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Birth, Uncategorized

Sweeps ARE induction (…and there is nothing natural about them)

There is an abundance of misinformation given to women about the infamous ‘stretch and sweep’. This misinformation leads women to believe that a sweep is completely harmless, and in some cases necessary! The feeling that comes from these kinds of ideas is that labour needs help to start and that it would be dangerous to do nothing, undermining the fact that labour is a perfect system that involves lots of hormonal changes before any obvious signs of labour can be detected.

 

Misinformation Exhibit A:

A poster that was displayed in the waiting room of a maternity clinic

Where do I begin? 
Maybe from the top and work our way down.

 

1.Let’s start with due dates. Due dates are calculated on the assumption that all women have the same length menstrual cycle. This is simply not the case, they can differ hugely from woman to woman, month to month. The “normal” range of being full term is between 37 – 42 weeks, so that is already a wide window but it doesn’t take into account how many women are induced due to the fear of going “overdue” (like a library book). So in reality, if we were all left to our own devices this window of normality would probably stretch much further. Whilst we’re on the topic of being left to our own devices – have you ever heard of a woman being pregnant forever? I haven’t. I have heard so many times “I’ve never gone into labour before so I don’t even know if I can” or “I wasn’t going into labour so I had to be induced”. There is no reason to think that your body wouldn’t go into labour naturally given enough time and patience, it is the healthcare system’s incessant need to interfere that undermines women’s confidence in this.

 

2. The next point of focus on this awful poster is the second line; “want to start labour naturally?” … WHAT?! The only natural way for labour to start is to leave well alone because anything that you try to bring labour on before it naturally would, isn’t labour ‘starting naturally’. The other important thing to ask here is why would we want to start labour early? The only reason women feel pressure to “kick things off” is because of the information they are being given about due dates and going past them. That pressure is coming from the maternity service, so they are offering a “solution”. Sweeps are often offered as a way to “avoid induction” but a sweep IS part of induction.

 

3. So you’ve so far been told that approaching your due date means that you must want to get labour going, and that having someone put their fingers inside you to “sweep” around your cervix is a “natural way to induce labour”, and that you should talk to your community midwife about it. I’m not sure about you but the information they’ve given so far isn’t exactly filling me with confidence that talking to them about it would benefit anybody. It is easy to tell from this poster that birth is not seen as a normal bodily function because there is a continuous want to DO something or measure something or fix it. Midwives have to follow the policies of their hospital, and clearly, this hospital (like many others) see birth as something to be managed, which includes inducing labour at all costs. Offering a more “natural method” of a sweep (rather than a chemical method) seems like a compromise, and women are expected to take this compromise to avoid being pressured into further induction techniques. The idea that you can only avoid a formal induction by having a sweep suggests that saying no isn’t enough and won’t be respected. But here’s the thing… you don’t have to compromise. If you don’t want an induction, you don’t have to have one. You can tell your midwife that you will not have an induction and therefore don’t want to discuss it any further, and if they do bring it up against your wishes then you can tell them that they are harassing you. There are many, many ways to avoid the pressure to be induced, but having a sweep isn’t one of them because it is a form of induction, and once you have said yes to one form of induction, it becomes much harder to say no to the rest.

 

4. ‘Available at your local clinic from 40 weeks pregnant’ despite the fact that most women who are 40 weeks pregnant have already been offered multiple sweeps. The main purpose of a sweep is to avoid going post-term (two weeks past your only 5% accurate due date), and the reason for that is based on the increased still-birth rate associated with post-term pregnancy. The research for this is varied, but there are 10 years worth of CEMACH, CMACE and MBRRACE reports that actually show a lower percentage of stillbirths in women who gestate for 42+ weeks, compared to women who gestate for between 37 – 41 weeks.

 

5. ‘Successful for 8 out of 10 women’… I’m not sure where they have found this stat or what they consider to be “successful”. The most recent Cochrane review on the topic, done in February 2020, states “Membrane sweeping appears to be effective in promoting labour but current evidence suggests this did not, overall, follow on to unassisted vaginal births.” So it might be the case that a sweep can trick the body into contracting, but is that really a success if it just leads to a longer, more exhausting labour with more interventions? 

A stretch and sweep can only be performed if the cervix is “favourable”, meaning your body is already preparing for labour (so it’s probably imminent anyway), which means that for women who do go into labour following a sweep it might be that their body was already ready to go into labour and would have done so regardless of whether they had the intervention or not. There is no way to know this, but if you ask around I’m sure the majority of women who went into labour after a sweep has had more than one sweep previous to that one and did not go into labour, so it could have just been a coincidence.

The review also found that women who had a sweep were “less likely to have a formal induction”, but this only perpetuates the notion that a formal induction is inevitable and non-negotiable. What actually makes any form of induction less likely is giving women all of the information and breaking the cycle of thinking that women’s bodies are incapable of going into labour on their own. 

 

6. ‘No known side effects’ … this is a blatant and dangerous lie.

Stretch and sweeps can cause;

  • Pain during and after the procedure
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Painful contractions for the following 24 hours without leading to labour
  • Longer labours
  • An increased risk of infection
  • An increased risk of rupturing the membranes

And for what purpose?

The Cochrane review found that it did not generally lead to labour within 24 hours, and it did not reduce the incidences of further intervention such as the use of synthetic oxytocin and instrumental births. The very fact that a sweep can cause contractions that aren’t effective will lengthen labour, and there is often a lot of pressure put of women who have been contracting for 24 hours, makes you wonder whether there are actually any known benefits.

 

7. ‘Unlike curry!!’ 

This is clearly meant to mock the more “natural methods” of induction, but as I said at the beginning, anything that you do to try to bring on labour is a form of induction, whether it is chemical or otherwise so they fall under the same umbrella, except eating a curry doesn’t involve someone putting their fingers inside your vagina. The theory behind the curry method is the irritation spicy food can cause to your bowel, which could potentially trick the body into contracting. But, unlike sweeps, eating curry (if you like curry) has many benefits and not just to pregnant women! These include;

  • Satisfying hunger
  • Spicy foods tend to release endorphins which can give you a bit of a buzz
  • Cooking curry can be really fun
  • It tastes great
  • If you don’t like it or it is causing you discomfort/pain, you can stop eating it instantly without having to tell anyone (unlike having a sweep where, if you wanted it to stop, you would have to rely on the midwife performing the procedure to listen to and respect your decision, which isn’t always the case)

 

In conclusion, this poster is a load of shit and is a perfect representation of how frequently women are misinformed in pregnancy and how flippantly this is done. It shows how easily things become routine without really being based on any solid evidence. It also says a lot about the systemic mistrust in women’s bodies and the belief that they need help to perform the most natural of bodily functions.

If you find yourself being offered or pressured into a “quick sweep to get things started” or any other kind of induction, take whatever time you need to go through the BRAIN acronym and consider the benefits, risks and alternatives to what is being offered, check in with your intuition and ask yourself (and your midwife if you want) what happens next if you accept the intervention and what happens if you decide to do nothing. All of this information will help you to make the decision that is right for you.

If you want to chat about any of these decisions or navigating the maternity system, feel free to get in touch with us and book a ‘holding space’ session by emailing hello@greatermanchesterdoulas.com

 

Related Sources:

https://billieharrigan.com/blog/2019/5/6/birth-hijacked-the-ritual-membrane-sweep

https://www.aims.org.uk/journal/item/induction-at-term

https://www.sarawickham.com/articles-2/unpacking-sweeping-policies/

https://www.aims.org.uk/journal/item/ten-things

https://www.cochrane.org/CD000451/PREG_membrane-sweeping-induction-labour

https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/crdweb/ShowRecord.asp?LinkFrom=OAI&ID=12011000682&LinkFrom=OAI&ID=12011000682

Birth, Birth Story, Doulas

The wild home birth of baby Seren

Today is the 2nd anniversary of the wild home birth of baby Seren. I know we’re not meant to have favourites… but I loved supporting Naomi and having the privilege to witness her give birth in her wild power. What better way to celebrate than by sharing her story. 

Naomi got in touch with us in her third trimester after she found herself feeling unsupported by her midwives. She is the perfect example of a women who recognised what she needed and responded to those needs, in both her pregnancy and in her birth. She centred herself completely in her birth and it resulted in a powerful experience, completely on her own terms. A wonderful, wild home birth. You rock Naomi!! Happy birthing day 🥳

“I went to bed after feeling restless and uncomfortable, and had a fairly restless sleep. In the morning I felt dull, mild, period type cramps. I told my partner and asked him to keep his phone on as he left for work.

I then paid little attention to this as I focused on my toddler. We went to playgroup, where I kept moving position as I couldn’t get comfortable; choosing to kneel rather than sit, and continued to have mild cramping.

We left around 11.30am. While pushing the buggy I had to keep stopping due to the increased intensity of these feelings. I got us home and made lunch and had the urge to sort, so I quickly tidied and cleaned while thinking, “I need my toddler to nap.” I lay down with him and nursed him to sleep. During this time I concentrated on noticing the cramping, and realised they were every 10 mins now, and getting stronger, but still extremely manageable.
I thought maybe I’ll meet my baby tomorrow.

I decided to call my partner around 12.45pm just to let him know I thought I may be in very early labour, but not to bother coming home, as with our first baby I’d had two episodes that fizzled out at 38 and 40 weeks, with him finally being born at 41+1. He decided he would come home anyway.

I also called my neighbour to ask that if things continued could she take my toddler on the school run, before my friend came for him after work at 5pm.

My partner arrived home around 1.30pm, and I asked him to pick up some things from the shop while our toddler was still asleep. At this stage my attention was on organising for “if I go into labour” and not really on “I am in labour”.

When our boy woke up I would take myself just out of sight for a contraction as I was now having to give attention to them. I leaned on the kitchen surface, furniture and doorways. In between contractions I just carried on caring for and interacting with my toddler. I told him he was going with our neighbour to do the school run, and he was excited about that.

He left at 3pm. I had a shower, listening to music and leaning into the walls during the two surges I had there. I washed and dried my hair, and shortly after that my partner started timing my contractions.

They were five mins apart. I was leaning on surfaces, doorways and him for these now, and although requiring my concentration they felt good. I was relaxed and talking between them. We sat down to eat some soup around 4pm. When I could feel a surge coming I’d get off the chair, lean into birth ball, and then return to the meal.

woman in birth pool holding her partner

My partner asked if I wanted the pool filling, to call the midwife, and Lori our doula. I initially said no to all but then asked him to get Lori to come in half an hour. This was when my toddler would be collected by our friend and I thought things might move along once I knew he was with her. I wasn’t “in the zone” and therefore couldn’t believe I’d be meeting my baby soon!

When Lori arrived she’d had a busy day and I told her to have a lay down, as, “I’m only very early on…”

Things quickly felt more intense, and I took myself upstairs without saying anything. It was dark, and I put on some fairy lights and carried on listening to music. I went into the small spare room where I had set up the pool, and I enjoyed being alone, having several surges there and feeling very calm and fuzzy.

My partner came up to see how I was and I held onto him. He showed me a photo of our son having a good time with the neighbour’s kid but I couldn’t focus on it. I called for Lori to come upstairs and she sat in the room with me crocheting in the corner. 

Around 4.30pm I agreed to him calling the midwives but I didn’t want them to come yet. As it was we didn’t get through for a while and when he did they said the team would call back. My contractions were building and becoming more intense. We got a call back around 5pm and I was told to come into hospital due to staffing. I was speaking between contractions but another one was coming so I said “speak to my partner” and handed the phone over. He said I was not going to come in. They agreed to check availability again.

women standing on sofa holding partner and giving birth
“Standing on the sofa like you do”

I then felt a shift in gear, my water broke, and I pulled at my trousers to see – I had the mucous plug/show and my inco pants had held the gush of waters. Then around 5.20pm I said to my partner that the baby was coming and to call the mw back. They decided to send an ambulance.

My body was on automatic, I felt intense pressure in my pelvis, I could feel my sacrum making space and I felt like I was going to poo myself, the feeling of bearing down made me cry out loud low sounds, I felt as if I was singing. I was stood on the sofa at one point- my body moving about where it needed to go. I looked at the pool and asked if I could get in… No chance! It was under minimum.

Lori was calmly topping it up with buckets of water. In the next couple of contractions I could feel my baby’s head nudging down, and I felt SO much pressure and intensity. I was told the pool was on minimum, so I got my partner to check she was just crowning and her head wasn’t out. As soon as he said, “Yep, just crowning”, I jumped in the pool.

The relief was instantaneous. I was leaning over the edge on all fours holding my partner tight. I felt suddenly overwhelmed as my body was taking over, then one more massive surge, and I knew my baby’s head was out. I said, “Her head her head is out oh my god oh my god”, then I flipped onto my back, and back to back contractions, she slipped into the water. I said “get the baby!!” to my partner. He passed her straight to me, I held her on my chest and she did the loudest cry! I rubbed her with a towel vigorously, and kissed her head.

I’d thought I’d want to stay in the pool to deliver the placenta but I was too hot and not comfy, so I climbed out and sat on the sofa, where we were wrapped up together. I wanted her to feed to encourage the placenta to be delivered, so my ideas of breast crawl etc went out the window. She fed a little and would pop on and off, taking me in and crying.
Just as the control room said the paramedics were nearly with us I felt a contraction coming so I stood up holding my baby and asked my partner to put a bowl on the floor under me. I felt a slippery movement, and then a bigger fuller feeling and plop! Out came the placenta into the bowl. Less than half an hour after she was born.

I got two hours skin to skin just with my daughter – no one took her to be weighed, and all checks were done with her on me. We declined transfer in to hospital and a mw came to see us in the early hours. It was an amazing way to meet my baby earthside.”

home water birth
Welcome to the world baby Seren!
women marching with flags
Birth, Human Rights

A letter to midwives who have lost their way

Dear well meaning midwife,

I’m sure you found your way to this role through good intentions. I imagine you became a midwife through a passion for women, or a call to contribute towards positive change within the birth world. Somehow though you seem to have lost your way. Can you see? Can you recognise that in your attempt to change a patriarchal system, you have become part of the problem – but you don’t have to be.

You can stop reporting women to social services for believing in their bodies and their ability to birth their babies without your help. It is a woman’s human right to choose a wild pregnancy and/or freebirth. Maternity services are not compulsory.

You can stop infantilising the women who ask for your support during their pregnancies, and those who invite you into their sacred birth spaces. They don’t belong to you and they are not little girls you can judge to be good or bad. They are whole women who deserve to be treated as such.

You can stop acting as the gatekeeper. Stop “allowing” or “not allowing” women to make choices that they know to be in their best interests. And what is best for a woman is best for her baby – because nobody cares more about the wellbeing of a baby than its mother. It’s not your job to ensure women are making informed decisions. It’s your job to offer balanced information and above all trust women. They are the gatekeepers, not you.

On that note, you can stop lying to women about the options that are available to them or giving them false information. I’m tired of hearing women tell me, “I didn’t know”. They didn’t know that they could say “no”, or that they didn’t have to go for that scan, or accept that vaginal examination. They didn’t know that your policies aren’t always evidence-based or in their best interests. Do you see how coercive this is?

You can take the time to recognise and examine your personal bias. There is a reason why black women are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and birth than white women, and it is not because their bodies are broken. Acknowledge the systemic racism in maternity services and do the work to change it.

You can brush up your knowledge on what constitutes informed consent before going back into work again. When you carry out intervention without informed consent, it is assault. This might help… 

informed consent definition

“For consent to be valid, it must be voluntary and informed, and the person consenting must have the capacity to make the decision.
The meaning of these terms are:
Voluntary – the decision to either consent or not to consent to treatment must be made by the person, and must not be influenced by pressure from medical staff, friends or family.
Informed – the person must be given all of the information about what the treatment involves, including the benefits and risks, whether there are reasonable alternative treatments, and what will happen if treatment does not go ahead.
Capacity – the person must be capable of giving consent, which means they understand the information given to them and can use it to make an informed decision.
If an adult has the capacity to make a voluntary and informed decision to consent to or refuse a particular treatment, their decision must be respected.
This is still the case even if refusing treatment would result in their death, or the death of their unborn child.”

This isn’t about bashing midwives. I know that wonderful women-centred practice happens. But it doesn’t happen enough. I see midwives fighting for change, but I also see midwives who prop up a system that thrives on hurting women. If you are not fighting against the abuse of women in maternity services, then you are part of the problem.

What can you do instead? Offer women all the information, not just part of the puzzle. Respect women’s bodily autonomy above everything and call out anyone who doesn’t. Trust and believe in women, their bodies and their instincts. Support women who are finding creative and intuitive ways to birth safely in a world that does not care about them. That is what being with women is all about.

Uncategorized

Why it takes so much more than just hiring a doula to have a good birth

 

As we hear more and more about doulas, it’s easy to get the impression that having a doula will somehow magically lead to having a better birth experience. It often feels like one of the things on the ‘positive birth’ checklist; hire a doula, do a hypnobirthing class, read a birth book etc. and it’s true that having a doula can significantly reduce the risk of interventions and birth trauma, but that is largely due to the work that a woman does with her doula, and by herself, during pregnancy.

What we have learnt from women

Through our years of working as doulas in Greater Manchester, we have come to realise that birthing within the maternity system can and often will come with complications, barriers and difficulties. One of the best ways to combat these hurdles is to know what’s coming. Knowing how the maternity service works and knowing their policies gives you a head-start and also shows you that there are other options, such as birthing outside of the system. Knowing your rights and your options are the first steps to having a positive birth. A doula can support you in learning all of this, provide you with information and books on the subject, they can give you information about how the system works and how you can navigate it, and tell you all about the birth process, but it takes you to make the difference. 

Women who have had a traumatic birth in the past often come to us believing that their body failed them and that they need to do something different this time. Hiring a doula is a great start because it gives them the space to talk openly about what happened last time, a place to wonder whether those things were necessary or completely unacceptable, a place to cry and ask questions. Once women learn and start to believe that the process of birth is not inherently dangerous, and is not a medical event, it leads to an awakening that is incomparable. Getting to this point though takes a whole load of courage and openness from that woman, and when that woman is heard, she can find the answers she’s been looking for. So many of the women we listen to were having a perfectly normal, healthy pregnancy and labour until it was interfered with by medical staff, and realising that sometimes complications in birth are caused by the interference is key to protecting themselves against it. Their body did not fail them, the system did.

We have been programmed to think that authority means safety, but in so many instances we have been proven that in fact, the opposite is the case. When we trust someone else’s word over our own feelings of discomfort, we are left feeling violated. When we look to someone else for the answers, especially in birth, we are handing over our control and ignoring our intuition. We often hear in women’s stories that the parts that felt the most traumatic are when they went against what their body was telling them, and just did what they were told – so far I haven’t met a woman who regretted following her body. Our intuition is what has kept us alive and safe for so long, and birth is such a private and personal event that it makes very little sense to look for external approval or guidance. When we trust women, birth is safe. A doula is often the only person in the birth room who is solely focused on you, as the birthing woman, and having someone who completely believes and trusts in your body at that moment can make a huge difference to the energy. Questioning the authority of medical staff is necessary to get the birth you want, because going with someone else’s flow will inevitably lead you down a path that makes you uncomfortable or feels wrong. You ARE the authority, and you DO know best, even if you have never birthed before. Birth is a hormonal event and a normal bodily function – if you were monitored, observed and examined whilst trying to have an orgasm it probably wouldn’t go very well, would it?

Birth is led by the hormone oxytocin – as are orgasms – and for oxytocin to be released it needs the right environment. For women to release oxytocin they need to feel safe, warm, unobserved and undisturbed, so when you put a labouring woman in a brightly lit hospital with a bunch of strangers, unfamiliar loud noises and smells, and continue disturbing her with monitoring and examinations, it’s no surprise that birth takes longer or is more difficult. When birth is undisturbed, endorphins are released to match the intensity of labour as it builds – this is what makes labour pain manageable. When we interfere with the body’s natural pain killers, we cause more harm than good. Understanding what birth needs is a great foundation for planning where you want to give birth, and who you want to be there. Doulas can be really helpful in supporting you to navigate the maternity system when you are “going against medical advice” or just declining what you are being told is “how they do things”.

What we wish women knew before giving birth

We wish that all women knew that they were in charge of their body and their birth, that they didn’t have to agree to anything that feels uncomfortable or compromise with medical staff. We wish that women knew that birth doesn’t need to be fixed or monitored or sped-up and that they have the right to say no or to seek the care they are not being offered. We wish that women who have had traumatic experiences knew that they were not alone and that what happened to them was not okay. We wish that women weren’t expected to be “good girls” and do what they are told even when it feels wrong and that it’s okay to be “difficult” or “bossy” – in fact, that shows a belief in yourself, and the ability to assert your boundaries!

The work we do is to create the space for women to ask questions, to speak up and use their voice, to take what they need and to take back their power. We listen to women’s traumatic birth stories, we help them to write birth plans, we share information and experiences, we are behind them when they are navigating the system, or choosing to birth outside of it, and we have that unwavering trust in the birth process and in the woman in front of us. 

We support their choices, we hear their voices and we are privileged enough to witness their power.

But ultimately, what makes a positive birth is a woman who is ready to go deeper, to question what she is being told, and is fully supported in her decisions.

Uncategorized

Bodily autonomy and the information we are not given

This post is sparked by my personal experience (it’s Amy here, in case my hilarious t-shirt below didn’t give that away) and also from listening to women talk about their journeys with contraception.
 
Grab yourself a brew (and maybe some biscuits) because this is a long, winding road to a very broad but important point – bare with me.
 
 
Let’s talk about contraception (and information and consent and bodily autonomy… because it’s all part of the same point)
 
Being doulas, you might think that the topic of contraception is a little out of our remit but (as I have so succinctly concluded in the subtitle) that is not the case.
 
As doulas and feminists, we respect every woman’s right to choose what is right for her body, so naturally, the topic of being informed and choices being respected is at the very core of what we believe in. Also, being full-spectrum doulas we support women before they are pregnant and long after they give birth so it does come up a fair bit.
 
 
Let’s start with sex education
Way back in school (Elle would like to point out that it wasn’t that long ago for me), we were only ever told about two or three methods of contraception. We learnt a bit about the pill, maybe a bit on the injection and of course, everyone remembers the demonstration of how to put a condom on a cucumber or banana or any other object that doesn’t look like a real penis so that the teacher doesn’t get embarrassed. I’m guessing it wasn’t all that different for you? But this isn’t enough. If you’re going to teach young people about sex and contraception, you have to tell them all of their options and what each one entails. For example, I don’t remember anyone telling us in school that the longer you are on the pill, the longer it could take to get pregnant once you stop taking it. This might seem like a very way-in-the-future conversation to have with children, but who else is going to tell us that? Especially considering lots of women go on the pill from a very young age. “Wouldn’t that be the healthcare professionals job?” I hear you ask… the answer is yes, it definitely is, but that doesn’t mean that they will fulfil that expectation. The other HUGE gap (or if talked about at all, misrepresentation) in sex education is birth, but that’s a whole other rant.
 
My personal experience with contraception
Over a period of about four years, I tried two different types of the pill and the injection before deciding to have a detox because the hormones were having a very negative effect on my mental health. The side-effects are different for everyone but the general consensus of women I have spoken to is that there is at least one pretty rough down-side to every hormonal contraception option.
 
Condoms were the only other option (that I knew of) – our readily available, non-hormonal, trusty, 98% effective friend. However, it took one of these trusty little guys to split for me to end up seeking emergency contraception. For me (and many women have a much worse time of it), that meant I had to wait about 4 hours at a walk-in clinic (feeling alone and nervous), complete an incredibly personal face-to-face questionnaire and brush off several judgemental ‘I don’t believe you’ looks, for someone to finally tell me about the copper coil! I listened intently as they told me how it was hormone-free, had very few side-effects, could stay in for 5 years (some stay in for 10!) but can be removed any time I want, it doesn’t stall fertility after removal, and it is more than 99% effective…
 
 
…SHUT THE FRIDGE!!
 
Why in the hell had nobody taught me about this option before?! I had suffered through years of hormones messing with my brain, my skin, my personality. I got it fitted that day and four years later have not regretted it once. Now, it sounds like I’m just trying to sell you all on the copper coil, that is not my intention. It works for me and I love that, but the point of my rant is…
 
Why did it take so long for someone to tell me all of my options? Who decides which methods of contraception are offered to us first? If we are born into a religion that believes abstinence is the only way – where do we get the information to decide for ourselves? If our parents decide that sex is too difficult a topic and tick the opt-out box on the sex education form, where do we learn about our body and the changes we are going to go through? Why should other people get to decide what information we get about puberty, sex and contraception? It’s the first step towards bodily autonomy and nobody wants to talk about it! Maybe because bodily autonomy isn’t something that society wants us to have. Working as a doula has taught me that.
 
This power play continues throughout our lives, with anything to do with women’s bodies from contraception, boundaries, birth and beyond.
 
(Sorry, it took me a while to get to the point! Have another biscuit…)
 
From a friends experience
A few years ago, before I was no longer shocked by the controls put on women and their bodies, my friend was seeking the morning after pill at a pharmacy. She had gone to the only pharmacy open that Sunday morning, she steeled herself, walked up to the desk in the not-so-private supermarket aisle where the pharmacy is located and told the pharmacist what she wanted to purchase. There was no medical reason for her to be unable to access the morning-after pill, but the pharmacist said no. He said that he could not dispense the pill because of his personal beliefs.
 
 
I couldn’t believe this was legal, especially with something as time-sensitive as the morning-after pill. I furiously googled it and found that yep, apparently, pharmacists have an opt-out clause which gives them the power to inflict their personal views onto others, potentially causing an unwanted pregnancy. Technically, if a pharmacist exercises this ridiculous clause, they are supposed to offer an alternative, but what good is that on a Sunday when nowhere nearby is open and the customer can’t drive? That’s a pretty risky clause to have, don’t you think?
 
So I have a few questions; would a doctor who is a Jehovah’s witness have a clause to opt-out of giving a life-saving blood transfusion because of her/his personal beliefs? Does a doctor who is Jewish have an opt-in clause to enforce circumcision on all babies because of his/her own beliefs? Is the opt-out clause used for anything other than emergency contraception, or is it a clause solely to deny women the right to decide whether or not to have a baby?
 
Now I am wiser I know that actually, professionals impose their personal opinions on women all the time, it’s just usually less obvious. For example, during pregnancy when something is offered to you (because it is just an offer, even if it doesn’t come across that way), that midwife or doctor should be giving you ALL of the information, the risks, benefits and alternatives, for you to make an informed decision about your care. This very rarely happens, and what we can assume from this is that the person giving you the partial information is deciding, based on their personal views, which information is more important for you to know, and what can be left out. This does NOT equal informed consent. 
 
The patriarchal society that we live in has assumed that women’s bodies, and the decisions women make about those bodies, are to be monitored and controlled. Constant protesting of abortion, the hoops we have to jump through to access all types of contraception, the scare-tactics used in pregnancy and the birth room – it is all about controlling women. Strong, independent women who are able to make informed decisions and stand their ground are a threat to that control. Information is power, and withholding information (or more directly, actual medical care such as the morning-after pill), is to take away a woman’s power.
If we take away a woman’s control of her own body, we are telling her that she is not important and that her body is not hers to be in control of.
 
What does this teach young girls and women about consent? What does it teach us about boundaries? What does it teach us about our power?
 
(and yours too, if you want us to!)
 
 
 
 
 
Resources related to this post:
 
– The most recent changes I found on the opt-out clause (2017):
 
– The Lloyd’s Pharmacy article:
 
– Some fascinating for and against comments from pharmacists about the opt-out clause:
 
– The NHS contraception guide:
 
– Info on the copper coil (IUD):
News

Hello again 👋

So we know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from us! It’s been too long and we’ve missed you! As more restrictions were brought in, we found ourselves inundated which meant we were working in survival mode – just trying to meet the needs of our incredible community. We’re finally starting to find our feet again and are looking forward to keeping you updated once again. 

What we’ve been working on

funded by the national lottery community fundWhat haven’t we been working on?! As you may remember, in May we received funding from The National Lottery Community Fund to support our COVID-19 response. This has looked like: lots of powerful holding space sessions, supporting wise women through our birth doula support, creating a new offering of virtual birth doula support, birth trauma recovery sessions, and lots (and LOTS) of community groups – all over zoom (for the time being).

What we’ve been up to

two black kittens lying on a bedLori: I’ve been channeling my stress into rearranging our flat – a coping mechanism that started in my teens that’s never left! Creating a “me only” space where I can work, read, meditate, play my piano, hide from the children… Theo and Felix are loving our new family bedroom but single handedly taking down and rebuilding their bunk bed left me very sore for a few days. Oh and we got kittens!!

Elle: I’ve been playing Watch Dogs 2 on PS4, specifically to beat Az from the Ice Shack to get all the trophies first. But the writing is very small, and I don’t make a good criminal so I may concede this win.

amy moving house collage Amy: I moved into a new flat with my sister, Katy, and drove my van on the real roads in the process which was sooo much fun! I’ve been adjusting to life with a very energetic kitten (the kitten came free with the sister) – I’m not adjusted yet.

If you’re local and missing Ice Shack as much as we are, you can still get deliveries by messaging through their facebook page! Berry vanilla cake anyone?

Quickfire questions for the doulas

What has been your favourite thing about lockdown?
L: Being able to work in my pjs!
A: The quiet roads! I’ve still been driving to work at the studio the whole time so I got to enjoy the peaceful traffic-free roads for a while.
E: Finding my health and strength

Describe yourself as a teenager in 3 words.
A: Angry but quiet (you wouldn’t have known I was angry, which is definitely not a good thing – this is why I’m enjoying Rage Becomes Her so much!)
E: Emo. Masculine. Insular.
L: Vulnerable, sensitive and shy.

What are you most looking forward to doing as restrictions ease?
E:  Going on holiday.
L: Celebrating my birthday 🎉 I normally shy away from anything where I’m the focus. But I’ve been through hell over the last few years and I’m turning 30 so I’m hoping to do something special for a change.
A: Getting the materials I need for my van conversion so I can go on some trips. And getting to hang out with you two again!

What’s coming up?

Have you heard about our Wild Women Rising Circle with Dance Like a Mother? We’ll be gathering this Friday at 7.45pm so be sure to get your tickets.

We’ll be gathering together to share experiences and hold space for one another. There will be the opportunity to ask us, and each other, any questions you may have surrounding birth and motherhood, and the option of joining us for a relaxing meditation to close the circle. Come as you are, there’s no expectation from us for you to share if you don’t want to, you’re more than welcome to just be present.

We hope you are hanging in there and we can’t wait to start seeing you all in person again soon.

Much love,

Lori, Elle & Amy x

 

 

black Big Lottery Community fund logo banner
Funding, News

COVID-19 response funding from National Lottery Community Fund

This week started off on an incredible high with the news that we are being awarded almost £12,000 in National Lottery Funding for our COVID-19 response project.

This is going to make a significant difference to women in our community and means that we can confidently offer fully funded support to any woman who wants and needs it.

Why have a COVID-19 response project?

It quickly became clear that pregnant women and new mothers are being hugely affected by the new measures put in place due to the pandemic. This includes restrictions imposed by individual Trusts, inconsistently and without first exhausting alternatives, in direct opposition to guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. There are also many doulas who are not able to provide their services to women in our community, and as a result, we have experienced an increase in the number of women asking for our support.

Women have the right to choose where to give birth and with whom, but those options are rapidly being taken away from them or made completely inaccessible, making women believe that they no longer have a choice. Women, now more than ever, need personalised emotional and informational support whilst navigating the maternity services in the state that they are currently in.

Women who report birth trauma are most often not talking about the physical birth process, but the way they were treated during labour and birth. During the COVID-19 pandemic so far we have already witnessed the stripping away of women’s options for labour and birth, and women are fearful of the consequences of the restrictions put in place.

During this pandemic, women are likely to be and are already being subjected to human rights violations and unnecessary interventions under coercion – leading to an increased risk of traumatic birth experiences. There is also the added risk associated with isolation of new mothers, whilst being separated from their friends and family who would ordinarily be part of her support system. These two things will lead to an increase in postnatal depression and PTSD which will have a long term impact on the overall well-being of both the woman and her baby.

Big Lottery Community fund logo

What are you planning on doing?

This funding will be used to deliver one-to-one support sessions and community groups via video chat, for women planning their birth during the pandemic and women who are facing or who have experienced birth trauma as a result of COVID-19. We will be facilitating community groups, and providing Holding Space sessions and birth doula support (both face to face and virtually), free of charge for any woman who cannot afford to pay.

We aim to create a safe space for women to access emotional and informational support and to help them feel less isolated and more supported and empowered in their birth choices. We will help women to navigate the new restrictions within maternity services and support them emotionally through unexpected changes to their birth plans. This will extend to virtual support during labour and birth for women with additional vulnerabilities. For women who are facing the trauma of birthing alone because of COVID-19 restrictions, we will provide in-person physical, practical and emotional support throughout their labour and birth.

We are sending all our thanks to National Lottery players and The National Lottery Community Fund for recognising the importance of our work. It has been a much needed boost being awarded funding during a time that is scary and uncertain for both women and small organisations like ourselves. We hope you are as excited as we are that we will be able to continue to support women, even during a global pandemic! 

If you are a woman who could benefit from this project please get in touch, we would love to hear from you.

Much love,

Lori, Elle & Amy   

 

 

 

Doulas, News

Humpday Update 🐪

Happy humpday (although every day is feeling like humpday these days!) How are you doing? Lockdown life has us all trying to function in strange and uncertain times and it’s ok to be coping however you need to. Whether you are throwing yourself into sourdough starters and banana bread baking or crying at various intervals and wearing pjs 24/7, you’re doing great!!

What have we been up to?

Lori: I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather over the last week so I’ve been prioritising self care in and amongst my usual day to day responsibilities. Netflix in the bath, early nights, staying hydrated and listening to what my body and soul need. I’ve also started reading a new book: “Everything Below the Waist: Why Healthcare Needs a Feminist Revolution” by Jennifer Block. We’ve had this book for a while but I’ve finally managed to create the space for reading regularly! What are you reading at the moment?

Amy: I finished watching Money Heist so I’m grieving that. I’ve mostly just been at the studio! I cooked quesadillas for the first time – they were really nice. And I cooked a butternut squash and lentil curry, but have decided that peeling and cutting a butternut squash is a full workout and I’m never doing it again. The curry was nice though.

She has also managed to squeeze in some kitten-sitting and we were all very jealous!

Elle: Organised my yarn, made my first sourdough, got my monthly migraine, completed Control. Not much to report!

Questions for the doulas: This or That edition!

Day or Night?
L: Night.
A: Night.
E: Night.

Cat or Dog?
A: Cat…That’s too difficult – I love them both in different moments.
E: Dog.
L: I’m so indecisive, I want to say both! Dog if my only responsibility was to have cuddles. Otherwise cat.

Tea or Coffee?
E: Coffee.
L: Coffee, coffee, coffeeeee!
A: If I’m sad it’s tea all the way. Ahh I love them both (again)

Sun or Moon?
L: Always the moon. I love her. But also, if she’d let me have a decent sleep this week I’d really appreciate it.
A: I’m a bit obsessed with the moon recently!
E: Moon.

Early Bird or Night Owl?
A: Probably night owl
E: Both
L: Early bird. I love it when I’m up before the kids and I get to sit in my sunny living room with a brew, listening to the birds.

What we’ve been working on

This week is UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week so we’ve been joining in with the campaign, creating and sharing posts on social media. We’ll be doing a facebook live later this week where we’ll be discussing all things maternal mental health so keep an eye out for that. 

We’ve also been spreading the word about the support we offer, in particular our Holding Space service. Social distancing measures and ever-changing policies within maternity services have left women facing more challenges, in precarious situations, and without their usual support networks. We are here to support you however we can. 

We had some great news this week that we were granted some additional funding from Tesco to support our communities through this pandemic. This means that we are still able to continue to offer funded Holding Space sessions to any woman who could not afford it otherwise.

Funding is still a challenge however and if you are able to donate anything, it would be very much appreciate and will help to support women in difficult situations. Our Aviva crowdfunding project is still live and accepting donations. Reaching our target and being able to access this money will make a huge difference to women in our community so please keep sharing in your circles.

What’s coming up?

We have The Wild Mothering Circle on Friday afternoon and Home Birth Group on Sunday Morning.

We’ll be doing a Facebook Live later this week about Maternal Mental Health so follow our page for updates about that.

We also have some availability for Holding Space sessions so please get in touch if you would like to book a session. It doesn’t have to be birth related. You don’t have to be a mother. We’re here for any woman who would like our support.

Have a wonderful rest of the week.

Lots of love

Lori, Amy & Elle x

international day of the midwife
Birth, News

International Day of the Midwife 2020

Today is the International Day of the Midwife 2020. Whilst we are not midwives, our roles often sit side by side and our missions closely aligned. We wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate midwives around the world whose life work is to truly be ‘with woman’.

In a world where women live and birth within patriarchal institutions and normal, physiological birth is unnecessarily pathologised, traditional midwives can play such an important role. Their knowledge and wisdom is a much needed reminder that industrial birth is not our only option. They are a wonderful support that women can look to on their journeys to powerful, ecstatic births.

international day of the midwife

Today we celebrate and hold space for midwives who are choosing to create new paradigms, rather than engage in futile fights with broken systems. Heart led midwives who serve the woman above all else. Protectors of physiological birth. Birth keepers who trust women all the way, and know in their hearts that we are the ultimate knowledge when it comes to our own bodies and babies. In particular we hold those midwives who have been persecuted for believing in women and providing women-centred care despite the risk to themselves. Thank you.

Sending you all so much love and respect!

Lori, Elle & Amy x

Days of the week on wooden pegs
News, Uncategorized

Weekday read 📖

It’s definitely a weekday, but we can’t be more specific at this point! We hope you are coping, and that you know you can always reach out to us. We are only a text away.

What we’ve been up to

Amy has been extremely busy in the studio, fulfilling orders at Clara and Macy. They are Christmas-level busy, but without any of the prep that they usually do year round. 
As well as that she’s still running her Meetup group, and of course being a badass doula with us.

Lori has been doing lots of yoga and reading this week.
She’s “eating more biscuits than any human should”, her laundry basket is empty 🥳😱, and has dyed her kids hair (on purpose) and house (by accident).

A quote from the book 'Pushed' by Jennifer Block
From ‘Pushed’ by Jennifer Block

Elle is getting into the world of podcasts. Two of the stars of Scrubs have started a twice weekly podcast about making the show, and she’s lapping it up. Every episode is soon to be on All 4 – watch-along anyone?
Her unbuzzed hair is now comically long and is crocheting herself a hat.

It was our birthday this week! We had drinks, got frocked up and had a Zoom party. You can watch it here (it’s long and rambling!)


We are so proud to have been here for two years, responding to the needs of the community, growing as an organisation, and learning just how much we can do when we need to! We have developed new skills and new ways of working, and we hope we always will. 
Thank you for supporting us and building our village with us.

Quick questions for the doulas (by Ember)

What’s your favourite breakfast food?
L: Vegan fry up or leftover curry
E: Defo vegan fry up, but at the moment I’m on a health kick and it’s porridge and seeds with fruit every day.
A: Chocolate.

What are you watching in lockdown?
L: Killing Eve, Gangs of London and everything on Disney+
E: The Comeback (Lisa Kudrow is more talented than I ever knew!) and Devs.
A: Just finished Season 2 of Money Heist and it was AMAZING.

What do you like to sit on?
L: On the beach somewhere sunny ☀️ These days my armchair with my feet up will do.
E: Those therapy chairs where you can lean forward and rest your arms and legs. Don’t know what they’re called but they feel good!
A: The floor, usually!

What we’ve been working on

We have been busy busy busy! Enquiries have gone up over 65% since lockdown, and we are doing everything we can to meet the needs of local women. This means being even more flexible in our approach, and applying for lots more funding. It’s more important than ever that we are able to provide emotional support at low to no cost, as barriers to this are mounting.

This week we hosted the Manchester Birth Workers Circle, and have Women Reclaiming Birth coming up, as well as our weekly Wild Mothers Circle .

We have extended our funding deadline with Aviva, which you can donate to here. We are hoping this extra time will allow us to reach our target and unlock the donations we have received so far.

What’s coming up

We are excited for the release of Dr Jess Taylor’s new book, ‘Why Women are Blamed for Everything’:

‘Based on three years of doctoral research and ten years of practice with women and girls, Dr Jessica Taylor explores the many reasons we blame women for male violence committed against them. Written in her unique style and backed up by decades of evidence, this book exposes the powerful forces in society and individual psychology which compel us to blame women subjected to male violence.’

Every weekend we are taking it in turns to choose a different workout video. We set up our phones and put YouTube on another screen, to cheer each other on (and secretly laugh). The videos we are choosing from are free, and if you’d like to join us (cameras on or not!) you are most welcome. 11am Saturday we’ll be attempting this one and we’ll nudge on FB beforehand too. In previous weeks we’ve tried Zumba, and Bhangracise. What other suggestions do you have?

We are working on some new fundraising ideas and hope to have more news on that next week. In the meantime, you know where we are, and don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Much love and stay safe,

Elle, Amy &