Why Antenatal Hypnobirthing classes during COVID 19 are so important

Sally Underwoodhypnobirthing, Pregnancy & COVIDLeave a Comment

Being pregnant today is so not like it was 12 months ago! There are suddenly so many challenges – challenges that sometimes seem impossible to overcome. The Covid 19 pandemic looks like it is here to stay for a while. The government has enforced new rules re our freedom and exposure which will hopefully protect us and reduce the incidence of coronavirus spreading across the UK but it is difficult at this stage for any of us to really feel safe and as we probably did last year.  

There is no evidence currently to suggest that pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus but pregnant women are included in the list of people considered to be at ‘moderate risk, , as a precaution. Current data indicates that most pregnant women only experience mild or moderate symptoms physically BUT as so many maternity services have been so radically reduced and changed, my fear is that as Pregnant women are currently so exposed and vulnerable, that it is their mental health which will be really suffering, hugely.

Emotions & stress higher in pregnant woman now due to the restrictions in contact with professionals

Feelings and emotions are rife during pregnancy normally – with all the hormonal changes, but with the added stressors caused by self-isolation, isolation from the work place, cancelled antenatal classes, digitalised midwifery appointments, restricted visiting regimes many will not feel able to cope. Pregnancy is a time of joy and excitement – social media will be good at endorsing this BUT if you are the one stuck inside alone feeling nauseous, unsure of all the amazing changes happening to your body as your baby is growing inside you – you will probably be feel rather overwhelmed and alone. 

Current research indicates that most hospital trusts have suspended all face to face antenatal education classes and replaced them with virtual sessions. It seems also that pregnant couples are turning to Audible and podcasts to access pregnancy information. I can’t recommend enough to join a Zoom class taught by a professional midwife or one that is face to face with the proper restrictions in place. You will learn so much more and be able to have all your questions answered so you can feel more at ease during your pregnancy.

I have been a midwife for many years and like to think that l have much experience of the benefits of women interacting during their pregnancies and learning from each other. Nothing beats the whole face to face antenatal training programme – especially if its taught by a midwife! I have recently recommenced running face to face antenatal and hypnobirthing training programmes. I researched this decision and thought that I would start with a small group – within a covid safe environment at the Natural Baby Shower Hub, to check out the vibes. 

We started last Saturday with the first morning workshop and plan to continue this week. It was great fun and I like to think informative. I really enjoy teaching face to face so much more that virtually – although am really trying to embrace zoom on a Monday evening for our weekly sessions. I teach Katharine Graves hypnobirthing which is logical, simple, practical and very effective. It offers a complete antenatal education programme. It makes a difference to your experience of giving birth and most importantly gives you the tools to give your baby the best start in this new way of life.

Get all the facts right before you go into labour – what you need to know in hospital

Our classes will help you cope currently. They will hopefully make you feel more in control of your situation. You will learn about the procedures which are currently routine in hospital and your alternatives, so that you and your partner can make informed decisions with confidence.  Statistics show that the numbers of operative births ie caesarean sections are rising within the UK. There are obviously numerous reasons for this harsh fact.  Caesareans are amazing and life saving for many scenarios but I believe if women were more informed and felt more in control of the whole pregnancy thingy and spent more time getting to work together with their midwife, this number could be well reduced – even during the pandemic – which will unfortunately be here for the next 6 months – at least…..  You will also learn how to relax, to focus and how to breath away stressors. Relaxation is so important. Sometimes we do feel too busy.

Please however, do remember that if believe that you are developing symptoms – ie a high temperature, a new continuous cough or the loss or change to your normal sense of taste or smell that you need to inform your midwife/GP/maternity team and call NHS 111 online service for best advice. This basically following the same course of action as you would do if you have any questions or concerns about you or your baby.

Pregnancy and Infections

Across the world, emerging reports suggest some babies have been born prematurely to women who were very unwell with coronavirus. It is unclear whether coronavirus caused these premature births, or whether it was recommended that their babies were born early for the benefit of the women’s health and to enable them to recover. There are various studies being undertaken by all maternity units and we have a PAN-COVID surveillance programme to monitor pregnancy outcomes You can also ask your maternity team about any local research that is taking place in your area – several units are using apps to report Covid 19 during the pandemic.

Health professionals have known for many years that as pregnancy alters the way women cope with viral infections such as flu, it is really important then to have a flu vaccine – this is possibly more important now!

Visiting during labour and feeling alone – hypnobirthing can help

Visiting is causing much anxiety and debate currently across maternity units nationwide following the governments strict legislation. Most NHS trusts have allowed partners only to visit during established labour. Local trusts have been using discretion for certain women but generally partners  have only been invited to attend the birth of their new babies then asked to leave 4 – 6 hours following.  Things are gradually changing and guidelines adapting though… watch this space. Several London hospitals are reintroducing visiting sessions during the post-natal period this week.

But this is why it is so important to undertake antenatal hypnobirthing classes during this COVID pandemic, because you may be alone more than you would have been, so you need to have learnt how to look after yourself and to be as calm and in control as you can be under these situations. Hypnobirthing helps hugely in managing your focus and staying with your pregnancy.

Mental health once the baby arrives

Families mental health have been affected by missing out on hospital appointments and bonding time when there new born baby arrives. Our new 4th trimester class can help you with this. We understand that becoming a new parent is massive and that you need to plan for the plethora of changes to your ‘routine’ together, having a new baby has. Omg! You will never be the same again – this is a good thing though. Please check out our website for more details. We are currently offering our 4th trimester course as a virtual workshop so that you can interact and learn how to manage with; changes to your sleep, breast feeding, parenting skills and baby blues and covid baby blues……… with me!

Sally Underwood

Midwife & Founder of the UB Academy


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Exciting news! Our Pregnancy Yoga is coming to Farnham

Sally UnderwoodUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Those of you who have been with us for the long haul will know that my mum Sally and I launched Underwood Baby Academy nearly one year ago! We are passionate about increasing the support available for pregnancy, birth and beyond. Being with women and families on such a huge life adventure is truly magical, knowing we are making a difference, providing knowledge and power to many. But long before this business adventure with Mum, I fell in love with pregnancy yoga.

I was pregnant with my first baby and much to everyones surprise back then, including my mums, i was planning a homebirth. I began focusing on everything and anything that could help me prepare and cope for my first labour at home.

One of which was pregnancy yoga.

After attending my first class I was hooked! I absolutely loved the way it made me connect with my pregnant body and my baby, moving in a flowing gentle way and the breath…oh the breath! The tools i learnt during pregnancy yoga definitely helped me birth my baby at home.

Fast forward to my second pregnancy and i had just completed my prenatal yoga teacher training. Yes! I loved pregnancy yoga so much i knew i wanted to teach it myself and provide the nurturing experience and birth education for pregnant women to enjoy as much as i did. My nursing career was a huge benefit during the training and by the end i knew i had made the right choice and followed my dream!

Whizz along a few more years and we are slap bang in the middle of a pandemic,  all feeling isolated, scared and anxious…but each week setting up my laptop, my mat, my zen and providing pregnancy yoga classes live on zoom to our wonderful UB Academy members. Sure it wasn’t the same as teaching face to face, but still being able to provide an antenatal class which held so many benefits to our members made my heart sing. Moving together on the screen, breathing, stretching, flowing, talking, learning, laughing and relaxing. The lockdown for pregnant women during coronavirus was scary and strange, but connecting with each other and still being able to practice yoga together is definitely a time in all our lives im sure we won’t forget.

Which brings me on to the current chapter… starting back our face to face pregnancy classes but now in Farnham, Surrey. I am pretty buzzed about this because its where i live, so logistically its better for me with my tribe of three babes, but more importantly its the community spirit that this little town holds. I can’t wait to teach pregnancy yoga to all the lovely pregnant mamas at The Studio in Farnham, where i once attended pregnancy yoga classes myself. So if you live locally come and get involved, give it a whirl…you won’t regret it!

Even if you have never stepped foot on a yoga mat before, come and feel the benefits for your prenatal body. Pregnancy yoga classes will provide you with a safe and supportive way to move your changing body, working WITH you as you grow and change. 

UB Academy pregnancy yoga will help to relieve the physical demands pregnancy has on your body, easing tension and releasing stress. You will learn breathing techniques which are invaluable for your labour, but also will help your pregnancy and even help to keep you calm once you’ve had your baby. 

Pregnancy yoga is so much more than exercise. By preparing yourself physically and mentally for labour and birth you will feel empowered and excited. Allowing yourself to connect with your own confidence, your own belief in yourself. Yep that’s right, you’ve got this Mama!

Yoga for pregnancy also allows you time to relax and connect with your unborn baby. Life is busy, its actually hard to just stop. To clear your mind, to turn off that to do list. Its a skill, and one i love to teach. And then there is the pelvic floor, we all know how important that is. The list of benefits goes on and on. 

However doing all of this together, within a group of women, who are pregnant just like you, creating a community, a network, a safe space….friendships. This is what transforms a pregnancy. This is what is golden. 

So come along and join me.

Huge efforts are going into keeping the studio Covid-secure, enabling our antenatal classes to continue in person. Hypnobirthing weekend courses to follow in November, as well as 4th Trimester Workshops, Postnatal Yoga, Baby Massage and Baby Yoga…its all on its way to Farnham. For those of you who don’t live in or near Farnham, we are still holding classes at The Natural Shower, Bagshot, as well as some virtual online classes. The Question is…where will be next!

Pregnancy Yoga Classes, Tuesday evenings, 18:30-19:30 at The Studio, Durham House Chiropractic Clinic, Farnham, Surrey.

You can book your place below, or alternatively read in more detail about our classes here: UB Academy Pregnancy Yoga

See you there,

Love and Light,

Laura xxx

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Book your pregnancy yoga place ASAP!

Join Laura, from UB Academy, at The Studio, Durham House Chiropractic Clinic, Farnham, Surrey. Click to pay in full for 6 weeks of classes £72.00 (There are currently only two spaces left on the next course starting the 22nd September 2020) Click Here BOOKING!

Read Laura’s Positive Birthing Story

If you would like to read a first-hand experience of the benefits of pregnancy yoga, click to her Laura’s incredible story Click Here

Induction….feel INFORMED and EMPOWERED.

Sally UnderwoodUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Written by midwife Julie Watson (UB Academy)

There are lots of famous quotes about labour and birth but few related to the impact induction can have on that process. Many moons ago when I thought I knew so much about labour and birth (but in reality I had so much more to experience and learn), i read how Mary Cronk compared labour and its amazing intricacies to a synchronised swimming team; in-tune and utterly wonderful. She said that induction of labour is like throwing one of those swimmers in the pool and hoping the others jump in.

Can you believe that today in every maternity unit across the country, 1 in every 3 women are beginning their labour as a result of an induction? Only 52% of women’s labours start spontaneously, with the proportion of births where labour was induced increasing from 20.4 per cent in 2007-08 to 32.6 per cent in 2017-18, if this trajectory continues our future mothers could be faced with navigating choices driven by a 44% induction rate.

Now some may say we are so very fortunate to have advanced medicine, skilled expertise and our NHS readily available to all, and having worked in the NHS all of my working life I would absolutely agree, however what is not always evident is the impact modern medicine has had or is having, what I have witnessed is these new advances being overused and encouraged because they are available rather than because they are necessary.

The unfortunate stark reality for pregnant mums is that they are under the impression that they cannot labour and birth without assistance and intervention and who can blame them when the national caesarean section rate hovers at around 30% and the induction rate is 32%, this can only lead to fear and anxiety which in turn inhibits the body’s natural ability to produce oxytocin, which affects the labour process and so we have a cycle which almost makes the induction process inevitable. In fact, many women know all about induction even before the point of conception! Unfortunately, in all areas of medicine, but particularly within maternity services the right balance has yet to be found when considering appropriate and necessary use of intervention, blanket policies and guidelines have led to a ‘one size fits all’ approach to something that should be a magical and individual experience. This approach is not a 21stcentury or even a 20th century dilemma, as far back as the 1860s there has been a feeling that new approaches in medicine were causing their own issues for the people receiving it. During a lecture to the Massachusetts Medical Society, Oliver Wendell Holmes Senior stated “If the whole materia medica, as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind—and all the worse for the fishes.’ 

As an experienced midwife I have seen how the culture within maternity services can directly impact the way in which women are informed, encouraged and supported. This can be anything from subtle behaviours of the leaders within the team, direct policies and guidelines that are described as unbendable by healthcare professionals, the use of language during important care discussions, I firmly believe that as healthcare professionals we have a duty to inform couples of their choices in an unbiased way and then we must allow them time to consider all their options and then finally support them with what they feel is right for them. But for healthcare professionals to take and maintain this approach is challenging, time constraints, litigation, peer pressure are all real when  you are working in a busy maternity unit, but midwives are the ‘guardians of normality’ we are ‘with woman’ and so for that reason we must be the tall poppies willing to speak up and ensure we are advocates.

Induction is a necessary intervention for some women, it can be a positive experience and in some very rare cases it can be lifesaving but to see that over 70% of mums who are induced as a result of ‘post-dates’ just makes me question why so many women’s bodies are deemed to be unable to go into labour of their own accord?  As a society we watch in awe as mothers conceive and grow another human, week after week their baby develops and thrives, all entirely normal and as expected until one day the woman wakes and for some reason her pregnancy is now seen as ‘risky’, her body no longer knows what to do despite the previous weeks and months of doing a pretty bloody awesome job and she is faced with discussions related to stillbirth or placental insufficiency. For some the pressure and fear is overwhelming and consent is given to ensure they keep their baby safe. A recent piece of research by Rydahl et al, 2019 looked at a cohort of Danish women, focusing on what happened before the timing of induction of labour was moved from the existing threshold of 42 weeks to 41+3 weeks, the conclusion was there was no difference in stillbirth rates or lower Apgar scores, in fact what it highlighted was that those women who had been offered and accepted the earlier induction date experienced far more elements of intervention and it showed an increase in the number of uterine ruptures moving from 2.6 per 1000 to 4.2 per 1000.

There is also over a decade of data which has been methodically collected showing that stillbirth rates and perinatal mortality rates are lower for women choosing to birth after 42 weeks than those who birth between 37 and 42 weeks. These pieces of research are important for couples to know if they are faced with deciding if an induction feels right for them. Any concern that is highlighted as a reason for induction must be counterbalanced by the risk induction itself brings, induction must be seen as a package, you start at step 1 and there are certain and expected steps to take along the way, each one of these steps will bring their own risks and all should be explained before a couple can make a decision.

Induction of labour would be appropriate where there is clear risk to the mum or her baby should the pregnancy continue, conditions such as pre-eclampsia, obstetric cholestasis, diabetes and other conditions will lead to induction being discussed as an option. The process of induction is not going to be outlined here, it is something that should be discussed at the unit you are planning to birth at, this is so you have the correct information for you and we are not guilty of giving a ‘blanket approach’ response. 

Underwood Baby Academy are committed to the couples we support, our primary focus is you and ensuring you have the positive birth you deserve, so what we can outline here is what you can do to make your induction experience positive.

The first thing to focus on is your brain, not your actual brain but the pneumonic BRAINS. This will keep you focused on what you want to achieve, Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Instinct, Nothing and Smile 😊 Your midwife and obstetrician will be able to give you the risks and benefits related to the induction process specifically for you and your pregnancy, there is always an alternative, even if that alternative is to do nothing, your instinct is your guiding friend, don’t ignore it. A decision that is born out of great information, with time and consideration will ensure you enter the process feeling confident which will enhance the physiological process of birth. Decisions are taken with you involved; they are not done to you.

This moves us on to the gathering of information, the first step is to understand why induction is seen as the preferred option for you and your baby, its ok to ask ‘why do you feel induction is the safest option for me and my baby?’ There are a range of reasons why this might be the case and each of these reasons will have evidence to support induction as an appropriate choice. Occasionally a woman will only be given the reasons the induction is appropriate but to make an informed decision you need to know the consequences of moving forward with the induction so you can balance the decision with all the information. There are a range of resources about induction, Sara Wickham’s book on Induction, the AIMS website, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence, as well as your healthcare professionals working within your maternity unit of choice. The other group of professionals to consider is the Independent Midwives who have a wealth of information and are not entwined in the culture that can sometimes affect our NHS maternity services.

The next thing to move onto is that the maternity unit will be keen to give you a date for induction, for post dates this would be on or around 41+3, it will be dropped into a conversation along the lines of ‘I will pop you in the induction diary’ and before you know it you’ve got a date. Now if you’ve read our blog on due dates you will know the stress and anxiety these bring so why would we now give ourselves another date to focus on and stress about when we know all that will bring is adrenalin and before you know it induction is necessary because our body has been inhibited. Never forget that if there was a risk to you or your baby that needed immediate intervention, we are truly blessed with a maternity system that would accommodate that. Take each day as a new day and return to the information and decision-making process as you need to.

Earlier in this blog I spoke about seeing induction as a package, but that does not mean that if you consent to starting the process you have to accept all the steps that are to follow, every step must be explained and discussed, you are in control and you can stop the process at any point. For many women just to know that they have the option to stop at any point will bring a quiet confidence and a calmness, which in turn will ensure the process is positive.

We know that oxytocin is the star player when thinking about the physiological process of birth, the more we have the better. Our birth environment, our birth partner, our feelings during labour are important whether we have started our labour spontaneously or if we have been induced. Do not forget what you had envisaged for your birth environment at the point inductions starts, it is still your birth, do not hand over the responsibility of it to your midwife or obstetrician as you give consent. Your birth partner touching you, kissing you, massaging you will help to build not only your oxytocin, it will also build your endorphins, these are your natural pain-relieving hormone. Although you will not produce them in the same way when you are induced the more you can encourage them with physical touch the less likely you are to decide on medical pain relief as an option.

In all maternity units across the country there will be a clearly defined plan for all women who are induced, ask what your units plan is, discuss the plan, consider how the plan feels for you and your baby. Do you understand it all? Are you happy to consent to the plan? If there is anything within that standard plan that you are unsure about or unhappy with, please do not leave those discussions until you are in the midst of your labour, you can never be too early to discuss your wants and wishes with your healthcare team and they will want to support you but they can only do that if they know what is important to you.

So to wrap this up inducing labour is to make your body and baby do something before they are ready, so consider the information carefully, be part of the decision making process and whatever your decision ensure you understand how you’ve made it and why you’ve made it. Never forget your labour and birth is yours to own, to influence and to enjoy.

BIRTH PLANS – WONDERFUL OR WASTEFUL?

Sally UnderwoodUncategorizedLeave a Comment

By midwife Julie Watson (UB Academy)

Imagine a society where birth is celebrated as the normal, physiological process it is.

Imagine if all birth environments offered calm, made the couple feel safe, encouraged couples to make it their own.

Imagine that time was no object and midwives had as much time as the woman needed to discuss and impart the information she desired.

Imagine being supported by a team who know you, understand you and what’s important to you?

…Shangri-La!!

If this was the world we lived and birthed in then my advice to women would be different, in fact during my time as a caseload midwife I never talked about birth plans, WHY?? Because I knew the

women, I had been there with them from the moment they referred themselves to my team, I became part of their team, I knew what was important to them and we had spent hours discussing the different paths their labour and birth may take, above all and most importantly they knew that either me or my buddy would be there, supporting them, guiding them and caring for them.

If this were the case for all women regardless of where they lived, the birth they may choose, the birth environment that they decide on, then birth plans may be unnecessary, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. So, as long as this isn’t available for all, then my personal opinion would be to have a ‘Birth Plan’.

For some reason birth plans evoke strong feelings in healthcare professionals, there are very opposed views, some will say they are a waste of time and will roll their eyes at the mention of them. Some will vehemently defend their place for all women, almost feeling aggrieved if there isn’t one to refer to. In my opinion neither of these stances are right or helpful, like everything else I strongly believe the decision to put pen to paper lies firmly in the woman’s hands.

I am not a great fan of the word ‘plan’ for me it paints a picture of a changeless route, a prescriptive journey, neither of which I would use to describe the journey of birth. But I don’t want to be pedantic, it could be ‘birth wishes’, ‘birth preferences’ or even something as simple as ‘what matters to me’. I have always felt that the power is not in the writing of the plan, although some women find it incredibly powerful, but the power lies in the process of becoming versed in the process of birth, gathering the information that will be at the centre of the plan and finding out and understanding all the options that are available.

Many will compare their wedding day and birth and talk about them as being the same, its true they should both be momentous days in your life’s novel but they are two very different chapters that require different approaches.

Your wedding day will have an itinerary, hair and makeup at 10, cars at 12.30, followed by your walk to meet your partner at 1.15 sharp, and so on. Birth does not come with an itinerary, it cannot be planned, but you can prepare for it and writing down your wishes and desires can be integral to that preparation.

Birth is an unpredictable event but those unpredictable twists and turns needn’t be a surprise. If women are faced with an unpredictable scenario and they are taken aback by its arrival. Very often the scenario they find themselves in is accompanied by feelings of fear, guilt, anxiety which will obstruct and hinder their birth journey.

See your birth plan as a way of communicating your ideal to those who are taking that journey with you, your birth partner, midwife, obstetrician, don’t be afraid to let people know what is important to you. A birth plan does not need to be lengthy; it can be a group of sentences or images, it is unique to you and should portray your honest feelings about what you have envisaged for yourself, but it is not an essential. All that is essential is that you are able to gather the information to make the decisions that feel right for you and that when you are faced with decisions in labour and birth you or your birth partner are able to articulate what is important.

As a healthcare professional, when meeting a woman who had taken the time to document her wants and wishes I would see the document as a way of ensuring I could support her and be her advocate, but if I could have one request to all women, it would be to write down the things that will allow me to meet the you, the woman, to allow it to be a window into your mind and your heart.

Homebirth….Really?

Sally UnderwoodUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Written by midwife Julie Watson (UB Academy)

It’s the day you’ve been waiting for, your surges have started and you are excited and nervous in equal measures, but you’ve prepared for this day, you know you can do it, you’re a strong, powerfully awesome woman who is going to birth her baby.

When anyone is asked to visualise a woman giving birth, more often than not the environment that the birth is taking place in is a hospital setting and usually it involves a hospital bed. Most couples who join the Underwood Baby Academy will initially talk about hospital birth as their preferred option. When we get down to discussing these decisions it seems their choices have been driven by what is deemed the most normal choice, the safest choice and is what sits in couples subconscious, an image of birth that is supported by the media and engrained in our society’s view of birth. 

But what if we told you that the place you give birth could have a direct impact on the path your birth may take and the interventions that could occur?

Before we go into what homebirth is like today I think it’s important to go back in time, I want to take you on a trip down memory lane, a journey that has been forgotten and is rarely depicted on TV or in the way birth is portrayed.

The way a woman in the Western world is encouraged to give birth has changed dramatically throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century.

If we travel back to before the NHS was created in 1948, women birthed at home, supported by the elder women in their community and midwives and at the beginning of the 20th century, less than 5% of women gave birth in hospital.

The second world war ended and we moved into the 1950’s, hospital births became more normal and birth became a medicalised process, rather than a natural one. Women and their births became the property of the obstetricians, birth was treated as a pathology that needed treatment and women handed over responsibility of their labour and birth as they walked through the hospital doors.

As a result of this move, assisted births using forceps was more common and episiotomies were routine and women laboured and birthed on their own, without their partners. This approach to birth continued through the 50’s and 60’s and then in the 70’s things became a little more woman focused; imparting information became a focus. Dad’s were encouraged to be present at the birth and antenatal classes were produced to ensure couples were informed, however, routine enemas and shaving before birth remained the norm.

The positive impact of obstetric -led care was the women and their babies who had complications were given appropriate, expert care but this was a blanket approach which meant that women with uncomplicated pregnancies did not receive women-centre care and were exposed to unnecessary intervention. 

In the mid 70’s a seminal book called ‘Birth without violence’ was published by a French obstetrician called Frederick Leboyer. The book explored the birth environment, it challenged societies beliefs and revolutionised the course of birth. He promoted the rights of the baby to be born into a gentle, calm and dimly lit environment. He confirmed that things had been put in place to suit obstetricians but were detrimental to the effectiveness of labour and its progress. This book was pivotal and was quickly championed by other influential obstetricians, including Professor Fisk of the UK.

Now we know a little of the history and how we have got to where we are now, what is it really like today for women like me and you? Well thankfully today women have so much more choice, the NHS has sought to offer pregnant women a variety of options, all safe, all staffed by wonderful experts. There are three choices when deciding where to give birth, they are in a hospital labour ward, a midwifery led unit or your very own home.

If you go back to the beginning of the 20th century women gave birth at home, and this stopped following the creation of the NHS, this change in place of birth was not because it was an unsafe option for low risk women. Today when we talk to couples about homebirth there are normally two topics that hinder couples from choosing a homebirth for themselves… for low risk women. ‘It’s not safe’ and ‘I’m not allowed’.

Therefore to tackle the ‘not allowed’ view, everybody gets to choose the place they want to give birth, there are guidelines and recommendations related to homebirth and it is important couples know what these are, they need to have and understand all of the available research to make the decision that feels right for them, but when it comes down to it you call the shots.

We then move onto the question of whether homebirth is safe? Well the simple answer is YES. Labour ward environments can make uncomplicated labours more complicated, however it is important to say there are situations where labour wards are the most wonderfully positively and safe place to birth.

So, am I just a homebirth enthusiast with a skewed view of how safe homebirth is? Well yes, I am a homebirth enthusiast and I can be because there is a vast amount of research to support my enthusiasm.

In 2011 the Birthplace study in the UK looked at 64,000 women and from that study women with uncomplicated pregnancies had a reduced rate of intervention when comparing to giving birth on a labour ward.

It showed that for first time mums giving birth on a labour ward they had a 46% chance of achieving a vaginal birth compared to a 69% chance if they birthed at home and for second or subsequent pregnancies the chances of a vaginal birth on the labour ward increased to 79% and increased to an incredible 96% if they were giving birth at home.This was great news and the Birthplace Study included a good-sized sample of women.

However providing us with a further insight into the safety of home births, in 2019/2020 there was a follow up study which has been published by the Lancet. This study included countries who mirrored the midwifery-led approach which is now common place in the UK and included 500,000 babies, just wow!! The first critical finding is that for uncomplicated pregnancies, whether it is your first or subsequent baby homebirth is as safe as a labour ward, something midwives have been passionate about all along. This second and much larger study also supported the reduced risk of intervention that the Birthplace study outlined, women who birthed at home were found to have a 40% less chance of having a caesarean section, 50% less likely to have an instrumental birth, 60% less chance of needing a drip to speed up their labour and 55% less likely to have an episiotomy.

As you can see the research is vast and consistent, it is safe to choose a homebirth if that is what feels right for you. What we know is women’s bodies are made to birth but to do this effectively they need to feel safe, relaxed, unobserved and undisturbed, if these things are in place then the oxytocin will flow and the surges will follow. Home is the one place where women inevitabley feel relaxed, it is their space, it’s the place they feel uninhibited and this will ensure the hormones are undisturbed. 

‘Homebirth with midwives is not a trend. Hospital birth with doctors was a trend that lasted about 70-80 years before women began returning to what they know truly works.’ – Darlene Dorries- Serivne

https://www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/birthplace

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(19)30119-1/fulltext

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(20)30063-8/fulltext

Due Date Dilema

Sally UnderwoodUncategorizedLeave a Comment

By Julie Watson (UB Academy)

I’m going to start at the beginning with the date all pregnant mums want to know and countdown to….their ‘Due Date’.

Imagine this, you’re expecting your period…. the day comes and goes…. a week late, turns into two….could it be??? Are you really pregnant??? You buy 1,2 maybe 10 pregnancy tests and you pee on every one, and then you wait…… as you open your scrunched up eyes and peer down, that little window to your future shows the word “PREGNANT” or a ‘+’ sign and so it begins.

Once people have congratulated you, the next question is always ‘when are you due?’ When you are seen by your midwife for the first time, she asks for the 1st day of your last period and from that single day she adds on 7 days and 9 months…. as if by magic you know when your baby is going to arrive. Simple right? If only.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to plan around a specific date? Like women do when they are getting married. Partner will be off work, other kids will be at Nannas for the day, food precooked and nappies bought. But this is not like planning a wedding, it is not just about that one day you are going to birth your baby, the weeks leading up to the day you go into labour should be enjoyed and treasured. Some days and weeks are tougher than others but remember what you’re doing……. You are growing another human, just awesome.

So, what is the history behind the way we decipher a woman’s due date, it’s called the Naegele’s rule and as much as I would like to tell it was based on a huge piece of research, sadly I can’t. It was based on 100….yes 100 women in the Netherlands in 1744!! Their ‘due date’ versus ‘birthday’ were noted and then the ‘standard’ 28-day menstrual cycle with ovulation on day 14 were added, because of course us women all ovulate on the same day and have a strict 28-day cycle…. NOT, and so the rule was born and has been in place ever since…. yes, in place for 276 years!!! The man who carried out the study added 7 days onto the last day of the women’s period and then added 9 months, and just to add to the confusion, about 100 years ago we decided that adding 7 days onto the last day of the woman’s period was wrong and we should add 7 days onto the 1st day of the woman’s last period, not because there had been additional research, just because!!!

Have I convinced you yet about extraordinary logic and research behind the date our babies are due??

We did introduce ultrasound scans in the 1950s and from that came the dating scan which although more accurate still only correctly predicted in 4% of pregnancies, so only 4 out of every 100 women will actually be birthing their baby on that wonderful date that is etched in our minds and circled with stars on our calendars.

So why can’t we predict more accurately? Has there been any other studies? There was a larger study in 2001 which included 1514 women, it showed for women having their first baby there was a 50% chance of them birthing their baby by 40+5 and a further 25% chance of them giving birth before 41+2. It also showed women having their second or subsequent baby would have a 50% chance of birthing their baby by 40+3 and a further 25% chance of giving birth by the time they were 41 weeks.

So, you’ve got the history and the little bit of research there is available, but what does all this mean or you, here and now?? All it really can concretely say is 4% of women will birth their babies on their due date and that the remaining 96% won’t. Are you going to be one of the 4%??…….. who knows!!!

Over my years as a midwife I have seen so many women become stressed by their due date, they went to bed relaxed and excited on the night they were exactly 40 weeks and then wake up the following morning and everything has changed.

The words that are used in relation to our pregnancy alter, we begin to talk about our babies now being ‘overdue’ or ‘late’, never that they are comfy and making the most of being tucked up inside, cuddling their placenta.

Our relatives begin to call and message asking if there are any signs of labour or if the baby has arrived yet, they can become impatient, adding extra pressure and cementing the words ‘overdue’ and ‘late’ in the woman’s subconscious.

Health professionals start to document differently in our notes, at the point a woman moves from 40 to 41 weeks we don’t document 41+ 1,41+2, no we leave the woman in her 40 th week and begin to document 40+8, 40+9, 40+10, again adding to that notion that we have moved into a period of unchartered territory……..simply not true.

Some will ask why does this change in approach to the wonderful last weeks of pregnancy matter? The reason it matters is that when a woman is stressed, knowingly or unknowingly she produces adrenaline, adrenaline dampens down oxytocin which is the hormone our bodies need in big flooding waves, oxytocin encourages and strengthens our surges and one by one those surges will support us to birth our babies.

I would love for all women to see the last weeks of pregnancy as a wonderful window, that lasts 5 weeks as outlined by The World Health Organisation, from 37 to 42 weeks. Enjoy every day, every hour, every minute you have your baby growing inside you. Book some exciting treats for those weeks, things that will bring oxytocin in abundance. Walks in the park, a beauty treatment, a foot rub from your other half while watching your favourite film……. kiss, laugh, cuddle and wait for your baby and your body to do their thing.

Trust your body, welcome the wait and enjoy the time.

Amazingly Able

Sally UnderwoodStandard, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

A beautiful description of how incredible the female body is, so you know that all the magic you need is within you.

Written for you by midwife Julie Watson (UB Academy)

Our bodies are truly amazing, we have evolved to support and facilitate the wonder that is birth. Women who have chosen the Underwood Baby Academy to support them through pregnancy, birth and beyond will very often question their own ability to birth. How will I know what to do? What will I have to learn? What will I have to buy to help me birth? All legitimate and frequently asked questions, anxieties that take up a woman’s thinking time and can distract her from what her body already knows. You see ‘birth’ is not something women learn to do….’birth’ is something all women are designed to achieve.

The amazing adaptations are endless and many a book has been penned outlining them all, but to let you into a few of these well kept secrets, here a few of the little gems…

  • In labour, our neocortex, or the thinking part of our brain switches itself off, this encourages the flood of essential hormones, it makes us less aware of time and enables us to be more focused, all of these benefits, together, will support us during our labour and will dampen down stress, which in turn keeps adrenaline at bay.
  • Our pelvis is not the solid, immovable cylinder we might have envisaged, instead what it is, is a structure made up of three bones. This means it can be a movable space through which our babies descend as they move from their first home to the forever home.
  • Our babies skull is not the same solid structure we have as adults, it is made of five bones that are able to slide over one another as our babies navigate their way through the pelvis.
  • Our ligaments, muscles and skin need to become more stretchable and accommodating, so at about 34 weeks a surge of relaxin is released to do just that.
  • Our babies are attached to their womb buddy, the placenta, by their umbilical cord. This cord is home to the vessels that will carry oxygen and nutrients to our baby and to ensure these vessels are protected from harm the cord is coated by a substance called Wharton’s Jelly, a thick mucous like substance which protects and insulates the cord.
  • As our surges come and go during labour our body creates endorphins which simply reduce pain and boosts pleasure, both of which are incredibly helpful as we navigate labour and birth.
  • When we welcome our babies our bodies produce a cocktail of hormones that cause us to feel love and protection that continues forever.

All in all, we women are truly, bloody amazing and all of us have it within us to birth.

Photo credit from @evarosebirth via Instagram, shared with permission. Check out her incredible page for birth photos.

Do positive births really exist? And how Hypnobirthing can help make them happen?

Sally Underwoodhypnobirthing2 Comments

Yes they do! Laura our amazing Pregnancy Yoga teacher would love to share her story on how hypnobirthing helped her to have such an incredible third birth, read her story here…

Two years ago today I gave birth to my 3rd baby, Juniper Violet. So I thought it might be nice to share my story.

To set the scene….being my third pregnancy, I knew the drill and knew what to expect. Having had 2 previous home births (1st one great, 2nd one not so great, very tricky….but that’s a whole different story!) I was all geared up for the 3rd go!

Hypnobirthing the third time…

During this pregnancy I really got into hypnobirthing, much more than previously and boy what a difference. I truly loved it!!!! My husband and i both listened to the mp3s every night and really really got in it. Obviously being 3rd baby i knew the science behind things and how the body works, but this was different, i was really on board with the Hypnobirthing. I had my affirmations up all around the house, i was an A-star student. 

That dreaded date…the due date!

My due date was the 22nd of March. On the morning of the 17th it was starting to snow, it was the weekend, so my husband had decided to take the kiddos to soft play. I was busy making them breakfast before they went and I started getting a cramping pain in my bum cheek, like a trapped nerve. It was very bizarre, coming and going, making me hop around the kitchen!! My husband Gavin laughing at me, I was even laughing at myself, trying to get rid of this trapped nerve sensation whilst making porridge for the family! Gavin asked me if I thought it was the start of something, to which I thought he was stupid even suggesting that. It definitely wasn’t labour pains, it definitely wasn’t the ‘start’ and I was absolutely fine. I went upstairs to shower and off they went at 9:30 to soft play.

Despite my positioning or my shower, this nerve pain wouldn’t go away. I spoke to my mum on the phone (those of you who know me will know she is a midwife, Sally). I told her about this silly annoying nerve and her advice to me was to call the home birth team to let them know I was getting some pains. She said the snow was getting worse and it may take them longer to get to me. During this phone call I thought my mum was an absolute twit, and hung up thinking ‘what a silly women, all these years of midwifery and she thinks im in labour now, ha, no way. Ive had 2 babies already, I know what the start of labour is like.!‘ As Gavin was out with the children I thought i would put my hypnobirthing on with my headphones and get in to bed for a lie down. I didn’t realise it at the time, but of course,this was labour and i was labouring. 

I remember being under my duvet, listening to the Hypno, almost in a bit of a trance-like state I guess, managing my contractions, breathing on my own. Still not thinking I was actually in labour. Little did I know my mum had spoken with my husband and they had both agreed that things were starting for me, so Gavin made arrangements for child care and his parents collected the kids. He came home about 1030 to find me in bed on my hands and knees. He didn’t say much, just left me to it, not telling me he was calling the midwife.

Enter the midwife…

The next thing I remember was hearing my midwife walking into my bedroom saying hello softly, and I felt sooooo embarrassed. I thought ‘oh my gosh they are going to think I’m a huge time waster as not even in labour yet. Why are they here?‘ I then sat up, almost feeling like I was waking up, coming out of this trance-like state and I got a huge contraction. The midwife didn’t say anything, she is a curvaceous lady and she stood next to me on the bed and gently held my head against her tummy, just holding me close, until the contraction passed. It seems like a small tiny gesture when I write it down, but this has stayed in my mind. Because at the time it felt magical just to be held, to feel safe, whilst having a peak in my contraction. She said ‘you had better come downstairs as Gavin is doing the pool’. Even then, at this moment, I was still saying I wasn’t in proper labour yet, and it was too soon to be getting the pool ready.

Anyway, my midwife helped me downstairs and I opened the door to the lounge and it was like walking into a spa, Gavin had done so well! Music, candles, pool filling, I didn’t even know any of this had been going on!!!!! The midwife said I should get in the pool and I said no, its too soon. She said ‘Laura get in the pool’! She just knew. She knew from my body language, my mood, my breathing, and my noise, she knew it was time. I got into the pool at 11:45.

Breathing rhythmically and trying to relax with each contraction meant I didn’t even really feel myself pushing… but I was. I truly got into the Hypnobirthing process and with each contraction, I was able to relax, and it really did work. It was honestly magic. The midwives asked if i wanted to feel my baby. Well at this point i thought they had absolutely lost the plot. No way was my baby’s head coming out…. but i reached down and it was. I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it. My body took over and I gently birthed my baby into my own hands, almost smiling! Sounds crazy I know, but true. A moment in time I think even the midwives won’t forget. Them telling me after “we don’t think we have ever seen a lady grinning whilst the head is crowning”!

Our baby girl was born just before 1230. I remember sitting in that pool, holding my baby in utter disbelief! Thinking ‘hang on a minute, what has just happened, I was standing in the kitchen stirring porridge a couple of hours ago and now I’m holding my new baby girl‘. It really was the most perfect morning and feel very blessed to have had such a positive experience. 

So my advice would be to try Hypnobirthing, find a class you like, its important, trust your team, trust yourself, find your rhythm and trust your body.

Women’s bodies are amazing! Eliminate the fear and you are winning. 

Happy 2nd Birthday to my little Juni, if only you had stayed as calm as your birth!

Laura xxx


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Hypnobirthing Royally

Sally UnderwoodUncategorizedLeave a Comment

This weekend has been full of news about Kate Middleton using Hypnobirthing during her three labours. Much of the coverage has been marvellous, after all we think anyone giving hypnobirthing a try is a superstar.

However unsurprisingly the press has somewhat misjudged a few of the Duchesses comments. So, we thought we would just clarify some things.

For example, look at the headline taken from the Daily Express stating, “Kate Middleton reveals her surprising method of curing pregnancy morning sickness”. There are a few things are wrong with the headline; Firstly, Kate Middleton didn’t have morning sickness, she had Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). This is a serious condition at the extreme end of the pregnancy sickness spectrum. According to the ‘Pregnancy Sickness Support’ website it affects 1% of women with pregnancy sickness and is very debilitating for sufferers. It is excessive vomiting, often needing hospitalisation and medication. If definitely isn’t just in the morning!

 Secondly HG, cannot be cured by Hypnobirthing, in fact nor can it cure any sickness. Hypnobirthing provides you with the tools you need to release fear and teach you relaxation techniques to help you give birth more gently, calmly and in greater comfort, knowing you are in safe hands. By learning about your body and birth it can help you to trust your instincts. The breathing techniques can help you cope better with sickness, as I’m sure they did with Kate Middleton, but not cure it. In the interview with Giovanna Fletcher on the ‘Happy Mum, Happy Baby’ podcast Kate Middleton actually said…

“I saw the power of it really, the meditation and the deep breathing and things like that, that they teach you in hypnobirthing, when I was really sick, and actually I realised that this was something I could take control of, I suppose, during labour. It was hugely powerful.”

Here she is stating how even when she was at her sickest, in the depths of HG, she could feel the power of Hypnobirthing and could see how useful it could be during labour.

Unfortunately, what the interview did touch on was how it was ‘not all for Hippy-dippys’ and there are ‘different levels of it’, which could imply that some of hypnobirthing is in fact for ‘hippy-dippys’. 

At the UBA we understand that Hypnobirthing can often have a bad reputation, but we are working on that Mamas. It is not just for hippys, it is not something that can only be used by women having home-births, it is not just for first time mums, or mums doing yoga standing on their hands. It is for everyone. The benefits suit pregnancies and births of all shapes and sizes.

Refreshingly Kate and Giovanna did talk about mum guilt. As we know only too well, all of us suffer from it at one point or another, most probably daily. If you are a mum to be, a new mum, a first-time mum, a mum to 5 or a Grandmother. If you are a working mum or a stay at home mum, it never leaves us. We thought it was brilliant to hear a Royal talk openly and candidly about this to Giovanna in the podcast: 

“It’s a constant challenge – you hear it time and time again from mums, even mums who aren’t necessarily working and aren’t pulled in the directions of having to juggle work life and family life.”

By all being more open about the challenges we go through as mothers, as parents, we are able to support one another in a much greater way. Kate Middleton mentions that anyone who doesn’t suffer guilt as a mother is actually lying! We quite agree and, on that note…I must go and read that ‘one more’ bed time story.

Laura and The UBA Team xxx

Full interview on the podcast ‘Happy Mum, Happy Baby’ By Giovanna Fletcher. Newspaper article information taken from The Sun and The Express. Photograph taken from The Sun. HG reference from https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/what-is-hyperemesis-gravidarum/

Where can I breastfeed?

Sally UnderwoodUncategorizedLeave a Comment

What would your response be?

A) Tell him: If his boss wants an NHS to treat him when he’s sick he’d better have us all in here  breast feeding (breast feeding can save NHS up to £50 million a year)

B) I’ll put that on a review on Facebook shall I?

C) Quote the Equality act 2010 at him

D) Take the baby off the breast and leave your nipple exposed

E) Get your mother in law involved ?

Whatever your response, just remember breastfeeding is NORMAL. Le Leche League GB have published some great advice about breastfeeding in public…

Breastmilk is instantly available for babies and is wonderfully convenient wherever a mother is. This is particularly important as babies have small stomachs and breastmilk is digested very quickly.  However, many mothers worry about breastfeeding in public spaces and are unsure about their rights in the event of negative comments from other people.

What does the law say?

It is entirely legal to breastfeed in public places anywhere in the UK.

According to the Equality Act of 2010, treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding a child of any age is considered sex discrimination. This applies to any business or premise providing services to the public, including public institutions, associations and higher education bodies.

Service providers dealing directly with the public must not discriminate, harass or victimise a woman because she is breastfeeding. Discrimination includes refusing to provide a service, providing a lower standard of service or providing a service on different terms. ◦ Businesses, such as a cafes, restaurants and shops, are not allowed to ask a woman to stop breastfeeding her child or refuse to serve her. This is applicable to mothers breastfeeding children of any age, as the law protects them for as long as they wish to breastfeed their babies.

If anyone being served in a cafe takes offence at a breastfeeding mother, the business owner could offer to move them to a different table, but it is against the law to ask the mother in question to leave because she’s breastfeeding.

A guide produced by the Government Equalities Office to explain the 2010 Equality Act to businesses selling goods and services states: “A business may ask a breastfeeding woman to leave their premises if the reason for this request is not due to her breastfeeding. However, if the woman later claims that discrimination occurred because she was breastfeeding, the business will have to prove that there was in fact no discrimination.”

It is possible that individual business employees, owners or managers may not be aware of these regulations and may tell a woman that she cannot breastfeed on the business premises. If this happens, the mother can challenge their request.

If still asked to stop breastfeeding or leave the premises, a woman can contact the Government Equalities Office. A solicitor can advise on whether a claim can be brought for discrimination under the 2010 Equality Act.

Although Breastfeeding is “normal” it doesn’t mean it is easy. As a member of the Underwood Baby Academy you will have the opportunity to come to a midwife led weekly drop in session to support you with feeding. As well as a daily telephone support line incase you have any questions or worries that can’t wait until the drop in. Support is everything.

Information taken from and with thanks to The Le Leche League GB at https://www.laleche.org.uk/breastfeeding-public-spaces/. Image from Modern Toss at The Guardian.