Could Men Really Handle It?

Typical man comment

Typical man comment

Watching my husband suffer with an impacted wisdom tooth this week has really got me thinking.  He didn’t cry out in pain as one would expect, but became very quiet  over the course of an evening, hardly ate the meal I prepared for him (unheard of) and eventually said ‘I think I’m dying’.  Of course my initial reaction was to call 999 but he began to explain the severity of his pain, stating that ‘if he had a gun he should shoot himself’ and ‘where on earth is the number for his dentist?’  The irony is, that he hasn’t even got a dentist and he vaguely remembers still being registered at his childhood dentist back in North Somerset, not helpful.

He then said that childbirth was a breeze, and men could handle it without any drugs.  A breeze huh! Try saying that when you’re trying to shove a something to size of a watermelon out of something the size of an orange with a bit of gas and air and a feeble back rub from your other half.  Or as my friend described it ‘as simultaneously shoving four rolling pins up your arse and vag for eight hours straight.  I could go on……

Luckily for my husband , some rather crazy Dutch guys decided they could also handle the pain of childbirth and proved it by filming an experiment called ‘Guinea Pigs’.  Storm and Zeno reveal why they took on this particular challenge, explaining that giving birth is the worst pain there is.  However, since men can’t feel labour pains, the two men used electro-stimulations to simulate contractions so they could experience the distress for themselves.

“Do you think the pain will make us scream,” Zeno asks before the shocks begin.

One of the midwives responds bluntly: “Yes, it definitely will.”

She wasn’t lying.

Propped on a bed with electrodes attached to their abdomens, Storm and Zeno last through two hours of the simulated contractions. Though they try to laugh through the pain, the men appear to be in complete misery as they double over and clutch pillows tightly and eventually reaching for the gas and air.

Haha in your face HUSBAND!  Its really funny viewing, enjoy.

How would you explain to your other half how your labour felt?



You know when you’re pregnant and you suddenly have that overwhelming urge to understand all the changes that are happening to your body?  You Google ‘how big is my baby at 18 weeks’ and ‘can I eat sushi’.  Well Linda Geddes realised that that wasn’t enough for her, so pregnant with her second baby she decided to research more of these questions and the results were fascinating   So much so that she decided to write a book all about it Bumpology, AND manage to finish it in between feeding new born Max!  Impressive stuff, well that’s Linda for you.

Linda, with Tilly and Max

Linda, with Tilly and Max

1. So Linda could my baby really taste the chicken madras I ate to get myself into labour when I went 5 days over due?

Yes, or certainly some elements of it, like the garlic.  Flavours can get into the amniotic fluid, just as they can get into breast milk, and developing babies are constantly gulping and breathing in this fluid meaning it passes smell and taste receptors in the nose and mouth.  There’s even some evidence that the flavours babies experience in the womb may shape their preferences once they’re born: babies whose mums drank lots of carrot juice during pregnancy or while breastfeeding seemed particularly partial to carrots once solid foods were introduced into their diet.

2. And what is the best way to kick start labour if your due date comes and goes?

You may have heard rumours that sex, pineapple or curry can trigger labour, but there’s little evidence to back this up. However, castor oil, which irritates the bowels, can help kick-start labour, and it’s possible that a spicy curry could have a similar effect.  Do you really want to be experiencing diarrhoea when you’re in labour though?  Probably not.  Nipple tweaking on the other hand, can be quite effective at getting those contractions going, although you may have to persist for several hours.

3. We have 2 daughters and my husband would love a boy, is it likely we’d have another girl?  Should he kiss bye bye to his mini rugby player?

Is your husband a high-earner, or does he have a traditionally masculine career?  If so, his odds of having a boy are slightly increased.  However, if you are an attractive couple; if you (the woman) have a high stress job; or if you are an older woman, then you are ever-so-slightly more likely to have girls.  None of these factors is a guarantee though – they just tweak the odds by a few percent.  Maybe your husband should start teaching the girls to do rugby tackles!

4. As a midwife. women ask me all the time ‘Can I drink alcohol in pregnancy’ I have to admit I find all the new Government research rather conflicting and my advice is no more clear. 

It is confusing. The honest answer is that scientists simply don’t know if there is a “safe” amount of alcohol that women can get away with drinking, hence the advice to drink nothing at all. Certainly lots or even moderate amounts of alcohol are harmful. For example, a glass of wine a day increases your baby’s risk of being born underweight, which opens them up to additional health risks as they get older. But there is a grey zone between one and probably eight units of alcohol per week, where any evidence for harm is contradicted by other studies finding no harm. If you do decide to follow the advice of one or two units once or twice a week, make sure you know what a unit is, and try to space your drinks out.


5. Bumpology was written because you wanted more scientific answers to a lot of the waffle midwives, doctors and NCT teachers told you.  What would be the most overwhelming evidence you found from writing the book that you would like to share?

I do think that some of the risks associated with medical interventions during labour are over-hyped.  The problem is that women are often told that, say, an epidural will increase their risk of having an instrumental delivery, but they’re not told what that actually means.  In this case, twenty women would need an epidural for there to be one extra instrumental delivery – and this could be because if you’re anaesthetised, doctors are more willing to get the forceps out rather than give you additional time to push.  At the same time, women are told that, say, a water birth will decrease their risk of tearing.  But actually, when it comes to the really serious tears that can cause long-term problems, there is no difference between water births and those on dry land.  I think that better explaining risk could have a big influence on women’s choices during labour, and make them less afraid of doctors getting involved.

6. If you were running your own ‘Bumpology pregnancy classes’ what 3 top tips would you give other clueless pregnant women to help then make the right informed decisions?

  • You have no idea what your labour will be like, so try to keep an open mind about your options for pain relief and the type of birth you will end up having.  The most important thing is that you and the baby are safe and healthy. We have to dispel this myth of the perfect birth.
  • Tearing is very common during a vaginal birth, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.  The most important thing is to keep the wound clean, and watch for any signs of infection.  If you suspect a problem, insist on being examined by a doctor.  Also, constipation can be a serious problem after birth, so drink lots and lots of water.
  • Although it is the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding (for the first few weeks at least) is tough.  Your nipples will crack, your breasts will swell up like painful boulders, and both you and your baby may take a while to get to grips with it.  Accept all offers of help and support, and know that it does get easier.  Nipple shields can provide some respite from cracked nipples and help women to carry on breastfeeding when they may otherwise give up.

Linda Geddes is not afraid to ask anyone about anything! From the stream of contradictory advice to pregnant women and new parents to those little moments of wonder, Geddes digs into all of them, looking for the evidence and exploring the science. In this book she shares what she’s found, with the straightforward answers and easy-going humour that is so welcome in early parenthood. Don’t get pregnant without it! (Tracey Brown, Sense About Science )

So ladies if that little taster isn’t enough for you, Bumpology is available to buy here from Amazon and read Linda’s brilliant blog here.

Baby Wearing

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was determined to try and use a sling as much as possible.  We lived in a small flat and the cumbersome 3in1 buggy we had been bought was so huge it had to be stored in the boot of the car.  I tired many different slings, but never quite got the hang of them.  Either my back or shoulders began to ache or my baby would just wriggle so much it became a bit of a hassle.  I even went to a local sling group where I met other new Mum’s and tried out different slings but the same issues kept happening so I just settled on using the pram.  When I was pregnant with my second daughter I decided to give slings another try.  I was disappointed that in 3 and a half the sling market hadn’t really improved and the one sling everyone seemed to still recommend was the Baby Bjorn.  I used my Close Sling which did seem to help soothe my fractious baby in the early evenings but I never managed to breastfeed her in, and only carried her until she was 12 weeks old.

A good friend of mine and colleague Kate Thorman was one step ahead of the game, and was also really disappointed with what was available on the market so started making her own slings when her daughter was born. And just like that  Oysterbaby was born.  Here’s Kate’s story.

Kate and baby Indi

Kate and baby Indi

1.  Why did you decide to start Oysterbaby?

As a practising midwife I am well-educated in the benefits of kangaroo care and baby wearing. When I had my daughter I wanted her to benefit from being carried in a sling, as well as the practical benefits for me. I tried so many but I couldn’t get on with them, they were either uncomfortable for me, or unsupported for her.  I also found them bulky, hot and ugly. Determined to enjoy carrying her I decided to make my own!  I imported Bamboo fabric as I knew the natural characteristics it had would be perfect for a sling, and I got sewing and Oysterbaby grew from that…. people started stopping me everywhere giving me wonderful compliments on my beautiful sling and asking me where I bought it from!  I started making them for friends who all loved them and then I started selling them! The feedback is just brilliant, for both comfort and style everyone loves them

I hope Oysterbaby will encourage all Mums to wear their babies, to feel gorgeous, and enjoy their calmer, happier babies.

2.  And why the name Oysterbaby?

I live in Brighton and spend a lot of my time walking along the beach, so a seaside theme was an obvious choice. An oyster makes me think of a beautiful peal which is safely protected by its shell and to me this is just like a baby in a sling! So Oysterbaby seemed like a perfect name.

3.  How has your interest in travelling in Africa inspires this?

I worked in East and West Africa as a midwife and observed very vulnerable babies born into very tough living environments. These babies were strapped to their mothers in a sling and survived against all odds! This made me research into the benefits of kangaroo care and baby wearing… Being close to their mothers they were able to thrive and grow into healthy independent children. I was inspired to develop a sling that could be adapted to the western culture but which promote the same health and emotional benefits.

4.  What are the benefits of baby wearing?

Keeping your baby close to you regulates your baby’s heart rate, breathing, and temperature. It promotes breastfeeding and weight gain. Evidence shows improvement in reflux, colic and other discomfort caused by digestive problems such as wind. Oysterbaby allows you to be completely hands free with the reassurance that your baby is safe and secure next to you.  Studies show babies cry less, sleep more and show faster cognitive development when compared to babies who are not carried in a sling.

5.  How did it help you when you became a mother to Indi?

I carried her in my Oysterbaby from a tiny new-born, she is 15 months now and I still carry her everyday, she loves it. It has given me so much freedom, We travelled to Africa when she was 4 months old, and we are about to travel to Sri Lanka, we could not dream of having these adventures without an Oysterbaby!

When she was tiny and it was hard to get her to sleep, and hard to get anything done, my Oysterbaby was a life savour! she would always sleep so well in the sling and because the fabric is so lightweight and breathable I could wear it around the house to do all the boring chores knowing that she was cosy and safe next to me.

I love being hands free as well, it gives me so much freedom! and I don’t have to battle with a bulky buggy when I go shopping and I can still go for my walks along the beach.

She is so content and calm when she is in the Oysterbaby and what’s more breastfeeding discreetly was easy in the sling!

I could go on and on…….

6.  There are so many other slings out there, how is Oysterbaby different?

Although other wrap carriers are similar in design, the main difference is the material. Most wrap carriers are made of cotton, either with or without elastane.  Oysterbaby is made from 100% bamboo fabric, which is much more breathable, and softer than regular cotton wrap carriers, making it more comfortable for you and for baby. Other advantages of bamboo are that
- it is naturally antibacterial, whereas bacteria readily grow in cotton
- it is hypo-allergenic – it has a natural UV filter. It is also one of the most sustainable fabrics available.

Unlike other slings, Oysterbaby is chiropractic endorsed ensuring spinal health for both you and your baby Oysterbaby carries your baby ergonomically – which helps promote correct hip development and doesn’t put pressure on your baby’s spine or pelvis.

The sling distributes your baby’s weight evenly over both shoulders and entire torso, making your baby feel feather light and does not cause any shoulder or back discomfort. In contrast to other baby carriers that have thin straps that dig into the shoulders.

Just a few of the many ways to carry your baby

Just a few of the many ways to carry your baby

Unlike other slings, It is also possible to comfortably and discretely breastfeed your newborn baby in an Oysterbaby!

7.  What inspires the designs?

I make all the slings with a reversible design so parents can wear it to match their wardrobe and mood!  I design the slings with the weather in mind so the colours and patterns change with the new seasons!  I would say nature is my biggest influence on my designs!

8.  How safe are the slings? And are they hard to tie?

Oysterbaby is completely safe to use, all slings are provided with a clear illustrated manual showing you how to safely carry your baby. Your baby is carried securely next you, with no danger of any buckles or straps breaking!

It’s really easy to tie as well, if its your first time using it, it may take a couple of practices but it soon becomes second nature to tie it. It’s a bit like learning to tie a shoe lace!


We have a gorgeous Oysterbaby sling to give away to one lucky reader! All you have to do to enter is ‘like’ and ‘share’ the Oysterbaby Facebook Page with someone you think would like it, post it on the wall and we will pick from random a winner!  And it’s as easy as that, good luck!

Does the NCT tell women the truth?

This post was written by a fantastic Mum and blogger Rachel at whenthebabysleeps who says exactly what most of us want to say but maybe don’t have to balls or skills to say it.  Think of a younger Caitlin Moran (actually I think Rachel is funnier).  I wanted to hear a woman’s experience of the NCT and how maybe women like her, Kirtsy Allsop, Linda Geddes (and according to twitter) thousands of other women have started to question their teachings.  Does the NCT really tell women the truth?

I have many thoughts on the NCT. So does Linda Geddes, author of new myth bashing pregnancy book Bumpology. Geddes recently wrote this blog piece asking whether the NCT tell women the truth about birth, after some bright spark at the Today program paired her up with someone from the NCT to talk ‘truth vs myth’. The piece is worth a read (and the interview a listen) but to over-simplify her point here and now, Geddes calls them on the fact that many of their courses give information that is not always evidence based or is confusing for participants. That their strict emphasis on natural birth and breastfeeding can lead to course participants feeling they ‘failed’ at childbirth, or making ill informed decisions that may not have a good outcome.

After Geddes piece went online, Kirsty Allsop RT’d it on Twitter and a bit of a shit storm kicked off, the likes of which got pretty dirty. It led to a pointless ‘somebody expressed an opinion and somebody else didn’t like it’ piece on the Daily Mail website, of course. But I hope it doesn’t end there. Because Linda is asking good questions about the NCT, and it will be a shame if it ends in merely a Twitter spat.

Geddes claim that there is a disconnect between some NCT tutor’s advice and the actual evidence is part of a bigger disconnect between the NCTs own image of its self and the reality. Its perception of itself seems to be as a charity ‘supporting all parents’. I’d beg to differ on that based on my experience alone. How can it support ‘all parents’ when it focuses with such commitment to its natural birth brief, and bias towards certain parenting styles? While we are lucky the NCT exist and I have no doubt it is supportive to many, it’s claim to be ‘for all’ is laughable.

Its website resources are very obviously biased towards water births and breastfeeding. Try and find any information on bottlefeeding safety, choosing a formula or the challenges of feeding with a bottle and you will come away empty handed. Now this would be fine if the NCT were the La Leche League, but it’s not. If the NCT described itself as a charity designed to support mums have a natural birth and succeed with breastfeeding then I’d have much less of a problem. They’d still need to offer more on the alternatives but at least the brief would be closer to the truth.

Beyond the politics of birth and breastfeeding, I’d also like to know what they do to reach out to ‘all parents’ and not just the ones who have £150 to do the course. Have you ever seen an NCT poster in a health centre waiting room? Or met an NCT volunteer at a Sure Start centre looking to help out new mums? I’m not saying those things don’t happen (maybe they do outside of London) but their focus on course running, flogging you baby gear at inflated prices and making labour look like a fucking surprise party with free rum punch doesn’t really jive with their ‘all parents’ motto.

This whole debate led me to extreme measures: I agreed with Kirsty Allsopp. Shocking, I know. Why? She said that they are dogmatic, and that this alienates parents and leaves them disillusioned. Too right they’re dogmatic, and it’s this that stops them from helping new parents connect with their experience of childbirth and early parenting, which is a huge shame. So, NCT over to you… perhaps its time to make some new years resolutions?

Picture under Creative Commons License and taken by Matt Preston and on Flickr

Run Away From It All

How is this helpful?

How is this helpful?

Just as I was beginning to enjoy my evening (ie pager turned off, kids in bed and large glass of red wine poured) I stupidly checked a certain newspaper’s online tv and showbiz column and saw this photo.  Ok, well firstly it serves me right for bothering to read the online paper in the first instance, but it’s only 3 days into the new year and already the internet and tv is a wash with weight loss/get fit/new you adverts.  And this really gets on my nerves.  Especially this kind of photo.  It’s 2 years since I had a baby and my stomach doesn’t look like this!  And you know why? Because I don’t have a nanny, a personal trainer, a chef and a contract with a magazine to lose the weight in time for their first edition of 2013.  Any you know what else, what ever you may think I’m not jealous or bitter.  This photo is irresponsible, no one can safely and sensibly lose weight that fast.  And she’s obviously had a boob job.

However I do have a pair of pretty cool new running trainers I got for Christmas and a great park on my door step.  And with the powers of inspirational women like Jenny Scott at Mothers Meeting we have created a running group for South London Mamas.  So ignore slightly irritating and unrealistic photographs of celebs (Patsy Kensit that includes YOU) and come and run with other like minded Mamas, every Saturday at 10am in Brockwell Park.  Meet outside the Lido by the flag.  It’s free, it feels good and all abilities welcome.

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