17 October 2017
5 tips for your recovery and life with a newborn
I've been preparing for a Mothercare Expectant Parent event today, where I've been asked to give a talk. I’ll be speaking about the benefits of doing pregnancy yoga to have a healthier and easier pregnancy and birth, and also what to expect in the early days after your baby is born. You will suffer from lack of sleep, hormone imbalance, getting to know your new baby, recovering from the birth – all of this can be quite overwhelming.... becoming a parent is a huge deal!
1. Be kind to yourself – it is ok if you have not taken out the rubbish, if you have a mountain of laundry piling up, or if you have spent several days in the same clothes!
2. Prepare in advance – start stockpiling your freezer. Enjoy preparing your favourite recipes of delicious and healthy meals in the last few weeks of pregnancy and have at least 2-weeks' worth of frozen meals in the freezer. Perhaps get a subscription for online food shopping to be delivered to your door.
3. Ask for help – Ask any visitors to bring something when they come over (food shopping, home-made dish) or they can take the rubbish/recycling out. Also get visitors to help themselves to a cup of tea/coffee and to make one for you. Ask family to help with cleaning or arrange a cleaner to keep your home clean and tidy.
4. Be patient with yourself – you and your baby are in the process of getting to know each other - it is ok not to know what exactly your baby wants. Try feeding, changing nappy, winding him, cuddling him, soothing or swaddling him, singing or talking to him. And repeat. You are doing an awesome job so give yourself a break.
5. Have zero expectations – when it comes to a sleeping or feeding pattern. These tend to vary over time. Eat when you can and rest when you can. The more you rest and the healthier you eat, the quicker you will recover.
Come and see me at the Mothercare Kew event today at 6:30pm and avail from an exclusive 15% discount on my postnatal care packages and other discounts on my pregnancy yoga classes. There will also be in store discounts for Mothercare products. Here’s the link to book your free space!
10 October 2017
Picking up where I left off last week – let’s talk about meconium. So, what is meconium? Meconium is the baby’s first poo. Meconium is made of a mixture of water (70-80%) and several other ingredients (30-20%) such as amniotic fluid, lanugo, intestinal epithelial cells.
According to a 2010 study by Unsworth & Vause, there are 3 reasons that a baby will open his/her bowels whilst inside your bump:
- The most common reason is that your baby’s digestive system has developed fully and the intestine has started to work by moving the meconium out. Around 15-20% of term babies and 30-40% of post-term babies will have passed meconium whilst inside your uterus.
- During labour, your baby’s cord or head is being squeezed. This causes a reflex that can both lead to heart decelerations and the gut to begin to work. This can be a normal physiological response which can happen without fetal distress such as when babies pass meconium in the last part of labour when their head is being squeezed in the birth canal, and they arrive with a trail of poo behind them.
- There could be fetal distress which results in hypoxia. It is thought that the lack of oxygen causes the anal sphincter to relax and intestinal movement resulting in the passage of meconium.
It is important to bear in mind, that fetal distress can be present without meconium and meconium to be present without fetal distress. The main thing is to look at the bigger picture.
In my antenatal one-to-one appointments I will counsel you about your options and what to avoid if you have meconium-stained waters to have a safe and positive birth. Contact me to book your antenatal appointment.
3 October 2017
Amniotic Fluid - your baby's bath water!
Did you know that when your baby is near term (fully developed) his daily urine contributes about 500ml to the total amniotic fluid volume? Your baby also swallows an estimated 400ml of your waters. This fluid passes through your baby’s circulation and any waste products are removed and passes via your placenta to your circulation system where your body removes it.
Functions of the amniotic fluid:
- space for growth and movement of your baby, helping muscular development of his arms and legs
- development of your baby’s lungs
- works as an “airbag” cushioning your baby during contractions or surges
- prevents compression of the umbilical cord during your baby’s movements and surges
- protects the baby's head as it is descending and moulding in your pelvis during labour
At each appointment, your midwife should check the amount of fluid during palpation (the process of using her hands to examine your bump). The fluid level can be estimated to be reduced (oligohydramnios) or increased (polyhydramnios). Both these conditions, if suspected, need to be checked via an ultrasound scan which can measure the levels accurately, as in some cases may indicate a fetal abnormality or can be associated with maternal condition.
If ‘your waters break’ (known clinically as ‘rupture of membranes') at term, you should make a note of the time at which it happened, and the colour of the fluid. It is easiest to see the colour if you place a sanitary pad in your underwear. A normal colour can be clear, pale straw, or lightly blood-stained. It's not always a gush of water - sometimes it can be a slow and continuous trickle.
You could also have some “show”. This is also known as your ‘mucous plug’ and has the consistency of jelly. It can be clear-coloured or blood-stained, and could indicate that your cervix is softening and starting to dilate. If you have a show it doesn’t necessarily mean that labour is imminent - some women have it a week before going into labour, and others only right before the birth itself.
Sometimes your waters break before you have surges or contractions, and sometimes your waters never break and your baby is born in an intact membrane sac. This is called to be born ‘en caul’ – it is very rare and is thought to be extremely lucky!
If your waters break before 37 weeks, or the colour of your waters is greenish, brownish or bright red with fresh blood you should consult your hospital. Green or brown/black waters indicate the presence of ‘meconium’ which is your baby’s first poo. I will write more about meconium in next week’s post.
If you’d like to keep updated whenever a new blog post comes out then sign up to my newsletter. If you would like to book an antenatal one-off appointment with me to go over your options and more in-depth information please contact me here. These appointments last between 1-2 hours until all your questions are answered.
25 September 2017
Finding Your True North and Surviving the Last Days of Pregnancy!
I spent my Saturday volunteering at the first Wanderlust yoga event in London! The festival consisted of a mindful triathlon: a 5-km run, followed by a 90-minute yoga class and a 30-minute meditation. The work was non-stop, but it was such an awesome day, and I made some real connections with some amazing and fun people.
The reason I'm telling you about my Wanderlust adventure is that the theme of the event is “Find Your True North”, which is rather cheesy. However, I really like the notion of a bit of soul-searching, finding that inner reserve within you to pursue your dreams, life goals and overcome any challenges. I think this theme lends itself well to pregnancy and childbirth.
For most, pregnancy and starting a family is very much wanted and life dreams to start a family. For some women, the pregnancy itself can be a struggle and they find it physically and/or mentally. It is a hard slog at times, especially if you are not well supported.
Your patience is truly tested in that last days of pregnancy. You have gotten everything prepared, and created a nice cosy nest. You have stocked your fridge with plenty of frozen meals to last you several weeks after the baby is born. You have packed and re-packed your hospital bags, or checked and re-checked your home birth kit (perhaps timed how long it took you to inflate, fill up and deflate your birth pool). You have gone on loads of long walks trying to kick-start your labour. You can’t get comfortable in bed as your bump always gets in the way or you need to go to pee every 15 minutes. It takes you an age to put on your shoes and perhaps you need help from your partner as you can’t reach your foot. Every well-meaning person around you is asking “when is the baby coming?” “have you not had your baby yet?” and it makes you want to scream!
Yes, the last few days of pregnancy can be tough. This is the time that you dig in deep and find your true North, find your inner strength, trust your body to go into labour when it and your baby is ready. Let your baby choose her birthday. You are strong and powerful and your body is doing an amazing job and you can totally overcome this challenge!
Here’s a list of things you can try to pass away the time:
- Repeating positive mantras – “I can do this”, “I’ve totally got this”, “Each day that passes, brings me closer to meeting my baby”
- Meditation – go on walks in a park or by the river (because who can sit still and be comfortable?!) and listen to the sounds around you, feel the breeze in your hair, the sunrays warming your face, or the rain drizzle on your face
- Enjoy some quality time with your loved ones.
- Turn off phone – or put it on silent giving yourself an hour of peace and quiet
- Go for a pregnancy massage, or reflexology treatment – pamper yourself and relax
- Go to a pregnancy yoga class – the movements help get your baby in a good position and more deeply engaged in your pelvis.
- Come and chat with us at our next Positive Birth Movement group meet-up – hear how others are coping and what they are doing.
By all means, if none of the above work then scream into a pillow or even better, beat the pillow up!
12 September 2017
Breathing Techniques during Labour
Whilst teaching a client my “Coping Techniques for Labour and Birth” workshop we discussed the benefits of hypnobirthing and the importance of breathing techniques. Generally, the breathing techniques that I teach, I get you to completely focus and place emphasis on your exhale. I do this by getting you to visualise a white feather floating in front of your face or a golden thread coming out of your slightly-parted lips. The aim is to blow away the white feather or gold thread further and further away from you during a contraction/surge/wave.
Perhaps you have heard of Ina May Gaskin and her theory that the more the jaw is soft and relaxed the more the cervix can dilate. Therefore, by keeping your focus on your exhale and making it longer than your inhale, you help your jaw to relax and soften.
This reminded me of a conversation I had with one of my friends. She commented on how her labour was helped by whistling throughout her contractions. I thought that was fascinating at the time and did some research. I found that some hypnobirthing techniques encourage women to make a noise during the exhale which could be a “sshhh” noise or a loud sigh. Indeed, my friend used a whistling technique. I think that having this added sound can help you to focus your mind on something other than the intensity of the labour sensations. Making a noise during the out breath can also work to lengthen it and relax the muscles in the face and jaw.
If you are a practiced yogi you may find it useful to use your Ujjayi breathing. This is another way to create sound during the exhale. This breathing technique is sometimes called "the ocean breath". It works by slightly narrowing the back of the throat which constricts the passage of air. It’s important never to hold your breath during labour as your body and your baby needs oxygenated blood. However, by narrowing your throat you create an ocean-like sound when air passes out.
Another breathing technique to lengthen the exhale is by counting. Inhale to the count of 4 and exhale to the count of 4 initially, but then gradually lengthen the exhale to the count of 5, 6, 7 and finally 8. You can count in your head or get your birth partner to help you count out loud. Alternatively, instead of counting perhaps try focussing feeling the sensation of cold air coming in through the nostrils and warm air leaving your nose and mouth.
During my pregnancy yoga classes part of the class is dedicated to breathing techniques – if you’d like to sign up to my yoga classes or sign up to my one-to-one Coping Techniques for Labour and Birth classes you can contact me here.
How to create your birth space
To create a positive experience in a hospital labour ward or birth centre setting, you can start by making your birthing space as comfortable as possible. Making a space less clinical-looking can make all the difference! These are some useful items that you can bring (this list is by no means exhaustive):
- Fairy lights or battery-operated candles
- Favourite pillow (hospital pillows are renowned to go walkabouts and in any case they are as flat as pancakes)
- Eye pillow and add some drops of lavender essential oil
- Essential oils (I use doTERRA oils) – check my Facebook page for a video and instructions on how to safely use these oils as written by Jennifer Hautman from www.hautmanhomeopathy.com
- Balance (creates a sense of calmness and well-being, eases anxiety, creates a soothing and calming environment)
- Wild Orange (helps you to be grounded and focused on the present, eases anxiety)
- Serenity (lessens feelings of tension, calms the mind & emotions and soothes the senses)
- Clary Sage (can be used to increase contractions, if needed, and / or to help expel the placenta after birth)
- Frankincense (when inhaled or diffused, promotes feelings of peace, relaxation, satisfaction, and overall wellness).
- To pass the time while things get going – magazines, ipad/laptop with comedies (laughter helps bring out oxytocin), card games, make a playlist or use hypnobirthing tracks and bring headphones.
- Snacks and drinks – something that’s easily digested and nutritious. Perhaps even get takeaway in the early stages, or get someone to bring you a home cooked meal (much nicer than hospital food).
- Straws – so much easier to drink from than a bottle or cup!
- To help with pain relief – TENS machine, hot water bottles
- Get moving – bring a birthing ball, let loose with some dancing or yoga exercises to ease any discomfort and help focus on your breathing anytime you feel anxious or during contractions/surges.
So, there’s plenty of things you can bring in from home or do to pass the time to make your hospital stay as comfortable as possible. The more comfortable and relaxed you are, the greater the chance that you will have a positive experience!
Subscribe to my weekly newsletter (see form on the right) for more information on pregnancy news and pregnancy yoga tips and class schedule or contact me to enquire about my services.
Jennifer Hautman has more information on her page about essential oils for pregnancy and birth. Read here.
29 August 2017
Positive Birth Movement August Theme - Pain
I haven't been to a PBM meeting since May as I was either teaching or on holidays (lucky me!). This month the theme is - Pain which is quite an unusual topic for a positive movement group, seeing that the word pain has negative connotations. However, I feel that it is important to think about this word, as it often comes up in pregnancy/birth conversations - usually from well-meaning family and friends. "Aren't you worried it will be painful?" "How will you cope with the pain?" "I couldn't handle the pain.... "
Pain is a negative sensation that we dislike and want to avoid. But how to avoid pain? Basically, we cannot avoid the physiological process that we will encounter at many points in our lives. Indeed, there is a reason we feel pain. Usually it is our body's way of communicating that something is wrong or dangerous (eg. when you burn your hand on a stove, without pain we wouldn't remove our hand from the heat). However, when dealing with a process which we need to go through (such as labour) it is best we change our mindsets to become more resilient.
During my yoga classes I often mention to my students to be mindful of the impact words can have on them. A way we can help ourselves is to change the wording or terminology. In my weekly newsletter, I incorporated a table of clinical negative sounding words and their positive-sounding counterparts. A lot of this is taught in hypnobirthing courses. So how about we change the word pain and instead think of it as an intense sensation?
The second thing I teach in my yoga classes is how to overcome mind over matter during my endurance exercises. Focusing the mind on the breath or through visualisations can help overcome any pain sensations.
Having done a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation course a few months ago, I was taught to how to observe sensations (such as pain) and be equanimous. (I will write another blog on my experiences at the meditation retreat another time). I learnt to be calm and composed and notice the sensations objectively without fear, aversion. For example, during meditation, I had to sit cross-legged for a whole hour without moving at all. My knees began to hurt about 15 minutes into the hour and at first I was in agony thinking I still had 45 minutes left and I ended up stretching my legs! I was taught to observe the pain (as an intense sensation) in an objective manner and be ok with it. I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Yes, my knees hurt and my legs became numb, but eventually the pain went away. Gradually over a few days it got easier to sit still for the entire hour.
Every sensation comes and goes, nothing is permanent. Think of contractions during labour (or a more positive-sounding word to use instead of contractions is waves or surges) - they come and they go. If we focus on our breath or use visualisations such as the "golden thread" or "white feather", it will help our minds deal with the intensity of the sensations.
To summarise, let's be mindful of the words we use and let's get comfortable with the uncomfortable because it won't last forever. And as one of my students pointed out; each surge will bring you closer to your baby!
22 August 2017
Recent news concerning midwives and the use of the term "normal" births
It seems really odd to me that journalists have recently picked up the change of RCM's campaign that "dropped" the term normal births. The RCM's campaign was changed to be called "Better Births" however this was old news. The misinformed articles have caused some controversy and backlash aimed at midwives who all want to do the best by the families they serve. Here are IMUK's comments on the articles in The Guardian and The Times. Click here.
22 August 2017
How to make the right decisions for a better pregnancy
Knowledge is Power!
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the well-meaning stories from friends and family? So much so that your head is spinning and you can't make sense of anything? Or perhaps you would like more information from your doctor or midwife regarding a test? Perhaps there are too many choices and you just don't know which to pick?
I will teach you this easy way to put it all in order so that you can evaluate which approach/choice works best for you. Being a major decision-maker in your own pregnancy journey is empowering and research has proven it makes for a more positive experience.
I do so love a good acronym (who doesn't?!). So for this week's post I've got the Queen of all acronyms when it comes to making decisions for your own health. Whenever you are offered a test or intervention, remember your.....
B - BENEFITS - these obviously depend on your situation, there are some procedures that you may have wanted to avoid that are beneficial in some circumstances.
R - RISKS - healthcare providers generally inform you of major known risks, however you may need to do some of your own research. Also care providers' own beliefs and experiences based on their personal and professional backgrounds may affect how they talk about the relative benefits and risks.
A - ALTERNATIVES - formal research into alternatives therapies are hard to come by due to lack of funding (there's no money to be gained by pharmacological companies!). Midwives are experts in normal births whereas doctors are experts in complicated births.
I - INTUITION - call this your gut instinct. Deep down there's a voice or a feeling telling you what decision feels best for you, listen to this voice. It deserves to be heard.
N - NOTHING - ask yourself, what if you do nothing? This can be a valid alternative at times. Choosing nothing can also be helpful in giving you more space to consider your options. You may want to check if it is possible to changer your mind at a later stage. Your healthcare providers should uphold the right of their patients/clients to make a polite "informed refusal" of an intervention.
Let's use an example.
Deciding whether to have a medical induction of labour for going over your due date (bearing in mind a normal pregnancy is between 37-42 weeks, most doctors/midwives will start talking about induction when you reach 40 weeks)
Benefits - You may get to meet your baby sooner rather than later. If you are tired of being pregnant and looking forward to meeting your baby, having an induction can sort this out.
Risks - Studies show that a medical induction tend to have a higher rate of the birth ending up with epidural (due to the more intense contractions that the medicines produce), inability to move around, ending up with instrumental delivery due to baby not being positioned well or with caesarean section and possibly higher rate of perineal tears if instruments are involved. Please note a medical induction is a procedure that can take up to 48hours until your baby is born.
Alternatives - include: reflexology, acupuncture, osteopathic/chiropractic treatment, massage with clary sage oil, drinking castor oil, raspberry leaf tea, eating dates.
Intuition - you may feel it in your gut that your baby is not ready yet but will come in a few more days.
Nothing - Perhaps you may like to wait a while before deciding what to do. You can always change your mind. Another alternative is to do the "wait and see" approach which involves extra scans and getting baby's heart rate checked every couple of days and awaiting for events to naturally take place.
Obviously the above example is for a normal healthy term pregnancy. If there are medical conditions affecting you or your baby then medical induction may be strongly recommended and this still remains your decision. As a woman of sound mind, it is your body, your pregnancy, your baby, and you remain the person that needs to give consent or refusal.
Please do your own research and decide what is right for you. Take back some control. Pregnancy and birth should not be something that happens to you. If you know your options then can you make a true "informed choice" or an "informed decision".
You're not the passenger but the driver and you can ask for directions from your passengers or outsiders along the way, which you can weigh up for pros and cons and then make your own decision which route to take.
16 May 2017
Launching new website
We are thrilled about the launch of the new Midwife Rebecca website which has had a much-needed overhaul and a fresh new look! We would like to give a massive thank you to all the families who have given permission to use their beautiful photos, empowering stories and testimonials to describe their experience when hiring Rebecca for their care. This website has a new Blog page where Rebecca will regularly be posting birth stories, book reviews, articles on anything to do with yoga, pregnancy, birth and life with a newborn - so stay tuned!
The first blog post is an empowering birth story where Rebecca was one of the midwives looking after Hayley's labour and birth. Hayley hired independent midwives for her home birth and Rebecca came as the second midwife. She was privileged to help care for Hayley and be a part of baby Indy's journey into this world.
16 May 2017
Hayley's Birth Story
I know how many negative/scary birth stories people insisted on telling us during my pregnancy, so I just thought I'd share our positive birth story! I feel like it's really important to tell women that they can have a very positive birth experience, and exactly how it happened for me so they aren't scared or worried.
I woke up on 1st June, nine days before my due date, just before 6am. I had a mild sensation in my lower back, a sort of ache that wasn't unpleasant. The sensation faded quite quickly and I thought nothing of it. Half an hour or so later the feeling came back, it faded again and it crossed my mind that this could be the start of labour. I got up, made breakfast for me and my husband Steve, then the ache returned - I told Steve and said it was such a 'nice' ache that I thought it couldn't be a contraction. I said he shouldn't worry and to go to work.
Read the rest of Hayley's story