Friday, 6 April 2012

Thirty years of Active Birth

"Mrs Jones, you must lie down immediately so I can deliver your baby"

Active Birth posters adorn many a labour room wall. The idea is that lying down flat on your back is counterproductive to the normal birth process.

Few women instinctively choose a lying down position if they are educated, confident and informed about birth physiology... But despite many improvements in recent decades, the bed still plays a central role in many hospital births, and is a powerful psychological trigger for encouraging a passive, 'patient' mindset.

The concept of Active Birth doesn't just mean walking around in labour and giving birth off of your back. It most importantly means that the woman is in control of her own labour, assisted by her birth partner and midwife as her advocates. This means making informed choices, having time and space to labour on her own terms, and in whatever way feels right, no matter how she has her baby.

A rally 30 years ago led the way for women to choose active birth to bear their children - BBC World Service speaks to the founder of the movement.

Sharon (Nature's Mother) at Helston Birth Unit, Cornwall
Click here to visit the article featuring Active Birth founder Janet Balaskas, including a video with some great tips on positions, breathing and relaxation

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

World doula week survey

Survey Shows Doulas Have Significant Impact on Birth and Breastfeeding

Chances of an intervention-free birth and successful breastfeeding increased with doula support

Parents-to-be are far more likely to attempt and continue breastfeeding, and less likely to require intervention during their child’s birth, if they have turned to a doula for support, according to the findings of a new survey.

The survey has been published by Doula UK ahead of World Doula Week, which begins on Thursday 22nd March 2012. It gathered data from 105 doulas and their 1,106 birth clients across a range of critical birth-related areas.

The most dramatic figures relate to breastfeeding and birth interventions. Women who used doulas need significantly less medical intervention in the birth process and had greatly increased breastfeeding success compared against the national average.

With over 500 members, Doula UK represents the largest number of doulas in the UK. Its doulas work with women and their families to prepare for the birth of their baby, helping them to fully explore their options, make informed decisions and support them as they adjust to life with a newborn baby.

Of the doula-supported families, 93 per cent attempted breastfeeding and 70 percent were still exclusively breastfeeding after six weeks. The figures are significantly higher than the latest national figures from the Department of Health, which show only 74.1 per cent of new mums attempt breastfeeding, and just 47 per cent are still exclusively breastfeeding at six weeks.

The survey showed that only 12 per cent of doula-supported births required medical interventions, such as the use of forceps, ventouse or Caesarean sections, compared to the latest national figures of 37.3 per cent.

Bridget Baker, Board Member and Head of Doula Mentoring at Doula UK, said: “Our survey findings echo previous research in to the substantial benefits of doula support during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. The results show that when women and their partners are well informed about breastfeeding, are signposted to good resources and have someone to turn to who is there to listen and offer unconditional support there are significant improvements in breastfeeding success rates.

“Elsewhere, the survey found that the frequency of medical interventions, that many women wish to avoid, decrease by over 25% in births supported by doulas. Though our doulas support any kind of birth and are not there to change outcomes it is startling that when women have this experienced and continuous support available to them during labour, they are much less likely to require serious interventions like
Caesarean sections.

“Whatever path a birth takes our doulas always work with the midwives and other medical professionals to ensure that parents are kept fully informed about the choices that are available. This allows parents to confidently make decisions with which they are comfortable with in a nurturing and positive environment.”

Alice provides an antenatal doula / birth preparation service in Cornwall. To find out more about Doula UK and its network of doulas visit

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Happy Mothers Day!

Hope all mummies and expectant mummies have had a nice day...Got these lovely flowers, a card, and awaiting Chinese for tea :)

Friday, 2 March 2012

One Born Every Minute...

The following Facebook page is part of a campaign by Kent midwife Virgina Howes, as an antidote to the unnecessary medicalisation and dramatisation of childbirth as depicted on Channel 4's 'One Born Every Minute'.

The show has high ratings, but at the cost of frightening viewing women and birth partners about childbirth. 95% of births shown are not 'active birth'. How ethical is it that bullying and coercion is presented as 'entertainment'?

In life, the vast majority of women giving birth in a safe, private, comforting environment, with caregivers who are genuinely compassionate and experienced in facilitating a natural 'hands off' birth, with minimal observation, progress well.

Of course sometimes nature throws a spanner in the works, and medical intervention can be a lifesaver in some circumstances, but all too often medicine has to intervene in response to a problem it created in the first place.

Most births we see on 'One Born Every Minute' are not attended by midwives, in the true sense of the word (with woman), instead, attendants are guided by one-size-fits-all-cookie-cutter protocols decided by managers and insurance companies.

"You need to put your chin on your chest and push this baby out hard NOW otherwise he'll start getting tired / you'll start getting tired / we'll have to get the doctor".

The good news is that nothing can be done to you or your baby without your consent. 'One Born Every Minute' makes it look like women don't have a choice... Or their choices are presented in a way that doesn't enable them to make a fully informed choice.

For information on your rights and communicating with health professionals, visit this section of my website:

And here's Virginia's Facebook page:

And here's some less dramatic births:

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Meanwhile, in another life...

I used to wonder what a job in cabin crew would be like, so for a few weeks after I left midwifery, I trained down at Gatwick with British Airways.

It was a right proper laugh! Jumping down inflatable slides, shouting "BRACE BRACE!" at the top of my voice, playing with the defibrillator machines, doing the Hawaii Five-O music sailing across Feltham pool together in a massive life raft, and of course the very important customer service training *cough*

Six years on, I had forgotten how I must have waffled on about childbirth to my fellow cabin crew trainees (I remember being unimpressed by their afternoon on emergency childbirth). Anyway, I was reminded of all this by this lovely email I got a few days ago. I was very touched:

"Hello Alice! Do you remember me? We did our training at British Airways together in 2006! I'm so glad I got to know you then because I'm now almost 7 months pregnant and have chosen to have a home birth. That's thanks to our conversations about birth back in 2006, it really made me think seriously about it.

I live in France now, and there aren't so many homebirths here, but I've found two midwives who do it. All's going well, I've read Michel Odent's books and got a Natal Hypnotherapy CD too ;-) I'm really looking forward to meeting my little daughter (the due date is 7th May)."

Thursday, 2 February 2012

A great hypnobirthing birth story

Just uploaded this to 'Our Birth Stories' on  my website.... It's so rewarding to receive these... Keep 'em coming!

Stacy, Penzance... "I'm just writing to thank you for all your help during our hypnotherapy sessions and to tell you how fantastic it was! Baby Ohran is now 6 weeks old and the birth went so well.

After being strongly advised to have that cesaerean, I delivered him naturally in three hours. He weighed 9lb 6oz which is a lot smaller than we expected although he was very long!

The hypnobirthing was absolutely incredible. As soon as we arrived at the hospital, we set the room out the way we had planned - battery operated candles, deep purple throws, birthing ball, our chosen smells (spiced vanilla), the Calmtime CD and the blinds closed. We made sure the midwife was aware that we were hypnobirthing and she was very supportive. I hardly made a sound throughout the labour, which I spent on all fours on the floor,  and my throws and blankets from home, and when Ohran arrived, he was very calm and content. Even when I was about to start pushing I remember thinking how easy the labour was! We had a completely natural third stage too as we discussed and it was perfect.

Ohran is still a very contented and happy baby and I really believe the birth we had is a contributing factor. The midwife attending said it was one of the best births she has ever witnessed. It really was one of the most beautiful and amazing things I have ever experienced, a complete contrast to my last two births! 

Thank you again for all your help and support, without it our birth would have been a completely different story!!!"

Monday, 30 January 2012

Breastfeeding Toddler

What an amazing picture...

Saw this on the wonderful Red Tent Facebook group this morning.