What You Need to Know About Your Skin During Pregnancy

This guest post by Cassie discusses great tips for your pregnant skin and dispels all those myths. Enjoy!

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“Pregnancy is a beautiful, transformative experience. It can also be transformative for your skin–in a not-so-beautiful way. Sometimes, hormones wreak havoc on complexion, leaving you perplexed and overwhelmed.

Here are some of the things you need to know about the ways your skin can change during pregnancy, along with advice on how to combat any skin woes.

The “Mask of Pregnancy” — More Common Than You Think   

You’ve probably heard of the “mask of pregnancy.” Also referred to as melasma and chloasma, the condition is rather ubiquitous (50% of pregnant women!) and hormonal in nature. The “mask” or melasma produces dark spots all over the face, particularly around the forehead, cheeks, and mouth, creating the appearance of a shadow or mask (hence the name). What you’re really seeing is a result of increased pigment in the skin due to pregnancy hormones.

So how do you treat it? As with most skin conditions, the best solution is actually in prevention. Be sure to wear SPF of 15 or higher (preferably closer to SPF 30), wear protective clothing, and limit sun exposure throughout your pregnancy. During these 9 months, your skin is more sensitive than usual, and it requires extra care.

If you’ve already developed the mask, consult your dermatologist and/or doctor. In most cases, the changes in pigment fade after you give birth. However, lingering effects might be due to a treatable, hormonal imbalance.

Hormonal Acne 

Even if you usually have clear skin, pregnancy hormones can still throw your complexion’s equilibrium out of whack. And if you’re already prone to blemishes, the increased hormones can send your oil-secretion glands into overdrive, causing even more breakouts. Many people talk about “the pregnancy glow.” However, that “glow” looks different for different people. If you’re experiencing any of these hormonal changes, don’t worry! This is a completely normal reaction.

What to do: make sure you’re diligent with a twice-daily, face-cleansing routine. It’s a good idea to use a non-comedogenic cleanser, toner, and then light moisturizer. Cetaphil and other gentle, over-the-counter cleansers are a good option.

Stretch Marks 

Once again, preventative measures are the key to warding off stretch marks. Coconut oil, cocoa butter, and other lotions are some of the best ways to prevent these red and pink marks. However, know that a large majority of women experience stretch marks post pregnancy. It’s totally natural and happens when the skin stretches due to swelling bellies and breasts. Exercise during pregnancy can also help prevent stretch marks.

The good news: even if none of these over-the-counter remedies work, stretch marks almost always fade after delivery. They’re sort of like Mummy battle scars. So if you can, wear them with pride. You’re strong and beautiful just the way you are.

What do you think, Mums-to-be?

Have you experienced any of the aforementioned skin issues? What advice do you have for pregnant mums? Leave your comments in the space below. Congratulations, and happy nesting!”

Cassie Brewer is a professional make-up artist and blogs brilliantly all about it here cassiembrewer.weebly.com

What is a doula and do I need one?

doula LouiseEver wondered what a doula really does? Ever thought if hiring one for your pregnancy and birth would be beneficial? Louise tells us all about what her role involves and how she makes it work into her family life!

I’m Louise, and I’m a Birth Doula.   I’m also an NCT Practitioner and I facilitate my local Positive Birth Movement group.

“What does a birth doula DO exactly? And, why should I hire one?”  I hear you cry!

A doula recognises birth as a key life experience and has undergone training to understand the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of women and their partners during this time.

She offers continuous, emotional and practical support to women, their partners and their families during pregnancy, birth and early parenthood and also provides an objective viewpoint and information to aid decision making.

Studies indicate that a natural by-product of this type of support is better outcomes for babies and their mothers: shorter, more comfortable labours, fewer interventions and greater maternal satisfaction. A doula does: support your choices, provide continuity of care, offer evidence-based research and information.

A doula doesn’t: push any particular birth method, make decisions for you or exclude your birth partner.

So, if it matters to you if you know the person who looks after you in labour, and if you want to have the support of someone knowledgeable who you know and trust, this might be an option for you.

There’s no such thing as a ‘typical woman’ or ‘typical baby’ or ‘typical labour & birth’ so I can’t really describe a ‘typical doula gig’ but I can give you an idea of what I do based on my experiences so far. Clients get in touch with me, and, if I’m available around their estimated due date (and it IS an estimated date parents! More about that later), then we arrange to meet up.  This initial meeting is free and there’s no obligation on either side.  Usually parents meet with 3 or 4 doulas before deciding on ‘The One’ – it’s really important that both parents meet me and that we all ‘click’.

Once I’ve agreed to be someone’s doula, I block out about 5 weeks in my diary when I will be available to them, exclusively, up until they have their baby.

I go on-call for parents 10 days before the estimated due date and I don’t book anyone else in until 3 and a bit weeks after that date.  This is because all of my babies came at 43 weeks so I like to allow for that plus a couple of days off-call before I go on-call for my next client.  That’s just me, very much shaped by my own experiences!  Most doulas’ on-call period is 2 weeks before the estimated due date until 2 weeks after.

Before that time though, I meet up with parents at least twice for antenatal sessions that usually last a couple of hours each.  These take place about a month before my on-call period begins.

Parents set the agenda and usual topics are:

  • De-briefing any previous births
  • Understanding the physiology of birth
  • The role of hormones and the effect of the birth environment on them
  • What will help the birth process, and what won’t
  • Physical skills for labour and birth – positions, breathing, relaxation & visualisation techniques.
  • Working through any concerns and understanding your aspirations for your birth
  • My role, partners role, how we’ll work together as a team
  • Transition to parenthood

I’ll often meet up with a mum just for a chats too in the months beforehand – she might come on a dog walk with me, or pop in for a cup of tea if she’s nearby or I’ll call on her.  This happens especially if I’ve been booked quite early on in her pregnancy, so that we really know each other well by the time we do the antenatal sessions.

I facilitate the Tunbridge Wells Positive Birth Group from my home, and usually doula clients come along to that once a month too.

It’s really, really common for mums hiring me to call me a lot to talk through things as they reach about 35 weeks – it seems to me to be a time when women naturally start wanting to sort through any anxieties they have that they may have been pushing to one side up until that point.  These seem to rise to the fore at a time which is, thankfully, a good while before labour is imminent, and that’s great: it means they have time to talk things through, reflect on our discussions, talk them through again, reflect a bit more, talk a bit more and hopefully that process means they’re in a good place mentally and able to relax and feel confident before their labour begins.  It also means that we continue to build our relationship and trust with each other.

When I first go on-call, I’m pretty relaxed. Yes, I have my bag packed ready, my phone fully charged & on ‘loud’ 24/7, my family know I could get called at a moment’s notice, I don’t drink any alcohol, but it’s not until around the 41 week stage that I start putting serious effort into going to bed early (I like to be asleep by 10pm, in case I get called at 3 am) and being militarily organised: every evening I run through the next day with my husband – where he’s going to be, how quickly he can get home, whether or not he’d be able to do the school pick-up with less than an hour’s notice (my youngest is 9) etc.  Any gaps have to be filled, usually by one of my teenagers, who aren’t always great at answering their phones – which does introduce an element of anxiety, or by one of my many school-mum friends.

It’s very usual for mums to call me after their 40 week check up with their midwife, as it seems to be at around this point that induction gets mentioned.  What mums usually say is “I went for my check-up and the midwife said that next week she’ll book me in for an induction at 42 weeks.”  I find it’s usually best to talk this through face to face with both parents: it’s vital that they understand that the induction is being offered and that they can decline it and take up the other options that should also be put forward.  They need to understand the procedure and the possible risks and benefits of induction, in order to make their own, informed decision on what’s right for them and to know that I’ll be there to support that decision 100%

Now, back to that Estimated Due Date (EDD) – we usually talk through the fact that it is exactly that: Estimated!  Term is anything from 38-42 weeks for a single baby.  So their baby is quite likely to want to make an appearance at some point during that 4 week period. Some babies, like mine (43, yes, 43 weeks! I was Climbing. The. Walls!), take a bit longer than that. I completely understand that it’s really hard not to get fixated on the EDD (I’ve been that person), especially as it’s likely that most of your friends and family will do too and may start ‘phoning/texting on a daily basis with queries like “anything happening?” and, without meaning to, they’re creating an added pressure to ‘get on with it’. Taking a leaf out of Kate & William’s book and just providing your nearest and dearest with a ‘due month’ might be an idea.

Induction, and other options suggested during pregnancy, labour and birth can be construed by parents as something they have to accept.  It’s not always clear if this is because of the way they have been presented by healthcare providers, or down to the way parents have interpreted what’s said to them – I suspect it’s a mixture of both.  Either way, it’s important to clear that up and for them to be aware of all options, and that’s part of my role too.

So, when a woman waits until she goes into spontaneous labour, she’ll usually give me a ring when she feels that ‘something’s happening’ – this gives me the heads-up to get all my personal arrangements sorted.  Often it’s late afternoon or evening time when I get that call – I don’t need to do anything at that point.  If women wake in the night feeling that things are starting, they tend to wait until the morning before calling to let me know, as long as they’re happy and unconcerned.

More often than not though, I’ll get a call in the evening and then THE Call some time in the night.  THE Call is the one where parents are asking me to come over.  At this point, mums are finding their contractions are taking up all their attention, getting stronger, longer and closer together and she may be feeling like she’s ready for some extra support.  Or, it may be that her partner feels that he/she is needing some support.  Either way, if I’m needed I go. (A doula will usually come to your home before you call the midwife for a home birth or before you set off to the Birth Centre or Hospital if that’s where you’re having your baby).

I’ll have had a shower before bed and have my clothes laid out (comfortable & layers) so that if I’m called in the night I just have to brush my teeth, get dressed, grab my bag and go.

Once I arrive with a mum or couple I’m usually with them until their baby’s born.  Sometimes though, I’ll go back home if we all decide it’s still a bit too early in labour.  I’m always happy to go backwards and forwards if that’s what’s needed, because I’m aware that there can be, for a labouring woman, an element of ‘needing to perform’ (for want of a better phrase) once I’m there!  Or, I might go into another room and read my book, watch TV or sleep so that mum doesn’t feel observed in any way, but knows I’m right there if she needs me.

Usually though, I’ve been called because mum really needs some extra support.  She needs reassurance that everything is ok. She needs reminding that her contractions are a muscle working really, really hard, over and over again and that they are a sign that her body is doing exactly what it needs to to birth her baby. She needs to feel safe. She may need encouragement.  She’ll probably appreciated the distraction of someone new arriving.  She might need help getting into a comfortable position – perhaps making a nest of pillows, quilts etc. She’ll need to be reminded to drink and try to eat a little and to go to the loo.  She might need a hug.  She might need to relax in a bath that’s kept at a comfortable temperature. She might find a wonderful lower back massage soothing. These are all particular ways I can support her.

I’m always very, very focussed on partners and their needs too.  Dads, for example, can feel quite anxious at this point. They visibly relax when I arrive and usually prefer me to stay once I’m there, even if I’m in another room.  Their supporting role is vital: they’re the person that Mum is closest to and trusts the most.  It’s my job to support them so that they can support her.  They need to feel safe, reassured and confident.

If parents are planning to have their baby at a Birth Centre or Hospital I provide the support so that they feel able to stay at home for as long as possible.  However, I always listen to the woman in labour – if she feels she wants to get going, that’s what we’ll do. When it’s time to leave I travel with them.

Wherever they are having their baby, there will be a midwife joining our little team at some point.  I consider it my responsibility to make sure that this union goes well.  Most midwives seem happy with the presence of a doula, but not all.  What I say to parents antenatally is that, if mum and dad are ok, I’ll spend half and hour ingratiating myself with the midwife.  By this I mean being friendly, considerate and respectful – chatting, helping, making sure I’m not in her way, listening etc. so that she feels comfortable with me there and hopefully realises that I’m not going to be a trouble-making-pain-in-the-butt.  Remember the last time you were in company where there was ‘a bit of an atmosphere’ between two people and how uncomfortable that feels?  So, you can see why I feel this is always time well spent.  It also means that we work together in a collaborative way in supporting my clients – we’re all part of the same team.

During the established first stage of labour, wherever she is, Mum might need much the same support provided during the latent phase earlier.

Her contractions will be closer together, stronger and longer.  Having got the room to her liking – usually dimmed lights, quiet, privacy & peace ensured – I watch out for signs of tension in her body: shoulders rising, jaw clenching, furrowed brow, clenched fists, scrunched-up toes etc.  I’ll quietly remind her to relax, maybe placing a hand gently on each shoulder.  What I’ve noticed is, the more time I’ve spent with a woman antenatally, the more she responds to my voice during labour and women often say afterwards things like “I just heard your voice and knew everything was alright” or “the sound of your voice made me feel relaxed”.  Trust me, this isn’t because I have a particularly mellow, honeyed voice or I’m doing anything clever: it’s because she knows me and she trusts me.  So, when I suggest that she relaxes or that she changes position or that she’s doing really, really well or I assure her that everything is fine etc. she can accept what I’m saying, she doesn’t have to consider it too greatly.  We know that women need to be able to switch-off the decision making part of their brain in labour.

Some women need to comforted with every contraction, some women need to be massaged for ages, some women need nothing other than to know that her partner and I are there.  Every woman is different, every labour is different.

She also knows that me and her partner are there for the duration.  There’ll be no change of shift for us, whatever happens, whoever comes and goes we will be constant.

Again, I’m keeping an eye on her partner all the time.  Making sure that he or she is relaxed and confident. A labouring woman may look and sound completely different to any way that her partner has ever seen or heard before and sometimes they need reassurance that certain behaviours are normal.  If partners are getting tired, I’ll suggest they lie down and have a sleep, or go and get some fresh air and something to eat if they are both happy with that.  Dads are often very chivalrous and offer for me to have a nap during a longer labour.  Usually I decline – after all, once their baby’s born, I get to go home and sleep for as long as I want – I won’t have a new baby to look after!

Sometimes labours progress steadily and sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes there’s a need for discussion and decision making.  My role then is to answer any questions parents may have and to make sure they get the information they need from caregivers and that they understand it, once again, in order to make sure that they can make any decisions in an informed way.  I then support any decision they make 100%.

After their baby is born, if everyone is ok, the midwife and I will leave the new family alone for a while to have that magical time together.  I go and sit outside, jot down my notes (I keep a birth record for every birth I attend), have something to eat  or if we’re at home, I’ll tidy-up, make tea and toast for everyone etc. and I’ll pop back after about 40 minutes.

Usually I leave about 2 hours after the baby is born – once everyone is settled and happy. I then visit at a time that suits the parents to support them in anyway needed and to talk through the birth.

I don’t do postnatal doulaing, but by the time I’ve been at someone’s birth, I have a relationship with and a vested interest in that family and will always pop ‘round, at the drop of a hat, without any charge, if they’re experiencing difficulties. I am available for them to get in touch with any queries or worries pretty much forever more after that.

What it really feels like to have a prolaspe

Guest post written by Jennie mum of one.

Four months after the birth of our daughter (water birth, gas and air, home in 3 hours after birth) I was feeling pretty much back to “me” – breast feeding was well established and I was loving the freedom of heading out to go to the hairdressers / lunch with friends / gym in the knowledge that baby was home with dad and there was expressed milk good to go. Even going to the corner shop had it’s delights….!

One weekend I was feeling particularly sprightly after about 4 hours unbroken sleep (yep, I know, amazing isn’t it after the first crazy few months) I headed to our local council gym… Spring in my step and a some new tunes on a playlist. Was great getting back into the running, weights and abs stuff… So much so I did the same the next day. And a boxing glass the next Wednesday. Then that evening I felt a strange feeling in my cervix / vagina when I was in the shower, and completely panicked.  It felt like the walls of my vagina had pushed together and I instantly knew this was a prolapse… But this doesn’t happen to fit healthy mums of one who are in their 30’s, right? Well…. It does happen, and it happens to more people than you think and no one talks about it. But it’s important and this is my attempt to dispel the myths about it all.

There are a few different types of prolapse – all stem from having weak / weakened pelvic floor muscles.  This is more susceptible following a vaginal birth but equally just carrying a baby during pregnancy put strains on these muscles.

The pelvic floor muscles are like hammock that hold your bladder, cervix / vagina and rectum all in their right positions.  When your muscles are weakened one or more of these organs can push onto another organ, commonly the vagina. In the more major cases they can push onto and out of the vagina.

After discovering something radically different had happened to me I panicked and cried and panicked more and cried more. I did some night time ‘googling’ and panicked some more (I know, this is never a good idea)! Thankfully my lovely midwife was on the end of the phone and after a quick referral via the doc to a specialist I was reassured that the “minor” prolapse would heal over time with pelvic floor exercises and in 6-12 weeks there should be a noticeable difference. Phew.

Pelvic floor exercises involve clenching / squeezing from the back passage all the way to the bladder / urethra area in one strong controlled motion.  Isolating these muscles from say, your buttocks or thighs is tricky and probably like most women I did some exercises during pregnancy but didn’t really spend much time on them.  Quite probably I wasn’t doing them properly.

After seeing a consultant I also visited a physio to make sure I had the right technique and a few weeks in I can feel the difference.  What caused it? Well I probably had weakened muscles from the reasonably quick birth, plus my excessive exercise regime didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong you can exercise and I had assumed that I would be back to post preg fitness four months in which reality you can be but I over did it with high impact too much too soon.  I also decided to phase off breast feeding as my daughter was approaching 5 months and I was close to going back to work… And when you are breast feeding there are lots of “softening” hormones that keep your ligaments and joints supple, so to hasten the speed at which it repairs I made the decision to move onto formula and felt really quite upset by it all… As I was keen to breast feed for six months.  However a few weeks in and baby is happy and I’m ok with it all now.

So now I’m focusing on various pelvic floor exercises through the day and have given up and high impact exercises for now in favour for Pilates and lots of walking.

I wanted to share my story because for about two weeks I was highly emotional and felt like a freak (harsh, but this is really how I was feeling) and really hadn’t appreciated this can happen to “fit and healthy” mums, even at a time where I felt completely recovered.

The positive thing to come out of this is I can take action now and prevent reoccurrence in
later life. Plus spread a little understanding about it. Prolapses are commonly misconstrued as a thing that happens to obese, post menopausal women where as this is far from the case.  Doing a short set of pelvic floor exercises often especially if you are pregnant, contemplating pregnancy or have had a baby is a good thing. The best thing is you don’t need to go to the gym to do it….

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Birth Story Of The Week – Annalise and Beatrice

I had never known that a home birth was an option for us before an appointment with our midwife, to discuss the birth. The thought of being in hospital gave me the woollies; I have a phobia of both me and other people being sick, so a labour ward was the sort of place I wanted to give a wide berth (excuse the pun). The thought of taking that anxiety out of labour was the initial appeal, but quickly other pros mounted up, and all I kept thinking was that we could change our mind at any point and go into hospital if we wanted. Planning a home birth just gave us a choice.

When I first mentioned a home birth to my husband, Guy, he was against the idea. He was worried about the possibility of something going wrong. Both our fathers are retired doctors and were sceptical, which added to his hesitance. I kept reminding him that we could transfer to the hospital at any point – we weren’t ruling anything out. It took a few weeks of mulling it over, but eventually Guy came round to the idea, supporting my decision.

Guy and I spent a lot of time preparing for the birth; Guy looked after the logistics, working out how to set up the pool and find the right adaptor for our taps (at one point he tried the shower arm because he couldn’t fit the adaptors). I focused on getting myself in the right physical condition and mind-set. I was doing lots of exercise such as yoga, swimming, step and resistance training. I was also doing my pelvic floor exercises and perennial massage. I listened to a hypobirthing track as I went to sleep at night, and also found it really useful in helping me get back to sleep when I was struck with insomnia.

Sunday 12 October 2014


I was five days past my due date when I felt my first contraction. I woke up at 1:27am to a strong tightening in my stomach that faded away. I lay still, wondering what would happen next, and shortly after felt the same sensation rising and falling.

I slipped out of bed, not wanting to wake up Guy, and went into our sitting room to lie down on the sofa. I put on my hypnobirthing track, taking the opportunity to nap between contractions, which at this point were around eight minutes apart. After two 40-minute loops of the track, the contractions were getting stronger so I put on a DVD of ‘Cold Feet’, one of my favourite TV series, to distract me and moved onto onto my birthing ball. As the contractions came, I rested my head on the arm of the sofa, rolled my hips on the ball and closed my eyes. I had set myself the target of 6:00am to wake Guy. When 6:00am arrived, I still felt pretty relaxed, so I decided to hold out for another hour. Just after 7:00am, I went into our bedroom, nudged Guy gently and whispered, “Guy, the baby’s coming”. His eyes burst open and he leapt up, “Really? Where? Now?”

Once Guy had properly woken up, I gave him an update on the past hours. Together we timed a couple of contractions, had some breakfast, got showered and dressed and at 9:00am paged our midwife to let her know that our baby was ready to make its journey.

The midwife on call, called us back soon afterwards. We chatted about my progress and how I was feeling, “That all sounds great”, she said reassuringly, “keep doing what you’re doing – lots of walking around and moving, and give me a call again when the contractions are three minutes apart, and really strong; so strong you can’t think or talk through them.” Before putting down the phone, she said, ‘Each time a contraction comes, say to yourself ‘bring it on’. The bigger and stronger; the more you’re progressing”. It was piece of advice that carried me through the labour.

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We called our immediate families to let them know that we were on, and were brought to tears by a call with Guy’s mother who had explained that she’d secretly hoped that the baby would make an appearance today as it was the 12th anniversary of the death of her father, our baby’s great grandfather, a very special man.


It was a beautiful, sunny, autumnal crisp Sunday morning, so Guy and I headed out to our local park, for a walk. We picked up coffees, and walked slowly around our favourite wildlife garden, talking about our baby, its names and our hopes and dreams for him or her. Guy was keeping track of the contractions and would say, “You should be having a contraction around n…”, and on cue I would feel one rising.

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After about an hour of walking, the contractions had increased in intensity and we headed home. Along the way the contractions would stop me in my tracks and I would need to crouch down on the path or lean on a tree until it had passed. During one contraction, I remember a young family passing us, smiling and giving us the thumbs up.

Once home, we reattached the TENS machine. I returned to the birthing ball and Guy started setting up the birthing pool in the back room of our flat. We had a ‘regular’ sized pool, which is 2m x 2m – it was big. The contractions were coming every three minutes but I could still think and talk through them so knew I just needed to keep going – Guy and I would count together (he’d call from the back of the flat) so I knew how long until it would pass, I knew when we reached 20 seconds that it was going to ease again.


Around 11:00am the contractions reached an intensity that I felt deemed a call to the midwife – they were very regular and quite strong (‘quite’ being a reference of hindsight). The midwife explained to Guy that she was up at the hospital with a new mother (her first delivery of the day) and that she’d be with us within the hour. When I opened the door to her, it was a huge relief and I burst into tears.

Our midwife was fantastic. Guy and I both warmed to her immediately. She walked in, sat me down and chatted to me about how I was feeling, watched a couple of contractions, checked the baby’s and my heart rates, and then examined me; “You’re 3cm dilated, I’m going to stay”. The golden words; I was so relieved.

From this point it was all about progress, ‘bringing on’ the contractions. I’d been sitting on my birthing ball, rotating my hips, using my TENS machine and breathing to relax through the contractions (pursing my lips and breathing out ‘golden spirals’), but to get things going, I needed to move around. I got to my feet and started pacing up and down our hallway, looking for places to lean as the contractions washed over me.

Guy had just served our midwife some lunch when her phone rang. I was on my way back down the corridor and my ears pricked when I heard her say, “I’ll be with you in five minutes, I’m just around the corner”. The midwife put down the phone and said to Guy, “There’s a lady round the corner pushing with her second child, I’m afraid I have to go. You’ll understand when you have a second child. I’ll be back as soon as my colleague [the other midwife on call] gets there.” And she fled out the door.

There was nothing else to do but carry on as we were going. I continued pacing while Guy started filling the pool. I remained calm for around 45 minutes before I started longing for her return. I sat myself at the front window and gazed out at the road, squinting at every car that passed, asking Guy, “Is that her?”


Within the hour, she was back. This time, when she walked in, she was wearing a smock and carrying lots of bags of medical paraphernalia. I thought to myself, “this is more like it!’ Our midwife had reached the other house five minutes before the baby had arrived – her second delivery of the day. The second midwife, had arrived shortly afterwards having had to hitch-hiked a lift in a police van (anther story in itself). It was an extraordinary day for our midwives.

The midwives carried out more checks and suggested I get in the shower for a change of scenery.  As my waters still hadn’t broken, I thought it might be because I was worried about the mess in our recently refurbished flat, so I stepped into the shower thinking it might help me relax. I got down on all fours, and what a relief it was. Initially, I thought that the shower was slowing down my progress as the contractions eased, but it was actually relief from the warm water. I remained there for what I thought was 30 minutes, but was actually two hours. Guy kept popping his head round but I just apologetically asked him to leave me. I felt very calm and just wanted to be alone and focus on the contractions. The midwife intermittently, quietly and discretely, came in and checked our heart rates. Hearing the little heart beat of my baby was amazing. It was a constant reminder to me that me this was a team effort, I was not alone. My little baby was going through something even bigger than me and remaining calm. I was so proud.


At around 6:00pm, I asked the midwives what my options were – I felt like I was having contractions that seemed to go on an on – running into each other. I was disappointed that my waters hadn’t broken and I was worried it was holding my progress back. The midwives suggested another examination and then to get into the pool. The examination confirmed I was progressing well and had reached 7cm. She described my waters as ‘bulging’. In my head I was thinking, “don’t push them too hard, I don’t want them bursting on our brand new mattress”.


I made my way down to our back room where Guy had created the most beautiful space around the pool with candles and music. As soon as I saw the water I virtually dived in. As I submerged, a contraction took over me, and at the same time I felt my waters pop. The midwife tucked herself discretely to my left and Guy to my right. The midwife left Guy to do the encouraging while she wrote up my notes and calmly answered questions and monitored everything. About an hour later I started feeling the urge to push. At first I didn’t really know what I was doing but after a few attempts the midwife suggested I keep my voice low and explained that I had strong but short contractions so to really try and drag them out. I begged for a time frame, to which my midwife simply reassured me that I was doing well.

Guy was incredible – encouraging me, filling up my water bottle and reminding me to drink, filling up the pool with warm water and keeping so calm. He went through waves of emotions; laughing, crying and quietly just absorbing the atmosphere. I remember it being dark and very calm – probably because I mostly had my eyes closed. I felt very safe, focused and supported.


After an hour of bearing down I was tired. I had only eaten a piece of toast and my energy stores were getting low. Guy knelt beside me and said, your next push is going to be for Poppy (my niece). As the contraction rose I thought of Poppy’s little face and I found a new strength. Next up was my grandmother, followed by Guy’s grandfather (who’s anniversary it was), and it carried on.

Shortly afterwards we were joined by our second midwife This arrival was another huge help, I knew I must be getting close if back-up was arriving. I remember feeling something, like a little nose budging, but one more push and the baby crowned. My immediate reaction was to leap out the water and jump up and down, but the midwives told me to breath and listen very carefully as I needed to do some very small pushes to avoid tearing. I followed their instruction and felt the head deliver.  I remember looking down between my legs and seeing a torch light flashing around. The midwife told Guy to join her and showed him our baby’s face in a hand mirror – its little eyes blinking and head looking around.

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With the next and final contraction I pushed the rest of the body out. I reached down and lifted my baby up in front of me. The midwives spotted that the cord – which was all spiralled like an old telephone cord – had got tangled around the baby’s neck, so they both quickly jumped in and unwound it. I then lifted the baby out the water. As the tummy passed my eyes I saw that we had a daughter. “It’s a girl”, I announced, followed by, “and she looks like your dad, Guy”. In the background INXS’ ‘Beautiful Girl’ was coincidentally playing, it was a moment of my life that I will never forget.

I sat back into the water and the midwives placed my daughter in my arms and latched her on to feed – her body submerged in the pool to keep warm, with a little hat on her hat and towel over her shoulders. Once all the goodness had been pumped from the placenta, Guy stepped forward and cut the cord – separating my little baby and me for the first time. We sat for 20 minutes while the midwives filled out the paper work and made a round of tea. Guy took our daughter for some skin-to-skin and I stayed in the pool while we waited for signs that the placenta had detached. After 45 mins, the midwife stoked up an injection to speed up the process and as I stood up to have it administered, I spotted drops of blood in the water. With one final push (I really didn’t think I had it in me), I delivered it!

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 By 11:30pm our wonderful midwives had weighed our daughter, administered a vitamin K injection into her little leg, completed the paper work, cleared up the placenta and were ready to go. Our daughter was the third baby they had delivered that day – they are superhumas. We thanked them for everything (how do you even start to thank people who have just done what they did), and I took our baby to our bed where we rested and fed. Guy emptied the birthing pool – with a whiskey – and when it was all cleared joined us in bed. Just the three of us, our new wonderful family.

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I’m Expecting – A great new app for mums-to-be

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As soon as the baby is born, mums and dads spend every waking moment tirelessly documenting everything that happens to their bundle of joy. From the first word spoken to the first step taken, the first haircut, and even their favorite meals and TV shows, all of these go into a little baby book that parents can look through when they’re in the mood for some reminiscing. For parents who want to remember the whole pregnancy – morning sickness and all – it’s not quite as simple. There aren’t a lot of people who keep track of their pregnancy so meticulously, and they’ve often had to improvise to make their own pregnancy journals.

But there’s something comforting about being able to see all your symptoms and the memorable parts of your pregnancy, isn’t there? After all, there’s nothing that can help you deliver your baby more than being prepared does, and learning about your own body and the changes it undergoes throughout the pregnancy can be quite beneficial. This is why MedHelp, Inc. has created I’m Expecting a great new app on mobile phones that helps you keep track of your pregnancy and gives you tips on what to expect each week.

Many mums now rely on their phones for support, as reports have shown that pregnancy apps are more popular than fitness apps. Mums now also rely on the internet more than ever, and with Gaming Realms, the company that acquired Iceland Bingo in 2013, showing that growth in mobile internet is among the strongest trends in the internet landscape today, it’s not surprising that many mums use their phones to get information on their pregnancy and symptoms.

I’m Expecting eliminates the need to do Google searches for what to expect, and it takes the hassle out of creating your own pregnancy calendar. The app gives you the chance to say what your expected due date is and then calculates how many weeks into your pregnancy you are – perfect for mums who can never seem to keep track. A timeline for expected pregnancy symptoms is presented on a calendar, and you can actually say the actual dates once the symptoms kick in. Tips on what to expect from each trimester and week are also provided to mums, so they never have to worry about what’s happening to their babies. The app is presented in a beautiful, simple design so there’s no fuss, but the best part about it is that it gives mums easy access to the MedHelp Pregnancy Forums, where thousands of mums come together to help each other through their pregnancies.

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There are many other pregnancy tracking apps out there, but I’m Expecting stands out from the rest with its practical range of services, as well as its excellent support. If used with dedication, the app can not only help you through your first pregnancy, but help you keep track of everything so you’ll know what to expect for succeeding pregnancies as well. Why not give it a try. You can download here from Google Play.

Birth Story Of The Week – Vanessa and Luna

I had a very good pregnancy, apart from being off food, I loved it. I swam most days, did regular antenatal yoga, received Shiatsu on a regular basis (I am a shiatsu therapist) and planned for a home birth. When I went for my 33 weeks scan, my baby was still head up, by 36 weeks I went to check  again and I was told that she was still breech. Hmm that didn’t sound good for my home birth plan, especially when the woman in charge of the scan talked at me about c-section, the risk of natural birth, suffocation and that I needed to do an ECV, where they try and turn the baby manually. I didn’t have time to say anything or ask anything, I was sent out with an appointment for the ECV. I came out very upset!

Sudddenly I felt that the race against time had started. I didn’t want to have an ECV and I was going to do everything to try and turn my baby. I had received acupuncture whole through my pregnancy and my acupuncturist saw me every other days even Sunday, I went to a chiropractor, received more Shiatsu, did inverted positions, headstand in the swimming pool – yes the lifeguard did give me funny looks! Spend lots of money… but no budging…. Monday came, I was 37 weeks and 5 days and I went for that ECV. I was calm as I felt I did all I could. I put together my hospital bags, just in case things didn’t go to plan. Well, the doctor was nice, I breathed, she tried to turn but baby  didn’t turn!!!! They , then, wanted to sign me in for a c-section. My husband was my great advocate and told them that I didn’t want a c-section until I had a full assessment. It was agreed that I would meet the obstetrician on the Wednesday to discuss my case. I wanted a proper risk assessment that took into account the baby and I.

The next day, I felt a little emotional and bruised and continued  with my exercices to get my baby to turn. In the evening, I went swimming, more headstands. Then I remember , it was 9pm and I was lying down talking to my baby, telling her that she could come whenever she felt like it, that I was aware that which ever way she was, she would need to come out, that her crib was in storage but it was ok, we could get it…When I got up, I felt water trickling out and the next thing I knew was that my water had broken and I was running around the house on the phone to my husband panicking and finishing my hospital bag.

After calling my midwife, we headed to the labour ward,  my contractions only started a couple of hours after my water broke. Because of the breech presentation, we had to discuss the situation with the consultant who told us about the danger of a vaginal birth. We were told that we could have a C-section in the next hour. That prospect horrified us, we wanted our baby to know when she was coming to the world. I was scanned to check her position and to make sure it was her bottom presenting and not her feet because in the case of feet, you have no choice but a C-section as it would be very dangerous. The consultant left the room and Rory and I didn’t have to discuss it, we both knew that I would push her out. It was a difficult decision because we had been scared but we felt strongly about it. I trusted my body, I knew I could do it and I felt on good form.  There was no room free, so we were told to walk around the deserted corridors of the hospital. On our way to the cafeteria, I had to stop at each contraction and start humming as I was taught in my yoga class. My husband stood by me, un-phased by it all!

The labour progressed quickly,  and soon I was on all four on a bed. it started at 11pm and by 6.19 am our beautiful daughter Luna Clementine took her first breath. My 2 midwives from the home birth team were amazing, they were like two angels. My husband encouraged me all along and let me crush his arm, the obstetrician was very discreet and stayed in the background all along.

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I had an immense control over my body, which stopped me pushing her out too soon. I was doing downward dog on the bed during intense contraction to be able to not push her out. My midwife was pretty impressed by that one! Off course I did go hysterical at times because I was so scared to push her out too early and that her head would get stuck. I used gas and air which helped me to concentrate. I pushed her body out nicely but her head was stuck. The senior obstetrician was called in and used the forceps for the head.  It was pretty traumatic for my husband to witness the breech birth of our daughter, watching her body unfold while her head was still inside and the use of forceps. I was eyes closed concentrating on getting her out and breathing. They gave her a little help and she was soon in my arms. I am very proud of my little Luna and my husband who stood by my decision. My midwives were amazing and helped me take the right decision for Luna and I.

Vanessa is a Shiatsu Therapist and she practices in South London Camberwell, her website is www.healthandwellbeing.org.uk .

Homebirth – a Dad’s perspective


‘We should, though, get accustomed to homebirth being ever more the norm. To go forward, we should go back to my Grandmother’s world.’

The past is, famously, a foreign country, where they do things differently. When I learned, as a child, that my grandmother was born at home, this felt decidedly the practice of another country. It seemed something that used to feature but, like spam meat, ration books or outside toilets, had so long ceased to that it was the preserve of aliens, never mind foreigners.

When we were expecting our first child, Stanley, in 2011, a work colleague told me that his wife had had a homebirth. This seemed to me alien speak, as my views on homebirth had lain mentally dormant, un-scrutinised since my youth. My co-worker even insisted that homebirth was much superior to hospital birth. This was so otherworldly that I couldn’t compute. I could only explain it in terms of the eccentricities, invariably much in evidence, of the guy who was speaking to me. Crazy man, crazy talk, I concluded.

I thought no more of homebirth till my wife, Monica, suggested it for our second child, Brenna, born on 2 January this year. Monica is not someone whose views I can dismiss as quickly as the person I worked with. And she rapidly won me over. Others that we spoke to during Monica’s pregnancy were, however, befuddled.

“You are,” they’d stammer, “having the baby at home?” “Well, that’s the plan. But the midwife will take you into hospital if there is any need. Planning for a homebirth doesn’t mean you’ll definitely have one. It just gives you the option and you can always revert to the hospital, if that is necessary or what you come to prefer.”

Regurgitating these points, picked up from a ‘meet the midwifes’ session, often brought a close to this conversational line. Presumably, those who moved the conversation on were content to see homebirth as a vehicle for maximising your options. To those who showed more interest, I’d explain how it might help, particularly with the first stage of labour, where being as relaxed as possible assists. The hospital being an unfamiliar environment not tending toward relaxation, while the home, in contrast, is wholly familiar and thus, more relaxing.

This generally persuaded even the most doubtful. One chap, though, insisted that we have the birthing pool on the ground floor, otherwise we risked a ceiling collapsing. This had been heartily dismissed as a possibility at the ‘meet the midwifes’ event, so, I replied, “has that ever really happened?” “Oh, yes,” he maintained, ensuring I had a tiny twinge of concern for our ceiling when I inflated the birthing pool in our first floor bathroom. But, as I did so, fully two weeks before Brenna was born, I pushed aside this misgiving, reassuring myself that the midwifes must know what they are talking about.

‘Be prepared’ is the Scouts motto and, we thought, we were acting in that spirit by getting the pool inflated, and keeping it so, at an early stage. At this time, action stations always appeared on the horizon. I’d go to sleep thinking, “this is the night that our daughter will arrive”. Then wake up the next morning to find that she hadn’t. The action stations were so regularly mirages that I stopped believing in them. There was a part of me that believed Monica would always be pregnant and the birthing pool would forever dominate the bathroom, without ever being used.

A few year days before Brenna’s birth, rather tactlessly when speaking to a German friend, I compared our wait with the Blitz, in the sense that initially it felt like it must end soon. But our wait went on a few weeks, as the Blitz went on for years, after a while, it just seemed normal that Monica was on the verge of giving birth, as grim acceptance marked London’s fortitude in the face of the Blitz. There are no conditions to which a person cannot grow accustomed, as Tolstoy said.

He had, of course, never given birth. That appears to me not a condition to which we accustom. No matter how excellent our midwives are, or how relaxing our homes, it can only be endured. Brenna arrived at 4.45pm, little over an hour after the midwives did. Thankfully, my colleague was right: homebirth was a quicker and smoother experience than Monica experienced with Stanley. But still not, pace Tolstoy, an experience she could be said to have become accustomed to.

We should, though, get accustomed to homebirth being ever more the norm. To go forward, we should go back to my Grandmother’s world. As challenging as birth inevitably is, Brenna’s homebirth was preferable to Stanley’s hospital birth, incurring less cost for the taxpayer, as no hospital bed or treatments needed to be paid for. Homebirth can help families meet the challenge of birth and the NHS the cost of remaining affordable in an ageing society.

follow Jonathan on twitter @Jonathan_Todd

Birth Story Of The Week – Jade and Aoife

My baby girl turned one yesterday, so felt it a good time to share my birth story.

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When I got pregnant I was terrified. As a midwife, I had seen so many women in pain, begging for an epidural and thinking they were dying. How the hell would I cope with labour?! My colleague and friend had set up her business teaching HypnoBirthing a few years before. She suggested I come along to a course as she knew how anxious I was. I had no idea what to expect and my partner (who is very scientifically minded) was dubious to say the least. After the first session I was hooked. We were shown a video of a woman birthing in the pool, fist pumping and sobbing with joy when her baby was born. If she could do it, so could I surely? From then on, I worked my socks off on my days off and when I got home from work. I listened to positive affirmations; practised breathing techniques; read any positive birth stories I could get my hands on (many of which featured on your blog) and performed perineal massage. I also read some really influential texts, such as Grantly Dick-Read’s ‘Childbirth without Fear’ and all of Ina May Gaskin’s books. I was exhausted but determined to have a good birth. There is a lot of pressure on a pregnant midwife I feel. I didn’t want to be the one who was gossiped about in the tearoom as ‘not coping’ in labour.
One day after my due date at 3am, my waters broke. I went into midwife mode. Calmly got out of bed, checked the loss was clear and popped a pad on. I didn’t tell a soul, not even my partner until 8am. I phoned the midwife led unit where I was planning to birth and told them that my waters broke but I wasn’t contracting. I declined to go into the unit for a speculum examination (a look inside the vagina to check the waters have definitely broken) and told the lovely midwife I would like to wait to see if any contractions started. As a trained professional, I knew what I was doing and was desperate for my labour to start. I felt this was more likely if I stayed in my own environment. Ha! After hours of bouncing on the birth ball, watching films and pacing round the lounge, I was still only having mild tightenings every 10 mins. At 4pm, my mobile rang. It was the sister of the midwife led unit. She wanted me to go in and get checked out. Reluctantly I agreed as I knew time was ticking on. One of my closest midwifery pals was the lucky lady who got to perform the examination which was so bizarre. She informed me that my waters had in fact broken but my os (cervix) was closed. I was booked in to be induced the following morning. I felt so deflated.
We drove home and I made my chap stop en route to grab us some dinner. We got home and I ran a bath with my essential oils and put my HypnoBirthing relaxation CD on. As I got into the bath and started practising my breathing techniques, I felt something start to happen. A really powerful (not painful) tightening sensation across my tummy. They started happening every three minutes from then on. My chap came in with dinner for me (the fresh filled pasta with sauce – student grub!) and preceded to feed me over the side of the bath. I felt so relaxed and in control. My body, now fully fuelled, really began to work, with the sensations getting more intense. I must be contracting, I thought, though it really didn’t hurt. At about 11pm, I climbed out of the bath and preceded to pace our bedroom. All of a sudden, I felt the need to be at the unit. I phoned at 1am and informed them I was coming in. The five minute journey was no picnic. On all fours, on the back seat, I mooed like a cow all the way there. Once at the hospital, I stood nervously at the lift, which is directly outside the Delivery Suite. I was so anxious I would be seen by a colleague. I didn’t want to added pressure of being upstairs on the midwife led unit and colleagues on the wards and CDS knowing I was labouring! The midwife who cared for me was amazing, a previous mentor of mine when I was a student midwife! She didn’t want to examine me until 24hours after my waters had broken just in case I wasn’t in fact labouring. I was very calm so I’m not sure she was convinced! 3am (24hours) came and went. I wasn’t examined as she could tell after two hours of observing me that I was labouring. I wasn’t asking for any pain relief either, which would be another indication for a vaginal examination. At 4am, I felt my baby drop down into my pelvis further and rotate. This was accompanied by an overwhelming need to push (like an urge to vommit!) I had no control over this feeling which I hated as I had felt so in control up until this point. I couldn’t possibly be fully dilated though, surely? I had only started contracting properly at 7pm and still didn’t feel pain. I was in the pool at this point and expressed my confusion to my fab midwife who suggested I had a feel myself. So, in the pool, in front of my mum and fiancée, I preceded to examine myself!! OMG, I was fully dilated and could feel the head! I was doing it! The next two hours were hard work. I did everything I could to get my baby out. I squatted, sat on the loo, got in and out of the pool and pushed like mad. At times, It felt like my baby was just not going to fit through my bones. I remembered one of the affirmations which talks about your baby being perfect for your size though and that kept me calm and focused. At 6:23am my perfect girl floated into the world into the warm water of the pool and was bought up to the surface by her daddy. I had done it. Less than 12 hours of active labour, no pain relief at all and an intact perineum! Amazing! I felt like I could conquer the world, it was such an awesome feeling – the hugest high ever.
HypnoBirthing totally helped me stay calm throughout my pregnancy and in the immediate postnatal period as well as the labour. I was so inspired by this amazing movement that I decided to train as a Practitioner. I have now taught one group of parents in my mat leave and will continue throughout this year. I will be returning to work next week as a Community Midwife and I can’t wait to try and help more women feel better about birth. If I can do it, so can anyone.
Baby Aoife, a week old.  jade 2 jade 3 jade