You know when you’re pregnant and you suddenly have that overwhelming urge to understand all the changes that are happening to your body? You Google ‘how big is my baby at 18 weeks’ and ‘can I eat sushi’. Well Linda Geddes realised that that wasn’t enough for her, so pregnant with her second baby she decided to research more of these questions and the results were fascinating So much so that she decided to write a book all about it Bumpology, AND manage to finish it in between feeding new born Max! Impressive stuff, well that’s Linda for you.
1. So Linda could my baby really taste the chicken madras I ate to get myself into labour when I went 5 days over due?
Yes, or certainly some elements of it, like the garlic. Flavours can get into the amniotic fluid, just as they can get into breast milk, and developing babies are constantly gulping and breathing in this fluid meaning it passes smell and taste receptors in the nose and mouth. There’s even some evidence that the flavours babies experience in the womb may shape their preferences once they’re born: babies whose mums drank lots of carrot juice during pregnancy or while breastfeeding seemed particularly partial to carrots once solid foods were introduced into their diet.
2. And what is the best way to kick start labour if your due date comes and goes?
You may have heard rumours that sex, pineapple or curry can trigger labour, but there’s little evidence to back this up. However, castor oil, which irritates the bowels, can help kick-start labour, and it’s possible that a spicy curry could have a similar effect. Do you really want to be experiencing diarrhoea when you’re in labour though? Probably not. Nipple tweaking on the other hand, can be quite effective at getting those contractions going, although you may have to persist for several hours.
3. We have 2 daughters and my husband would love a boy, is it likely we’d have another girl? Should he kiss bye bye to his mini rugby player?
Is your husband a high-earner, or does he have a traditionally masculine career? If so, his odds of having a boy are slightly increased. However, if you are an attractive couple; if you (the woman) have a high stress job; or if you are an older woman, then you are ever-so-slightly more likely to have girls. None of these factors is a guarantee though – they just tweak the odds by a few percent. Maybe your husband should start teaching the girls to do rugby tackles!
4. As a midwife. women ask me all the time ‘Can I drink alcohol in pregnancy’ I have to admit I find all the new Government research rather conflicting and my advice is no more clear.
It is confusing. The honest answer is that scientists simply don’t know if there is a “safe” amount of alcohol that women can get away with drinking, hence the advice to drink nothing at all. Certainly lots or even moderate amounts of alcohol are harmful. For example, a glass of wine a day increases your baby’s risk of being born underweight, which opens them up to additional health risks as they get older. But there is a grey zone between one and probably eight units of alcohol per week, where any evidence for harm is contradicted by other studies finding no harm. If you do decide to follow the advice of one or two units once or twice a week, make sure you know what a unit is, and try to space your drinks out.
5. Bumpology was written because you wanted more scientific answers to a lot of the waffle midwives, doctors and NCT teachers told you. What would be the most overwhelming evidence you found from writing the book that you would like to share?
I do think that some of the risks associated with medical interventions during labour are over-hyped. The problem is that women are often told that, say, an epidural will increase their risk of having an instrumental delivery, but they’re not told what that actually means. In this case, twenty women would need an epidural for there to be one extra instrumental delivery – and this could be because if you’re anaesthetised, doctors are more willing to get the forceps out rather than give you additional time to push. At the same time, women are told that, say, a water birth will decrease their risk of tearing. But actually, when it comes to the really serious tears that can cause long-term problems, there is no difference between water births and those on dry land. I think that better explaining risk could have a big influence on women’s choices during labour, and make them less afraid of doctors getting involved.
6. If you were running your own ‘Bumpology pregnancy classes’ what 3 top tips would you give other clueless pregnant women to help then make the right informed decisions?
- You have no idea what your labour will be like, so try to keep an open mind about your options for pain relief and the type of birth you will end up having. The most important thing is that you and the baby are safe and healthy. We have to dispel this myth of the perfect birth.
- Tearing is very common during a vaginal birth, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. The most important thing is to keep the wound clean, and watch for any signs of infection. If you suspect a problem, insist on being examined by a doctor. Also, constipation can be a serious problem after birth, so drink lots and lots of water.
- Although it is the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding (for the first few weeks at least) is tough. Your nipples will crack, your breasts will swell up like painful boulders, and both you and your baby may take a while to get to grips with it. Accept all offers of help and support, and know that it does get easier. Nipple shields can provide some respite from cracked nipples and help women to carry on breastfeeding when they may otherwise give up.
Linda Geddes is not afraid to ask anyone about anything! From the stream of contradictory advice to pregnant women and new parents to those little moments of wonder, Geddes digs into all of them, looking for the evidence and exploring the science. In this book she shares what she’s found, with the straightforward answers and easy-going humour that is so welcome in early parenthood. Don’t get pregnant without it! (Tracey Brown, Sense About Science )