What are the stages of labour?

The stages of labour 

Knowing exactly what your body goes through will help you to make informed decisions as well as preparing you for the birthing process.

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Photo by Arteida Mjeshri

 

The first stage 

The initial stage of labour is when your cervix gradually opens. It is divided into three different stages: early labour, active labour and the transitional stage. The first stage of labour can last 6-20 hours or 2-10 hours if it isn’t your first time giving birth.

In the first stage of labour your cervix will open until it is fully dilated (10cm in diameter). Your cervix starts off in a posterior position (pointing towards your back) during early labour it will move to an anterior position (facing forwards). It will also soften and shorten. It is common for these changes to start taking place late in your pregnancy. As your cervix softens and adjusts position you may feel a slight backache or mild abdominal aches, you may even have loose bowels. This stage is sometimes referred to as prelabour.

During pregnancy a mucus plug forms over the cervix to keep infection out. This is released prior to labour, it is a jelly like substance that may be a little blood stained. It is known as a show. For first labours the show usually signifies that labour is coming within hours or days. If you’ve given birth before then your show could be a sign that you are already in labour.

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Early labour 

This is the stage in which your cervix goes from being closed to 3-4cm dilated. Some women don’t realise it has started, though the intensity of contractions will increase. It often feels like a period pain, with mild cramps and/or a dull backache. At this stage it is worth timing your contractions. In early labour they are often more than five minutes apart and only last 30-40 seconds.

During this stage you should be able to talk and move around. You might want to phone parents or close friends and make any last minute arrangements, ensure other children are taken care of and gather your hospital bag together. If you are planning a hospital birth, it is advisable to stay at home during the early stages. Early labour can stop and start, going to hospital can actually delay the labour. You are better off staying at home and trying to keep relaxed. This is a good time to drink plenty of water and eat something. You may not feel like eating much, but your body will rely on the energy and you may not be able to eat for a while. Complex carbs, protein and minerals are all important. So even a slice or two or wholemeal toast, a glass of milk and some fruit would be helpful.

This is a great time to engage in something really relaxing, perhaps a warm bath or some meditation or mindfulness exercises. Some women find that staying upright helps with the discomfort, so you might like to keep walking.

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The active phase 

This is the phase when your cervix opens to 10cm. Your contractions will be stronger, longer and more frequent. It is likely that you won’t be able to talk through them. Instead, focus on your breathing. You may find some comfort in rocking gently on a birthing ball. This will not only ease the pain but can also help to keep the pelvis supple and open. It is likely that the contractions will come every three to four minutes and will last 60-90 seconds. This can seem quite intense for many women as there is little time to rest between them. Focus on the idea that each contraction is helping your baby out into this world. Use controlled breathing and keep your body as relaxed as possible.

During this stage you will want to go to hospital if that is where you are having your baby.

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The transitional phase 

This is the stage between your cervix becoming fully dilated and the urge to push. Contractions tend to be less frequent but last longer and may be more painful. Sometimes a contraction will start before the last one has fully faded. It is common for your waters to break during or before this phase. Some women find this phase to be very overwhelming, it is often the point when women feel that they can’t go on. It is really important to remind yourself that this phase signifies the end of the opening of the cervix. Often there is a break from contractions before the pushing stage. This stage is often the hardest stage of labour. Remind yourself why you are opting for a natural birth. Also, give yourself permission to use pain relief if you need it. Focus on the transience of this stage.

The second stage of labour 

This is the stage in which you will push your baby down the birth canal. Keeping your pelvis open is essential so avoid lying on your back. It is also important to stay upright and let gravity assist you. Squatting positions are really helpful, so is kneeling on all fours. Whichever position you are in, it is helpful to move around. Rotate your hips in a figure of 8 shape, sway and keep active. This will give your baby the space to find a suitable position.

If you do need to lie down (because you need to rest or have had an epidural) lie on one side and ask your birth partner to support your upper leg to relieve any pressure on the lower back.

The second stage of labour usually doesn’t last more than a couple of hours. Sometimes it takes minutes. Often with subsequent babies it is only 5-10 minutes.

When you feel the urge to push you can bear down, listen to your body and work with your contractions. In between contractions be sure to breathe deeply and slowly. It is common to make noise when you are pushing. Go with it. Follow your primal instincts. With each push your baby will slowly move a little bit further down your vagina.

Crowning is when your vagina stretches over the baby’s head. Your midwife will be looking out for this. You will feel a hot, stinging sensation. At this point you need to stop pushing and pant lightly. This will allow your baby to be born gently. Making it less traumatic for them, and less likely that you will tear. Sometimes the head is born in one contraction and the body in the other. Other times it is all done in one movement.

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Photo by Aditya Romansa

 

The third stage of labour 

This stage is when you deliver the placenta and membranes. Once the baby is born you may have a few moments rest before your body starts to contract again in order to expel the placenta and membranes. You can have an injection that will mean you don’t need to push, it will cause contractions for you. Some women opt for this as they believe that a drug-free birth has given their baby the best possible start and they simply want to get the third stage over with quickly, so they can bond with their baby. The injection can also mean less risk of post-natal anaemia and less bleeding as the placenta is delivered. However, it can also cause nausea, vomiting and heavier blood loss. Skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding can encourage the third stage. Usually an assisted third stage and a natural one last the same amount of time.

Ideally, if there have been no complications, you will keep the umbilical cord attached for a few minutes. This will keep the blood flowing to your baby for a few extra minutes after the birth.

I found giving birth to be the most exhilarating experience of my life. Tapping into my primal instincts meant I moved around a lot and used a lot of deep squats. My daughter was born when I was on all fours, rocking my pelvis meant she easily found the space to move through.

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Photo by Tim Bish

 

Taken from ‘The Natural Baby: A gentle guide to conception, pregnancy, birth & beyond’ by Holly Daffurn and Samantha Quinn.

Breathing in labour

Breathing

Breathing deeply is so important in labour. It will keep you calm and collected, able to listen to your instinct and speak your mind. It will give you a vital sense of control. It can aid in pain management. It gives you energy which is so important during childbirth. It also supplies your baby with plenty of essential oxygen, keeping them alert and healthy. Counting your breath can also help you to time contractions.

Pain makes us naturally tense up, our breathing becomes shallow and our muscles tighten. At the first sign of labour you need to consciously loosen your shoulders, keep your spine lengthened and raise the crown of your head to the sky. You may feel comfortable walking around, you may prefer to sit. However, you position yourself, establishing a deep breathing routine is essential. Exhale fully through your mouth, using a long controlled measured breath. Count the seconds it takes and then match them as you inhale, keep that rhythm going for the entire first stage. Every time you breathe out let your muscles soften and relax, this will help your cervix and vagina to stay soft and pliant too. Once you have established a firm counted breath you may like to add some words, especially if the pain is becoming more intense. It could be a short mantra such as “I can do this” or “This too shall pass” (using two words for the inhale and two for the exhale or you could use one word such as relax. Breathing in for ‘re’ and out for ‘lax’). If you like the sound of a mantra, then it might be worth finding one before you go into labour. Having these little devices to support you all ready and waiting can be really empowering.

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If you are finding that your breathing is becoming shallow again, focus on the out breath as the inhalation will follow naturally. It is worth going through some breathing techniques with your birth partner during the pregnancy. They can keep you on track. Being told what to do can take away the feeling of empowerment, so rather than telling you to breathe they could gently place their hands on your shoulders to relax them, look you in the eye and breath with you. Perhaps even saying the words or counting the breaths for you.

Sometimes using sound can be helpful too. Breathe in through your nose as fully as possible and breathe out through your mouth making a noise as you do so. It may be an ooohh sound or an aaahhh. Sometimes the use of sound can help us to release the pain and deal with it more effectively. This is a useful technique once labour has become established and is progressing well.

You may find that the breathing gives you a dry mouth so it is a good idea for your birth partner to offer you water regularly. Sometimes sipping water through a straw is helpful so be sure to pack some straws and plenty of bottles of water in your hospital bag. Again, you may not want to be asked if you would like some water every few minutes so it may be easier for them to simply offer it to you without words or have it on hand so you can point to it if you want it. Being well-hydrated will also help with breastfeeding, so try to drink as much water as possible during the labour.

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Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness can be incredibly powerful. Entering a state of mindfulness can give you the power you need to believe in yourself. If your contractions are intense and close together, you may find it difficult to settle into this place. You might prefer to use a pair of words that can keep you positive and focused. You could inhale strength and exhale fear or pain. Come up with your own couplet that feels empowering and relevant. 

Taken from ‘The Natural Baby: A gentle guide to conception, pregnancy, birth & beyond’ by Holly Daffurn and Samantha Quinn.

Problems feeding? Could your baby have tongue-tie?

Tongue-tie 

You may have heard of tongue-tie (ankyloglossia), but most of us know little about it unless it affects our child or someone we know. Tongue-tie is the name given to the birth defect in which a small tight piece of skin has formed between the floor of the mouth and the tongue.

Tongue-tie is most commonly picked up through problems with breast feeding. A baby with tongue-tie can struggle to latch on, the nipple when feeding, cause pain when feeding or slip off the nipple when trying to feed. This is because babies with tongue-tie are unable to open their mouths wide enough to latch on to both the nipple and the breast tissue. Successful breastfeeding also involves instinctively placing the tongue over the lower gums, without this mechanism the nipples are not protected from the gums and they can quickly become sore. A baby with tongue-tie is unable to cover their gums as their tongue cannot reach very far. If your nipples are sore and you have bleeding or ulcers, then it is worth investigating further to see if your little one may have tongue-tie.

Problems with breastfeeding not only mean that the mother suffers from painful nipples, but it can also mean that a baby does not gain weight quickly. It can also affect the bonding process between mother and child. If you suspect that your little one may have tongue-tie then it is important that you speak to your GP, health visitor or midwife immediately. A simple procedure can be carried out that will divide the tongue-tie and allow you to feed your baby.

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Even if you have a lot of experience with children, please do not assume that you will be able to detect a tongue-tie just by looking at the tongue. To the untrained eye, a tongue-tie is not always visible.

Bottle-fed babies with tongue-tie are often hard to spot, perhaps because a bottle teat does not feel pain and discomfort. However, restricted tongue movement may mean that your baby is unable to seal the teat properly and they may leak milk out of the corner of their mouth or take in a lot of air when they feed.

Tongue-tie that does not affect feeding is often not treated or may even go undetected. It is only when a child starts to speak that a speech therapist may pick up on the reason behind their difficulties. If tongue-tie is affecting a child’s speech then they will need to have treatment to resolve the issue.

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Tongue-tie is not always easy to diagnose. Even with feeding problems there could be another cause. For this reason it is important to see an oral specialist as soon as possible. If your child has any difficulty feeding then it is definitely worth investigating further. Feeding problems will not only affect their weight gain but will also have an impact on energy, sleep and development. It is much better to sort these things early on than to struggle on for some time. If you do suspect tongue-tie then discuss the possibility with your health visitor or doctor. If you have been breastfeeding, you may decide to express your milk instead and swap to bottle. Bottle fed babies with tongue-tie will still struggle to feed, take a long time feeding and may even fall asleep regularly at the bottle through exhaustion. They may also be colicky and suffer from trapped wind. At least your nipples will be spared though.

It is important to remember that tongue-tie is easy to treat and once it has been resolved will cause no long term problems or issues. If your child is struggling to feed, please don’t struggle on regardless. There may be an underlying issue. Seek help immediately.

This was taken from my book ‘The Natural Book: A gentle guide to conception, pregnancy, birth & beyond‘ which was co-authored by Samantha Quinn of Mumma Love Organics and was published by Green Books in February 2017. 

Why I’m a passionate parent & not a perfect one.

Many people hear the words holistic parenting and think of glowing, impossibly healthy families who are far stricter with their choices than they are with their kids. I want to challenge this perception. For me, holistic parenting is literally about raising your children with careful consideration to their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. It is also about making the best choices that you can possibly make without getting hung up on the things that you can’t manage. Don’t aim for perfection, I’ll tell you now that it doesn’t exist. Instead, aim to be the best that you can be.

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Nowadays with social media forming such an integral part of our culture, everyone seems intent on projecting their best side. Ultimately, many women are feeling overwhelmed with motherhood, simply because everyone else seems to be making it look so easy. Sam and I didn’t write The Natural Baby because we are perfect and flawless examples of motherhood, we wrote it because we are passionate about helping other mothers tackle the difficulties in an intuitive way. We found natural methods and complementary therapies to be hugely beneficial when raising our own children and coping with our pregnancies and wanted to share some of our little tips with others. We wanted to share stories, insight and experience and to cheer other parents on from the sidelines as they embark on one of the most exciting journeys possible. We are both so enthusiastic and passionate about natural birth, holistic parenting and complementary therapy that it has formed the basis of our professional lives as well as helping us through our own parenting journeys.

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So, before I go any further I’d like to let you in on a few home truths. I can humbly admit that I have contributed to the vast number of nappies in landfill. When my daughter, Jasmine, was born we couldn’t afford to buy reusable nappies and wraps and we were living in a very tiny flat with no means of drying them. It was a choice I made, something had to give. Although next time, I fully intend on using washable nappies. It’ll be much more manageable now that I’m living in a house with plenty of drying room (and a tumble dryer) and have more financial stability as well as a supportive husband to help out with the chores. Instead of washing nappies I spent my time breastfeeding, puréeing vegetables and interacting with my child. I don’t regret making that choice. I also stopped breastfeeding at four months when the mastitis made me seriously ill (I wish I had known Sam back then to help me out with some home remedies!). I took to breastfeeding without any help or support and enjoyed it immensely, I knew it was the best possible start for my daughter but I also knew when it was time to stop and knew not to beat myself up about not being able to continue. I also knew that I was fortunate to have those few months of being able to feed her myself, as many women are unable to feed their own babies.

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Now this may seem like a peculiar way to introduce myself as the author of a book on natural parenting, but it feels so important to me that I reassure and encourage you. You need to know right now that there is no perfect parent and that striving for false unreachable ideals will purely make you feel exhausted, inadequate and ultimately lousy as you admit defeat.

I’m not here to tell you what to do but more to guide, encourage and share with you the insight, knowledge and experience that I have picked up along the way.

As for my parenting journey and how I came to not only use the holistic approach through pregnancy and the baby years but also professionally. Here is my story:

When I was a child I was raised in a house where lavender oil was used to treat headaches, Arnica cream was used for burns and once in France when I had an ear infection so bad that it pushed me over the edge of delirium, my parents managed to find a homeopathic pharmacy and used Belladonna to treat it. Yes, my parents were products of the swinging sixties and remain proud hippies to this day.

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I picked up a few yoga poses and the basic concept of meditation on a yoga retreat at the age of nine where my Dad was performing as a musician. By the time I had reached high school my Mum’s yoga books had migrated to the well-stocked bookshelves in my room.

Aromatherapy got me through exam stress, Bach Flower Remedies were administered for my driving test and I was sent off to University with my very own bottle of that magical calming liquid. In fact, a glossy book with full colour pictures on Kundalini yoga was one of my very first purchases with my student loan and I’ll never forget the look on the University nurse’s face when I told her I didn’t drink, didn’t smoke and practised yoga for an hour a day. (Though I’m afraid that this saintly level of healthiness did eventually slip!)

When I became pregnant at 19, there was no question that I would do anything but what was best for my child. That meant leaving my University degree despite protests from my lecturers, it also meant moving 600 miles away so I could be back near my family again, as well as re-evaluating what I ate and considering that unborn child before everything else. Eating properly seemed logically simple, as did stopping caffeine and of course alcohol. I had been practising yoga before I got pregnant and was overjoyed to discover there was a local class for expectant mothers. I was looking for a way to keep my body supple and flexible through pregnancy and was hoping for some benefits for the birth too. I didn’t expect what actually happened. I met a group of remarkable women and their partners, one particular couple have become lifelong friends. I also met our inspirational teacher, Marilyn, who taught us all about natural birthing techniques. My labour was under six hours, I had no pain relief, not even gas and air and each moment was blissfully joyous. Jasmine was almost 8lbs 13 when she was born, so it wasn’t even as if she was a little one!

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I gave birth on my hands and knees and followed my instincts to guide me through the whole birthing process. My midwife was amazed and begged me to tell her what my secret was. She had never known such a speedy and uncomplicated first birth. I put it down to all the preparation and healthy choices I had made and educating myself in the ways of natural birthing and holistic pregnancy choices. I read, I listened, I absorbed everything and with professionals such as Marilyn to guide me, I was soon equipped with the right knowledge and insight to see me smoothly through an utterly exhilarating birthing experience.

I knew that I wanted to encourage and support other women in achieving the birth that they hoped for. I considered midwifery and becoming a doula, but realised that with my own daughter it would be hard to work such unpredictable hours. I became a single mother before my daughter was two.

When my daughter was old enough to attend nursery, I went back to college and studied a number of complementary therapies. Eventually, setting up my own massage therapy business and working with private clients as well as residents in old people’s homes and young people with learning difficulties. The work was incredibly rewarding. I have also practised massage therapy backstage at a few live rock concerts with some household names, which didn’t have the same level of job satisfaction somehow.

Eventually, I trained in pregnancy massage and went on to teach classes for pregnant women in children’s centres; my classes covered yoga, breathing exercises, relaxation and birthing techniques. It felt so right. Finally, I was able to pass on my knowledge and share my passion. Unfortunately, debilitating migraines meant that I couldn’t commit to the regular hours and had to give it up. While I was sorting my health out I wrote a few articles for magazines on natural pregnancy, parenting and health. Before I knew it I was writing for all sorts of publications and still enjoying the freedom of being around for my daughter. Writing has been the biggest part of who I am since I was very young, so carving a career from it was a dream come true. Although my profession shifted from being a complementary health practitioner to being a writer, my passion for massage, yoga, healthy eating and empowering women on their birthing journeys has never faltered.

When Sam approached me to help her write a book on holistic parenting I was overjoyed. I feel like I have such a lot to contribute. Like I said before, I’m by no means a perfect parent, but I am a passionate one and I really think that makes all the difference.

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This was taken from my book ‘The Natural Book: A gentle guide to conception, pregnancy, birth & beyond‘ which was co-authored by Samantha Quinn of Mumma Love Organics and was published by Green Books in February 2017. 

Harvesting knowledge: beautiful ways to teach our children through nature

Ever since I was a small child, I was aware of the profound healing power of nature. Our annual bluebell walks were a family tradition and the experience could only be described as spiritual. When I became a mother myself, I treasured the time I spent outside with my daughter; whether we were planting seeds, collecting leaves, chasing the wind or rolling down hills, we also seemed to learn a lot from these experiences. Not just about the natural world, but also about ourselves and the world we live in. Here are some of the key lessons that children can learn through nature:

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Learning respect for all living things

The natural world is the perfect place to learn respect for all living things. In a safe natural environment, children are free to explore but they also need to be aware of when to stay calm and quiet, so as not to upset animals. They start thinking about when to shut gates to keep animals safe, which plants can be eaten and which should be avoided. They learn to leave wildflowers for others to enjoy, despite the urge to pick each joyful bloom. This respect can translate beautifully to other areas of life.

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Learning to question

The great outdoors is the perfect place to build a sense of wonder and to indulge a child’s inquisitive nature. Which animals sleep standing up? Which tree will lose its leaves first in the autumn? Do chickens lay eggs standing up or sitting down? Encourage your children to ask questions. You won’t have all the answers, but you can find them together by exploring and investigating or through research.

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Learning to tap into your inner peace

When you immerse yourself in nature, it is hard not to feel an immense sense of serenity. The natural world is so peaceful and calm, whether you explore a beach or a forest; you can’t help but take some of that tranquillity on board. Getting plenty of time to be at one with nature is so important for children, as we are all part of nature and a sense of connectedness and oneness is vital for growth. Nowadays, life is becoming more and more stressful for children with a faster pace of life and exam stress starting even younger. By guiding our children to find instinctive ways to access their inner reserves of calmness, we can help them to stay mentally healthy for the rest of their lives.

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Learning to value your own uniqueness

The wonder of nature comes from the diversity and the infinite variety of species. Nature is the perfect place to teach children that a woodland wouldn’t be quite as enticing if all the trees were identical, a field of wildflowers would lose some beauty if all the flowers were the same species and an ocean of fish is made all the more magical because of the variety of life that exists in the murky depths. Celebrating our individuality is a wonderful thing to do, and the natural world is the perfect example of the beauty of diversity.

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Learning patience

We are all victims of a fast-paced disposable society. It’s not always easy to stop, slow down and appreciate that most of the best things in life take patience to achieve. Many children are in too much of a rush to grow up. An appreciation for how nature cannot be rushed, how seedlings start off fragile and tiny, how the winter months show little signs of growth or colour but lay the groundwork for the most colourful time of the year. All of these sides of nature help us to develop a sense of patience and learn to value the important of taking our time.

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Top tips for learning in nature:

  1. Leave your phone at home

We are all so used to being plugged in all the time, that it can feel quite liberating to leave your devices at home. To really immerse yourself in nature you need to limit other distractions. Take a camera to record magical discoveries, but make sure you are otherwise unreachable. (Of course, it is wise to tell people where you are if you decide to venture too far off the beaten track).

  1. Be prepared

Take water, high energy snacks (such as dried fruits and nuts) and waterproofs. Ensure that everyone has sturdy footwear and thick socks too. You might also like to take a bag or box to store any interesting finds, a notebook and pencils and a small reference book on wildflowers or trees.

  1. Keep an open mind

Enjoy the experience! Although it can be helpful to plan a route in advance, don’t feel like you have to structure the session. The learning should feel spontaneous, and child-led. Be guided by what fascinates your little ones and let them lead the adventure.

  1. Use the time to learn about each other as well as the world around you

Slow, ambling walks are the perfect time to chat about things. Your everyday life can feel far away when you are surrounded by nature. Take the time to tell stories, sing songs and chat about precious memories. Leave any talk of homework, chores, worries or commitments at home.

  1. Keep the adventure growing even after you leave

The experience can still be valuable, long after you have returned home. You might like to collect a pile of leaves from your adventure, then spend the afternoon painting them or fashioning them into a wreath. You might like to dedicate a corner of the house to celebrating the season; displaying bulbs, leaves, paintings and poems that remind you of the natural world. You may use your natural visit to inspire that night’s bedtime story, by spinning a tale of an animal who may have lived there or even retelling the story of the day.

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The majority of children are more in touch with the natural world than us adults. For them, it feels instinctive and right to explore the natural world, and they find wonder in things that many adults take for granted. You may find that your children teach you more about the world around us than you teach them purely because they are better at living in the moment. Encouraging children to celebrate nature and relish its calmness and serenity will mean that they are able to rely on the healing power of nature throughout their lives and hopefully will go on to teach their own children through nature too.

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Aromatherapy for childbirth and induction

Aromatherapy is a wonderful way to ease labour pains and help you feel empowered and strong. Many women use essential oils to support them during natural birth. 

Keep any aromatherapy in the bath or in an oil burner, so it can be removed if you need it to be (some women find that scents they usually adore are unbearable during childbirth). Your birthing pool should also be free from aromatherapy oils as some are unsuitable for babies. 

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Natural Mumma’s empowering birth blend

Jasmine essential oil – Jasmine oil is uplifting, wonderful at relieving pain and encourages stronger contractions. It also helps lactation, which is ideal for those who hope to breastfeed.

Rose essential oil – Rose is beautifully soothing and reassuring. It instils confidence and helps you to stay relaxed and focused. It also helps maintain regular contractions and softens ligaments ready for the birth.

Neroli essential oil – Neroli helps relieve any feelings of fear or anxiety. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Add two drops of each to a tablespoon of milk (dairy, soya or nut) and swirl around in your bath water. This can be used as soon as labour starts to help strengthen contractions, provide pain relief and soothe your nerves. Jasmine essential oil should not be used prior to 37 weeks as it can promote labour. As your skin will absorb the oils, the benefits should last you through the labour. You may also like to blend 2 drops of each in an oil blender alongside a tablespoon of carrier oil.

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Aromatherapy for induction

If you have past your due date and baby is still showing no sign of emerging, then you might like to try some gentle methods for easing things along. Firstly, trust that your baby will come along when they are ready but if you are feeling uncomfortable then a little gentle coaxing may help things along their way.

Add 4 drops of clary sage essential oil to 2 tablespoons of carrier oil and ask a friend to rub this mixture into the soles of your feet. This would be a lovely job for your birth partner to do, as it will help you to stay connected. During the foot massage, sit back and breathe deeply. Take the time to visualise your beautiful baby. Imagine that your cervix is softening and opening and think about your baby emerging into the world.

Clary sage should only be used after 37 weeks, as it can promote labour. Please also take care after oil has been applied to your feet as it could cause you to slip. After the treatment, put your feet up and allow the oil to sink in for as long as possible. When you are ready to stand up and move about, be sure to dab any excess oil away first using a soft towel.

This same blend can be used if your labour is progressing slowly to encourage stronger, more regular contractions.

Labour bag essentials (for a natural birth)

Whether you are planning on a home birth or a hospital birth, being prepared can give you great peace of mind in the weeks leading up to labour. With a little forethought and preparation you can feel empowered and in control throughout your birthing experience. Here are a few items that it is worth packing in preparation for the birth:

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  • Your birthplan and notes

  • A lightweight dressing gown

  • An oversized Tshirt or nightshirt

  • Warm socks (ideally with gripped soles)

  • Drinks and snacks — for yourself and your birth partner (Water, fruit juice, dried fruit, nuts and seeds are ideal)

  • Massage oil

  • Essential oils (used in massage and inhalations as an effective form of pain relief)

  • Lipbalm (many women complain of dry lips in hospital)

  • A pot of organic virgin coconut oil (this can be used for massage, to moisturise dry lips and even as a natural nipple balm)

  • Water mist (a light facial mist can be very refreshing and cooling)

  • Hair bands and grips (to keep your hair away from your face)

  • A birthing ball and pump (it is easier for your birthing partner to inflate it in the hospital than make a second trip back to the car or try to negotiate helping you and a fully inflated birthing ball into the hospital, especially if you need a wheelchair)

  • Things to do (if the labour is slow to progress then you might want to have a book to read or something to keep you occupied)

  • A TENS machine

  • Music (making a birthing playlist is a great thing to do during the third trimester)

  • A stress toy (something to squeeze to save your birth partner’s hand!)

Remember that this is just a suggested list and you may have other things that you would like to include. A TENS machine can restrict movement but may be useful in the early stages of labour. Music can create a fantastic atmosphere, though some women find that they can’t cope with music or even conversation during labour. It is worth having as many options as possible available, as you won’t know just how you feel until the time comes.

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Postpartum hospital bag

  • Snacks and drinks (again keep it nutritious and healthy, with maybe a little chocolate as a treat)

  • A couple of clean nightdresses

  • Maternity pads (there are some wonderful cloth versions about)

  • Toiletries

  • A going home outfit (remember that your womb will still be swollen so opt for something roomy and comfy)

  • Nursing bras

  • Big knickers

  • Lavender essential oil (great for promoting sleep and for healing)

For baby

  • Sleepsuits and vests (Be sure to pack plenty)

  • Nappies (bear in mind that a newborn can get through 12 a day)

  • A blanket (for leaving hospital and for photos)

  • Muslin squares

  • Hats, socks and booties

You will also need a car seat for getting home — it might be worth leaving it in the car ready and waiting for the big day.

You may also want certain things that make you feel comforted and secure to hand. This could be photos of the family, a drawing from an older child, a treasured item from a grandparent or even a favourite scent.