Monday, 15 May 2017

Empower yourself. Empower your birth.

You can do this! 

Founder of ZenBirth, Gina Potts, talks about how you can empower your birth.

Read more about Gina and the many empowering ZenBirth birth stories here

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.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Becoming mindful for you, and baby

The week Zakia tell us about how mindfulness can benefit both you and baby, in pregnancy and beyond. 

Pregnancy and motherhood isn't always easy. The myth of a glowing radiant mother-to-be is still prevalent in our society. However, the reality is sometimes different depending on your circumstances. That's where mindfulness can help you. New research is starting to suggest that mindfulness practice can protect the health and well-being of mothers and their babies. Here are three reasons to practice mindfulness during and after pregnancy

1)    Mindfulness reduces stress

In a small pilot study in 2008 (1), 31 women in the second half of their pregnancies participated in an eight-week mindfulness programme called Mindful Motherhood. The programme included breathing meditation, body scan meditation and hatha yoga. In two hours of classes per week, participants also learned how to cultivate attention and awareness, particularly in relation to aspects of their pregnancy: the feeling of their belly, the aches and pains, and their anxieties about labour.

Compared with women waiting to enter the programme, participants saw reductions in their reported anxieties and negative feelings like distress, hostility and shame. These were all women who had sought therapy or counselling for mood issues in the past, but the programme seemed to be helping them avoid similar difficulties during a transformative time of their lives.

2)    Mindfulness boosts positive feelings

Not all mindfulness involves meditation. You can become more mindful by simply noticing the way moods and bodily sensations fluctuate throughout the day. This type of mindfulness can counter our tendency to be “mindless,” when we assume things will be the way we expect them to be—the way they were in the past—and we don’t notice new experiences. For example, pregnant women might expect pregnancy to be exhausting or uncomfortable, so they pay less attention to the happy and peaceful moments.

In a 2016 study (2), a small group of Israeli women in their second and third trimesters received a half-hour training in this type of mindfulness. Then, for two weeks, they wrote diary entries twice daily about how they felt physically and mentally, a way of helping them realise how much things change.

Compared with groups of women who simply read about other women’s positive and negative experiences during pregnancy, or did nothing specific at all, women in the mindfulness group saw greater increases in their reports of well-being and positive feelings, like enthusiasm and determination across the duration of the exercise. Also, the more mindful they were after the experiment (as measured by questionnaire), the higher their well-being, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and positive feelings one month after the birth—a time when women need all the resources they can get.

3)    Mindfulness may promote baby's healthy development

Some women may worry about the possibility of a premature birth. “Preemies” (babies born before 37 weeks) are at risk of breathing problems, vision and hearing issues and developmental delays. Mothers of preemies often have high rates of anxiety, depression and stress, which often go unacknowledged in the face of the baby’s needs.

Here, too, mindfulness may have a role to play. In a 2005 study (3) of 335 pregnant women in Bangalore, India, half were assigned to practice yoga and meditation while the other half walked for an hour per day, starting in their second trimester and continuing until delivery. The yoga group, who took yoga classes for a week and then practiced at home, had fewer premature births and fewer babies with low birthweight.

A new wave of research is looking at the impact of motherly mindfulness on infancy as well, following babies as they develop. In a 2015 study from the Netherlands (4), babies whose mothers measured high in mindfulness at the beginning of the second trimester had fewer developmental problems. At 10 months, according to mindful mothers’ reports, babies were less likely to have difficulties settling down and adjusting to new environments (“self-regulation”) or controlling their attention and behaviour (“effortful control”).

Mindfulness is beneficial in many ways, for pregnancy and beyond, for both you and your baby.  And to benefit, you need to practice regularly. So let yourself start enjoying simple mindfulness practices everyday, like simply observing your breath, or sitting quiety and listening to all the sounds around you, or mindfully enjoying your food by chewing slowly and tasting and smelling every flavour in your meal. Giving yourself space to be mindful, to be in each moment and experience it fully, is super for your mental health, and is also great prepartion for birth and parenthood.  
Stay healthy, stay happy!

Zakia Mance, Naturopath and Hypnobirthing Practitioner 

Monday, 1 May 2017

Should I just have the Epidural?

It's a big question: should I just have the Epidural to block it all out ?

Most of us have had other women tell us: 'oh, just have the Epidural!', 'why wouldn't you have it?'  But have you found yourself saying to them, or yourself: 'I'm not sure I want it', or asking: 'what happens when I have one?' or 'what effect will it have on baby?' or 'how will I manage the sensations of childbirth?'

This week, we look at Epidural. What it is. What it does. The Pros, Cons and Alternatives. 

Epidural: what is it and how does it work?

Epidural is an anaesthetic which is used for pain relief during child birth, as well as in some kinds of surgery including c-sections.  Epidurals are administered by injection into the spine and this is always done by an anaesthetist in the hospital.  When a woman decides to have an epidural during childbirth, she will first be put on a drip, sited in the arm, so that she can be given fluids during the epidural.  Then she will be asked to be in a leaning forward position, or lying on her side.  A local anaesthetic will be used to numb the skin where the injection will be given.  A needle is then placed between the vertebrae of the spine, usually in the lower part of the back, in order to insert a plastic tube called an epidural catheter.  The catheter is left in whilst the needle is removed.  A line is then inserted in to the catheter which delivers the epidural drug into the woman’s body. The pain relief effect is usually reasonable quick, taking full effect in about 20-30 minutes. 

Epidurals can be delivered in differing dosages, having more or less pain-relieving effect.  The higher dose will numb must of the lower half of the body and it won’t be possible to stand.  A lower dose epidural can be used, which is called a mobile epidural, and this provides a lower level of pain relief whilst allowing the woman to have use of her legs and to move around. Regardless of the dosage, the woman will need to be attached to a monitor, strapped around the woman’s tummy, throughout the labour.  This is in order to keep track of how baby is handling the labour and also to detect when contractions are happening. 

What are the pros and cons of Epidural? 

Epidurals provide effective pain relief, but do impact upon the progress of the labour.  Because epidural relaxes the muscles, and the uterus is a set of muscles, it can make labour less efficient.  So epidural can cause labour to be longer.  The woman is less likely to feel the sensations of her contractions, so the midwife or doctor may need to coach her to push when the monitor indicates contractions are happening.  Coached pushing may be more forced than mother-led pushing, so tearing may occur as a result.

The benefit of epidural is that it is an effective form of pain relief, including partial or complete loss of sensation in the whole lower half of the body.  The woman would not feel the contractions or urges to push.  It also enables a woman requiring a c-section to have no sensation, whilst remaining awake during the whole procedure.  The woman is then able to receive her baby immediately once baby emerges.  

Risks and side effects of epidural may include: discomfort when the needle and catheter are inserted, numbness in the chest and stomach areas and also in the legs, the legs may not be strong enough to stand where a high dose is used, low blood pressure, light-headedness, nausea, loss of bladder control, itchiness, headaches, temporary or permanent nerve damage, labour can be slow and less effective, higher occurrence of emergency c-section, baby may be less alert than usual at birth and baby may take longer to effectively breastfeed, other more serious effects and complications that should be discussed with your medical care provider. 

What are the alternatives

Many women choose to avoid having an epidural due to the implications it can have for both mum and baby.  Learning about the physiology of childbirth is useful. Understanding why you are experiencing certain sensations can help you embrace, rather than resist, what you are feeling as you birth your baby.  You may dedice to prepare yourself with tools to help you manage the sensations of childbirth. Different labour and birth positions can make birthing easier. Relaxation techniques and using breathing can help your body ease into the sensations, and allow your baby to emerge more gently.  Things like massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and other alternative therapies can help you to maximise your feelings of relaxation and calm. If your body is relaxed and free of tension, the birth will be easier. Being supported by a caring and supportive birth partner, together with a birthing environment that helps you feel safe and secure can also help your birthing to progress smoothly and gentlyThese are all things that hypnobirthing courses cover. 
Whatever you decided to do, make sure you educate yourself before your baby's birthing day.  Making informed decisions helps to make the birth experience much more positive regardless of the route you choose.

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.