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I am a huge advocate of home birth and think it is fantastic. Both of my children were planned home births (neither were actually born at home though – that’s a whole other blog post!), but the more I work in the birth field, the more I am becoming convinced that it is not the actual place of birth that matters. It’s what and who is in your birthing space that has the strongest influence. Birthing in a hospital does pose some challenges to achieving a natural birth (if desired), but contrary to popular belief, it IS possible to have a good, enjoyable, and drug-free birth in a hospital setting.

 The Birthing Space

In my opinion, the absolute most important thing to consider is your birthing space. Feeling safe and comfortable plays such an important role in your body’s reaction to labor, and your environment has a lot to do with how you feel. So take the time to plan how you want to personalize your birthing room at the hospital. Always remember that you can control most environments and make them as birth friendly as possible. Whatever and wherever your original plan, it is always possible to retain some control over your birth environment. Lighting is key! Hardly any hospital rooms have birthing friendly lighting. Bright lights are a huge inhibitor of labor progress, which is why most women prefer a dimly lit environment to birth in.  In hospital rooms you are unable to light candles (compressed gas!) and so I love using of battery operated candles. So shut the blinds, dim the lights, and scattered some battery operated candles around the room to get that oxytocin flowing!
Play some tunes – My husband’s main job during labor was to be my DJ! I found music so relaxing. It helped me tune out all of the hospital hustle and bustle around me.  Some mamas-to-be make a ‘labour playlist’ containing their favourite songs. They don’t all have to be relaxing, either. Play whatever music will help you feel comfortable. I have even had some doula clients who preferred to play sounds, such as rainfall or crickets.
Get rid of that ‘hospital smell’ – Our sense of smell is closely related to our memory. This can work either for or against us. The smell of medical equipment, antiseptic and latex gloves can bring up unpleasant feelings for some us, which in turn can slow labor and increase pain levels. Whereas the smell of plants, flowers, the ocean and the smell of our home can all encourage us to relax and feel good. So, consider bringing some aromatherapy with you (but first make sure that you are not birthing in a ‘scent-free’ hospital). Ask for the staff to respect your privacy – The feeling of safety and privacy is so important when you are in the birthing process. Consider asking for the staff to enter the room as minimally as possible, and to limit vaginal checks. I’m sure you can imagine that an unfamiliar doctor entering the room, turning on the lights, and sticking his/her hand up into your cervix is not particularly beneficial to the birth process!

Stay Mobile

Don’t confine yourself to the hospital bed. If you require an IV, or need to be monitored continuously, there are lots of positions that you can try! I have been to many births where the nurse tries to convince the laboring mom that she MUST stay in bed because of the monitors. This is simply not true. Sitting on a birth ball and leaning on bed, hands and knees on bed, or standing up and leaning on bed are all positions you can try while trying to stay close to the bed/monitor. Being in the hospital also doesn’t mean you need to birth on your back. Speak to your caregiver in advance about other positions that they may be comfortable with, including hands and knees on the bed and squatting using squat bar.

Don’t Arrive at the Hospital Too Early

Early labor often moves slowly, and also starts and stops. Being at the hospital before active labor is established might make it more likely that your labor is augmented. Induction agents are so commonly used today, even for women already in labor.  If you want to avoid them, then you may want to get some of your dilation out of the way at home, where you can move freely and are not on the hospital's schedule. 

Be an Informed Birth Consumer

Though it may not often seem so, birth is a consumer issue. When speaking about their experiences with labor and birth, it is very common to hear women say, “they won’t *let* me do that”. Some women seem to have forgotten that they are customers receiving a service, hiring a service provider, not a boss. YOU are the expert on your body, your labor, your birth, and your baby. The rest are paid consultants, not experts whose opinions, ideas, and preferences override your own. You might frequently feel comfortable with your doctor’s recommendation, but if you don’t, remember your right to informed CHOICE.

Tackle Perceptions, Concerns & Fears

You may have fears about going to the hospital and the routines that may come with that birth location. You may feel as though these are the very things that may get in the way of you having an enjoyable experience. I can empathize with that worry (as I was once in your shoes) but want to encourage you by saying that when you are well prepared and educated, you will be able to negotiate, avoid or adjust to many of these procedures. It is important that you talk through your concerns with your partner, doula and care provider before your birth.

Be Supported

Whether you are at home or in the hospital, being surrounded by those that allow you to feel comfortable and uninhibited during labor is key. Consider hiring a doula! Doulas are not for everybody, but they can really help both mom and dad have a better hospital birth. Even when you have prepared for birth with a birth class, a doula can help you remember what you have learned. If you want your partner to be your main source of comfort, you can always talk to the doula about helping him, help you.  Labor can be long, and an extra pair of hands can be really helpful. If you don’t want a doula for one reason or another, consider asking your mom, sister or friend to be that extra support.

Published in Birthing Places

There is a global c-section epidemic. Both mothers and babies are suffering trauma and health risks. New research is emerging indicating that the health of society at large is being compromised as a result.

While the reasons for the epidemic are varied and complex, awareness is growing (thanks in large part to mothers, birth workers, and advocates using social media). Earlier this year, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, jointly-issued the Obstetric Care Consensus, stating that allowing most women with low-risk pregnancies to spend more time in the first stage of labor may avoid unnecessary cesareans [1] (long understood in the world of midwifery). 

Despite the growing awareness, US C-section rates (approximately 1/3 of all births) remain far in excess of the WHO standard: “The estimated proportion of births by caesarean in the population is not less than 5% or more than 15%.”[2]  (Note that 15% is not the rate it “should be,” but the very high end of what could be expected.) 

Of course there are some hospitals and OBs with decreasing C-section rates, but the fact remains that, based on the WHO guideline, 55-85% of the C-sections performed in the US are in excess of what should be required.

Alarmingly, maternal mortality rate is higher in the US than in China[3] despite the fact that China has a dramatically higher C-section rate (47%).[4]  Worse, Abigail Higgins reports: “Eugene Declercq, of Boston University's School of Public Health, produced a short film named Birth by the Numbers discussing maternal mortality in the US. In a 2013 follow-up report, he noted that mortality rates in other industrialized nations had declined - while in the US, it increased by 30 percent in the first decade of the new millennium,”[5] partially due to C-sections. [6]

Not only are c-section rates climbing, but surgery is being forced on women against their will.  In April this year, a woman was “kidnapped” from her home by authorities in Brazil to make her comply with her doctor’s demand that she have a c-section.[7]

And just last week in what the Inquisitor said could be termed a violation of the most basic of feminine, or even human, rights, a woman in Staten Island was forced, against her will, to undergo a cesarean section.[8]

Are We Culpable in the C-Section Epidemic?

As the friends, family, and caretakers of the victims of C-section abuse, we are unwitting accomplices to the tolerance and acceptance as “normal” of C-section rates of 33% (US hospitals), and even of 90% (private hospital rates in Brazil) when, by contrast, the rate at The Farm from 1970-2000 was 1.4%[9] (lower than would be expected in any medical facility, but the statistic and their work ( merit consideration. See footnotes*)

 With one sentence—“At least you had a healthy baby”—we unconsciously endorse the system that has created the phenomenon of the “emergency birth,” and the perception that birth is dangerous enough to frequently require surgical intervention to “save” mom and/or baby.

There are dozens of reasons never to utter those words to a new mother after her C-section (all actually nuances of the single problem that it makes us accomplices). Here are the top seven. 

1.    No mother wants “the least” for herself or her newborn.

Though it may be defined differently by each of us, we all want something wonderful—the best possible.  It is never comforting to hear we got “the least.” 

2.    It implies that the baby is healthy because the mother underwent surgery.

There is tremendous and mounting evidence that the opposite is true.  Bypassing the natural birth process (in anything other than a truly life-threatening situation) compromises the mother and baby’s health in numerous known ways (emotionally and physically). Overtime we will undoubtedly discover many more ways in which the compromise to our mind/body compromises society as a whole.  

A new film called Microbirth produced by One World Birth and scheduled for release September 2014 will address this subject with grave and fascinating new evidence.

I contacted Toni Harman, Director and Producer of Microbirth, to ask about her film and the discoveries they’ve made in their research.  This is what she had to share:

     "Microbirth is a feature-length documentary that looks at how the way babies are born could have consequences for long-term health. Over the past eighteen months, we’ve been filming scientists working across many different fields who are starting to link C-section with increased risk of children developing certain chronic diseases later in life. These diseases include asthma, allergies, obesity, diabetes, auto-immune conditions, cardiovascular diseases, mental disorders and even some cancers.

The scientists are hypothesizing that this could be connected to the baby’s microbiome (its bacterial ecosystem) not being seeded properly with the mother’s own   bacteria at birth. With vaginal birth, the mother’s bacteria transfers to the baby inside the birth canal, then more is transferred via immediate skin-to-skin with the mother and breastfeeding. This bacteria innoculates the baby and helps train the baby’s immune system, helping it distinguish what is “friend” and what is “foe”.  This helps protect a baby from developing one of more chronic diseases later in life."[10]

She added that a baby’s microbiome is still seeded during c-Section, unfortunately by the operating theatre. 

3.    It assumes that something was “wrong” with mom and baby in the first place.  

We know statistically that, when we allow birth to happen at its natural pace in a peaceful, uninterrupted, supported environment, the vast majority of mothers without pre-existing conditions can successfully birth their babies without medical intervention. We also know without question that—far too often— the procedures in the hospital are actually creating the “emergency” situations that lead to C-sections. In an article called “The Cascade of Interventions,” Theresa** puts it this way:

     “We are lucky to live in the time of modern medicine, however medical interventions such as labour induction, pain relief, and cesareans—measures that have saved many lives—have been overused. In a hospital setting where your care providers are actively managing your labour, once you have one intervention it makes more interventions more likely to be needed in order to remedy the effects of the previous ones.”[11]

What was “wrong” with mom and baby is that they weren’t given the circumstances in which birth has a decent chance of occurring without surgery. 

4.    It minimizes what the mother lost in the experience.

Even when baby is healthier or saved by a C-section (again, in a small percentage of cases this is accurate), “at least you had a healthy baby” disregards the emotional and physical loss and trauma the mother experienced.  She had a dream for her birth . . .and that dream was taken away (excluding cases of elective surgery). She is experiencing loss, and is in recovery. She has the right to mourn and work through her valid emotions without having them discounted or ignored.

I contacted Lindsay Lipton Gerszt, a documentary filmmaker whose latest work is a film on postpartum depression called When the Bough Breaks, to discuss this aspect of the issue.  She said:

     “According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the C-section rate has climbed more than 50% since 1996.  Whether the C-section was medically necessary or a personal choice, many women who have had it experience postpartum depression. Although the reasons may be many and varied, one reason why women feel depressed after having a C-section may be due to the stigma surrounding it. Many are made to feel guilty for not giving birth naturally.”[12]

In a Catch-22 scenario, by not wanting to contribute to the pain these mothers are experiencing, we try to minimize it with the infamous line, “At least you had a healthy baby.”  I conducted an informal poll online with mothers of C-section, asking how they felt when hearing that statement.  One woman’s response clearly shows the complexity of the emotions mothers of C-section experience:

     "There was such a flurry of emotion. I felt angry because I knew I would have had a healthy baby without the section. I felt guilty because I knew many women who pray for the opportunity to simply have a baby . . .any way. I felt like a failure for not doing a better job of standing up for my rights and my baby's. I felt hurt from the insensitivity of that statement."

Indeed, women of C-section are not to be made to feel as if they failed or guilty for having had a C-section. Either it was truly medically indicated or they’re victims. In either instance, the mother should be supported. There is a better way to support them than pretending (in the cases where it could have been avoided) that their child was “healthier” or “saved” by the surgery. 

I believe we unwittingly perpetuate the problem and dishonor mothers and babies when we try to gloss over the serious risk and pain they endured with what we believe is the kind thing to say, but is—in fact—a benevolent, yet pernicious untruth.

I asked Theresa Morris, PhD, author of Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic, for her thoughts. She said,

     “Normative structures of mothering are strong, and when a woman gives birth to a healthy baby by C-section, it becomes difficult for her to question whether the C-section was necessary. Yet, we should always ask, “Would the baby and the mom have been just as healthy (or healthier) if the baby had been born vaginally?” The answer to this question, according to the World Health Organization, is yes for all but about 15 percent of women who give birth in any country in a given year.”[13]

5.    It minimizes what the baby lost in the experience.

The baby. The co-birther. This aware participant who is too often treated—at best—as an incapable, unaware “patient,” and at worst as “an object to be removed.”

Ask any birth worker who has witnessed hundreds of births, natural and surgical, “What are babies like after each kind of birth? How does their behavior differ after the different types of birth?” They will tell you that babies born naturally are generally calm and alert, while babies born of surgery—because they are drugged and shocked—are often disoriented and even difficult to rouse.

We must not allow ourselves to skirt the subject of how babies are traumatized by surgical birth in the name of protecting the feelings of new-mothers-of-c-section. It is for them and because of their experience that we must speak about this subject honestly, and protect other mothers and babies from c-section abuse.

Babies of surgical birth are traumatized. All they are programmed by nature to expect, to be ready for and capable of, is voided in birth by c-section. 

6.    It implies that the doctor has done something that was necessary—was a “savior.”  

There is enormous research indicating that a great percentage of mothers who birthed by C-section felt “pressured” to do so because they were “failing to progress” (meaning in many cases, just “taking too long” for hospital efficiency standards) and would not have chosen surgery otherwise.

In instances of multiple births and breech, many OBs simply won’t consider varying factors, “forcing” the mother to accept C-section as her only option. One mother said:

     "I was cornered into an unneeded and unwanted C-section because the obstetrician that I had didn't have the experience to catch her."[14]

7.    It encourages other mothers (and society at large) to believe that surgery is safe and often necessary to save their baby, when for the majority it’s a dangerous option involving more risk and suffering. 

     "There's the idea out there in the public sometimes that having a C-section today with modern anesthesia and modern hospitals is as safe as having a normal childbirth, but we don't think so," said Dr. Lalonde.[15]

Then What Can We Do and What Can We Say? 

What can we do about this C-section epidemic?  In an article published in The Atlantic titled “Once a C-Section, Always a C-Section?,” Whitney Pinger, Director of Midwifery Services at George Washington University, said of the situation:

     "You can’t pin it on one thing. There’s no one thing to blame, there’s no one person to blame . . .we’re all in this together; we got ourselves into it as a society."[16]

Yep, we did. And it’s high time to get ourselves out of it.  Starting with the very simple first step of never saying, “At least you had a healthy baby.”

What then do we say to mothers recovering from c-section?

We want to support all mothers after birth—and mothers who experienced any kind of trauma need particular care emotionally and physically. Again I went to a group of thousands of mothers online and asked them what they wanted to hear.  Kayla Dar, founder of Baby’s Breastie and mother of four, provided what is the simplest yet likely the perfect response: 

     "After listening to what she has to say about her birth, ask the mother:  

     How are you? How can I help?"



Note about C-section statistics quoted in this article and in general: In my research I found varying numbers for C-section rates by State (in the US) and by country. For example, rates in Brazil in general appear between 40-50% while there are statistics indicating that 90% of births in Brazil private hospitals are by C-section.  Further, even WHO documents and reports explain their range (generally quoted of 5-15%) differently. In one report, a nuance of the minimum range was explained this way:

“The recommended minimum necessary c-section rate at population level to avoid death and severe morbidity in the mother lies between 1-5%[17]

To further complicate matters for those wanting precise numbers, consider this nuance explained by Right Diagnosis:

“The word 'prevalence' of Caesarian Section usually means the estimated population of people who are managing Caesarian Section at any given time (i.e. people with Caesarian Section). The term 'incidence' of Caesarian Section means the annual diagnosis rate, or the number of new cases of Caesarian Section diagnosed each year (i.e. getting Caesarian Section). Hence, these two statistics types can differ.”[18] 

For purposes of this article, I’d like to suggest that the precise numbers, whether 31% or 33% or 35% for the US for example, is not of primary importance. The fact that we know close approximations—that are far too high—is the point.

[1] February 19, 2014

[2] Oct 30, 2009

[3]  May 5, 2014 

[4] Sept 4, 2013


[6] Ibid.

[7]  April 17, 2014



*The Farm does not serve women with preexisting conditions that make them high risk and has had varying policies over the decades about working with women with breech presentation and other situations or variations of normal.  However, the enormous difference in their statistics compared to the national average—especially given the duration of the performance—demands the comparison.

[10] Email exchange with Toni Harman, April 30 and May 14, 2014

[11] Feb 9, 2013

[12] Email exchange with Lindsay Lipton Gerszt  April 21 and April 25, 2014.

[13] Email exchange with Theresa Morris, April 15 and April 21, 2014

[14]  IL

[15]  IL

[16] May 20, 2014


[18]  April 18, 2014

**author’s full name as posted in the article




I had been having Braxton-hick for weeks. I never had them with my first so this was a whole new experience for me. I could feel her powerful kicks, and I knew she was strong. I talked to her often, telling her how excited I was for her to join our family. I started eating dates every day, and drinking Third-Trimester Tea. I was anxious about having yet another hospital birth, and even debated a last minute “unplanned” unassisted. But after much prayer, conversation, and thought, I decided it would be best for us to go ahead and go to the hospital. Michael promised me with the next baby, he would do everything in his power to make a homebirth happen. I knew I had to trust God to be my protector in the labor room, to be my Great Physician and Shepherd who would help, guide and protect me through the birthing process.

Friday morning, just over a week before her guess-date, I woke up around 3 am with fairly consistent contractions. I waited until Michael got up for work at 6 to tell him. He went on to work, and I made some tea and started getting things ready. I called my neighbor and friend who would be watching John, my oldest. After a while, the contractions tapered off. Disappointed, I walked the mile into town, hoping to kick-start labor again. While at my favorite thrift store, I ran into an acquaintance who’s wife was also pregnant. He shared with me that their baby girl had been born a few days earlier, in a beautiful unplanned unassisted birth. I was so encouraged and inspired by his story I almost didn’t mind that my labor seemed to have stopped.

 The contractions didn’t pick up that day, or the next. I tried not to be too disappointed and to make sure I really did have everything together and ready to go. I had been checking my cervix through my third trimester, and I was dilated to maybe a three and losing lots of clear mucous. I continued snacking on dates and red raspberry leaf tea. I knew it would soon.

Sunday morning around 1am I woke up to contractions about 7 min apart. I had to get on my knees in bed and quietly moan through them. I woke up Michael to let him know. We started to get everything together. I texted my doula and let her know what was happening. Around 5am the three of us decided it was time to make the drive. The contractions were about 5 minutes apart, and the hospital was a good hour and twenty minutes away, so we didn’t want to wait till the last minute. We woke up our neighbors and dropped off John. I was excited, but anxious as well.

Once in the car, the contractions stopped. I would have the odd one here or there, but nothing consistent like before. We stopped at a coffee shop so I could have some breakfast before we got the hospital, knowing we’d have to fight ridiculous “no solid food” rules once we got there. I had a couple strong rushes while we were there, but once again they stalled in the car. When we finally got to the hospital, we decided not to go into the labor ward right away. Instead, we walked the hospital grounds in the early morning light. We hung out in the hospital lobby. My doula had decided to wait before meeting us at the hospital, in case the contractions didn’t pick up again.

Finally I told Michael we should leave. Maybe I was just anxious about being at the hospital, and thought leaving would help. We went to a drugstore for some eye drops, a restaurant for some more food, and then tried to get a hotel room. Since it was still so early in the morning, they wanted to charge us for two nights. We decided against it. It was now about 7am and I had been awake for 6 hours with almost no sleep before that. We pulled into a park so I could lie in the back of the car and rest. After about ten minutes I decided this was stupid, labor had obviously stalled, and we just needed to go home. As we headed back up the hill, my contractions started again. I laughed at the irony. This baby just wanted to be born at home!

I picked up John from my friend’s house and walked home. Michael went to work to finish up a few things. I felt silly and stupid for having a “false alarm” like that. As John had been awake since we dropped him off that morning, we both laid down for a nap. I had a few more contractions but nothing I couldn’t sleep through.

Then around 11am they started to pick up again. I was annoyed. Couldn’t my body just make up its mind?! The contractions were very inconsistent. After consulting with my doula friends online, I decided not to encourage labor at this point. I took a warm shower and just tried to relax. No pressure points, no walking, just lots of water and rest, a Tylenol and a hot shower. The contractions remained consistently inconsistent. 12 minutes apart. 7 minutes apart. 10 minutes apart. 5 minutes apart. Michael came home, and he sat on the couch while I knelt over the birthing ball, just trying to relax. He would rub my back during contractions, and encourage John to help him.

Around 3pm I decided to go lay down again. I had to moan through contractions, and they were almost unbearable without Michael rubbing my lower back. But they were still so inconsistent. They definitely weren’t following a pattern of getting stronger and closer together. I had my parents on standby, as they had a six-hour drive ahead of them, I doubted they would make it in time for the birth. Then, at one point, I looked up to see John throwing up all over the floor. What?! He suddenly had diarrhea too! I called my mom and asked if they could come down. It could still be a few days before the baby came, but I didn’t want to have to send a sick kid to the neighbor’s house! Nor take care of one by myself in prodromal labor. So they packed up and started the journey down, not a moment too soon.

I texted my doula and asked her to come over so she could work on my back and give Michael a break. I decided to take another shower in the mean time to calm the contractions. I checked my cervix again, and it was still very high. So high I couldn’t tell how far dilated I was. But, I could touch her head! I had been having bloody show all day, so I knew my plug was gone, but thankfully my water was still intact. As I undressed in the bathroom, I happened to glance in the mirror and see a purple line on my lower back. “No way!” I thought. A purple line running up the butt crack is a sign of dilation. Once the line reaches the top of the butt, it signals that the cervix is at 10 cm. But I couldn’t be at 10cm already, could I? The contractions had been so inconsistent, and I didn’t feel like I was in transition, mentally or physically.

I stepped in the shower and tried to just relax. As another wave came over me, I heard myself pray, “Oh God, please let Michael forgive me for what I’m about to do!” That made me pause. What was I about to do? Suddenly I realized, “I’m going to have this baby right now!” I could feel her moving lower and lower into my pelvis. I stayed in the shower till all the hot water ran out, filled with doubt about going to the hospital still, half hoping that she would suddenly come and I would get my accidental freebirth.

I got out of the shower, and realized I couldn’t stand by myself during contractions. I had to lean on Michael and sway. My knees gave out with each surge, and they left me feeling weak and nauseous. They had all of a sudden jumped to three minutes apart, consistently. Michael asked if I wanted to go back to the hospital again. I was scared. I didn’t want another false alarm. It was such a waste of gas and everybody’s time! After Michael reassured me it was ok, we would make the drive 20 times if we had to, I agreed to go.

Getting in the car was the last thing I wanted to do at this point, and I was genuinely concerned we might have a roadside baby. But we called our neighbor to come get John again, and texted our doula and my parents to let them know what was going on. I found out later our doula was almost to our house, so she just turned around and followed us down. Thankfully the contractions slowed down in the car again, but stayed regular. I felt like there was a baseball between my legs the whole time. And of course, we hit every red light along the way.

At one point, as I felt another surge building, I said out loud “I don’t want to do another one!” Michael rubbed my hand, which helped distract from the sensations in my belly. But that contraction was definitely harder. I knew I had to keep a positive attitude. “Just one more,” I kept thinking. “I can do anything for 1 minute.”

We finally arrived at the hospital. Since it was after 6pm we had to go in through the ER. I had to fill out some forms, even though I was preregistered. They called for a wheelchair. I explained I didn’t need one, I didn’t want to sit down anyways, but the aide insisted she would get in trouble if she didn’t bring me up with a wheelchair. I told her she was welcome to bring the wheelchair with us, but I was not sitting down. We used it to bring up the luggage.

Once in triage, I changed into the hospital gown. I was too tired to protest or care at that point. I sighed and resigned myself to lie down on the monitors. It was awful lying down like that. When the nurse left, I turned to Michael and whimpered, “I hate this. I wouldn’t have to do this if we were at home.” He had already promised me our next baby would be a home birth, but that didn’t make this hospital birth any easier.

The on-call midwife finally came in to check me. I was only 6cm. I was so disappointed. I realize now that I had likely closed up from being in the car and at the hospital, and I probably was 10cm at home. But at the time I was only 6cm, and felt so discouraged. I didn’t even have an idea of how much longer we’d be there before she was born. The midwife informed me of my GBS positive status, which I knew about already, and mention the routine antibiotics. I told her I was familiar with the risks and had decided to forgo treatment. After a brief lecture, I was finally shown to a labor/birth room.

Once we were alone in the room, Michael asked me if I would reconsider the antibiotics. He had known my plans before hand, but hearing the midwife’s lecture had made him nervous. I agreed to go ahead and get treatment. I had been on the fence about denying the antibiotics anyways, so his request was all I needed to hear. We told my nurse we had changed our minds, and she went to tell the midwife, and also let my doula in. My doula instantly set up shop, setting up a diffuser with lavender essential oil and getting out her labor balls to massage my back. She also had some peppermint essential oil on a cotton ball, which really helped with the nausea I was feeling after each surge.

The nurse had asked me to lie back down on the monitors for a few minutes. I asked if we could wait till after the next contractions. She agreed and went about her business, setting up equipment and preparing the IV. Since she was so busy, I decided to stay standing up until she asked me to lie down again. She put the IV in my hand while I was leaning against Michael and my doula was rubbing my back. I stayed like that for a while, with Michael and my doula taking turns rubbing my back and being my support. As it turned out, I never did end up going back on the monitors.

Finally my mom showed up. My dad had dropped her off and gone on up to our house to pick up John. It was very special for me to have my mom there. She had offered to be there when John was born, but since I was laboring all night I felt bad and told her to go home. Now I realized how much it meant to both of us to have her there. My mom has always been a huge advocate of natural childbirth, having herself used the Bradley method. I have learned so much from her about birth while growing up. I loved having her by my side for this experience.

After a while I felt my legs getting tired. When my doula mentioned getting on the bed, I quickly agreed. I climbed up and knelt on the bed, leaning against the raised headboard. It felt so good to be able to relax my whole body against the sheets. I munched on ice, spoon-fed to me between surges, and I also asked to hold the cotton ball of peppermint oil myself, so I didn’t have to ask for it every time. I still had no idea how much longer things would be. I only knew I could do one more.

Suddenly I felt her head low in the birth canal, and I HAD to push. “UUUGGHH I’m pushing!” I moaned loudly. The nurse calmly asked me to roll over so she could check me. “Um, no!” I thought. When she asked again, my doula leaned down and repeated the question to me. I shook my head violently. No freaking way could I move right then. One contraction rolled into another as I groaned and pushed. I felt the nurse’s hand (I don’t know why she couldn’t have just checked me like that to begin with), reach in and touch the baby’s head. Obviously my back was turned so I didn’t see what happened next, but I was told later that the nurse turned and ran out of the room, ripping her gloves off and yelling for the midwife as soon as she hit the hallway. My mom turned to my doula and did a fist pump. The baby was coming!

With my first, I had a pushing urge, but it definitely wasn’t quite so intense. This time, it was like taking a giant poop. She HAD to come out NOW! “I want her out of me!” I yelled. I let out a growl/scream and pushed as hard as I could. I knew I was probably going to tear; I didn’t even care, I just wanted her out! I tried to breathe her down, to pace myself, but the urge to push was overwhelming. I don’t even remember a ring of fire, just an intense urge to get her out.

The midwife came in, and when she saw how I was positioned over the bed exclaimed, “Well, that’s one way to do it!” She asked if I wanted to deliver in that position. I nodded. Even if I wanted something else, no way could I move. I found out later she had never helped deliver a baby in that position before. I felt proud to have given her that experience.

When the baby started to crown, in my mind I could see her dark head of hair coming out. I wanted to ask what color her hair was. My son was blonde with blue eyes, but all pregnancy I had been dreaming of my brown haired, brown eyed baby girl. I just couldn’t get the words out. I was screaming as I pushed, gasping in air loudly. Any thought of keeping my voice deep and low was gone from my mind. Finally, I felt her slip out of me.

I instantly sat upright and ripped open the snaps of the hospital gown so it fell off of me, ready to reach down and grab my baby girl. “Don’t sit on her!” everyone said. “How silly,” I thought. I wasn’t going to sit on the baby I had just pushed out! I was much too aware of her for that! “Give her to me!” I kept saying over and over. But they didn’t give her to me, they were too busy suctioning and drying her off. Finally the midwife asked, “So, how do you want to do this?” “Just, pass her between my legs!” I said, while thinking “duh!” And finally they handed my sweet little girl to me. She had brown hair! I held her tightly and they helped me turn over and lay down. Baby Joelle had arrived at 10:05 pm, barely two hours after we arrived at the hospital.

We delayed cord clamping for a while, but the midwife was concerned about the amount of blood. She asked if I wanted a shot of Pitocin, which I declined, and then told me she needed to cut the cord and get the placenta out. I asked what the concern was, why the rush? She simply said she needed to make sure I wasn’t bleeding behind my placenta. (What? Whatever, I had just had a baby, I didn’t care). She put traction on the cord and pushed HARD on my stomach till the placenta gave way. I tried putting baby on my breast to help, but she wasn’t quite interested yet.

After the placenta was born, she assessed me for tears and informed me I would need one stitch for a minor tear. I asked her if it could be skipped. She left it alone for a while to see if it would stop bleeding, but after a few minutes told me that it had started bleeding again when she opened it back up (um, no duh! If you open up a cut again it’s going to bleed!). I begged her to not give me any stitches, that I would just keep my legs together. But she didn’t think much of that idea. I finally caved. She did one stitch, and then said I needed another. The second one hurt so bad. I could feel every tug and pull of the needle. “This is exactly why I didn’t want stitches!” I thought.

The stitches were the only real problem I had with my hospital birth; that, and the fact that my baby wasn’t passed to me right away. But overall, it was about as good of an experience as you can get in a hospital setting. It certainly wasn’t the home birth I had wanted, but it was still a wonderful, empowering experience. Even though the midwife hadn’t even had time to read my birth plan, she still respected me enough to ask for informed consent and respect my wishes. I really appreciated that. Thanks to her, my wonderful husband, my doula, and my mom, our family had grown to four with little drama. And for that, I praise God.

Joelle Akiko

March 30, 2014, 10:05 pm

5lbs, 15.7 oz, 17 in.   

Published in Birthing Stories
Friday, 10 January 2014 01:22

The Hormonal Birth Symphony

During its evolution, the female body developed to give birth—naturally. Our bodies have been equipped with the strongest and the most stretchable organs, the uterus with which we carry the baby and the breasts that produce food for them. Pregnancy is the time to connect with our body and with all the tools that it provides us.

Did you know that our body produces a natural analgesic? And that the baby gives a signal when (s)he is ready to be born? What about why the eyes of a newborn are wide open? Blame it all on the hormones!

Hormones regulate our bodies every day. During pregnancy and childbirth however, they work almost like the conductors wand. They enable our bodies to transform during pregnancy and assist the developing baby. During childbirth, both baby and mother’s hormones work together in harmony, just as the many instruments within a symphony orchestra do under the watchful eye of the conductor. They manage the increase in intensity of contractions throughout labor (the first stage of labor), escalating and culminating in the birth of the child (the second stage of labour), followed by the birth of the placenta (the third stage of labor). After birth, they encourage bonding and enable the mother to produce food for her newborn.

Oxytocin - the Hormone of Love and Bonding

The best-known instrument in the birth hormonal orchestra is Oxytocin. Oxytocin is involved from the very beginning. It is the hormone of love; it is released during hugging, kissing, sexual activity and orgasm. It is actively involved during fertilization as it stimulates the contraction of the male and female ducts, thus helping the semen to find its way to the egg.

It is also actively involved during birth. Due to its ability to reduce stress and increase trust and boding, it is the most important birth hormone as it helps in the reduction of fear and stress within mother and baby during the labor process. It also rhythmically contracts the uterus, thus helping baby and the placenta to be born.

Furthermore, Oxytocin helps the mother and baby to relax and bond after birth. It is highly important in establishing breastfeeding as it enables mother’s milk to “let-down.” It is also responsible for helping the uterus to contract after birth, thus preventing post-natal hemorrhages.


Melatonin is responsible for regulating the body's wake/sleep cycles. Darkness produces more melatonin which helps relax the body and prepare for sleep. Melatonin works with Oxytocin to make contrations for effective.


Another member of the Hormonal Birth Symphony orchestra is Relaxin. This hormone softens the ligaments and muscles in the pelvis and allows them to stretch and adapt to the baby. Moreover, it is also released within the baby, where it enables the tissues to relax, thus making it easier for baby to adapt to the birth canal.

Catecholamines: Adrenaline & Noradrenaline – Fight or Flight Hormones

These hormones inhibit the secretion of Oxytocin and can thus slow down, stop or even reverse the progress of labor. Normally, they are present in very low quantities at the beginning of the labor. However, their secretion significantly increases in the case of fear and discomfort. High levels of these hormones thus prolong labor. This is why a laboring woman should never be disturbed!

In the second stage of labor, just before birth, there is a sudden increase of these hormones. The mother feels a sudden rush of energy, the need to grasp onto something and to push. The “Catecholamine rush” stimulates several strong contractions that enable the baby to be born.

Large amounts of catecholamines are also released in the baby, protecting her/him from a lack of oxygen, as well as from stress during birth. It is because of catecholamines that newborns have their eyes wide open and are very attentive right after the birth, which allows them to bond with their mothers.

Beta-Endorphin - a Natural Painkiller

Beta-Endorphin, a natural opiate, is released after prolonged physical stress. Thus making it another important instrument within the Hormonal Birth Symphony. It reduces the sensation of pain and promotes the feelings of satisfaction, euphoria, and addiction (thus promoting a mutual dependence between the mother and baby). High levels of this hormone enable women to reach a different state of consciousness, a trans-like state that is characteristic of, and essential for a smooth delivery. The same hormone is also released within baby; it helps to relieve stress and pain while passing through the birth canal.

Beta-Endorphin is further excreted in the mother’s milk, thus encouraging the interdependence of the mother and baby and their mutual satisfaction.

Prolactin – “The Parent’s Hormone”

Beta-Endorphin triggers the release of the last player within the hormonal orchestra—Prolactin. This facilitates lactation and prepares the baby’s lungs and heart for the life outside the womb.

Prolactin is also known as “the mother’s hormone” or the hormone of submission and surrender, as it stimulates mothers to care for their newborn’s needs. Recent studies have also shown that the newborn’s crying induces the production of Prolactin within the father, who then acts on his need to protect and provide for the family, which is why it is known also as ”the father’s hormone.”

Do Not Disturb the Orchestra!

If the mother allows the Hormonal Birth Symphony to occur in a harmonious fashion, has the appropriate support (e.g. her partner, friend, midwife, doula, etc.) is able to surrender to the birth experience, to listen to her body, and is free to move around, then some women do not describe their feelings – although intense – as painful. Some even describe birth as orgasmic (cf. the movie: Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret by Debra Pascali - Bonaro). It is this type of birth experience that empowers women.

On the other hand, fear, discomfort and various medical interventions disrupt the hormonal balance. Such feelings increase the secretion of Catecholamines and decrease the secretion of the Oxytocin and Beta-Endorphin. The birth thus slows down, the mother becomes frightened, her muscles get tense, her pain threshold lowers – and the whole experience becomes painful.

Cope With Your Fears and Surrender!

It is therefore extremely important to face your fears and leave them behind prior to childbirth. With a few simple techniques you can learn to re-direct your attention and accept birth as a new and intense experience, one in which you can enjoy. You can hire a doula to address all your fears and teach you these techniques. A doula can also accompany you through this experience. Only in a supportive and trusting environment will you be able to truly relax and surrender to the magic of the birthing experience.

Childbirth is a unique and sacred event in the life of the family, as birth is not only that of the newborn, but of a mother, a father and the family. Birth is a rite of passage assisted by the hormonal orchestra that prepares these individuals to bond and build the foundation for their family. This is yet another reason why we have to give birth the appropriate appreciation and respect it deserves. Without disturbing it, we allow the natural hormonal symphony to lead the process. This gives the new family the freedom not only to enjoy the rite of passage that is birth, but also to become empowered through the process. 

Published in Birthing Facts
Monday, 11 November 2013 05:30

Natural Pain Relief – A guide to choices

There are many benefits to choosing natural pain relief during labor and birth, benefits for you and the baby. Labor can be shorter (compared to that of an epidural labor for example) and the recovery time can be smoother. Neither you nor baby will be left with the effects of some medical drugs that may leave you both sleepy and ‘spaced out’. Using natural pain relief can also help you to feel more in control during labor and fill you with empowerment which can help emotionally during labour as well as after the birth when reliving the experience. 

Aromatherapy – Smell is a powerful sense! It can remind us of childhood, a favourite day or moment in our past. It can make you feel safe and secure, relaxed or wide awake and refreshed. During labor and birth try using essential oils in an oil burner or on a tissue. Ylang Ylang, Lavender, Frankincense, Neroli and Chamomile are just a few that can help by reducing fear, relaxing body and mind and even promoting a happy attitude; they relieve depression and anxiety. Many can be used during pregnancy too to aid different ailments but do research this before hand and seek advice where appropriate from an aromatherapist; some oils cannot be used during pregnancy. It is also important to buy quality grade oils to get the best effects. There is some great information here about essential oils.

Breathing – Effective controlled breathing is very important during labor. Breathe long and slow through the pain, always being mindful of your breathing to keep in a relaxed state and to also avoid feeling sick and dizzy. 

Meditation – This really takes breathing to the next level and encourages an almost trance-like state where you go beyond the pain using visualisation methods. This can be harder to achieve than many other methods mentioned here but can greatly reduce pain if accomplished. Meditation is another branch of ‘hypnotherapy’ and ‘hypnobirthing’ mentioned below. A great way to stay focused is to repeat affirmations and connect with your baby.

Hypnotherapy – This is a form of self-hypnosis using visualisation and deep relaxation to conquer specific fears and concerns regarding labor and birth. This can be especially useful for those attempting breech and vaginal birth after caesarean section (VBAC).

 Hypnobirthing – This is a technique incorporating breathing and visualisation practices to have a more positive birth experience. This is a book and CD offering a fantastic hypnobirthing package.

Water – Just like a warm bath can ease menstrual cramps, being immersed in warm water can help ease labor pains while also relaxing the mother. You can choose to hire or buy a birthing pool (or a big paddling pool) to labor and give birth in. Baths are generally too small for the actual birth but can be used for much of labor if you prefer. Even a shower can be used as some find the warm water pulsating on the back or stomach during contractions helpful.

Keep moving and birthing positions – Anything goes here! Squatting is a useful position, especially during the final stage of labor as it opens up the pelvis to allow baby more room, this will also help mum to feel more comfortable. Also walking through contractions, being on hands and knees and even hanging from a strong bar, door frame etc. can all help one to handle the birthing pain!

Massage – Either to alleviate pain or even just to help mum relax. During posterior labor, a birth partner massaging the laboring woman’s lower back very hard during a contraction, helps combat some of the sharp pain.

Acupressure – This links quite nicely with massage. You can do this yourself but having a pair of extra hands will enable you to feel the benefits while having contractions. Points of the body are pressed during contractions and labour to help ease pain. Try to locate these specific points during pregnancy as a guide for labor; they should not be pressed hard during this time, as they can affect pregnancy and even bring along an early labor. Read more about it here. 

Heat – Using warm water, a hot compress (a cloth soaked in hot water and rung out for example) or a heated wheat bag placed either on the lower back or the stomach can really help ease discomfort.

Be vocal! – Women all labor differently and while some are quiet laborers many are not. It really does depend on the mum-to-be but being noisy can help them to get baby out! Low belly growls and hums can be particularly effective during a contraction. Or even try singing!

Healthy Pregnancy – This won’t come as a shock to you, labor is HARD work! The affect it has on our body is akin to that of running a marathon. With this in mind you must ‘train’ yourself to run that marathon of birth! Eat well (eat for energy not for weight loss), exercise daily but gently (yoga and walking are highly recommended) and try to keep a positive attitude throughout. Use those months of pregnancy to prepare for birth. The pain may still be there but your tolerance and endurance will be increased. Here are 10 tips to a healthy pregnancy

Reduce fear – During labor our clever bodies produce endorphins to help us deal with the pain. Fear makes your body produce adrenaline which counteracts the effects of the endorphins; fear makes muscles contract and pain stronger.  Reduce labor fear as much as possible during pregnancy and then try to relax (as much as is humanly possible) during labor. Of course that is easier said than done but making strong decisions during pregnancy about the birth will help you feel empowered, in turn this may help you control the fear. Here is an interesting read written by a midwife about fear during the birthing process.

Keep your goal in mind – You chose to use natural pain relief for a reason, keep that in mind when things get tough. It is very helpful to have a birthing partner (whether your midwife, husband/partner, doula etc.) who understands your choices and will help encourage you, especially during the later stages of labor when tiredness may become a factor.

Remember that the pain you feel is a positive pain (I wouldn't recommend saying that to a laboring woman, I will not be held accountable for her actions!); it is a means labor is coming to an end. It is the natural and intense waves that are helping your body push that little life out. As you ride the pain think about how your uterus is working together with your baby, in harmony, so that he can join you.

Monday, 04 November 2013 10:09

My Home Birth after 3 C-Sections



WARNING!!! – Not for the faint of heart! 


Two weeks before my due date I was getting strong practice contractions (Braxton Hicks) on and off throughout the day and night. Although it was my 4th pregnancy, I had never experienced labour before, not one contraction so there were many times where I thought ‘is this the real thing??’

During the evening and night of Sunday 26th June I was having Braxton Hicks contractions every 5-10 minutes that kept me awake but I felt sure that they were just practice and by morning they were still around but only every 30 minutes or so.

I carried on as normal as they didn’t seem to be ‘real’ contractions. It was a heat wave and I was so uncomfortable! I did the school run as usual and at lunch time my husband, Joe, decided to come home and take the afternoon off work. We now believe he had a feeling he should be here with me and we were right all along. In the late afternoon the pains continued and by evening I had to really concentrate through them and could find no relief no matter what position I got into.

At around 10pm I got into bed and tried to sleep but the rushes kept coming. I left Joe to rest and went to have a bath, sure that the warm water would ease the pain, but I was very wrong!

I had a contraction in the bath that was much worse than the ones before. I practically jumped out of the bath and wobbled downstairs to wake my husband. I felt we really needed to call a midwife as I was having very strong contractions.

I called ‘Medicom’ (a bit like a midwifery switchboard) at 11:30pm and was told the midwives would be here in 2 hours as they were at another birth. That seemed like forever to me and I felt things were getting out of control. I was very tired and wasn’t sure if I was even in labour. I had a ‘show’ and was bleeding quite a bit on and off.

I spent a lot of this waiting time leaning over the sofa breathing through the pain with Joe massaging my lower back hard every time I had a contraction.

The midwives turned up and I immediately asked for gas and air! I was not a happy bunny when I was told that I couldn’t have any as they didn’t have much and didn’t want to use it all at this early stage.

The midwives got me to lie down while they felt my tummy to see where baby was positioned. This hurt a lot and I jumped up and rolled over with another contraction. I was told that the baby was posterior (baby’s back facing my back). This really upset me because the baby had been anterior (baby’s back facing my front, often called the optimal position) all the way through the pregnancy, mostly on the right but pivoted towards the left in the last few weeks. Now I was worried how everything would progress now that baby’s position had changed.

I carried on contracting while everyone chatted around me, really not knowing what was going on. I was then told I was not in established labour and this could take a while. I have to admit that this crushed me. I was in a lot of pain, very tired and nobody could do anything to help me. I was advised to have a bath, relax, and try to get some sleep. I didn’t see how this would be possible as I was having painful waves every 5-8 minutes. I did have a bath, however, and although I hated being in the water due to not being able to move around fully, I did feel a bit calmer afterwards and managed to rest in bed between contractions.

The next day (Tuesday, day before my due date) was my husband’s birthday. I contracted quietly while he opened his presents and then he got the children ready for school while I moved into my ‘nest’ which was our boys' bedroom (the biggest and most comfortable room). We had planned to celebrate his birthday and I even made a cake the day before that never got iced!

By this time, I had been getting a lot of pain around my lower back and these strong pushing urges in my bottom that were impossible to control. I had never read anything about this before so I wasn’t sure if it was ‘normal’ or not but it was not nice! I now know it was the baby’s head pushing down and part of the posterior labour I was having. The contractions were still 5 minutes apart and occasionally closer and I wasn’t sure if I was any nearer to giving birth. In fact, through the whole labour right up until she was born, I still thought I had days left!

I spent a lot of this time on all fours. My whole plan had been to stay active and walk the contractions out. Although a couple of times I did walk fiercely and stamp with a contraction, mostly I just couldn’t cope with the pain of being upright. Joe encouraged me to walk so gravity could do its job but it felt like I was being torn in half every time I contracted standing up! When I wasn’t on all fours I was on the toilet with the strongest pushing urges in my bottom that made my uterus and lower back convulse. That scared me.

While having contractions I breathed in Ylang Ylang essential oil on a tissue which was very soothing. It had an almost trance-like quality to it, which was comforting during this time.

At about 12:30pm I was on the toilet with another strong contraction that made me push in my cervix and my bottom and I felt something come out of me like a plastic bag. That was my bag of waters!

The next contraction propelled me off the toilet with such force that it landed me on the floor. I had a tremendous involuntary push and screamed as my cervix burned. I shouted for Joe, this really scared me. I thought the baby was coming right away and my husband knew it was time to call the midwives again.

During the pregnancy I didn’t know how I would feel about having midwives in the room with me and I worried it would slow things down. But when actually in labour I was SO grateful when they turned up at 2:30pm. They quickly felt baby and listened to heartbeat and said baby is now anterior which was such a relief.

I was really starting to lose it at this point. I remember saying I want to go to hospital and just have a c-section. The pain was more than I could bear and I hadn’t slept in a long time. I was so tired I just wanted it over with at that point. I am so grateful to my husband for keeping me strong. He reminded me how long I had wanted this birth at home and that we were close to our dream.

I still thought I could be here for days and I said as much! The midwives thought it wouldn’t be too much longer though. I was still on all fours and sometimes on my side to rest. Joe massaged my lower back hard during each contraction. I was not a quiet labourer, I have to say! I was becoming very scared and out of control too which was a feeling I did not like.

I was told later that I had a small round bulge at the base of my spine where the baby’s head was pushing down. No wonder I was so uncomfortable (to put it mildly)!

I asked for gas and air and the midwives started to set it up but I couldn’t get it working! Joe tried to show me how but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take long enough breaths to get anything out so gave up on the only pain relief I could have.

I started having more stinging pushing urges and was asked to be examined. I initially said no but I really believed I had a long time left and the midwife wanted to reassure me that we were close. I had to get on my back for this due to needing to be ‘looked at’ rather than felt (as we didn’t know where the placenta was the midwife didn’t want to feel blindly). It took a while, and many contractions, for me to be able to get into a good position.

I didn’t actually get to be examined though. As soon as I was on my back a mammoth contraction took over and the baby’s head started to crown. This, for me, was the most painful and I did scream a fair bit I must admit. I put my hand down and felt the baby’s head. Everything was surreal at this point. In just three more pushes she was born at 5:34pm on her daddy’s birthday, just 3 hours after the midwives turned up. She weighed 7lb 12oz and was perfect!

It was during a lovely storm and I laboured through thunder and lightning which now seems very fitting.

She was put straight on my chest and I was left to find out that we had a baby girl. That definitely balances out the hormones with the three boys and one girl we already had!

The cord was left alone until it stopped pulsing while our daughter gently nuzzled at my breast. Within just a few minutes the midwife could tell my placenta had come away from the womb and I was helped to stand to dispel it. It slipped out easily without me really needing to push.

I had 2 vaginal tears and lost a bit of blood but all in all everything went smoothly and was a ‘textbook’ birth. The old c-section scars are always the focus when VBAC is mentioned but I’m pleased to say I felt no pain at all around my scar and the thought of rupture never entered my head during my labour.

I have to say I was worried about having NHS care while striving for my HBA3C but my Community midwives were fabulous! Every one i met read my birth plan and I had no pressure from them.

I also want to praise my wonderful husband. He was the perfect birth partner. He kept me strong, and supported me and stayed with me through it all while also doing school runs and making sure our other four children were happy! He was my rock and I will always remember that. He is my hero.

My thoughts on my HBA3C? It was hard and it was painful. I won't pretend it was 'orgasmic' or anything like the ideal 'Ina May Gaskin' birth I had in mind. But it was what it was and that was real and natural and exactly how it was meant to be.

Published in Birthing Stories
Saturday, 02 November 2013 10:14

Birth Made Easy Book Review

BIRTH MADE EASY is a complete hypnobirthing package as it comes with a hypnobirthing CD.  There are no classes to attend. The book is easy to follow and simply written.

This book is for the mum-to-be and for her partner. This book focuses on how you can take control of your mind and body so that birth becomes the straightforward process it is meant to be. You will learn to trust in the biology of your body – which is designed to give birth – and in the inner power of the unconscious mind to create healing, so your baby’s birth can become the truly magical experience it should be.

The techniques described in the book – self hypnosis, visualisation, different breathing methods, and the use of colours for healing and relaxation – have had proven results, empowering mothers-to-be to enjoy their pregnancy, have a wonderful birth experience, be relaxed and in control, promote their own rapid healing and recovery, bond easily with their baby, and get back to pre-pregnancy weight, shape and dimensions very soon after birth.


Praise for 'Birth Made Easy'


“As a GP with an interest in hypnotherapy I found this a fascinating book. I was fortunate to benefit from Paola’s teaching and her clear communication skills make this an easy read. Techniques she describes and teaches could benefit expectant mums both during pregnancy and beyond.”

Dr Robert Overton, MBBS DRCOG


“This book by Paola Bagnall is a very comprehensive and easy approach to the use of self-hypnosis in childbirth. The book will take you through all the tips that you need to know for a safe and natural birth. It will also give you an insight into pregnancy, birth, and the postnatal period, and how hypnosis can help you in those different stages.”

Lucia Montesinos, Midwife, expert in homebirths


“A most useful guide that can help mothers-to-be to have an easier and pleasantly memorable birthing experience.”

David R Hamilton PhD, author of many books including 'How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body'


“Paola Bagnall’s method is revolutionary. It transformed my second pregnancy from dread to joyful anticipation and gave me a wonderful natural childbirth. Her empowering approach gives control of the birth process back to women, and minimises the need for medical intervention and pain relief.”

Emma Johnson – a Hypnobirthing mum


"Birth Made Easy by Paola Bagnall is a new and important addition to the books on the subject of hypnobirthing.  The book is clear and extremely informative.  It is easy to read and packed with information.  Pregnant women will enjoy it and find it extremely useful in their preparation for birth, and hypnotherapists will also find in it a useful tool in developing their hypnobirthing practices.  The range of topics she covers is impressive, and I would highly recommend it."

Katharine Graves founder of The Hypnobirthing Centre UK


"I searched for a hypnobirth book on Amazon kindle and found your Birth Made Easy first. I downloaded it and read it and listened to the MP3 track for the book from your website every night for my last trimester. I found hypnosis and meditation to come easy to me. I listened to your mp3 during my 11-hour labor and your voice guided me through every contraction, like a labor coach. I remained in hypnosis the entire time actually sleeping between my 2-minute apart contractions. I had a successful natural childbirth without fear and full of peace, thanks to you. Thank you so very much, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, I learned how to trust my body and not to be afraid.

Melanie Willis, Haughton, Louisiana, USA, had her second baby in November 2012, using the book BIRTH MADE EASY, and the free CD that comes with the book, after a negative first time experience.


"I just had my baby on 21 July 2013. Today is Day 5. I would just like to say that this is without doubt the BEST $20 I have spent in my life. I had an incredible birthing experience, completely free of any drugs/synthetic hormones/TENS machine. I didn’t even use a heat pack or the bathtub as your methods allowed me to simply visualise the relief. I also used active birthing, i.e. I delivered in a kneeling position. I also followed your advice on perineal massage. My perineum is completely intact, and I was up and about right after skin-to-skin contact and the first breastfeed. My baby is so calm and contented as well; I am sure that your pregnancy methods that I used while practising with your CD had a significant part in this, as I have had an extremely stressful pregnancy. I feel my incredible childbirth experience has really empowered and prepared me for motherhood. The midwives and doctors in the hospital said it was the calmest birth they’ve ever seen, and a nurse took a photo of my book! The female body is designed to give birth, we forget that in these days and time. Thank you, Paola, for reminding us."

E I, Perth, Australia had her first baby July 21st 2013 using BIRTH MADE EASY and its free CD.  




This book contains the full Inner Power Hypnobirthing package
 with a FREE CD for the mum-to-be and her partner.

The book is available here: and also on Amazon, Kindle* and iBooks.


*Please note that the Kindle version does not come with a free CD as there is a link in the book to download it.


Published in Product Reviews
Friday, 09 March 2012 18:00

Evangeline's Birth Story


I had an appointment with my midwife on Friday (39w2d) and baby was super low. It was getting difficult to walk around between the SPD and having such a low baby. We went over my birth plans which essentially came down to " don't touch me unless you need to or I ask for help" I laughed and told my midwife that I would see her Sunday (my last 3 babies before Evie were born on a Sunday). I left and double checked my appointment for the next week and told the receptionist I likely wouldn't be there for it. i just really felt like baby was going to come very soon. 
Saturday I didn't even have so much as a Braxton Hicks and I was not thrilled. i was starting to wonder if my intuition had been off. My 8 year old son had a major behavior and as a result broke his brothers metal toddler bed. We decided to go shopping at an IKEA for a bed set I wanted for the boys to replace it. I had no idea that IKEA was like the Labyrinth and you couldn't get in and out quickly. The littles had a blast and we found what we needed. It took us hours to find the exit and then the lines were INSANE so we opted to leave without what we came for because at that point my hips hurt so bad I wanted to cry. I lost the remainder of my plug while walking around IKEA. We stopped at a panera on the way home and I had half a sandwich but didn't really feel that hungry.
Suddenly I began to have a panic attack and I realized baby would be coming sooner rather than later. I felt that way before each of my babies births. We went home collected the older children and went to church. I met up with people I hadn't seen in a while and they were all asking when I was due. When I told them Wednesday but I felt baby was coming tonight everyone was excited. I felt especially anxious this time and asked our deacon and priest for extra prayers.
We got home and fed the kids and I just wasn't hungry. I kept going back and forth to the bathroom. I also felt like I had a hand poking me really low and as a result also needed to pee every 10 minutes. Around 11, I started to feel some real contractions and really got nervous. I just felt like something wasn't right and there was some sort of impending doom. I tried a half glass of wine and all it did was give me heartburn. I started to feel hungry but everything I tried to eat made me gag. I was so mad that I didn't nap earlier because now I was tired and too keyed up to sleep.
I put on my birth music (full of eminem and fort major as well as some great praise and worship music) I sat on my ball and tried to be calm. I wasn't in any pain yet and the contractions weren't even time-able yet. I just wanted to nap and it was making me so mad that I couldn't. Around 1 am we called the midwife to let her know that yes I was in labor and would head over when I felt ready to. At about 1:30, my legs started trembling and I started gagging after every contraction. The hospital was 25 minutes away and it was snowing so we called the midwife and let her know I was heading in.
I got in the car and prayed a rosary with my husband and that brought some relief of the fear and feeling something just wasn't right. I didn't have one single contraction in the car at all on the ride there. As soon as I got out of the car however I had one on top of the other across the parking lot into the ER. It was now just after 2 am.
I got up to L&D on my own without a wheelchair but had contractions every 10 feet. It felt good to be moving and to have something to focus on outside the fear. I got hooked up to the monitors and had my stress test (hospital policy) it felt nice to hear squish on the monitor and see baby was doing fine. it calmed my fears some thankfully. i was still gagging and puking after every contraction at this point. My midwife checked me and said I was 4 stretchy to 6 so we were in business.there would be no other checks for the rest of labor! I got in the tub and it felt lovely for about 30 seconds.
I started to feel trapped in the water and wanted to get out it was now 3 am and my contractions were every 7 minutes or so, some worse than others. I was still feeling the need to pee every 5 minutes so I sat on the toilet and had a wonderful strong contraction. We listened to baby for a second and everything sounded great. I tried the ball but baby was so low it hurt. I could feel squish filling my hips at that point. I got something to help with my nausea since I couldn't stop gagging and it was making me crazy. I needed to stay hydrated if I wanted to avoid an IV. I decided to go for a walk and got about 5 feet from my room when I had to pee again. I tried a few more times to go for a walk but had to pee constantly. I felt like I had something prodding my bladder constantly.
I figured out that raising the bed and leaning over it felt awesome.The contractions weren't super painful except for the very peak of it. sometimes I pictured god hugging me, sometimes I pictured random sexcapades DH and I had embarked on. So i did that for the next few contractions it was now 345.I asked them to lower the bed so I could sit on it one contraction later I had to pee again and went over to the toilet. DH informed me that I had a bunch of bloody show on the pad on the bed. I figured I had about another hour or so to go. As I sat on the toilet I suddenly felt my body push and felt Squish slide down and I found myself growling. The midwife came in and checked just to make sure baby wasn't going to be born in the toilet.
There was baby crowned and ready to go. it was now 3:55 AM.
She asked if I could get up and I told her I couldn't move. Her and my Hubby picked me up and moved me to the bed where I asked to be. I could not move on my own and they helped me position myself so that I could push when I was ready. The pressure was intense but not painful I felt full and slit in two along my pelvis. then my water broke as my body pushed on it's own again.. I remember saying "oh that took care of some of the pressure" then in the same moment baby came out with her hand by her face and she kicked at the same time. She flew out of me as the midwife tumbled her out of the cord that had corkscrewed around her body.
I looked and realized what I saw and asked " DID I JUST SEE BABY VAGINA?" (hows that for tact?!?)
Baby was placed on my chest and latched right on. I squealed with absolute delight over baby. She was latched on cord intact for about 15 minutes. Then I cut the cord (first time in 6 babies) and about 10 minutes later the placenta came. 
Everyone was happy and then the temperature in the room changed and my midwife was telling the nurse to start an IV right away. I started shaking violently. I couldn't talk and I could barely breath. My midwife looked me in the eye and explained I was bleeding really badly. She told me quickly what was happening and assured me we were fine. I got a shot of pitocin in my leg. another shot of something else in my leg (methagin I think).I received cytotec as well, plus some other meds that they had to put in my bum. an IV in both arms and hands and 4 bags of fluids with pitocin while they got blood. I had an oxygen mask placed and I kept asking if I should give baby to DH but they assured me the best place for her was on me. Dh and my nurse helped keep baby latched on. at one point DH asked "what was that" and was told it was a clot bigger than my placenta itself! I started to feel a little faint and told him if anything happened to me to not leave the baby's side. I told the nurse she had pretty teeth .They called in the OB and prepped the OR. 90 minutes later everything was stable without them having to truss my uterus like a turkey. the OB was awesome and very caring, even came to check on my later and bring me info about what options were if the bleeding continued. My midwife at one point stood there rubbing my hands.
Despite all of it, I felt very cared for. and my birth was freaking amazing. i refuse to allow the drama to color that in any way.So I'm on bed rest for 2 weeks to ensure no issues. I am so in love with this little girl but struggling with being a mother to 6 children and 2 girls. Tandem nursing and supply issues from blood loss are not making it any easier.
Published in Birthing Stories

Ask any questions that are relevant

  • Is she certified?
  • When did she become certified or why is she not?
  • How many births has she attended?
  • How many clients does she usually take in a month (any more than 5 clients in a month is a red flag)?
  • How much will she charge, does she have a sliding scale, what is the payment schedule?
  • Does the payment change if she is unable to attend or if  you end up needing a c-section? If it doesn't work out can you get a refund or find someone else who might work for you?
  • Does she have other services available like belly casting, placenta encapsulation, photography, breastfeeding services, babysitting, or postpartum services?
  • Does she have a back up, can you meet them?

Get to know your doula on a personal level

  • Is she married, if so how long?
  • Does she have children, how many, how does she feel about her birth experience?
  • Why did she become a doula?
  • What is her overall philosopy on birth?
  • Did she breastfeed, how long, how does she feel about it?

Build a relationship

You should have at least 2 prenatal appointments with your doula. During these appointments you'll probably go over things she'll do to help you along during labor and if complications arise. Also during these times you should begin to get comfortable with her touching you in case massage, hair stroking, or counter pressure are used to comfort you during labor so you can let her know what you do and do not like beforehand and to build the comfortableness with her. If you would like she may have relaxation techniques to practice too which would be helpful so you know you can completely relax in front of her. Personally, I found an included belly casting session really helped me open up and get comfortable with my doula. 

If at any point you are not comfortable with your doula: First determine if the issue can be resolved and try to fix it. If you think it is something that  will affect your ability to remain comfortable with your doula for future appointments and/or during labor, birth, or postpartum then you should talk to her respectively and tell her you just can't do it; She may know someone else available that you may be comfortable with. 

If you are a doula or want to become a doula: The steps also apply to you but from a different standing point. Try to give your client as much information as possible so that the family can feel comfortable with you; like a friend rather than business. Reassure partners that you aren't there to take their place, but rather to help them help the mother or step in when they need a break. Beware them that you can not speak for them, you are not a medical professional, and can not give medical advice; You are simply there to support the family and help comfort the mother. 

Published in Jessica's Blog
Sunday, 27 January 2013 15:37

Who Uses A Doula?

A Midwife, Doula, and Postpartum Help for Healthier, Happier Mom, Dad & Baby

Who uses a doula, midwife, and postpartum help?

Barefoot hippies? Hollywood divas?

Yes, and millions of everyday, hardworking people around the world who have decided either through their cultural heritage or personal research that for them, a natural childbirth and postpartum care with the support of a midwife, doula, and other services makes for the healthiest, safest, and happiest ways to give birth to and care for the new spirit in their lives.

Natural childbirth in a hospital, homebirth, and postpartum care have become so uncommon in the U.S. (and increasingly in other countries) that they are now considered by many to be too difficult, unnecessary, or even frivolous.

But, just a glance at the number of women in the U.S. who fail to have a natural childbirth (when that’s what they intended), fail to breastfeed (even when they wanted to and tried), and who suffer from mild to severe postpartum depression offers a clear indication that the now standard, mechanical template of childbirth and postpartum care is gravely inadequate.

And it’s not that millions of women wouldn’t want a natural childbirth or magical postpartum time of healing and bonding.

It’s that a great majority have no idea what hospital protocol they’re up against when they enter Labor & Delivery, or what kind of postpartum care is considered standard and necessary in countries around the world (and that women experiencing loss—miscarriage or stillbirth—also have postpartum leave and care[i]).

Countless women go into labor having said for nine months, “I want a natural childbirth.” And they mean it. But then what happens?

Here’s a look at just a few of the standard procedures upon entering the hospital[1]:

  • When you enter the hospital, you will either be placed in a wheelchair or you will walk to a labor room. The routine is being hooked up to an IV, one or several monitors, denied food and even beverages (other than ice chips, which in many cultures are considered something to avoid in labor). Depending on how “progressive” the hospital and staff are, you will be allowed or encouraged to walk around and work different labor positions to encourage the baby into the correct position and allow labor to progress, or you will simply be advised to stay flat on your back—which is considered by many in the birthing world to be one of the most painful and least effective ways to labor.
  • Around the time you start experiencing stronger contractions and the pain sensations are increasing, hospital staff [strangers] will appear at your door encouraging the use of drugs.
  • You will be checked periodically by doctors, residents, and/or nurses and student nurses [more strangers]. When you’re dilated far enough, they will move you to the delivery room where your doctor, or a stand-in if he or she has been called away to more pressing matters, will stay with you as the baby and the placenta are born.

This is all assuming that you’re not put on additional drugs to speed labor (if in their estimation you’re taking too long). While 24 hours or longer is a common length of time for a mother to labor—especially with her first baby—many hospitals encourage drugs to speed the process if it passes 12 hours.

It is also assuming that nothing has happened to encourage the doctor to perform a cesarean section (now at 30-50% of deliveries in the States, varying by doctor and hospital).

  • All in all, as Jennifer Block states in her book Pushed: The Painful Truth About Modern Childbirth and Maternity Care, a mother—even in a “routine” birth in a hospital—may have “up to 16 different tubes, drugs, or attachments.[2]
  • After the baby and placenta are born, they are both taken away in most instances. The baby to be washed (unnecessary and considered by many to be stressful for the newborn who’d rather be on her mother’s chest and latching!), weighed, measured, and treated with various pharmaceutical products.

The placenta will be taken to an incinerator.

Postpartum care?  Women are sent home from the hospital with a few formula samples and a diaper bag.

That’s how we care for new families?

The most sacred rite of passage has become cold, mechanical and offensive.

Fortunately, the pendulum is swinging back. 

Many new parents are discovering the mind/body/spirit benefits of hiring various support/services to help them on their journey either at home or in the hospital.

There are many (and increasing numbers of) people who serve new mothers in pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum, and I wrote about several—doulas, midwives, postpartum doulas, maids, cooks, and nannies—in my book New Mother.  Since publication and through interaction with readers, I’ve discovered even more services.

For example, a service called Best Fed Babies offers breastfeeding support with a certified lactation consultant 24/7 via phone or Skype to mothers anywhere in the world.  I would have loved to call them when I woke one morning at 3:00 AM with a plugged duct—and how many of us have similar questions or issues in the early days and wee hours of nursing!

Mother’s Concierge services are another wonderful and flexible source of help.  One company called Pampered Mamas in Baltimore, Maryland offers in-home pre/post natal massage; nap Nannie; in-home baby proofing consultations and much more.

A company in Los Angeles, CA called MotherBees doesn’t just deliver any old regular meal to postpartum mothers, but combines traditional postpartum foods with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Replenishing and restorative foods—at your door!

In our modern culture with nuclear families living in isolation, many new parents lack knowledge of what will happen during childbirth, what procedures they can accept or decline (in the hospital), what they’ll need postpartum, or what is available to support them.  Just knowing the names and types of services will help mom and dads-to-be to research better and find exactly what they need to create their childbirth vision.

Ora na azu nwa, or It takes a village to raise a child, is a Nigerian Igbo proverb made popular by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book published in 1996. Birthing and raising healthy happy children does require support, but we don’t live in villages. 

However, we can create our village—hopefully with the support of nuclear and extended family members and long-time friends, and also with the help of people trained, experienced, and specializing in mother and baby care. With so many different services available, everyone can find the perfect fit for their needs, budget and desire.

May you be surrounded by love and support, and may you experience abundant peace and joy on your blessed journey of motherhood!

*No affiliation or compensation associated with the services mentioned in this article.
Illustration, I See You, used with license from Healing Art, Jane Delaford Taylor

[1] Abridged excerpt from New Mother, by Allie Chee, Hestia Books & Media, 2012

[2] Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, Jennifer Block, Da Capo Press: A Member of the Perseus Books Group, 2007


Published in Birthing Assistance
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