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Archive for the ‘Preparing for Birth’ Category

Yoga for Pregnancy- Find a class…..

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Contrary to what we are often led to believe, birth is not a pathology, pregnancy not some illness that you need rescued from, and labour not a disaster waiting to happen. Sure, every now and then nature turns it into such- a complication obviously means that medical care is both paramount and welcome- but for the vast majority of women, your birth can and should be an entirely positive experience, and one which – with the right environment and the right emotional support- you can do very much under your own steam.


But to think that you can fall pregnant, grow your baby and then waltz through labour  on little more than a wing and a prayer is entirely unrealistic. Like any other huge mental and physical endeavour, giving birth takes preparation. If you were going to climb a mountain or run a marathon, you wouldn’t dream of doing it unless you were well and truly prepared. In the same way, birth needs proper preparation.


If the birth process in the West was not so hidden behind closed doors, and instead was much more a part of life  as it si in other parts of the world; if we saw other women give birth, helped them through it, understood its peaks and troughs, then very explicit preparation might not be so necessary, though physical and mental strength would be required whatever the situation. But the truth is,most of us we have never seen a birth or even thought about what it entails before we first give birth ourselves.


The marathon or climbing a mountain analogies are good ones when it comes to birth, because like labour and birth these require not simply physical ability but crucially mental stamina and fight. To keep going in a long labour, to pass through the pain threshold, to not give up in the trickier bits is of course a physical endeavour but also in large part a mental endeavour too.


This is exactly why yoga- which focuses on physical strength and flexibility as well as mental stability and the breath is simply the perfect tool for birth preparation- a sort of one stop shopping if you like. Look around for a class near you or at a push rent yourself a yoga for pregnancy dvd to do on a regular basis at home. Mothers who prepare in this way tend to swear by it afterwards and preparation is without doubt one of the keys to a happy and healthy birth.

Health in Pregnancy Grant

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Health in pregnancy grant…… Are you aware that if your baby’s due date is on or after 6th April 2009, and you are 25 weeks pregnant or more the Government will pay you a non-refundable grant of £190 to you help prepare for the birth of your baby. That could cover the cost of a whole series of yoga and birth classes. To access the fund, go to

What you body knows

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

A wonderful cranial osteopath by the name of Emma Westlake recently said to me ‘ Your body knows what to do’. This should be the mntra of every pregnant woman. ‘My body knows what to do’. Because it does. Even though our entire birth system- be it antenatal care, birth preparation classes or our cultural obsession with horror stories- suggests otherwise.

As much as we choose to focus on the rare abnormalities and the potential but unlikely risks, the truth is our bodies and instincts are extraordinary. When the natural process is left undisturbed, when a woman is left to be her own physical and mental master, then the vast majority will birth without help or complication. There are 6.5 billion people on the planet- most of whom have been born without access to modern medecine- proving the point that we are pretty good at this birth thing.

Whilst medical advance has ade up for where nature has lacked, the truth is a lot of the problems that have afflicted child- bearing in the past have been man-made- based on a lack of hygiene or nutrition and on the insistence on interfering.

We should be grateful for when doctors save us or our babies- of course we should- and as the grateful recipient of an emergency caesarean I do not make such a comment lightly. But intervention very often happens unnecessarily, or as a result of previous intervention and it is this that leads to a mistaken belief in the incompetence of nature. We have, sadly, made birth more abnormal than it needs to be, ensuring that both woemn do not believe in themselevs or their bodies any longer. Yet women have given birth in comas. You body knows what to do.

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…….