Hypnobirthing – should you bother?

Put really bluntly, hypnobirthing is about getting your head ready for birth, because where your head leads, your body will follow.

Whereas NCT will give you plenty of information, it will be left up to you to process it and make plans for yourself. There is also little in the way of support as you get closer towards your birth. It can be great if you meet a like minded bunch of mums but what if their plans turn out to be very different to yours?

This is where hypnobirthing can be a great choice, no matter how late on in your pregnancy you are. It will supplement what you learn at NCT classes.

Equally, if you choose not to do NCT, that’s fine too. Hypnobirthing is a complete antenatal class all of it’s own.

So how is it different to NCT?

It’s aims to reprogram your thinking about birth, not just give information

Our subconscious is really powerful. All the stories and descriptions we’ve heard about birth over the years, from hearing about our big sister’s birth to what we see in the movies, have been setting our expectations for our own experience. For mostly women, that’s 25 – 30 years of hearing that what will happen can’t be and won’t be great. That it has to be painful.

Right at the start of the classes, we challenge those assumptions by taking about them out loud and then starting to use positive thoughts combined with relaxations to allow your mind to take other possibilities on board. You’ll practice this technique every day from when you start your class until when your baby is born.

Hypnobirthing uses active fear release techniques

We believe that you can only let go of fears if you first name them and share them. Once that’s done, we can work on disproving them or showing that they can be released to be replaced with other more helpful thoughts. We will talk openly and honestly about the experience of birth and labour – they’ll be no awkward stepping around worries or sweeping fear under the carpet to enable a stiff upper lip.

No couple can predict how they will feel and react during labour. We practiced all the touch relaxations but when it came to it, I really didn’t want to be touched. This is a good example of why we teach a range of ways to relax and techniques for coping with the powerful sensations you’ll have when your labour starts. It can be thought of as a collection of options that you can pick and choose from. Medication is just one of these. Breathing is another.

Hypnobirthing teaches you how to make more informed choices

In classes, we will discuss how to work well with your caregivers and how to make confident decisions so you can feel like you had the best birth for you, not matter what you hoped for or how it turns out. We will talk about common terms and choices you’ll encounter plus how to ask the right questions about them. We will also work together on what to do if your birth preferences start to look less possible.

Hypnobirthing is evidence based

All hypnobirthing teachers are avid readers of birth and pregnancy research. This means that we’re at the very front of recommendations made to and by other birth professionals like midwives and obstetricians. We will share our knowledge with you and help you interpret the numbers you may hear to enable you to put them into a real world context – what will happen to you and your baby. The other reassuring aspect of this is that we don’t advocate leaving things to chance – we don’t recommend free births (those without a trained caregiver present) and we encourage you to work with, not against the birth professionals providing your care. There could be some joss sticks and chanting at your birth but that’s totally up to you!

Ongoing support until your baby arrives

Your teacher will most gladly provide ongoing email or telephone support until your baby arrives because we want you and baby to be well and happy! We are part of a huge community of women who are passionate about helping women have positive birth experiences to will help as much as we can to help you keep your plans on track or advise if your plans need to change.

Sound good? Enquire or book now

Hypnobirthing is great for dads too

I’ve had a fair few mums come to me, worrying about how their partner will cope when labour starts. Perhaps they’re afraid of blood or perhaps they’d rather sit in the hallway and wait it out and mum would rather have their support. As hypnobirthing is so logical, I’ve seen it win over even the most sceptical or stoic dads. We will clearly talk about how they can help and why it will be so effective and rewarding for the family if they do. Hypnobirthing dads often feel a stronger connection to their baby once they arrive after having been so closely involved and the couple themselves get stronger too.

Hypnobirthing encourages you to trust your own motherly instincts

We have a saying ‘Baby knows best’. This enables us to put in context and allow for the fact that each and every birth will be unique. The baby is unique and knows how to be born safely. The mother is unique too and will have her own feelings about how her birth will happen and what is best for the family. We encourage everyone to take these instincts into account, alongside medical advice, so you can make choices that are authentically yours.

There is plenty of time

Class sizes are small and we allocate more hours for the teaching than we need so there is plenty of time to ask questions and get personal. You don’t have to share if you don’t want to; you can just be sure that nothing will be rushed.

And so what benefits can you hope for if you take a hypnobirthing class?

  • Your birth is likely to be more comfortable even pain free.
  • Babies and mothers often bond more easily as they meet in a more serene and gentle way.
  • Hypnobirthing mums often have shorter labours with less drugs and medical interventions needed
  • Hypnobirths are normally less physically taxing, helping you bounce back more quickly and care for your little one more easily
  • It gives Dads (or other birth partners) an active role in labour, making sure giving birth is a shared, memorable experience for both of you

You could also try a free taster session

We need to stop gory birth scaremongering

“Oh wow! You’re pregnant! That’s amazing? When are you due? How are you feeling about – you know – the birth….? Did I tell you about my sister in law/best friend/daughter? She was in labour for 60 hours and had a c-section in the end anyway. The she couldn’t walk for a week. But I’m sure you’ll be fine… No really you will”

Agggghhh! What’s a newly expecting mother to do? Politely smile and tell these well wishers to get lost? Or politely smile and try not to listen but secretly wonder how they will cope and if they dare wish for anything better?

There is something so British (and maybe American too) about this ritual. I suspect it has it’s roots in the whole stiff upper lip, plan for the worst, be realistic mentality that seems to be part of our culture now. I’m sure the people who share the gory stories are the same ones who watch ‘One Born Every Minute’, ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Crimewatchers’ – because it’s real life right? It’s just what happens.

And so, this poor new mum goes to all her antenatal check ups and giggles nervously when the midwives start to talk about coming in to see the hospital and planning for pain relief. She goes to her NCT group and hears the birth talk covering inductions, breech babies and c-sections. Then she goes home and watches some really dramatic birth videos on YouTube because the most popular ones are the ones which are the most sensational, with the most blood.

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Is it any surprise that by the time labour starts this poor new mum to be can’t sleep, can’t eat and is so afraid that she’ll take any advice she’s given from this point on, no matter what she’d hoped for?

Why do we women do this to each other? Is it mindless continuation of the norm? Or is it passing on their tale like an old war story – it was so challenging and traumatic for them that they still need to talk about it? Or worse, a brutal way to make sure nobody has it better than them?

Well – I’m here to say I’m over it.

And that I hate it.

And that women will not begin to see more positive outcomes until we buck the trends and encourage them to think differently.

We lose nothing by being positive, by educating ourselves, by planning for the best; nothing at all.

We need to put down this idea that pessimistic thinking and scaremongering equates to grown up realism. The human mind is so powerful that all words and thoughts can have great meaning.

Fortunately, for hypnobirthing mums who are dedicated to their learning and practice, the current standard ways of thinking about birth can be gently altered and challenged. I hope that at some point soon, my teaching will become obsolete.

Once women consider childbirth to be the beautiful right of passage that it is, hypnobirthing will just become birthing.

How to stay on top of pregnancy stress

When I was pregnant with my little girl and we went along to our 20 week scan, I was shocked to discover that I had what the sonographer described as low blood flow through the placenta. I already knew that my baby was on the small side but I had put that down to genetics – neither my husband or I are particularly well built or tall.

I was even more taken aback when they suggested that I needed additional scans to monitor the situation and this it might mean that my little girl might arrive early. I did what any nervous mum-to-be would do and Googled the problem as soon as possible.

What I read scared me a little but it also made sense – that the mother’s stress levels could affect the metabolism of the placenta. In other words, how I was feeling could be affecting how nutrients were passing across to my baby and this could be hindering her growth. And now, as is the way with anything you Google, there is evidence that shows the opposite can be true too.

We can all agree that chronic stress during pregnancy isn’t great. How can we deal with it though? Having a baby is stressful – there’s a birth to arrange, a seemingly never ending list of stuff to buy, worries about money, fears around giving birth, constant unwanted advice and bump touching plus you actually have to figure out how to look after this small human once they’ve safely arrived.

I’ve never been an anxious person but I had to work really hard to keep my looping mind in check. Luckily, the placental insufficiency problem naturally went away and my daughter was born a perfectly healthy 7lbs 3oz. Here’s how I kept on top of the thoughts that kept me up at 3am.

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1. Write it all down I found this helped massively. In fact, now people around me know when I’m worrying about money and organising things, I’ll be found making a spreadsheet. I had lists of the baby things I wanted to buy, a spreadsheet which kept a running total of baby related expenditure and then also an income spreadsheet – what I was going to earn before my maternity leave started and outgoings as well as monthly budgets for before and after baby. It took it all out of my head and stopped the endless looping to do list.

2. Relaxations and mantras I’ve always leaned heavily on relaxing activities and positive thinking in times of pressure. Pregnancy was no different. I started each day with half an hour of gentle pregnancy yoga then listened to my positive birth affirmations MP3 as I got ready for my day. During my commute on the train, my headphones went on and I looked through the positive mantra cards I had – 10 positive birth statements that I went over each day. You may not be sure that the yoga is particularly working for you or that the mantras are going in but focusing on those instead of your usual worries will buy you a valuable bit of headspace.

3. Facing birth fear head on A little bit of trepidation or uncertainty is normal when such a life change is approaching but if you’re really starting to worry and dread is creeping in, consider finding a professional who can help you with your fears. Hypnotherapists are great at dealing with specific fears such as blood or needle phobia whereas hypnobirthing teachers are trained to help you prepare for your birth more generally. Midwives will help answer specific medical questions and doulas can be a great source of emotional support for the whole family.

4. Politely decline what you’re not happy with I was so stubborn about this. I just couldn’t bear it. Not only would I refuse all birth stories as soon as a well meaning person started to talk (whether they seemed good or bad, I just couldn’t take the risk), I also didn’t want to hear about or see anything medical – dentists visits, operations, general health stories, hosptial programmes on TV. I just had to protect my space.

5. Stay close to your partner I now look back on my pregnancy as a magical time for us as a couple. We had so many beautiful conversations about how our little girl might look, what we should call her, how she might grow up. At the time though, on the days which were difficult, I did feel a gap between us that I wasn’t sure how to fill. My body was working so hard to grow our little human and there were so many things that I felt like only I could understand. I know now that this was probably my mega protective mum hormones taking hold – I think these same hormones were what was making me feel like only I could get it right. Know that this might happen and make an effort to share. Your partner will most likely love to be included and take some of the strain for you.

6. Meditations and visualisations This was one of the most amazing parts of being pregnant and now I already have a child, it likely won’t happen again. Whenever I had some time alone, I would sit on the floor, facing our garden, and breath, directing energy to my baby, sending positive energy her way. Somedays I would wait for her kicks, others I would imagine a golden glow getting stronger each time I breathed in. There are loads of pregnancy visualisations that can accompany meditation – Headspace is one of my favourites (I’m just a fan! This isn’t a paid endorsement). I also carried with me a vision of how I wanted my birth to go: My partner and I, at home, with the door to the garden open, laughing and dancing, ready to gently welcome our baby into the world.

Keeping your anxiety in check during pregnancy isn’t easy. It’s so worth making the effort though. A calm and confident mum will birth and raise an equally calm and content baby. The 9 months will be over before you know it. Hang on in there mama.

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Get the first chapter of The Hypnobirthing Book by Katherine Graves for free by signing up to my mailing list. You’ll also receive updates from me covering all things pregnancy and birth.

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This post was written for and first appeared on The Natural Parent Magazine.

Natural ways to bring on labour: can you and should you do it?

You’re approaching the 40 week mark and those calls from your family, friends and your mum’s best friend from school who somehow knows your due date are taking on a frenzied tone. Your best mate wants to make sure you’re the one she tells first, your mother in law has picked out her outfit for the first photo with her grandkid and your dad is postponing his holiday to make sure he can meet the little one as soon as possible. It’s enough to make you want to drop your phone into the bath on purpose. Maybe just put it on silent for a bit.

On top of all that noise, your midwife is now talking to you about engagement fractions (⅗? Is ⅗ ok for now?), sweeps and inductions. You’re wondering if every tiny bit of fluid you can feel is the start of your waters breaking, you’ve had enough of aching in bed when you try to sleep and every Braxton Hicks contraction you feel could be the start of something. In other words, the pressure is on.

Technically, there’s no ‘natural’ way to bring on labour, as even a sweep might be hurrying along a baby who’s not quite ready to make an appearance yet. Research now shows that the baby’s lungs will release a special protein that tells the mum’s body that it’s ready to go and start labour. Also, the baby’s head position is vital. The pressure of it on the cervix also kicks off and amplifies the flow of hormones needed for labour. The best advice out there is to be patient and let nature take it’s awe inspiring course.

What’s a woman to do? Wait it out and hope for the best or speed things along yourself if you can? Could your attempts make labour a painful nightmare or will they just not work? Here’s a brief roundup of options you might have seen or heard about.

Might work but might not

Pineapple – this apparently does work. The bromelain it contains is thought to act in a similar way to the human hormone prostaglandin that ripens and softens the cervix, making labour more likely to start imminently. You can try this one late in pregnancy if you like but be warned – you’ll need to eat 8 fresh pineapple cores a day to get anywhere near the volume of bromelain that you need in your body for it to be effective. That means none of the tasty flesh and no juicy canned ones either.
Hot and spicy food – There’s no real evidence for this one. If you have a craving for spicy food, indulge it. Bear in mind though that the last thing you want to deal with, alongside your labour, is an upset digestive system if you overdo it. Your body will likely prepare itself with a mini clearing of the system so what goes in will come out sometime soon.

Stay away from these

Castor oil – the evidence shows that this will work for some people but if it does, the outcomes aren’t normally good. Everyone who took part in studies felt nauseous, many had much more painful labours and it was likely that taking it increased the chances of a cesarean. This one doesn’t sound good to me. I’d leave it well alone.

Aloe vera juice – bottles of aloe vera juice often carry a warning that they shouldn’t be used by pregnant women. It works as a laxative and can irritate the uterus, causing strong contractions that can easily become out of control giving you a more difficult and possibly more painful labour. I’d stay well clear of this too – it doesn’t sound worth the risk.

Go for it

Nice relaxing options that make feel good hormones flow – we’re mammals and labour will categorically not start if we feel stressed or in danger. If you can relax and feel happy, you’re massively increasing your chances of going into spontaneous labour.

Lovemaking, baths, laughter and happy visualisations all fall into this category. They will produce a positive physical change in your body that might loosen things up and persuade baby that the outside word is also a pretty happy place.

Alternative remedies also work in a similar way. Being relaxed, positive and like you’re doing something to help, may just be the kick start you need. Acupuncture, reflexology and hypnotherapy are by far the most likely ‘natural’ interventions you can use to help. Just make sure you see someone who’s trusted and qualified.

Raspberry leaf tea – this one is absolutely proven to be helpful, so much so that it’s best to avoid it until you are past week 30. From that point on, you can drink one cup a day, gradually increasing up to four cups it if you have no overly strong effects. The tea works to tone the uterus, making sure that contractions (or surges in hypnobirthing talk) are as efficient as possible. I made mine into pints of iced tea each morning.

Dates – just like raspberry leaf tea, these won’t kick labour off alone but they will make your body more receptive to the hormone changes it needs to pick up on to kick of surges. In countries where women eat more than six dates a day, it’s been shown that they could expect to have a shorter first stage of labour and to go into spontaneous labour more often. The dates mimic the effects of oxytocin, making the uterus more sensitive, stimulating it’s surges and reducing the chance of postpartum hemorrhage. They are nutritious but also contain a fair amount of sugar so once you’re past week 36, replace any daily treats with six awesome dates!

Patience is still best though. As with everything to do with our amazing human bodies, we need to learn to trust in it’s knowledge and ability to get things right. Maybe your baby will come tomorrow of it’s own accord anyway; perhaps it needs a week or two more to finish up growing. Whatever your circumstance, remember this: you’re getting a blissful few extra days, with just you and your partner; the kind of alone time you might be wishing for very soon. Babies come when babies are ready.

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Get the first chapter of The Hypnobirthing Book by Katherine Graves for free by signing up to my mailing list. You’ll also receive updates from me covering all things pregnancy and birth.

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This post was written for and first appeared on The Natural Parent Magazine.

How to plan for a positive, empowering birth

A lot of mums to be have their heart set on a particular kind of birth, yet nature and circumstances can mean that their actual experience is pretty different to what they had hoped for.

Of course, in the short term every new mum is just glad to have their healthy baby in their arms but later on, once the initial oxytocin rush is over, having a birth experience that wasn’t the one you had dreamed of can weigh heavy on the mind.

The very first thing to say is that you did the best you knew how to at the time and given the circumstances. Ideas like, ‘I did something to make my birth hard’ or ‘I should said no’ are worth forgetting about almost immediately. Knowing what to do or say when under time pressure and in the heat of a moment as intense as having a baby, is not easy. Allow yourself some peace of mind.

After knowing and understanding that, I’d share these tips with any woman planning a birth.

Get informed and understand how birth works

This doesn’t mean watching gory birth videos or One Born Every Minute. It does mean learning about how your body and hormones are designed to work with your baby – about how birth is actually a normal, physiological process, not a medical emergency. For example, did you know that the mother’s body receives the message to start labour when the baby’s lungs are mature enough and begin to release a special kind of protein as a signal? Or that pushing with all your might may actually be counterproductive?

It can seem like daunting medical detail at first but you don’t need to be a scientific genius to do this. Keeping an eye on parenting and mothering blogs or Facebook groups is a great way to start. Taking the time to talk to your midwife or a local doula or hypnobirthing teacher would be even better. They are often very passionate about what they do and could talk for hours.

Be an active participant

From a really early age, we begin to receive the wisdom that doctors and caregivers know best. We know they have vast knowledge and experience and want to help them do their job. When you’re worried, uncertain or afraid, it can be comforting to know that there are people around who have seen and done this a million times before. However, this doesn’t mean they know you, your body or your baby. It also doesn’t mean that you should override your very powerful mother’s instinct easily.
By being passive when it comes to interactions with caregivers, you will give them no choice but to treat you as a standard patient. They will do what they know best and follow a well worn path. You will still need to consent to everything but they might then assume that you’re happy to go with their first suggestion and not present any alternatives. Being active and vocal, right from the start, will set the right tone – you value their experience and will take their advice but you want to make sure you feel that all the decisions taken were the right ones for you.

Express birth preferences clearly

Shifts change, caregivers work long hours, dads get tired and once in labour, you might not want to talk much. If you’re in a hospital and have a long labour, you might see a few different midwives as people come to the end of their working day.

It really pays to write down your birth preferences clearly and simply and have copies of them ready to share with whoever is looking after you. If you need to, ask your midwife if they have 2 minutes to go through them verbally with you. This is definitely a job for the dads – research shows that once labour begins, dads are much more likely to be listened to than mum. Take advantage of this and allow dad to express his natural instinct to protect his mate and child. This will give mum the chance to remain in her birth bubble, focused and unworried.

Ask questions

It’s your body, your baby and your birth. I’ve heard it said that we ask more questions about fixing a roof or fitting a kitchen than we do when a baby is being born. How can that be right? Birth is magical, awe inspiring and a little bit other worldly it’s true, but it’s also a normal process that has been researched and studied. Your caregivers are professionals who train for years to be able to do their jobs. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or don’t understand, use their knowledge. Talk with them. Satisfy yourself that every decision you make with them was the right thing to do. Don’t leave any room for doubt. It’s ok to ask for the risks and benefits of every option. It’s ok to ask for time to decide. It’s ok to decide to say no. But first, you must ask the questions.

Thank goodness for modern medicine

You may have had your heart set on a natural water birth at home and then your baby arrived via c-section. You might not have wanted any pain relief but on the day you decided differently. Isn’t modern medicine wonderful? You have these choices available to you and can make decisions in clean hospitals, with fully trained caregivers in support and your baby will arrive safely and healthily. It’s so easy to demonise more medicalised births and be disappointed if you don’t achieve a natural one but we are lucky women. So many women in the past and around the world now, don’t have the access to healthcare we have. The fact that we are able to pick and choose in itself is a luxury.

I often remind parents to be that positive and negative are relative terms and thoughts are fluid. There are physical ways to increase your chances of having a more comfortable, natural birth like hypnobirthing, keeping fit during pregnancy and eating well. Equally important is preparing yourself mentally for what is about to happen. If you take the time to get informed and make plans, whatever path your birth takes, you can look back on your birth experience knowing that everything that happened was right for you and your baby. And who can ask for a better start to family life than that?

This post was written for and first appeared on The Natural Parent Magazine.

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5 tips to make any birth a more chilled out experience

When I had my little girl, I planned to have her at home. I was lucky and my home birth went as planned and she was born in our downstairs bathroom – although that bit I’d not expected! Even though I was hoping for a home birth, I still had to allow for the situation where my labour didn’t progress as expected. I used these simple tips to make sure I could take my mellow, homelike setting with me to hospital.

1. Make a playlist

Now I look back, I actually have no idea what track my daughter was born to. I wish I’d noted it down but my mind was elsewhere… In the months leading up to her birth, my husband and I spent an hour or so each week creating a birth playlist. Some of the tracks were calming, some faded into the background and some were more upbeat.

Your energy during labour will ebb and flow so a mixture of styles you can pick and choose from will be just what you need. Familiar sounds which drown out the background noise in a more medicalised environment will help you focus and relax. You could even bring a wireless speaker with you

2. Keep the numbers down

I was adamant that I wanted no family apart from my husband with me. I didn’t tell anyone else that I was in labour until my baby had arrived. I didn’t want to feel obliged to provide updates or answer text messages or manage the presence of anyone else. I also asked that we have as few caregivers as possible. This meant saying no to student observers and asking the midwives to give me a little space. I’m not sure I even noticed when they left my house. Feeling unobserved in a private space is an important part of relaxing and allowing your body to do it’s work.

3. Use low lighting

This was simple when we were at home. I had one single candle burning through the night and I think the midwife may have used the light of her phone to make her notes. Oxytocin flows better and adrenaline is less likely to be produced if lighting is kept minimal. Ask your midwives if you can turn the lights down and consider investing in a dim light. Fake candles are great as are colour changing lamps.

4. Get comfy

I could write an essay on the optimum positions for birth but I’ll limit it here to saying there is absolutely no need to use the bed for labouring. Sit on it, keep your stuff on it, climb into it when you’re ready to sleep but when it comes to comfort in labour, I’d stay well clear.

I planned to bring pillows and a soft blanket so I could make use of the floor, supersoft but darkly coloured pyjamas, my favourite shampoo and shower gel, a big fluffy towel (hospital ones can be threadbear and a little bit scratchy), socks to keep my feet warm and an elegant cover up to help me look and feel a bit pulled together when receiving visitors after baby had arrived.

5. Work with essential oils

In the world of hypnobirthing, essential oils can be used as a trigger. If they are used frequently when you are relaxed (having them diffusing at night when you sleep is ideal), once labour starts, they will subconsciously remind you of your calm space at home.

They will also mask the smell of disinfectant and the right oils can help support a woman in labour. Good choices are rose, neroli and lavender. I had a rose candle for use at home but for hospital, I bought a small pump spray bottle and added a few drops of an essential oil blend to water. The perfect homemade pillow spray.

Making a hospital room or a birthing centre feel more homely can seem a bit daunting but this was one of the jobs I asked my husband to take on. In the end, we didn’t need these small touches but I was reassured and probably more relaxed knowing that I had them ready to use.

This post was written for and first appeared on The Natural Parent Magazine.

Exercising during pregnancy

Lots and lots of times during pregnancy, I was reminded to keep moving, to keep on exercising. Everyone told me that – mothers I knew, the midwives and that bible I grew to dislike quite a lot ‘What to Expect when You’re Expecting’.

What nobody told me was HOW and WHY it was so important. I did find out in the end – birth is a big physical deal. It takes stamina and strength. So all the advice I got was totally correct but given to me in the wrong way.

It wasn’t only because you need to keep your weight down (you do, still do that), it wasn’t just because it’s healthier for the baby (it is) and it wasn’t even because it will keep the aches and pains at bay in the final weeks (some days I could only walk if I’d done some gentle yoga or been for a swim early in the morning). It’s because to give birth with as few as interventions as possible, you need to be able to give it all you have.

It’s almost like planning a long distance run. You need to be fit, well fuelled but not too full and as well rested as possible.

I didn’t know it until I felt it, but once labour starts, every ounce of energy you have will be diverted to your uterus. And once it has grown to a height of 40cm, it’s a pretty big muscle. So if I’d have known that I needed to keep fit to improve my chances of a more straightforward birth, I would have applied myself with a bit more gusto.

The advice then: if you have an exercise routine, stick with it for as long as possible, even if in a gentler, modified form. If you don’t have one, take up pregnancy yoga, swim if you can or get walking. You’ll be so grateful you did.

Hypnobirthing works for dads too

The stereotypical image of a man about to become a dad, the one you see in most movies, is either one of bored indifference or blind panic – neither are great ways to portray the complexities of how it can feel to become a dad.

What about the father’s natural instinct to protect his partner and their new baby? Or his ability to relax his partner just with soothing touches and a calm voice? No one talks about the hormonal changes he goes through or the research that shows he’s more likely to be listened to by medical caregivers than the mother herself.

Hypnobirthing gives fathers a very defined and proactive role during pregnancy and birth which can help them feel included as often the focus is on mum and baby. The chip-chip-chip into the solid unit of the couple starts as soon as the pregnancy is announced, when the focus begins to shift toward mum to be and baby… a baby that he will need to be father to and the mother that will badly need his support during pregnancy, labour and beyond.

How then can we be surprised that dads start to feel left out, like they’re losing their partner, like their life has been turned upside down?

We started our hypnobirthing course at about 23 weeks and I’m so glad we chose to go together. There were cheaper shorter courses, aimed at teaching only the basics to mothers but looking back, I don’t think they would have worked as well for us.

True to form, as soon as I started to announce that I was pregnant, the focus naturally started to shift towards me and the bump. I’m not a shy person but I found the attention a little frustrating – I was the one who would grow and give birth to our baby but we were a family and we were going to parent together.

I also began making birth choices early on, based on my instincts and what I knew from hearing about the (thankfully positive) experiences of friends who had had babies recently. Until we went to the class and discussed our plans with our teacher, my choices were solely mine. I think my husband supported them but from his point of view, he didn’t know enough to feel confident. Hypnobirthing helped give him the detail he needed to relax. Relaxed dads mean relaxed mothers.

Also, slightly weirdly, we knew we were going to be together for the birth and that we didn’t want anyone else around but apart from that, we hadn’t discussed what he would actually need to do to help me.

Hypnobirthing had the answers. We practiced the scripts, made decisions together and he was able to be the main communicator once I went into my birth bubble. What a superstar.

He still talks about the birth as something he’s in awe of, a kind of miracle. He tells everyone how brilliant it was. And at 10 months, my little girl is just as close to him as she is to me. We might thing twice about more sleepless nights but another birth experience doesn’t phase us one bit.

 

Focus on: Magnesium

Magnesium is an incredibly important mineral that helps keep your body in good working order. Its especially important for protein and bone synthesis (growing a new little human), energy production (keeping a tired mama-to-be going) and the active transport of calcium and magnesium across cell membranes (nerve impulse movement and muscle contraction) – all processes that are critically important every day and especially when pregnant or in the forth trimester.

It also is heavily involved in the menstrual cycle. Levels fluctuate as hormone levels in the body change during the month.

It’s easy to see why then that so many women end up deficient in this critical substance. Cue the chocolate cravings! Chocolate isn’t the richest source of the mineral but it’s one of the most addictive. Eating it also releases a lot of dopamine, the feel good chemical and neurotransmitter, and contains a lot of soothing sugar.

During pregnancy, small amounts of good quality chocolate (75% cocoa solids or more) are fine but it would be better to eat more of other foods that are rich in it, gaining other health benefits at the same time. All good pregnancy multivitamins should contain some but a top up from food sources will help you feel better in pregnancy and may even help labour progress more smoothly.

Top 10 food sources of magnesium

  1. Dark leafy greens – spinach, spring greens, kale and chard
  2. Nuts and seeds – pumpkin, sesame, brazil nuts and almonds
  3. Fish – mackerel, pollock and tuna
  4. Beans and lentils – soy beans (edamame), cannellini beans, black eyed beans and kidney beans
  5. Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and oats
  6. Avocados
  7. Dairy – plain yoghurt and swiss cheese
  8. Bananas
  9. Dried fruit – figs, prunes, apricots and dates
  10. Dark chocolate

Reference: “Office Of Dietary Supplements – Magnesium”. Ods.od.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 15 Apr. 2017. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/

Great reads for during pregnancy

During my pregnancy, I had loads of time on my hands. By about the 25 week, I was being woken a million times a night by little feral kicks from the inside (turns out that was a sign of things to come) and by about 35 weeks, it was 30C outside and my feet looked more like elephants’ feet so I had plenty of opportunity to allow my mind to wander/panic over my ability to parent.

I read a lot both before I was pregnant and during. These are my favourites.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

The bible of normal birth. I found it so reassuring to read so many stories of birth taking place simply and straightforwardly, without medical interventions required. It gave me a lot of confidence. I wanted to be part of this gang of women! Buy

Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

I read this before I was pregnant, when I was thinking about what it might be like to be a mum. It felt to me like our bodies carry so much innate power and wisdom, I could relax a little and trust in nature to allow me to carry and birth a healthy child then work out (even if through trial and error) how to be a mother. Buy

How Not to F**k Them Up

Again, another one I read before I had the confidence to start trying for a baby. I wanted to know all I could about what I was going to experience and this was recommended by another mother. It’s a straightforward, reassuring and honest assessment of mothering styles, how you come to be the kind of mother you are and how it affects your child. I’ve found myself thinking about it frequently – I suppose it’s made me a more conscious parent. Buy

Your Baby, Week by Week

A practical, week by week parenting manual covering things like: how much your baby should be eating, developmental milestones, how they should be sleeping and health issues to watch out for. A must have for a total newbie. I felt quite proud when I’d survived the 26 weeks is covers! Buy

The First Forty Days: the Art of Nourishing the New Mother

I make no secret of the fact that I’m big into nutrition and that I believe food to be a powerful medicine. I love the supportive tone of this book and that it gives permission for new mums to not bounce back immediately. The recipes it contains are perfectly light and nourishing, perfect for recovery. Buy

French Children Don’t Throw Food

This one is a little more light hearted but at the same time, still gives great insight into the parenting choices you can make. It follows the journey into motherhood of an American woman living in Paris, covering birth, weaning, breast vs formula feeding and parental attitudes. Buy