The Power of Oxytocin – The Hormone of Love!

Oxytocin – or the ‘love hormone’ as it’s sometimes known – plays a huge part in the process of labour, birth and breastfeeding.  Here Daisy teacher Chloe Sena tells us more about this amazing hormone…

I started writing a blog post about all the different hormones involved in labour and birth, but when I got to thinking about oxytocin, I soon decided it needed a whole blog to itself.  So here it is!  Let’s explore the power of oxytocin and delve a bit deeper in to this remarkable hormone.

What is it?

Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the hypothalamus and released into the blood stream by the posterior pituitary gland.  This is the hormone that makes us feel good when we hug, kiss, feel attracted to someone, have skin to skin, or when we have sex.

Oxytocin also regulates social interaction and sexual reproduction as well as playing a massive role in bonding between men and women, and parents and their babies.  It is also an antidote for depression.  Pretty amazing hey?  By understanding this wonderful hormone in more detail, it means you can help your health in general.  For the purpose of this blog, it can have a powerful impact on your labour, birth and postnatal experience.

Role in Labour

As labour starts, the body’s oxytocin levels begin to rise and this is what stimulates the ripening of the cervix by causing the release of prostaglandins.  Oxytocin also signals the regular contractions of the uterus.  As labour progresses, the oxytocin levels continue to rise, and this hormone can be likened to a kind of fuel for labour.  As the levels of oxytocin get higher in the body, this causes labour to move through the different stages – oxytocin helps labour to keep going strong!  So, just as you need to make sure you have enough fuel in your car for the engine to work smoothly; your body in labour needs the oxytocin levels to be high enough for you body to work efficiently.

Encouraging the release of Oxytocin

You can help your body release oxytocin during labour in a number of ways, and this is where your birth partner can help too.  Keeping your birth space calm and tranquil and deciding what anchors will help you relax during labour.  Things like candles/low lighting/music (maybe that you are used to from Daisy Birthing classes) will really help.  Preparing for birth and understanding how it all works can help too as it will take away some of the fear of the unknown.  All these little things will help when it comes to the big day as the production of oxytocin can be directly related to how calm, relaxed and focused the birthing mother feels.  If a mother feels calm, supported, at ease with her caregivers and her environment, oxytocin will be produced and released into the blood stream more easily.

Oxytocin levels are at their highest just before the birth and lead to the euphoria women feel in those first precious moments with their baby after birth.  Oxytocin release works in a bit of cycle and this is the same during labour.  The pituitary gland releases oxytocin which is carried through the bloodstream to the uterus, stimulating contractions of this muscle.  This then encourages baby’s head down on to the cervix which then stimulates the release of more oxytocin.  It is a positive feedback loop, where release of the hormone stimulates an action which means more of the hormone is released.  This is obviously very important when considering oxytocin in terms of fuel for labour.

What stops Oxytocin?

If feeling calm and relaxed can help increase oxytocin levels in the body, what can inhibit the production of this all-important hormone?  If a birthing woman feels afraid or scared, this can stimulate the release of adrenaline.  Adrenaline is often known as the ‘fight or flight’ hormone and can stop the production of oxytocin.  This system makes sense for mammals birthing in the wild, as it diverts oxygen to the systems that need it most for survival and will slow down labour or stop it altogether.  But adrenaline will have the same effect on women in labour and studies have shown that high levels of adrenaline – or ‘catecholamines’ as fight or flight hormones are collectively known – can lead to longer labours.

Immediately after birth

Skin to skin contact with their newborn means the mother’s body continues to release oxytocin, stimulating the uterus to contract and the placenta to come away from the uterine wall.  As the oxytocin levels are at their highest immediately after birth, this incredible hormone plays a massive role in bonding, and establishing feeding in those early minutes and hours after birth.  Blood oxytocin levels peak for mother and baby at around 30 minutes after birth and start to reduce after an hour, meaning for this first hour – mum and baby are both flooded with oxytocin, the hormone of love!  Doesn’t this just provide more evidence for how important it is for mum and baby to have a protected first golden hour together whenever it is possible?

And not just that……

Oxytocin levels stimulate the let-down reflex during breastfeeding and it continues to be released as baby suckles.  During the entire breastfeeding journey oxytocin levels can help the mother feel relaxed, can reduce stress and lower blood pressure.  If bottle feeding, feeding baby skin to skin can naturally increase the body’s oxytocin levels, encouraging bonding between caregiver and infant.

You can see why the wonderful love hormone, oxytocin needed a blog all to itself, it is an incredible hormone with so many positive influences for us and our bodies, both during labour, and indeed in life itself to help us on our journeys.

Love Daisy x

Some further reading

https://www.bellybelly.com.au/birth/ecstatic-birth-natures-hormonal-blueprint-for-labor/

http://sarahbuckley.com/pain-in-labour-your-hormones-are-your-helpers-2

https://2018_beta/thedaisyfoundation.com/backup/magical-golden-hour-important/

https://www.aims.org.uk/journal/item/undisturbed-birth

 

 

Your Awesome Cervix!

Following on from Ceri’s last blog post about your incredible uterus in all its glory, let us now marvel at the wonder of the cervix.  Daisy teacher Chloe Sena says, “Let’s have a look at the remarkable journey your cervix goes on as your labour starts and progresses.  It does so much more than just open, so during labour (as hard as it is!), try not to get too hung up on the number of centimetres dilated you are.  Numbers are not everything.  Anyone who has been to Daisy Birthing classes with me, will know how much love I have for the cervix. Honestly, I’m not a weirdo – hear me out ? ”

In Pregnancy

The cervix is without a doubt one of the most amazing features of the female body.  One of its main jobs is to protect the development of the baby and the uterus during pregnancy by remaining closed and plugged with mucus.  Then it has to to open and allow the body to birth your baby.

During pregnancy, it is like thick cartilage (a bit like the end of your nose), closed and plugged with mucus.  It is about two and a half centimetres long and starts off pointing towards the back wall of your vagina.  As your body starts getting ready for labour and birth, it will release hormones called ‘prostaglandins’.  These will help it begin to soften, ripen and do its thing!  As this starts, the mucus plug may also start to come away.  Sometimes called a ‘show’, you may notice it in your pants, or when you wipe after going to the toilet.  You may also not notice anything but it will come away at some point.  Then it begins.  Your cervix has one heck of a journey to go on and it will start before you even realise you are in labour!

So, what happens?

Firstly, the cervix will go from pointing backwards (posterior) to pointing forwards (anterior).  This will bring it into line with the vagina to allow the baby to move through more easily.  It also has to efface and soften.  The contractions of the uterus draw the cervix up and cause it to shorten (from approximately two and a half centimetres) before any dilation can happen.  This process is called effacement.  It also has to soften, or ‘ripen’ and go from being hard cartilage like material to be soft and stretchy like the inside of your cheek, or ‘soft like butter.’ Pretty cool, hey?

Dilation of the Cervix

In addition to all of the above, the cervix also has to dilate or ‘open’ to approximately ten centimetres.  In reality, the numbers mean very little and your cervix will get to a point of simply being ‘fully dilated’, whether that is 9, 10 or even 11cm.  Dilation can not happen unless it has done all of its other jobs.  So, if someone in labour is ‘stuck’ at say, 5cm – the other processes of thinning, effacing and ripening will be still going on.  The important thing here is to not get disheartened if you are ‘only’ 3, 4, 5cm….  as your cervix is still doing its splendid thing and you will get there!  And just to clarify, your cervix will not dilate to 10cm and leave a gaping hole just there, waiting for baby to come through.  Rather, it peels back over baby’s head – a bit like a polo neck jumper.  The dynamic movements, rotations, sways and rocks your body will instinctively do during labour all help aid this process of dilation, helping the cervix ease open over baby’s head with each contraction of the uterus.

It is Not a Crystal Ball

As we can see, the cervix has many jobs and every woman’s cervix will work differently. As Maria Pokluda says

Let me let you in on a secret, your cervix is not a crystal ball.  It cannot predict when labour will start. Nor can it predict if you will deliver before, after or even on your due date.  The cervix can do many wonderful things, but let’s not give the cervix more credit than it is due.  A cervix cannot predict the future.

So, no your cervix can’t tell you when you are going to give birth, but you can see progress in many ways.  When in labour, rather than thinking only in terms of numbers of dilation – ask your care provider to tell you if it is anterior, or how thin or effaced you are.  This will mean you can see your progress and not be discouraged if on examination you are ‘only’ 4cm. Think instead – ‘Yeah!  I’m 4cm – my body is awesome!  Look what I’ve done already!’.  Birth is different for everyone: a completely dynamic process that you can’t predict.

I hope you have enjoyed finding out more about your incredible cervix and that I have managed to show you of how truly tremendous it is.  In my opinion, it is the most awesome part of the female anatomy.

Love Daisy x

Further reading:

http://www.mynovabirth.com/motherbaby-blog/2016/2/1/the-contracting-power-of-the-uterus

Pregnant and Emotional? You’re Not Alone!

Sometimes it seems that the words ‘pregnant and emotional’ go hand in hand!  Pregnancy is a time when the body is changing and needs to still support you whilst also now carrying and nurturing your baby.  Your emotions may be all over the place and no wonder as your body is producing more hormones and in much higher levels.  Your levels of oestrogen and progesterone ramp up which can leave you feeling rather irritable, perhaps weepier and even more forgetful (baby brain anyone?).  You are also going through a transformation into motherhood – whether for the first or subsequent time, so you are changing too.  At Christmas, emotions can also be heightened with all of the excitement and planning; families coming together who may not often see each other and for lots of other reasons.  Here Daisy teacher Ceri Elms focuses on how you can positively handle your emotions over this festive season and beyond – to make sure you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Worries and concerns

Thoughts and worries about life after pregnancy with a newborn can also cause an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol.  Questions such as: ‘how will my life change with a new born?’; ‘how will I cope?’; ‘will I get support from my partner/family/friends?’; ‘will I be a good mum?’ can all start keeping you awake at night.  The fact you are even worrying about being a good mum, means that you care enough in the first place, so odds are that you will be!  Don’t let a worry bog you down.  The best and most basic piece of advice is to share it.  Speak up and tell your partner/your friend/your caregiver/a support group (http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/pandas-support-groups/).  Once voiced, the worry can be discussed and practical advice can be given or sought.  A worry shared really is a worry halved – and often, a worry gone.  If someone knows you are concerned about not getting enough support for example, they know to give you support themselves and can help you find it from others too.

Fear and anxiety

Fear can be the ugliest of the emotions, creeping in when you least expect it and making you worry about pregnancy, the baby and birth.  Often this stems from women feeling a lack of control in pregnancy and also not understanding what is happening to their bodies and how they can prepare for birth.  The fear of the unknown and the fear perception of birth is often reinforced by its ‘painful’ and ‘passive’ depiction in the media.  In addition, people’s traumatic and dramatic birth stories that really aren’t helping anyone to think more positively about birth, are often to blame.  Anxiety is the friend of fear and they often go hand in hand and can set your mind racing about all the things that could go wrong and make you focus on the negative.  This in turn can cause you to feel tense and possibly even panic.  In labour and birth, fear and anxiety produce high levels of the hormone adrenaline which can inhibit the birth hormones oxytocin and endorphins.  This can make your labour longer, less efficient and more intense – thus almost seeming to validate the horror stories and worries you had in the first place.  This fear-tension-pain cycle can be broken however, and quite easily.

Preparing for a positive birth

How do you protect yourself from things you don’t want to hear and see about birth and learn about how it can actually unfold positively?  How do you find out that most births are actually not traumatic or dramatic at all, and that you can absolutely be in control of your own birth story?  It’s actually very simple.  Prepare, prepare, prepare!  Do your own research, based on fact and reality, not on hearsay and dramatization.  Talk to the people who are surrounded by birth every day (not just relying on sources who have given birth once, maybe more, and are putting their perceptions and experiences on to you!).  Learn about all of the different ways it can happen and how you can actually help the birth process be more efficient, shorter and less intense.  Your midwives, consultants, positive birth groups and antenatal teachers are your best resources here.  Your Daisy teacher and Daisy village of other mums are always here for you too, and we have been there, felt it and dealt with it ourselves so use us for advice, support or just an ear to listen.  Check out the fabulous Facebook group Mama You’ve Got This! https://www.facebook.com/groups/MamaYouveGotThis/ for support and advice.  It’s also perfectly acceptable to tell people that you are focusing on your own positive birth so you don’t want to be influenced by their stories, thank you.

The power of an active birth

It may be beneficial to stop watching the way society and the media wants us to view birth too.  Turn off those TV shows that only show birth one way (the painful, medicalised and woman as just a patient usually) and look for other videos online of birth that is positive, natural and ‘active’ too.  An ‘active birth’ doesn’t mean the woman is constantly moving around in athletic poses at all – it’s about having the freedom and choice to move and knowing how to work with your body, and balancing movement with rest – what positions and movements you do is completely up to you.  Find out how different birth can be when the woman feels prepared, in control, listened to, respected and empowered by trusting her own body and instincts – as we were made to do.  You may be surprised how beautiful, natural and instinctive birth really can be.

The importance of self care

Another simple way to de-stress and get control over any emotions is to look after yourself.  Do something just for you: have a bubble bath; read your favourite book in a quiet room whilst someone else deals with the other kids/family for a bit; go for a walk; listen to soothing or uplifting music; just relax and breathe, and focus on how amazing your body and baby are.  Self care is incredibly important for your well-being, both emotionally and physically, and it can be surprisingly restorative and rejuvenating to just take a little time out, just for you.  Also remembering to eat well, drink lots of water and exercise regularly can make a huge difference to how you feel and really boost your mood.  Plus exercise promotes endorphins, which is a key birth hormone too.  You can read more about the importance of self care in pregnancy here: https://2018_beta/thedaisyfoundation.com/backup/self-care-in-pregnancy-and-beyond/.  

Pregnant and emotional?  Talk it through..

However you are feeling and whatever you are worrying about, please always find someone you trust, whether a caregiver, professional or loved one and let them know.  Don’t just put it down to your emotions and suffer in silence.  You will be surprised how others can help you and how they will change their approach towards you, perhaps being more practically helpful around the house/work, more sensitive, supportive and positive.  Heightened emotions and worry can cause you sleepless nights (at a time when sleeping is already a challenge right?!), and can in more extreme cases cause panic attacks or other medical issues, so for the sake of you and your baby, please make sure you reach out.    

Here’s wishing you all a very Happy Christmas, here’s a free relaxation download from us, to you: https://2018_beta/thedaisyfoundation.com/backup/product/relaxation-download/

Love Daisy x

Useful links:

Find your nearest Positive Birth Movement group: http://www.positivebirthmovement.org/find-a-positive-birth-group.html

If you are interested in finding out more about Daisy’s complete birth preparation course for you & your birth partner: https://2018_beta/thedaisyfoundation.com/backup/daisy-parent/

 Helplines: https://www.mind.org.uk

https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk

 

 

Does a Birth Partner Need to Prepare? Yes!! Read on to Find Out Why….

One of the most important roles at any birth is that of the birth partner.  You may not know as much as the midwife or doula (unless you are one as well!) – perhaps you know next to nothing about the birth process!  We can help with that by the way… https://2018_beta/thedaisyfoundation.com/backup/daisy-parent/.  But your role is key, and can really make a big difference to how the mother feels during and after the birth.  Here Daisy teacher Ceri Elms explains just what you can do you support the mum to be in your life…

What does a birth partner do?

There is evidence that having one-to-one continuous support from someone you love, trust and/or know well can help women to cope better with labour and have a more positive and happy experience.  With the right support from a birth partner, the birth can also be shorter, more efficient and more straightforward, so it’s an important role not to be taken lightly.

So, what exactly is your role as birth partner?  In brief, you are a tower of strength: a rock, a supporting beam for the mother to literally hang from if needed in different positions for birth; as well as providing emotional support, encouragement, motivation and comfort as and when needed/requested/demanded.  If you have been chosen to be the birth partner, whether you are a husband, wife, partner, family member, friend, colleague or professional, it is a huge honour.  Yes, it is a big responsibility which you are more than capable of and can carry out with pride, ease and confidence…….with a little preparation.

Preparation is key

As with any important job, it pays to be prepared and know what you are doing.  You can give better support if you know what is happening, could happen and should happen.  Find out about labour and birth and the rights and choices available.  Use reliable online resources to read up on the signs of labour and when to go to hospital/call the midwife so you can help your partner decide what to do together.  Research the stages of labour so you both know what to expect and can help support each other in the best breathing techniques, movements and positions for each stage of the birth journey.  Doing an antenatal class or workshop together is a great way to prepare as you share the learning, and ask questions together.  You can then practice afterwards and build on your communication and practical skills – your birth toolkit.

 You don’t need an in-depth knowledge of every part of labour but a good overview of the process can really help build confidence in both of you.  Once you have knowledge, you have power, and once you start to understand what is happening and why, it becomes more natural and instinctive to work with the body’s natural resources.  This can then help labour to progress as you realise the importance of creating and maintaining a relaxed, low-adrenaline and calm environment for a more efficient and positive birth experience, however it happens.

What to expect

Once mum is in the throes of labour, she may go into a ‘birth bubble’ and forget to breathe properly or ask questions when options are presented.  This is where you come in.  With a little preparation beforehand, you can learn the same breathing techniques and positions that can help her.  You can remind her and talk her through them if she needs you to – even breathing with her to set the pace and rhythm to help keep her on track.   You can reassure her simply through holding hands if she wants to, or giving her eye contact to let her know you are with her.  This can really help to keep her calm and relaxed.  Comfortable and easy communication, and respecting her wants and consent, is so important between birth mum and birth partner.  Sometimes all anyone needs to hear are words of encouragement or positivity.  ‘Dig deep’ and ‘you can do this’ were the two phrases my husband and birth partner kept saying that really did keep me going and helped me to believe I could during my labour.  And I did!

 Mum may also forget to drink or eat or look after herself as birth takes over, so this becomes your job.  Make sure mum is hydrated, offer water or squash often; make sure she has enough energy and fuel through food if she can stomach it before, during and also after labour.  You are in charge of stocks, supplies and bringing change for vending machines!  Encourage her to rest when she can; remind her to go to the loo; keep checking she is comfortable, warm and feels safe and listened to and you aren’t just tending to her needs, you are actively helping her to increase her levels of oxytocin – the fuel for labour.

 Remember that you are there for her, ready and prepared to help, but also prepared and ready for her not to want you to help in the moment.  Don’t take anything she does or says to heart: birth is an incredibly physical and emotional experience and no-one knows how they will react until they are in it.  Even if she has given birth before, each one is different.

Birth planning process

Knowing what your partner wants and being part of the birth plan process is really important too.  This helps to ensure that her wishes and preferences – and perhaps yours too if you are the father or mother of the child also – are listened to, and help her to make informed decisions on the day if things take a different course.  Similarly, if other options, pain relief alternatives or treatments are offered, which is quite likely as its rare for birth to go completely ‘to plan’.  Encouraging your partner to make a birth plan, whether visual or written gives you the confidence to be able to speak up on her behalf if she isn’t able to.  Sharing the load of making potentially big decisions and researching options before the birth can really help her to feel supported and like she isn’t doing this on her own.  Which of course, she isn’t!

You can make a real difference!

Preparation really is key and gives you both shared confidence and is something you can do together to increase trust and communication too.  This is such a pivotal moment in both of your lives, and you wouldn’t buy a house, sit an exam, get married etc… without a little planning and preparation first.  It makes sense then not to be a birth partner without knowing what to expect, what is expected of you and how you can best support each other through the incredible birth journey.  You’ve both got this!

Useful link:

When to go to hospital/birth unit/call the midwife – http://2018_beta/thedaisyfoundation.com/backup/inform-my-choice/when-to-go-to-the-hospital-or-birthing-unit/  

Informed Choice vs Too Much Information: Striking a Balance in Birth preparation

When it comes to understanding and weighing up your options about birth, it’s easy to feel daunted as there is a lot of information out there.  How do you find the information that will prepare you for birth, and not scare you?  Where do you start, and what do you really need to know in order to make an informed choice?  Here Daisy teacher Ceri Elms explains all…

Learning to work with your body 

First things first, you already know how to give birth. It is something women have been doing quite literally since the beginning of womankind so you have the natural ability and instincts within you already.  You just need to believe in yourself, trust your body and use the resources available to you to make the experience as positive and efficient as possible.

Learning what is happening to your body in pregnancy and labour can help you to feel more confident and prepared and make you feel more in control, no matter what happens.  When you learn that you can use gentle movements to ease indigestion, or that the positions you get into on a regular daily basis can affect the position your baby gets into in the womb you can work with your body and feel empowered through knowledge.  For example, if you often lay back on the sofa to rest and sit at a desk all day leaning back in your chair, you may find that your baby is encouraged to settle into a posterior position (back to back) which can make their descent less efficient and more challenging for you.   Learning other positions that you can adopt instead, such as getting into all fours, using a birthing ball as a seat or sitting cross legged, can encourage your baby into a more favourable anterior position.  These positions can also help to bring balance to your womb and open up and release vital birthing muscles.  As well as making things more comfortable for you in the long run,  this is very powerful practical information to have at your disposal.

 Birth Choices

It’s clear to see how learning more about the changes in your body during pregnancy and birth  and what may happen in labour may help you to keep calm and feel in control.  In addition, learning the practical things you can do to look after yourself and your growing baby makes sense and has huge benefits.  But how about your birth choices?  How can you make sense of all the options available to you?  From the kind of birth you want (homebirth, hospital birth, c-section, vaginal delivery etc…); to the finer details e.g. do you want a managed or natural 3rd stage of labour (the expulsion of the placenta)?  How do you even know which option you do want, and can you change your mind?!  It may seem overwhelming at first, but there are only so many ways a baby can be born and only a certain number of drugs, interventions and treatments that may be proposed, so getting a good balanced over-view is actually easier than you may think (as is getting too much information, but we will come to that in a bit!).

 The best way to get your head around your birth and what you want is to prepare and ask questions now, whilst you are pregnant.  Use your midwife and consultants, or your GP.  They are used to people asking questions and they are there to help you decide what is right for you and your baby.  Never feel afraid of asking ‘too many questions’.  I kept a log of questions on my phone which I kept adding to whenever a new thought or worry popped into my head, and whenever I had a midwife appointment I went through my list and wrote her answers in brief next to each one.  We did joke about my ‘never-ending’ list of questions, but she answered every one of them and I had them to hand to refer to when I was making my birth plan and it just made me feel more confident, less anxious and more clued up.

 Informed Choice

Making an informed choice about your birth means knowing what your options are in each scenario through asking questions.  Perhaps you may join an antenatal course where you can discuss options freely and openly.  In addition, you can do some of your own research and reading on reputable sites such as www.nhschoices.co.uk or https://www.which.co.uk/birth-choice.  The Daisy Foundation also has a fantastic, accessible round up of the key informed choices you will want to consider around birth, and other areas of parenting too, all in one handy place – bookmark this and use it as a starting point to creating your own fully informed choices http://2018_beta/thedaisyfoundation.com/backup/inform-my-choice/  

 Remember that you do have choices in every birth scenario, even if it doesn’t feel like it.  For example, you might be thinking “I’m having a caesarean, so what choices do I have?”  Lots!  You can choose if you want to see the birth by having the screen lowered (if not an emergency); you can choose to walk to the operating theatre and put yourself on to the operating table, rather than be ‘wheeled’ in; you can choose to be talked through the operation (if not under general anaesthetic).  There are always choices in every birth situation so always ask.

 You can consent, decline or ask for more information at any point.  Whether it is about a drug, intervention or treatment being recommended to you; or a change of course to your desired birth direction being discussed – to every detail in-between.  If you feel pressured into making a certain decision through fear or coercion then this is not consent.  Informed consent is when you are told about and understand the risks and benefits to any treatment or option being offered to you, as well as being informed about other options you could take instead.  This may include the option of doing nothing (more on that later).  You  should also be given the chance and plenty of time to ask further questions and have them answered to your satisfaction as well as being able to discuss what you want to do with medical staff and/or your family/birth partner/s etc…  All of these steps should lead to you making a decision that you believe is in the best interest for you and your baby, based on facts and information.

 Preparing for birth

To help you prepare for birth, it is a great idea to book in a visit to the labour ward or birth centre that you plan to use to have a tour and talk with the midwives – usually you can just call them up to book a slot or speak to your midwife about this at your next appointment.  However, some maternity suites don’t offer this anymore as they are simply too busy, but they should have an option to access an online tour via their NHS website so do ask your midwives about this.  Walking around or seeing the rooms online and noting the different options first hand; familiarising yourself with the space, the smell (if possible), the lights; finding out how to access the building at 4am in the morning; knowing where to park etc… can all really help you to relax.  And to see what a ventouse or foetal monitoring unit looks like, and to find out if there are mobile epidural units at the hospital and see one up close.  This can make them all suddenly much less intimidating.  Then if you do decide to use them, or end up having to for any reason, the fear of the unknown will already have been removed, so you can focus on staying calm, breathing and keeping that adrenalin at bay.  If you are having a home birth, find out what the set up will be and what your midwives will be bringing and when etc..  If you want a water birth, take a look at a birthing pool and find out how long it takes to fill etc.. to make everything more familiar before your birthday day.

 Trust your instincts

Making informed choices is also about trusting your gut and going with your instincts.  Only you know what you want and it’s your birth at the end of the day.  You may understand the reasons for a ‘natural’ drug-free labour, and be fully armed with your Daisy breathing and active birth movements, but still want to have gas and air and pethidine if you need it because that’s your choice.  You don’t have to explain your reasons, just trust your instincts and get enough information to feel confident that whatever you decide is right for you and your baby.  Know as well that you can change your mind too (it’s advisable to speak to your midwife/consultant team about local protocol around birth options and changing them on the day too so you know what to expect). 

 Use your B.R.A.I.N!

The key questions to ask about each stage of birth and any interventions, drugs, treatments or courses of action being discussed or proposed are: what are my options?; what are the pros and cons to each of them?; and what support will I receive to make the right decision for me and my baby?

 A great way to remember how to make a calm and informed decision, in any situation, is to use your B.R.A.I.N and ask the following questions (it’s also a great idea to share this with your birth partner so they can support you in making the right decision):

 B – BENEFITS: what are the benefits of this option?

R – RISKS: what are the risks involved?

A – ALTERNATIVES: are there any other alternatives available?

I – INTUITION: what does your intuition say, how do you feel about it in your gut?

N – NOTHING: what will happen if you do nothing? (Sometimes simply waiting for a bit can be an option too)

If you have given yourself time to find out about all your options, even if you don’t think you will need them, you will be confident enough to make a change that’s right for you in the moment.  You might be planning a home water birth so don’t think you need to know about c-sections or labour wards, but birth doesn’t always follow the path we would like it to. You may end up having to go to hospital and having a caesarean if complications arise.  If you haven’t prepared yourself for this as a possibility at all and don’t know what may happen or what options and rights you have in this situation or what you can still do to keep calm and positive, it could be a scary and potentially traumatic experience.  But it really doesn’t have to be.  It’s all about building as full a picture as possible of ‘what happens if…’, so you can pick and choose the elements that work for you and understand what is happening if things change course, as they may well do.  Being prepared is the key to staying calm, confident and positive.

 Too much information?

There is a tipping point however, when ensuring you are informed and know your options, can turn into over saturating yourself with too much information which can be confusing, make you more anxious and cause you to question what you really feel.  The best advice I can give you, that I wish I had followed during my pregnancy and birth planning, is step away from search engines and chat forums (and you don’t need to read all the birth books!).  It’s so tempting to keep searching for article after article, blog after blog and opinion after opinion about birth or perhaps get fixated on a certain area of birth that really scares you.  For me, that was episiotomies and the bearing down stage which I didn’t think I had the ability to do.  As a result, I read too much about both and became even more frightened of being cut or tearing, and even more convinced I wasn’t capable of giving birth (I hadn’t found Daisy Birthing at this point sadly!).  In the end, I had an episiotomy and I didn’t care one bit as at the time it was the best decision for my baby, and I managed to give birth and bear down just fine, despite doubting myself and despite every horror story I had read and listened to about possible complications and negative birth experiences.

That’s the other main piece of advice I’d like to give you, take friends, family members, and other well-meaning people’s birth stories as just that – their stories.  Just because it happened to them or their friend’s aunt’s daughter, doesn’t mean it will happen to you!  We still have a society that likes to shout about the negative, traumatic and horrible things that can happen – rather than celebrating the wonderful births that take place every day where things do go to plan; or things work out well regardless of the twists and turns!  These births, the positive, empowering and ‘ordinary’ ones (though no births are ever ordinary in my opinion as birth, in all its forms, is amazing!), are actually the most common.  They just don’t make as juicy a headline, or as shocking a story so sadly they don’t get the air time or sharing that they really should.

I hope you have the birth that you want, and that you find the time to prepare yourself for what can happen, even if it isn’t what you want right now. I also hope that if your birth doesn’t ‘go to plan’, and isn’t quite what you imagined, that you have the confidence to ask questions, make informed choices and to understand the other options available to you.  However your birth happens, I hope you feel as calm, positive and as in control as you possibly can, and that you feel listened to and empowered by having choices.  And let’s do all women a favour, and keep sharing more of our positive birth experiences.

Love Daisy x

Why Are We Afraid to Plan for Birth?

Women have been giving birth for a long time – we are one of the most successful species on planet Earth.  Yet it seems now more than ever that society wants to actively dissuade mums-to-be from planning the birth of their child.  Perhaps there is still the perception that a ‘plan’ is a rigid set of fluffy ideals that mums must be discouraged from attempting for fear of not achieving the perfect birth?!  Here Daisy teacher Fi Hennessy explores some of the reasons why we may be afraid to plan for birth…

The Perfect Birth

What even is the perfect birth? Let me tell you what the perfect birth is – one that mum, partner and baby can feel happy and positive about. That’s it.  A perfect birth is down to each individual to decide what they want and how they feel about it afterwards. It is simply nothing to do with you or me.

 When you are approaching one of the biggest events in your life, why wouldn’t you want to plan for it?  I often wonder if because we have a free at point of service NHS that mums are more reluctant to present a plan for birth, not wanting to be seen as ‘that’ mum who demands this and that.  If we had to pay and knew we’d be presented with a bill for however many thousands of pounds for a birth that we would be more inclined to ask for the best.  Need I remind you, we DO pay for our NHS!

 Birth is still shrouded in mystery and often the reason presented for not planning is that you can’t know what’s going to happen so why bother trying to plan?  Again, I say this is the perfect reason to plan!  Precisely because you can’t know how it’s going to go – why wouldn’t you want to work out your preferences for each stage?  Despite what people think birth is not mysterious and unknown and there are a finite amount of ways that baby will be coming out!

But I don’t know how I will react to labour – I just want all the drugs!

Of course you don’t know how you will react, especially if it is your first. That’s fine. All the more reason to plan. If you want all the drugs, great!  What order would you like them in?  What happens if you react badly to the drugs?  How will you mitigate the effects of the drugs on your labour?  All  of these things can be outlined in a birth plan.

 A birth plan gives you the upper hand. It means you have probably done a little research into what might happen.  You may already know what your options are and how to go about getting them.  You may have heard of new information which could help you in your specific situation.  You are aware of available pain relief options, the benefits and disadvantages and this helps you to inform your choices.  You know you can choose where to give birth and the advantages of each location.

 So let’s collectively stop telling women they shouldn’t plan for their birth and actively helping them to decide what’s best for them.

Love Daisy x

The Question Every Pregnant Woman Asks – What Does Labour Feel Like?!

What does labour feel like?  A question asked by new mums the world over as they prepare to meet their babies.  Here Daisy teacher Fi Hennessy gives you the answers you’ve been searching for. 

What is labour like?  What does it feel like?  What do contractions feel like?  Does it hurt?  How will I know I’m in labour?

The answer?  You’ll know!

But HOW will I know?  Why can’t anyone describe a contraction?

Do you know something?  You will.  Trust me.  Here’s why:

Your baby, your body

You and your baby are in perfect synchronicity.  You’ve made this baby by whatever means and are growing this baby, perfect for your womb to carry and your body to birth.  Sometimes it might not feel like that with all the scans, growth charts, tape measures and weeing into pots, but you are perfect together.

Your body knows how to give birth, instinctively.  Your baby knows how to be born, instinctively.  Even if mum can’t move, she can still birth.  Check out this article about a mum in a coma giving birth – while incredibly rare it goes to show how much of this amazing thing called birth is powered by our bodies and minds and not our rational thoughts and action.

Coping with labour

By tapping into this intuition and listening to your body and your baby, you will know when you are in labour.  Think about other bodily functions that you do – perhaps a bowel movement – you know what it feels like to need to go to the loo, you follow that nudge and off you go.

It’s worth pointing out that it doesn’t usually happen like it does in the movies or other people’s stories.  There isn’t usually a dramatic gush of waters, a mum clutching her stomach with agony rippling across her face  (usually!).  As the delicate interplay of hormones and endorphins gently nudges you and your baby towards your birthing day, the back ache becomes a little more insistent, the period type ache becomes noticeable and Braxton hicks become even stronger!  Your discharge changes, your baby moves, the tightenings of your belly are increasing in duration and frequency, you move gently to your chosen rhythm of birth, whether staying at home or moving to hospital.

The feelings of labour

It is difficult for most mums to remember the actual feelings of labour – most of labour is lost to the wonderful hormones and endorphins which drench your body and mind to help you through this process, switching off the rational neocortex where memories are made.  Unfortunately if this delicate balance is disturbed then mum can become more aware of what is going on and perhaps more aware of the feelings and intensity of contractions.  This not only might make it harder for mum to cope at the time but perhaps makes her more likely to report labour as being painful, hard and that she was unable to cope.

So when you are asking mums about their labour experiences be sure to bear in mind that it was their personal journey and feelings involved in the process.  Many things can happen during labour and not all of them will happen to you.

 As Ina May Gaskin put it so eloquently,

“Don’t think of it as pain, think of it as an interesting sensation which requires all your concentration”

How bad is labour really?

In my own opinion which is the only one I can give honestly and completely, the first time for me was intense, scary, out of control, emotional, hard work, wonderful.  The second time I was more prepared as I had opted for a home birth, I researched more, read more, invested more time and energy in knowing my options.  I knew second labours could be quicker and the midwife nearly didn’t make it as I was certainly quicker second time.

I birthed at home in a labour which was honestly quick and easy.  It wasn’t pain free but the feelings were manageable, there was a point to each contraction.  I knew the journey I was on and I trusted my body and baby to achieve it OR to let me know if something was wrong.  I absolutely loved my second birth, it rocked.  I was awesome and I knew it.

One thing that commonly unites mums is the feeling afterwards of being the cleverest person in the whole wide world!  Outside life continues, normal, boring, mundane – but here, in this room, this ward, this theatre suite – you have given birth – and my goodness!  What a feeling that is!  Your world will never be the same because of that day, it really is something pretty special.

 Top Tips for labour

 1)     Prepare yourself and your birth partner

2)     Know your choices

3)     Move, breath and relax

4)     Stay hydrated and nourished if you are able to eat

5)     Write your birth story afterwards as soon as you can – it will be a wonderful memory or a valuable practice if you need healing.

Love Daisy x

Picture Credit: Hazel Hughes Photography

 

 

 

 

 

The Magical Golden Hour – What is it and Why is it so Important?

As your baby is born, they are suddenly in a completely different world to their cosy, secure and warm womb.  They have to breathe for themselves, they feel hunger and thirst, they cry, they feel cold/warm.  All the things that are regulated for them in the womb, become things they are now having to deal with for themselves.  Here Daisy teacher Chloe explains how having an undisturbed ‘golden hour’ after birth can help this transition.

Meeting Your Newborn

To try to describe what that moment feels like, when you hold your baby for the first time, is nigh on impossible.  As you breathe in your newborn: their smell, how they look, are they the image of you or their father?  Most babies look like their fathers by the way, some kind of survival mechanism to ensure their fathers don’t abandon them – quite amazing really, no?  How it feels to have your baby finally in your arms, taking in every part of them as you hold them close.  As the saying goes ‘not only is a baby born, so is a mother’.  Why rush this transition from womb to world?  Why not savour every single second?  You won’t get that time back.  It is magical.  Undisturbed time together can mean mum’s birth bubble is protected for just a little while longer and can give mum and baby those precious first moments together where mum can just focus on her new baby.

Cultural Norms

Our culture generally removes baby from the mother as soon as they are born.  Clamping and cutting the cord, carrying out the various newborn checks and ‘cleaning them off’.  This thankfully, is slowly changing: leaving mum and baby together, undisturbed is becoming more common – which is amazing!  The checks that need to be done, as well as weighing and measuring can all be done after this golden hour together – they don’t need to be immediate.  Michael Odent suggests that ‘The hour following birth is undoubtedly one of the most critical phases in the life of human beings’.  If this is the case, here is why having an undisturbed hour with your newborn baby can be extremely beneficial for you both, and could be something worth adding to your birth plan.

The Benefits of the ‘Golden Hour’

Once baby is born, they can be placed skin-to-skin on their mother and both be covered in a blanket to keep them warm and relaxed.  Having baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth can promote bonding between baby and caregiver.  The production of oxytocin, or the love hormone as it can be affectionately referred to, is promoted.  Oxytocin in turn helps promote maternal behaviour and can also encourage breastfeeding.  An undisturbed hour can help support optimal cord clamping.  As mum and baby enjoy their first moments together, the cord can be left intact so baby gets all the wonderful goodness remaining in the placenta.  Being skin-to-skin also helps baby regulate their temperature and breathing: remember they are breathing for the first time for themselves and being in the protective arms of their mother, skin to skin, will aid this process.  Do not beat yourself up or worry if you do not feel a rush of love straight away for your baby.  Birth can be quite an overwhelming experience and those feelings of intense love can take a while to build.  You and your baby will still enjoy all the benefits of an undisturbed hour after birth.

Golden Hour After C-Section?

What about if you have a caesarean section?  Is this magical hour still possible?  Depending on the circumstances this may or may not be possible straight away.  If it is a planned C-section, discuss your wishes with your midwife and consultant to see how they might be able to accommodate this for you.  The ‘gentle’ caesarean is becoming more widely available and you can read more about these here – https://www.rcm.org.uk/news-views-and-analysis/analysis/the-natural-caesarean.  If you end up having an emergency caesarean, having spoken to your midwife and the care team beforehand will help make them more aware of your wishes, and what they can do in this situation to help you.  If it turns out that it isn’t possible immediately after birth, your partner can have skin to skin until you are able to.  Skin to skin is beneficial at any time though, so don’t worry if it has to be delayed for any reason.

If your baby has to go to the special care unit, please do not think you and your baby are missing out on all the benefits listed above.  ‘Kangaroo Care’ for premature infants or those with high medical needs is being researched and offered more and more.  This is a process of baby being held skin to skin with their mother as much as possible each day.  By being aware of what it is, and what it means, this will give you the confidence and knowledge to make sure you and your baby are accommodated in every way possible.  By talking these options through with your neonatal and birth team, you can enhance your bonding experience as mother and baby.

http://www.bliss.org.uk/skin-to-skin-and-kangaroo-care

Love Daisy x

The beginner’s guide to breastfeeding

The Beginner’s Guide to Breastfeeding…

Your breast milk is tailored to your own baby’s needs and gives them everything they need for the first 6 months of their lives – which is seriously amazing. You, your baby and your boobs are amazing. It also changes throughout the day, containing more sleep-inducing properties at night to help your baby sleep. The suckling of your baby on your breast creates oxytocin which is the love drug that in turn is responsible for the let-down, or release of your milk (among other incredible things!), so it’s a perfect circle whereby the more your baby suckles, the more milk is made: something you may hear referred to as ‘supply and demand’ or ‘on-demand’ feeding. It’s biologically ‘normal’ and as women have been breastfeeding since the dawn of time, it should be second nature right? Well yes, it is and no, it isn’t.

If you are wondering what to expect from breastfeeding, whether you’re a first-timer or need a refresher’s course, here’s a few pointers.

Expect bigger breasts – engorged, massive milky orbs even; leaking milk – usually over your favourite top and usually when you are out and about and have forgotten to wear breast pads.

Expect a lot of advice thrown at you from strangers, and ‘well-meaning’ family members, most of it unprompted, contradictory and confusing – take all of it with a pinch of salt and trust your own instincts (and step away from internet search engines late at night – they don’t know your baby!)

Expect to get your boobs out a LOT, but to stop caring who sees them after a while – the postman, your uncle, the cat, they will all get an eyeful at some point, but it doesn’t matter as they aren’t boobs anymore, they are mighty milk-making machines. Expect to feel a bit like a dairy cow as you sit pinned to the sofa with a hungry babe perma-guzzling from your breast or/and a whirring plastic breast pump attached to the other boob – you will learn how to take multi-tasking to a whole new level, which is something we should be able to add to our CVs really.

Expect to love and loathe the feel of a hot shower hitting your boobs at the same time – great for helping ease those aching bosoms but not so good when the water spray hits a sore, tender nipple (ouch). Expect to only choose items of clothing and bras based on how easy it is to whip your boobs out at the first sign of your baby licking their lips, and how well the milky dribble or spit up will wash off after a feeding session (satin, velvet and silk are big no-no’s for a while).

Expect an emotional roller coaster – you will feel high on oxytocin and more in love with your baby than ever and like the greatest mother in the world when feeding is going well, followed shortly by feeling like a massive mum failure for not being able to read your baby’s hunger cues before they start crying/or for your baby doing a taboo green poo (which at some point early on they will probably do no matter what you do – it can be for many reasons, not just that they aren’t getting enough breastmilk, so always seek advice and don’t blame yourself. Easier said than done we know!)

The truth is, breastfeeding can be really hard and it may hurt both physically and emotionally in the first few weeks, and that is really important to know before you start. If it doesn’t ‘click’ into place at first, that’s normal. It takes several weeks to get into a groove and to establish your supply, which is why feeding on demand when your baby wants it, and not trying to stick to a schedule or set timings between feeds, is so important. If it hurts and you can’t seem to get it right on your own, that’s ok. There are gels {lanolin cream or paraffin gauges will be your ‘breast’ friends}, cold cabbage leaves (just remember to take them out afterwards or they will start to pong!) and other tricks like dabbing a bit of your own breast milk on your sore nipple after a feed, that can help to ease the physical aspects. And if you feel like giving up in those first few days, or even later on, because it’s all too much, reach out for help. If you can make it past the first 6 weeks, you are more likely to continue breastfeeding up to and even beyond 6 months, which is so beneficial for your baby. Ask for all the help and emotional support you can get from midwives, health visitors, local breastfeeding support groups, the National Breastfeeding Helpline, lactation consultants, friends, family, your partner and of course your Daisy mums network, and stick with it if you can.

Comfortable and happy breastfeeding is mainly down to two things: your baby’s latch, and your comfort. Concentrate on getting the latch right and finding a comfortable position for both of you to sustain for long periods of time through the day and night and you will be winning. Cushions are your friends; those half-moon pregnancy sleeping pillows can be re-purposed into a handy nursing pillow and holding your baby in your arms for extended periods of time, when you are probably also sleep-deprived, can be exhausting, so don’t forget pillows to support your arms too. Whatever helps you to be comfortable in turns helps you produce more milk for your baby and it is so important to stay hydrated as dehydration can diminish your milk supply, so always keep water to hand (and using a straw can really help you to still be able to drink when your arms are otherwise engaged holding your baby), and keep your energy up with frequent snacks (and yes, we do mean cake and biscuits, as well as fruit and nuts of course for balance!).

It’s important to remember that you and your baby are learning this together so don’t get too cross or upset if it takes a while to master – its new to you both, so give each other time and reassurance and you’ll get there. Asking your partner, friends and family to give you extra support and encouragement and to bring you drinks and snacks, lend you a box set or 10 etc.. is a hugely important motivator.

There will probably be ups & let-downs, sore nipples, full engorged breasts, leaky boobs, cluster feedings, long nights spent waking and worrying if you have enough milk or if you should wake your sleeping baby for a feed. There will be long feeding sessions where you feel like your baby will never detach from your breast (they will, they are probably just having a long feed to send signals to increase your milk supply because babies and boobs are clever like that), and really short feeds where they may just be thirsty or need the comfort of your nipple in their mouth. Anywhere from 5 mins – 2 hours a boob are all completely ‘normal’ feeding times in the first few weeks as you both establish a routine and build up your milk supply to your baby’s own specific needs.

Getting your baby’s latch right is the first step to breastfeeding well, and this isn’t always as easy as just bringing them to your boob and hoping they will do the rest. You will probably be told about or read up on what to look out for to make sure the latch is right: baby’s nose next to your nipple, wide open mouth, head back and able to move freely, rounded cheeks, swallowing, good sucking rhythm, ‘ka’ sounds meaning that baby is taking in and swallowing milk etc .. but how do you really know if it’s right? Simply speaking, if the latch is right, your baby will be satisfied after a feed, they will have plenty of wet and dirty nappies filled with canary yellow poo (that’s the holy grail, as yellow poo = your baby is getting a good supply of milk), they will be gaining weight well and most importantly be happy and healthy. The best way to check that all of this is happening is to ask an expert. Get your midwife or health visitor to check your latch regularly, as you can start off well and then a baby can just forget how to breast feed, so never feel like you are wasting their time by getting things checked, that’s what they are there for so use them!

It also shouldn’t be too painful if your baby is latching well, of course there can be other factors, such as long feeding sessions that can make your nipples feel rather tender, but if you have consistently sore, cracked or bleeding nipples, or a burning sensation in your breasts, then don’t suffer in silence. All of these are common problems that can often be put right with a simple adjustment to your feeding position, checking that latch, looking after yourself better or ruling out tongue tie which can make it hard for your baby to feed efficiently. There are so many places to turn to for help and advice (other than search engines!) so always ask.

Breastfeeding is different for every mum and baby team and what worked well for one duo, might not for you and yours. Trust in your own rhythm and routine and try not to get hung up on what other mums or baby ‘experts’/books say is the ideal breastfeeding pattern, or try to avoid counting every feed and duration and worrying about the correct intervals between feeds – newsflash: there are no correct intervals, normal amounts of feeding or lengths of feeds! Each baby is different, and so is each feed. Remember that sometimes you only want a gulp of water and a biscuit (well, maybe two), and other times you want the all-you-can-eat buffet, your baby is just the same.

The frequency and amount of time your baby needs to feed are up to your baby, and if you feed on demand and learn to pick up on your baby’s feeding cues (rooting, bringing hands to mouth, lip smacking etc..) and respond to them before they get too hungry and start crying, which can make latching trickier, rather than trying to follow a time pattern, you will be both be better off. Find what works for you and your baby, and remember that breastfeeding is the ultimate in teamwork and an ever-evolving skill. You’ve got this mamas!

Daisy x

(Blog contributed by one of our Daisy Teachers – Ceri Elms)

 

 

 

Letting go for labour

The fear-tension-pain cycle – letting go for labour, ways to prepare your mind to release.

So you’re pregnant – congratulations! Now you’ve started to share the good news, we at the Daisy Foundation are willing to bet that you’ve started getting the horror stories – the failed inductions, the 3rd degree tears, the days long labour…right? In the words of Chandler Bing could that BE less helpful?

Think about your reaction when you got the last round of grim labour stories. You winced, you grimaced, you clenched your pelvic floor and tensed your knees together? Oh yes, that’s the good old fear factor – fight or flight – setting in. Fear makes your nervous system produce adrenaline, which increases your heart rate, makes your breathing shallower, blood diverts from your non-essential organs and your muscles tense. Perfectly understandable…but now think about where your baby’s going to come from. Uh huh. Your body being tense from your belly button to your knees isn’t going to help your baby on their way, is it? Your fear leads to tension, and tension leads to pain.

When adrenaline is produced in a labouring woman, it inhibits the production of two other hormones; oxytocin and endorphins. It’s these two hormones that are responsible for stimulating the contractions of the uterus, and for blocking the feelings of pain a woman feels. Without these present in sufficient quantities a woman’s labour will be longer, more stressful, and more painful than if we allow our bodies to limit the production of adrenaline.

So what if you were told that you can help prevent the pain of labour? Let’s start by looking at the fear aspect of the cycle. Fear of the unknown is a well-established phenomenon and it holds true in labour too. Just as each woman and each pregnancy is different, so too is each birth experience. For a first-time mum with no point of reference, the thought of pushing a baby out of a hole that small can be pretty terrifying. Reduce the unknown, however, and you can reduce the fear. And that’s where antenatal education comes in. A knowledgeable, informed woman is one who no longer fears the unknown. Now – no woman can plan their birth experience entirely, otherwise we’d all be having two-hour labours with no tearing or pooing (am I right?) but by becoming knowledgeable about the birth process, about the options available to you and about how you can influence the birth to be the best possible outcome on the day by playing the hand that’s dealt, then you can make it all a lot less scary. What’s more, by being so well prepared, this knowledge becomes innate and you won’t have to rouse yourself too much from your birth bubble to give consideration to anything that might need a decision from you. Coming out of that internally focussed zone allows adrenaline to creep up – not good for your oxytocin levels.

We’ve looked at how you can reduce your fear by preparing your cortex (your ‘thinking brain’, responsible for knowledge and decision making) ahead of the big day, but you can also prepare your limbic system (or ‘emotional brain’) to release fear. Now your limbic system is responsible for many things, one of which is your fight or flight reflex…yep, that again. And where knowledge and information can affect your cortex, we need a different language to speak to the emotional brain. Something that will help you exercise the part of the brain which switches on – and off – that adrenaline switch. This is where relaxations and visualisations come in. Using guided visualisations such as seeing each contraction as a wave building up in intensity, peaking and gently rippling away while in a state of pain-free relaxation can encourage your body to return to that state when anchoring itself to those visualisations in labour. Your breathing becomes easier and floods the body with oxygen, your muscles are relaxed and free of tension which makes each contraction more effective, you’re disassociated from feelings of pain which keeps oxytocin and endorphin levels high. Pretty impressive, right?

There’s another way to keep adrenaline, fear and tension out of the birthing room with you, and that’s the room itself. Imagine a stark white, brightly lit room that smells slightly of Dettol that hums with the electric lights. Now picture a dimly lit, warm room filled with your favourite scent and music. It’s unlikely you’re going to be feeling very comfortable in room number one. And if you’re not comfortable, if you don’t feel safe and secure, then your adrenaline will rise and your labour might stall. So really think about preparing your birth space to be a place where you can feel comfortable in. Many hospitals and birth centres are really accommodating at letting you take in goodies from home.

The most important thing to remind yourself in labour though? I trust my body to birth my baby. What we believe, our bodies can conceive!

Daisy x

(Contributed by one of our Cheshire Daisy teachers, Meg Hill)