The Big Squeze

My Mum has bought one of those huge trampolines with the net around it for her garden so my girls can go crazy and potentially break their skinny little wrists as they fling themselves around. Watching my husband teach my eldest how to perfect her seat drop, made me feel like a teenager again during P.E self consciously yanking at my hideous gym skirt and squeaky Dunlop plimsoles dreading my turn to be called by the teacher.

I won’t go on a trampoline, I did it once not long after daughter number 1 was born and the results were hideous. There needs to be an added warning sign underneath the bit that says ‘children must be supervised at all times’ for people like me ‘do not attempt to even hoist your leg up on to this trampoline if you have had a baby’ (in capital letters of course) .

I always thought I had a good pelvic floor before children, did the odd bit of exercise when I remembered but generally I’m fit, young and healthy so ‘why bother’ I thought.  Unfortunately my job doesn’t help (you’d think it would) but midwives are notoriously bad for working long hours not drinking enough water then wondering why my wee looks like orange juice at the end of the day! We also subconsciously push with women during the 2nd stage of labour hoping our encouragement will help theirs, it doesn’t. Throw in 2 babies and well to be honest I had to do something about a potential big problem. Seeing those adverts for older woman skipping through fields of daisies with their grandchildren, so happy because their wearing Tena Lady made me realise I would not get to that stage. I knew going to the GP wouldn’t be helpful, she would only tell me what I’ve  been telling women for ages how to do your pelvic floor exercises.  I’m just lazy or in denial, to be honest I hate any sort of exercise.  But the good news is that pelvic floor exercises are not like your usual work-out routine. They’re a simple, convenient way to get those vital muscles back into shape – no sweat! (None at all, promise.) 

First you need to find the right muscles. The best way to do this is to try to stop the flow of urine when you got to the toilet. If you can manage to do this then the muscles you used are the right ones for pelvic floor exercises.  When contracting these muscles it should feel as though you’re squeezing and lifting them slightly up into the body. There shouldn’t be any tensing of the buttocks or thighs, although tightening your anus can help (as if holding in wind).

  • At first, just hold and squeeze your muscles for a second or two. Then gradually build it up to 10 seconds. Repeat as often as you can, building up to 10 repetitions.
  • Rest between squeezes for the same amount of time as you have contracted your muscles, i.e. rest for 10 seconds after holding for 10 seconds.
  • As well as doing these exercises several times a day, you should also squeeze your pelvic floor muscles when you need them, e.g. laughing, coughing, bending, or anything that makes you leak urine.
  • Carry on doing your pelvic floor exercises for several months. You should notice a difference within 2 to 4 months of regular exercise

So come on girls give it a go, you don’t know how much you’ll miss it til it’s gone, but with a bit of work you can always get it back, good luck!

Push Music

This is me in early labour with my second baby. I’m really pissed off as I’m being induced which was not how the start of my perfect birth story was supposed to begin. ‘It wasn’t meant to be like this’ I kept saying to my husband over and over as the waves of early labour kicked in. I had ‘planned’ a home birth, a straight forward water birth in my lovely little cosy house with my favourite Diptyque candles flickering in the background and my own bed and bathroom. But due to a nasty condition called Obstetric Choleostasis which I developed just as I was leaving to go on maternity leave (I ignored the classic tell-tale sings for a few days tut tut- excessive itching on the hands and feet), I was strongly advised that it was safer to induce me at 38/40.  It just goes to show being a midwife has no relevence to how your pregnancy or birth goes. Anyway in this photo you can see I’ve got my ipod on (and TENS machine), it was the only way I could drown out the sounds and pain and focus on getting through those hours.  No whale music or panpipes for me, this was my moment to hear what I wanted, so here’s my playlist and please please PLEASE share yours in the comments box below. Why? My plan to create the ultimate labour playlist for anyone who wants to listen, enjoy.

  1. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – Come Undone
  2. Nick Drake – Pink Moon
  3. Prince – Rasberry Beret
  4. Jay-Z Feat. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind
  5. The Beata Band – Dry The Rain
  6. Arthur Lee – Love
  7. Arcade Fire – Wake Up
  8. Florence and the Machine – Cosmic Love
  9. Elbow – One Day Like This
  10. Chemical Brothers – The Boxer
  11. The Stone Roses – Made of Stone
  12. I am Kloot – Over My Shoulder
  13. Radiohead – Creep
  14. Belle and Sebastian – Boy with The Arab Strap
  15. Etta James – At Last
  16. Portishead – Glory Box

P is for

P   E   R   I   N   E   U   M    of course!

My 4 year old is learning to read and write and it’s all done in phonics so we can only spell things out veeeeery slooowly in this house at the moment. Anyway yes perineum, do you know what it is and where yours is? Sounds like a stupid question right but at a recent girls supper party a friend of mine didn’t know where her perineum was, in fact she read my post about the girl with the amazing birth partner and thought that the sacrum was your perineum. Oh how we all laughed but secretly I was a little concerned. To be fair she’s not a midwife or a mother yet so she’s got lots of time to find out all about down there when the time comes.  Most people cringe when they hear the word perineum, it’s a bit odd sounding isn’t? And there are lots of other names for it ones I don’t tend to use when talking to women about theirs.  Basically your perineum is the piece is the muscle and tissue that lie between the bottom part of the vagina and the anus.  Prior to having babies you probably don’t ever think about it but when you’re pregnant suddenly your midwife is talking about it like its public property.

The reason I’m talking about perineums is because recently at work I’ve been conducting a little audit (in my head) of all the babies I’ve delivered and if any what sort of tear did the woman sustain.  Of those who had no tear or a very little graze which wouldn’t requiring stitches, I’ve asked them (where appropriate) if they did any perineal massage during pregnancy.  WHAT! Massage down there during pregnancy, the last area you want to touch or even can physically reach! Yes I know it sounds all a bit ouchy but seriously my findings have been really interesting. Perineal massage isn’t something new at all, women have been practising this for centuries but only recently have I noticed more information about it on NHS leaflets, online forums and websites not to mention the amount of women who ask me ‘is it really worth doing?’  Most women worry about getting stretch marks in pregnancy and the shelves are full of various products promising to be the ‘magic’ lotion or cream to stop stretch marks during pregnancy, some range from affordable to quite frankly ridiculous and I for one used my cream religiously twice a day from about 20 weeks pregnant until 3 weeks post natal.  So why such the screwed up face when I mention to women about massaging down there?

Of the women I asked following the birth of their baby, the ones who didn’t tear or only had a graze all said they did some sort or perineal massage during pregnancy.  And as a midwife I could tell as the baby’s head was crowning, that the perineum had been prepared in one way or another as it stretched so beautifully (sorry but us midwives so love talking about perineums).

The best time to start perineal massage is around 34 weeks pregnant, and I would recommend using an oil such as olive oil, sweet almond oil or sunflower oil.

  • Start once you’ve had a bath or shower as you’ll be more relaxed and the tissue will be softer and more comfortable to touch
  • Prop yourself up against some pillows, you can use a mirror if this helps
  • Place your thumbs about 3cm inside your vagina.
  • Press your thumbs downward and sideways gently until you feel a tingling.
  • Hold this stretch for about two minutes.
  • Gently massage the lower part of the entrance to your vagina for about three minutes
  • Continue this once or twice a day, after a week you will notice an increase in flexibility and stretchiness

Some people suggest asking your partner to help with perineal massage, my husband looked at me like I was mental and to be honest I was quite happy with doing it myself.  I know some of you reading this may be thinking no way am I going to do this, but seriously it might mean the difference between a second degree tear and needing stitches. So pregnant ladies next you reach for the olive oil when dressing your salad, remember it’s other qualities too.