How to take care of the umbilical cord stump (video)

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A BirthPrep Antenatal Class – What to Expect

Courses pictureWalking into an antenatal class for the first time can be daunting. What to expect? Think of an antenatal class and you may imagine couples in a group sitting on the floor with cushions or on birthing balls.

Television programmes are full of these images. Even the NHS Choices website on antenatal classes shows an image of couples on the floor which actually reminds me of when my children used to sit on the floor in primary school for story time.

When I set up BirthPrep I wanted to provide adult education where people would feel comfortable Continue reading »

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How to have a drug-free birth

Last week I was with a couple for a one-to-one session. When we got on to the topic of pain relief in labour the mum said she just wanted to use gas and air if possible. We then talked about how she could manage without other forms of pain relief and I gave her some ideas to think about.

For most women labour is painful. I always remember a presentation by a midwife a few years ago on the subject of normal birth when she said that the pain alerts a woman to find a safe place to give birth. That made complete sense to me.

When women say they don’t want to use any drugs or just use gas and air, especially having their first baby, often people around them think they can’t do it (including some midwives). If a woman says that to me this is the advice I give……

Be open-minded

It’s difficult to plan a birth. Labour and birth can be very unpredictable so be prepared to just go with the flow. You know you want to try and have a drug free birth but research other forms of pain relief so that you can make an informed choice if the need arises.  Go to antenatal classes, talk to your midwife or visit the NHS Choices website.

Related article: BirthPlan vs Birth Preferences

Have a supportive birth partner

It really helps to have a partner to support you in your wishes. Read our article to find out How to be a great birthing partner. 

Use your breathing

Simple breathing can help you stay relaxed and feel in control. Find out how to breathe during labour here.

Use hypnobirthing

Hypnobirthing teaches simple but specific self- hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques for birth. You can attend classes with your partner or buy an instruction book and CD. The women I have supported in labour using hypnobirthing have needed little or no pain relief. There are many practitioners available and some are midwives as well. Several of our couples have bought second hand books and CDs from the internet so it’s worth having a look there. There is also an online course recently available from Natal Hypnotherapy.


If hypnobirthing isn’t for you, think about using a TENS machine. TENS machines deliver small electrical pulses to the body through electrodes placed on the skin on a woman’s back. They work by blocking pain signals to the brain so that you feel less pain. They also stimulate the body to make its own pain relieving chemicals called endorphins. You can buy or hire a TENS machine and start using it at home in the early stages of labour. For more information click here.

Use water

Water is relaxing, soothing and comforting. Contractions can feel less painful in a birthing pool. Birthing pools are readily available in midwife-led and hospital maternity units. You don’t have to give birth in the pool. Lots of women use the water for pain relief and get out for the birth. If you are thinking about giving birth in the pool ask your community midwife about waterbirth sessions in your local area.

Here’s what I did with one young woman who came to labour ward and said she didn’t want to use pain relief. I could see her family were thinking ‘she’s got no chance’. I taught her simple breathing, she went in the pool and I supported her there. She had gas and air towards the end and gave birth in the pool with a triumphant smile on her face. Let us know your birth story.

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Getting started with Baby-led weaning

BabyCentre has produced several videos to guide parents through baby-led weaning. We’ve selected four here and there are more on their You Tube channel. See link below.





Click here for more tips and recipes from BabyCentre.

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How to breathe during labour, keep it simple.

Breathing in Labour

For most women labour is painful to some degree. If you are tense and frightened, your breathing becomes shallow and rapid and you can start to feel panic. You’ve probably heard that breathing exercises can help and it is something people ask for from antenatal classes.

Effective breathing can help you stay relaxed during contractions and feel in control. It can help you delay and even prevent the need for other forms of pain relief.

As a midwife, I find as soon as I start breathing with a woman she very quickly feels more in control. It can make a huge difference. You may need other pain relief but effective breathing can help you feel in control and relaxed whatever happens.

Keep it simple

Having met women over the years who have learned breathing techniques and then forgotten them in labour, leading them to panic, I now advocate very simple breathing. If you want to use more advanced breathing techniques, have a look at hypnobirthing, where you practise over and over again with a partner so you are less likely to forget.

Most contractions during spontaneous labour last up to 60 seconds. Very occasionally contractions last a little longer than this. If a contraction lasts around 60 seconds, it starts mild and builds up to its strongest, most painful, at 30 seconds and gradually fades over the next 30 seconds and then there is usually a break of at least 2 minutes before the next one starts.

Try this simple breathing:

Breathe in through your nose to the count of three
                and then blow your breath out slowly to the count of four.

Keep your breathing rhythmical. Don’t let the in-breath become longer than the out-breath. You can say the words re-lax to yourself or words of your own. You can choose an image to focus on during the contractions. With one of my births I brought to mind the face of my toddler son and I completely focused on his beautiful image each time I had a contraction. You can think of an image of your own.

Music can help your breathing. You might want to choose some very relaxing music or you can choose music with a rhythm to breathe to. For my first birth, I rifled through our collection of music to find a rather obscure Irish band whose music had just the right rhythm to breathe to and that became my birth music.

How your partner can help

Your partner can help you keep your breathing steady by breathing with you. Try holding hands, facing each other, with eye to eye contact. See what works for you. You can practise during pregnancy.

When your labour starts, give breathing a try

Get ready for each contraction with relaxed shoulders and body and remember you are breathing for up to 60 seconds and then the contraction is gone. Each contraction is bringing you nearer to your baby. I love these words…

                                       ‘Inhale courage into the heart, breathe out fear …….  keep going’.

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Find the right place for your birth – Which? Birth Choice tool

iStock_000011700392XSmall[1]There are usually several options to choose when making the decision where to have your baby; Hospital, Home, Birth Centre – Alongside (in the hospital), Birth Centre – Freestanding (away from the hospital), but which one is right for you?

Which?, in association with BirthChoiceUK, have created an award winning online tool to help. Continue reading »

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Small Wonders – Help for parents of premature and sick babies

Approximately 80,000 (1 in 10) babies in the UK are born prematurely or sick and Best Beginnings is a charity that aims to help families give their baby the healthiest start in life. The Small Wonders DVD was launched by the charity in June 2012  and over 95,000 DVDs have now been distributed. They are they being used in 85% of the hospitals with a neonatal unit in England.

The charity worked closely with over 200 families and expert professionals to produce and pilot these films and the DVD has been endorsed by 23 organisations, including UNICEF and RCPCH.  It is the first DVD of its kind Continue reading »

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New online hypnobirthing course

unnamed (140x40)Maggie Howell of Natal Hypnotherapy has just announced their new online hypnobirthing course. Maggie says ‘ This new course is the accumulation of my 15 years knowledge, insight and experience of giving birth 5 times and helping 1000’s of women have a really positive experience through the use of hypnosis as well as teaching them the fundamentals of a positive birth experience – ie breathing, visualisation, relaxation, physical comfort measures and of course how to let go of fear’.

You can find more information and a half price offer for a limited period using this link.

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10 ways to help yourself to an easier birth

The prospect of giving birth can be daunting whether you are having your  first or your fourth baby.  Here  are some key things  you can do to help yourself cope with labour, reduce complications and even shorten your labour.

   1. Exercise
Exercise during pregnancy can help you cope with the physical and mental demands of labour and giving birth. Walking, swimming, aquanatal classes and pregnancy yoga are all safe for pregnancy as long as you don’t overdue things.  Pregnancy is not the time to start a vigorous new routine.

   2. Position yourself in pregnancy
The pelvis is oval shaped and in order for the baby’s head to fit in the pelvis it should naturally enter looking to the side and then turn to face the mother’s back during labour. Continue reading »

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How many antenatal appointments should you have with your midwife?

Not sure if you are having the right amount of appointments with your midwife? Here is the schedule of appointments for a healthy pregnant woman recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) which you can expect your midwife to follow:

First baby Subsequent babies
First contact with the midwife First contact with the midwife
Booking appointment Booking appointment
16 weeks 16 weeks
18-20 weeks ultrasound scan 18-20 weeks ultrasound scam
25 weeks ——–
28 weeks 28 weeks
31 weeks ——–
34 weeks 34 weeks
36 weeks 36 weeks
38 weeks 38 weeks
40 weeks ———
41 weeks 41 weeks
42 weeks 42 weeks

For details of what to expect Continue reading »

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