Cord clamping is something that you might not even think to consider when it comes to your birth plan, but let me tell that it most definitely is. In today’s podcast I want to help you to undersrtand why delayed cord clamping should be an important non-negotiable aspect of the birth of your baby, whether you have a vaginal or c-section birth.
Today I’m chatting to Amanda Burleigh, who is a well-known UK midwife. I say well-known because Amanda is a bit of an activist and is very outspoken on this particular topic. She has been campaigning for delayed cord clamping for over ten years and it is in thanks to her efforts that health policies are changing. She is a true hero!
Amanda first started to consider the impact of cutting the cord when she was wondering why so many boys (her sons included) had behavioural issues.
“After talking to teachers who were concerned at the numbers of children with behavioural, learning and medical problems and noticing the same in my friends and colleagues children. The numbers were too high to be ignored and this got me thinking and looking for a common denominator. Informally I looked at many potential causes, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, sugar consumption etc eventually (in 2005) I reflected on our own practice as midwives and realised that although we were taught to clamp and cut the umbilical cord immediately, there was absolutely no evidence to support this practice. The cord for 50-60 years and common practice now) is to cut the cord before the baby has even breathed and I quickly realised that this couldn’t be good practice. I looked for evidence and found work by George Morley who stated that immediate clamping was the reason for the increase in autistic spectrum disorders and other problems, cerebral palsy. In 2005 there was little evidence to look at to support delaying cord clamping but there has never been any evidence to support immediate cord clamping at all. All the available evidence did point out that immediate cord clamping deprives the baby of at least 30% of their intended blood volume.
I started my campaign from then really and increased as I realised that implementing change (despite it being evidence-based change) is really hard to influence.
I did change practice slightly in my own hospital and was then asked to be quiet (in 2012) and then I decided to get louder and I started the Facebook page to inform parents and carers and I got a petition up to try and influence NICE (UK guidance) to change practice.This attracted 5.500 signatures from over 44 different countries. I also had articles in the paper.”
Delayed Cord Clamping – The Benefits
Delayed cord clamping or optimal cord clamping is associated with:
Increased neonatal iron stores in the neonatal period.
Increased organ perfusion and subsequent cardiopulmonary adjustment.
Increased duration of early breast feeding.
Decreased risk of feral-maternal transfusion
Decreased umbilical infections
Increased white cells-infection prevention
Less blood splatter-HIV protection
May benefit neurodevelopmental outcomes, particularly in males
One thing that Amanda talked about was the Golden Hour after birth. Here’s what se means by that;
Safe environment – warmth, privacy, dignity, respect, quiet and undisturbed
Slow, gentle and peaceful – Less problematic third stage
Optimal Cord Clamping –ideally the cord should be empty
Andersson, O., Domellöf, M., Andersson, D. and Hellström-Westas, L. (2014). Effect of Delayed vs Early Umbilical Cord Clamping on Iron Status and Neurodevelopment at Age 12 Months. JAMA Pediatrics, 168(6), p.547.
Andersson, O., Lindquist, B., Lindgren, M., Stjernqvist, K., Domellöf, M. and Hellström-Westas, L. (2015). Effect of Delayed Cord Clamping on Neurodevelopment at 4 Years of Age. JAMA Pediatrics, 169(7), p.631.
Mercer, J. and Erickson-Owens, D. (2012). Rethinking Placental Transfusion and Cord Clamping Issues. The Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing, 26(3), pp.202-217.
Farrar, D., Tuffnell, D., Airey, R. and Duley, L. (2010). Care during the third stage of labour: A postal survey of UK midwives and obstetricians. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth, 10(1).
I’ve already talked about pain during birth in another podcast – how a fear creates pain during childbirth – so today I want to take a slightly different angle because pain is quite a biggie when it comes to birth. So I’d like to zoom in on the idea of pain and its close relative a fear of pain.
A fear of pain in birth
Most pregnant women have a fear of pain when it comes to their upcoming birth. I have a lot of women going through my fear-clearance video training programme and a lot of them email me telling me how pain is such a worry for them during their pregnancy.
It was a huge one for me too. Once I started delving into my own fears, I realised that my fear of pain was near the top of the list. It was so big for me that early on in my first pregnancy I was seriously considering a c-section to avoid the pain of childbirth. Looking back, I’m grateful that I was able to off-load this fear because otherwise I would have needlessly put myself through major surgery and missed out on an incredible home birth.
So how can we address this fear of pain in a meaningful way? There are some circles in birthing that suggest just not using the p word at all. But or me this smacks of denial and positive thinking. And anyway, just because you’ve decided to stop using the p-word word, doesn’t mean everyone else has. Trying to control other people’s behaviour is guaranteed to end in tears; and probably yours!
I’m of the opinion that you need to accept it and embrace it.
Imagine you lived in the world of Xena Warrior Princess… and imagine that wandering this world was this big scary mythological creature that terrorised the locals. What would Xena do? She wouldn’t be hiding behind trees insisting that no-one mentions its name. No! She’d hunt it down and jump on its back and then she’d take control of it and use it to fight the baddies of the day.
Rachel, another mama who emailed me totally gets this. She says “I just want to be realistic, and allow the possibility of pain into my birth. I have not done anything with hypnobirthing and I acknowledge the importance of the pain and cascade of hormones during childbirth.”
If you welcome pain into your world and acknowledge its intention you’re better able to tap into its power. Pain has a positive intention that we often dismiss. In day-to-day life, pain is a signal from our body that something needs attention; a physical or emotional aspect of ourselves needs healing. However, in birth the word pain is used to cover a broad range of sensations. And yes some of these might mean that something needs attention. But some of these sensations might simply be the sheer power of nature birthing your baby, which is not something that requires attention or healing. Instead it requires you to ride this incredible wave of energy; embrace it, grab it, jump on it and use it. Don’t pretend it’s not there. It’s avoidance and denial that turns it into pain, because that need to avoid it and its accompanying fear is what needs to healed.
But paradoxically, I’d like to suggest that we refer to it as something else. When I think back to both my births, if you asked me what they felt like, you’ll hear me say words like intense, relentless, powerful, hardcore because that is how those sensations felt to me. But they weren’t painful. Getting stitched up afterwards was painful! Stubbing my toe is painful. But birth wasn’t. When you’re doing something physical that’s demanding and requires you to dig deep; is that pain? Do marathon runners say that they’re running in pain? They probably say it’s hard and tough but not painful.
Why not keep the word pain for painful things, like things that need attention or healing? Not just use it whenever we’re too lazy to use a word that’s more appropriate.
A fear in disguise
A fear of pain is a sneaky, slippery thing that doesn’t always reveal itself. For example, I had one mama email me to tell me about her fear of tension. She wrote “When I know pain is coming I tense my body. I try really hard to stay calm and breathe deeply and when I do the pain is definitely lessened yet my body still defaults to tensing before pain. If I can keep my body from tensing, I think that would cover 80% of my obstacles to having a pain free birth.”
This, my lovelies, is a fear of pain in disguise. The reason she tenses is because she’s fearing the pain. But there’s a second thing going on here. She said “when I know pain is coming”… well, this is anticipation of pain and this acts very much like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Let me explain.
There are two things that make pain worse, or increase our experience or perception of it;
Fear of pain
Who says that pain is on its way? During birth that’s not necessarily the case… but thinking so almost guarantees it. It’s slightly different when you’re at the dentist having your teeth pulled out; some things just hurt! Period. But childbirth isn’t one of them. Yes of course it can and for many it does. But it’s not a definite thing that happens to everyone. So instead of assuming that pain is coming your way, imagine the possibility that for you it isn’t. Simply be open to it. In fact why not take it further, and imagine that birth for you is going to be pleasurable, orgasmic even! Many women report experiencing orgasms during birth so why not anticipate that instead. Remember this is all happening in your head – you’re making ALL of it up! Why not make up something nice? Take control where it counts! In your mind.
Having said all that, This doesn’t mean to say that if pain does show up for you that you’ve failed. But if it does, it’ll be much more manageable and you’ll handle it better. You might not even consider it as pain.
Some of you might be thinking that you need to anticipate it to prepare yourself for it. Well I say crap to that! Prepare? What kind of preparation are you going to be doing exactly. ‘Preparing for pain” is just psyching yourself up for a truly painful experience. Sure, if you want that; go for it!
When I was scared of injections, I believed that I needed to “prepare” myself but looking back that’s utter crap. The truth is you just prolong the agony of anticipation. So stop this nonsense of believing that you need to prepare for a crappy experience.
Fear of pain
I’m not going to dive down too deep into this aspect as I’ve got a whole podcast episode on it (Childbirth: why fear creates pain in birth). But suffice to say, fear is known to create pain as part of the fear tension pain cycle. And this is because fear, creates tension, which creates the pain. Well, guess what? A fear of pain, plays right into the hands of this one. Let’s just avoid it altogether shall we?
So how can we address a fear of pain? And I suppose even more importantly, what can we do to minimise pain during birth? Well there are three things we need to do;
1. Make friends with pain
If you make friends with pain, you will no longer fear it in the same way, if at all. This alone can make such a difference during birth. A huge element of pain is psychological. When we use up our head space saying things like “I’m not sure I’m going to be able to cope with the pain” it’s just not going to help. A great place to start doing this is to write out 30 reasons why pain is a good thing. I dare you to do it. And if you send it to me I’ll share your reasons on the podcast for everyone else to hear. The great thing about doing this is that it forces you to think differently. Sure, some of the reasons might be crazy or funny.. but that’s not the point. The point is that you’re shifting perspective.
2. Don’t anticipate it
As I mentioned earlier, just imagine you’re about to experience something else, preferably something more positive that doesn’t scare you. Again, it’s really important to keep tabs on what your mind is up to because you’ll need to avoid thinking things like “Oh my goodness another contraction.. this is gonna hurt…”. A huge part of anticipation of pain when it comes to birth is belief. We believe that childbirth is painful because that’s what we see written everywhere and it’s what we keep hearing. But what we’re failing to do is is apply some common sense. Yes, for some people it is. And yet, for some people it isn’t. Why only believe those who say it’s painful? Why do they have the final word? Just because their experience was that way, doesn’t mean yours will be.
Why is it that whenever a women says that she has had a pain-free birth it’s always written like this
“Woman claims to have had pain-free birth”
CLAIMS?! Claims implies that she’s making some outlandish claim that is highly unlikely… as in “Hiker claims he came face to face with a yeti” to which everyone rolls their eyes and says “yeah right!”. How about simply “woman had pain-free birth”?
3. Clear your fear of it
You won’t be surprised with this because I’m all about the fear clearance. So yes, spending time clearing your fear of pain is going to help you massively. Once you no longer fear it, you’re less likely to tense in anticipation (if you’re still anticipating it that is!). By clearing the fear, you won’t trigger the fear tension pain cycle.
If you can’t be bothered with any of that but still want to clear your fear of pain, well you’re in luck. I’ve created a Fearless Birthing Meditation that does it all for you – you just have to sit back and listen to me doing the clearance for you.
You can buy a Fear of Pain fear release meditation by clicking on the banner below.
There are birth stories and there are birth in a stream stories and today on the podcast I’m super chuffed to be able to bring you one of the latter. It’s an incredible birth story and one that you might well have seen, or at least heard about.
Today I’m sharing Simone’s amazing fearless birth in a stream. You might well have heard of Simone’s birth because she’s been all over the internet. WHY? Because the video of her birth in a stream has amassed over 54m views on YouTube! Not seen it? here it is…
Simone’s birth in a stream
During my conversation with Simone – and it’s THE longest interview I’ve ever done – we talk about so much more than her birth in a stream. Thanks in part to her background as a doula and a therapist who specialises in helping women to overcome their fears of birth. But not only that, it’s a wonderful birth story that needs to be told, and that is a story in its self given the viral nature of the video. So we don’t only talk about pregnancy and birth, but we talk about what it’s like having a viral video that goes stratospheric.
The birth in the stream is Simone’s fourth birth, so we spent some time talking about her previous births and how she came to want to birth in nature. Simone cites her source of inspiration being Elena Tonetti’s film Birth as we know it which shows Russian women birthing in the black sea; the minute she saw that film she knew that’s what she wanted.
A fearless birth
Simone is a therapist who is a practitioner of The Journey method for emotional clearing and as such she has been undertaking her own journey of emotional clearance for many years. Her training as a doula also gives her a great foundation of birth education and together this provided a powerful combination of fearlessness that she could carry into her birth. She also carried out a ton of research into her birth options that ultimately ended with her birth in a stream. But that’s not to say she didn’t have fears – every birth is different – so we talk about her fears and how she reacted to them and dealt with them.
I love feeling empowered both intellectually and emotionally about stuff
One thing that is interesting is that Simone talks about how we as pregnant women are highly sensitive, and how this means that sometimes the fears that we may be experiencing are not our own; they’re other people’s fears. She talks about how she was able to pick up on other people’s fears during the birth and how she would have appreciated someone to provide emotional support to others that were present, as she found herself absorbing some of these fears.
This is particularly interesting for us to note given how many people may be present at our own births including health care professionals, and who may have birth fears that have not been processed or cleared. It can be all to easy to feel fear, but for that fear not to be personal – but unless you’ve undertaken lots of emotional clearance work, it’s not easy to tell if the fears you have are yours or not. I recall in my last pregnacy, that a fear of birth came up for me. I knew that I wasn’t fearful of birth and so when I went within, I realised that this fear was my baby’s and not mine. So you see, the fear might not even be where you expect!
Simone talks alot about the patriarchical society that we live in, and how disconnected we are from nature and the things that sustain us. Part of this dicussion is around the male and the female energy and how our thinking is all too often dominated by left brain thinking, and so when our pregnancy triggers some right brain thinking, some people find it disorientating and label it as pregnancy brain. But it’s not!
Pregnancy brain; it just means your left brain isn’t dominating your thoughts now and that you have an opportunity to tap into your right brain.
I love how she talks about this!
Consciousness of Birth
As Simone was approaching her birth she had the intention that she wanted to change the consciousness of birth, by showing how birth can be and what is possible when you are empowered and claim the birth you want.
I really did feel that by doing what I was doing, I was changing the consciousness of birth.
But, when they filmed the birth, she didn’t know at that point that she would share the video. In fact, the thought of sharing the video only came up over a year later, and even then she had no idea the impact her video would have and took no measures to seek out YouTube views. She just shared it on her Facebook page. And the rest.. as they say, is history!
There is so much more I could write about our chat, but as it’s my longest ever interview at over 1 hour 40 minnutes, I think it’s best if I just stop here and let you listen to it yourself.
My guest today is Tora, a podcast listener, and we had a few emails back and forth during her pregnancy, but what was so fabulous is that Tora emailed me to tell me about her amazing fearless birth that she achieved using all of the tools and techniques that i provide. She’s a Fearless Birthing Success Story!
Tora’s Fearless Birth
It all started when Tora emailed me about her birth…
“Thank you so much for your podcast. It has been a wonderful tool for me to learn about birth and unlearn birthing fears.
I have listened to almost all of your episodes and used your material including the head trash clearing method. I combined your material with two free hypnobirthing meditation tracks I found online and used that to prepare for my birth.
And on sunday I gave birth to my first baby! Birth was incredibly fast and easy. Not even eight hours from first small contraction until my little baby was born. I was booked to go to a hospital here in Stockholm that I really trust, but in the end they were over booked and we went to another hospital that we knew nothing about. I gave birth only an hour after coming in to hospital though, so the surroundings didn’t matter much in the end, and the staff was wonderful.
The midwife and nurses called my birth a “caramel birth” in Swedish, meaning it was a rare and beautiful thing. They complimented me on being so calm and able to take direction and were impressed by my ability to give birth, without pain meds, in a calm way.
When I called my hospital to say that my contractions were 3-4 in 10 minutes and I think I need to come into hospital now, I don’t think the midwife taking the call believed me. She said “keep working at home for another hour, take a shower or a bath and call me in an hour.” I should have been more persistent, but I trusted her judgement. She should have known I was meditating the baby out fear free! Maybe I sounded too calm on the phone.
After 45 minutes I felt like I needed to give birth and I told my boyfriend to call them and say we absolutely need to go in now. In the end, especially since we had to go to a hospital a bit further away, we were only 5 minutes from giving birth on the high way! After 5 minutes at hospital they saw that I was completely dialated and 1 minute later my waters broke all over the room with the first involuntary push from my body.
I pushed for 10 min, and then they told me to stop myself because the baby’s heart beat was too slow. I breathed through the contractions for 20 min before they said I should push again, by that time the baby was completely fine again, and after 10 minutes of pushing the midwife put my son on my stomach. I cried with joy and today with my hormones flying around from breast feeding 3 days later I still cry when I think about that wonderful moment! Must be the best moment of my life so far.
My boyfriend was an enormous support. He was always by my side, kissing my face, stroking my hair and giving me the instructions of the midwife right by my ear. Since I had my eyes closed almost the entire labour and birth, he acted as my eyes and doula.
The midwifes told me they thought we should apply for a home birth if we have another baby. Here in Sweden giving birth is free, but if you want a home birth you need to pay for it yourself. However, you can apply for compensation which you will get if you have no complications in your pregnancy, it’s not your first child, etc. Both me and my boyfriend feel like that would be the best thing for us if we decide to have another one.
I loved giving birth! I love my beautiful calm little baby boy. And I feel like you helped me through it with all your wisdom and ambition to help women have a fear free birth. Thank you so much Alexia!”
I couldn’t believe it! I was thrilled! So I asked Tora if she wouldn’t mind coming on the podcast to share her story… she said YES and here we are!
During our chat, Tora talks more about which free materials she used and how she prepared for her fearless birth. She shares the fears that she had – she HAD! They are no more! Tora also talks about how the fear clearance process felt for her.
“It’s weird how well it works because it doesn’t feel that you’re actually doing anything… in the end when you ask yourself ‘how do I feel about this fear?’ you’re like Meh!”
When I asked her if any of her fears came up for her during birth she said
“I was never afraid when I was giving birth so it didn’t come up”
Getting into the right mindset for birth is something that is often talked about. We’re often hearing people say “Birth is mind over matter” and that’s because it’s true! So I wanted to dig a bit deeper into understanding what a great mindset for birth was and I’ve a great guest to help me.
On the podcast today, I’m joined by Ulf Sandstrom who is a mental trainer and hypnocoach who also happens to be a co-founder of the Hypnobirthing Society of Sweden. Doesn’t he sound like the perfect guest to help us to better understand the best kind of mindset for birth and how we might go about achieving that?
During my conversation with Ulf, we talk about many aspects of mindset for birth because quite frankly he has so much to share. He’s also very generously created some free downloads to go with our chat and help you to take some of the things we talk about further. See below for more details!
Here are just some of the things that we talked about…
How dads can play an active role during birth
Hypnobirthing places a great emphasis on the importance of dads during pregnancy and birth and Ulf shares some of the ways that he encourages dads to get involved including;
Helping mum to relax during pregnancy by reading relaxation scripts to her. This has the added benefit of the baby learning to associate dad with being a calming influence THIS TIP IS GOLD-RATED**!! Why? Because once baby is here, dad will have a hugely calming influence on baby which will not only help mum, but help dad to feel superinvolved with the little one. What’s great about this is that both of you are doing something practical, that gets a results AND that can be used afterwards.
Be a gatekeeper to all aspects of the birth where thought is required. This helps mum to stay focused on birthing.
Helping mum get back to calm place during birth by using some tools and techniques he has learned during the pregnancy.
His advice to dads is this; Think of yourself as a sommelier at a top notch restaurant and come from place of service.
**Now, not only is this dad-tip GOLD RATED, but he’s also created a dad-script exclusively for you my podcast listeners. How fabulous is that? You can find it in the resources section.
How to handle your fears
If you’re afraid of something that hasn’t happened yet, it’s because you’re imagining what it’s going to be like. perhaps you read it, saw it or heard about it. Or perhaps you have a vivid imagination that prefers to look at possible dangers.
Ulf reminds us that “if you develop a fear or a phobia, it’s not your will; it’s a response by your nervous system” and that a fear isn’t any less difficult for someone than a trauma based on something that’s actually happened.
“If you’re afraid of something that hasn’t happened yet, it’s because you’re imagining what it’s going to be like”
Ulf shares a great exercise which is great for both mums and dads. Write down anything you’re afraid of about the birth – or post birth. You don’t need to share it with each other. Once you’ve written your fears down, set fire to the paper. Setting fire to your fears like this can be really powerful; it can help you not only to acknowledge and accept your fears, but also to feel like you’ve voiced them as well as helping you to let them go.
Getting into the mindset for birth
Ulf says this on getting into a mindset for birth; “The more luggage you can lose before birth the better”. I love how he uses the term “luggage”; I use the term head trash, but we’re talking about the same thing. It’s all that emotional baggage that can prevent you from being totally present during birth, but can also kick off mental processes that could bring on anxiety or fear which could directly impact labour. BUT… and it’s a big BUT!
“If you haven’t lost your luggage, the better mood you can find yourself in, the better.”
This is a great point. We don’t all have the time or ability to shed all our luggage before birth, and so if you haven’t then the next best thing is to do what you can to get yourself into a great mood and stay there. Have people make you laugh and ask to be reminded of lovely life moments.
Focus your mind on success
Ulf shares a very simpe approach to shift into a positive mindset for birth by using your list of fears that you’ve already captured. Take a second look at your list and translate each one into a goal instead. Fears are usually “away” things; things that you want to avoid, like pain or complications. So if a fear of pain is one of yours, he suggests flipping that so that it becomes a goal instead (a “toward” thing) of a pleasurable birth and focusing on that instead.
How stress and trauma affects us and can be released
Here’s a video of Ulf talking about stress and trauma, and how it can be released.
Free Hypnobirthing track and Relaxation Script
Ulf has very generously provided a free hypnobirthing relaxation track and a free relaxation script that dads can read out loud to mum during pregnancy. What would be utterly fabulous is if you could pay it forward by donating a small sum to the charity that Ulf works for Peaceful Heart using the donate button below.
About Ulf Sandström
Ulf Sandström is a mental trainer and hypnocoach who is extremely curious about what makes us tick. Tock. He works as a complementary therapist with in-depth knowledge and experience of principles, methods and procedures for treatment of a large variety of symptoms of emotional stress and trauma including flashbacks, addiction, chronic pain, cognitive dissonance, IBS, GAD, COD, grief, rumination and sleep. He is a co-founder of the Hypnobirthing Society of Sweden. With the Peaceful Heart Network he works with First Aid for emotional and traumatic stress in zones of post-conflict such as Rwanda, D.R. Congo and Lesbos, Greece.