherapy etc if they’re trained in it. During labour, they may provide support both to your partner (who may be going through this experience for the first time too!) as well as you. They may provide aide in terms of reassurance, protecting your birth space and ensuring your birth plan is followed, you are not unnecessarily disturbed and so on. Some doulas focus on post birth, providing breast feeding support, ensuring the mother is cared for, fed, emotionally and physically supported. They may bring nourishing food, run errands, help with the baby and generally ensure the mother is resting and recovering.
Research is not extensive, but the Cochrane report in 2017, which studied 15,000 women, showed that having continuous support can mean more chance of a vaginal birth and less medical interventions, less need for pain relief, shorter births, less complications, and reduced risk of post partum depression.
With all the money we spend on pregnancy, pregnancy clothes, classes, baby clothes, cots, fancy bouncers, toys, bottles and more, the one thing I can’t advocate to spend money on enough is a doula! One piece of advice that’s stuck with me when I was weighing my options and deciding whether to have a doula or not, is this: you will never ever regret spending the money on a doula, but you may regret not spending it on one. They really can affect and improve your birthing experience in a wonderful wonderful way. You can read more about doulas at www.doula.org.uk
E is for encapsulation
Placenta encapsulation is a process in which the placenta is either steamed and dried or dried as is, and ground and put in to pill form for consumption. The benefits of consuming your placenta are wide ranging, but not widely researched or confirmed. Benefits are said to include improved mood, prevention of baby blues and PND, increased milk supply, reduced bleeding, prevented or treated anaemia to name a few. One study was conducted in 2013 of 189 women concluded that the majority showed no negative effects from consuming their placenta, 40% reported improved mood, and 98% said they would consume their placenta again in subsequent births.
It isn’t without its risks though. Toxins and chemicals pass through the placenta, as well as bacteria due to it not being sterile. Women who smoke, or have certain infections should not consume their placenta. If you do decide to encapsulate your placenta, ensure you use a professional who is trained in encapsulation. Other remedies which can be prepared include tinctures and essence.
Research in to this is available here.
F is for fear tension pain cycle
The fear tension pain cycle was discovered by Grantly Dick-Read in the 1920’s. He noted that women who had no fear of birth felt no pain in labour, and that no other mammals in nature feel pain when giving birth, unless they’re unnaturally observed, in captivity or there is something pathologically wrong. This led him to believe that fear causes a cycle of tension, causing the uterus to tense and contractions to feel painful.
When we feel fear, our primitive response is to trigger adrenaline for fight or flight. This in turn causes muscles to tense in anticipation. Often when muscles are tense, they can be painful. The uterus is literally made up of layers of muscle, and when they tense they do not work as well, causing pain. This then creates more fear, which causes more adrenaline, and so the cycle continues.
Hypnobirthing is a wonderful tool to prevent or break the fear tension pain cycle, by firstly removing the fear of birth by removing the unknown with clear and balanced antenatal information, replacing negative associations of birth with positive ones, and by providing relaxation techniques to stop the fear and tension should a woman begin to feel fearful in labour.
G is for gentle caescarean
Having a Caesarian does not have to be seen as a negative in birth. Sometimes a c section is necessary or preferred. It may be planned/elective or emergency, but there’s plenty you can do to make it a positive experience. If you wish to have a gentle caescarian (also called a family centred caescarian), there’s lots of things you can put down in your birth plan to ask for. You can request a spinal block rather than a general anaesthetic so you’re awake and aware. Your choice of music could be played in the theatre (great if you’re hypnobirthing and there’s specific tracks which you associate with calm and relaxation). You can ask that your arms are free, monitors on your back instead of your front, and your gown open so you can hold baby straight away for skin to skin and breast feeding. You can request the drape lowered so you can see baby born (I’ve even seen instances where mum helps lift baby out, or baby is left to come out with the contractions, mimicking a vaginal birth). You may request delayed cord clamping and delayed weighing and measuring in order to have that vital “golden hour” which promotes prolactin, regulates baby’s breathing and heart rate, and deepens the bond between you both. You could ask for your birth partner to be present, or birth photographer if you’re having one. You can also ask for a vaginal swab to seed baby with your microbiome. A c-section doesn’t have to mean resignation to a medical, clinical birth. It can still be positive, memorable and magical!
Below is a fantastic video describing what a gentle caescarean is.
H is for home birth
I could write a whole post on this (and probably will at some point!) but for now I’ll write a condensed version! A home birth is a much under used option for so many women. Falsely seen as a more riskier option for all, in reality a homebirth is not only a viable option for many women, but it is also statistically just as safe as giving birth in a midwife led unit for low risk pregnancies and second time mothers. A study of 65,000 women, published in 2011, found that risk of complications were the same for second time mums whether giving birth at home, in an obstetric unit or midwife led unit. They were marginally higher at home for first time mums (9.3 adverse outcomes out of 1000 births at home vs 5.3 out of 1000 in obstetric units).
A home birth can enable you to have much more control of your environment, such as keeping the birth space quiet and dark, as well as familiar (promoting the production of vital oxytocin to progress labour naturally), and significantly reduces the instance of needing pain relief, interventions such as instrumental delivery or episiotomy, and Caesarean section. You are given dedicated care with two midwives in attendance, and many trusts will do your midwife appointments at home. And you can change your mind at anytime if you decide you want to transfer to hospital. Speak to your midwife about your options, and your local home birth team. A home birth can be magical!
I is for informed consent
Informed consent is when a woman gives permission for a procedure after being given sufficient information to make an informed decision. In birth, procedures such as vaginal examinations, membrane sweeps and other interventions are NOT compulsory. Consent must be given in order to carry out such procedures, and a woman should use her B.R.A.I.N.S to make an informed decision as to whether to proceed with an intervention or not. B.R.A.I.N.S refers to Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Instinct, Nothing, Smile. A health professional, when asking for consent to a procedure, should provide the woman with information on the benefits, risks and alternatives of the intervention. The woman can listen to her instincts, and can ask what happens if we do nothing. She is entitled to DO nothing. But if she does decide to proceed, it should be after considering her options. An intervention should never be carried out without informed consent if the woman is conscious and capable of making an informed and educated assessment of her options.
J is for joy
Yes joy! Birth doesn’t have to be fear filled, painful and something to “get through”. It can be empowering, euphoric, sensual and filled with joy. How? A hypnobirthing course will put you on the path to a joyful birth, with antenatal information in order to think about your birth plan, and plan for most eventualities in labour, tips and techniques to optimise your birthing environment so that vital oxytocin is flowing and minimise the chance of interventions, relaxation and breathing techniques, and much more. Practice practice practice and plan, and even if your birth takes a different path, it can still be filled with JOY!
K is for vitamin K
Vitamin K prevents haemorrhaging and we are naturally born with very low levels of it. As part of your birth plan, you’ll need to consider whether you wish baby to receive a vitamin K injection, orally, or not at all. vitamin K deficiency is linked to a risk of vitamin K deficiency bleeding in babies. Although the risk of this kind of bleed is rare (1 in 10,000), it can be extremely serious if it occurs. Premature babies, babies delivered instrumentally, who have prolonged jaundice or do not feed well, are at greater risk of vitamin K deficiency bleeds. Breast fed babies are also more at risk of vitamin K deficiency due to breast milk being very low in vitamin K. Formula fed babies are not as at risk due to formula containing high levels of this vitamin. The vitamin K injection is typically administered immediately after birth. The other alternative is oral drops which need to be given at birth, a week later, and at 6 weeks old, although this is not as effective as the injection.
L is for lotus birth
Lotus birth refers to the practice of not cutting the umbilical cord and leaving the placenta attached to the baby until the cord naturally dries and separated from the baby. This can take anywhere from 3-10 days. There’s is little to no research in to the benefits and risks of having a lotus birth, but it is believed by those who support it to be a gentler way to separate baby from the placenta, and reduce risk of infection as the cord is not severed. A lotus birth baby benefits from all the researched and proven benefits of optimal/delayed cord clamping, as all of the blood is passed to the baby. However, leaving the placenta attached may increases infection risks due to the stagnant blood in the placenta. The smell of the placenta as it decays also needs to be masked, usually with herbs and salts. If you are considering a lotus birth, speak to your midwife or consultant.
M is for membrane sweep
A membrane sweep (or sweep and stretch) is an intervention which is used to try and induce labour. Your midwife will place her fingers up inside your vagina and if your cervix has begun to open, will push past this and “sweep” a finger across the opening of the cervix to separate the amniotic sac membrane. The aim of this is to stimulate the production of prostaglandins and oxytocin, two hormones needed to start labour. Your midwife may suggest this if you “go overdue” (I put this in inverted commas as overdue is a loose term given how we calculate a specific due date with varying accuracy!). In some trusts or clinics they may also offer a sweep as you approach your “due date”. It’s important to understand that it is NOT compulsory to have a sweep. That a medical professional should never perform a sweep on you without asking for your consent and informing you of the benefits and risks involved with this intervention. Benefits of course are that it *may* induce labour, decreasing the risk of further interventions to induce you. Risks are that it may also be very uncomfortable, particularly if your cervix is not ready for labour and open. It could cause you to bleed, and it can also introduce bacteria in to your cervix. They may also accidentally break your waters which, if premature, can actually cause longer labour. It is vital to discuss these pros and cons with your midwife before deciding whether to proceed or not, and if you decline, they must adhere to your wishes.
N is for Nourishment
Eating and drinking in labour is so important. Labouring and giving birth involves a whole lot of energy and it’s vital that you keep your energy up with food and drink. You wouldn’t expect a marathon runner to run a marathon dehydrated and starving… a birthing mother is no different! The uterus is a muscle, and just like an athlete’s muscles need carbohydrates and hydration to prevent fatigue, so does your uterus in order to contract and birth your baby. Some hospitals may prefer women not to eat or drink during labour in case they need emergency surgery, but a Cochrane review in 2013 concluded that there were no benefits or risks to restricting low risk women from eating or drinking during labour. Restricting food may result in longer labour due to the mother feeling fatigued. Healthy energy dense snacks and water are perfect to keep your energy up during labour, but if you fancy eating chocolate and guzzling fizzy pop too, go for it! You deserve the treat!
O is for oxytocin
I couldn’t imagine doing anything else for O! Oxytocin is such an important and integral part of birth! If there’s one thing you need to learn about in pregnancy, it’s this magical hormone!
Oxytocin, the hormone of love, is released when you are in a calm, happy state (the rest and digest state which is triggered by your parasympathetic nervous system). It’s responsible for triggering labour, your surges (contractions), softening, thinning and dilating your cervix, bonding with your baby, and the cascade of hormones such as endorphins (responsible for pain relief) and prolactin (needed for breast feeding). You can see why it’s such an essential hormone in order to give birth!
Oxytocin is a shy hormone though! If you feel threatened or fearful, oxytocin production disappears, and instead you enter a freeze, fight or flight state and start producing adrenaline (see A for the side effects of this hormone). There’s lots you can do in pregnancy and labour to get the oxytocin flowing. Hugs, feeling safe and comfortable, sex, low lighting and nipple/clitoral stimulation can all get this vital hormone going!
P is for placenta
The wonderful amazing placenta! This fantastic organ is grown specifically to support your baby. It provides oxygen and nutrients via blood to the baby, filters out waste, and provides everything your baby needs to develop and grow.
When your baby is born and the placenta is no longer needed, you will birth the placenta. This is called the third stage of labour, and can be anything from 10 minutes to an hour or more after baby is born. There are two ways to do this. One is called an active or managed third stage, which involves the midwife clamping the umbilical cord and cutting it and then giving you an injection of artificial oxytocin, which will speed up contractions and birth of the placenta. She will then gently apply pressure on your abdomen and pull the umbilical cord to help the placenta separate and come out. This reduces risk of excessive bleeding or haemorrhaging and speeds up the process, but the use of artificial oxytocin affects the natural production of your own oxytocin and can interfere with breastfeeding. The baby may also not benefit from optimal cord clamping and the additional blood volume that is stored in the placenta due to the cord being cut. There may additionally be a risk of retained placenta if it does not come away from the uterus intact when the midwife pulls it out by the umbilical cord, which means it would need to be surgically removed.
The other form of third stage is a physiological third stage. In a physiological third stage, the mother is left to birth the placenta naturally. The baby can be left attached to the placenta to benefit from optimal cord clamping and allowing the blood in the placenta to be transferred to the baby and all of the benefits that come with this. Skin to skin and immediate breastfeeding will boost the production of oxytocin which will help the uterus to contract and shrink and help the placenta come away from the uterine wall, as well as clamp down on any bleeding from the wound left behind. As there are no artificial hormones, there is no interference with the natural production of oxytocin and lactation and breast feeding. However there may be risk of haemorrhaging if the placenta takes too long to separate and the uterus does not contract sufficiently in order to reduce the size of the wound that the placenta leaves behind. It is important to research your options and decide which type of third stage you wish to have, and detail this in your birth plan.
Q is for quiet
What has peace and quiet got to do with birth? Lots! An undisturbed birth is essential in order to keep the body producing oxytocin, the hormone responsible for triggering and progressing labour. When we birth in a loud, noisy, bright environment, the primal part of our brain tells our bodies that it’s not safe to give birth, we release adrenaline, the uterus tenses, blood supply is diverted away to outer extremities, and labour stalls. A birthing woman needs to be kept in an oxytocin bubble of calm and quiet, to feel relaxed and safe, in order for her body to soften, expand and release, moving baby down the birth canal and opening up the cervix.
R is for rebozo
Rebozo is a length of woven cloth, usually brightly coloured, which originates from Mexico and Guatemala. It is often used in pregnancy and birth for both comfort and optimal positioning of baby for birth.
In pregnancy, rebozo “sifting” or manteada can be used by the birth partner to support and relax the mothers belly, and to move and position baby so that it is head down and in the best position for birth. It can also be used during labour to relax the mother and provide support. Postpartum, the rebozo can be used for the “closing of the bones”, a ceremony which is healing both physically and spiritually.
S is for skin to skin
Skin to skin refers to the practice of placing baby on to the mother (or father’s) chest immediately after birth “skin to skin”. This skin to skin contact in the hours after birth has multiple benefits. It helps baby regulate body temperature, blood sugars, breathing and heart rate. It also minimises separation of mother and baby, and help baby adjust to life outside the womb after spending months close to mum’s heartbeat. It helps establish breast feeding, encouraging self initiated breast feeding, sometimes with baby doing the “breast crawl” literally seeking and moving towards the breast themselves before latching on to feed. Skin to skin contact helps with bonding between mum and baby, and boosts essential oxytocin in mum, which is vital for birthing the placenta, shrinking the uterus, clamping down any bleeding and the production of other hormones needed for milk production. It also helps colonise the baby’s microbiome with beneficial bacteria, essential for baby’s immunity.
Skin to skin is possible after most births, whether vaginal or caesarean, possibly even if you’ve had a general anaesthetic, unless either mother or baby require urgent medical attention.
T is for touch
Birth and touch go hand in hand (excuse the pun!). Feeling safe and calm during labour is vital for oxytocin production (the “love” hormone responsible for processing labour and contractions). During pregnancy, feelings of calm, confidence, relaxation, safety and reassurance can be reinforced in your subconscious using touch as an “anchor”. An anchor is an association between a feeling and something physical. Gestures such as a thumb stroke or a hand squeeze, for example, can be anchored and associated with a phrase or feeling, so that in labour these gestures will bring a feeling of calm or confidence. Listening to a relaxation MP3 whilst stroking the back of your thumb will anchor the feeling of relaxation to the gesture of stroking your thumb. In labour when you feel stressed or worried, stroking your thumb will bring a feeling of relaxation. Repetition daily is important to anchor the gesture to the feeling.
Touch can also be used in other ways to boost oxytocin. Gentle massage, acupressure, aromatherapy oils can all help the mother feel relaxed and help with pain relief.
U is for undisturbed
What is an undisturbed birth? In the natural world, mammals giving birth will find somewhere dark, cosy, safe and quiet. This is so that they can give birth safely away from predators. If they are disturbed, they stop labouring and will move away and find somewhere safer before proceeding to give birth. Ask any zoo keeper what kind of conditions they create for an animal in captivity that’s giving birth and they’ll say the same thing. They don’t disturb the labouring animal. They keep the enclosure dark and quiet and warm. Humans are no different! The primal part of our brains will not trigger the production of oxytocin (the hormone needed to initiate labour, dilate the cervix and start contractions) unless it’s quiet, dark, warm and safe. These are the conditions that are optimal for labour. Unfortunately these conditions are the polar opposite of a busy labour ward, which is likely to have beeping machines, bright fluorescent strip lighting, staff and strangers coming in and out, and women loudly labouring next door. But there are things you can do even in this unfamiliar environment to make it conducive to an undisturbed birth! Ask for the lights to be lowered, or bring battery operated tea lights or twinkle lights. Bring an eye mask to cover your eyes and shield them from the bright lights. Bring headphones so you can listen to relaxation tracks or music and block out noise and disturbances. Put a note on the door asking for minimal interruptions. Bring bed socks and a blanket to “nest” in and keep warm. All of these things will help your body produce natural oxytocin which will help progress labour and avoid interventions or inductions because of a slow or stalling labour.
V is for vaginal examinations
Vaginal examinations are generally considered by most pregnant as routine and something to be endured, but they are not compulsory and a woman should know the benefits and risks of any intervention in pregnancy and birth, including this one. When you near your due date, or if you go in to labour, your midwife may ask to perform a vaginal examination, sometimes routinely every 4 hours, to check how far along your labour is and how baby is presenting (position). She will do this by inserting fingers in to the vagina to feel the cervix and estimate how dilated it is. This can give an idea of how far your labour has progressed. Some women find this reassuring and are keen to find out how far along they are. However, it’s important to know that vaginal examinations do come with risks. If your waters have broken, a vaginal examination can introduce bacteria in to the vagina and cervix and cause infection to you and the baby. Some women find them extremely uncomfortable and even distressing. The act of giving a vaginal examination can also accidentally rupture the membranes and break your waters prematurely. They are also not accurate in assessing progress of labour and are only a view at a point in time. Dilation of the cervix is not linear, and the act of receiving a vaginal examination may stall labour itself, particularly if you find it distressing or upsetting. It also will not estimate how quickly the rest of labour will progress. A vaginal examination should never be used as a condition for pain relief or access to care, such as getting in to the water for a water birth, or as a condition for home birth or entry to a midwife led unit.
Evidence based birth have a great video explaining the pros and cons of these checks.
W is for water
Water is a brilliant natural pain relief in labour. During labour, sitting or relaxing in warm water, either a birthing pool or a bath, can help with coping with surges. The support of the water and the feeling of being weightless can additionally be a relief. A birthing pool can be filled with warm water either at home or at a midwife led unit, and the woman can labour and give birth in the water, or choose to get out and birth out of the water if she wishes.
There is evidence that labouring in water reduces the need for pain relief such as epidurals or spinal blocks, there is less risk of tearing or risk of episiotomy, less use of artificial oxytocin to progress labour, and that it also shortens the second stage of labour. It also may boost natural oxytocin levels, relaxing the woman. Monitoring if needed can be done in the pool using a doppler, so as not to disturb the woman by making her get out of the pool. It encourages hands off delivery, meaning midwives do not touch the baby’s head or mother’s perineum during delivery, leaving the mother to be the first to touch and hold her baby. Any intervention or interruption requires consent from the mother, as she is inaccessible and in the pool, which may be beneficial in having a more undisturbed birth. There is also evidence that women who labour and birth in water have a more positive experience in general.
X is for explanation
Ok ok I know this one is a bit of a stretch… but asking for an explanation in pregnancy and labour is SO important! Throughout pregnancy and birth, health professionals will offer (and sometimes assert or assume!) procedures and interventions, such as a sweep, a vaginal examination, induction using synthetic oxytocin etc. These are offered with good intentions, but it’s always important to ensure you are informed of WHY an intervention is being offered. In the course I teach, I suggest a woman uses the analogy B.R.A.I.N.S to assess whether to go ahead with an intervention or not. This stands for:
What are the BENEFITS? Your midwife or obstetrician should inform you of the benefits of the intervention they are suggesting. Ask if these are based on research. If so, can they give you the link.
Are there any RISKS? As above, they should also explain the risks, and what research these risks are based on?
What are the ALTERNATIVES? Ask them to explain what alternatives there are to the intervention they are suggesting.
What does your INTUITION tell you? Trust your gut and listen to the voice in your head!
What if we do NOTHING? If the answer is nothing, then question whether the intervention is really necessary. If the answer is something more immediate and serious, weigh your options.
Smile! The S can also stand for SECOND OPINION. You are perfectly within your rights to go away and ask for a second opinion and have time to think.
Remember that it is ultimately YOUR decision. With things like induction, even NICE guidelines state that it is a woman’s choice whether to go ahead and a woman’s choice not to should be respected. Never be coerced or scaremongered in to a procedure. This analogy gives you the tools to rationally assess whether an intervention is in the best interests of you and your baby.
Y is for yoga
Yoga has many benefits throughout pregnancy and labour. In pregnancy it can help tone muscles needed in labour, help you to stay calm, help with sleep, as well as relax mother. Its been proven to reduce stress and anxiety in pregnancy. It’s great for pregnancy back pain and breathing exercises learnt can be used in labour too. There’s also evidence that yoga can reduce the need for pain relief in labour, as well as have a positive effect on mother and baby in high risk pregnancies.
Z is for zen
Achieving a stress free pregnancy and birth can be difficult when we’re worrying about due dates, where and when to give birth, getting the nursery ready, listening to everyone else’s opinions and stories about labour… but distancing yourself from sources of anxiety and trying to be calm and relaxed is important! Stress and anxiety affect labour negatively in a multitude of ways (see A for adrenaline and F for fear tension pain cycle). Self care is a must. Surround yourself with like minded people. Saturate yourself with positive birth stories and affirmations. Take up suitable light exercise classes, treat yourself to a pregnancy massage, do yoga. Go on dates with your other half! Practice breathing and mindfulness exercises. Connect and bond with your baby as it grows inside you.
Preparation is key to avoid anxiety around the birth. Discuss and prepare your birth plan with your birth partner. Research your options so you’re making good, informed choices. Feel free to direct anyone who questions those choices to research, but don’t feel you have to justify your choices. It’s your body and your baby. Most of all, be kind to yourself and trust in the choices and plans you make for you and your baby.
So that concludes my A to Z of birth! There’s a million other topics I could cover, and I may write another A to Z to cover some of the important ones I didn’t detail in this post, but if you’re in Bromley and want to find out more about your choices in birth, get in touch!