Guest post! – Food cravings in pregnancy


Do you get strange cravings for food during pregnancy? It’s really common and in this guest blog post Anna, the Nutritional Therapist from The Gentle Touch, explains what pregnancy cravings are along with some healthy alternatives for what you crave!

Cravings may happen at any point during your pregnancy. Sometimes unusual cravings can develop, which are known as pica. Some pica include ice, freezer frost, washing starch, corn starch, clay dirt, dust or charcoal.

Dust, charcoal, dirt and ice cravings may indicate an iron deficiency.
Chalk and plaster cravings may indicate a calcium deficiency.  More commonly expectant mums get really hungry, and often really crave certain foods. If you can’t get enough of the following foods, here are some alternatives which may be the root of your craving:

Chocolate – may indicate a need for more magnesium. High quality chocolate such as dark chocolate (70% cocoa) can provide some antioxidants, iron and magnesium and less sugar than milk chocolate. Magnesium rich foods: whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and green vegetables such as spinach.

Crisps – You may be after the sodium, or perhaps you love the feeling of crunching food. How about trying kale crisps, humus with raw veg sticks, or roasted chickpeas.

Pickles – Sometimes this can indicate a need for more sodium. Try sauerkraut which also added bonus of probiotic benefits, or adding pickle to a salad.

Cake, stodgy carbs – It’s really common to crave these foods when you’re tired and need energy. Try to increase your protein intake to help boost your energy levels. Can you make some nuts and seeds into energy balls with dates? Or how about flapjacks made with banana to sweeten instead of syrup.

Spicy foods – A common craving in pregnancy, spicy foods cool down body. Add chilli and spices (e.g. ginger, pepper) to food and enjoy it.

Sour tastes (e.g. lemon)- You may enjoy the sharp taste or sour foods so add lemon to water and drink through the day.

Get some ideas for healthy pregnancy foods and recipe ideas from The Gentle Touch – they are running a new Pregnancy Nutrition Workshop on 18th November in Southville. There is a 2 for 1 offer on booking until 12th November if you book with a friend, and loads of discounts and offers in their booking bundle.

Email or call Anna on 07812010412 for more details.

Anna has a diploma in naturopathic nutrition from the college of natural medicine, she is also a member of the BANT and CNHC
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Giving birth with virtual reality for a positive experience

cofSo here’s the question that’s been playing on my mind recently – could using virtual reality (VR) technology be helpful to women in labour?

You might associate these VR gadgets with your average teenage boy who is obsessed with the world of gaming and is glued to his Xbox, however the use of VR in healthcare is actually gaining momentum. There have been promising results with its use in areas such as pain management, physical therapy, PTSD and cognitive rehabilitation. In fact virtual reality offers growing opportunities in many areas of our lives – you can even experience the clubbing world through VR as described by a club goer here – VR dancefloors: Techno in Berlin.  Of course clubbing and gaming are forms of entertainment, but the physical act of giving birth with VR…really? how would that actually work?

The idea is that women would be encouraged to wear a VR headset whilst in labour that projects relaxing images whilst playing peaceful music or birth hypnosis tracks. This technology helps takes them away from the reality that they are birthing in a medical setting surrounded by strangers wearing uniforms which for many women can be unsettling and give rise to fearful thoughts and negative feelings.

The famous obstetrician Dr Grantly Dick Read wrote his renowned book ‘childbirth without fear’ back in 1942. He hypothesized that the emotional and physical effects of fear can hinder the birthing process which is the basis for the hypnobirthing antenatal courses that we teach today.

Our courses teach deep relaxation and hypnosis techniques to avoid the fear response and have helped many women to have a positive and sometimes pain free and enjoyable birth experience – yes really!! One of the techniques we teach is visualization – encouraging women to take themselves mentally to their ‘safe and peaceful place’. The VR headset would really help women to do this by taking them on a visual journey away from the labour ward surrounded by monitors and other medical equipment to a more tranquil setting. Such relaxation techniques help to suppress adrenaline and encourage the flow of endorphins and the hormone oxytocin to bring about effective contractions that can results in an easier birth. So we know that mental relaxation can bring about physical relaxation which can in turn aid the birthing process, however the hospital birthing environment these days is not conducive to this.

We are no longer living in the 1950’s when most women gave birth in the familiar surroundings of their own home with a midwife they had come to know and trust through their pregnancy. Yes we really do love the T.V. series ‘call the midwife’ but this is 2017 and times have changed. It seems likely that the business of giving birth in the UK will be obstetric led in the not too distant future. With more than 25% of all labours in England being induced the reality now for many women is that they will have a medically managed birth on labour ward with midwives and doctors they have never met before. Many of us midwives have now accepted this as fact even if it doesn’t sit comfortably with us because research suggests that continuity of care from midwives in a low risk setting (unless women have serious medical or obstetric complications) results in better outcomes. Many women that do plan to birth at home or in a midwifery led unit actually find themselves giving birth on labour ward due to unforeseen circumstances such as staff shortages /  midwifery units being closed etc.

The use of technology in the birth room such as VR headsets is however questionable –
Should we really be encouraging women to detach themselves from the ‘present moment’ whilst giving birth, why would this innovation be a good idea?

Well there are many women that suffer PTSD following childbirth. Many have pushed their babies out without assistance, some even with an epidural, which goes to show it’s not just the mode of birth or addressing the pain that some women experience in labour that prevents PTSD – birth trauma is more complex than that. If changing the perception of birth through methods such as VR enables women to experience birth in a more positive way and avoids PTSD then surely we should be embracing this.

One study into women’s experience of episiotomy repair post birth whilst using V.R gave positive findings.

And it’s not only patients that can benefit; medical staff can too through training with VR. Will future student midwives experience their first ‘catch’ through VR? From a practical point of view this could improve patient safety. As always we midwives need to focus on making birth not only a safe but a positive experience for all women and move with the times.

For pregnant women what will the future hold? Maybe as you arrive at the hospital in the throes of labour, you’ll be greeted by your midwife, and given not only a pot for your urine sample, but also a VR headset to wear too, just what the doctor ordered!

Midwife Amy has recently attended one of our hypnobirthing courses taught by Katheryn and has agreed to give VR a go during her labour. As with the other hypnobirthing techniques she’ll practise using the VR headset during pregnancy as she relaxes at home. This will condition her mind to associate the calming images and sounds with deep physical relaxation so that when her contractions start and she puts on the VR headset she will be transported back to that peaceful ‘virtual place’. We’re looking forward to hearing how she gets on…. watch this space, we’ll keep you posted!

Sharon x

Top 5 Tips For The Aspiring Midwife

Screenshot_20160525-122450_1Hello future student Midwives! Just a little note to introduce myself –  My name is Kelly and I am a third year student midwife studying at UWE in Bristol.  I will be coming along to give a presentation at the bumps ‘n’ babies Aspiring Midwife Study Day on Saturday the 4th June at Cossham hospital. I’ll be talking about life as a student midwife to give you an insight to  – the academic side, clinical placements, expectations and realities etc. So jot down a list of any questions, concerns and queries that you might have and I will be more than happy to address them on the day.

There are just a few tickets left for this event that proved to be very popular last year, so join me, and midwives Sharon and Jade, to learn more about the journey to becoming a midwife.

Clink on this link for more info – Aspiring Midwife Study Day

Here are Kelly’s Top 5 Tips for the Aspiring Midwife

  • Looking after the public enables you to care for a variety of women and their families. During your placements expect the unexpected, and when situations arise always remain professional, treat everyone equally and most importantly keep yourself, your colleagues and your women and families safe.


  • Sexual health, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Loss and Parenthood are some of the most common, yet unique experiences women and families encounter in life. During your training and career as a midwife always remind yourself that although these experiences are common, normal and frequent to you, for the women this is their individualised, special and unique pregnancy so always be just as excited, enthusiastic and compassionate each time.


  • Prepare to be extremely tired – working shifts, meeting academic deadlines, social and family life are manageable but you have to be organised – you will get use to it over time!


  • Read, read and more reading –knowledge is power. Start with the simple things, NHS choices is a reliable source to get started on pregnancy pathways, terminology and the maternity services that are available. Familiarise yourself with the basics and then use midwifery textbooks such as Mayes and Myles midwifery for more in depth information.


  • As a student midwife always remember you are there to learn, to grow and to deliver a safe and professional service. Even if you have children of your own or have other midwifery experience – there is always something new and valuable to learn from each woman and from the midwives, be a sponge, and absorb it all!

Looking forward to meeting you all soon!



10 things a midwife has heard many times


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  • ‘Never again!’   The classic phrase muttered by many women usually in the throes of labour. Of course us midwives believe you, even though we know you’ll be back again for baby number 2, 3, 4, 5.
  • ‘We don’t care whether it’s a boy or a girl, as long as it’s not ginger!’  Said with true conviction by many a mum or dad-to-be, please remember though there are ginger midwives within ear shot!!
  • ‘I think the parking ticket has expired’   A popular phrase said by the dads . The parking, that one job he has to take care of as the woman has the momentous task of birthing a tiny human. No don’t leave her just as the baby’s crowning to sort it out, she won’t thank you for it!
  • ‘This stuff is frickin’ amazing!’  Said by the woman who has just been handed the gas and air, and yes she is right!! Who ever came up with this wonder drug is a hero, we salute you!
  • ‘Don’t put it on facebook …!!’  Said by both new parents to the mother-in-law as she takes it upon herself to announce the new arrival to the whole world via social media before the woman’s even had chance to birth her placenta and put her knickers back on.
  • ‘But what if I poo?’  Said by the mum-to-be in early labour. The midwife’s response – ‘You might, you might not, don’t worry about it, sometimes in life sh*t just happens….!’
  • ‘I’m not looking forward to having a poo!’  Said by many a new mum on the postnatal ward. Midwife’s response – It’ll be fine, trust us, once that first post birth poo is passed everything seems right with the world.
  • ‘When can I go home?’  Said by the excited first time mum with a newborn just a few hours old that hasn’t quite got the hang of breastfeeding yet. As opposed to ‘How long can I stay?’  Said by the mother of baby number 4 who has a pile of washing waiting for her at home, along with 3 other kids and a hubby that all want feeding.
  • ‘Pass me a nappy, no they’re not in that bag, they’re in the other bag, no not there, more towards the left under the sleep suits, no that’s a vest not a sleepsuit!’  Said by many a new mum to her hubby as she recovers in bed with a baby attached to her boob. Word of advice from us midwives – get the hubby to pack the birth bags, then he’ll know where everything is!
  • ‘God I’ve had such a great night sleep on this busy postnatal ward’ – Said no new mum EVER!!!


Sharon x

Perceptions and Birth Stories


There is no truth, there is only perception……… Gustave Flaubert

Yes it’s another one of those irritating quotes that pops up as you scroll through your instagram account. But before you roll your eyes and groan, think about it, it’s true – There is no truth only perception.  When it comes to a birth story how much is truth and how much is perception? Us midwives love a birth story. Sometimes we hear the story from several people that were there at the birth, all chipping in with their own version of events and that’s when this quote really hits home, because one person can perceive an experience way differently to another.  A woman who has laboured high on a dose of birth hormones, adrenaline and some gas and air thrown in the mix will tell you her version of events, but then so too will her mother and her partner that were there with her and they all tell the story slightly differently. Confusing? Yes! So what is the truth? What really did happen during that birth? Who knows.  Let’s not forget there was another person in that room too with her version / perception of events …the midwife!   Us midwives know we have a massive role to play in a woman’s birth experience, but probably only to a degree, the rest is down to her and the way she perceive the event.

Let’s go back to the gas and air for a minute. Gas and air is fantastic stuff. It’s a mind bending, thought altering, wonder drug. It takes you to another planet where you just don’t give a toss about anything. Many women get right off their faces on it in labour. ‘This stuff is bloody amazing!’ they say as they cling onto the mouth piece for dear life. The gas is seen as her new BFF and she aint givin’ it up for no one. You know when a woman is in ‘gas land’ when she comes out with random things in-between contractions with a strange smile on her face. “Everyone just seems so far away man…just totally thought I was Barry White”. Yep, she’s in gas land. So if she thinks she’s Barry White what else does she perceive about this momentous moment in her life that will shape her version of her ‘birth story’.

Likewise another biggy when it comes to altering perceptions during birth is the beast that is adrenaline. Adrenaline flowing through a woman’s body in labour will trigger the flight or fight response within her. She becomes stressed, perceives she is in danger, fearful thoughts run through her mind. She leaps off the bed mid contraction yelling “that’s it, no more, I’m going home”.   She wants to flee the danger that she perceives, but of course she doesn’t get very far, she’s in rip roaring labour and about to have a baby. All that adrenalin surging through her body isn’t particularly helpful during labour and is likely to influence her perception of the birth in a negative way.

And why is it that one woman in labour can perceive the physical sensations of her contractions so differently to another? Some women describe their contractions as agonizingly painful; others report feelings of euphoria with no mention of pain at all. Perception has a part to play here too. In our hypnobirthing classes we demonstrate this idea by bringing the couples into a relaxed state and encouraging them to image that their right hand is in a bucket of cold icy water. We suggest that they perceive their hand becoming cold and then numb. We encourage them to bring their numb hand to their face and feel the numbing sensation transfer to their cheek and mouth. At the end of this hypnosis script the couples themselves seem pretty baffled at what they’ve just experienced. There is no bucket of icy water, that’s the truth, so how come they genuinely felt that their hand was icy cold and numb? What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve” ( Naploean Hill ). Clever stuff eh!

So can us midwives really influence a woman’s birth story in a positive way? Well yes, obviously it goes without saying, being kind, showing compassion etc. but it’s not always that simple thanks to good ol’ perception. The calm voice and those reassuring words that you used worked a treat as you supported a woman through her labour last week. The encouragement you gave to spur her on through her labour was spot on. She sent you a lovely thank you card and a cracking box of chocolates. In the card she wrote “Your kind but strong words helped me avoid the epidural that I considered having, I had a fantastic birth experience, thank you”.  But beware, woe betide the midwife that thinks she’s cracked it and becomes smug, thinking she’s worthy of a midwife of the year award, because tomorrow you might find yourself in a similar situation; you care for another woman in the same way, yet she perceives your encouragement as patronising and insensitive. She perceives that you prevented her from having her happydural and her birth story is far from positive. No thank you card or box of choccies from her. You feel deflated, cussing yourself that you got it so wrong this time, you bad midwife you.

Most women will have some recollection of the day they gave birth, but it seems time also has a part to play. A woman’s birth story can alter over time, cleverly edited by her mind with key events highlighted that she remembers forever, others becoming foggy and maybe less relevant to her. We shouldn’t dismiss a woman’s perception of events during her labour as irrelevant because it’s not. A woman’s birth story is exactly that – her birth story and that’s fine. Life is based on perception. Perception is based on opinion. Opinion is based on thought. Thought comes from the mind. So as midwives whilst we have some control over certain factors that influence a woman’s birth story, whether positively or negatively, we cannot fully control her perceptions.

Sharon x


Will I poo when I give birth?


Will I poo when I give birth? is a question that worries a lot of women.  And possibly their men folk, although men tend to be lot more relaxed about poo than us!

The short answer is no, not necessarily.  Often in early labour you have a bit of a dodgy tummy and any poo is kindly cleared out by your body. Especially with first babies, when labour is often longer.

As the baby comes around the curve of the birth canal then pressure is caused to the rectum.  If there is a little bit of poo there it will be pushed out.  And you get an uncontrollable urge to bear down.  If you are with a woman in labour you will hear the noise she is making change to a more ‘pushy’ sound.

In fact if there is any poo there it is best got rid of!  Years ago women were routinely given enemas to clear their bowels and we thankfully no longer do that.  If women are very constipated then it can hold the baby back. Seriously!  I have looked after women when the labour was taking a long time, they were constipated, had a poo, suddenly more space for baby and the baby was born shortly after.  Brilliant.

Sometimes people attempt to get labour going by stimulating the bowel by having a spicy curry or taking castor oil.  I wouldn’t recommend the castor oil route.

Talking about poo from a midwives perspective we are very discreet.  If there is some poo during the birth then we will cover it and deal with it ASAP with minimal fuss. If you are in a birthing pool then we have a sieve that we use!

And we honestly don’t mind at all.  Everybody poos it is perfectly natural.  As a matter of fact; midwives get excited if we see poo!- it means that the baby is coming!

The feeling of the baby’s head coming down often feels that you need a poo/ are pooing and most times you really aren’t; it is just the baby’s head pushing down. It can feel like the baby is coming out of your bottom.  It is helpful to know that this a completely normal sensation and a really positive sign in late labour.  We would encourage you to just follow the lead of your body.  It knows what to do.

Many women feel more comfortable sitting on a toilet and pushing/ bearing down in the second stage for this very reason. It is a trick we often use to encourage the baby to descend.  Lots and lots of babies (my own son included!) are born on or near a toilet. Us midwives are very skilled at ensuring that the baby doesn’t fall down the loo!

If you are in labour and start feeling like you need to poo then please don’t worry.  In fact it’s fantastic – your baby should be born really soon. Trust your body.

Katheryn x

This post originally appeared on my blog The Vintage Midwife

There’s an iguana at my homebirth wot am I gonna do?

iguanaA student midwife asked me the other day what’s the best thing about being a midwife? Now I think she was expecting me to say something like – ‘Oh the sheer joy and privilege of being part of such a magical time in a woman’s life when she makes that huge transition from a woman to a mother and witnessing another family bond being created’.

That was not my answer, this was my answer –  The best thing about being a midwife is the crack. In no other job would you get caught up in such hilarious moments. I’m talking proper belly laughing moments that remind you to work your pelvic floor muscles more often.

For instance, I remember a night shift on labour ward when a midwife colleague arrived on the unit having just attended a homebirth. She had a slightly weary look about her as she dropped off her safety equipment and restocked her birth bag.

“Nice home birth was it?” I asked. She gave me ‘the look’. “Oh, not all plain sailing then?” I asked

“Would have been alright if it weren’t for Dave*” she replied.

“Dave? The birth partner? Bit over protective was he? An Alpha male type?” I asked.

Turns out Dave* was in fact an iguana. (*please note, name has been changed to protect the iguana’s identity). Dave was a free range iguana, free to roam around the house as he pleased. No staying in the tank for Dave that night, oh no, Dave wanted to be right where the action was.

My colleague went on to set the scene – Dim lights, the aroma of essential oils wafting around the room, relaxing music playing, woman floating serenely in the birth pool, making deep mooing type noises during each contraction that got louder as her labour progressed. With her, by her side was her partner, attentively mopping her brow. And then of course there was Dave, the iguana, scuttling across the top of the book shelves and along the curtain rail.

My colleague confessed she wasn’t a huge fan of reptiles and may have lost her focus slightly at this birth as she kept her beady eye on Dave’s beady eye as he hovered over her shoulder, just above the birth pool. In fact she paid so much attention to Dave, convinced that he would leap in the pool at the crucial ‘birthing moment’ that she almost missed the arrival of the baby altogether. “To be fair the room was very dark.” she said.

“Was he interested in the whole birthing thing d’you think? cos animal are very intelligent.” I said.

“No”, she replied “ I’m convinced he just fancied a dip in the pool and then I guess I would have to fill in a clinical incident form if that had happened cos I guess that would be classed as a health and safety risk?!”  Then we both laughed, a lot, at the thought of management receiving the clinical incident form and deciding on what action should be taken in any future incidents involving a midwife, an iguana, a labouring woman and a birth pool.

Look out for future posts on animals at the birth, so many stories to tell…!

If you want your partner (or pet iguana) to be fully prepared and supportive for you in labour then why not sign up for our hypnobirthing classes, visit our website

Sharon x