Preparation for labour…

Apologies for the late post today readers, I had something all ready to go and it didn’t publish so I’ve brought tomorrows post forwards. I hope you can help. 🙂 All the beautiful images are by Peter Lawson, of Laura Lawson labouring with their gorgeous little man Albert late last year. Thanks for the images guys!

Image Credit: Lawson Photography

Now that I’m over the 6 months pregnant milestone, the thought of giving birth seems to be looming even more. I have to say, I have all my life wondered why women want to have children if they have to go through childbirth to achieve it, but then that’s a very short term outlook and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised it’s just a means to an end. As part of my job I’ve seen the whole spectrum of deliveries, from highly medicalised traumatic events to beautifully calm natural labours. We joke that medics never get a calm birth and everything always go wrong, but equally I know medical friends who have had straightforward deliveries. From a totally natural perspective, I wonder how much fear of things going wrong affects a woman’s labour and if the flight or flight adrenaline response can (I know it does,) slow things down or cause delays and complications.

Image Credit: Lawson Photography

All this has lead me to think about how I should prepare for baby Norris’s delivery. Don’t shout at me, but I don’t believe in birth plans. I have rarely seen them come to fruition and it always seemed when I was working that the more of a plan there was made, the higher the chance there was of something going wrong. I also feel strongly that women are lead to believe that they can plan their delivery, which I believe is largely predetermined by anatomy, the baby and luck. I hate that so many women feel disappointed by their labour or that they failed in some way because they went on to need help or intervention.

Image Credit: Lawson Photography

All that said, I don’t want to regret not preparing or to feel out of control when the time comes. I do believe that (if all is proceeding normally,) that being in the right frame of mind and working with your body can be a powerful thing. It is after all what we are designed to do. We are not doing NCT classes so I’ve been considering if we should do a preparation for birth class. I have read a little bit about hyponobirthing so that is another option, but Pete is sceptical. Partly I want him to have some input as to how to support me and to stop him feeling afraid of the process. And like everybody does I suppose, I want to have as calm and normal a labour and delivery as possible.

Image Credit: Lawson Photography

So the point of all this is that I want to know what you guys think. Is there anything that helped you prepare for labour, books or classes? Is there anything you are glad you spent the time or money on or wished you had? I’d love to hear your advice and thoughts, so I can decide what I should put my time and effort into.

Thank you!


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64 thoughts on “Preparation for labour…

  1. I have no advice, but just wanted to say these pictures are beautiful. I’m not usually into birth photography, but these are so intimate and lovely, and strangely made me feel less fearful of labour and birth.

    We’re not doing NCT either. Hoping to be able to use the birth centre at our local hospital, which has birth pools and other nice things, but aside from that I haven’t given any thought to any kind of birth planning or preparation yet. I’ll be awaiting everyone else’s more practical comments with interest…

    • I’m so happy the pictures made you feel less fearful. It really is a shame that the majority of things you hear when you’re pregnant are the horror stories. It’s all about pain relief and how you’ll want to punch your husband in the face. I didn’t feel like that at all, and although it was a challenge it was actually kind of wonderful. I think not being frightened and just going with the flow is the key. Your body does all the hard work for you, you just have to breathe and keep calm.

      It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, Mother Nature sure is amazing.

  2. I never did hypnobirthing as I’d not heard of it until after having TB (lovely unplanned water birth) but a group of good friends did and say it was useful for the (long and painful) first stage. One friend who had an emergency section at the last hurdle is going again for private sessions as she is in 3rd trimester with her second and she feels or helps. It’s not cheap tho and lots of the positive messages are out there already but there is something about group therapy that makes you take on board more. Good luck! x

  3. I’d really recommend reading Ina May gaskins guide to childbirth- it’s a bit hippyish but if you can get past that it’s really helpful and shows how the mind and your environment can affect the process. Although I had an emcs I got to 10cm with just gas and air and I’m sure the understanding and insight of this book helped.
    I’d agree with not too rigid a birth plan (mine did went out the window – plenty of contractions but no desire to push as Phoebe was stuck!!!) but make sure your wishes are clear / pete knows exactly your thoughts on various options – eg vit k injection for baby Norris, when you want the cord clamped, type of birth if poss – eg water, quiet atmosphere, if pete wants to cut the cord, natural 3rd stage, just to ensure those things happen if possible. Ultimately my birth preferences were more of a help for my husband as my contractions were thick and fast and I wasn’t on the planet really, and we had put ultimately we will do whatever to ensure the safe arrival of our baby. Xxx
    Ps I’d really recommend water I had an hour long shower and then a 4 hour bath as I wasn’t allowed in the birth pool as my waters broke at 36+6 but the contractions felt so much more manageable in the water xxx

    • I was going to say this about birth plans -mine was more about preferences for vit k, skin to skin, whether my husband would stay with me or with the baby if I needed surgery etc. Thinking about it, it was mostly to do with after she was born rather than the labour. One reason to write things down is there may well be a shift change and while you might have been happy to discuss everything with the first midwife you might not want to do it again with the next one if you’re in the zone of contractions etc. I knew I was going to be induced so would be fine at the beginning but didn’t want to have to be making decisions or explaining things while in active labour. My birth plan for labour itself was pretty much: please help me stay moving, and please discuss changes with us.

      In terms of classes we did nct but I found pregnancy yoga the most helpful for breathing, positioning and movement. I had the hypnobirthing cds but hardly used them in the end.

  4. Again I can’t give any advice as I’m in the same position as you, but with only 10 weeks to go, giving birth is at the forefront of my mind!! I’m not doing NCT either, but have been reading this book:
    I’m so far finding it really reassuring, and I think I might get the CD as well, to see if I can try and learn the techniques to get through it as naturally as possible. I’ve been watching One Born Every Minute for the first time ever, and I definitely think I’ll go for water birth if I can, the women always seem more comfortable and calm. I keep telling myself that if other women can do it then so can I, and it is only a day (or two!) out of your whole life!
    Looking forward to seeing any advice ur readers give! Although at the same time, I think everyone has a different experience and you just have to go with it when the time comes! eek! 😉
    Caroline xxx

  5. We did NCT, and looking back with the aid of hindsight, I wouldn’t have bothered…it didn’t really help a great deal in my situation (emergency c section within the first few hours of induced labour due to baby’s heart rate dropping). I

    But, the one thing that really took my fear away was a book called ‘Blooming Birth’ by Lucy Atkins. I was petrified before reading this, it’s no nonsense, and gives advice for every eventuality. 🙂

  6. We did do NCT classes first time around and I found them really helpful with explaining what actually happens to your body during labour but I guess you know that anyway! For a start I had no idea about the existence of oxytocin, what the whole dilation business is actually about and how the baby twists to get out. I didn’t do the NHS classes apart from one active birthing workshop which was definitely helpful and introduced me to the idea of giving birth on a birthing stool which I did end up doing and thought was fantastic!

    I wrote a 3 page birth plan which endeavoured to cover every possibility but included things that were irrelevant really and meant that the things that were really important to me got lost. I haven’t written one this time yet (38+5 today!) but I do plan to write about 5 bullet points down if I get round to it. I really believe in the fight or flight aspect you mention, and for me keeping calm, focused and my mind on the job in hand is my priority this time around. I think hypnobirthing can work with the mind control aspect but I have a hypnobirthing CD and it really isn’t for me! On the whole I had a positive birth experience with my eldest but it was very long and I think my fear and denial of what was happening slowed things down.

    With regards to books, I’m waiting for my copy of Kate Evans’ new book Bump to arrive and hopefully I can speed read it before labour kicks off! I love her style of writing and liked her breastfeeding book, The Food of Love, but I can see how books wouldn’t appeal to everyone.

    Good luck!

    • Just saw this, I loved Food of Love. Best book I bought. Still breastfeeding, and Ava will be fifteen months next week.

  7. You’re in a different boat to a lot of us non medical folk because you know all about the different kinds of pain relief. I think it can really help to write a birth plan, just so you’ve had a research into what’s on offer and what you do/don’t want. I wrote a really loose birth plan and it helped my midwives (of which there were about 6 as I laboured so long!) to know what I was aiming for without me having to keep repeating myself. It’s hard to know beforehand how you’ll cope with the pain and what you’ll want, but I’d advise taking it one step at a time…being in the water really helped me, gas and air was excellent for keeping me focused on breathing. I knew I didn’t want pethadine or anything which would knock me out or make baby drowsy. I would totally have had an epidural if it was unbearable, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected in the end and gas and air was all I needed.

    Having been through it once, if I ever do it again I think I would look into hypnobirthing. Focusing and breathing were the things that got me through it and I guess that’s what hypnobirthing is all about.

  8. My husband and I did hypnobirthing classes – paid £300 for a teacher to come to our flat for 4-6 private sessions. The teachings, philosophy and support materials are absolutely excellent and really helped us both to feel much calmer and I was incredibly relaxed throughout late pregnancy despite having lots of stresses to contend with.
    My husband was very sceptical but completely blown away by the concept and classes once he’d got over his pre-conceived ideas about it all. There’s very much a science behind it all which I think helps counter the sceptics.
    Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to put what we’d learnt in to practice as I was diagnosed with late gestational diabetes, the baby was staying transverse and a couple of other medical factors meant I was booked in for a planned c section on my consultant’s recommendation. I strongly believe though that the lessons really helped us both and led to a very relaxed pregnancy and a very content and happy baby.
    My husband now recommends hypnobirthing to all his friends. Neither of us are particularly hippy but you really do need to throw yourself in to it for it work.
    Masses of luck Rebecca. Very excited to hear about baby Norris’ impending arrival. Being a mummy and having our family is the most earth shatteringly wonderful thing that has ever happened to us! Xx

  9. Hi there. I also prepped to my eyeballs and had a 4 page birth plan, but have to say with hindsight there was no need. I don’t recommend ignorance, and to understand your options etc, but there is no point in planning as you say, as what will be will be. I did enjoy having music on, and the midwife lit some aromatherapy oils which were lovely and relaxing. But otherwise I do think so much emphasis is put on what is basically just a day (or for the unlucky, a couple of days) which once you have the baby pales into insignificance. My friends and I, we all did courses for labour, and afterwards said we thought it would be far more useful to place the emphasis on what happens once you bring the baby home! I know as a medic you won’t need the NCT classes, but it was the best thing I have ever done. And not for the content, but for the friends we made and are still in very regular touch with 19 months on. You probably already have a strong network of friends, but if they are working when you are off on maternity leave, you would find a network of women in a similar position, with similar age babies a total lifeline. Someone to meet up with, to make sure you actually get dressed and leave the house, is invaluable. x

    • I totally agree about NCT! For us it was never about the content of the classes – more to meet friends with babies the same age. On that level it is the best thing we ever did. We’re very close to the 5 other couples and in the first 9 months we met up practically every day. Now we’re all back at work we meet up most Fridays for lunch and are constantly chatting on our what’s app group. And we’re all very different. I’m 39 and the youngest is 25 but we get on brilliantly. X

        • Hi ladies,
          From what I can gather from friends NCT has 2 purposes, 1 to prepare you for labour, birth and the baby, and 2, to make friends. I am lucky in that I will have several friends off on Mat leave when I am so the friends bit wasn’t an issue for me and I have quite a bit of experience of the other! I think it might have helped Pete in parts but the main thing I am worried about is breast feeding and i feel that getting help at the time will be invaluable for that rather than in preparation as it is so individual.

          • Agree with this. The NCT three hours on breastfeeding didn’t help me at all. A knitted breast just doesn’t cut it!

          • I found the NCT breastfeeding part of the course we did to be a waste of time, although I have gained some great friends from the course.

            I had a terrible time with breastfeeding (which I know know the reasons behind which will hopefully help if we have another) but what helped me most was the visits after Calum was born to our local Baby Cafe – where a breastfeeding counsellor was on hand (and very good) to help out, mentally and practically. She also wasn’t affiliated with NCT.

            What I DID hate though was the pressure from the breastfeeding counsellors in our hospital the minute Calum was born. Honestly, they were witches about it and when you are feeling your most emotional and vulnerable, it made for a horrible experience. I was trying desperately to be shown what to do, but instead they’d just shove Calum on the boob without the why or how. I have since been told that our NHS trust really doesn’t like anything but Breastfeeding which is why they are all like they are, but still, it should be what suits the individual best surely?

            I recommend the book Food of Love too – great read.

            The whole breast-feeding part of birth/labour for me was definitely the hardest. In comparison, labour and birth were a breeze (relatively speaking!) I was lucky enough to get through in, much like Mrs Lawson, with Gas & Air, in the water.

  10. Gorgeous photos. I followed the link and they brought tears to my eyes – happy ones of course! We did NCT, which, as Sian said above, really helped give me an idea of what to expect which gave me a sense of power which helped enormously. We didn’t do hypnobirthing but the midwives all kept asking if I had. I put this down to pregnancy yoga. It was fantastic and really helped me through the final uncomfortable weeks of pregnancy and labour. It helped me just give in to my body which knew what it needed to do. My birth plan consisted simply of birth centre and no pethadine if good, anything necessary if not. I may do hypnobirthing if there’s a next time as I had a very bearable birth but a scary afterwards and I don’t want that fear to stop me having a similar birth again.

  11. My husband and I have done both NCT and hypnobirthing. NCT was useful but certainly not essential, it has been great for meeting other women at the exact same stage as me and we are all in touch now.

    Hypnobirthing on the other hand we both found very useful. My husband was quite sceptical about it but really enjoyed the classes and has found it has helped him relax a little.

    As it turns out, due to various medical reasons I’m now booked in for a c section in 3 weeks but I’m still really pleased we did hypnobirthing, these last few weeks have been very stressful due to ill health and listening to my downloads is still the one thing that has helped me to relax and fall asleep each night!

    Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy!

    These photos are really beautiful. X

  12. I didn’t write a birth plan because I assumed the midwives wouldn’t look at it anyway. My only thoughts were that I was aiming not to use any pain relief and wanted a pool if possible. I really can’t think of anything else… In the end the pool wasn’t available and I think because I hadn’t made a real ‘plan’ I wasn’t disappointed, even though I knew the water would have helped. No expectations and all that.

    I was really lucky that my midwife just got me – she could tell that actually I REALLY didn’t want pain relief and so every time I started changing my mind (only a couple of glitches) she just ignored me! She did suggest a TENS machine, though, which was absolutely wonderful and I would highly recommend, after being very sceptical about them before – mine completely got me through it. When I went into the delivery room another midwife suggested I use gas and air and I knew I really didn’t want to because it would take my concentration away. When I said no she said ‘there are no prizes for being a martyr’, which really annoyed me and made me thankful that she hadn’t been assigned to me. It wasn’t that I was against pain relief, it was more that I knew I didn’t need it.

    I didn’t do hypobirthing classes or read a book, but we did do a yoga birthing class which used lots of hypobirthing techniques. Tom was also not really into it at first, but I don’t think he could argue with the power of concentration and breathing after watching me have constant contractions for about 18 hours! I would definitely use these techniques again and hope not to be induced so the contractions would be slower.

    Because I was induced I was well aware of the likely flow of events ending in a c-section. But I am the case that disproves the statistics – induction and then natural labour!

  13. I agree with you. I really never understood the concept of birth plans (except for maybe making you think of the delivery before it happens, making you open to all the possible outcomes) because the reality is that like Forrest Gump said you never know what you’re gonna get. The whole idea of filling in wishlists for birth and anticipating how you are going to cope / feel / react during labour seems quite absurd to me (more so after going through it). I guess having seen so many births changes your perspective. Also, the more stories I read and shared with friends, the more convinced I became that whatever your plan was, nature has a way of making sure you not get that. Better try and lose the fear and just embrace whatever comes (easier said than done).
    I did not really make a birth plan, except for hoping that I would have time enough to get an epidural. I spent lots of time researching the window in which you can get it so that I would be prepared and not miss it. The first time they checked me for dilation I was 4.5 cm. I thought “great, we have at least 5 hrs (or so the books said) for me to get it,” everything was in order for it, the anesthesiologist had seen me a couple of weeks before. Well, our baby kind of slid out of me, by which I mean I went from 4.5 cm to 20 cm in something like 50 minutes and she was out before the pain relief was even there. A close friend wanted a fully un-medicated delivery, she wanted to feel the whole thing, she spent time preparing for it (yoga, hypnobirthing classes, swimming, etc.). Well, turned out the baby was breech and she ended up having an emergency c-section.
    We did take a childbirth preparation class, and it was useful, mostly for learning to recognize which situations are an emergency (eg. if your membranes rupture, even if there are no contractions or loss of mucous plug, the COAT mnemotechny for amniotic fluid, etc), when to go to the hospital (which was a bit bs because I never reached the point where you are supposed to get 3 contractions / 10 min. Mine were every 4-6 minutes up until the point where I was at the delivery room. Luckily I was at the hospital on bed rest already or else they would never have admitted me), all kinds of tips (the most important and actually useful was: put 2 tennis balls inside a sock and use it for massage, glory!), the birth process, breastfeeding (an intro),and some tips for the recovery, as well as some acupuncture / acuppressure points to help relieve pain (that we never used), positions, and breathing techniques (that I completely forgot about at the moment, though the medical intern that was assisting at Yu’s birth, helped me with). The nice part about the class was meeting other couples in a similar situation (people our age, some also expats). The information was useful but I think some of it I could have found it in books (I really liked “Your pregnancy week by week” by Dr. Lesley Reagan from St. Mary’s in London).
    If you like I can send you the pdf of the scanned class notes of our course, though as a GP you maybe, probably know many things?

  14. I didn’t have a detailed Birth plan but did have a single page with preferences in the front of my notes which my midwife looked at of her own accord. It listed things such as no unnecessary examinations (some friends ended up having loads whereas I had just 1 which was the most painful bit so am glad I wrote this!) and then things such as preferences for pain relief and third stage but nothing particularly concrete. I would still do this again as my labour was fairly quick and as I did hypnobirthing I was in “the zone” so appreciated not having to answer any questions. My husband loved having hypnobirthing to give him a defined role, he is one of those people that likes to be in control so it definitely helped and he was absolutely brilliant.

    I would recommend hypno classes if you can afford them as I don’t think we’d have done the practice properly without them. I’m planning on doing a refresher course for this baby too as it loved the relaxation it provided and it helped with pregnancy insomnia.

    I after that I don’t think you can plan birth but there does seem to be such a high proportion of c sections these days that I wonder if the “cascade of intervention” that is talked about has any truth behind it.

  15. Hi lovely,
    I did NCT with Jack and for me it was invaluable if only to make good friends who were all going through the same experience. We are all still in touch and see each other as often as we can, but in the early months we saw a lot of each other and they were a great support.
    We considered doing Hypnobirthing this time around as a lot of my buddies have done it and rave about it, but we just couldn’t make the classes work around Jack so I am currently reading Marie Mongan’s hypnobirthing book instead (and their course notes!). I also couldn’t imagine Andy reading scripts to me and me taking him seriously!
    I have also taken up pregnancy yoga this time and it is really helping, not only with the back pain but we also do a lot of breathing exercises which will come in very handy. I hope!

    • I tried a pregnancy Yoga class in Didsbury and it was awful, all breathing and chat, I kept wondering when the yoga was going to start! I need to try my local class in Chorlton and hope it is better! It’s just finding the time… which is the case with all these things and the reason I’m thinking about fitting things in now!

  16. I didn’t really have a birth plan. I trusted the medical staff to do what they were trained to do. I did however say that I’d rather not have pethadine and that I scar very badly and so if I needed a c-section then could the surgeon be as neat as possible – because I imagine if you don’t say that then they’re really sloppy? What!!

    What really helped me was pregnancy yoga and years of pilates classes. Learning how to breathe through the contractions. Also understanding what contractions felt like – that they start at the top of the bump and work their way down a bit like a wave (or they did for me) and remembering to use the time in between contractions to recover – because even though they feel constant they’re not and you do get some relief.

    Sounds corny but positive mental attitude helped. I’d heard all the nightmare horror stories but all the people who had told me those horror stories went on to have more children which means it can’t be that bad – and it isn’t.

    Beautiful images.

    • C-sections do tend to be a quick op – I used to work with a consultant who could open and close in 8 minutes – pretty impressive and he never had any complications either. I used to take a great deal of care stitching people up and take great pride in it, but to some extent the scar isn’t a product of care but the way your skin heals. Having seen many several years on, on the whole they look almost invisible with a bit of time.

  17. This is my first pregnancy and previously childbirth was something I was always frightened of…I’ve had many hospital trips for various things before and realised it was the idea of being strapped to a bed and potentially being on my own overnight that was making me most anxious, plus the fact that when I am in pain I am not good at articulating how I am and what I want, and tend to just nod to authority when really part of me would like to question, understand and consider but that’s hard when you’re tired! I guess that’s why I like the idea of a plan, not because I expect it all to go smoothly but just so I can consider what’s important to me and make sure my husband is clear on it and on what he know will help me (darkness, no uneccessary examination/monitoring).

    I am attending a hypnobirthing course next month which I’m looking forward to, and NCT later in the summer. Also enjoying pregnancy yoga which is really helping getting me in a positive frame of mind. I can second the recommendation on the Ina Mays Guide to Childbirth, it’s an amazing and empowering book and this combined with the yoga is making me believe more in my own capabilities and strength. Hoping to have a homebirth as personally I am far more relaxed in my own surroundings and can eat/drink, hop in the shower or bath etc, plus i like the idea that one midwife stays with you – no shift changes! We are also having a doula help us who lives just over the road, she also specialises in massage which i hope will help with pain relief.

    Hoping all goes well for you – oh also look for the website, Tell me a Good Birth Story – finally a change to horror stories it can also connect you with a birth “buddy” who will tell you about their own experiences. it’s lovely.

  18. I never wrote down a birth plan as like didn’t want to get welding to an idea of giving birth that wasn’t going to be possible in reality. However, I in fact got really lucky and ended up with just what I had hoped for (2 hour second stage, water birth, no pain relief, no stitches – I know, I know, just too lucky!)

    However what I did do some prep for was labour And contractions. I found all the things I’d practiced in yoga really helpful in keeping calm and focused. Also I read an amazing book called Birth Skills: Pain Management by JuJu Sundin. It is full of a whole range of different was to cope with the pain so that it’s not your sole focus, a lot of distraction really. Both me and my husband read it so that he was able understand why I was counting and pacing like a loon, and he could remember techniques to try when I was a bit preoccupied! I really recommend it.

    My final tip is to keep positive,I firmly believe that if you think you can do it how you want then there is a much better chance that if will happen that way!

  19. I would 100% recommend Hypnobirthing – i too decided not to do NCT and after reading up on hypnobirthing i thought that a course to help me prepare for birth would be a far better way to spend £300. It’s the best money i ever spent. I did a four week course with Kellie at Better Birth in Wilmslow and she was amazing. I was skeptical at the beginning, especially reading all the glowing reports from mothers online about their ‘painless’ birth, but i wanted to give it a go as at the time i had a group of close friends with a ‘my birth was worse than yours’ attitude and i was determined to have a good birthing experience to buck the trend.
    I embraced the course and spent a lot of time ‘practicing’ at home with my husband. When the day came, i was two weeks early, and i was convinced that it was just a practice. I started off at home around 1pm, spent all afternoon in the bath running through the relaxation techniques i had learnt on the course, went into hospital around 10pm and my beautiful baby girl was born at 2.37am the following morning. Everything ran smoothly, i got the calm, water birth i had wanted and it was all over fairly quickly – i had a four hour active labour. I’m pretty convinced that was all down to the hypnobirthing, I was just so relaxed and confident in my body’s ability to do what it needed to do. I can’t say it was painless, but i know i wouldn’t have coped as well without having learnt hypnobirthing. I really don’t think you will regret it. My daughter is one tomorrow and i can honestly look back on my birthing experience in a very positive way and even look forward to doing it again!
    Sorry if i’ve gone on a bit, i hope it helps you in your decision.
    p.s. And as for doing NCT for the friends you make, i did the hypnobirthing course in a small group, there were three couples, and we are all still in touch and meet up regularly.

  20. When I had my first I was very much like you and didn’t see the point of making a birth plan. I obviously read up on my options and made a rough idea in my head of what pain control I would be willing to try and what I didn’t want to. The main thing being that I really didn’t want an epidurall if I could help it as I wanted to be able to move around plus didn’t want anything to slow things down. Also I wanted to give birth at the midwife led unit at my local hospital.

    The only things I did in preparation were I attended 6 weeks of an aqua natal course that had an hours lesson after wards on various subjects such as breast feeding and birth choices. Although I didn’t enjoy the aqua natal I did find these lessons very helpful, especially the breast feeding one.

    I also read a hypnobirthing book which overall was very helpful. In the he end I had a very lovely experience and now I am nearly 15 weeks pregnant with my second I hope for the same again!!

    • I also found water was a great help. I had about three showers, two baths and got in the pool as soon as I could. Maybe as it was one of the hottest days of the year!! Although I didn’t actually have my daughter in the pool I found it really helped. I used a tens machine in the early stages and I also found this a nice distraction until I could get on the gas and air.

  21. I feel like I have just woken up to the fact that I have to actually give birth. Given that I am now 33 weeks pregnant, you might think this was a little late to the party.

    Things I have been doing to prepare:
    – reading positive, detailed birth stories ( as well as the occasional one on AOW and the very good long one on Peonies and Polariods) to counteract what feels like quite negative overall messaging about birth
    – talking to friends who have actually done it (and lurking a bit on the Mumsnet childbirth board for the same reason)
    – reading books (I particularly liked Your Body, Your Baby, Your Birth written by a midwife which also had a v.g. section for husbands)
    – pregnancy yoga / active birth with yoga classes. I’m not sure how much I actually get out of these from a birth perspective, but they make me feel calm and I am hopeful that some of the information is sinking in
    – doing some hypnobirthing reading / CD listening on my own (I am using the Maggie Howell programme, or will be when I actually start)
    – starting NCT in a week or so

    I agree that I think that the only certainty in giving birth is that, particularly the first time, it is very hard to know what to expect and that it is rigidity and trying to control the “experience” which can make it so upsetting. I am intending to put together a very loose guideline document highlighting the bottom line things I want in any given scenario (skin to skin as soon as possible, breastfeeding as soon as possible, an explanation of what is being done to me and why before it happens, in any given scenario other than an emergency) and my preferences (minimal interference, midwife led, water birth). Apart from anything else, after a particularly scary BH episode last night, I am more aware than ever that I don’t know how it will feel or what I will be able to cope with and so don’t want to set myself up to fail in any given scenario.

    A well timed post!

      • I was in denial that I was ever going to give birth. I went to yoga at 41 weeks and told the other pregnant women I might be pregnant forever. I was serious. A part of my brain believed it, even though I was calm about giving birth, maybe it was my brain’s way of not stressing about it? I think it’s a thing, right?

        • This could have been written by me. I had made no plans to stop work, I was so much in denial. Then Ava arrived a fortnight early.

  22. I’m really enjoying the pregnancy related posts, thanks for sharing! I’m in my last trimester with my first baby and all the information and comments are really helpful. It’s reassuring to hear people express the same feelings I have bubbling under the service.

    I hadn’t even considered not writing a birth plan. I haven’t done it yet because I wondered if it would really be taken seriously and so much depends on factors I can’t control…so maybe I won’t do one! Problem solved.

    I would love to be in the water and have minimal intervention but I know neither of these things can be guaranteed.

    A friend recommended a book called ‘Stand and Deliver’ by Emma Mahoney. It is by far the best birthing book I have read and I finished it with a feeling of excitement at giving birth, it is so positive and addressed alot of my fears about entering the hospital as a patient – I am a nurse and feel overwhelmed at the thought of being a patient and also not being heard or being rushed through somehow.

    Best of luck!

  23. Go for hypnobirthing – my husband was initially sceptical, bit now is a total convert. It takes away the fear and it works! Even if your birth doesn’t go how you hoped, it helps to keep a clear head and relax throughout the process, and you feel in control. I’ve had two births, one ended in forceps delivery in theatre, and the other was a natural, quick home birth. Hypnobirthing helped so much with both! X

  24. I don’t have much to add to all the comments above except to say that we did NCT classes over the weekend and I think they were invaluable for my husband. I didn’t get that much new information from the classes as I have read a lot and studied human physiology but there was a lot of focus on what the partners could do to help and encouraging them to be assertive and not just go with what they are being told is “normal”. I feel much more confident now know that my husband knows what I want and knows that he is allowed to speak up if he doesn’t feel like I am getting that.

  25. I just finished my NCT antenatal refresher class yesterday, my 3rd baby is due in 3.5 weeks (eek!!). I did the refresher class as I wanted to meet like minded parents with a fairly significant age gap (my other children are 8 and nearly 7) which is who the refresher class is aimed at.

    It was useful as we discussed massage, techniques to cope with pain and how to manage older childrens’ expectations.

    The teacher also.knew a lot.about the science of pain, of.stress responses etc which was fascinating.

    Apparently yoga is the one thing that research has shown leads to.less intervention and a better birth experience. The teacher was pretty skeptical about hypnobirthing, said it’s good for anxiety but nothing to suggest it helps with labour. I have friends who swear by it though.

    I have a birth plan. It’s mostly about drugs (NO pethidine) induction (2 old rather c-section than syntocin if bishop score <5), feeding (no formula unless essential, prefer donor milk over formula if possible) and skin to skin (baby to have s2s with R if I can't for any reason, R to stay with baby if any emergency arises).

    I'm simultaneously dreading and looking forward to labour…I can't wait to meet our baby, but I know how flipping hard it is getting there.

  26. Rebecca, I think you’re doing absolutely the right thing. I told my community midwife I wasn’t doing a plan and she was pleased I’d thought it through. When it was a couple of days before my induction I did write a few bullet points, mainly to stress that I had done hypnobirthing and yoga and wanted help me to use a darkly lit room, peace and quiet and water to try to manage the pain before taking drugs to manage it. In all the bullet points I used phrasea like ‘if possible’, ‘where appropriate’ and ‘in the event that’ to show that I wasn’t expecting to follow this to the letter, but more that I was prepared for different outcomes such as assisted delivery or theatre. I think writing this down helped me prepare for the induction. I basically got exactly the birth I’d hoped for despite the fact I was induced. The midwives in hospital totally got it and were very supportive and non interventionist. Maybe because it was only short so they could actually read it?!

  27. I’d echo a lot of what’s been said… I didn’t write a plan but P & I did know what kind of ‘experience’ we’d like – very similar to a lot of commenters, dark, quiet, water if possible and no pain relief was what we were hoping for and so very, very luckily, what we got.

    I did, on the Notes page of my mat notes, write down a handful of points that were really important to us. Delayed cord clamping, breastfeeding, absolutely no pethidine, decisions to be made in case of an emergency etc. I then promptly forgot all about that page until Stella had been born and I asked the midwife how she’d known that we wanted delayed cord clamping and she said, ‘I read it in your birth plan, of course!’ so I think there’s a lot to be said for a rough plan. And awesome midwives, of course!

    I bloomin’ loved giving birth. Would do it again tomorrow.

  28. I haven’t really thought about labour yet, but now I’m nearly 26/40 I suppose I should start!

    As a GP the only births I have really been part of have been problematic ones when I was working in obs and gynae or paediatrics, so I think I have a slightly skewed view on things. I do remember reviewing some women in labour who were very calm and counting or breathing their way through the contractions, so I am hoping for something similar!

    We are doing the NCT classes in June as a number of GP friends have said they were useful, even if it is more for the social aspect, and as my husband is not medical, hopefully it will help him prepare, as his attitude at present is to just deal with things as it happens, and refuses to even watch one born every minute as he feels it will just panic him!

    I’m hoping to start attending a yoga class mainly to help with back pains, but it sounds like it could help with the labour too. Which class did you do in didsbury? We are moving from didsbury to timperley soon, so I might try and do the yoga there instead if didsbury is not very good!

    Love the pregnancy posts and updates!

  29. Would just second or third a Tens machine. We hired ours from Boots & it was brilliant for me. Something to focus on & that I was in control of.

  30. I really don’t think you can prepare for labour and everybody’s experience is completely unique but my only words of advice would be to not listen too much to other peoples labour stories (you really can’t comprehend it until you’re in it!) and to BREATH. Sounds simple but I kept panicking each time a contraction came and it was a lovely lady doctor who had to keep reminding me! Breath-breath-breath. In through the nose and out through the mouth. It really did help. I couldn’t get the hang of gas and air. It just made me feel weird.

    Just enjoy these last few months of you time and don’t worry about it! Xx

  31. I gave birth to our second beautiful daughter 8 weeks ago. Everyone says second time around it will be quicker and easier… Not so much but I did have a fantastic, if tiring birth experience. Our first daughter (born in the UK) was a relatively quick labour (two hours official labour, 9 hours total) where I requested a water birth at the birthing centre but one was not available, but with the exception of hearing the words ‘prepare for theatre’ everything went smoothly and I was able to deliver naturally, with only very little gas and air (more for the minor stitches). I prepared by doing every class available, with the most helpful from an awesome lady Su Guest who ran amazing classes and yoga for pregnant mums. Cannot recommend her enough. I also found a TENS machine to be invaluable, along with my husbands support.
    Second time around we tried hypnobirthing here in New Zealand, my husband was a little sceptical but we now agree it all helped a great deal, and some of the principles we had learned first time round were based on hypnobirthing. So we took from that what we needed to and hypnobirthing certainly helped me relax in the run up to the birth. Again the TENS machine and my husband were awesome. Having amazing midwifes also helps. We also avoided much intervention (induction, drip, breaking waters etc.) by being assertive (my husband when I wasn’t) and asking for more time to consider the option, after which the issue wasn’t an issue and we were able to proceed naturally. Ante natal yoga and regular exercise (walking and swimming) was an enormous help as was reflexology. My second birth was longer (two hours established labour, 17 hours total), more relaxed and I felt more confident. On the whole amazing and so totally worth it, the main thing to remember is that whatever happens, hopefully the result is the same, a healthy beautiful baby.
    As for birth plans, it does pay to work one out but build in flexibility, issues you are more certain on, and preferred ways you would like things to proceed. Oh… and read some positive birth stories!!!

  32. I didn’t do NCT either. It was too expensive. I bought a book called The Gentle Birth Method by Gowri Motha which helped me. It is a bit alternative, and as a GP I doubt you would like it.

    A friend lent me a hypnobirthing DVD which I downloaded to my iPod. It irritated me, and I had relaxing piano music instead.

    My best advice was to stay at home as long as possible, and by the time I got into hospital, I was 9cm dilated.

  33. I didn’t have much of a birth plan either and I would definitely not bother at all next time for all the use it was!

    I got induced with low fluid at 40 weeks then Holden’s heart rate dropped with each contraction (his cord was wrapped all round him) so I had to have a emergency c-section under a general aneasthetic so the no morphine as it makes me a bit spacey in my plan was pointless as I was asleep anyway and missed Holden’s birth!

    Since I didn’t have much of a plan I was just glad we were both ok. If we have another I’m not sure what I would next time; the only thing I know is I would not be induced again & wouldn’t want to miss the birth!

    We did do NCT classes but I’m not sure anything really prepares you.

  34. Firstly….beautiful photos. I wouldn’t of course expect anything less from Laura & Pete but I hadn’t seen these so thanks so much for sharing them.

    NCT – we went to make friends and as you guys don’t need that, I don’t think there’s anything you’ll take away….other than a free biscuit.

    Birth plan – mine, as others have said, was more for stuff like vit k, and the fact I wanted the cord to stop pulsing before being cut, and I wanted Ed to announce the sex rathe than the midwife. The rest was simply ‘I’m open to all kinds of pain relief, should I need them’. I can highly recommend the Chorlton yoga rooms pregnancy class if Sara Hague is teaching, I also did read a hypnobirthing book but not sure if any of it actually went in. Ed didn’t read the book but did everything I needed at the time and more.

    Finally – another vote for a tens machine….but you must put it on early for it to work. I hired one from the midwife.

  35. I really recommend Maggie Howell’s natal hypnotherapy CDs, although if you want to use them, you should start ASAP. If nothing else, they ensured that I relaxed completely for half an hour most days (I nearly always fell asleep listening), but I’m sure that my pain relief free labour and birth was due to using positive thoughts and breathing techniques practised from the CDs (although a bath and tens machine – separately of course – also really helped). For me, it was critical to remind myself that labour pains are natural and have a purpose; It made them easier to deal with than other types of pain that I’ve experienced.

  36. I gave birth 5 weeks ago and although it was a long and difficult labour I think of it very fondly and feel positive about it. The reason I think I feel that way is that I didn’t have a birth plan either – I don’t think you can plan on your labour and trying to could be damaging. I hoped for the best, expected the worst and prepared mentally as best I could. I did love the pool though and was sad when I had to get out!

  37. NCT and hypnobirthing classes really helped me (and my husband) feel more prepared for labour. I found visualisation worked for me during contractions, but it did feel instinctive and probably I would have done this anyway without the classes.
    BUT – no matter what preparation you do I think it’s very important to aproach birth with an open mind and be aware that in reality you have very little control over what will happen. I had a completely happy pregnancy and went into labour naturally at 41 +5. I laboured at home for a while before going to the birthing centre where I was in the pool for about 4 hours by which time I was fully dilated and ready to push. Fast forward 2 hours and our daughter was delivered by forceps in theatre and being rushed off to intensive care. It turned out she was in the wrong position but the midwives hadn’t spotted it and she had become very distressed, suffering from hypoxia and later a series of strokes.
    I’m not saying this to scare monger – 14 months on we are both fine and well – but it is worth knowing that with all the best preparation and intentions you need to be ready for anything. I think it’s amazing that Laura had a great birth experience but feel that comments like “Your body does all the hard work for you, you just have to breathe and keep calm” are not very helpful. I was calm and coping well until it was clear that something was wrong and my baby was not coming out as she should. However for a long time I felt like I had failed and had done something wrong. Birth is different for everyone and while keeping calm is undoubtedly helpful, it doesn’t ensure a straightforward delivery.

  38. P.S. I did a lot of pregnancy yoga too which I LOVED. I would highly recommend Tara Lee’s dvd, she’s amazing!

  39. Have a look at my friend’s brilliant blog Mum’s Days – I’m not a mum but there are loads of birthing stories there…

  40. Congratulations on your pregnancy! I’m an odd medic with a big interest in maternity services (I’m a public health academic specialising in the field). I have also had one birth centre water birth and a subsequent home birth on dry land. Granted there is a lot of luck involved but I believe (whatever that means as a trained epidemiologist) that two things helped. First; a pregnancy yoga class that taught me how to breathe, not to fear birth, to be active in labour, and gave me the chance to see ‘graduates’ and their babies talk through their deliveries (whatever the out come it taught me to be less afraid of all the possibilities whether forceps or section). Second; TENS! I started looking at the evidence (there is none) and decided to sod it and just believe it works! It gave me something to focus on and even if it was all placebo effect it was great. Best wishes, B. x

  41. Hello

    Emma pointed me in your direction. If you want to chat about natal hypnotherapy (the uk, less hippy version of hypnobirthing) please give me a shout. I was rather skeptical about it to begin with but wanted an alternative to the medicalised process of labour I had with my first. NH was excellent at giving me the tools to cope and the confidence (and lack of fear) to just go with the flow. Luckily (or rather, I believe, by being calm)y body did what it was supposed to do and I had a brilliant home birth but if I’d needed intervention I would have been able to cope, no doubt.
    If you’re round Manchester/Lancs/Cheshire way I’ll put you in touch with my practitioner for an informal chat.
    Best wishes

  42. I am a medic too and I was lucky to have two straightforward birth centre births (on the same floor as the labour ward and one floor away from a tertiary neonatal unit – I am a paediatrician after all!). Totally agree that keeping in control/focus and not allowing anxiety to take over is really important for a good experience. For me, TENS and half a dose of pethidine worked – both times. Pethidine is seen as the devil’s drug, but for me it helped me relax and snooze a little and I dilated really quickly both times, Im sure because of this. I realised after birth number one that I am a very silent, introverted and ‘hands off’ labourer – no talking, food, drink or being touched, thanks very much. So I bought the hypnobirthing CDs during my second pregnancy. They were good for pregnancy relaxation, didn’t really use during labour but I go into a ‘zone’ anyway. Good luck Rebecca, hope your birth experience is a good one, but it really is a means to an end and it is short term pain for incredible gain 🙂

  43. I have about 9 weeks to go and haven’t thought too hard about birth until the past few weeks where I have started to get a little anxious but nothing overwhelming so far.

    I am booked in to have baby S in the midwife led unit providing all remains well throughout the rest of the pregnancy. I haven’t written a birth plan and not because I actively decided not to, just because I haven’t really got round to it. I will probably make a few bullet points in the next few weeks just to say I don’t (at this stage) want to have an epidural but have never been in labour and have no idea what I’ll want on the day. I want to have a water birth or at least use the pool if at all possible. I am allergic to opiates so I do want to discuss what other options might be available to me.

    I have booked to go for a 3hr walk round and course on birthing at the unit…this is as much for my husband as me, I don’t want to feel like I don’t know where I’m going and be in completely unknown environment during I time where I imagine I’ll already be feeling fairly unsettled.

    We have also booked for NCT classes but we are doing this for the friends (no local friends with babies and only moved to area last April) and not the information but I suspect again that the info will help hubbie as he hasn’t been reading up quite as much as me on what is going to happen to my body in labour.

    I am worried about breastfeeding but may well do a course after baby is here if I am struggling, will also be leaning on my sister in law who has just had number 2 and has successfully fed both.

    Good luck to all the future mummy’s on here….exciting times ahead! X

  44. We have done hypnobirthing classes, as have our friends who are dew any day now. We have one more refresher class to go.
    So far it all sounds wonderful and in an ideal world, if I keep on practicing, listening to the CDs and reading the book, it should all be great!
    There is a lot of practice with it though and ti is something you have to be committed to, as does your partner as it is something you both do together. Nik swears by it now and has been very encouraging! It also means that the man become more involved.
    Nik also says that it has taught him so much more than he expected about actually giving birth and the way the body is built for it which he feels has been really insightful!
    Fingers crossed it all works!

  45. I read this post at the time and have been meaning to come back and comment.

    I didn’t do NCT and didn’t have a birth plan and Pip came along just fine. I totally agree that, in my opinion, anatomy and luck and circumstances are what dictates the birth and feeling like you have to stick to a plan you wrote with no knowledge of the circumstances whatsoever are setting up for failing. I spent far more time reading about the first few weeks, and parenting in general. After all, the birth will be over but you have to then look after the baby.

    For example, I was having a water birth, no pain relief etc, fully dilated and pushing for 3 hours before they realised Pip was stuck in the birth canal and that no amount of pushing how I was in the birth centre was going to get her to come down. So, we went off to labour ward, epidural, episiotomy and venteuse delivery. I dread to think what would have happened if I’d been sticking rigidly to a birthing plan.

    Re the NCT – without going into my feelings on their ideology and so on, there are plenty of ways to make friends on maternity leave without the NCT, leaving you several hundred pounds to spend on coffees and classes to attend with the baby, where you will meet other mums/dads/nannies.

    Good luck with whatever option you choose though.

  46. I wouldn’t bother planning. It will probably be completely the opposite of what you imagine. I thought that I would be late, have a really Long labour like my mum and was hoping for every kind of pain relief I could get my hands on. As it was I went early and had my baby 40 mins after arriving at hospital without a sniff of gas and air or anything else. Just do what you feel you need to at the time. My only tip would be when it comes to pushing stage get your chin on your chest and push!! By the time the pain gets really really bad it’s nearly over. Also buy a breastfeeding book if you’re planning on feeding. I wish I’d spent less time looking at mamas and papas catalogues and more time reading about how I was going to feed my baby. It doesn’t always come easy for mums or babies. Good luck !

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