Everyone has their sayings that they repeat in their head when they need a little pick me up. It might be a, “ Come on… You’ve got this!” before you stand in front of your team to do a presentation at work or “Stay calm, stay calm.” when you’re driving in the car and some douchebag has pulled out in front of you.
It’s commonly seen amongst sportsmen and women where they shout, “Come on! Come on!” when they are walking on pitch or warming up. We see it as patching themselves up but they’re actually just telling themselves to come on. They’re telling themselves that they can do this and they have got this.
It’s the phrase that you remind yourself when you want to behave in a certain way. Now, often these phrases are so engrained in us that we now don’t even see it as an “affirmation” as that’s just SOOOOO hippy. They are phrases that are so engrained in us that t’s just something we say or do. And this kind of familiarity is what we want to achieve in pregnancy through birth affirmations.
In labour, during contractions, there will be times where they are so intense that you will feel like you can’t do it any longer. Now, if you have been practising your birth affirmations throughout pregnancy then it will be at this point where you might start repeating over in your head, “I can do anything for 60seconds, I can do anything for 60 seconds, I can do anything for 60seconds.” (FYI – 60 secs is about how long a contraction lasts). You will say it till you believe it to be true. This is easier to do if you have read them to yourself every day or couple of days in the build up to your labour. It will be even more helpful if your partner knows them too as these phrases can then be reminded to you when you need a pep talk in labour.
Poor Mary on her donkey trying to find a nice place to have her precious baby, only to be showed to a stable filled with animals. If this was to happen nowadays we’d all be fuming that we didn’t get to our hospital room with a bed, warm water and a midwife.
But I want to share with you why I think Mary’s stable birth wasn’t as bad as we once thought.
1. When Mary was in labour, she set off on her donkey to find somewhere to give birth. She would have been upright sat on that donkey with her legs straddled wide, her open pelvis would have meant plenty of room for baby Jesus to travel down and this would have meant lots of pressure on her cervix to help it dilate.
2. Notice on her very long search for a place to birth she didn’t just accidentally have her baby on the pavement outside the local pub. That wouldn’t have made a very biblical story now would it?? You see our bodies have this funny way of having our backs. If adrenaline is high and we are stressed (for example being told a big fat, “No room at the inn” several times) our bodies can stall labour. Only when she found a safe place to birth did her labour crack on (that stable would have been nesting at its best!)
3. There was no bed in that stable. Beds are not always our friends in labour yet lots of birth rooms make the bed the centre point. Having no bed in the centre of the stable would have meant that Mary would have needed to walk, kneel, lean, squat, go on all fours to get into a comfortable position. This would have meant that baby Jesus would have been able to navigate through the pelvis a lot easier than if Mary saw a bed and then got on it.
4. It was dark. It was night time and there would have been no lights to just switch on in the stable. A dim lantern would have been the only light (and the North Star of course) meaning that melatonin (the darkness hormone) would have been at its highest. Melatonin acts on the uterus to increase contractions meaning a smoother labour.
5. There were no onlookers. Her mother didn’t just pop in to see if she was ok. Her other children weren’t demanding snacks or needing picking up from the school run. There was no midwife, no doctors, no change of staff, no staff just popping in to take equipment or check the resus. There’s a theory called the Fear Of Observeration. Whilst we may not consciously realise this, having people watching us in birth can make us behave differently and this can interfere with birth. I’m not for one minute suggesting that Mary shouldn’t have had a midwife there but, I think limiting her birth partner to just Joseph was a good idea.
So before you rush out to book the nearest Inn complete with stables and animals for your birth, notice that these 5 Top Tips for birth can be transferred to any birth scenario. Meaning that you can boss your birth like Mary, in all birth settings minus the straw and hay in your manger.
Want to know more about how you can help get the birth you want? Read a real life birth story and how she stacked the odds in her favour- Gayles Birth Story here.
I want to tell you a story about this pregnant Mum I knew. She worked in a predominantly female workforce and one specific day at the office at tea break, they got into a convo about birth.
“My labour was 52 hours and ended in an emergency caesarean.”
“I bled too much.”
“ I was transferred and it was a nightmare. The pain was awful.”
The stories went on and on. The only lady that didn’t get involved was my pregnant friend, it was her first, and one other mother.
Needless to say, my pregnant friend spent the rest of the day thinking about the horror stories and the birth that was inevitably in the not too far away future. She felt awful.
If you are currently pregnant whilst reading this, I’m sure this situation is, sadly, all too familiar for you.
The other mother, who didn’t say anything in the group, caught her at the end of the day and said to her, “ I actually had a great birth, it was fine and I’d do it all again. I just didn’t want to say it infront of everyone as I didn’t want to be a dick.”
This woman felt like she couldn’t share her birth story as it was a good one. She didn’t want to make the other women feel like their births were ‘less’ than hers. She didn’t want to be THAT person. The one who makes everyone roll their eyes because she got lucky or had it easy.
And that right there, pretty much sums up what society thinks about birth. We are in a birth culture that thinks that if you have a good birth, you got lucky.
But what does this do then for pregnant women and their births?
If you mostly hear nightmareish birth stories you are actually more likely to have a dramatic birth because of the stories you hear. As when the time comes for you to give birth, you are more than likely going to feel scared about what’s in store for you from the stories that you’ve heard.
Will it be 56 hours like Sarah’s?
Will I bleed like Susan? etc. etc.
This then means that adrenaline is going to be higher in your body. Adrenaline effects your birth in a negative way making you feel more PAIN and increasing your chances to intervention. It also means that because you’re FEELING panicked, you are also going to feel that birth is dramatic and traumatic. Meaning that then YOU are most likely going to be that person over coffee who tells the other pregnant women that birth is in fact, awful. Actually, more importantly to you, you are going to look back on the day your baby came into the world with a dark fog of fear or panic.
You know what else is interesting. We have become so accustomed to these dramatic birth stories that you feel like a minority if you have a GOOD birth. Our beliefs are that actually birth is awful and if you have a good one then you must be an anomaly, a “lucky one” and that you shouldn’t brag about your luck.
How backward is that?
So that if you are a first time pregnant mother who says… “Oh I’d like to just use gas and air and water.” People snigger, roll their eyes and mutter “Ha, you’ll see” and then you go off thinking how silly you must be for thinking that as a first time pregnant mother you can have a birth like you imagine. How very naïve of you.
I also think it’s important to distinguish why you want to have that waterbirth with gas and air on a midwife led unit. Is that because that means calm and in control to you? If so, maybe it’s the calmness and the feeling in control that you’d like, rather than the water. From working on a consulant led unit as a midwife, I know for fact that intervention doesn’t always mean bad experience and waterbirth doesn’t always mean good experience. But I’ll save that for another blog post.
If you have a good birth story, SHARE IT. Don’t feel silenced by the negative ones.
Don’t feel like you got lucky.
Don’t keep those positive birth vibes to yourself. Don’t be THAT person.
Don’t be a dick 😉
If you would like to change the way you think about birth to a more positive one and learn ways to keep you feeling positive about birth all the way till you have your baby in your arms (this is what hypnobirthing is!) then take a look at Hypnobirthing and Antenatal Ed. Online with midwife, Beth.
If you’re local to Gloucestershire you can get the group hypnobirthing courses here.
(Edited to add.. I want to make it really clear that this blog is not to silence anyone who’s birth wasn’t great. Talking heals and sharing your birth when things were traumatic can be a way to discover that you are not alone! It’s just good to be aware of the effects that sharing stories can have on pregnant Mums and their births.)
I get it… Homebirth isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But since the speculation of Meghan Markles plans for a home birth, it has come into the lime light. From the many magazine articles on this with people throwing around their views on Homebirth, it’s highlighted what we as a culture think about women and their capabilities about birth. That for birth, we need to be in close proximity of a doctor, you know “just in case.”
So let’s look at what the research says…
Before we look I need to highlight that this research compares the types of birth looking at where women PLANNED to give birth and then what actually happened in their births. (This is important to distinguish so people reading this don’t think, well DUH of course there’s going to be no cesareans at home 🙄)
Also we’re looking here at women with no “risk factors” so women who have no complications, totally straightforward etc. and that’s in ALL of these groups. All “low risk” women but all women who have had a baby before.
So, you’d think that comparing these women there would be the same amount of instrumental births or cesareans in each birth setting right? As surely, the amount of babies needed to be born with intervention are the same in each group.
Here are the stats…
Per 1000 births.
Women who had a Vaginal birth (without assistance)
Home- 984 vs Birth unit- 967 vs. Obstetric 927… That’s a 57 more vaginal births happened at home than in a consultant led unit,
Home 28 vs. Obstetric unit 121… That means that 93 more women choose an epidural when it is readily available.
Home 15 vs Obstetric unit 56… An extra 39 women had an episiotomy (a cut to the perineum used to help baby be born quicker when is thought baby is in distress)
Home 7 vs Obstetric unit 35 … Only 7 women were transferred in for a caesarean birth compared to 35 who were already on a consultant led ubit. And remember, these women ARE NOT on a consultant led unit for any reason as we are comparing women with no other factors involved.
Home 9 vs Obstetric unit 38… 9 women would have transferred in to hospital for a instrumental birth.
So are you thinking… WOW it sounds more dangerous at home as surely those birth statistics should be fairly similar so all those babies would have missed out on being born quicker when in need. Well, if we look at the most important one to consider, what about the babies.
So when looking at serious medical problems for baby per 1000 births.
Home 3 vs Obstetric Unit 3 (for second or more time mothers)
So baby’s of mothers (who have birthed before) who are “low risk” are no safer during birth in a hospital than at home.
Even when compared to a birth unit, home always comes up trumps for less intervention. So looking at those stats.. look at all those unnecessary interventions that occurred purely from being in an area where there are obstetricians around.
This could be potentially for two reasons…
You are more relaxed at home, your labour progresses more efficiently, you require less drugs because of this and baby gets optimum blood supply. This all happens because you are MORE RELAXED.
Hospital culture. Doctors are less familiar with “natural birth” as they are asked to come to births usually when things are deviating from the norm, which means they are more likely to advise that interventions happen when sometimes not totally necessary.
These findings have been published by NICE and there’s a really interesting table here that compares birth units too. There is also a table that compares all the stats but for first time mothers as remember all the stats above are for mothers who have given birth before.
So if there wasn’t quite 5 reasons above, here are 3 more bonus reasons to consider a home birth…
1. Home is a familiar environment. For some people home is where they would feel safest and more comfortable/relaxed, meaning that there oxytocin would be higher. Higher oxytocin means more effective contractions and higher endorphins (bodies own morphine)
2. You don’t have to stick to “hospital rules” you can light candles if you want to light candles, you can have the room exactly how you like, fill the pool with fairy lights etc. without having to lug your Mary Poppins bag into a hospital.
3. It means you don’t have to travel whilst having contractions, or sort out childcare, or worry about going into hospital to be advised to go back home if you live far away. Or worried about giving birth quickly on the journey. Your midwife comes to you, taking any logistic worries out of your hands.
Have 1 conversation about home birth with your midwife, if it’s not for you then at least you’ve had the option and made the choice. You never know, it may for you be a great decision.
Anyone had a home birth before? I’d love to hear any tips that you have for anyone worried about the logistics of a home birth.
Making choices and how to lead these types of decision making conversations (such as where is best to birth your baby) with your health care team is something that we look at on the Hypnobirthing with Antenatal Ed. Online DIY Course. As well as preparing you with techniques to avoid wanting an epidural (as you definitely can’t have one of these at home!). If you are booked in for a birth in a hospital then you can also learn ways to make your environment more homely and techniques to distinguish if interventions are truly necessary on the Hypnobirthing with Antenatal Ed. Online DIY Course.
Winner of 🌟The Best Pregnancy Support Service in Gloucestershire 2017🌟, The Bump to Baby Chapter has something for everyone.
🌟For expectant couple wanting to know all you need to know about labour, baby and those early days we have midwife led antenatal courses.
🌟For a second or third time mother wanting to birth without fear after a negative birth experience. There’s hypnobirthing one day classes for the busy Mum.
🌟Free blogs with tips on birth and baby for all
🌟Buggy walks in Cheltenham for new mothers to bring the sisterhood in motherhood.
So whatever stage of pregnancy and whatever number baby have a look at the page, website and get involved 🌟
Some days the let down reflux doesn’t play the game... and some days you just get a whole lot more than you asked for 😆 💦 👶🏼
It was 7am this morning, after a night shift. I usually feed Delphi overnight so my boobs were, needless to say, FULL. I had nothing more to do during my shift, no more “tasks” no more writing in the notes, everyone was happy and the night had gone well. I was chatting to this new Mum and her 1 day old baby started to cry, watching his little fingers move around and root around like a little bird looking to feed was just too cute 🥰 My head went immediately back to my little baby as I thought how this was her just a year ago looking so tiny in the clear hospital crib.
Meanwhile... low and behold... my right boob was also thinking the same as the let down reflex kicked in and I popped my hand up to feel, you guesssed it, a leaky boob. I folded my arms to cover it, said my goodbyes and went to the toilet to shove some tissue down my bra like my Year 7 ‘desperate to grow a pair’ self. 🍉
So the let down reflex ...
Def: When your boobs decide to release your milk.
🍉 Happens when oxytocin is high- think skin to skin, smelling your baby’s head, when your baby lets out a cry, when you see your baby rooting around for a feed.
🍉 It’s back to the old oxytocin vs adrenaline play off again, so if you’re feeling stressed or busy, your let down reflex can be slow or inhibited. For example, if your baby has been crying for a while and/or if your baby is struggling to latch on and you’re feeling the pressure. This can reduce your milk coming.
In my case, my boobs didn’t leak all night because I was busy. The minute I stopped, felt chilled and thought of my baby ... 🥛 💦
What you can take from this...
🥛 If you’re feeling stressed when feeding your baby then take 5 ⏰. It will be easier for everyone if you pass baby to Dad, go and make a brew then come back and start again.
💦 Anything that increases your oxytocin is good for milk supply. In the early hours/days with your baby it is soooo important that you have plenty of skin to skin with your baby. In the first 24 hours especially, it is more beneficial that your baby has done lots of skin to skin and you’ve been with your baby than how much colostrum your baby has actually had. Plenty of skin to skin in the early days will be great for your milk supply in the up and coming days.
🥛 Breast pads are a must. You may find that when you’re out and about with your baby in the weeks/months after baby then sometimes even the sound of someone else’s baby crying can start your let down reflex.
Anyone got any experiences to share about the let down reflex?
Breastfeeding as well as formula, bottle and combi feeding is something that we always cover at antenatal with our lactation expert and midwife, Sue.