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Archive for February, 2008

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…….

Next Workshop

Monday, February 4th, 2008

The next couples workshop is on Tuesday 12th February from 7.30-9.30.

The workshop is an opportunity for fathers-to-be or other birth partners to understand the physiology of birth, the importance of the birth environment, what it means to have a truly active labourĀ  and ultimately to discover how they can be a help rather than a hinderence to their partner’s labour. The workshop is very relaxed and has been extremely popular in the past, with many initially reticent fathers saying it made all the difference to them when it came to the birth.

Places are limited so please book soon to avoid disappointment.