Thursday, 17 July 2014

A mums review of the "The Effective Birth Preparation" by Maggie Howell.

Thank you Kate for your honest and candid review of the book

"Before the Birth
This was the most useful tool in the preparation for the birth that I came across and reading it prior to doing any Yoga or NCT classes was really beneficial. In a very practical (and never patronising) way it describes what will physically happen to your body and this. Along with the practical exercises, and by understanding the process I was able to logically address my fears.  From my personal experience I am most afraid of placental abruption - so I have been able to eliminate this by understanding it as much as I can and opting for the injection to artificially deliver the placenta post birth to reduce the risk.

Real life experiences

 I was already a convert of this type of therapy as I used a similar system to give up smoking many years ago so I already have the confidence that what Margaret talks about will work but in addition I particularly like the real life stories and as my NCT friends are gradually giving birth its interesting that those who are the most prepared and calm are having the easiest experiences.
 Advice for birthing partners
 I think this is probably the most important part of the book. The bit about asking is mine or the babies life in any danger and then taking the time to consider I think will be one of the most powerful tools on our side once in the hospital environment.  Having already done a short stay at the hospital where I am having the baby I know that they are very process and procedure driven which may or may not be right for me. (Note I am a high risk pregnancy so hospital only option)

 Things that could be added

I thought this book was excellent as a whole but if Margaret had any plans to expand it - it would be really interesting to know any projects or case studies she has done in hospitals that have utilised this process and hear from the point of view of the hospitals, consultants and GPs (not the midwives). I have come across numerous midwives and birthing centres that strongly support this approach from friends, to birthing centres that run hypno birthing courses and a student midwife at my yoga class keen to learn more.... but the GPs and Consultants I have come across told me (and I quote) 'birthing plans are a waste of time I don’t understand why anyone would opt for anything than an epidural!' This is the reality of the medical system that operates and it’s the consultants and GPs (not the midwives) that make the decisions about your care all the way through the antenatal process especially if you are a high risk pregnancy- and they are supposed to be the experts so its a brave person that challenges their thinking. This is probably a bit much to put on Margaret's shoulders but it would only take a few GPs to support this system and the ball would be rolling.

After the Birth

So did it work… yes!
 Although I didn’t think so at the time! My labour story is by no means the horror story that many of my poor NCT friends seemed to have suffered. There were a couple of things that swung in my favour that really helped.
 Positive events that I believe were linked to the hypno – therapy and the effective birth prep book: 
  • I remained in a zone for every contraction. The 321 relax technique and turning down the dial on the pain really helped. Interestingly they helped not just with the contractions but also for the internal examinations. 

  • I ended up having to get my husband to tell the hospital that I was coming in as they thought I sounded too calm on the phone. When I got there I was 5cm dilated.

  • Unfortunately, when I entered the self-doubt phase I was asking for an epidural. My cervix got stuck at 9cm dilated. I had a hugely supportive midwife who had read and understood my birth plan. Between her and my husband they persuaded me to go back into my ‘zone’ I did this as some of the words from the tape came to me from nowhere. Every contraction takes you one step closer to meeting your baby’
The midwife said my labour was really inspirational.  I had a chuckle at this because it was way more painful than I had expected and calm/ inspirational would be last word I would use to describe what was going on in my head! But all in it was a positive experience. My husband said that although I had felt I was out of control compared to the other wailing women in the delivery unit I was incredibly calm! I didn’t even give a second thought to the issues with my placenta and Maia got two 9s and a 10 on her APGAR tests straight after birth and I couldn’t ask for more than that.

I would definitely recommend this book but I think it needs to be read in conjunction with other activities such as the NCT classes and the yoga classes (It does say this in the book).

Things that didn’t work for me – I went so far into my own zone that I didn’t want anyone near me! Including my husband. It wasn’t the candles and massage oil Zen like experience I had imagined but it got me through and a healthy baby."

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

'I'm a new mum and I had a really bad birth experience which I haven't quite got over yet- is this normal?'

I was asked this question for a mother and baby magazine:

Yes it is completely normal.  Having a traumatic experience is not something that you can just forget or sweep under the carpet – no matter how many times people tell you that you should be grateful or happy that you have a healthy baby! No one can go back and change the events of your birth, however with time, gentle support and guidance you can change how you feel about the birth, and begin to look to a time in the future when you will no longer feel this way.

Do not feel that you have to hurry to get over it or to move on. Take your time to come to terms with the fact that your experience was not as you had hoped and that you have strong emotions that need time to heal.

Steps to help yourself.
1.      Talk about your experience with someone you trust. Find someone who will simply listen and not try to give you advice or to judge your view of what happened. 

2.      Ask your maternity unit for a full debrief of your birth experience. This will help you have a better understanding of what happened and to put things in context. Some hospitals now have post birth support groups so you can talk about what happened in a safe, supportive setting. They will also have details of counsellors for you to talk to.

3.      There are several charities and support groups such as the Birth Trauma Association which have local support groups as well as a supportive closed facebook group.

4.      Write down your birth experience as you remember it now in as much detail as you can. Then put it in a sealed envelope and post it to a made up address.  Then write down 5 - 10 good things that you remember about the birth – no matter how small for example the sun was shining, the midwife had a nice smile, and put it somewhere safe to look at when you are feeling a bit down.

5.      Seek out self help books and stories on line.  It can be comforting to read about other people’s experiences and how they got through the difficult times.

6.      Use a self hypnosis CD such as “Overcome Birth Trauma” ( which offers you a calm, gentle voice to help you cope better, especially during difficult times. It will help you take time out to relax and allows you to gently reflect on and begin to let go of the negative feelings associated with your experience. It helps build your confidence, feelings of control and acceptance of what happened, so are able to move forward with a sense of hope that you will not always feel the way you do right now. (The CD does not require to you to relive the experience at all).

By using self-help techniques, coupled with the support of sympathetic friends and family, it is completely possible to come to terms with the difficult birth you experienced, accept the feelings associated with it and rediscover your emotional balance and wellbeing.