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  1. Highly recommended watching! Put this in your diaries...

    ITV1 will be screening 'Home Delivery' at primetime on Thurs 21st March 2013. This program was made in conjunction with Kent independent midwife Virginia Howes, who wanted to show how different birth can be to the dramatic births and patriarchal outdated practice often depicted on shows like C4's 'One Born Every Minute'.

    The show follows the births of three women who planned their homebirths with Virginia. Some require assistance, but this promises to be a realistic look at birth rather than dramatisation and scaremongering.

    Here's the ITV1 synopsis:

    "50 years ago 30% of women gave birth at home, now it’s less than 3%.

    Up and down the country a rare event is taking place, women are going against convention and having their babies at home. With privileged and intimate access to homes across the UK, we follow the magical moment when independent midwife Virginia, brings new life into the world.

    We follow Virginia’s unpredictable and exciting life as she races to make sure she arrives in time – before the baby does. And meet three incredible women who are going against convention and saying 'no' to a hospital birth and instead, choosing to labour in their living rooms"
    Please spread the word! If there are enough viewers and support for the show perhaps there will be more commissioned. The media has a huge influence in how our culture perceives childbirth...

  2. Limitations... This is a small sample of women who chose to practice hypnobirthing. Data is included from all women who judged themselves to have practiced 'enough' or 'extensively' by the onset of labour. Women practiced in different ways. Data is excluded from those experiencing rare complications that typically affect just 0.5% to 3% of babies nationally.

    Results... The following bar charts display results as percentages

     Hypnobirthing outcomes Cornwall
    vbac rate hypnobirthing
     hypnobirthing pain relief statistics

    *If births involving syntocinon for induction or augmentation are excluded, the epidural rate was 0%

    homebirth rate hypnobirthingu
    hypnobirthing results Cornwall

  3. I walk along holding your 2-year-old hand, basking in
    the glow of our magical relationship.

    Suddenly I feel a kick from within, as if to remind me
    that our time alone is limited. And I wonder: how
    could I ever love another child as I love you?

    Then he is born, and I watch you. I watch the pain you
    feel at having to share me as you've never shared me
    before. I hear you telling me in your own way, Please
    love only me. And I hear myself telling you in
    mine, I can't, knowing, in fact, that I never can

    You cry. I cry with you. I almost see our new baby as
    an intruder on the precious relationship we once
    shared. A relationship we can never quite have again.

    But then, barely noticing, I find myself attached to
    that new being, and feeling almost guilty. I'm afraid
    to let you see me enjoying him - as though I am
    betraying you.

    But then I notice your resentment change, first to
    curiosity, then to protectiveness, finally to genuine

    More days pass, and we are settling into a new
    routine. The memory of days with just the two of us is
    fading fast. But something else is replacing those
    wonderful times we shared, just we two.

    There are new times - only now, we are three.

    I watch the love between you grow, the way you look at
    each other, touch each other. I watch how he adores
    you - as I have for so long. I see how excited you are
    by each of his new accomplishments.

    And I begin to realise that I haven't taken something
    from you, I've given something to you. I notice that I
    am no longer afraid to share my love openly with both
    of you.

    I find that my love for each of you is as different as
    you are, but equally strong.

    And my question is finally answered, to my amazement.
    Yes, I can love another child as much as I love you -
    only differently.

    And although I realise that you may have to share my
    time, I now know you'll never share my love. There's
    enough of that for both of you - you each have your
    own supply.

    I love you - both.
    And I thank you both for blessing my life.

    Author unknown

    Expecting a sibling poem
  4. The Hospital Episode Statistics Maternity data set for 2011/12 was released a couple of days ago. Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust seems to perform better than other England trusts on average:

    • 18.6% total caesarean rate vs 25%
    • 8.3% elective caesarean rate vs 10%
    • 10.3% emergency caesarean rate vs 15%
    • 12% ventouse/forceps delivery rate vs 13%
    • 19.1% of women delivered their babies in an entirely midwifery-led setting vs 10.7%
    • 51.2% of women gave birth 'unassisted' (meaning without medical intervention) vs 45.5%
  5. Nobody really knows the origin or meaning behind Sheela-Na-Gig figures. They've been discovered all over Europe, usually in places like churches and castles.

    There's a theory that some may have been used as 'birthing stones' by women in labour... Perhaps for visualisation and affirmation!

    Maybe I could make some...


  6. For the next twenty years the seaside town of Ilfracombe will play host to 'Verity', Damien Hirst's 70 foot statue of a pregnant woman brandishing a sword. Half her torso is presented in an anatomical style revealing her sleeping baby within. Verity, meaning 'truth' in Italian, represents a  “modern allegory of truth and justice."



    The local council has received 100 plus complaints from local residents, brandishing the statue outrageous, immoral, bizarre, obscene, offensive, disgusting, distasteful, embarrassing, grotesque, disrespectful, insensitive, inappropriate, a monstrosity, tasteless, ugly, vulgar and not in good taste.

    How divorced are we as a society from the realities of being human?! My favourite comment on Verity, on a Facebook thread, simply says:

    "She is a fertility Goddess. Oh we forgot about her. We thought cars were more important. She is awesome."

    Verity reminds me of something written in a Guardian article I was sent by a friend and former client yesterday. Frances Harrison, on the relationship between being a mother and war correspondant, contemplates how:

    "As a mother, I found it harder to fathom the extraordinary cruelty otherwise gentle people are capable of in wars. At night in Sri Lanka, I would sit under the ceiling fan and rock my tiny baby to sleep in my arms, haunted by the stories I reported by day: tales of torture, mass graves and the agony of the missing fighters' mothers who never received a corpse to mourn. Both sides reeled out casualty statistics like cricket scores, forgetting the people they talked about were once someone's baby, loved and protected. It made it hard to get excited about the military hardware side of war – it didn't matter much if it was a T56 or AK-47 that did the killing. In the male-dominated world of foreign reporting I never admitted it, but motherhood did bring a new perspective to the story."

    Verity also reminds me that as childbearing women we are powerful, amazing and strong. How striking is the contrast between this and the mainstream perception of pregnant women as delicate, vulnerable and stupid? Similar to Marianne Williamson's poem:

    "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?..."

  7. In the year 2009/2010, 8.3% of women giving birth at Royal Cornwall Hospital (Treliske) had an elective caesarean section (NHS Information Centre).

    The reasons for choosing a caesarean are varied. For those experiencing a 'low risk' pregnancy and labour, intervention-free, vaginal birth is normally the most advantageous way for a baby to be born (Enkin 2000).

    For those who require help - for either physical or unresolved psychological reasons, scheduled caesarean birth from 39 weeks can also be a low risk option, according to Dr Anthony Falconer, Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology President:

    "Recent advances in medical science have made the procedure much safer and for most women the complications of this operation are low" (press statement 2011).

    Pregnant women should be offered evidence-based information and support to enable them to make informed decisions about childbirth.

    Recently updated national NICE guidelines state that women who haven't had any problems in their pregnancy, having a first, planned caesarean birth, may be at an increased risk of experiencing the following, compared to if they had a planned vaginal birth:

      - baby admitted to neonatal intensive care: 13.9% vs 6.3%
      - hysterectomy caused by postpartum haemorrhage: 0.03% vs 0.01%
      - cardiac arrest: 0.19% vs 0.03%
      - longer hospital stay: 3.96 days vs 2.56 days

    (Nice clinical guideline 132, published November 2011)

  8. I just stumbled across this interesting short piece on Youtube... Fascinating to see how similar the depictions of childbirth are... All strong, upright women. My favourite quote from this:

    "Every woman has something of the goddess inside her."


    Location  Type
    Births per year

    Normal birth rate* Induction rate

    Caesarean rate

    Instrumental delivery rate Epidural available? Birth pool provided?
    Royal Cornwall Hospital (Treliske) Consultant-led 3700 38.5% 22.4% 22.2% 13.5% Yes No
    Penrice Birthing Centre Midwifery-led 350 95.9% <2%     No Yes
    Helston Birth Unit Midwifery-led 60 >91%       No Yes
    St Mary's Hospital (Isles of Scilly) Midwifery-led 4         No No
    Homebirth Midwifery-led 182         No No buy/hire

    *A normal birth is one that avoids the following, according to the Maternity Care Working Party:

    • induction of labour (with prostaglandins, oxytocics or ARM)
    • epidural or spinal
    • general anaesthetic
    • forceps or ventouse
    • caesarean section
    • episiotomy

    The table doesn't cover local data on the intervention rates (induction, instrumental delivery, caesarean etc) of births that transferred into hospital from a midwifery-led setting.
    However, recent data from all NHS trusts in England found that women planning a birth in a freestanding MLU experienced a 17% intervention rate, and women planning a homebirth experienced a 10% intervention rate (compared to those who planned a hospital birth, who experienced an average 40% intervention rate).

    2011 data provided by Birth Choice UK, Dr Foster Health and the Birthplace in England study

  10. A large study published in 2011 compared death and injury rates for the babies of 64,538 low risk women giving birth in a variety of settings in England between April 2008 and April 2010.

    The women planned births either at home or in midwifery-led birth units (like Penrice / Helston) or in consultant-led hospitals (like Treliske).

    • Birth was found to be very safe with over 99% of babies having good outcomes wherever their mothers planned to give birth

    • For women not expecting their first baby, there was no difference in outcomes wherever they planned to give birth

    • For first time mothers, births planned at hospital were safe for babies 99.57% of the time, and births planned at home were safe for babies 99.07% of the time. The authors state this small difference is unexplained, but asserted that homebirth is still safe for first time mothers

    • It's also interesting to note that women planning a hospital birth experienced a 40% medical intervention rate (e.g caesarean, forceps, ventouse) compared to those who planned births at a freestanding midwifery-led unit (17%) and those who planned a homebirth (10%)


    Treliske labour wardResearch link:

    Perinatal and maternal outcomes by planned place of birth for healthy women with low risk pregnancies: the Birthplace in England national prospective cohort study BMJ 2011;343:d7400

  11. 'Active Birth' posters adorn many a labour room wall. Labouring women are featured in standing, squatting and kneeling positions. The idea is that lying down flat on your back is counterproductive to the normal birth process.

    Few women instinctively choose this position if they are confident and informed about birth physiology... But despite many improvements in most areas in recent decades (particularly since the 1993 government report Changing Childbirth), the bed still plays a central role in many hospital births, and is a powerful psychological trigger for encouraging a passive, 'patient' mindset.

    The concept of Active Birth doesn't just mean walking around in labour and giving birth off of your back. It most importantly means that the woman is in control of her own labour, assisted by her birth partner and midwife as her advocates. This means being enabled to make fully informed choices, having time and space to labour on her own terms, and in whatever way feels right, no matter how she has her baby.

    Many of us birthworkers in Cornwall have been trained by Active Birth founder Janet Balaskas. Active birth principles are interwoven within my Cornwall hypnobirthing workshop.

    A rally led by Janet Balaskas 30 years ago paved the way for women to choose active birth to bear their children.

    "The head obstetrician at the hospital said active birth was animalistic behaviour, and that humans were not animals and should lie down to give birth," 

    BBC World Service speaks to the founder of the movement:

    Active Birth hypnobirthing in Cornwall

    Click here to visit the article featuring Active Birth founder Janet Balaskas

    Left: Sharon (Nature's Mother) at Helston Birth Unit in west Cornwall