Early pregnancy, Loss, Women

The 12 week “rule” and the underlying harm it causes

Women in the UK and further afield, whether they have had their own babies or not, will have heard that 12 weeks is when you are officially (societally anyway) “allowed to tell people” about your pregnancy. It is so ingrained! We can see this from the frequently asked questions on Google of women asking permission to share their own life changing news with loved ones. I would like to delve into why this “rule” persists so deeply.

ANSWER: Information about your own body is yours to do whatever you wish with – this includes keeping it to yourself when you want to, but it also includes sharing it with those you trust whenever you want to! There are no rules.

Why 12 weeks?

Women are shamed into silence during the first trimester of pregnancy to make other people more comfortable because we live in a society that A. medicalises pregnancy and birth from conception and B. can’t talk about death. 

According to Healthline the rate of miscarriage in known pregnancies is 10% – 15%. Of that 15%, 80% of those miscarriages happen in the first trimester. So the theory is that because there is a higher chance of a baby dying, the mother should keep it to herself. Who does that benefit? There are two scenarios for the first trimester, the first and most likely is that the woman goes into her second trimester with a healthy baby still growing and developing, and the second is that the baby dies. Neither of these scenarios calls for women to be silent and deal with their feelings alone.

It is no coincidence that 12 weeks is “usually” when a woman will have her first ultrasound scan. This is placed on a pedestal (or a medistal, if you will) as being the solid way to “make sure everything is okay” before you share your news with anyone. What does that say to women about their intuition? It completely undermines it. It tells women that it doesn’t matter that they feel absolutely fine, and intuitively know that their baby is well. It says the only thing that matters is what they can measure. This sets women up for their entire pregnancy and birth being medicalised. Each time she starts to trust in her intuition, she’ll be encouraged by friends, family, partner, medical staff, to go for an ultrasound “just in case she’s wrong”. If women are being told that the only way to make their pregnancy “real” is to go to that scan and get a freaky print-out so that you can tell people, then it becomes the only option.

The 12 weeks “rule” also gives the impression that if your baby dies before 12 weeks, it doesn’t really count and this is massively damaging. The idea of “at least you won’t have to tell everyone the bad news” also cuts women off from receiving love and support from those who would give it if they knew. The gestation at which a woman loses a baby doesn’t change how it feels for her.


Death is a part of life

I don’t say this flippantly. Death is hard. It’s raw, heartbreaking, jolting. Death is normal, but that doesn’t make it easy. Death is something that we all experience, in one form or another, many times in life. When a family member dies, it is socially acceptable to be openly sad and to grieve in your own time, and maybe invite others to be with you during that time in the form of a funeral or a wake. We all have ways of dealing with grief, but the most difficult thing to have to do is hide it. Miscarriage is fairly common – in fact, most of you will know someone who has had a miscarriage, but you may not be aware of it. You might have experienced one yourself, and dealt with it alone. Why are we, as a society, encouraging women to deal with this type of death behind closed doors when everyone claims to care so very much about the babies? I suppose that’s it though, isn’t it? This is about the mother, and that’s why they don’t want to hear it.


Who does it benefit when women feel like they have to keep their pregnancy (and potential loss) a secret?

If a woman loses her baby in the first trimester, who does she turn to? Those closest to her didn’t even know she was pregnant in the first place, so how can they know what support she needs? The truth is that society can’t talk about death, so they would rather not deal with it. The death of a baby is something that is used in the medicalisation of birth to scare women into agreeing to things they don’t believe are necessary. Perhaps if, as a society, we understood and talked about death more, this coercion tactic wouldn’t be so effective. When a woman is being told that she must be induced or her baby might die, medical staff are implying that THEY care more about the life of her baby than she does, but when a woman is experiencing a loss and she goes to medical staff for support – that support is non-existent. The medical system wants women to opt-in to all of the appointments, scans and tests so that they don’t get sued, and the best way to get women to engage in the system is the make them feel isolated from the moment they realise they are pregnant.


What has this got to do with medicalising pregnancy, birth and loss?

Most women will have their pregnancy confirmed by peeing on a stick – a pregnancy test. The key word here is test. If we’ve learnt anything from working with women for so long, it’s that a lot of weight is given to things you can measure. If you’ve been told that you shouldn’t tell anyone about your pregnancy until you’re 12 weeks, then the only place you can really go with your thoughts, fears and excitement is the GP and/or to an antenatal clinic, successfully initiating you into the medical system to measure your normal bodily function. There is no alternative presented at that point other than the medical system.


What are the alternatives?

There is no obligation to engage with the medical system in any way if you don’t want to. Pregnancy does not have to be marked by a series of medical appointments, scans and tests. You don’t have to keep it to yourself until you’re checked over by a medical professional. You are pregnant, not sick. You can mark your pregnancy in so many other ways, ways that strengthen your intuition instead of second-guessing, and build up your confidence instead of knocking it down. You can trust your intuition to know that you are pregnant rather than peeing on a stick, and if you’re not 100% sure then you will soon know just by doing nothing. You can tell those trusted people in your life whenever you want to. You can draw pictures of what you think your baby looks like. Your entire pregnancy can be guided by your intuition and confidence, as opposed to sitting for hours waiting for medical appointments and coming out feeling deflated and scared.


What if my baby does die?

If your baby dies, you deserve to be held, heard and loved. You will be the first to know because your intuition will be strong and you’ll be used to listening to it. Your body is wise and knows exactly what to do next. You can allow your body to work in its own time, without being rushed. You can stay home in your nest, alone if you prefer or surrounded by those that you love and feel safe with. You will know if you need medical assistance because your intuition will tell you. For women who have not told anyone they were pregnant “just in case” are left with very few options in this scenario, because the only people who do know she is pregnant are within the medical system. This often leads to women not being supported emotionally during or after a loss, but rather just treated medically. If you are hesitating on whether or not you want to tell people that you are pregnant during the first 12 weeks “just in case”, it’s worth thinking about who you would want to be there for you if your baby did die. Whether someone loses a baby before 12 weeks or 40 weeks, it is a loss, it is real and however she feels about it is valid.


We need to let women know that it’s okay to share their excitement, it’s okay to get attached to their baby, and it’s okay to grieve openly if their baby does die. If you are in your first trimester and you’d like somewhere to share all of your feelings, fears and excitement – have a look at our first trimester support plan.

If you have suffered a loss in the past, or are currently miscarrying, you can get in touch with us for support by emailing us a hello@greatermanchesterdoulas.com


5 reasons why we can’t get enough of Catherine Cawood

I don’t know about you but all three of us have been completely obsessed with Happy Valley. The whole series is done so incredibly well: three seasons of drama, diving into heavy topics such as drugs, trafficking, rape and murder. It’s a tough watch for sure, but our absolute favourite part of Happy Valley is Sarah Lancashire’s character Catherine Cawood.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t finished watching it yet, stop what you are doing, binge watch it and then come back because I don’t want to give anything away!

Catherine’s character is so well written and perfectly executed! Here are the top 5 things we love about her:

1. Her assertiveness

Catherine is not afraid to put her boundaries in place, and she does it so damn well! Assertiveness is not an easy skill to learn, but we could all take a few tips from the way Catherine asserts her own boundaries with colleagues, strangers and (the hardest one of all) her own family. She is confident in what information she wants to share with others, and what information she wants to keep to herself – and she communicates this SO well.

2. Her strength

Losing her daughter, who took her own life after being abused and raped by Tommy Lee Royce, understandably completely broke Catherine. Her loss clearly weighs heavy on her every single day, but the strength she finds to use her anger and grief to change the world is immense. We love how strong Catherine is, whatever she is facing. Her anger is magnificent and we love to see it portrayed so well.

3. Her sass and humour

Each episode is packed with heavy topics, but it never fails to make you laugh when Catherine gets sassy with someone who is getting on her nerves. Her quick wit and hilarious insults (thinking in particular of “wankertron”) never get old.

4. Her intuition

Her strong intuition and ability to follow it is a great trait for a police officer, but she clearly uses this skill every day for both her personal choices and her professional ones. This is again something we could all take from Catherine’s character. Trust your gut! And when people around you aren’t listening, use that assertiveness to either make yourself heard or put your boundaries in place (preferably with them on the other side of it).

5. Her vulnerability

My absolute favourite thing about Catherine’s character is the fact that she is human. She is both incredibly strong and assertive, whilst also being vulnerable and emotional. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to see this. Her character is all of these things at once, and being vulnerable does not cancel out her strength, it adds to it.

“She’s a woman, she’s blunt, she’s savage, she’s a hero but isn’t untouchable. She is driven by her grief and anger and is intent on using those to effect change. She’s Northern, she’s relatable and I bloody aspire to be that awesome!”

– Sarah’s response to “What did you love about Catherine?”, which sums it up perfectly!

The lessons I have taken from Catherine Cawood are that it’s okay to put boundaries in place, even if it hurts people’s feelings – they don’t necessarily have to understand, but someone who deserves to be in your life will respect your boundaries no matter what. Trusting your intuition is not always easy, but it will never lead you wrong. Being emotionally vulnerable does not make you any less strong or assertive – nobody said being strong and assertive was easy, it’s okay to find it difficult.

Oh, and I learnt lots of new insults!

The character was based on a police officer called Lisa Farrand who was the Police Advisor for the series, which is what made it so realistic. We imagine Lisa is a total badass with all of the amazing qualities listed above! Thank you Lisa, and thank you Sarah Lancashire for doing such an amazing job of portraying this character.

National Days, Women

National Storytelling Week 2023

The Witches Knew – A Faery’s Tail of Birth and Re-memberance.

Here is a beautiful short story written by one of our amazing volunteers who is so full of wisdom and magic – thank you Becky for writing this story for us to share!

Round and round like a spiral into the ground she goes, planting roots and scattering seeds. This space, this space, this sacred space, without time, without pressure, the oxytocin waves of pleasure. There’s nothing to fear here, said the little girl lost in me, I’m planting my roots in the ground like a tree. As she looked up the room glowed with wisdom, the air felt full, full of all of those who had come before and all those who were to follow. All the ancestors; there to hold that space, that space, that sacred space. So back within the journey called, to be disturbed would make the fool, as this is where the story starts of the little minds and their little hearts. No one else’s work for sure than the body that grew and the tiny soul that chose it.

The water, the water, the deep warm water, a comfort beyond the known. There’s no pain here, said that little girl again. What a wondrous, wondrous thing to be, a woman in labour birthing free. Inside the body calls, the body calls, deeper and deeper than anything before. But it’s dark in there, says the little girl again, why yes because you are to bring in the light! So down she goes… What’s happening out there is not hers to know for she seeks the peace to go deep; to retrieve the soul who chose her to keep.

The air tingles with excitement, up she spirals again… Oh my it’s the day… Gosh, how bizarre, well there’s no room here for the magic we need! So she takes these hours as a space just to breathe. At the onset of night here she goes once again, round and round, spiralling, deep into the ground. But this time feels different, she’s journeyed this space, now nothing else matters but why she’s come to this place. This place so deep, so deeply within, within her body, within the earth, within her void…here she goes again. As roots trickle down, they find themselves firmly in her musty soil, within our Mother. 

For without these roots she cannot know, the strength and flexibility needed to grow. For growth is how the story changes and humanity’s destiny re-arranges. This is where Mother is born, from Mother, from this space, this space, this beautiful, sacred space.

Last fragments of the mind disperse as she reaches this primal moment, she roars and of course, there she is, she is heard, what beauty, what magic, what truth here does flow. The magic of life, the journey of all, to retrieve that new soul takes everything… everything…everything… Just for a moment the world stops, Mother takes a breath, she breathes through her now, this thread, connecting Earth to her and her to them. For this moment, this is where faeries are born, the creation of all that is magic, this life giving, life changing moment. 

So you might see why they would burn us at the stake, why now they just separate us, push us till we break. But we’re changing the world, making new choices, empowering ourselves, raising our voices. So let’s honour the portal we have in our wombs, from Maiden to Crone, let us tend to our wounds. As all those around us, before us, to come will be grateful for all that we change and overcome.

– A short story by Becky Saunders


Art by a Woman, Entry One: EMBRACING ANGER IN LABOUR

You may have met Chloe, a member of our community and a treasured volunteer, one of our groups. You may not know that she is an artist, and she has kindly offered to share some of her art with us here.



You can find Chloe’s art on her instagram.

We would love to see more of her art online and on walls, so look out for a collaboration in the near future.

Bum-first babies are not being difficult or awkward, they are simply comfortable. This doesn't need to be "fixed".
Birth, Homebirth

Bum-first babies are wonderful!

Key points:

  1. Breech is normal and not something that needs to be fixed
  2. Birth works best, and is most predictable, when left well alone
  3. The statistics women are told about breech birth are all based on the hospital environment
Babies in breech positions are not being difficult or problematic - they are comfortable. This doesn't need fixing.

Women engaging in NHS care are sometimes being told the position of their baby every time they have a scan, and focus is regularly being put on the position from as early as 33 weeks. Despite the fact that the entire function of labour is to move your baby down and into the best position for them, this information is being sought way before labour without any thought to how it might impact a woman’s confidence – or have they actually put a LOT of thought into that and that’s WHY they do it? The same seems to be true for “low-lying placentas”. Women are being told at their very first ultrasound that their placenta is “low-lying”, which means it is within 2cm of your cervix, but this isn’t the same as placenta praevia which can be one of the very few true birth emergencies. According to the NHS, placenta praevia affects 1 in 200 pregnancies, which is 0.5%. But who knows what they actually include in that statistic if they’re also scaring women with “low-lying” placentas that are not and will not become an issue.

I got off on a bit of a tangent there (that didn’t take long, did it?) but there are so many similarities between the “concerns” that come up towards the end of pregnancy that it’s hard to talk about one without referencing others. Anyway, back to breech. Let’s just think for a moment about the space your baby has to occupy when they are still inside your body. They are pretty snug in there, and they are likely to move around a lot in order to stretch out different parts of their body in different ways. Apparently, most people change positions in their sleep 10 to 40 times each night, and for 50-70% of people their instinctive posture is flat on their back, but that leaves a significant number of people (up to half in some studies) who feel more comfortable, instinctively, in a different position. There is no normal, or right, or “optimal”. Breech has been used as a tool to scare women, break down their confidence and ultimately medicalise their birth.

Birth needs very basic things for it to go smoothly. The woman, like any other mammal, needs to feel safe, warm, undisturbed and unobserved. She doesn’t need to understand the mechanisms that are taking place within her body, much like she does not need to know the technicalities of an orgasm for her to experience one, and she doesn’t need to know what position her baby is in. Birth is safest when these basic needs are met, in any situation, so when we remove these basic needs (by going into a hospital for example) we are making birth less predictable. Why would it make sense to ignore these basic needs when there is a concern about the baby or the mother? The basic needs are not a cherry-on-top, if all else is well kind of thing, they are the very foundation of birth going smoothly.

There are lots of statistics about breech births, and they are often used to scare women into a scheduled caesarean (major abdominal surgery) purely because healthcare providers are scared. The studies that produced these statistics were carried out in hospitals, where women’s basic needs were not being met and they were surrounded by fearful care providers. So what does that actually tell us? Not much, except that interfering with birth is dangerous. I would be much more convinced by the data if it was comparing outcomes of mothers and babies (not just physical but emotional) who gave birth in hospital or at home with medical staff present, versus those who had freebirths. That would give a true picture of the impact of pathologising a baby’s position.

Okay, so let’s just talk about the way women are treated in the system when they have a baby who is bum-down. Firstly, she is told that this is a problem that needs to be fixed, either by attempting to forcibly move her baby the “right way up” by applying immense pressure to her bump, or by “admitting defeat” and booking a caesarean section at 38 weeks (before her body has chance to go into labour naturally).

External cephalic version (ECV) is a procedure that is designed to “fix” a breech presentation. This procedure can take up to 2 hours including monitoring and carries a risk of premature rupture of the membranes, placental abruption, preterm labour, foetal distress and vaginal bleeding, all of which would lead to more interventions. But don’t worry, one clinic reassures us by stating; “ECV is typically performed near an operating room in case an emergency c-section is needed.”, so if they cause an emergency at least they can solve it quickly. Women often endure this ECV procedure in the hope that they will then be supported to give birth vaginally, but the truth is that the fear of care providers will have a huge impact on the way they treat a woman during labour, and you can bet that her basic needs will not be met.

What can you do to avoid the position of your baby being a barrier to the birth you want? Don’t give that information away. When asked if you would like to have your belly palpated or measured, consider what information they are looking for and if it would be helpful for you (and them) to have it. When going for a scan recognise that they WILL see which way up your baby is and that regardless of how many weeks pregnant you are, this information might be used to scare you. What is the purpose of that scan? What are you getting from it? Could you get what you want in a different way? If you’ve already been told that your baby is in a “difficult position”, what are you doing to protect yourself from further fear mongering? How can you reground yourself and build your confidence back up?

A few ideas:

1. Surround yourself with women who believe that birth is normal, whatever way round your baby is, and have complete trust in you and your intuition

2. Practice saying no to things that do not serve you – the more you shut out the external voices, the easier it will be to listen to your intuition which will keep you and your baby safe

3. Come along to one of our groups and speak to other women who might have been in a similar position to you, or might have birthed a baby in a breech position completely unassisted

4. Speak to us about how you can navigate the system, or step away from it


Useful resources:

Hands off that breech! | AIMS

Coalition for Breech Birth | Facebook

Breech Without Borders | Facebook

Breech Birth UK


Show Yourself

“Show yourself” is the climax of Elsa’s journey. Throughout her life she has waited for someone else to give her answers but at this point she recognises that she’s been waiting for herself, she’s her own goddess and fully accepts herself for who she is. She sets her doubts aside, lets her fears go and steps into her power. She embraces all that she is in a wonderful empowering moment. This is the ultimate in self love.

We all experience resistance to accept who we are, and knowing that who we are, is enough. Changing a belief that you have held for a long time, a belief that you have been socialised to believe, one that you carry in your physical being, is difficult. We all want to be accepted and feel we have to show up in a specific way to be loved and accepted. We filter our experiences to give people what we think they want to know so that we are not avoided. We feel like we are doing the right thing, but does the right thing make you feel free? Trying to control what others think and what you think to a certain extent, is exhausting. This struggle & conflict comes from the judgement you make of your experience not the actual experience itself. Failure, guilt, shame, whatever it may be. Feeling the feeling is not the problem, it’s what we make it mean about ourselves. Our inner narrative. The pain comes from not accepting what is, not being able to speak your truth. The more we speak our truth, through personal stories, we provide the space and opportunity for other women to do the same. We heal and others heal around us.

I am guilty of this. I have a story that I don’t share outside of a very few close friends. It is taboo. It is personal. I don’t share it, to protect other people; to prevent them from feeling uncomfortable. Despite the fact “every inch of me is trembling but not from the cold”, I want to tell my story. In a world that makes it difficult for women to speak out, it could give another woman the strength that she needs. So here goes;

I’m Sarah and on 13th December 2019 I lost a baby. I was around 8 weeks pregnant and excited. It was too early to know the sex of my baby but my instinct tells me she was a girl. My instinct also told me that she was dead, but I wanted it confirmed. They confirmed, I had experienced a miscarriage with an internal scan (transvaginal ultrasound scan). There were 4 health professionals trying to figure it out while I lay numb, staring at a ceiling full of bright lights. Then there was the clinical room I was put in with a box of tissues, a hospital bed and more bright lights, before being asked to leave. There was no follow up, no explanation, no support, no signposting, no offerings of any kind.

I’d had a miscarriage. What kind of word is that? The term miscarriage is comprised of two words: mis, meaning “mistakenly, wrongly or badly” and -carriage, a “means of conveyance”. I hadn’t made a mistake or done anything wrong had I? People also used the term “spontaneous abortion”. An abortion is a wilful act and I did not wish for this. I had lost my baby, my baby had died.

I wish that I hadn’t needed that confirmation, I wish I had trusted myself, I wish I had declined the internal scan. I didn’t want a robot poking around in my baby’s home. What if she was trying to hold on and my decision caused her so much fear that it led to the end of her life?

Then there was blood. It was only a bit, until it wasn’t, and then it was a lot, “a river full of memory”. There was a clot. The clot was baby shaped. It was just lying on the toilet roll. I’m sitting on the toilet, phone out of reach, tears rolling down my face, staring at my lifeless baby on a piece of toilet roll. Can I take a picture? Would I ever look at the picture? Could I ever show anyone the picture? Could I hang it on the wall with the family photos? But that’s all I’ve got of my baby. Still to this day, I wish it was decent toilet roll.

The blood was a continuous reminder of what was happening. Walking around, acting like everything was ok but I was actually losing my baby. A human that I was growing, I had bonded with, I had already imagined a life including her. Looking for sanitary towels in the supermarket, struggling to see my options through my tears even though the lights were brighter than the sun, trying to understand how much I’m going to bleed, what would work best. Why are there so many options? I’d know who to ask if we openly spoke about this. Why does no one talk about their baby dying?

You tell so few people that you are pregnant before 12 weeks (who made this a thing!), so no one even knows! No one seems to care. I don’t want to start a conversation, “I was pregnant”. What if they mishear and congratulate me, what if they don’t know what to say, what if the “was” confuses them, what if, what if, what if! And all the sorrys, they just don’t quite cut it.

My mind is a jumble of questions. I want answers that no one can give me. Am I being dramatic? What if I can’t get pregnant again? Why couldn’t I keep my baby safe? What is happening in my body? Did I do something to cause this? Could I have prevented this? Do I say I have 2 or 3 children? Do people even class an 8 week old foetus as a baby? Is the information I am giving a few select people too much or controversial? The questions are endless, they eat you up during the day, they eat you up at night, they take over!

And I should be grateful, I have two children already. I am grateful for my children, so grateful, more than I have the words for, but I can’t be grateful for this. I can be grateful and hate this. And while we’re on other children, when the hell do you grieve when you have other children around?

Even when you don’t carry your baby to term, there is a postpartum period. Mine wasn’t honoured in the way a postpartum period should be. Why does it not get honoured? Why are women not nurtured through this stage? Why is no one holding space for me? I’m responsible for just getting on with it, not asking for the help I so desperately wanted and needed, not asking for the physical and emotional space I needed but the offers never came.

So, I began to live my life on autopilot. Pushing these memories and emotions to the back of my mind so I can be present in my life, present for my children, yet spontaneously bursting into tears at random things. The emotions wash over me in the strangest places and at the strangest times. The shame that I did something wrong. I really understood the pain of the women that came before me and will come after me.

I’m also carrying huge guilt that I haven’t honoured my baby. How do you remember a baby that you lost? There seems to be so many suggestions that did not resonate with me at all; With pictures. The only picture I have is of the tiny baby shaped clot on the shitty toilet tissue! I can’t put that on display. With baby clothes that I hadn’t yet bought or my baby had never worn. With an empty memory box. I’m so angry with myself that I threw the pregnancy test away. I have memories but nothing tangible. Plant a tree? I’m well known for killing all plant specimens I acquire. I can’t be responsible for killing the memory of my baby. I don’t want that responsibility. Visit a special place. Oh how I wished I could climb inside my baby’s home and just be. As Pink says, “Could you beam me up? Give me a minute. I don’t know what I’d say in it. Probably just stare, happy just to be there holdin’ your face”. (Yes, Pink’s song, “beam me up”, is about baby loss and is epic, although I’m obsessed, so probably a little biased). Speaking her name would make this all so real. Light a candle. I know this is a known and popular way to remember people that have died, making it scary to voice my feelings around this, but they are my feelings, and I don’t want the memory of my baby to burn out and fade away.

It was on the second anniversary of my baby’s death that I found the answer. “I’ve never felt so certain” about anything. A doula course with a big focus on baby loss. A course allowing me to gain wisdom to support women in a similar position. A way to honour my baby. To be a pair of non-judgmental ears for other women, to see them, to hear them. To nourish another woman’s heart and soul while they heal themselves. “I’m here for a reason. Could this be the reason I was born”

Different societies and cultures shape our understanding of fear. They teach us when to fear and how much to fear but it can be unnecessary and mean that we avoid doing things that would be beneficial to us and others. Sharing your story gives you the power to own it. If women do not say what they want, what they desire, how they feel, the world will fill in the gaps and create what they think women want and feel. Personal stories help us make sense of the struggles that we face, they grip people emotionally, they give people the feeling they are part of something bigger, they have power; the power to shape our lives and lives of those listening. “Step into your power…..You have secrets, too, But you don’t have to hide”

Don’t be me. Don’t carry on in silence. “I have always been a fortress, cold secrets deep inside. You have secrets too, but you don’t have to hide” Talk to us, talk to someone who can hold space for you both physically and emotionally. Honour your postpartum period. Find a way that feels right for you to honour your baby. Don’t speak to make others comfortable, speak your truth and your tribe will hear you. Be authentic, be open, be vulnerable, be self-aware, and connect from your heart with intention.

“I’m no longer trembling. Show yourself, I’m dying to meet you. Show yourself, it’s your turn”. I invite you to show yourself. Your true self. Be the woman you need, be the gift that other women need. Tell the story you need to hear. Empower yourself and the women around you. We would love to hear your story either publicly or privately. We are here for everything you have going on; you matter to us. Please get in touch if we can support you in any way. 

Birth, Homebirth, Pool Hire

Why is the deadline 30 weeks?

We recently made some changes to our pool hire service, and you might be wondering why. So here is a brief explanation of why we have decided to enforce a 30 week booking deadline. We know that not everyone will agree with our approach, and we’re okay with that – these changes have been based on our observations and what we have learnt from women over the past few years of running the service. We will continue to learn as time goes on and things may change again in the future, but for now here is our stance and why:
We started running this pool hire service back in 2020 and during that time we have learnt a lot. We included free support sessions within our hire because we recognised that so many of the pools were coming back unused because women were being coerced out of their home birth by the maternity system, and those women weren’t getting emotional support or accurate information from their midwives. We continued to book women in who were approaching us late on in their pregnancy, but we learnt quickly that women who are waiting until a certain point in their pregnancy to be ‘signed off’ or ‘given permission’ by a medical professional were also the ones who would accept that ‘permission’ being taken away again.
Sometimes women would take us up on the support session near the end of their pregnancy, around 34 weeks when suddenly “risks” started cropping up (like growth scans), and we were the first people to tell her that she gets to choose, that all of the appointments, measurements, examinations and procedures are optional, that she doesn’t need permission to give birth at home. It is heartbreaking to see that realisation dawn on her face when she is so far down the line that it feel impossible for her to do anything about it now.
Women who were looking for external reassurance from appointments, inaccurate measurements and scans, and permission were not wholeheartedly planning a home birth. They were hoping for one, but that hope was balancing on a jenga tower that could be knocked over at any moment by a medical professional. A medical professional who works within a system that doesn’t understand normal birth or the basic needs of a woman in labour. A system that builds its policies on fear of litigation rather than what women actually want or need. What we found was that women who were hoping for a home birth very rarely had one.
We understand why this is the current norm – we are brought up to believe that others know our body better than we do, and that we need “experts” to be able to give birth safely because it is a dangerous and unpredictable medical event. That’s why so many women do turn to midwives or doctors for external reassurance. We understand how hard it is to question that cycle or and it’s even harder to break it. It can be scary to take radical responsibility for our decisions, particularly when something is presented as a health issue/medical event. The truth is that birth is a normal bodily function, just like sex or having a poo, birth is incredibly predictable when left alone and we ARE the experts on our own bodies. 
Home is safe. It’s where we perform all of our other bodily functions. It is where the only bacteria around is the stuff we’re in contact with every day and are therefore used to. It is where we get to choose who comes through the door, and where we are free to move around and be ourselves. It’s also proven to be safe for birth through studies (and the existence of so many generations before us). Biologically it makes perfect sense – we are mammals, and other mammals find a safe, dark spot where they will not be disturbed or observed. Women need these basic things too, and none of these needs are met within a medical setting. Giving birth at home is the biological norm and is always an option.

You do not need someone’s permission, or for someone to write it in your notes, or to be ‘signed off’ to plan a home birth. It is your human right, and your birthright.

Our organisation is rooted in women’s rights and bodily autonomy. The maternity system does not respect these things. We will no longer nod along and stay quiet when a woman is walking through or into a system that is set up to fail her. The reason we no longer take bookings after 30 weeks is because we want to make it clear that women do not need to wait until after this point to start planning something that they know feels right for them. We want women to recognise that they can do whatever works for them, without checking with a midwife or asking for permission. This autonomy and critical thinking is necessary for having a good birth, because if a woman is deciding to engage with the maternity system (which is also something we assume is necessary but isn’t) then she is likely to have to assert herself at many points in her pregnancy, labour and birth. She is likely to be told that she “needs to” or “has to” do things that she’s not comfortable with (which is a lie, she never has to). She is likely to be coerced with emotive language instead of genuine evidence. She is likely to be told that she is “not allowed” a home birth because she is too “high risk” based on inaccurate information. 
We don’t write this lightly, and it is no way an attempt to scare you or place any blame on you. The dependence on the maternity system is something that is deeply ingrained and socially accepted, it’s not the fault of the woman who engages in it, the fault lies with the system itself. We feel it is our responsibility to be honest about the system and the way it treats women. We know that this doesn’t make us very popular (particularly with midwives) and can often feel confronting or upsetting for women who are still in that relationship with the system. But we hope that our reminder that women are completely capable, incredibly wise and are their own experts will plant a seed. We hope that women hear that they deserve to be treated with respect, rather than as a faulty piece of birthing equipment, that they deserve to feel strong and wise, rather than unsure and deflated, and that they absolutely don’t need anyones permission to give birth wherever they damn well want to.
I’m sorry that we are unable to offer you a birth pool after 30 weeks, but we hope that you are able to find one.

We are hopeful that this deadline will encourage women to question the care that they are and have been receiving that made her feel like she was “high risk” and had to wait for permission. Questioning this as early as possible (before or) during pregnancy is what will lead women to navigate or step out of the system in a way that works for them.

Birth, General health, Resources

Let’s talk about herpes

Hi, I’m Amy and I have herpes. As do 70% of people by the time they are 25 years old in one form or another. There is a lot of shame around this topic and many of us don’t feel able to talk about it for fear of being seen in a certain way. I had my first outbreak of herpes many years ago, and I could have caught it long before that without knowing. I don’t know who I caught it from and I don’t really need to know, they may not even know. What I do know is that the word ‘herpes’ bring with it a whole host of fear, embarrassment and unknowns.

My first outbreak was agonising. I was working as a support worker on a 13 hours shift and I could barely walk for the pain. I made excuses for my frequent visit to the toilet just so I could stop my knickers from touching my sores for a few minutes of relief. Eventually I couldn’t hack it any longer and told my boss that my sister was unwell and needed me – this was a lie but I was too ashamed to tell her the truth (even though I worked in a medical profession). I went to a sexual health clinic and they were able to take a swab and gave me a treatment to speed up the healing. When they called me to tell me the diagnosis I felt utterly broken. I cried in silence. I worried in silence. I thought of all the worst case scenarios in silence.

For many years I didn’t tell anyone except my sister who was lovely and supportive, as always. I did tonnes of research to make sure I was doing what I could in my lifestyle to minimise the likelihood of further outbreaks, and made sure I wasn’t passing it on to others. I have had relatively few outbreaks so far, maybe one every two years, and they have definitely become less severe each time. I decided not to take any regular medication to prevent outbreaks because I didn’t feel it was necessary. One year I had an outbreak when I was on a family holiday and I decided to tell my Mum because I wanted her help to get a prescription from a local pharmacy. I soon realised that it was MUCH easier to cope with an outbreak when those around me knew what was going on for me and I wasn’t having to pretend that I was fine.

Not long ago I saw a post on Facebook from a woman who had concerns about herpes and birth – she had been told that she wouldn’t be able to give birth vaginally because she had herpes. I was so grateful that she had been brave enough to put that question out there into the world, and that she got some answers. It took me a long time to feel able to share my story but I’m hoping that in doing so, I will be able to share some information that I have found useful and remind people of how common and normal this is. We shouldn’t be suffering in silence, and we shouldn’t be given misinformation that we are too embarrassed to question.

If this topic is something that applies to you, I hope it has been helpful. If you know someone who is struggling with this, you now have more knowledge to support them. If you would like to talk to us about whatever journey you are on, you can book a ‘holding space’ support session with us here. If you would require access to our fund for this session, please contact us before booking.

The resources I found helpful:

Home – Helping You With Herpes







International Cat Day & International Female Orgasm Day

Monday 8th August 2022 is both

International Cat Day AND International Female Orgasm Day!

Now you might be thinking… Okay, but why are you lumping them together and what is the connection to birth? And I can see where you’re coming from, but hear me out.


Cats are wonderful creatures, and they are also mammals, like us. When a cat is pregnant we can often tell purely by her behaviour before she starts growing noticeably. When that lovely bulging belly is getting bigger we often try to guess how many kittens she might have in there! We don’t take her to the vet to check though, unless we think there is something wrong, right? We don’t poke and prod her to try to make our estimations, we just know that there is a range of normal and that whatever number of kittens she is growing is going to be the right number, and we’re excited to find out. Do you think she is worrying about it? Nope. We often give her some extra love and attention, and vice versa, as she reaches the end of her pregnancy or more privacy if that is what she is indicating. We follow her lead. The human female however is often exposed to even more fear and more poking and prodding the closer she gets to the end of her pregnancy. Why?

When the mama cat goes into labour we use hushed voices and we keep our distance. We keep the lights low and we absolutely do not interfere with the perfect process. We trust her and her instincts. When her kittens are born, she does all the instinctual checks herself and she separates her kitten from its placenta using her own natural tools, in her own time. All is well. We do not touch her kittens because it is well known that this can disrupt the bonding of a mother and her baby and that this can be detrimental to the survival of the kitten. Both her and her kittens know exactly what to do, and we don’t doubt it for a second. Why do we doubt women? Why do we interfere? Why do we separate the mother and baby, or feel entitled to even touch the baby?

Women need the same basic things that cats need in pregnancy and labour. To feel safe, warm, undisturbed and unobserved. We know this for other mammals and we usually respect it, trusting in the process and not interfering. So why do we interfere so much with human birth?

Female orgasms

Did you know that the complete anatomy of the human clitoris wasn’t accurately described until the late 1990’s by a urologist Helen O’Connell? That’s really recent!! The female orgasm has long been a mystery that isn’t deemed important enough to talk about. The truth is that we don’t need research or diagrams, or any understanding of the process to be able to orgasm, but some recognition of our amazing bodies would be nice. We instinctively know what feels good, and the more time we spend alone, communicating with our own body, the more we understand ourselves. The more external influences we get, from partners, friends, the media or porn, the less we understand and trust ourselves. The same can be said for birth.

Orgasms are also wonderful. And guess what? They need the same basic things to go smoothly. Orgasms and birth are not two separate things, they are the same event separated by time. For a woman to orgasm she needs to feel safe, warm, unobserved and undisturbed. Have you ever tried to orgasm when one or more of these basic needs are not being met? Would you be able to if someone knocked on the bedroom door? Would you be able to if you were cold and uncomfortable? Would you be able to if you didn’t feel safe? Or if someone was taking your blood pressure or sitting in the corner taking notes? Probably not.

A release of oxytocin and dopamine. Uterine contractions. Increased blood pressure, respiration rate and heart rate. Involuntary groaning. Sound familiar? 

Something else that is similar between orgasms and birth – you can do it completely by yourself. In fact, in most cases it is less complicated when you do! In both orgasms and birth, they go most smoothly when you are not thinking about how the people around you are perceiving you or your movements or your noises or thinking about someone else’s thoughts or feelings. They both also work much better without the idea of time in your head, whether that is “is this taking too long?” or “this will have to be quick because I’ve got to leave for work in 20 minutes”, it’s much simpler without that pressure. 

Birth CAN be orgasmic. It’s not weird and it’s not impossible. It’s actually pretty normal when you think about how similar the processes are and the hormones involved. The thing that makes this kind of birth so illusive is the fact that for the most part the basic needs are neglected in birth, particularly within a medical setting. If you couldn’t orgasm in a hospital, why choose to give birth there? If you couldn’t orgasm at home with a member of the medical profession sitting in the corner taking notes, or worse – touching you, why would you choose to give birth in that scenario? Plan for birth as if you are planning for the best orgasm of your life. Set the scene so that you can do whatever the fuck feels good for you in that moment without judgement or observation. That includes when deciding whether you want your partner, or your mum, or a doula or a midwife present. 

In conclusion

All mammals need the same basic things for both orgasms and birth (yes, other female mammals have orgasms too!). So why is it that in the last few generations we have created an environment for birth that does the complete opposite of meeting those needs? The truth is that in the way the maternity system is set up, we’ve almost completely removed the possibility of having an orgasmic birth whilst at the same time making it incredibly likely that the bonding between a mother and her baby will be interrupted. This is diabolical, and seems pretty intentional when you look at it from this angle. If a woman comes out of birth on a post-orgasmic high, feeling totally connected to her body and her baby, there is much less chance of her being controlled by, compliant or complacent in the patriarchy in any other area of her life. I can’t think of any other reason why our society would have created a system that oppresses women and goes against our nature in such an obvious, yet accepted, way. Can you?


The difference between pre-labour and true labour

Our interpretation of Natalie Meddings’ “Room 1, Room 2” description of labour

Natalie Meddings is the author of ‘How to Have a Baby’ and ‘Why Home Birth Matters’ and during lockdowns created a series of videos with Jenna Rutherford on YouTube. The series was called ‘How to have a baby in a hospital during the coronavirus’ and was a reaction to many of the homebirth services and birth centres being closed during that time. We have shared the links to this video series so many times and lots of women have found them incredibly helpful so thank you to Natalie and Jenna for creating this content!

The main aims of these videos, we think, was to explain how to recognise these different rooms so that women can use this to decide if and when to transfer into hospital. As they quite rightly said, hospitals are not set up to accommodate women who are in room 1, so in order to be as undisturbed as possible when planning a hospital birth, wait until you are in room 2 to transfer in. We would argue that hospitals are not set up for women to give birth in at all because they do not meet any of the basic needs, but if you are choosing a hospital birth it’s important to consider these factors when deciding when to go. You can also use this description to decide if/when to call a midwife to your homebirth – many women choose to call the midwife “at the last minute” to avoid unnecessary interruption and intervention. It’s worth remembering that you don’t have to call a midwife at all if you don’t want. We believe that this description is incredibly useful for all women because it can really help with the mindset of labour, whether you’re in hospital, at home with a midwife or freebirthing. We decided to try to condense what Natalie and Jenna talked about in their informative videos into a short written summary in the hope that it will be helpful to women and their birth partners.

We often hear about labour lasting days or even weeks, and this is often something that women worry about – particularly first time mums. Understanding the distinction between what pre-labour feels like in comparison to true labour can be the difference between your labour feeling like days/weeks long and it only feeling like a few hours. The essence of this description is based on what it feels like from the woman’s perspective, not what it looks like from the outside or what can be measured, which is often what is used by the maternity system as a gauge of “early labour” and “active labour”. The only true measurement of which room a woman is in is based on how she feels, so there is no place for timing contractions or measuring the dilation of her cervix. The early signs that something is starting to happen (you’re entering into room 1) can often come with a sense of expectation, anticipation and sometimes fear and tension. Recognising that you are in room 1 can alleviate that sense of expectation and thus release the tension, which is using up a lot of your energy! I believe this is often why women who are having their second or subsequent baby tend to describe having shorter labours, because they are not giving much (if any) focus to room 1 either because there is a familiarity there or simply because they have other children that need their attention. The key here is giving room 1 as little attention as possible.

In our interpretation we have included what these rooms might look like from the outside for the benefit of birth partners/doulas so that you too can recognise which room a woman is in and how to best support her where she is at.



Room 1

Room 1 is pre-labour. This is the part that is most unpredictable in length and can vary quite a lot from woman to woman. The length of pre-labour can depend on lots of different factors including how emotionally ready you are for birth and parenthood, and who you are as a person. During pre-labour, your body is preparing for labour. Your baby is moving into a good position, possibly rotating and descending slightly. The cervix at this point is still firm and closed, but everything the body is doing at this point is working on softening the cervix and positioning the baby to help with that. It does all of this on its own and needs none of your attention or energy. The idea of labelling this part “pre-labour” is not to diminish the intensity of what come up during this time, we know that this time is often when the emotional stuff comes up along with sometimes very intense physical sensations and these are by no means irrelevant, but rather to lessen that sense of expectation and pressure.

What it might feel like:

  • Cramps, sensations or even surges can come and go
  • They can feel strong
  • They can feel regular and intense
  • You might feel the need to sway or moan or breath in a certain way
  • Things might start and then stop again – this is okay! If you find yourself feeling frustrated by the slowing down or stopping, a mental reset might be needed because it is likely that you’re feeling pressure to keep things going (either from yourself or someone external) and that is only going to exhaust you
  • The biggest identifier of room 1 is that between surges, no matter how regular or intense they feel, you are coming back out of it and continuing as normal
  • Between surges you can talk normally, ask for things, walk about and do your normal stuff
  • Waters can break before or during room 1 or room 2 or not at all, so try to get rid of any expectations that this is an indicator of whether you’re in labour or not

What it might look like from the outside:

  • She may be making noises through her surges and perhaps moving in a certain way that feels good
  • She will come out of that once the sensations pass and will be able to engage in conversation and/or normal activities like eating and drinking
  • She is consciously making decisions about where she wants to be with her thinking brain
  • She may want distractions – this is a good thing in room 1 because her body does not need her attention, in fact the less attention she can pay it the better


The reset button


What is the reset button and how do I hit it?

A reset might be needed when you recognise that you are still in room 1 but your expectations have taken over and you are putting too much of your energy into what your body is doing. Sometimes this looks like being in a dark room for hours on end listening to your birth playlist, but feeling disappointed that “nothing is happening”. So hitting the reset button could simply be opening the curtains and changing your clothes, or having a shower and getting some fresh air. It could also be just sitting on the sofa and watching a movie, but the point is that it is something that feels normal to you. Something that relieves you of all the expectation and tension that has built up from having sensations. If you have called your partner home from work or asked your doula or birth partner to come over, it’s okay to rethink this and send them away again if they are adding to the sense of expectation. What would you be doing if you were just on your period? You don’t need to be doing anything to “encourage” or “establish” labour, because it will be a futile use of your energy.

There is no downside to hitting the reset button because if your body is ready to go into room 2 and you’ve just got dressed, your body will soon let you know that she would prefer to be naked. You’re not going to delay or miss going into room 2 because it is inevitable and uncontrollable, so when your body is ready for it to happen you’ll know about it – you won’t miss it.

Don’t fear the reset button, it can be a really powerful tool.


True labour

Room 2

Room 2 is true labour. This is where it actually begins. At this point there is a shift and your baby is really descending – you can’t miss this sensation. In room 2 you will be reacting to your mammalian brain, not your thinking brain. Pre-labour has moved your baby so that their head is playing its part in pressing on the cervix which signals the release of hormones that cause contractions and the release of endorphins (your natural pain killers) to match the sensations. This is where your baby is moving down through your pelvis and coming earthside – and your body is leading the way.

What it might feel like:

  • Surges become predictable and you respond rhythmically, ritually and instinctively
  • You no longer have any desire to engage with the outside world during or between your surges
  • You might intuitively move to a quieter or darker room in the house to meet your basic needs (feeling safe, warm, unobserved & undisturbed)
  • You may prefer to be alone
  • All of your focus and energy is turned inward, listening and responding to the sensations in your body
  • The noises you make might become deeper and more chesty than they were before
  • You will be hyper-aware of any danger – this is instinctual
  • You are moving into positions that feel good without thinking about it
  • You’ll likely be drawn to being close to the ground
  • Your body is taking over, and it feels good
  • You may feel a sense of surrender – it is safe to go with this because you have chosen a safe environment and only invited safe people into your space

What it might look like from the outside:

  • If she needs something, she will no longer be polite about it (if she uses words at all)
  • She may take clothing or sheets off as she feels increasingly hot
  • She no longer comes up between contractions, she will likely stay deeply within herself with her eyes closed or her head buried because she is focusing intently on the sensations
  • She is also hyper-alert so any disturbance in the room is going to have an impact, it’s really important during this time to not make noise or distract her
  • She may appear to be fearful if she is moving through transition, she may say things that sound scary but she is waiting for her own reassurance. You don’t need to say anything, she will find it within herself.
  • If she needs something she will let you know either verbally or non-verbally. Be aware of those cues but you don’t need to ask her questions – just have things on hand to pass to her if she indicates that she wants it


We hope that this description helps to relieve some of the expectations women feel about “getting labour going”, “keeping labour going” or “speeding things up” that come from themselves, society, the maternity system and sometimes partners. We would love to hear your experiences of room 1, room 2 and whether or not you used that reset button!

If you’d like to share your experiences or chat about any of them, we’re here to listen.