Count The Kicks

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The importance of your unborn baby’s well-being whilst your pregnant is paramount for any mum-to-be. So keeping a close eye on daily movements is essential to ensure you’re baby is well. But what if one day your baby hadn’t moved as much as usual. What if you were 38 weeks pregnant and a friend reassured you that it was probably because the baby didn’t have much room, or that it was a sign you could be going into labour. What would you do? Count The Kicks is a UK based charity that aims to educate mums on the importance of a baby’s movements and to help them work with healthcare professionals to bring home a healthy baby. Chief Executive Elizabeth Hutton explains why the charity was first set up and what should mums and midwives know about fetal movements in pregnancy.

Tell me about Count The Kicks charity and why it was started. 

Count the Kicks is trying to empower mums to be with knowledge and confidence during pregnancy by raising awareness of babys movements and their importance in a baby’s wellbeing. We were founded in 2009 by Sophia Mason following the tragic stillbirth of her daughter Chloe. Chloe’s movements had begun to slow down leading up to her due date but Sophia was led to believe this was normal, but what she’d read on the internet and in magazines. When she called her midwife, it was too late. Chloe was stillborn 3 days before her due date. Determined to ensure other mums did not experience the same heartache, Sophia set up Count the Kicks to raise awareness of how important fetal movements really are.

What is the aim of the charity and how can Mums-to-be access support and information? 

We want mums to feel confident enough to call their midwife if they notice any change in their baby’s regular pattern of movement. We produce leaflets, stickers and posters that we send to midwives so many mums will be able to access the information straight from their midwife. Our leaflets are also in the mum to be Bounty Packs that mums can collect at 20 weeks. Alternatively all our information is available online at countthekicks.org.uk or on our Facebook page facebook.com/ukcountthekicks

There still seems to be a lot of conflicting advice about what’s normal for baby’s movements eg ’10 kicks a day’ ‘baby slowing down before labour’ ‘movements less when there’s not much room’. How can we as midwives make sure women are receiving the correct advice about fetal movements?

The current guidelines say that a woman should report any change in her baby’s regular pattern of movement. There is no set number a woman needs to get to so counting to 10 is unhelpful. Movements vary from 4 – 100 every hour and fetal movement is completely dependent on what a mum perceives to be her baby’s movements. One woman may feel every little roll and movement, while another may only feel the big kicks, how can we be telling both these women they need to feel the same number? They need to know what they see as their baby’s regular pattern and then they can report if they notice any change in that. It is important for mums to also be aware that babies do not slow down as they reach the end of pregnancy.

As a midwife I always reassure women that they never waste my time by calling if they haven’t felt their baby move. What advice do you give women if they have any concerns. 

Much the same! We always advise women to report any change in movement to their midwife. We want them to be reassured that midwives would much rather see them a hundred times and have to keep telling them the baby is fine, than to see them once and have to deliver devastating news. So if you are ever worried about your baby you should contact your midwife. They are there to help you. 

If you had a pot of gold – how and where would you use the money to help families affected by losing a baby?

Our aim is to prevent stillbirth, we would love for no one to need bereavement support. If I had a pot of god I would love to continue to provide our leaflets but also be able to provide our wristbands free to all mums to be. This would cost approximately £1 million pounds a year so we would need a big pot! But we hope to one day make that a reality. 

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What You Need to Know About Your Skin During Pregnancy

This guest post by Cassie discusses great tips for your pregnant skin and dispels all those myths. Enjoy!

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“Pregnancy is a beautiful, transformative experience. It can also be transformative for your skin–in a not-so-beautiful way. Sometimes, hormones wreak havoc on complexion, leaving you perplexed and overwhelmed.

Here are some of the things you need to know about the ways your skin can change during pregnancy, along with advice on how to combat any skin woes.

The “Mask of Pregnancy” — More Common Than You Think   

You’ve probably heard of the “mask of pregnancy.” Also referred to as melasma and chloasma, the condition is rather ubiquitous (50% of pregnant women!) and hormonal in nature. The “mask” or melasma produces dark spots all over the face, particularly around the forehead, cheeks, and mouth, creating the appearance of a shadow or mask (hence the name). What you’re really seeing is a result of increased pigment in the skin due to pregnancy hormones.

So how do you treat it? As with most skin conditions, the best solution is actually in prevention. Be sure to wear SPF of 15 or higher (preferably closer to SPF 30), wear protective clothing, and limit sun exposure throughout your pregnancy. During these 9 months, your skin is more sensitive than usual, and it requires extra care.

If you’ve already developed the mask, consult your dermatologist and/or doctor. In most cases, the changes in pigment fade after you give birth. However, lingering effects might be due to a treatable, hormonal imbalance.

Hormonal Acne 

Even if you usually have clear skin, pregnancy hormones can still throw your complexion’s equilibrium out of whack. And if you’re already prone to blemishes, the increased hormones can send your oil-secretion glands into overdrive, causing even more breakouts. Many people talk about “the pregnancy glow.” However, that “glow” looks different for different people. If you’re experiencing any of these hormonal changes, don’t worry! This is a completely normal reaction.

What to do: make sure you’re diligent with a twice-daily, face-cleansing routine. It’s a good idea to use a non-comedogenic cleanser, toner, and then light moisturizer. Cetaphil and other gentle, over-the-counter cleansers are a good option.

Stretch Marks 

Once again, preventative measures are the key to warding off stretch marks. Coconut oil, cocoa butter, and other lotions are some of the best ways to prevent these red and pink marks. However, know that a large majority of women experience stretch marks post pregnancy. It’s totally natural and happens when the skin stretches due to swelling bellies and breasts. Exercise during pregnancy can also help prevent stretch marks.

The good news: even if none of these over-the-counter remedies work, stretch marks almost always fade after delivery. They’re sort of like Mummy battle scars. So if you can, wear them with pride. You’re strong and beautiful just the way you are.

What do you think, Mums-to-be?

Have you experienced any of the aforementioned skin issues? What advice do you have for pregnant mums? Leave your comments in the space below. Congratulations, and happy nesting!”

Cassie Brewer is a professional make-up artist and blogs brilliantly all about it here cassiembrewer.weebly.com

What it really feels like to have a prolaspe

Guest post written by Jennie mum of one.

Four months after the birth of our daughter (water birth, gas and air, home in 3 hours after birth) I was feeling pretty much back to “me” – breast feeding was well established and I was loving the freedom of heading out to go to the hairdressers / lunch with friends / gym in the knowledge that baby was home with dad and there was expressed milk good to go. Even going to the corner shop had it’s delights….!

One weekend I was feeling particularly sprightly after about 4 hours unbroken sleep (yep, I know, amazing isn’t it after the first crazy few months) I headed to our local council gym… Spring in my step and a some new tunes on a playlist. Was great getting back into the running, weights and abs stuff… So much so I did the same the next day. And a boxing glass the next Wednesday. Then that evening I felt a strange feeling in my cervix / vagina when I was in the shower, and completely panicked.  It felt like the walls of my vagina had pushed together and I instantly knew this was a prolapse… But this doesn’t happen to fit healthy mums of one who are in their 30’s, right? Well…. It does happen, and it happens to more people than you think and no one talks about it. But it’s important and this is my attempt to dispel the myths about it all.

There are a few different types of prolapse – all stem from having weak / weakened pelvic floor muscles.  This is more susceptible following a vaginal birth but equally just carrying a baby during pregnancy put strains on these muscles.

The pelvic floor muscles are like hammock that hold your bladder, cervix / vagina and rectum all in their right positions.  When your muscles are weakened one or more of these organs can push onto another organ, commonly the vagina. In the more major cases they can push onto and out of the vagina.

After discovering something radically different had happened to me I panicked and cried and panicked more and cried more. I did some night time ‘googling’ and panicked some more (I know, this is never a good idea)! Thankfully my lovely midwife was on the end of the phone and after a quick referral via the doc to a specialist I was reassured that the “minor” prolapse would heal over time with pelvic floor exercises and in 6-12 weeks there should be a noticeable difference. Phew.

Pelvic floor exercises involve clenching / squeezing from the back passage all the way to the bladder / urethra area in one strong controlled motion.  Isolating these muscles from say, your buttocks or thighs is tricky and probably like most women I did some exercises during pregnancy but didn’t really spend much time on them.  Quite probably I wasn’t doing them properly.

After seeing a consultant I also visited a physio to make sure I had the right technique and a few weeks in I can feel the difference.  What caused it? Well I probably had weakened muscles from the reasonably quick birth, plus my excessive exercise regime didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong you can exercise and I had assumed that I would be back to post preg fitness four months in which reality you can be but I over did it with high impact too much too soon.  I also decided to phase off breast feeding as my daughter was approaching 5 months and I was close to going back to work… And when you are breast feeding there are lots of “softening” hormones that keep your ligaments and joints supple, so to hasten the speed at which it repairs I made the decision to move onto formula and felt really quite upset by it all… As I was keen to breast feed for six months.  However a few weeks in and baby is happy and I’m ok with it all now.

So now I’m focusing on various pelvic floor exercises through the day and have given up and high impact exercises for now in favour for Pilates and lots of walking.

I wanted to share my story because for about two weeks I was highly emotional and felt like a freak (harsh, but this is really how I was feeling) and really hadn’t appreciated this can happen to “fit and healthy” mums, even at a time where I felt completely recovered.

The positive thing to come out of this is I can take action now and prevent reoccurrence in
later life. Plus spread a little understanding about it. Prolapses are commonly misconstrued as a thing that happens to obese, post menopausal women where as this is far from the case.  Doing a short set of pelvic floor exercises often especially if you are pregnant, contemplating pregnancy or have had a baby is a good thing. The best thing is you don’t need to go to the gym to do it….

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Pregnancy Diary – 40 weeks!

Preparing to meet our water baby

Firstly apologies this is so delayed. As you can probably guess I had my baby! The last five weeks I have mainly spent breastfeeding, watching him sleep, falling in love and trying to squeeze in the occasional shower.

But let me rewind to my 40th week of pregnancy…

Monday

Today is my first day of maternity leave – whoop! It is also the week I am due to give birth. Everybody thinks I’m crazy to have worked so late into my pregnancy but I’m pretty sure I will be 2 weeks overdue like I was with my first… and 2 weeks is quite long enough to be at home waiting, especially since I am so impatient.

I am hoping to spend the week watching Netflix in bed (between school drop offs and pick ups) and possibly squeezing in a mani-pedi and the obligatory wax so that I am fully ready to meet our water baby.

Things don’t go quite as planned as my mother has decided to come and stay and so I find myself doing jobs around the house, having to plan what to do for lunch/dinner and generally being more social than I had hoped.

But this afternoon I have my appointment with the consultant at West Middlesex hospital. I have this because my bump has measured small throughout the pregnancy (just as with my first) and a few weeks ago I was referred for a growth scan, so this is just a routine follow up. I am hoping he might be able to give me an examination and see if my cervix is doing something because I have had lots of cramping over the weekend and episodes where my tummy goes tight and hard (not contractions but enough to keep me from sleeping and enough to get me excited… and then disappointed).

As I lay on the bed in the consultants room with my legs spread (oh the indignity!), I say to him; “I’m just hoping you’ll tell me I’m 2cm dilated already” being very overly optimistic. Realistically I’d be happy just knowing my cervix is no longer posterior. A second or so later he says to his student “and the lady’s right, she’s 2cm dilated”. I LOL for real.

But he’s being sincere – My cervix is fully effaced and 2cm dilated. I’m filled with joy. I could hug him. Jeez, I could kiss him! How happy I am! I clearly recall being 41+ weeks pregnant with my first and the midwife telling me that my cervix was like that of a non-pregnant person and that labour was quite a way off. I was preparing myself for the same news but this is beyond all my hopes. All the uncomfortable cramping of the last few days has been totally worthwhile – what a journey my cervix has undertaken already!

The consultant gives me a sweep and tells me I will likely be having a baby this week. He assures me that even if I needed inducing today, he would probably only need to break my waters, that I wouldn’t need to be put on the drip like last time. I skip out of the surgery, call my partner and tell him I’m 2cm dilated and that we are having a baby imminently!! He asks if he needs to leave work (I have the sense to say no, luckily). I am way overexcited.

I Google how long it takes for labour to start after a sweep, the results are very mixed. I have no pain or contractions, not even cramping. But I am still hopeful things will be kicking off soon…

Tuesday

Nothing happened last night, nothing happens today, nothing happens tonight. I got over excited and now I am feeling disappointed. My mother is still here and I have not yet been able to begin my Netflix marathon. I consider going out to beautify myself in order to be looking my best to meet the new arrival (if that’s even possible in my swollen whale state) but can’t be bothered. I have got a bad case of negativity after yesterday’s high.

Wednesday

My mother leaves today and I go to the day assessment unit at the hospital to have the baby monitored as the consultant advised on Monday. I feel this is unnecessary but since the baby has been quieter than usual yesterday and today I go along thinking the reassurance will be good. It also gives me something to do.

The midwife who sees me tells me that in her experience babies are often quiet before you go into labour. I don’t allow myself to get excited. I sit strapped to the machine for a while and everything seems fine with baby’s heartbeat. I tell the midwife I have been having cramping and tightenings and that I had a sweep on Monday. She tells me the best thing I can do is go home and do some nipple stimulation and have intercourse to get things going. I was thinking I might cook a curry but looks like the menu might have changed…

I go home and start twiddling my nipples (yes, really) whilst watching ‘The Missing’ which is pretty gripping…

And BOOM! There are contractions! Definite ‘waves’, (as everyone describes), increasing in squeezing intensity, before relief. After a while I decide to start using my app to time them (yes, there’s an app for that).

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For 3 solid hours I twiddle my nipples, watch multiple episodes of ‘The Missing’ and time my contractions. I notice that if I stop with the nipple stimulation they die off but if I keep that up, then they just keep coming. I am having one every 3 or so minutes and they’re lasting about 45 seconds. I am thinking THIS MUST BE IT!!!

My partner gets home from work and after a bit we decide to go out for a walk. My son is at a sleepover so we are relatively free to do as we please. I am initially reluctant preferring just to stay put as I am worried about doing anything that will make the contractions stop/lose regularity but then I remind myself that if this is true labour, a walk won’t stop it. And if it’s not true labour then it will stop eventually anyway. Either way a walk won’t do any harm and there’s possibly a Winter Pimms in it for me if I go, so… we head off!

As I feared it all dies off on the walk, but at least I get to go the pub and it feels a bit like a date night… of course I’m also feeling disappointed, frustrated and impatient!! I post on The Calm Birth School’s Facebook page asking for advice and am told by a lot of lovely people to be patient – baby comes when baby is ready.

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I go home to bed, feeling grumpy.

Thursday

Today is a mega day. A mega, magical day. So mammoth that I cannot fit everything that happens into this diary entry, so I’m not going to try! I am going to have to save all the in-depth details of my labour for my birth story post, which I promise to write very soon!

But to begin, the morning started disappointingly like any other. Me still pregnant. My partner off to work. However minutes after saying his goodbyes and leaving to catch the bus, he returns having decided it might be best to work from home. (Did the skeptic that he is experience some sort of premonition?!).

I wasn’t overly happy with this decision because I was certain nothing was going to happen and I didn’t want him distracting me from season two of Orange is the New Black, which I intended to work my way through uninterrupted.

However by 11am I was thinking perhaps he was right to stay because I found myself standing at the fridge with water running down my legs. At first I was unsure whether my waters had gone or if I had actually just wet myself! I put a pad in and waited.

Once I was convinced my waters had gone, I felt excited that there was now a deadline – I knew for sure I would either go into labour naturally or be induced within the next 48 hours (due to risk of infection). But I also felt the pressure of this deadline and worried that our happy homebirth might not happen…

At this point I decided the best thing I could do would be to write my Christmas cards, so that’s what I did.

And that’s where I’m going to leave things…! Call it a cliff-hanger

NB: I promise to follow up very soon with my full, no holds barred, birth story!

Pregnancy Diary – 39 Weeks

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Monday – Is this nesting?!

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We decided to paint the baby’s room last week (better late than never) and it’s finally finished. Well, it’s a lampshade and dimmer switch away from being finished but we’re almost there.

Painting baby’s room without knowing the sex of baby somewhat limits your options so we have kept it neutral and used Farrow and Ball Pavilion Gray for the walls and Green Blue for the wardrobe. Ikea blackout blinds have been fitted, change table has been erected and our Gro-egg is in place, kindly alerting us to the fact that the room is too cold.

Baby’s clothes have been both washed and IRONED! I literally never iron. I think this might be the third time I have used the iron in my life. I don’t even know why I did. It’s not like I will be keeping this up when baby comes.  Now I’m thinking about it, perhaps it was a grave mistake on my part and I will have inadvertently given baby too high expectations and it will be permanently disappointed going forth with its wrinkly clothes…

Tuesday – TENS testing

We decided we should road test the TENS machine which we bought at an NCT nearly new sale a few weeks ago, just to check it worked. The testing of the TENS machine literally brought so much joy I nearly wet myself. And with baby’s head firmly engaged in my cervix, that’s not just a flippant throw-away remark but a genuine fear. I managed to coax my partner into being the guinea pig and he impressively managed to withstand the pulsating pads as I turned up the intensity. His whole body was jerking, and there may have been some screaming. I only wish we had filmed it.

We then tested it on my arm and it made my middle finger pulse rhythmically of its own accord. When boost was pressed my finger clamped down and I couldn’t even lift it. Hilarity ensued. Oh, it’s the simple things!

Wednesday – Date night!

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Decided to squeeze in what could be the last date night in a while and go for a curry (OBVIOUSLY). Went to Dishoom in Covent Garden (which was AH-MA-ZING!). Also enjoyed a massive bump perk – instead of having to join the 1.5hr queue outside we were seated at the bar until a table became available. Food was incredible and 100% worth visiting even if you’re not prego.

Thursday – Gifts galore and goodbyes

Tonight I was out again after work (no rest for this 39 weeker), this time for an xmas/goodbye meal with my colleagues. I was given a gorgeous box of Mother treats from Neal’s Yard amongst other things… have added the massage oil to my birth bag already. I know I have mentioned this before but I literally cannot wait for labour to begin so I can start using all the treats I’ve been saving up!!

Friday – And breathe…

Today is my last day of work. My maternity leave officially starts on Monday – that’s 4 days before my due date. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I wanted to save my maternity leave for when baby was here and also I’m a VERY impatient person who doesn’t know how to rest. Being at home on maternity leave sans baby, for me, would be a very bad combination. I’d be trying to stretch and sweep myself within hours. However I am REALLY looking forward to just relaxing in bed whilst everyone is out of the house at school/work and watching season 2 of Orange is the New Black on Netflix uninterrupted… if I get the chance! I also have to get and decorate a Christmas tree, there’s my son’s school’s Christmas fair to go to… oh, and then there’s that other minor thing to square away… the Christmas shopping!!! Thank God for Amazon prime, hey?

Pregnancy Diary – 38 Weeks

Hot off today’s headlines! NICE have said that Women with low-risk pregnancies are to be encouraged to have non-hospital births under new NHS guidelines, which could see almost half of mothers-to-be planning to deliver their baby away from traditional labour wards. This is wonderful news for midwives, women and even doctors who are working in over stretched, busy labour wards. As a midwife who works in a case-loading team and is able to offer all our women the choice where to birth their baby, this new guideline could not be more welcomed. Today Siobhan gives us an update on her preparation for her home birth.
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Preparing to meet our water baby

Monday – Iron worries

I mentioned in my previous post how I was totally committed to my planned homebirth, however there is one potential problem that stands between me and my birth pool dream and that is my iron level. It was 10.5 at 28 weeks and I was told to take Spatone twice a day, which I did. However by 36 weeks it had fallen to 9.9. (I have been told that a minimum of 10 is required for homebirth or birthing centre and 11 is preferable). I have now been taking Ferrous Sulphate twice a day and folic acid with orange juice. We have gone from eating kale with every meal (which my partner hated) to steak on a regular basis (which he’s much more happy about). This is after reading the post about nutrition on this blog and learning that we absorb iron much more efficiently from red meat rather than vegetables. My bloods are being checked again this week, at 38 weeks. Fingers crossed it’s risen and all the black poo has been worth it! (YUK).

Tuesday – Baby, be ready soon… please!

‘Babies are born when babies are ready’ is a rather tricky affirmation for me to embrace wholeheartedly as I was induced at almost 42 weeks with my son and I really want to avoid that happening again.  What if baby isn’t ready until after 42 weeks?! I don’t want to battle consultants who want me induced and to start worrying about whether I should follow their advice or not. Of course I want baby to be come when baby is ready…it’s just I really want baby to be ready by 41 weeks!

To help avoid this situation I have started having acupuncture twice a week. I don’t believe acupuncture is going to induce my labour and I don’t believe it will make my body do something my body is not ready to do. But I do believe that acupuncture can remove the obstacles (like stress, tension and worry) that prevent labour from starting. Last week the points used were to improve my blood and for relaxation. I slept really well that night for the first time in ages. My second session was this week and the points used were for ripening the cervix. Since then I have felt a stretching and tenderness down there. Could all be psychosomatic of course (says the skeptic in me).

Wednesday – Wet runs and hot tub fun

Tonight we had our ‘wet run’ – which is like a dry run with the birth pool, only there’s lots of water involved.  My partner inflated and filled the pool (and timed it), and then, because I couldn’t bear to waste all the warm water, we decided to get in and enjoy it! I started off LOVING the pool – it felt like we were sat in our own private hot tub… in the living room!!! But then I started feeling some waves of panic…caused by the dawning realization that in the next few weeks I’m going to be giving birth in this pool!! A human being, is going to come out of my vagina, in this pool, in the next few weeks. It’s mind-blowing and over-whelming. I felt a bit sick so went to bed with my relaxation track.

Thursday – to be present or not to be present?

My son has gone from describing a textbook TV birth – Mum-to-be in bed, on her back, sweaty, red and screaming to imagining a happy, calm, water birth. He asks all kinds of intelligent questions, like how come it won’t drown when it comes out in the water? After I explained how it won’t take its first breath until it’s lifted out into the air, he said he wanted to be there for ‘when it takes its first breath in this life, in our family’. How cute is that?!

We still don’t have a plan in place for what we will do in terms of childcare when I’m in labour. The first issue is timing. If only we could know WHEN in the next 4 weeks the baby is going to come! If it’s the daytime then he could be at school, if it’s the nighttime he could be sleeping. If it’s the school holidays then we could be screwed! Both sets of grandparents live approximately 4 hours drive away, which isn’t ideal/an option. And the second issue is whether or not Oisin should be part of the birth?! He says he wants to be there for when the baby comes out but will I be relaxed if he is and what if things don’t go to plan? What if he finds it distressing and I can’t comfort him or reassure him because I’m in the throes of labour? I really don’t know what is best but I know some sort of decision needs to be made imminently…

The best news today was my iron results came back and homebirth is a GO! It’s gone from 9.9 to 11.3 after just 13 days of iron tablets. perhaps it was the acupuncture!! My midwife seemed a little surprised and I have been having points for improving blood done during my needle sessions! Ooooh, maybe it is possible to poke this baby out 😉

Friday – packing the birth bag

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Now I’m 38 weeks I’ve decided I really should pack my birth bag – we’ve decided to call it birth bag as I’m hoping to avoid going to hospital. I’ve been gathering bits for weeks but finally got around to packing it all and it’s like the best bag of goodies EVER. I’m genuinely looking forward to when the first surge hits just so I open it. I have a lush new Diptique candle packed, a mini bottle of champers (of course), a new super fluffy towel and dressing gown, new bed socks, jelly babies, galaxy bars, laminated affirmations, a head massager, my luxe silk PJs and a set of L’Occitane toiletries which I’ve saved for months. It’s going to be like Christmas has come early… unless I’m waaay overdue and then it will be like Christmas has come late… and I will probably be massively pissed off.

I’ve also packed the obvious essentials like loads of industrial-sized sanitary pads and a few packs of size 14 pants from Sainsburys, to accommodate the aforementioned nappy-like pads, which I will be more than happy to dispose of ASAP. And of course some men’s t-shirts in size XXL from Primark to wear when in labour. I just don’t like to focus on this darker side of my birthing bag.

Finally, I’ve also got to work on creating a playlist for birthing a baby on Spotify. So far I’ve got a bit of Alt-J, The XX, Hozier, George Ezra and Bastille. Unless it’s a very quick labour (unlikely) I’m going to need to add a few more… Would love some suggestions??

Pregnancy Diary – 37 weeks

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This series of pregnancy diary entries are written by Siobhan, mum of one and now almost ready to meet her second baby due in 3 weeks time! Siobhan’s first birth 7 years ago left her feeling like she would never be able to have a natural birth again, but with a bit of prep work she is now preparing for a home water birth. Here she explains how her views have changed about birth, and hopefully install some positivity into any of you who may be in a similar situation.

‘I remember attending a series of ante-natal classes before my son was born and one being called ‘complications in labour’. The midwife assured us that we were unlikely to experience any of these complications and if we were unlucky enough to, then it would just be the one. Nobody would experience all of the complications discussed. Well, my birth ran like a checklist of everything covered that day, bar the c-section, which I narrowly avoided (my son was delivered vaginally on the operating table in theatre, after I’d consented to an emergency secton).

Fast-forward 8 years and I’m feeling a little older, not so much wiser, but certainly less nervous and more confident in my (now surely looser?) cervix’s ability to dilate spontaneously. Also having educated myself through attending some amazing hypnobirthing classes (more on that later), I now believe a lot of what happened with my son’s birth was due to a domino effect of fear, tension, pain, fetal distress and intervention, a pattern which then just continued throughout my 2-day Syntocinon- induced labour.

So determined to make this birth experience memorable for all the right reasons, my partner and I signed up for hypnobirthing classes with Hollie of London Hypnobirthing, which we attended last month, and booked in with the homebirth team at West Middlesex hospital. Clemmie (founder of this blog) deserves a big shout out here as she encouraged me to sign up for a homebirth and I’ve not looked back since. The quality of care is superior times a million (!!) and most importantly it just feels right for me.

I used to journey to the hospital, wait 40+ minutes in the waiting room, often with my impatient child, finally see an unknown-to-me midwife for a quick 5-minute check-up and then leave fraught, having forgotten to ask most of the things I’d wanted to know (sound familiar?). I now have a lovely midwife called Natalie who comes round to my house, we have a cuppa, she spends at least an hour with me, responds to text messages with a kiss and generally feels like someone who is my friend and who genuinely cares about me and my birth. I cannot rate the service highly enough.

I will admit when I initially signed up for a homebirth I was thinking I’ve got nothing to lose as I can always change my mind closer to the time. However I am now so committed to my beautiful, romantic, waterbirth at home that I can no longer remember a single reason why I thought hospital might have been a better idea. How things have changed!

But however calm and tranquil I’m imagining the birth will be, the reality right now is quite different! Almost 37 weeks pregnant, still working full time, juggling hypnobirthing homework with birth pool research and with outstanding ‘to do’ lists everywhere, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. But as we prepare to meet our water baby, Clemmie has invited me to share with you what’s going through my head and my heart and what we’re doing to make our birth a positive one.’

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Next week Siobhan reveals how she preparing her body and mind with hypnobirthing techniques for birth and why it’s always worth doing a ‘dry run’ for the birthing pool!

Calm Birthing

Let me tell you a little story. When I was a student midwife 10 years ago I was looking after a woman with my mentor who has having a ‘hypnobirth’. This term was a bit alien to me and it certainly didn’t sit well with some midwives and doctors. ‘Surges how ridiculous’ laughed some members of staff in the staff room at hand over. ‘Labour is painful there’s no way she can think it isn’t going to be’ remarked the anaesthetist. I was young and inexperienced but trusted my mentor as we continued to support this woman and partner through their birth.

Skip forward 9 years and Hypnobirthing is something I’ve seen become more and more popular in birth. It is single-handedly changing birth in more ways than anything I’ve seen in a long time. I witnessed women birth their babies so peacefully that I didn’t even think they were in labour. I’ve seen women had to change their plan from a home birth to a hospital birth because of complications but remain calm, and in control through the transition. I’ve also supported women who have been so traumatised by their first birth who have used hypnobirthing techniques to over come their fears and gone on to have wonderful second time births. At no point did I hear any whale music or see Paul McKenna appear with a pocket watch. No vagina whispering or an incense stick in sight.  And on a personal note I had an induction with my second daughter, yes it was a water birth but it was horribly painful, sometimes violent and I felt at times totally out on control. If only I learnt some hypnobirthing techniques to help me ‘let go’ of that fear.

So here is Hollie from London Hypnobirthing and co founder of The Calm Birth School to put all those myths aside about hypnobirthing and explain about her new exciting adventure!

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What is The Calm Birth School?
The Calm Birth School is the world’s first hypnobirthing video program. It’s a four-week antenatal home study program – combining the core principles of hypnobirthing and active birth – training women and their birth partners to create calm, joyful births from anywhere in the world.

How did the idea of a video course come about?
A lot of women will find hypnobirthing classes near them, and we both love teaching women face-to-face and have been doing so for a number of years. However, in this time we’ve had lots of enquiries from all around the world from women who can’t find a practitioner near them, or women who don’t have the time to travel to a weekly class. We have responded to this need with The Calm Birth School home study program, by bringing our tried and tested techniques to you, so that you can enjoy the benefits of hypnobirthing in a way that suits your lifestyle and location.

Hollie, can you tell us a bit more about you and Suzy?
For a start, we’re every day mums on a mission. We don’t knit our own houmous or henna lotus flowers on our bellies. We like a G&T and the odd round of disco dancing, and yes, we sometimes pick Wotsits out of our kids’ noses. In fact before having our own children, our lives were far removed from breathing techniques and relaxation, as we both had busy careers in the media and design industries. For both of us though, having our own positive, euphoric, comfortable births (which believe me, I didn’t think was possible!) made us want to spread the word of hypnobirthing and stop women dreading birth. From that, we have been independently running our own hypnobirthing classes in London since 2011, and have now joined forces to create The Calm Birth School – providing a holistic and flexible approach to women’s antenatal care. I live in West Dulwich with my husband and son, Oscar, and Suzy lives down the road in Ladywell with her husband and two children, Caesar and Coco.

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A lot of people are put off by the term hypnobirthing, what would you say to that?
In creating The Calm Birth School we wanted to dispel the myths of what people think hypnobirthing is. Yes it sounds weird, but drawing on our professional experience of working with hundreds of pregnant couples, we’ve been able to tailor make our own program and cut out the fluff. No vagina-whispering, kumbaya-singing, goddess-channeling nonsense. Just scientifically-proven calming and relaxation techniques, so that you know what is happening in your body and how to work with it.

You sound pretty fired up about this.
You can say that again! We know birth can be different to what the media is intent on showing us. We know it can be comfortable and calm and we know birth is changing. Suzy and I are totally committed to creating positive births all over the world. We’re on a mission to reduce the birthing horror stories, one informed woman at a time, and that’s why we’ve created this virtual course – so women and their partners can empower themselves and learn these incredible techniques without taking their slippers off.

Is it just designed for those planning home births?
No way. Whether you’re planning a hospital, home, or midwife-led birth, The Calm Birth School will guide you and your partner through our unique method for creating a smooth birth experience…all from the ease of your armchair. So that for the rest of your pregnancy, you’ll feel fearless, not freaked out! Whilst we love a home birth, we understand that they’re not for everyone, and we believe that the best place for you to birth is where you feel the most safe, comfortable and private. Your birth environment is paramount to a great birth, but we will educate you on your choices and teach you how to create your nest wherever you choose to birth.

Is the course only for first time mums?
Absolutely not. The Calm Birth School home study program is for everyone. Whether it’s your first baby or your fifth, our unique program will equip you with the tools for the empowering birth experience you deserve. In fact, our techniques have been proven to help mums who’ve had previous traumatic birth experiences overcome these to change their birth this time around.

So how exactly does this video course work?
Well unlike all of your other pregnancy-related appointments, we come to you! The Calm Birth School program is a video course that will be delivered to your inbox once a week for four weeks. That’s 12 short videos split into 4 classes, so that learning the secrets of positive birth can fit into the nooks and crannies of your day. And to make sure you don’t miss out on the benefits of a face-to-face class, you’ll feel completely taken care of in our private Facebook group where you can connect with other pregnant couples, and with our bi-weekly teleconferences.

Does The Calm Birth School guarantee a pain-free birth?
No, we can’t make claims quite that bold. Birth is a natural physiological event and as such there are many affecting factors that can be out of our control. What we can guarantee is that you will feel more prepared for a better birth, and a positive birth experience. In our eyes, hypnobirthing is about controlling what you can, and letting go of what you can’t.

We will teach you some amazing techniques that will stimulate the production of your body’s natural pain-relieving hormones, but as with anything, the more practice you put in, the more effective these techniques will be on your baby’s birth day. That said, in our experience, around 76% of the mums we’ve taught have given birth with NO pain relief whatsoever.

We are so excited about the launch of The Calm Birth School, that for the next 14 days we have a very special gift for you. We are giving away FREE hypnobirthing classes that you can enjoy in the comort of your own home. Click on this link to claim your classes today!http://bit.ly/freehypnobirthing

Essential Vitamins and Minerals For Your Baby – Guest Post

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Eating a healthy diet helps one derive all the minerals and vitamins that the body needs. There is a direct link between the food we eat and our body health. Proper nutrition equals good health. This is common during pregnancy since effects of proper nutrition can be seen both in the mother and the baby during and even after pregnancy.

The following are the essential Vitamins and Minerals during pregnancy:

Iron

Pregnancy can exhaust a mother’s iron stores. Iron is a vital nutrient since it’s used in formation of hemoglobin in the red blood cells of the mother and the infant. Its intake increases with pregnancy due to increase in blood volume as the pregnancy progresses. – Iron can be obtained from plant and animal products. Absorption of iron is better when taken from animal foods as compared to plant foods Red meat contains the most source of iron as compared to other animal foods such as chicken and fish Iron can also be obtained from dark green vegetables, legumes and cereals. -Taking a glass of fruit juice or food rich in vitamin C after a meal containing iron nutrients increases the absorption of iron into the body as compared to taking a cup of tea or coffee which in fact reduces iron absorption. – Iron deficiency leads to anemia which can result in a. premature birth; b. low birth weight; c. weakness; and d. over-tiredness of mothers.

Vitamin D

In pregnancy, vitamin D do not only strengthen a mother’s bones but also provides the baby with vitamin D nutrients which are very important during the first trimester. A mother should take at least 10mcg of vitamin D in a day. Vitamin D also helps regulate the level of calcium and phosphorus in the body hence leading to strong bones and teeth both to the mother and the baby. -The best source of vitamin D is direct sunlight. However, other foods such as breakfast cereals, eggs, fish liver oil, fatty fish and fortified milk contain vitamin D. -Lack of sufficient vitamin D leads to a. softened baby bones; b. rickets; c. retardation; d. skeletal deformation; and e. likelihood of C-section for mothers.

Calcium

Calcium is important in strengthening a baby’s bones and teeth. It’s also important in development of the nervous system and in muscle contraction in the fetus. On the other hand, it strengthens a mother’s bones, teeth, improves blood clotting and reduces chances of hypertension. Moreover, it’s a natural pain relief during labor for mothers. -Dairy products and fish with edible bones contain a lot of calcium. Breakfast cereals, dried fruits and leafy vegetables also contain calcium nutrients. -Calcium intake levels increases with pregnancy. Calcium deficiency leads to pregnancy and developmental complications in the fetus.

Folic Acid

It’s a type of vitamin B which is useful for infant growth and development especially for brain and nervous system development of an infant in the first trimester. Its requirements are more in pregnancy because of the developing baby in the womb. When taken before and during pregnancy, it reduces risks of neural tube defects in pregnancy. -Sources of folic acid are dark green vegetables, citrus fruits, liver, broccoli, pulses, cauliflower and walnuts. -Folic acid intake levels decreases as the pregnancy lengthens. Shortage in intake of folic acid leads to anemia and other birth defects.

There are also supplements of these minerals and vitamins available in maternal hospitals to help mothers maintain right levels of minerals and vitamins consumption throughout pregnancy. With the help of the European health insurance card, a mother can access maternal advice on proper nutrition during pregnancy and even obtain the above minerals and vitamin supplements at the expense of the card.

What Did You Name Yours?

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Today Net Mums released the official top baby names from the last 12 months. The list doesn’t surprise me at all, after all I’m probably working in the one profession where I am at the forefront of hearing these names within minutes, often seconds of delivering a baby. During my career I have heard it all when it comes to naming your baby. I’m not going to name and shame but there have been some interesting moments in the delivery room when the new parents have revealed their baby daughter’s name. ‘So how are you spelling that?’ is often my polite answer. You get the idea.

Now I’m no expert at naming babies, I’ve had 2 girls of my own and I do think girls names are much easier than boys names. I hate being put on the spot and I have been asked by new parents to pick between two names for their child. I have also had a baby girl named after me which was a lovely surprise.

So here is my top tips for naming your child

  • ALWAYS consider your child. You might like a certain name because it’s supercool or unique, but remember that it is not you who needs to go through life with this name. Do you really want your child having to explain herself to every single person who needs to write her name? Trust me my name has 10 letters in it. Not much space on the page to fill them all in ,hence why I shortened it.
  • Pregnancy hormones can play havoc with your sense of humour and emotions. Naming your child after the character you saw on TV may not be such a great idea ten years down the line. I once met two sisters called Cagney and Lacey.
  • Consider all possible nicknames and names that rhyme. Kids will always find a way to tease other kids especially when names are involved. The day one boy at school realised that Clemmie rhymed with Flemmy was the day I started calling myself Sarah.
  • Research the meaning of the names you like. You don’t want to realise after you’ve named your baby Claudia, that it actually means lame.
  • Say it out loud. Like lots of times. Say it with your surname, call it across the park (to see if any dogs come running). We never realised how similar my daughters name Marnie sound like Mummy. It still gets confusing.
  • And write it down. Lots of times just like you did when you wrote down your boyfriends name age 16 all over your homework diary. You’ll be surprised how instantly you love it or hate it.
  • Think about the initials especially if you’re using a middle name. I knew someone with the initials BJ. His surname was Madick. Enough said
  • Negotiate with your partner. I worked really hard on my second daughters middle name Violet. I figured as I was pushing our baby out of me I could pretty much call her what I liked. Amazingly it worked.
  • Be careful who you tell. When you’re pregnant people LOVE to ask (guilty) ‘Have you thought of any names?’ And if you choose to reveal a few be prepared for odd looking faces or negative comments. When I was pregnant with my first daughter I told a certain member of the family a girls name I had fallen in love with. The member of the family very quickly made her feelings known about that name. I haven’t quite forgiven her.
  • Never ask your teacher friends their opinion. I have heard countless times ‘Jack is always a naughty boy name’. Also feel sorry for your friends if they’re both teachers. Naming their child must be an impossible task.
  • You don’t have to love your child’s name. As odd as it sounds your child grows into their name and you can’t imagine them being called anything else. Both our girls are often called by their nicknames or their full names.
  • And lastly, once you revealed your child’s name, stick to it. I once knew a couple who changed their sons name when he was 5 months old. It was confusing especially for the baby’s 3 year old brother.