6 Things women should definitely know before going into labour or hospital.


The poo conversation…

The poo conversation… and we’re not talking about the rotund fury friend of piglet. There’s no sugar coating this, it’s common for women to open their bowels during labour. However, during the latent phase of labour (the early stages) it is often the case that your body will naturally empty the bowel, as most women will experience an upset stomach and this is indeed a positive sign that you may be going into labour.

If this is not the case then please don’t let this worry you or cause anxiety. For the normal physiological mechanics of labour to take place, it’s helpful to have any possible obstructions out of the way. In our experience midwives are very discrete, we don’t jump up and down waving a red flag we are just reassured that the baby now has more room to make their entrance.

It’s also a good idea to pre-warn birth partners and maybe ask them to kindly remain at the talking end as we can’t predict some people’s reactions if they are ill prepared!


Men and massage…

In recent years’ massage has proven to be effective in reducing pain in labouring women. This is common knowledge to most expectant parents and will be discussed within their birth plan wishes. This is something we cover and practice within our classes, practice being the operative word! This is the key factor when considering massage as method of pain relief. Techniques can easily be taught to birth partners however, men have to feel comfortable with this practice especially if it’s not something a couple are used to doing. You ladies will be pleased to hear that we suggest men practice massage techniques at home within the last few weeks of pregnancy so it doesn’t feel alien to all involved at the time it’s needed! Men can also feel a little embarrassed when massaging their partners in front of the midwife but believe me we are grateful for the help.


Everything but the kitchen sink…

There are 101 different lists on the internet that make suggestions on what to pack in your hospital bag! This is very simple…midwives need room to provide a safe environment to facilitate the birth of your pride and joy. We aren’t saying you can’t pack your matching nightie, dressing gown and bath mat, by all means you can, but this can remain in the car. In our experience the main items you will need during and immediately after birth are as follows – 1. Face cloth to cool your forehead during labour (this is often forgotten and you end up with mushed up, wet, NHS paper towel that absorbs the heat and become just damp and warm within seconds, slapped across your forehead) 2. Big, thick, heavy duty sanitary towels (labour can be a messy business as I’m sure you can imagine! So, don’t go for the ultra slim kind, they just don’t cut it and make you sweat!) 3. Pack of XL cheap pants (please no paper pants, no explanation needed!) 4. Laundry bag (for your soiled labour wear/underwear and not forgetting babies maybe tiny but they sure make a lot of mess) 5. Small toiletry bag containing basics plus lip balm and hairband. 6. Nappies and a hat for baby – as midwives we are advocates of skin to skin following birth and would encourage this where possible. Although it’s tempting, there is no rush to put baby into the fabulous outfit you’ve had hanging in the wardrobe for the past 3 months! Enjoy the time…enjoy the bonding, the hat is just to keep the head warm.


Shake that bump….

We are all aware the wonderful effects of gravity assist greatly in the journey that is childbirth. This is something that is easily recognised however, movement goes hand in hand with this but is not as frequently discussed. Think of gravity helping baby descend but negotiating the pelvis and birth canal can be described as round hole…square peg! Movement helps us remember our natural instinctive creativity and taking the space to move and breathe can lead us into a sense of ease and security – it’s something to lean back into!


Choosing the right antenatal class and the Latent Phase of labour……

Labour can be long and unpredictable especially for first time mums. To quote the great Shakespeare himself… “to climb steep hills takes a slow pace at first” this is why we feel choosing the right antenatal class is paramount. A class that focuses heavily on what we call the latent phase of labour (the early stages) can really get you started off on the right foot. There are lots of techniques that you and your birth partner can be shown to help you conquer the fight of flight sense of imbalance at the beginning of labour.  Get this stage right and the rest will follow….


Choose your birth partner wisely …..

As practising midwives, we regularly meet women on labour ward whose ideal birth has faded into what is now a scene from the latest horror movie!  We believe that to have choice you need to be truly informed and be aware of all possible eventualities.   Giving birth can be unpredictable yet we do not believe it needs to be scary and negative (whilst these may make more interesting stories!).


One of the first things we would hope you would consider is choosing your birth partner wisely.  It is important to remember your birth partner does not necessarily need to be your loved one.   In certain cases, this can only cause confusion and self-doubt.  When loved ones see each other in discomfort it can be a really difficult scenario, people will act out of character as there is little they can do.  Sometimes it is more beneficial for women to have the support of someone close who can focus solely on the job in hand!   As the song goes….’we all need somebody to lean on’.  In fact, let’s not forget, the dad will also call out to the birth partner for support.


Every couple will be different and we fully understand that some people will prefer a more intimate setting with just the two of them but we feel it’s important to ensure you know – you always have the choice!   Let’s face it, would you want Robbie Williams in your birth room singing about ‘angels’ when you are 10cm dilated!





‘What’s your ‘Normal’?

As midwives, we often comment on the type of birth someone has had…Did she have a ‘normal’ delivery?  At the Naked Midwives, this got us round to thinking about the language we use when discussing childbirth, labour and the effect our words can sometimes have on women and their expectations.

If a woman has a baby in a relatively short period of time and does so with little pain or discomfort, midwives can be heard to say, ‘oh Imogen did so well, her first baby in four hours….’.   But really, the woman who has had a long latent phase, then decided on the option of more pain relief and maybe had a forceps or ventouse delivery after days – yet is still smiling? Has she not done equally as well? Of course, but the language we use can sometimes dampen this which for some women, can lead to a sense of failure.

Midwives will freely use the word ‘Normal’ in relation to childbirth.  But really, if you’ve not had a baby before, do you even have a ‘normal’?   We all have different body types, different pain thresholds and medical history unique to each and every one of us.  So, it stands to reason that every birth will be different and what is one woman’s ‘normal’, maybe completely different from someone else’s. However, it is important to remember that for the medical term of reference there has to be a way of differentiating between a vaginal delivery, an instrumental delivery and a caesarean section, but surly the word ‘normal’ has no place within these categories… but it does and it’s used on a regular basis!

Every birth needs to be celebrated regardless of the type of delivery and whilst this is often the case, many women feel cheated or this sense of failure if they don’t have this magical ‘normal’ birth. Are we as an institute of maternity care contributing to this with our choice in language? Whilst we would all like to give birth in a comfortable beautiful setting with a short, pain free non-invasive delivery this is not always the case!    Yes, some women may take longer to birth than others, some may take longer to recover from birth and some may even take more time to come to terms with being a parent for the first time…that is their ‘normal’.   From a personal experience, I have had three caesarean sections, two emergencies and one planned so that is my normal…not a drop of ‘normal delivery’ in my birth experience!

It is our choice at The Naked Midwives to aim to stop using the word ‘normal’ in relation to birth after all………what is ‘normal’.

Please share your experiences and thoughts with us in our comments box or get in touch if you are an expectant parent and have any questions for Alex and I.