The Happy Baby Project

A happy baby needs a happy mum


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The growing pains of a pregnant mum

Below is a list of all the myriad fun I’ve been having with my pregnancy, and some things that I’ve found useful. I have sadly found some GPs and midwives not to be very helpful in diagnosing exactly what’s wrong and trying to work out solutions that actually attack the cause rather than just the symptoms (one female GP pretty much told me that pregnancy sucks – deal with it which was lovely), so I’ve had to self-diagnose and try a few different things:

1. Nipples – my god where do I start? Cracked, sore, red, flakey. There’s a red ring around the nipple now. They are itchy and quite frankly revolting. And I’m supposed to be maintaining a normal sex life?! Hmmm. The normal nipple creams are Lanisoh (Vasoline-like) and Kamilosan (more of a soothing cream) but thesehaven’t really worked for me. I’m now trying to use a mild steroid cream (hydrocortisone + 1%) which I’m hoping works. Alternatively I’ve self diagnosed that it might be nipple thrush (lovely!) which likes warm moist environments (and therefore using a nipple cream might not be a great idea after all) so I’ve booked a GP appointment to get a thrush cream – miconazole seems to be the one most people refer to. I’ve also bought really comfy soft disposable nipple pads from Lanisoh to put under my bra and protect clothes and some cotton nipple pads and breast shields. The latter two aren’t very comfy though and hard to use. I’ve also heard its good to walk around topless to get air to them – but its a little hard to do that in a cool October night!

2. Hives – luckily after one female GP just told me I had to live with this, another GP diagnosed this properly although I’d self-diagnosed in the meantime. It’s when your body is either allergic to the pregnancy hormones or when the preggie hormones make you allergic to something you were previously OK with. It shows up in dry red or white blotches all over your skin – for me my chest, neck and face, for others it can be on legs and belly. They are itchy and can join into one big blotch – attractive! Sadly it is hard to treat but I visited my GP and got anti-histimines including Piriton which is a drowsy one for night to help you sleep. He also gave me antibiotics but this sadly didn’t clear this up. Again a mild steroid cream helps, as does being relaxed and getting loads of sleep. You could also try cutting out the usual baddies from your food – glutens, sugars, dairy – to see if this helps. Also look out for what you put on your skin – you might need to change to a lighter less chemical range during your pregnancy – I’ve found Liz Earle pretty good or some people swear by Avene products.

Obviously I don’t like taking anti-histimes or steroid creams when pregnant, and worry it could harm the baby (even though there is no proof that it does and the doctor prescribed them) but I have come to believe that stress is the worst thing for the baby and it is much more important that mum is healthy, happy and relaxed, so its worth it in the end. I now need something for the horrible niggle that its not great for baby though!

3. Pelvis / joints – In your first trimester and then towards the end, your body is pumped full of relaxin which helpfully expands your pelvis to allow baby room, but rather unhelpfully makes your joints less stable and often they can ping out at great pain and make you feel like a granny. For me, I felt a painful ache in my right buttock which turned out to be because my glutes were tighening round my right pelvis bone which had slipped out of place. Some people swear by osteopaths (I saw Finn Thomas at Barnes osteopath) but I’m also having great results from a physio (Helen at the White Hart phsyio clinic) who is giving me gentle pelvis strengthening exercises. Preggie yoga is a great help too. It’s best to see someone when you get pain – unlike what the GP told me this isn’t the sort of thing you should be putting up with!

4. Exzcema – If you had it before pregnancy, it will either go away or become even stronger. Guess what happened to me?! Yes of course, even worse. Unlike what panic-ridden mums on forums say, taking piriton or other anti-histimines, and using steroid creams where necessary is fine. Better for mum to be happy and not stressed and itchy, which is of greater harm to the baby. Best to go to the GP first to check they are happy with it and to check it isn’t actually something else (like hives or acne!).

5. Smelly pee / discharge / sweat – Yes how lovely. I started finding my pee started smelling pretty strong / funky and hadn’t a clue what it was. Mums on my baby forum said this was normal (phew) and that you should carry round baby wipes to freshen up all day but in fact I worked out what it was by mistake. Due to my hives, I stopped taking the preggie vitamins for a bit and lo and behold, all smelly pee stopped. So my theory (based on no science whatseover) is that the preggie vitamins have just such high concentrations of vitamins that your body has to discharge it somehow and it must pump through your pee and sweat etc. So it is totally normal and controllable but I haven’t had any problems with this since I stopped taking the preggie vits. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend you try this before speaking to your GP / midwife first, although I understand the vitamins are only really need in the first 12 weeks anyway.

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Pregnancy yoga, active birthing & hypno-birthing

I’m 16 weeks and 6 days. And I’m trying something called Active Birth Yoga. Well in fact I tried it. Once. And I was a little bit small so I felt a little bit ridiculous as all the other women were so much bigger (one was 41 weeks) especially as the exercises could have been done by an arthritic 90 year old, while I can still touch my toes.

But I’m planning on giving this active birth thing a shot.

Ina May Gaskin appears to be the poster girl for the movement and the premise is pretty understandable. It says us women were born to give birth – its simple. Our bodies were meant to do it, they know what to do, we just need to chill out and get on with it. The modern era of medicine is of course welcome in what it can do in high risk cases, but in fact it has complicated matters. It makes us lie down when actually gravity tells us the best way to give birth is sitting, squatting or on all fours. Its what primitive woman used to do – there’s cave paintings and everything.

But with modern medicine and our risk-averse society, they say, we give up our natural maternal instinct to have birth imposed upon us. It’s all tubes and examinations and drugs and pushing and pulling and lying down and not really feeling anything.  Its One Born Every Minute. It’s tearing and groggy babies, they say, and the fear instilled in us by this myth that it’s really bloody hard just makes us tense and with this tension comes pain. Its a midwife-led birth not a mum-led birth. But birth, done naturally, can actually be pain free.

Pain free?

Yes please. But how realistic is this really? And will aiming for a pain free birth simply cause more panic and guilt later on when the contractions kick in and you’re screaming for the morphine? Most of my friends gave birth on epidurals, all blissfully unaware of any pains down below, and all seemed very happy about it too, with lovely happy babies to show for it. As one friend said, she just didn’t handle pain very well and she ended up having a lovely time on a walking epidural. Is it necessarily better to vow not to touch an epidural while risking an onslaught of unimaginable pain?

Well I’ve decided, against my more cynical judgment, to give it a go. I went the Active Birth Yoga class run by Natalie Meddings who is also a doula, and although I spent much of the hour and a half trying to kick my cycnical side into submission, I found the whole thing pretty interesting.

We started with tea and biscuits, so far so nice, and a new mum came in to share her “birth story”. Now you can imagine anyone willing to discuss their birth story in public is unlikely to go through the list of painful and embarrassing ailments, but this was a birth that I’d never heard the like of before. She stayed at home until the last possible minute and then had contractions for a couple of hours (which were apparently not painful) until a blissful waterbirth. She remembered her hypno-birthing technique of imagining blowing a balloon away and listening to her partner repeating the mantra that every surge (for a “surge” is what hypno birthers cleverly call a “contraction”) would bring her closer to her baby. It sounded like a beautiful and peaceful birth, and she certainly looked amazing for a mum of a 4 week old baby.

Yet this didn’t really coincide with the stories I’d heard about birth. The hours and hours of waiting and howling, the vomiting and shitting, the excruciating pain and blood and complications and “I can’t do it!”.

While I tried, and failed, to catch someone’s eye in order to roll mine cynically, I realised that actually if I found the confidence to try, then this was the birth I’d always imagined having. Of finding myself as an animal, instinctive, moaning in a new animal moan that echoed down the ages to women centuries old who had been through the same thing.

And I really like the idea of the privacy you get from staying at home as long as you can and only going to hospital when things get back. As Natalie says, you can’t really do much more of a private thing than giving birth – its about a million times more private than having sex or having a poo and those you don’t do with a roomful of interveners! – so I want to try to do most of it myself, at home, relaxing with The Chef, and then being in hospital at the last minute with a midwife who lets us do it in our own time and in our own way. But of course if I need them I’ll be so glad they’re there.

I have a lot of work to do then. As its my first I especially need the fact that this is natural, that it could be easy, and even dare I say it a wonderful experience, seep into me. Here’s what I’m planning to do:

  1. I’m going to continue the Active Birth Yoga course but only from when I’m about 5 months and have a bit more of a bump
  2. I’ve bought a hypno birthing CDEffective Birth Preparation by Maggie Howell and also her relaxing music CD for the birth
  3. I’m going to practice relaxed breathing, pelvic floor exercises, and relaxation using floral oils like lavender
  4. I have until December to try to persuade The Chef to join me in a hypno-birthing day long group class. Oh my. At £165 for a one day group session its not cheap though!

I’ll let you know how it goes.