Choosing birth preferences

During pregnancy, we are focused. On our body, our emotions and our health. And as our body changes, so do our emotions (sometimes on an hourly basis thanks to hormones!) and it’s likely that our health needs change somewhat too. Growing another human is a huge undertaking and one that must not be under-estimated. Give yourself credit for the amazing thing you are doing! But don’t forget that at the end of this pregnancy, comes the birth. Sounds silly, but many women focus on the day to day challenges of pregnancy, but when it comes to the birth not a lot of consideration is given to the logistics of it all. Then there are the women who give it a lot of thought indeed! It’s important to keep things in perspective, which is why writing a birth plan is often suggested. But instead of writing a plan that may not be kept, how about simply choosing your birth preferences instead?

Choose preferences, don’t plan

When we make plans, we often set ourselves up for failure if they go awry. And during pregnancy, labour and birth, nothing is set in stone. Childbirth cannot be predicted. We cannot know how labour will progress nor how baby will react. Unpredictable events cannot be planned for! So, writing a birth plan may seem like a sensible thing to do (and for many it is!) but it could be an idea instead to choose birth preferences that fit in with your expectations?

To be informed is essential, and if you are armed with all the knowledge of what is happening to your body, and what will happen during birth then you are in a better position all round. Knowledge is power, as they say, and being in the know will help you to feel more in control too. But remember that your baby does not know about your plans. No matter how well you have researched your ideal birth- you will still need to be flexible. So writing down your birth preferences makes a lot more sense than writing a plan, don’t you think? And when you do, you might find there is more that you can control than you originally thought…

Let go of the fear

It’s normal to feel fear and anxiety about birth. Television and films tell us that it is going to hurt, and depending on what book you read many of the experts agree. But it is up to you how you channel that pain. If you decide that you want to take pain relief when you’re in labour, research the different medicines that are available at your hospital. Make sure you know what each one does and what the side effects are, and write down your preferences. If you decide you will handle events differently, look into other ways to manage the pain and reduce fear and anxiety- hypnobirthing is excellent for this and we’ve already written a quick guide that you can refer to.

The most important thing is to release the fear, and you can do this by:

  • Read some birth stories. Fear of the unknown is destroyed if you know what is in store for you.
  • Talk about it. Let your partner and your midwife know how you are feeling, and ask questions too.

Make sure that you address your fears before you write your birth preferences and make sure that whatever it is that is causing anxiety is out in the open as soon as possible. The saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ really is true!

Create a positive birth environment

Another thing to consider when you write your preferences- where you are going to give birth. And how can you make it as positive as possible? Whether you opt to have your baby at home, a midwife led unit or in hospital, it has to be the right decision for you. And there are ways that you can make it a positive environment for you. Consider the following:

  • Lighting. Some women like to have candles to help create a calm and relaxing environment. Some hospitals can dim the lights for you and it’s worth knowing that bright lights can actually inhibit the progress of labour, so make it clear in your preferences how you want your lighting controlled.
  • Your sense of smell is very powerful and the aromas that you choose to have around you as you give birth are important too. Soft, pleasant and nurturing scents such as vanilla can help you to relax and are a lot nicer to smell than hospital antiseptic smells! Have some scented massage oil to hand and ask your partner to apply some when you need it.
  • Lots of women find listening to music during labour extremely relaxing, so if you have preferences make sure you bring your own music.
  • Food and drinks. During labour, you will need lots of energy to see you through your task in hand, so make a list of the types of food and drink you want- and the types you definitely don’!

When you write your birth preferences, discuss them with your partner so that you are both clear about the things you’d like to be in place when the day arrives- but remember that they are just preferences. Nobody knows what is going to happen, and if you are happy to remain flexible then you are more likely to retain control of the situation.




Breastmilk: nature’s original superfood

Did you know that breastmilk is a bit of a superfood? It’s true. While for some strange reason the world seemed to fall out of love with one of the most natural phenomenons in history, Mother Nature must have been shaking head in confusion. When breastmilk can be tailored perfectly to your own individual baby, based on her needs right now- why would you opt for anything else? Of course there are many, valid, reasons why you may choose not to breastfeed- personal, emotional and medical- and our intention is not to berate those decisions. We are not here to judge, simply to share the wonders of breastmilk: nature’s original superfood. Here are five reasons why we believe that to be true.

Breastmilk provides baby with all the antibodies and bacteria needed to support a healthy immune system.

When in utero, your baby is protected in a sterile environment, away from bacteria that could pose risks to her health and wellbeing. Once on the outside though, it’s a different story! And aside from wrapping your baby in cotton wool and banning all forms of human contact, you just cannot replicate this environment. And why would you want to? Babies need to be exposed to bacteria so that they can build their immune systems- and that’s where breastmilk comes in.

Studies now suggest that if your baby is breastfed for just the first week of life, your milk will provide enough friendly bacteria to give her immune system a super blast. And it’s thought that up to 80,000 babies’ lives could be saved each year if access to breastmilk in that week alone was possible. That’s pretty mindblowing! Further studies have found there to be up to 700 different strains of bacteria in breastmilk, which is enough to support baby’s biome and to provide long term health benefits too. Leading on to our next point…

Breastmilk helps to promote long term health…

for mother AND baby. A baby who is given breastmilk in infancy will build up her immune system to the point where she is able to fight common allergies. It also helps to protect against asthma, digestive issues and autoimmune diseases too. A breastfed baby will also be getting lots of essential fatty acids from the milk too, which means a boost in brain development, growth, and bile salt production. Experts agree that the nutritional value of breastmilk is second to none in the first six months of life.  And for mum?

Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop postnatal depression, as nursing triggers the release of oxytocin, the feel good hormone. This means that during breastfeeding, mums are more relaxed and nurturing instincts are also emphasised. Lots of mums report that they feel the bond with their baby is strengthened through breastfeeding too. Additionally, studies have found that women who breastfeed are more protected against breast and ovarian cancer. It’s thought that structural changes in the breast during at least one year of nursing, coupled with the fact that lactation suppresses oestrogen production in the body, can help to protect against breast cancer in particular.

Breastmilk is tailored perfectly to your baby’s needs.

So there is no need to go out and buy different types of milk depending on your baby’s age. Each time you nurse your baby, your body produces milk suitable for her needs- so the milk changes and adapts as required. What other food can do that? Breastmilk is the perfect combination of water, fat, protein, carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins. It also contains hormones, and enzymes, essential fatty acids specific to your baby. It’s a little like a magic potion made specially for your baby.

It’s convenient (and free)

No other method of feeding is quite like breastfeeding. And what other superfood is available 24 hours a day and at no cost? Breastmilk is the ultimate in healthy fast food, and there is no denying the convenience of it all. Not all mothers find breastfeeding easy at first, but if you are able to work with a lactation consultant or similar, you should be able to establish a good feeding schedule that suits you and your baby quite easily. And it’s worth noting that breastmilk is always served at just the right temperature too- no preparation required!

It’s natural

In a world where we are surrounded by foods and products that have been chemically enhanced to taste, smell and look good, breastmilk is a welcome superfood. There are no added chemicals, preservatives, sugars or flavours. It’s easily digested, it has a natural laxative effect so that breastfed babies are rarely constipated, and it is all your baby needs in the first six month of life.

If you would like more information and/ or support with breastfeeding, here are some links that might help:

Find a breastfeedng network support group

National breastfeeding helpline

Association of breastfeeding mothers

Baby cafe– for local breastfeeding cafe groups in your area

Best Beginnings

La Leche League

Lactation Consultants of Great Britain


UK Association for milk banking– for information on milk donors


Three Self Care Tips for Dealing With Postnatal Anxiety

When you have a new baby, there is so much excitement and so much love surrounding you. You have visitors, cards, phone calls and emails congratulating you, and not to mention the gifts! So many gifts! New mums are literally inundated with well wishes and this is a lovely thing to happen. The thing is though, that while this honeymoon period doesn’t last, it can be rather overwhelming. And with all the well wishes and joy that a new baby brings, let’s not forget the hormones that are still raging around your body too. All of this can make for a confusing mix of emotions, to say the least. Many people are well versed with the prospect of the so-called ‘baby blues’, but what if there is something else going on too? Recent studies have found that postnatal anxiety is more common than previously assumed, so what help is out there for women who are suffering? 

 What is postnatal anxiety?

Postnatal anxiety is not as rare as you might think. Sometimes the emotions that flood you after your baby is born can be transferred into feelings of worry and anxiety, and this is absolutely and completely 100% normal. We new mums are supposed to worry about our babies. This is a natural instinct and the reason why the human race has managed to survive for so long. After all, our babies are helpless and if we didn’t worry about them they wouldn’t last too long at all. So some degree of worry is completely normal and to be expected. It’s when the worry turns to anxiety that starts to impact on everyday life that help is needed.

 If you think you are experiencing postnatal anxiety it is really important to seek some help. It might be that simply talking through your fears can be a huge help, or it might be that alternative treatment is needed. Sometimes medications are used, but for many women counselling sessions can help immensely. There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to seeking help; hopefully your health visitor will notice that you are experiencing anxiety and will offer help sooner rather than later. But if no help is forthcoming, requesting someone to talk to is an important first step to take.


 It may be a bit of a buzz word at the moment, but there is a reason why self-care is gaining in popularity right now. We are the masters of our own destiny, or so they say, after all. If you are experiencing anxiety, there are things that you can do to help control those feelings. It’s easy to forget about your own needs when you have a small baby to take care of, but honestly putting your needs at the forefront of your mind now and then will certainly benefit you and your baby so please don’t neglect yourself. Here are three self-care tips we swear by- I hope they help you too.

 Stay active

When you’re a new mum, it might feel like you are always on your feet, and the lack of sleep at night can be a killer during the day. Exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing but studies have found that exercise is actually one of nature’s most powerful remedies for low mood and anxiety.

Just 15 minutes of activity a day can help to soothe the mind and boost the surge of powerful endorphins that will lift your mood and clear some of the fog. And if you’re doing something for YOU, that is going to lift your mood too. You don’t need to book yourself into the gym either. Go for a walk with the pram, or practise some peaceful yoga while the baby sleeps. Ask someone else to take the baby while you go for a walk, if you’re comfortable with that. There are so many ways that you can keep active – for more information visit this site.


Sleep can be a huge factor when it comes to anxiety, and especially when you have a new baby. It’s not easy, but making sleep a priority for yourself as well as for your baby is vital. If you’re having trouble sleeping make sure you speak to your GP for advice, and if you can sleep when baby sleeps then please do. It’s also a good idea to speak to your partner about sharing some of the night feeds too.

 Keep a journal

Sometimes, as a new mum it’s easy to feel a little invisible. Once baby is born, focus shifts on to them and away from you and it’s easier to tell people that you feel fine rather than the truth- that you are finding things hard. So many women find it hard to ask for help or to admit that they’re struggling. If this is you, keeping a journal might help. Sometimes writing down our worries and concerns can help us to feel more in control of our emotions, and help us to see solutions for problems that can seem overwhelming. You can also try gratitude journals or achievements journals that can help with feelings of low self esteem too.

Remember that you’re not alone. If you’re suffering, please do speak out and ask for help.

Natural remedies for morning sickness

Pregnancy is such a wonderful time-a chance for your body to prove just how marvellous it can be, by growing a whole new person! And the books promise it all, from glowing skin to thicker hair and healthy nails, to a boundless energy that sees you swim, walk for miles and smile at all who you meet… But not always, and certainly not in the early days for lots of women. Morning sickness affects around half of all pregnant women, to varying degrees and for varying lengths of time, and it can be a really miserable time for some.

Most women find that the symptoms ease at around 12 weeks as the placenta takes over some of the leg work, but how to cope until then? It can feel like the longest time ever, especially if you are keeping it quiet until after the first scan, as many families choose to do. Luckily there are some natural remedies that you can try to ease your symptoms, so that you don’t have to suffer in silence.

Vitamin B6

Your midwife may have already recommended a good multi vitamin tablet, with folic acid to help the developing baby, but it is also said that taking Vitamin B6 could help to ease the symptoms of morning sickness too. Doctors believe that a mix of hormones and a lack of this vitamin is the cause of nausea and sickness in pregnancy, and studies have shown that women who take a supplement experience a reduction in symptoms.

Most women are able to get enough vitamin B6 just by making a few dietary adjustments. Foods rich in the vitamin include bananas, nuts, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, lean meats, and fish. If you think that you need a supplement, speak to your GP who can prescribe the correct dosage for you.


Pregnancy is certainly no time to be squeamish when it comes to needles (they’ll be taking lots of blood from you over the coming weeks!) so for those with nerves of steel, acupuncture might be worth a try. It can help to regulate the enormous changes that occur in the body during the early stages of pregnancy and many women swear by this alternative therapy.
Acupuncture works by restoring balance in the body and dealing with blockages to what the Chinese call qi. It’s an ancient practise that many swear has helped them with the symptoms of morning sickness, even in it’s severest form (Hypermesis Gravidarum). Added to this, many say that acupuncture can be used to treat heartburn, hemorrhoids and sciatica pain.


Like acupuncture, acupressure has been shown to relieve symptoms of morning sickness, even when it is very severe. It works by applying pressure on certain points in the body, and can also help to relieve back pain and other ailments too. Many women swear by the acupressure bands that are easily found in most chemists (used mainly to treat travel sickness).

*It is essential that your practitioner during your acupressure and acupuncture sessions is fully trained and qualified to work with pregnant women. Your treatment should not take more than one hour, and make sure you speak to your midwife immediately if you experience pain or contractions following your treatment.


Reflexology is another ancient practise, use to treat illness and based on the theory that certain areas on the hands and feet are linked to other parts of the body. By applying pressure to certain points, reflexology can relieve pain and symptoms of sickness in other areas. Lots of women swear by the power of reflexology to ease symptoms of morning sickness, so it could be worth a visit if you’re suffering. Experts believe that symptoms of depression and anxiety can also be treated successfully. However, it is also worth noting that some women have reported symptoms temporarily worsening after a session of reflexology, before improvement has been noted. It’s vital that you inform your practitioner that you are pregnant so that appropriate treatment can be administered.

Reduce stress

An easy enough tip to give, but not always so easy to administer. Studies have found that women who experience stress during their pregnancy are more likely to suffer from morning sickness and nausea, and those who do find that their symptoms worsen when they are feeling under pressure. If this sounds like you, it’s important to take some time for relaxation when you can. Try the following:

● Prenatal yoga/ pilates
● Gentle exercise such as swimming or walking
● Meditation
● Take regular naps
● Avoid stressful situations where you can, and cut down on work hours if you’re able to
By reducing stress, you may be able to reduce symptoms of morning sickness too, so make sure that those around you are away of your need to rest as much as you can.


Nature’s life force. A dehydrated body does not function well, and if you are vomiting during pregnancy it is even more important to replace lost fluids. Water is essential for well-being whether you are pregnant or not,so it’s a great idea to always keep a bottle with you wherever you go.

Eat well and often

Your diet during pregnancy is very important, and more so if you’re suffering from morning sickness. No doubt there are times where eating is the last thing on your mind, but it’s important to keep your strength up. While we agree that eating whatever you can stomach is probably the most tempting solution, do try to look at other alternatives if all you are craving is junk food or worse. Greasy, fatty food is known to worsen symptoms of morning sickness, so avoid these foods if you can.

Try, if you can, to eat a balanced diet of:

● fruit
● vegetables
● protein
● dairy

It’s also a good idea to eat little and often, as many women report that nausea increases with hunger. Foods with a low GI are a good idea as they keep you fuller for longer, so make sure you always have a packet of oatcakes or similar in your bag for when nausea strikes.


Ginger is most likely to be the first thing that people think of when you tell them that you are suffering with morning sickness- but there’s av very good reason for that! The benefits of ginger have long been documented and there are studies that have shown its effectiveness in easing symptoms of morning sickness. Used in many Chinese remedies, ginger is especially useful for women who are feeling cold too, due to it’s warming properties. You can eat it in biscuit form (although not too many!), drink it in tea, or add it to your hot water and lemon for an extra boost of anti-nausea goodness.


Peppermint has been known to help women suffering bouts of morning sickness and the good news is that is it readily available. Drink it as tea, suck on mints, or even inhale peppermint oil. All have been known to settle the stomach and all are completely safe.


Lemon has many healing and soothing properties and easing the symptoms of morning sickness is just one of its super powers. Lots of women say that just smelling a lemon helps to alleviate nausea and others claim to have symptoms eased by squeezing it into water to drink. Alternatively, you can add a slice to hot water in the mornings to help with digestive issues too. Lemons have a natural calming effect which can really help symptoms of morning sickness, and like peppermints, they are cheap and easy to get hold of too.

Rest, rest and more rest

Sometimes, morning sickness can be so awful that there is nothing else you can do besides sleep. The more you are able to rest, the stronger you will be, and therefore you will feel more able to cope with your symptoms. Lots of women report that sickness and nausea is worsened when they are tired or feeling run down, so it really is important to take time out when you need to. Talk to your partner, family and friends and make sure they are aware of how you’re feeling. When you need to rest, listen to your body, and accept help when it is offered.

When morning sickness is really bad

Severe pregnancy sickness is called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and affects around 2% of pregnant women. HG usually occurs fairly early on in pregnancy, and can cause near constant vomiting and nausea for a number of weeks, if not throughout the whole pregnancy. Of course, this is fairly extreme, but if you do experience severe vomiting and nausea it is important to see a doctor in case of dehydration. In some cases, other treatment may be necessary.

Using essential oils safely in pregnancy and beyond.

During pregnancy the body and mind is subject to new stresses and strains, and as the months progress, it can be easy to feel more than a little fatigued and emotional. Traditional methods of unwinding might not be recommended for you now, so it might be time to explore a few alternative ways to de-stress instead! The use of essential oils in pregnancy can be a wonderful way to lift moods and soothe aches and pains, but it’s important to know what you’re doing. We’ve put together a quick guide to using essential oils safely in pregnancy and beyond.

Be sensible

Before you start to use essential oils for the first time, please seek professional medical advice to ensure the safety of yourself and your baby. Always read as much information as you can; essential oils are derived from plants and should be used sparingly. Be informed, and make an informed choice. Always buy your essential oils from reputable sources, and never use if you are not in good health. Avoid all essential oils until after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

How do essential oils work?

The oils extracted from plants are highly concentrated, and once they are applied to the body they are absorbed by the skin. Experts are not yet aware of the full effects of all essential oils, but it is suspected that they could be able to cross into the placenta. This means that you must be careful when using them, and always follow safety precautions.

The right essential oils are known to have powerful relaxation properties, which makes them wonderful for keeping stress levels down and for regulating emotions. The following essential oils are known to be wonderful for use in pregnancy:

● Lavender- not only will it help to relax you and aid a good night’s sleep, but lavender can also be used to treat stretch marks too. Mix with a carrier oil and apply to the skin to prevent stretch marks appearing. Massage well, and relax.
● Bergamot. This is a light and refreshing oil with a citrus fragrance and it can help to relieve pain and lift moods- making it great for combatting the rollercoaster of emotions that pregnancy and parenthood brings. Bergamot it also known to relieve the symptoms of indigestion. Mix two drops of Bergamot with two drops of orange and one drop of Neroli for a blend that will settle your emotions and clear your mind on an unsettled day.
● Lemon- a wonderful antidote for morning sickness and nausea.
● Neroli- a multi-purpose oil that has the ability to soothes aches and pains in pregnancy, and resolve digestive issues too. Neroli is also wonderful for tackling anxiety and depression and is known to aid sleep in the last trimester. Additionally, Neroli can help to promote skin cell regeneration so that you really can have that pregnancy glow after all! You can also add one drop of Neroli to one drop of Roman Chamomile to relieve anxiety and fears surrounding pregnancy and birth. Mix the blend with a teaspoon of base oil, rub into the palms of your hands and inhale deeply.
● Rosewood- this is an essential oil for sleep-deprived mums, as it has a mild sedative effect that will help relax you for a good night’s sleep. Mix one drop of Rosewood to one drop of lavender and one drop of Neroli. The blend can be used to quieten the mind and spirit.
● Sandalwood is a powerful anti-depressant and can help treat symptoms of cystitis during pregnancy.
● Frankincense can be used in labor

During breastfeeding and after birth

Some essential oils are wonderful for the postnatal period and can be used effectively with baby too. As always, use with caution and make sure you take safety precautions at all times.
● Vetiver is a wonderfully calming oil that will help to calm and stabilise moods, and can be used to effectively treat postnatal depression. It should be noted that vetiver can be either be inhaled from the bottle, or diffused in a room but only when baby is over 12 months of age. Room sprays or oils in water can be used once baby is over six months.
● Fennel and clary sage can be used to stimulate milk supply for breastfeeding mothers and this combination is known to be very effective. Make a massage oil for the breasts by adding 10 drops of each essential oil to two tablespoons of grapeseed oil. Blend together and massage into the breasts in a gentle, circular motion. Ensure excess oils are removed before feeding baby.
● Roman chamomile and lavender can be used to treat nappy rash and other minor skin complaints. Newborn babies will need the following blend to be halved: Mix one drop of each oil to a carrier oil and apply gently to the skin.

Safety precautions

Some essential oils are not recommended for use during pregnancy, and all essential oils should be used with caution after birth too. When you use essential oils in pregnancy, make sure you use just one drop of oil at a time and limit use over longer periods of time. If you add oil to a bath, dilute if first by mixing with at least a teaspoon of a carrier oil- grapeseed or almond oil are perfect for this.

The following oils are not recommended for use:
● Basil
● Cedarwood
● Cinnamon
● Clove
● Cypress (safe for use after 5 months gestation)
● Fennel
● Hyssop
● Jasmine
● Juniper
● Lemongrass
● Myrrh
● Parsley
● Pennyroyal
● Peppermint
● Rosemary
● Sweet marjoram
● Thyme