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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Couples Workshop

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

There is a couples workshop scheduled for Tuesday Nov 4th between 7.30-9.30. The cost of the course is £40 per couple and includes a booklet and drinks/nibbles etc. It is always a very relaxed but very popular affair, and especially good for partners as they come away with a real sense as to how they can be of greatest benefit during labour and crucially an understanding of the physiology of birth.

If you are interested, please pick up a bookings form in the next class of email me on

Birth and Bonding

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Finally there is research to support what many instinctively felt, and others convincingly wrote about- that natural birth helps the bonding process.

Bonding in human beings is a complex process- partly instinctive and partly an acquired skill. Scientific research has shown that simple exposure to children can increase maternal feelings and capacity in a mother, and it is thanks to this multi-layered bonding in humans that mothers who adopt children can become very bonded to them. Similarly women who are not able to have a natural birth, for one reason or another, should not be alarmed. But our desire not to alarm should not cause a muddying of facts. For women to make informed choices regarding birth, when choice is available to them, they must understand the process and physiology of birth and its implications. Uninformed choices are not real choices.

At the point of birth a mother and her child, are literally flooded with hormones, the main one being oxytocin or the love hormone. This hormone helps to make the mother more reponsive to the child and vice versa, helping to create the foundations for a strong bond or attachment betwen them. For those that have a natural birth this a wonderful advantage of the process and one not to be ignored. It is not to say that mothers with intervention will not bond, but that it might take a little longer or prove a little more difficul and so they should simply be prepared for this. Equally, mothers who have had natural births should not necessarily expect to feel an immediate rush of love. Whilst many women who have a natural birth describe the love they feel for their child like an irrational onslaught, it is equally the case that many take their time despite the hormonal help. Bu like all things in life, if we can lay the appropriate foundations, it is going to make things an awful lot easier. At a time when family breakdown and teenage epidemics abound, the attachment between mother and child is ever more important. Psychologists can now point to direct links between early attachments and later mental health and resilience. Instead of brushing valid information under the carpet so as not to offend, it is essential that we bring information to light, to enable and encourage women to make choices that will be of great benefit to both them in their offspring, and not simply in the short term.

Birth Stories

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Why is it that when you announce that you are to have your appendix out, or a wisdom tooth pulled, everyone rallies around you with mutterings of support and casual ‘You’ll be all right’s, yet upon announcing that you are pregnant, you get relayed nothing but birth horror stories? Thirty-six hour labours, forceps deliveries, emergency dashes to the hospital. And turn on the television and any birth scene is depicted as traumatic, terrifying and torturous. If, as the writer Ben Okri says, nations are the stories that they tell themselves, is it any wonder that as few as 3% of births in this country are truly natural? Are stories of birth as at best an ordeal to be endured self- fulfilling prophecies? Is it possible that by continuously feeding ourselves stories of difficulty, we create the very thing we fear? Fear is one of the biggest impediments to labour and the more fear we cast, the more we make birth difficult for women. In many cultures, long births are unheard of and women never speak of the pain of labour. We need to recognise the extent to which birth is culturally conditioned and instead of simply accepting the stories, search a little deeper. When you try, it is equally not so difficult to find good, even amazing stories. Many many a woman has said to me that giving birth was simply the most extraordinary thing she had ever done and that she marvelled at her capacity to cope. These are the voices that need heard.

Buddhabellies in The Green Parent

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

The current issue of Green Parent Magazine has a Birth and Pregnancy Special packed full of some lovely articles. Buddhabellies also features in the form of an article on Yoga and Pregnancy so take a look


Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

I am interested in collecting pictures of women in labour- but not conventional, fully naked ones- but rather a series of pictures of a woman’s face in labour, to track and record her experience, and in doing so attempt to create an emotional map of labour. If anywone is willing to have their partner take subtle an unobtrusive photos of the birth, will you contact me by email

I will of course pay for the photos and will give a free sling to anyone generous enough to share their experience with me. I think it will be  a wonderful exercise and something that will be lovely to be a part of. It might also be a wonderful record of your own experience in years to come.

Just an additional note to anyone who would like to be part of this endeavour. It is of utmost importance that a woman does not feel observed or disturbed in the process of labour. Many women can be subtly photographed without it being an impediment to labour but it is essential that the recording of the birth be done subtly and sensitively so as to not impact on it in any way. As the photographer, choosing your moment and making sure that the mother is okay with the process throughout is essential. I would rather someone have a happy birth with no photos to show for it if that is necessary.

A helping hand

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

When dolphins give birth, the mother is surrounded by a small group of females who swim in circles around her whilst she births her calf. A little further away, the rest of the pod’s female contingency form another circle, and then outside of them, the males provide a final protective layer. In this way the whole community works to protect the mother, providing a safe place for her to give birth. They have not been taught this but know from instinct that birth requires a female to be protected.

Human mothers need the same treatment, yet all too often this is sadly lacking. Instead of forming a protective circle, a labouring woman is often subject to overt scrutiny, surrounded by an army of strangers all trying to control her experience. Instead of feeling private and secure as she should do, a woman often feels observed and unsupported, with machines left to do the work that should be undertaken by a loving birth partner.

Yet as so often is the case, science proves animal instinct right. We are, for the purposes of birth, less removed from our mammalian roots than we think. Studies show that if a woman is continually cared for by someone - even a stranger- her birth tends to be shorter ( often up to 25% shorter), she has significantly less need for pain relief, her chances of having a caesarean are dramatically reduced ( in 7 trials by 60%) and her experience of labour is much more positive. Additionally, babies tend to be born in better condition, success at breastfeeding is higher and bonding is improved.

For many women, the baby’s father is the perfect birth partner. He can act as the buffer between a woman and her environment, shielding her physically and emotionally so that she can lose herself to the process of birth. It is also an extraordinary time for a man, whi is becoming a father and many men truly want to be by their partner and babies side. But just because our culture now expects fathers to be there, doesn’t mean that they are the only option, nor that they should be. All too often a reticent father is in the delivery room when he would rather be in the pub! And a reticent father is worse than no one at all.

If a father is unsure that he wants to be there, or even if a couple simply feels the need for extra support then a doula is a wonderful option. Doula’s are experienced and qualified birth partners who stay by the woman’s side throughout the entirety of her birth. They can work in any environment - birth, home or both- and have the necessary experience and understanding to make a fundamental difference to a woman’s experience of labour. She needn’t take a father’s place, but can be alongside him, freeing him up from responsibility and allowing him to simply be a part of the process of becoming a family. All the evidence is that a doula has a positively transformative effect on a woman’s labour and womn who have laboured with doula’s report to having been more relaxed throughout the course of their labours. One woman went so far as to proclaim her doula the equivalent to a guardian angel. For more information or to find a doula in your area go to

Natal Hypnotherapy

Friday, February 15th, 2008

I went on a natal Hypnotherapy course yesterday with its founder Maggie Howell and feel compelled to sing its praises. Often condemned as quackery, hypnosis has been an often overlooked and niche way to prepare for birth. But hopefully not for much longer. Not only are the benefits of hypnotherapy discernable - reducing rates of intervention in birth and significantly improving a woman’s experience of labour- but the tools are reassuringly simple.

Using relaxation, breathing, visualisation and gentle suggestion, women are encouraged to change their perception of birth and develop confidence and self- assurance in the face of labour. There are no miracles, no tricks and no hidden agendas. Natal hypnotherapy simply harnesses the extraordinary power of the mind and a woman’s own resources- all a woman needs to do is be willing to set aside some time each day or every few days to relax…… and who could say no to that? As Maggie reiterated a number of times, even if a woman derives no other benefits from the hypnotherapy sessions ( which is unlikely), then the simple act of relaxation would do her the world of good.

At one point during our day, Maggie led us through a visualisation. We were asked to lie down and make ourselves as comfortable as we could despite the hard wood floor. As open-minded as I consider myself, there was a little part of me- the one that reels at new age speak and water features and the like- that didn’t want to lie down and didn’t believe I could switch off. That little part of me was wrong. The fifteen minutes felt like an hour and the wooden floor like the softest feather-filled mattress. With a baby who still won’t sleep through the night, that fifteen minutes was a god-send, and I confess I was sold. ( Incidentally, Maggie confessed to a previous incarnation as a successful business woman and a sceptic of all things new age. She might adopt a measured voice and there is a gentle soundtrack which provides a backdrop for her voice, but the ‘fluffy’ boundary is not crossed.)

For more information or to try out a CD then visit the hypnotherapy website

Have you had experience of natal hypnotherapy? Have you been on a course or used the CDs? I would be fascinated to know what you think…….

The Need to Talk

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Most women feel some anxiety in the face of child birth. This completely normal reaction to the unknown, and to the possibility of being pushed to your mental and physical limits, is understandable. It is also exacerbated in our society by our presentation of birth as an ordeal to be suffered through. No media representations of birth are ever positive. Instead women are lying back, legs splayed, faces contorted in unbearable pain whilst their bits are exposed to an audience of onlookers. An American commentator once said, ‘American TV heroines only ever give birth in lifts, taxis, beside remote lakes or in planes, three miles up above the Earth.’ To present birth as anything other than dramatic and horrifying would do nothing for ratings. So our culture becomes, through story and tv, increasingly fearful of birth. And what happens? The prophecy is one of those self-fulfilling ones, for the more fearful a woman is, the more difficult and hence potentially traumatic her birth will be.
Thankfully, for most women, this fear of childbirth can be alleviated, at least in part, by antenatal classes, yoga for pregnancy, hypnotherapy and talking to experienced birth attendants. For some women however, this fear is so extreme that it is categorised as a bona fide phobia; tokophobia (’toko’ means childbrith in Greek). Helen Mirrin once attested to suffering from this very phobia in a Daily Mail feature, saying it explained why she has never had children. Far from being a simple culturally induced fear, this is absolute terror, insuring such women not only avoid pregnancy altogether, but also often reel in disgust at the pregnancies of others. For these women, no amount of positive thinking can help. Sadly, few sufferers admit to their feelings, so the ailment goes largely undiagnosed and the subject remains a virtual taboo. Whilst the origins of the phobia can often be childhood sexual abuse- and so the fear is wrapped up in all sorts of other understandable mental trauma- for other women the fear has come from a video or image or early horror story that they were privy to. Perhaps we should think twice before we sell the idea of birth as horrific?

At this stage there are no known cures for sufferers of tokophobia, but as with all birth related issues, open dialogue is essential. Too much of birth is cast off as virtual taboo. Choices facing women, fearful or not, are extremely limited and mandated by a profession that is increasingly ignorant of the physiology of birth. As the obstetric profession has increasingly sought to take care of every possible physical complication in the birth process, the emotional side of things has been increasingly ignored. But how a woman feels about birth is an essential component of her birth experience. Women need to be encouraged to talk, and given the time to do so. Only then will birth related subjects cease to be taboos, and many women will have better experiences- and might even find the courage to embark on the journey of motherhood- because of it. And for those whose fears are too great to overcome, dialogue will at least create a social understanding of tokophobia and demote it from a taboo topic to one that can at least be explored through conversation and debate.

Postnatal Classes

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

Postnatal Classes are to resume Monday January 8th between 10 and 11.30. Please book early to secure a place. Email for a booking form.

Morning Sickness

Monday, October 29th, 2007

The dreaded morning sickness….for many women this is the single worst part of being pregnant. For most people it tends to start at about 5 weeks pregnant and abate by 14, but for a very unlucky few it can last all the way through. If you are in the thick of it, assume that you will not be one of those!

Its is believed that morning sickness is actually a protective mechanism, an ancient survival skill that was necessary when food was perilous. The development of a fetus’ major organs ( between 6-14 weeks) coincides with the mother’s immune system letting its guard down so as to not ‘reject’ the baby and instead allow it to establish itself in the uterus. It means that at a very important time in the child’s development, the mother is increased danger of falling ill. So what happens? She developments morning sickness where she is either regularly ill, or where she develops aversions to certain types of food. Many women find themselves repulsed by the thought of meat or averse to fish or eggs- mainly the foods that hold the greatest dangers, or would have done in the past…….and this is your body protecting you. Thankfully, it usually passes when the mother’s immune system is restored and the fetus is less vulnerable.

How to cope? Eat regularly and often- jacobs cream crackers are a god-send to nibble on but anything little and often seems to help the nausea abate. And dont assume that the name ‘morning sickness’ means it will only happen in the morning- many women feel ill at night, so just nibble liberally!! Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates- in other words healthy stodge- so comfort foods are the order of the day.

Mint and fennel tea both seem to help alleviate nausea. So does ginger tea that you can make by peeling a little knob of ginger, cutting into pieces and then covering in boiling water. Leave it to brew for a couple of minutes then drink the water. You can do this several times with the same bit of ginger. Homeopathy can also really help- just ask at your nearest health store for particular remedies.

And get enough sleep. Morning sickness is made infinitely worse by being tired ( perhaps because your defences are down even more when your body is tired) so getting enough sleep is essential- it might make you boring but better boring than ill.

For the majority of people it is (hideous but) short-lived, so gritted teeth are also necessary.

Does anyone have any other suggestions? Many women happen upon remedies by accident so if you have any advice, please post it up.