My name is Rosie Gray and I am a KG Hypnobirthing teacher, birth and postnatal Doula based in West London.
I feel passionately that good antenatal, birth and postnatal support is an important foundation for a positive and empowering birth experience and this can bring long-term benefits to a mother and her family.
As a doula, I have certainly seen an impact of a shortage of midwives, mainly in terms of the type of birth women can have, having planned for a natural physiological birth, Homebirth teams are sometimes suspended and birth centres closed at very short notice. A woman's birth choice may be taken away at the last minute, so it is always important to prepare and think through various scenarios if this were to happen.
Your birth experience stays with you forever so, make it a positive one! The biggest tip is to get informed and knowledgeable so you are in control of what you allow to happen to you; have good, strong birth partner who can advocate for you, ask questions and help you make decisions in labour. This could be a doula (if an option) and/or an antenatally educated and confident birth partner. There are many excellent free resources out there - sarawickam.com and midwifethinking.com are full of evidence-based information, there are some excellent books out there too - 'How to Have a Baby' by Natalie Meddings is one I always recommend. Do a hypnobirthing course, in person ideally to really bed it in or if not online, as this will really give you the tools to remain calm and relaxed and fully understand birth physiology and what your body needs for that to happen.
What to do if your birth plans change
If your birth plan does change - this does not mean it will be a negative experience, it's about making informed decisions each step of the way and using the BRAIN acronym :
What are the:
- are there Alternatives
- what does your Intuition tell you
- what happens if you do Nothing
Having good knowledge of your options pre-labour is key in making decisions about your birth in the moment, if it takes a more medicalised route.
Recommended items for labour
Avoid labour anxiety and plan ahead. In terms of top items for comfort – I recommend the following :
- A relaxing playlist or hypnobirthing tracks
- Essential oils for relaxation (either on a hanky or defuser)
- LED tea lights
- Your own pillow (that smells of your home)
- A comb to hold during surges/contractions (helps increase endorphins a natural painkiller)
- Straws for drinking
- Spray water mist
- A flannel
- Snacks to keep energy levels up
- A hot water bottle and a tens machine would be up there too and using a birth pool and water can be wonderfully comforting in labour.
My top tips for partners - your role is to protect your partners' birth space, be their advocate and buffer - so get informed and knowledgeable and be very much part of the antenatal process beforehand. For physiological birth to unfold women need to feel safe, relaxed and unobserved in labour - partners (and doulas) play a key role in facilitating that.