I really enjoyed writing this series of posts over on my instagram, there I've collected it all together in one place. There were lots of things I could have written about in this A-Z but I went with what I felt was the most important things as a Doula I want women to know about. I hope you find it useful, inspiring and thought provoking to read as you approach the birth of your baby. Enjoy......
A IS FOR ADRENALINE...Adrenaline is our stress response hormone - what is produced when we are faced with what we perceive as danger, otherwise known as the fight or flight response.
During labour this is not a good thing and can slow things down, it also makes us feel the pain more. We enter a cycle of Fear - Tension - Pain.....the more fearful of birth we are the more tense we are and so the more pain we feel, the more pain we feel the more fearful we are and so on. We need to reduce the adrenaline in our body by relaxing and staying calm. (There is a lot more to it - follow my future posts!)
Having said that there is a stage in our labour that adrenaline is useful....
During transition (the stage when we are fully dilated and ready to start pushing our baby out) the body naturally gives us a shot of adrenaline to let us know this and to get our muscles to work differently, bringing us out of our calm and ready for action so to speak. During the transition it is common for most women to become scared, and say they are can’t do it anymore and they want it to stop now!
B IS FOR BBA... Birth Before Arrival. Babies don’t wait for no one and your body takes over to birth your baby where ever you are - there’s no stopping it!
Birthing is a physiological process just like sneezing or vomiting or going to the toilet your body takes over and does the work.
The fetal ejection reflex or involuntary pushing as it’s sometimes referred to happens when your body and your baby are ready not when you are!
This could be in the car/ambulance on the way to hospital or at home on the bathroom floor before you’ve even set off.
Living in rural Lincolnshire where for a lot of women in my area it’s a good half hour drive to the hospital I imagine it happens a lot!
C IS FOR CONSENT... "Hop up onto the bed so I can examine you"
This is NOT what Consent looks like! 👆🏻
Asking a woman to lay down on the bed so she can be examined is not a way of gaining her consent to do an invasive vaginal examination. A better sentence would be “I would like to do a vaginal examination for X reason, would you be ok with me doing this?”
Remember YOU always have complete autonomy over your body and you absolutely have the right to decline any examination if you are not comfortable with it being done. You also have the right to ask questions about the examination before it is done. You are not wasting the midwife or doctors time, you are gaining information so you can give informed consent to what is being asked to be done.
Nothing should be done without your prior consent!
D IS FOR DOULA (OBVS!)... If you have been following me for a while you must know what a doula I by now! If not let me fill you in.....
A doula provides emotional practical and educational support to women and their family before during and after the birth of their baby.
Think of a doula as your personal guide. We are highly trained professionals of birth who help you navigate your own path through it all.
We are not to be confused with Midwife’s, we have no medical training but we give you that constant support throughout.
I have written a more detailed blog about what a doula is and how a doula could benefit you on my website, check it out!
E IS FOR EDD... Estimated Due Date (otherwise known as a date your baby is likey not to be born on!)
Really take note of the word Estimated here!
It really is a guess of when your baby will arrive, I prefer a due month than an exact date. Women can often hold onto that specific date and if baby isn’t here by then worry and stress can set in as the countdown starts to induction (which most women want to avoid) having a due month means you can expect your baby anytime between 38 and 42 weeks - which is when most babies are born within and takes the pressure off a little allowing you to relax more in those final weeks.
Only about 4% of babies are born on their exact due date!
F IS FOR FINANCES... I hear a lot of people say “I can’t afford a doula / antenatal classes”
I think what you need to ask yourself is what is more important - the expensive pram I will use for a few weeks or a lifetime of satisfaction knowing I fully prepared myself physically and emotionally for this life changing experience and I was fully supported at each stage???
But also you have to think it’s like a lot of things you shop for, there are going to be the free / low cost items you can get hold of to do at your leisure, there will be the mid range items that you get abit more for your money with but then there is going to be your top of the range items which are worth the investment and give you a good quality product or service.
You pay for what you get!
I have confidence in the price of my services which comes down to years of training & experience and continuing CPD and research to ensure I am giving you the best I can, I feel the support and contact with a real person providing you these services will actually make you use them more effectively too as you’ve put your money and time into committing to it, whereas a free service is easy to not complete or to loose interest in. I’ve done it myself, I’ve committed to training courses and invested my money and time into them but Ive also signed up to free courses and got half way through them as no one is there to encourage me and keep me going. You need that from the service you buy into I feel.
When you buy from me - it’s not just a product it’s a person who truly cares about your wellbeing and your experiences and wants you to have the positive outcomes you desire and who is committed to you.
Are you worth that investment?? (You and your baby really are!)
G IS FOR GOLDEN HOUR... The hour straight after your baby is born is so important hence why we call it the golden hour! Michael Odent suggests that ‘The hour following birth is undoubtedly one of the most critical phases in the life of human beings’ but in our culture we can be quick to whisk baby off and clean them up before presenting baby to mum (thankfully this is slowly changing in most hospitals)......
Once baby is born, unless there is an emergency 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.
Then the newborn checks, weighing, cord clamping etc can be done after.
H IS FOR HOSPITAL OR HOME?... You have choices when it comes to where you want to birth your baby and there will be recommendations from your care providers due to your personal circumstances but at the end of the day it’s up to you to make that informed decision, the thing that is important is that you choose the right place for you and that it’s somewhere that you feel safe and comfortable as the environment you give birth in matters hugely.
You will receive safe care wherever you decide to give birth, with a midwife present. Two great resources to help you consider your options is ‘The Birth Place Study’ and the ‘Which? where to give birth’ site. Check them out!
Ultimately it is your decision and it’s important you make the right one for you (not what others think you should do!)
I IS FOR INSTINCTS... Follow your instincts - easier said than done when we have our thinking brain taking over and analysing everything we do! But, in pregnancy and birth a woman’s instincts are heightened in order to protect her unborn child. Your body instinctively knows how to birth your baby and in fact you could do it in a coma! Learning to trust and love your body and the amazing process of birth can go a long way in helping you achieve the birth you desire and this is one thing hypnobirthing will help you learn to do. ‘Letting go and trusting in your body and the process of birth’
Visit my website for information on my online/virtual courses available currently just as 1:1 sessions.
J IS FOR JELLY BABIES... .....or what ever yummy snacks you like to munch on!
Birth uses a lot of energy and it’s really important you keep those energy levels up throughout your labour to be able to birth your baby and not burn out. Keeping hydrated and eating little and often can really help you, this is an important job for your birth partner - to keep reminding you and offering you these.
You likely won’t feel like eating much so little bits you can just grab as and when with high sugar content for a quick fix will work well such as jelly babies!
As a doula I also have my own bag of tricks to keep me going and keep my energy levels up - my favourite is liquorice all sorts, dried fruit and nuts and instant porridge pots, easy for me to quickly prepare and eat without taking me away from supporting and caring for you.
K IS FOR VITAMIN K... This will be one of the first decisions you and your partner will need to make on the baby’s behalf. To give Vitamin K or to not give Vitamin K?
Vitamin K is given to prevent haemorrhage in babies, we are born with naturally low levels of it. Usually given via an injection to your baby after birth - there is also an oral option to look at if you want to consider this.
There’s a lot of biased information out there about Vitamin K, one good article I would point you to is on the Evidence Based Birth website.
As with anything the choice is yours but ensure this is an informed choice you are making.
L IS FOR LANGUAGE... “They did not let me”, “I wasn’t allowed”, “I had to have”, “They told me not to".................Sound familiar????
What if I said YOU ARE ALLOWED and YOU CAN!
Nobody can tell you what you can or cannot do with your own body and nobody can do anything to you and your body without your full permission!
Challenging your midwives/drs by asking why, or asking for more information and then deciding what YOU want to do is allowed!
I don’t mean you should decline anything and everything and start war with your care givers I just mean have confidence to speak up and know you are in control, not them.
If you hear this language- call it out!
It needs to change.
M IS FOR MIND BODY CONNECTION... It’s believed that we have around 30,000 thoughts come into our minds every day....
Each of these thoughts effects your emotions, your physical responses and your overall health and well-being.
Basically good, strong, helpful thoughts give off good, strong, helpful emotions, physical responses and well-being. But they are not all helpful, some are particularly unhelpful and it’s these that we need to highlight, challenge and change for the better, for our own desired outcome.
In birth this means we need to detect those beliefs in our subconscious that will work against our conscious desired outcome and exchange them for ones that will work for us.
This is a huge focus in hypnobirthing, learning how your mind works, learning how your body works and learning how hugely important it is that the two work together and not against each other.
What you believe and tell yourself really will effect the outcomes of your birth experiences.
Want to learn more? A hypnobirthing course could be just what you are looking for!
N IS FOR NOTHING... Feels like you are always doing something in your fast-paced life? (maybe not so much in current circumstances!) but we are constantly connected by our smartphones and this makes it hard for us to switch off and relax
It’s ok to do nothing you know!
Allowing yourself this time and building time into your week for your Hypnobirthing relaxations and doing absolutely nothing can be incredibly beneficial for the nervous system, reducing stress levels and priming your body to work efficiently in labour.
We forget to put ourselves first sometimes and forget to just stop and pause life - I know during lockdown ive been doing it a lot more and making a conscious effort of taking this time out for me, have you?
O IS FOR OXYTOCIN... This beautiful little hormone ‘the hormone of love’ and meaning ‘quick birth’ is vital during the birth of your baby....
Oxytocin along with your endorphins (your bodies natural pain killers) must be flowing to allow your body to have a physiological birth. Your body needs high levels of Oxytocin to work properly. To produce oxytocin you must feel safe, supported and calm, and your birth partner plays a huge role in ensuring this happens!
Being close by you, holding you, rocking you, talking quietly and calmly encouraging you, massaging you and literally being someone to lean on and a hand to hold throughout.
But they also say what gets the baby in will get the baby out - couples have found lots of contact with cuddling, kissing even nipple or clitoral stimulation during labour has really boosted oxytocin levels and helped progress labour (it’s not for everyone I know but boy it’s worth a try!!) Oxytocin also plays a big role in breastfeeding and bonding with your baby following the birth. It is your milk releasing hormone - again just like with birth you must be relaxed, supported, comfortable and feel safe and loved to produce this hormone and it allow your body to do its job. It’s so important to have a team around you helping to make this happen, whether that be your family, friends or professional roles.
P IS FOR PLACENTA... What an amazing organ it is! They fascinate me and I’m absolutely not grossed out by them one bit (good job isn’t it!!)
Did you know......
*The Placenta is the only disposable organ, Although there are other organs that we can function fine without, the placenta is the only organ that naturally expels itself when it's purpose is fulfilled. Each pregnancy grows a new placenta to support that baby perfectly. .
*The Placenta is a multifunctional organ, acting as baby's lungs to supply oxygen, kidneys to filter out waste, and as gastrointestinal and immune systems by delivering nutrients and antibodies. .
*Many women eat their placentas after birth! Anecdotal evidence shows that mothers who eat their placentas after birth reap numerous benefits, including more balanced hormones, increased energy and milk supply, a reduction in postpartum bleeding, and replenished iron stores. This is usually by little capsules made by a professional but there are other options of what you can do with your placenta too - I know a few Placenta encapsulators in the area if you are curious about it and would like more information - it’s something I would love to train in one day!
Did you see your placenta? Did you do anything with it? I’d love to know!
Q IS FOR QUESTIONS... It’s important you ask questions and seek information when it comes to making decisions in your pregnancy and also during birth. A great tool I teach parents to use is BRAINS - an easy guide to remember as to what questions you should ask to aid your decision making......
B - what are the BENEFITS?
R - what are the RISKS?
A - what are the ALTERNATIVES?
I - what is my INTUITION telling me to do? (An important one this!)
N - what if I did NOTHING?
S - always SMILE - to give your oxytocin levels a boost! But also smile in the knowledge you are making informed decisions which are right for YOU, YOUR body and YOUR baby - you are doing amazing 😊
R IS FOR REBOZO... A traditional shawl from Mexico, the Rebozo is a tough woven piece of material that has many uses, it can be wrapped around your bump during pregnancy for support and can provide many comfort measures during labour, it’s a really versatile piece that has become an essential part of my Doula bag!
Mine is a beautiful bright hot pink colourful piece of beatuy, I love it!
S IS FOR SPOUSE... (They don’t need to be your spouse but it fit!) "Your partner is your left hand, and your Doula is your right'
Some may think hiring a doula will replace your partner or leave your partner with no role in the birth.....this could not be further from the truth!
If you have a partner who will be at the birth a doula is there to support you as a couple, to bring you together to work through your labour as a team and will educate and encourage your partner to be heavily involved, guiding them where needed, allowing them to take a break so you are not left alone, explaining things to them as the labour establishes and giving ideas of what they could do to help, we would only ever replace the partner if this was the woman’s wish!
“The support throughout to my partner was great, our original idea of getting a Doula was because he works abroad and we didnt know if he could be there. Luckily as it happens he was there and they both made a great team in supporting me, he said Kimberly was great throughout, advising on situations and possible outcomes, things to be aware of, what happens if etc”
T IS FOR TOILET... Huh?? What has the toilet got to do with birth you ask??......
Many women will naturally choose the toilet as a “safe place” when in labour. For years we have been programmed to “let go” as soon as we sit on the loo but also it’s a very private place usually.
The position is perfect also (either way you sit on it) as it utilises your optimum position for birth - UFO.....
*Upright - using gravity to help your baby move down the birth canal .
*Forward leaning - to get your baby in the best position for birth .
*Open - to allow your pelvis to open and relax .
It’s also a good thing to be emptying your bladder regularly during your labour to prevent it blocking your baby’s path!
Also I saw this quote and LOVED it!.....
“Every birthing queen needs a throne to sit upon!”
U IS FOR UTERUS... Women’s bodies really are amazing - we don’t give it enough credit ladies! The uterus is an amazingly powerful organ, the strongest in your body. It is made up of horizontal and vertical muscle fibres that intertwine to create a mighty muscle force that can birth a baby. Learning about how your uterus works is a key part of my hypnobirthing course. Here are a few facts.....
*The uterus increases to more than 5 times it’s pre pregnancy size with a capacity up to 500 times more than it had before. Then after birth returns to its original size - amazing!
*It’s an organ that grows it’s own organ within - the placenta! .
*The uterus also prepares itself for pregnancy every month (menstruation)
V IS FOR VISUALISATIONS... Regularly taking time out to see yourself in your minds eye how you want to be in labour can really help you towards a positive birth and is something I talk about on my Hypnobirthing course. Surrounding yourself with positive imagery, words and thoughts is really important.
See yourself feeling safe, loved and supported by your care team
See yourself managing to stay calm, relaxed and in control regardless of where you are and what is going on around you
See yourself smiling after every contraction, welcoming each contraction knowing your baby is coming to meet you
See yourself active in the positions you want to adopt for birth
See yourself asking questions about your care, using your B.R.A.I.N.S
See yourself holding your baby in your arms
See your baby familiar face and smelling that lovely newborn smell
See yourself relaxed and feeding your baby
Building up a picture in your mind's eye of how you wants your baby's birth to be and rehearsing it often will help your body to respond physically in this supportive way.
Visualisation can also be used during your contractions/surge. Some women will see them as waves building up and up to a peak and then crashing down and calmly fading away, other women will see them as different coloured balloons filling and deflating, there is no right or wrong, you can see them however you want but it really helps to focus on something.
W IS FOR WATER... Warm water is one of the many coping strategies available to you as you birth. It is a natural analgesic and can bring a sense of much-needed relief from the intensity of the sensations in your body. There are also no negative side effects for you or the baby.
It could be in a Birth Pool or it could be in the bath or shower, having the water spraying or being poured down your back or over your bump can be very soothing during surges.
Being in warm water instantly soothes and relaxes muscles and releases tension which allows your body to open and relax for birth.
A great resource on water birth is on the Evidence Based Birth website which may answer all your questions you may have around using water for labour / birthing in water.
Y IS FOR YOU... (Ok hands up I really struggled to think of anything for X so I skipped that one!!) Through all my posts in this A to Z you will have seen that I am always encouraging you to make your own decisions, to know that you have choices, to know that you can ask questions and be in control of what happens through your pregnancy and birth and it’s a message I want to make clear to all the women I work with or may potentially work with or that follow me that YOU matter! I hear all to often “well I had a healthy baby, that’s all that matters” (me included - I was one of those women) but NO it’s not all that matters - of course it’s hugely important of course we want the baby to be well and we will do whatever it takes for them to arrive safely but seriously consider the impact of each decision you make on yourself too.
One of my favourite quotes from Ina May Gaskin......
“Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body and spirit for the rest of your life”
And it is so true. So always remember......
It’s YOUR birth, It’s YOUR baby, It’s YOUR body and...It’s always YOUR choice.
Z IS FOR ZEN... Zen means relaxation, using meditation and tuning into ones intuition. This is hugely important in pregnancy, especially in the weeks leading up to birth. Taking time out of each day for self care to practice breathing, meditate, listen to hypnobirthing tracks/scripts, to do some pregnancy yoga and stretching can all benefit you and your baby.
Keeping that positive mindset that your body knows exactly what to do and your baby knows exactly when to be born and trusting in the process.
This can be easier said than done when you feel huge, tired, achey, and really ready for your pregnancy to be over. But try to take one day at a time, rather than counting down the days/weeks, focus on being present and doing the things you can control rather than what you can’t.
You got this mama!