Party time for baby?

A pregnant mum has written on a hypnobirthing forum to ask if other mums using daily relaxation routines have noticed that for their baby, Hypnobirthing time is “party time”, with ecstatic kicks and wriggles. She writes:

I’ve noticed the better I get at falling into the relaxation the more insane the baby gets! It doesn’t bring me out, but I was just wondering if this happens to others as well…

I have observed this phenomenon ever since I started teaching Hypnobirthing, and in fact I normally incorporate a reference to it when taking mums into trance, so that they know what to expect. I might say for example, “as you become more relaxed you may notice your baby moving about as he or she enjoys the relaxation with you”.

I have never heard a definitive explanation of this charming phenomenon. Some teachers (eg Gowri Motha, author of The Gentle Birth Method) think it is because a relaxed uterus gives the baby more room to move.

I have been inclined to think that the cause is more likely to be the mum’s breathing. She is probably breathing more deeply and consciously than normal at the beginning of the relaxation and taking in more oxygen, resulting in a richer oxygen supply being passed to the baby.

But sitting here on a very slow train from London to Cambridge, I have had a brainwave.

We know that our Hypnobirthing relaxation sessions create a flow of endorphins, lovely pain-relieving and bliss-making hormones which cross the placenta and allow the baby to share that special feelgood factor which mums so enjoy in hypnosis.

We know also, and anyone who has seen a baby massage session knows, that babies very early on learn to make associations between one thing and another, getting excited and waving their little arms and legs in glee when they see their mums preparing to give them the lovely massage they enjoy so much.

So is it inconceivable that in utero, after about 28 weeks when memory begins to form, a baby can learn to link the sound of the Hypnobirthing CD or music with the expectation of a delicious rush of endorphins soon to be heading across the placenta, and become excited and stimulated in anticipation?

I can’t recall mums ever reporting the “party time” effect at their first Hypnobirthing session – it is more often reported later on when Mum has established a practice routine. In other words, when her baby has learned to make a connection.

I would love to know more as I am not an infant behaviour expert. Anyone who can shed light on this please comment here or through my website!

Just sounding off about One Born Every Minute

I’ve been busy the past week researching and writing the last essay for my NCT antenatal teacher’s diploma and it is about “Informed Decision Making”.

Most of the essay I spent agonising over whether the educated, supported middle class mums in my classes had really exercised “informed decisions” because they had been a bit subliminally edged towards induction for dates and not for medical cause.

I switch on the TV and find myself watching an (edited) TV documentary about the “normal” birth of a young, healthy woman.

This lass has been induced: the  syntocinon protocol requires constant monitoring which enforces supine posture which means maximum pain, leading to diamorphine offered. She’s knocked out by the diamorphine. Unsurprisingly with the synto, the baby’s heartrate gives signs of stress, so the midwife, rather interestingly, decides that as the mother is not fully dilated and the baby is showing signs of distress she must have MORE syntocinon – somewhat ignoring the likely cause of the baby’s stress signs  – and therefore more pain relief, i.e. epidural. All this is conveyed in short sentences to a young woman who has not attended NCT classes or similar, who does not understand the implications of what is being done and who is in a drug induced haze …but is dimly aware that someone is trying to perform a vaginal examination. “Consent” for the vaginal examination is obtained (a murmured “yeah” but when the woman cries out “STOP” in pain, the midwife continues with the examination regardless. Consent? Informed? Decision? Are you having a laugh?


Hooray, I am back at the lovely KITE STUDIOS this spring, offering a HYPNOBIRTHING GROUP. Four Wednesday evenings in a row starting at 6.45 sharp. Pregnant and expecting a baby any time from the end of March 2012? Be there!!!

No more than 5 couples in group. Parking easy. Shepherds Bush Tube 15 minutes walk away, 5 minutes by bus. I run several courses a year, on Wednesday evenings 6.45pm
STANDARD HYPNOBIRTHING CLASS “EXTRA” – final session by appointment at your home £240 per couple
You will be working alongside couples whose outlook on childbirth is likely to be close to yours, so bring pillows, and prepare to relax and make friends.

Get back to me ASAP!!!

By teaching you how to use self-hypnosis, relaxation and positive affirmations, HypnoBirthing significantly reduces drug use, shortens average labour length and is acclaimed by midwives and doctors as a safe, effective approach to pregnancy, labour, birth and beyond. I also offer private at-home courses and introductory Skills for HypnoBirthing courses.

Sorry to brag but actually I would call myself a highly experienced HypnoBirthing practitioner and doula. Trained by natural birth guru Dr Michel Odent, the HypnoBirthing Institute, the National College of Hypno-Psychotherapy and hypnosis for childbirth expert Ursula James, I have had absolutely years of experience of supporting women in childbirth and labour.

Bagels and birth

According to a letter in today’s Times, bagels were given as gifts to women who had recently given birth, and to midwives, in the Jewish community of 17th century Crakow. The circular Shape was supposed to represent fertility/life etc.
Besides which, as we all know, many women newly delivered are prone to feel very hungry and a bag of bagels might just hit the spot. I have had clients sit up suddenly a few hours after childbirth and declare, “I could murder a steak pie”.

Home Birth: Truth and Propaganda

Standing alone among all the ignorant dross being spouted in our national press about caesareans and home birth lately was Lucy Cavendish’s smashing, well-informed, knowledgeable and humane article in the Independent. And a mum called Louise has sent me her lovely birth story to cheer me up.

What makes Lucy’s article stand out from the rest? Well, firstly, she has had a home birth. Secondly she has had a hospital birth so she is better placed than most to compare the two. Thirdly she has looked at the research carefully instead of reading the scare headlines about home birth being “risky”. And fourthly she keeps an open mind and does not seek to IMPOSE her way of birthing on others.

I feel most disappointed with The Times over this. My old employer has gone completely over to the dark side on birth, with  cheap scare headlines and shrill, ranting comment pieces. 14 years ago they published my account of Agatha’s birth – a happy home birth story. It seems to have disappeared in the mists of time, like so many digital articles do.

I also feel disappointed by the way supposedly intelligent women journalists have handled the issue of birth. As soon as childbirth appears in the news, these ladies seem to lose all common sense and revert to Glenda Slagg mode in seconds. From Lucy Mangan describing the NCT as a “lie factory” without anything to back up this outrageous claim to my dear friend the otherwise adorable and always brave Cristina Odone blogging about how much “better” a Caesarean is in the Telegraph. Even the Guardian joined the chorus. Yes! The Guardian! With a particularly ill-judged and half-baked article by Barbara Ellen. The first rule of writing about childbirth for women writers? “However I had MY baby was the ONLY CORRECT way of having a baby and ALL WOMEN SHOULD BE FORCED TO DO IT MY WAY! END OF!”

The Birthplace Study does not say that home birth is unsafe. It says quite the opposite. The headline which should have been used ought, surely, to have been the one which flew in the face of public assumptions – the proof that having a baby at home minimises complications and is as safe as hospital for most births. The study in fact says this:

Giving birth is generally very safe

For ‘low risk’ women the incidence of adverse perinatal outcomes (intrapartum stillbirth, early neonatal death, neonatal encephalopathy, meconium aspiration syndrome, and specified birth

related injuries including brachial plexus injury) was low (4.3 events per 1000 births).

Midwifery units appear to be safe for the baby and offer benefits for the mother

For planned births in freestanding midwifery units and alongside midwifery there were no significant differences in adverse perinatal outcomes compared with planned birth in an obstetric unit.

Women who planned birth in a midwifery unit (AMU or FMU) had significantly fewer interventions,

including substantially fewer intrapartum caesarean sections, and more ‘normal births’ than women

who planned birth in an obstetric unit.

For women having a second or subsequent baby, home births and midwifery unit births appear to be safe

For multiparous women, there were no significant differences in adverse perinatal outcomes

between planned home births or midwifery unit births and planned births in obstetric units.

For multiparous women, birth in a nonobstetric unit setting significantly and substantially reduced

the odds of having an intrapartum caesarean section, instrumental delivery or episiotomy.

For women having a first baby, a planned home birth increases the risk for the baby

For nulliparous women, there were 9.3 adverse perinatal outcome events per 1000 planned home

births compared with 5.3 per 1000 births for births planned in obstetric units, and this finding was

statistically significant.

For women having a first baby, there is a fairly high probability of transferring to an obstetric unit during

labour or immediately after the birth

For nulliparous women , the peripartum transfer rate was 45% for planned home births, 36% for

planned FMU births and 40% for planned AMU births

For women having a second or subsequent baby, the transfer rate is around 10%

For women having a second or subsequent baby, the proportion of women transferred to an

obstetric unit during labour or immediately after the birth was 12% for planned home births, 9% for

planned FMU births and 13% for planned AMU births.

So how “home births are risky” can be extracted from this is anyone’s guess. The question about childbirth which the highly paid women journalists should be asking this autumn is:

“If birth is so safe at home and in a MLU, then why are so many women still too scared to do it? Who is scaring them? Who is making them so frightened that they believe they are physically incapable of birthing their own children?”

Then perhaps a quick glance in the mirror would give them a hint of the right answer….

Website disaster

For reasons too boring to go into my website is having some problems. It is up and running now but might suddenly disappear temporarily. If that happens, you can still email me at to book courses, sessions and doula services.

Caesareans for all? Why?

Is the National Institute for Clinical Excellence being very naive about Caesarean birth?

According to reports today NICE believes that its new guidelines allowing women to have free C/S for no medical reason – on demand, if you like – will result in fewer caesareans.
What??? Which planet is NICE on?
It also puts the cost of a Caesarean as £800 more than a normal vaginal birth. I am not sure how this figure is arrived at but a quick headcount of the 12+ people present in an operating theatre compared with the 2 midwives and a dad normally supporting a vaginal birth makes me wonder. Previous estimates of the real cost to an NHS Trust of a C/S are nearer the £4,000 range and if you have one at a private London hospital you won’t get much change out of £10,000 – or so I’m told.
On the Today prog on Radio 4 I’ve just heard Cathy Warwick from the RCM, followed by Prof Wendy Savage, point out that a Caesarean is major abdominal surgery, and having one before looking after a newborn is like having such surgery – a hysterectomy for example – and going straight back to work the next day.
Warwick also stressed that as long as we give women the care they deserve” women don’t choose Caesareans. Well, that begs the question of how the NHS can provide that care when more and more of the budget is going to be swallowed up by major abdominal surgery.
I have a terrible sense of foreboding about these new guidelines. The way they have been reported gives the impression of a “cuts for all” culture yet NICE is “only” trying to bring their guidelines closer to what hospitals do – a dodgy way of doing things in any case. What women will “hear”, boosted by some ignorant reporting and even more ignorant commentating, is: “forget about all that horrid natural birth stuff and just have a nice tidy scheduled operation.” They will NOT hear – because it’s never reported – that the very same guidelines also say that home birth should be offered and available for ALL low risk mothers.

And what I never hear is anyone prepared to say “giving birth naturally is the most wonderful experience ever”. Which was how I felt each time I did it.

If Trusts were to invest in more midwives, promote one to one care and allow women to choose where to give birth once they are in labour, we might see more women having the kind of empowered, natural experience my clients instinctively long for. But they won’t be able to.

The guidelines also advise “counselling” for women who say they are afraid of labour: the best counselling they could have already exists: HypnoBirthing in particular tackles head-on the fear of childbirth. As a HypnoBirthing practitioner I devote a lot of time to unhooking the chain of myth and fear which leads straight to a bad birth experience.


I am very pleased to be able to offer a simple four hour course for couples which I call Skills for HypnoBirthing.


It is NOT the full Mongan HypnoBirthing course – that takes about ten hours to deliver to a couple in their own home and I still offer that wonderful course. But it is a great add-on course for any couples who:

– want to go a bit more deeply into the relaxation and self-hypnosis techniques they have heard about in another course – perhaps through their NCT antenatal course or prenatal yoga

– did HypnoBirthing for their first birth and want a refresher

– have done a HypnoBirthing course earlier in the pregnancy and feel a little uncertain about the techniques (this can happen if you are in a big class, or if you did a one-weekend intensive)


The course is composed of two two-hour sessions at the client’s home.

The aims of the course is to give a pregnant mum and her birth supporter practical skills for increasing her chances of a straightforward labour and birth and reducing her chances of needing pain relief drugs.

In the first session we review the rationale behind using relaxation, affirmations and self-hypnosis in childbirth; the relationship between the hormones of birth and the environment, breathing techniques, deepening, massage and visualisation and we learn techniques of progressive relaxation, breathing for labour, deepening and visualisation.

In the second session we PRACTICE the techniques, add on a range of great movement for labour and massage tips and review your personal set of strategies for labour. You also will learn a simple self-hypnosis technique that you can use for the rest of your life.

Both sessions include hypnotherapy.

A course booked during weekdays costs just £120. Weekends and evenings – £150.

This is a new format for me so all feedback from past clients who have taken the course is very gratefully accepted. If you have feedback or would like the course yourselves, please fill in this form.


Childbirth as horror: Ten Twilight-Related Facts About Childbirth

I doubt I will be seeing the final film in the “Twilight” trilogy unless by accident. I didn’t see the other two. The relative hotness of R-Patz and Taylor Lautner does not fire me (though as the mother of two pallid West London schoolboys I feel a slight patriotic pride to see girls swooning over a West London schoolboy even more pallid) and neither of my teenage daughters has ever shown any interest in the Stephanie Meyer industry.

So I am not a Twilight expert. But I can read a film review, and I get the impression that the heroine’s pregnancy has been made as horrific as possible ending in a “home Caesarean” (according to The Times).

Not exactly a hypnobirthing birth, then! More an exercise in making girls so scared of childbirth that they will do all it takes to avoid it.

A few years ago a sex ed video went viral which showed a girl dropping to the ground in the middle of a school playing field writhing in agony. She was supposed to be in labour. The video was blatantly devised to scare kids NOT from too-young sex but from pregnancy, and especially from the worst horror imaginable: letting the pregnancy continue to its inevitable, dreadful, horrific conclusion: childbirth.

The callousness of this attitude, reflected today in the horror-birth of “Twilight”, is immense. I can see critics lining up to equate Bella’s pregnancy with the sexual abstinence movement in the USA; but in fact the same scare tactics are used on our own British teens – not to dissuade them from having sex ( too complicated) or from getting pregnant (what’s done is done, right?) but to terrify them above all from letting the pregnancy continue.

A lot of people seem bent on creating a myth of hideous and dark danger around what should be the most empowered and love-filled moments of a woman’s life.

So to counter the onslaught of fear and gore a tiny bit, here are ten bits of very slightly “Twilight” related news, specially for young, and very young, women:

1. Whatever folk tell you, the fact is
you are pretty well set up for an easier birth than you ever will be. Young mums, if positively supported and well prepared to trust their bodies, on average birth more quickly and efficiently than 40-something first timers. (This is not a reason for having babies too early, mind)

2. However, you are very unlikely to give birth without warning on a football field. That is one reason why contractions are painful – they warn you that you need to get to a safe, comfy, familiar place to give birth.

3. Those contractions are a bit easier if you take up any leaning-forward position which doesn’t put pressure on your lower back. In other words the contractions are telling you to get into a position that makes the baby come down and out more easily. Clever, huh?

4. Your body is made to give birth to a human baby, not a vampire, and the process produces incredible hormones that not only make labour work, but also help you cope and give you a blissful “high” once your baby is born – nature’s way of helping you adjust to the biggest change ever – EVER- in your life.

5. Most of the births you see in movies are in hospitals and the woman is lying in a bed in a brightly lit room where people are shouting. A strange environment plus uncomfortable position plus an atmosphere of tension and fear. Next time you see a birth in a film, ask yourself: is all this really helping the woman cope with pain – or adding to it?

6. Next time you are having to undergo something a bit painful like an injection test the difference between tensing up and imagining the pain first; and relaxing and focusing on something else. Now think about how the media presents childbirth.

7. Caesarean section is a brilliant medical development – for women who cannot birth otherwise. It is major abdominal surgery cutting through several layers of tissue and muscle. If you had to take 24/7 care of someone else’s new baby, it probably would not be the ideal time to schedule major abdominal surgery, right?

8. Yes, women do die of childbirth in developing countries: mainly because of malnutrition and other risk factors. You, Miss Average Well-nourished British Young Woman, do not have such high risk factors.

9. If you don’t feel ready to have a baby yet, think about reducing the behaviour which leads to pregnancy. Cutting down on sexual activity with multiple partners will reduce your risk of cervical cancer (what poor Jade Goody died from) chlamydia (can lead to infertility, and yes you WILL mind about that one day) and other diseases; it also – nobody ever mentions this – might help reduce the risk of a broken heart, too.

10. One of my daughter’s friends went to school with Robert Pattinson and still has his phone number. Trouble is, I can’t remember which one… Check back here another time and I might have remembered.

Home births are down

How can we empower and educate YOUNG mums to recognise home birth as a reasonable choice?


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