Monday, 24 April 2017

Everyday Emotional Harmony

Woud you like to find emotional harmony during your pregnancy, birth and beyond?

Do you have some days when you just wanting to curl up in bed and forget about the turpitude of life: work, kids, your other half? Sometimes everything seems to conspire to upset your rather delicate equilibrium. On those days, that’s when I reach for my little bottle of Bush rescue remedy. Australian Bush Flower essences are a safe, simple and powerful system of healing that can bring emotional harmony.

What are Flower essences?

Flower essences are obtained by extracting the healing quality part of the plant: the flowers. These essences are made in Australia using native plants and the Aborigines have also long used flowers to heal emotional imbalances. There are no side effects and they can be used safely by pregnant mamas, if you are lactating or by children. Animals can also benefit.

When to use them?

Anytime you feel emotionally upset, low or unable to face the world.

When labour is near: towards the end of pregnancy you may feel anxious, take Emergency essence as frequently as you need. One of its remedies is Dog Rose and it is specifically for the fear of letting go.

During the birth: there may be times during labour when you feel you may not be able to hang in there because you are exhausted. Emergency essence has a calming and “pain relief” effect. Add 7 drops in water and sip it through out or directly in your mouth under the tongue. I gave birth myself sipping the rescue remedy.

After the birth when you feel down or a little bit overwhelmed…especially at 2am in the morning when you are up feeding your little bundle of joy.

For the little ones, a few drops when:
  • They are upset, fractious or poorly
  • When they are teething
  • Before and after vaccinations
  • When they are having a tantrum…..or after to help them cope with their emotions (you can also get the Emergency essence as a spray)
  • Anxiety about school
If they don’t want to take the drops add them to their drinks or food.

Stay healthy, stay happy!
Zakia Mance, Naturopath and Hypnobirthing Practitioner

Monday, 17 April 2017

Induction - what exactly happens?

Induction is a medical process of artificially starting labour and stimulating uterine contractions.

This week, Gina explains the process of induction, why it can be medically necessary and how to make the right decision for you. 


Why does induction need to happen? 

The reasons induction may be recommended vary, and normally it would involve medical circumstances that mean that the pregnancy continuing could pose risks to mother or baby, or both. For example, pre-eclampsia, obstetric cholestasis, diabetes and other conditions are medical reasons that may warrant induction of labour. Also, a woman’s waters breaking without contractions starting for an extended period of time may be another reason for induction to be recommended. The woman’s estimated due date passing is not necessarily a medical indication for induction, particularly when mother and baby are both healthy and well and the placenta is continuing to function well. In circumstances where a woman agrees that it is medically necessary to induce the labour instead of waiting for things to start naturally, the following process takes place.

The Process of Induction


1. Have a Sweep

The process of induction may begin with something innocently called a sweep. This is normally carried out in the location where the woman usually sees her midwife. A sweep does not involve any drugs, but it is the first step in the process of attempting to artificially induce labour. A sweep is a vaginal examination which involves the midwife (or doctor) inserting gloved fingers into the cervix (the neck of the uterus), stretching the cervix and sweeping around the edges in an attempt to separate the membrane of the amniotic sac. This may assist in woman’s body releasing prostaglandins, which can prepare the cervix for labour and trigger labour. Sweeps are said to increase the likelihood for labour starting spontaneously within 48 hours. 

Risks associated with having a sweep include: bleeding and discomfort, possible introduction of infection as a result of the vaginal examination and accidentally breaking the waters prematurely.

2.  Prostaglandins Pessary

If the sweep doesn’t get things going, then the woman would be offered chemical induction. This takes place in the hospital maternity unit. A pessary, gel or tablet containing artificial prostaglandins is inserted into the vagina. Similar to the sweep, the aim of this is to prepare the cervix and thereby start labour by triggering contractions. Depending on the pessary, gel or tablet being used and the woman’s circumstances, the woman may be safe to go home to allow the prostaglandins time to work. However, some woman may find that they are asked to stay in hospital in order to be monitored during this process. 

Possible risks or side effects of having artificial prostaglandins include: backache, unusual feeling in the vagina, unusual uterine muscular activity, diarrhoea, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, rare but sometimes serious allergic reactions and slow or abnormal foetal heart rate and foetal distress.

3. Break the Waters

If the woman’s waters have not broken yet by this stage, and labour has not started or strengthened sufficiently, the midwife or doctor may suggest artificually rupturing the membrane of the baby’s amnotic sac.  A surgical instrument is inserted into the vaginal and it is used to break the sac.  The reason for this is the hope that the waters going may finally get labour going.  

There are risks attached to artificically breaking a woman’s waters including introducing infection.

4. Synthetic Oxytocin Drip 

The next step in induction, if the above has not worked, is to put the woman on a drip containing syntocinon (also known as pitocin). Syntocinon is artificial oxytocin. Natural oxytocin is the feel-good, love hormone that naturally causes labour to start and makes the uterine muscles contract. The thing that triggers natural oxytocin levels to rise and start labour is baby’s lung development: baby signals s/he is ready once the lungs are strong enough to breathe independently and early babies often need respiratory assistance. Syntocinon causes uterine contractions, thus artificially producing labour, or it can also be used to strengthen labour that may have started naturally (this is called augmentation).  Unfortunately, the drug syntocinon does not include the feel-good effect that natural oxytocin provides. When a woman is put in the syntocinon drip, she is required to be in the hospital, and she and baby must be monitored throughout the labour. The flow of the syntocinon via the drip is regulated by the medical staff, not by the woman’s body (which is the case with natural oxytocin). The woman may experience a more intense labour on the syntocinon drip because her body is being forced into full blown labour, rather than gradually easing into it which is what happens with a natural labour.  Because the induced labour can be more intense, a woman may find that she needs pain relief drugs including entonox (gas and air), pethidine and epidural.  

The risks associated with being induced using syntocinon include headache, nausea, vomiting, slow or fast heartrate in mother and/or baby, rare but possibly severe allergic reactions, increased risks of tearing,  instrumental delivery and c-section, foetal distress and the risks associated with any pain relief drugs that may be used.  

Considering being induced?


As indicated above, there are many risks associated with being induced.  It is a medical procedure that is both useful and life-saving when there is a medical necessity.  Inducing a labour artificially when it is not medically essential can cause unnecessary difficulties and risks, without a commensurate benefit to mother and baby.  So, if you are considering being induced, please inform yourself, start with the the resources below and make use of the helpline on the AIMS website.

Wishing you a calm and comfortable birthing day. 

Gina x 

Gina Potts is Director of ZenBirth – Hypnobirthing UK. She comes from an academic research background, and since 2009 has spent much of her time researching into all aspects of maternity care, pregnancy, birth and women’s postnatal health. In 2011, she founded ZenBirth and has helped hundreds of couples have a positive birth experience. Gina now leads a growing team of ZenBirth instructors who provide antenatal hypnobirthing education courses across London and the South East of the UK.  

•    Inducing Labour: Making Informed Decisions by Sara Wickham. AIMS. 2014.  

•    Midwife Thinking - Induction of labour - balancingrisks
•    Midwive Thinking - Pre-labour rupture of membranes - impatience and risk

Monday, 10 April 2017

The skinny on fat, for you and baby

The skinny on fat, and why good fats are essential 

One of the most important facts you need to know is that the human brain is nearly 60 percent fat, - this helps understanding why some fats are so important and called essential fatty acids aka omega 3, 6 and 9. 

What is fat and why is it important for mother and child?

Fat is a rich source of energy and is made up of building blocks called fatty acids and these are classified as saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated depending on their chemical structure. Some of these are an essential component of the diet but others can be detrimental to our health if too much is consumed. Of the 3 the ones you should be consuming less of are the saturated ones, found in full fat milk, cheese, fatty meets etc. The ones to increase consumption of are the mono and polyunsaturated ones. All these “good” fatty acids are also known as omega 3, 6 and 9. 

We've learned in recent years that fatty acids are among the most crucial molecules that determine your brain's integrity and ability to perform. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are required for maintenance of optimal health but they can’t be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from dietary sources. Clinical observation studies have related imbalance dietary intake of fatty acids to impaired brain performance and diseases.  

The EFAs, particularly the omega-3 fatty acids, are important for brain development during both the foetal and postnatal period. Dietary decosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is needed for the optimum functional maturation of the retina and visual cortex, with visual acuity and mental development seemingly improved by extra DHA. Beyond their important role in building the brain structure, EFAs, as messengers, are involved in the synthesis and functions of brain neurotransmitters, and in the molecules of the immune system. 

Why are these lipids so important pre and post pregnancy?

As we have seen, DHA is required for neurological tissue – especially for the development and maintenance of the central nervous system and brain. It is also required for vascular tissue (blood vessels) and for the development of the eye in the foetus and infants and for visual function throughout life.  Countless scientific studies have been done on the roles of DHA in babies, infants and children. Here are some interesting findings from just a few of them:
  • Studies show us that children who were supplemented with DHA were less likely to experience colds and flu or the duration of incidences were shorter (meaning the children recovered faster).
  • Children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are often shown to have much lower levels of Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • A review published in Nature scientific journal reported two studies that showed neurodevelopment scores were better in babies whose mothers ate good levels of oily fish.
  • Researchers found that infants born to mothers with higher blood levels of DHA at delivery had advanced levels of attention spans well into their second year of life. During the first six months of life, these infants were two months ahead of those babies whose mothers had lower DHA levels.

The last trimester

The last trimester of pregnancy (week 28 onwards) is a particularly important time for the foetus’s brain – it grows by an astonishing 260% in this trimester. For this reason, it is particularly important for the mother to be taking in adequate DHA during this time. This also raises another issue: what if the baby is premature? The best thing a mother can do is to breastfeed her infant (if possible) and take in plenty of DHA herself so that the baby receives it through her milk.

The growing child

After the baby is born, the brain continues to grow very quickly. In the first year of life, it grows by another 175%, and in the second year of life, by another 18%. After age 2, changes and growth occur throughout childhood but the total size of the brain only increases by another 21%. This shows that keeping up DHA intake is particularly important for the infant in the first two years of life.

There are countless studies to show that infant development is improved from intake of optimum levels of DHA. Therefore, new babies through infancy and into childhood should have access to DHA through food and potentially supplements, as a key component of developmental ‘brain’ nutrition.

Omega 3, 6 and 9 what are they and where can we find them?

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega 3s are polyunsaturated fats, a type of fat your body can’t make -  that’s why they are referred to as “essential fats,” meaning that you have to get them from your diet. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating at least two portions of oily fish per week, which is rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA.
They support infant brain development and are extremely important for brain development in babies.

Foods high in omega-3: oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines…) flaxseed (linseed)

What Are Omega-6 fatty acids?
Like omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids, they are also essential, so you need to obtain them from your diet.

Although omega-6 fats are essential, the modern Western diet contains far more omega-6 fatty acids than necessary.
Foods high in Omega-6 : Nuts and seeds (Walnuts, Sunflower seeds, Almonds, Cashew nuts)

What Are Omega-9 Fatty Acids? 

Omega-9 fatty acids aren’t strictly “essential,” meaning they can be produced by the body. In fact, omega-9 fats are the most abundant fats in most cells in the body. However, consuming foods rich in omega-9 fatty acids instead of other types of fat may have a number of beneficial health effects.

Foods high in Omega-9: Olive oil, Almond and Avocado oil.

Practical Dietary Advice

My advice will be to always buy good quality cold pressed (organic whenever possible) oils; olive, walnut, avocado hemp and drizzle them every day on soups, salads, or use for crudité dipping. Do not cook with these as high temperatures tends to destroy all the goodness. Try to have a varied and mixed diet including loads of seeds, avocados, fish (fresh or in cans) oily ones are the best, mackerel, sardines, salmon, tuna.

As we further unlock the mystery of how fatty acids affect the brain and better understand the brain's critical dependence on specific EFAs, correct intake of the appropriate diet or supplements becomes one of the tasks we undertake in pursuit of optimal wellness.

Stay healthy, stay happy!

Zakia Mance, Naturopath and Hypnobirthing Practitioner

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Best Birth for You and Your Baby

Gabrielle Nicholls is an experienced hypnotherapist, hypnobirthing instructor and former midwife.

A friend challenged me to write about something to do with childbirth, which got me thinking... 

What do women want to know about childbirth?

I know there's a wealth of information at our fingertips. We can Google almost anything these days or ask others for their opinion on Facebook groups. But does that give us the tools to make informed decisions?

I belong to a local mums Facebook group and recently a mother asked for people's input on the pros and cons on having an elective Caesarian for a second baby. She had an emergency Caesarian the last time, due to "failure to progress". When I read some of the posts, it seemed to me that she then had a deluge of other women's horror stories. Not a lot of help to enable her to make an informed choice.

I know that it can be therapeutic to talk about one's own childbirth experience. I also know that it doesn't help pregnant women to feel scared about the journey they are now on. 

What are my thoughts and suggestions? 

First, trust your own instincts. You will always want to do what is best for your baby.

Second, if it's a technical question ask your midwife or birth education teacher. They have an abundance of knowledge and experience and will be able to advise and support you.

Third, I would like to let all of you, who don't already know, about AIMS - The Association for Improvements in Maternity Services. They are a charity who review research about childbirth so that we can find out the safest ways to give birth. They publish easy to read booklets, which are also available as ebooks if needed in a hurry! So, if you want to make an informed decision about birthing your baby, have a look at their website

Wishing you the best birth for you and your baby. 

Gabrielle x

Gabrielle Nicholls is an experience hypnotherapist and hypnobirthing instructor, as well as a former midwife.  She has attended many births and seen first-hand how being calm and in control can help the birthing process.  Gabrielle runs her ZenBirth Hypnobirthing practice in West Kent and South London, where she also has an established hypnotherapy practice, Sevenoaks Hypnotherapy.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Relax for Life

The skills you learn during your antenatal course can actually help you in your day-to-day life. Gina, founder of ZenBirth, explains in this short clip. 

Read some empowering ZenBirth birth stories here
Gina Potts is Director of ZenBirth and is a leading Hypnobirthing instructor in the South East of the UK, with courses in SE London and Kent. Gina also leads a team of ZenBirth instructors who offer hypnobirthing courses across the whole of London and the Home Counties.