This is a topic I have felt called to talk about for some time as it is so often raised when supporting families preparing to birth subsequent babies at home. 

For some people it is a no brainer deciding to have their older child/ren present for the birth of a sibling. For others it can be a little more difficult to imagine logistically. Like birth, it is all in the prep and it’s important to customise the family experience based on your needs and your children’s ages and personalities. 

Just like us, our children are also transitioning to a new role within the family; on the cusp of becoming an older brother or sister. With each birth comes a transformation of identity and a period of adaption. What better way to adjust than to witness, first-hand, the process of the arrival of the new family member. 


What does birth preparation look like for you? 

How can you involve your child in this in a way that they will understand? 

Children are hardwired to care for us as mothers. Preparing them to witness you as you experience the sensations of labour, by exposing them to positive birth videos and stories, is a great way to normalise birth. 

Give them choice. They can decide at what capacity they’d like to be involved in the birth. Questions like: “Would you like to watch the baby be born?” or “If I go into labour during the night, would you like me to wake you?” or “If you need to take a break at any time, where can we create you a safe and comfy space to rest?”. Consider the emotions they might be feeling beforehand so they can come and go as they please. 

Give them a job. Ask them if there is something they would like to bring to the birth space or how they could help you. For some children, they may want to comfort you by rubbing your back or bringing a cold flannel for your head. By giving them a role you give them a sense of purpose and responsibility. 


The key here is to normalise. Children aren’t born with a fear of birth. We are conditioned to fear birth through dramatic scenes in television and film and the sharing of traumatic stories. By learning alongside our children about the nature of birth and how women’s bodies are perfectly designed, we can build a better outlook towards birth for future generations. 

Answer their questions, set expectations of possible scenarios, look up child appropriate home birth videos on youtube, learn about the gestational stages of pregnancy and prepare them for the sensations you’ll experience through labour. Through understanding comes normalisation, confidence and trust rather than fear and doubt. Imagine how many lives that could change. 

Children are incredibly robust and have the ability to deal with the majority of situations as long as they are told the truth and the facts of the situation.

Jo Hunter,


It is a good idea to have someone familiar to your toddler on-call or included in your birth team. If at any point they feel a little overwhelmed (or bored – birth is a waiting game after all!) and are in need some extra attention, having someone there to take them into a different room to play or read them a story can be all they need to regulate before entering the birth space again.

The emotions and needs of younger children need to be considered. During a big event such as this they would usually look to you, as their mother, for comfort. You may not always have the capacity to respond to them during labour preparing to have that additional person with you can benefit you all. A doula can also take on this role, but be sure to set roles and boundaries. Ensure your child can form a relationship with your doula beforehand so they are comfortable to seek comfort in them during your birth. 


Children learn so much through reading. Below is a list of useful books to prepare your children for your birth.


Everyone is different. Some children or teens may not feel comfortable to be present for the entire birth so have conversations around what their boundaries or apprehensions are. Perhaps there is parts of birth they would like to be present for, but not others. Alternatively they may prefer to enter the space just after your new baby has arrived. This is also a sacred time to witness. 


This question comes up a lot, perhaps because within our society we have sexualised women’s bodies and the thought of our sons being exposed to our nakedness make some people feel uncomfortable. Everyone is different. I believe that it is a wonderful opportunity for a boy to witness a woman’s body doing what it was made to do. Witnessing his mother in her power normalises natural birth and imprints the belief that women’s bodies are capable. If/when his time comes to father a child, he trusts in his partners ability to birth his child. 


Mini physiology lesson: Oxytocin, the love hormone is what initiates those powerful uterine surges. The hormones of intimacy and affection. When we love and cuddle our closest ones we release a surge of oxytocin. During birth when oxytocin is released in abundance it provides longer, stronger and more effective contractions. So, having your children around you could enable your birth to unfold smoothly; supporting you, rubbing your back, kissing your head for example, could all play a huge role in your birth. 

The most important thing to remember is that children are intuitive. They are often a loving and caring addition to the birth space. By having them in attendance we could heal birth for generations to come.

Did you have your older child/ren present at your birth? I’d love to hear of your experience in the comments.

Thank you to this beautiful family I had the honour of supporting last year, for allowing me to share these images of their family-centred birth.




It was an honour to walk alongside Kirsty as she prepared to birth autonomously outside of the system. Kirsty began her journey meeting with midwives, but quickly reclaimed her power, choosing freebirth. Here she shares her story of how she ventured to the depths of her soul to meet her baby, enduring a 6 day labour.

“I don’t expect anyone to make it through this whole story, though you’re welcome to if you’d like. For me, typing it out felt important as an exercise of processing and healing. 

  • This is a long birth story because my labour began on a Tuesday, and Ronan was born on Sunday.
  • I am a single mum, so my doula (the fantastic Sophia Crawford) was my main birth partner.  
  • This was my first baby, conceived after a previous loss. 
  • I planned a freebirth at home with Sophia’s support. While not technically a ‘freebirth’ in the end, I don’t give the midwives any credit for the eventual safe appearance of my son. 
  • To prepare, I followed lots of freebirth accounts on social media. I fully educated myself on physiological birth, retraining my brain to see birth not as a medical event. Birth is a natural occurrence that occasionally needs medical support. 
  • I also greatly thank Sam Gadsden and her freebirth group + course on Facebook. As well as The Normal Boring Freebirth podcast, and Kemi Johnson for her content! These resources and others like them were very loud in the echo chamber I created for myself in the lead-up to birth. They were so helpful. 
  • I invited my wonderful friend Lizzie to be at any or all of the birth. She had a 15-month-old, so she weaves in and out of the story. 
  • My aunt (Claire) in Ireland also provided support from afar as we are very close. She is/was mine and the baby’s next of kin. 
  • Sophia was with me for all five days (what a legend). She received moral support via phone and social media from Claire and various other doula’s in the Bristol/Southwest network! Thank you to Daniella Dean, Alix Thorpe, and Sam Gadsden. 


Over the weekend before labour started, I’d had pretty regular ‘twinges’ during the day. I continued to walk my dog daily. I’d take him on big hikes up hills, along rivers and streams to try and keep things consistent. Hills were becoming more challenging, and I was getting more breathless but moving felt good! For reference, I’m 5ft 4 and a size 8-10, so my bump felt disproportionately huge. I felt like baby was trying to claw his way out; his movements were so big!

I was expecting a decent-sized baby as I was born at 9lb 4, and we’ve had the odd 10lb baby in our family. I’d had regular ‘niggles’ over the weekend and surges in the evenings that tailed off by morning. By Monday evening, I had relatively frequent and intense but manageable surges, but by midnight things seemed like they’d tailed off again as they’d done previous nights, so I went back to bed and focused on getting sleep.


I woke at about 4.30, and things felt like they were starting again. The latent phase of labour had meant that things had stopped as daylight came around for the past few days. I found it frustrating, but despite this I think I’d done a good job of surrendering to the process. 

I managed surges in my living room, dancing, singing to Ronan, leaning over my ball, and breathing to music.

I messaged Lizzie at about 5am and asked if she could come today. I’d been alone for a few days and needed some distraction. At 7.30am, I updated Lizzie to say that I thought the baby was trying to get into position as he was incredibly active with each surge! It’s interesting looking back on my text messages to see that I’d known from the start he wasn’t in the easiest position to make his way down.

Surges continued into the day, so I let Sophia know, and Lizzie and her little girl came for the morning. While they were here, I used my ball and ignored the surges. Lizzie said she might be able to come back later if things continued. When they left late morning, I decided to get some sleep and said I’d let her know if anything changed. 


At about 1.30pm, I updated Lizzie to let her know they were ramping up. I then texted around for someone to come and walk my dog. In planning, I’d thought I would probably like to continue walking him in early labour, but I didn’t feel I could do that with the strength of the surges. Lizzie returned around 3pm for a couple of hours. We layed on my bed together in a mixture of quiet and chatting as surges came every few minutes. When Lizzie left, I organised for Sophia to come. While waiting for Sophia, I managed surges in my living room, dancing, singing to Ronan, leaning over my ball, and breathing to music. I felt really calm and excited to meet my baby soon… 🤣

I felt this process was sending me to the depths of my soul and would be healing. I was right.

At about 6pm, Sophia arrived, but things seemed to slow as the evening went on. So much so that we could eat and watch a few episodes of Friends. We put the slowing down to the change of energy with Sophia arriving. I anticipated things would restart again if I got into bed, so Sophia decided to sleep on the sofa while I got some rest. I left Ralph (dog) downstairs with Sophia and went to bed.


Things ramped up again when I got to bed. By 4am Wednesday, they went up a notch further. I’d created a nice nest space in my bedroom with dim lights and a large quilt folded on the floor. Sophia set up the oil burner as I’d chosen to burn lavender and frankincense. Ralph assumed his position by my side. We spent the morning here, and surges built in intensity again. Lizzie joined us at around 8am for a couple of hours, offering love and words for Ronan, and again in the afternoon for a couple of hours, when I moved downstairs for a change of scene.  

During the morning session in my bedroom, I felt quite emotional. I had the first of a few emotional releases over the next few days. By 3pm downstairs, I was making noise and having long, intense back-to-back contractions. My body was working so hard as I was leaning into and managing the surges with my breath and movement. I spent lots of time in a squat position on my living room rug (which is where Ronan was eventually born).

Baby was still very active with each surge, and I felt really confident he was ok.


I was feeling into my body and moving intuitively, and I found myself lunging a lot to the right to create space in my left hip. So I told Sophia; ‘I feel like the baby is in my hip; something there feels sticky.’ I’d also been asking Sophia to hold my bump up for me as this relieved a lot of the pressure in my hip and made surges feel more productive. Sophia could feel what I was feeling, that baby was very active still with each surge, and I felt really confident he was ok. He was such an active baby in the womb, so his movements were reassuring. 

Although I knew he was head down, I felt he wasn’t in a position to easily make his way out, so we tried some gentle biomechanical positions to encourage him out of my hip. The side-lying hip release made surges feel so much more painful and intense. By about 8pm, I felt tired from the length and strength of surges. My cervix felt irritated and my womb was really tired. Sophia suggested I get in the bath to try and become more comfortable, which felt exactly what I needed.


In the bath, surges seemed to stop completely! In hindsight, I probably should have just stayed there and let my womb rest, but in the moment, I didn’t want to be experiencing no surges, so I quite quickly got out of the bath in the hope they’d re-start; however, nothing would bring them back that night. It was like my womb was saying ‘no more for now,’ as it regularly did over the rest of the labour. At about 11pm, I decided that I shouldn’t be ‘trying’ to get my body to do anything and we should call it a night and get some rest. I was tired, and my back was also in pain, spasming on one side.  


I woke up at 4am after 4 hrs of broken sleep. My womb had had her rest, and strong surges were building again. Throughout Thursday, I had surges build twice to the very ‘active labour’ stage of back-to-back incredibly long and intense surges, only to die off again after several hours of mooing. At one point, I really felt like this couldn’t possibly slow down again as surges were so intense and required so much focus on my breath to manage, but after a couple more hours, it felt as though nothing was changing.

I began to feel exhausted, a bit frustrated, and I really felt I needed to lie down and again like my womb needed a rest/refuel. Upon lying down, the surges quickly tapered off. It was like a switch had been flicked, and labour completely paused! Sophia and I were shaking our heads, almost in mild amusement. I remember thinking my cervix must be dilating as I’d passed bloody mucus throughout the day and thought I could feel it stretching. I also was sure my waters hadn’t broken yet.

The support and encouragement I got from Sam Gadsden’s Freebirth group was great. What was happening was normalised, and I felt armed to continue to trust the process and ride out the rest of the labour.


Later in the afternoon, Sophia had been with me for 48 hours. Surges were now back as short, intense bursts more spaced apart that I could rest through. I wanted to call Claire (my aunt) for a sense check. She is an osteopath, and I was hoping she could suggest something for the stalling and the baby’s position in my hip, which I felt was causing the spasms in my back and were now really bothering me.

Claire helpfully suggested that the only thing I could do was maybe take some paracetamol for the back pain so I could relax and get some sleep and trust the process and my intuition, and baby would be here soon.

Sophia had also been encouraging me to continue to trust my intuition, which felt so hard the more tired I became, and the more surges stopped, so this is exactly what I needed to do and hear from Claire. I decided to take Claire’s advice and get some rest and suggested Sophia go home and get some rest too, a change of clothes, shower, etc. I also wondered if a few hours to myself might change anything.


For the rest of Thursday evening, I laid in bed, having short surges that felt like every 2 or 3 minutes, and they were strong but still much shorter and less intense than earlier in the day. The paracetamol helped, and I put a post on Sam Gadsden’s Freebirth group while lying in bed. I just hadn’t encountered a story like mine in my prep for this freebirth, so I wasn’t prepared for such frequent stalling of very active labour.

I asked for people to share similar stories if they had them. The support and encouragement I got from that group was great. What was happening was normalised, and I felt armed to continue to trust the process and ride out the rest of the labour. I messaged Claire to tell her I was resting and that I felt this process was sending me to the depths of my soul and would be healing. I was right.

FRIDAY: 40+4

During the early hours of Friday am, I became agitated as the paracetamol wore off, and during surges, my back was really going into spasm again, so I couldn’t get at all comfortable. Sophia returned at 6am to find me on the toilet and quite distressed by my back. She ran a bath and massaged the pain away for me until I could eventually lie back. Surges ramped up to once again become very regular and very strong. It was daylight, so thanks to Sophia’s suggestion, I put on my eye mask, put in my earplugs, and went into the zone. Sophia sat next to me, just watching my bump. I remember hearing her words of encouragement and the odd ‘wow’ as she could see the strength of the surges and the baby’s big movements.

This continued throughout the morning, and the surges felt big, long, and productive. By late morning/lunchtime, I decided I needed to move, so I got out of the bath and moved into my spare room. 

I set myself up in the corner of the room, swaying to my music. Sophia was out of the room, probably preparing me food or letting out the bath, and I felt really weary. This is where I had another big emotional release. I got an overwhelming feeling that my nan was with me and sobbed. I sobbed out fear, frustration, and grief. Then I remember Sophia’s arms wrapping around me from nowhere as she held the space for me to let out my emotion. It felt really good to let it out.


As I regained my composure, the surges remained strong, and my waters started to trickle. I remember feeling like I was roaring, bent over the bed/standing, and rocking through almost back-to-back surges now. Sophia asked if I’d felt to see if I could feel anything, so I did. It felt like the sac of waters were bulging at my cervix.

After a couple more hours of massive surges, I felt my womb and myself become totally exhausted again. Lying down had sometimes brought me relief throughout labour. So I moved to side laying in the hope it would give me some moments of less intensity. Surges were still strong but became really spaced out in this position, and I got almost complete relief in between them again, enough to order more coconut water from Deliveroo, much to Sophia’s amusement.

I think I must have gone through about 10 litres of coconut water from this point onwards by the time he came out, as it’s all I could stomach. While it was tempting to stay upright to continue on, and it felt confusing that surges died off so much when I laid down on my side, I felt like I needed to rest and refuel before continuing. It had been an intense and long day.

Ordering more coconut water after days of intense labour… as you do.


It was now evening on Friday, and I decided to get back in the bath. I was beginning to feel frustrated again now. Not because I was worried or didn’t trust the process, but because I was tired and concerned for Sophia if it went on for days more and that my family would begin to worry as they hadn’t heard from me for a few days. I didn’t want the pressure of people knowing I was in labour and the added task of setting boundaries for their concerns.


In response to my post on Sam Gadsden’s freebirth group, someone shared some meditations on releasing during labour. Sophia suggested I do these in the bath. During these, my surges really slowed further. I surrendered to the meditation and became aware I was sobbing after a time. I’m talking proper snot bubbles and ugly crying as Sophia rested a hand on my arm. When I came round from my tears, I felt I’d shifted something and like I was going to be sick, and I was. My emotions have always been delicately tied to my physical state, so I saw this release as normal and felt better afterwards, but everything in my body had almost completely stopped. 

Rather than overthink this, I eased into the process further, renewed from my sob. Sophia and I went downstairs, we ate, watched friends, chatted, and I bounced on the ball. It was now late Friday night. Sophia rested on the living room floor, me on the sofa.

Sophia and I worked together in the months leading up to labour. At some point, I mentioned to Sophia that I didn’t want a c-section because I suffer from adhesions (scar tissue sticking together). I have lots of bowel adhesions from previous surgeries. During my pregnancy, I’d been referred to a consultant at 16 wks because I’d previously had a LLETZ treatment to my cervix to remove abnormal cells. I was just under the criteria for needing consultant-led care. Still, they decided to refer me anyway without my consent. But the point is, I’d previously had minor surgery on my cervix, and I suffer from adhesions.


Sophia and I rested in the living room in silence for a while, and I breathed through surges and tried to get some rest. Shortly after midnight, we began talking. Sophia mentioned that she had been looking into the evidence for whether scar tissue/adhesions can prevent a cervix from dilating and found this possible. She asked me if I thought there was any chance this might be what was going on for me. I was open to considering anything causing such established labour to stop and start. 


We discussed how I would feel about midwives checking my cervix to ensure it was dilating and ruling out scar tissue. While I felt confident this probably wouldn’t be the case, once we had discussed it, I knew the niggle wouldn’t go away until I got checked. Sophia called the home birth team and invited them to come. They knew my plan was a freebirth, so they asked what I would want from them. I said one VE to check my cervix and the baby’s position if possible and that the bag of waters was bulging. I just wanted confirmation of what my intuition told me: that my cervix was dilated, and he was tilted into my hip. This is exactly what they came to do. 

One midwife said she couldn’t believe I was sitting on the ball, holding a completely coherent conversation and advocating for myself whilst almost completely dilated.

They arrived at about 5am. I had put together a specific birth plan for any medical intervention, which the midwives mostly followed, minus the odd boundary push I deflected. When they arrived, I was in the bath. Sophia asked them to read the birth plan, and they came in to meet me and discuss again what I wanted. 

During their checks, I didn’t really have surges, I remained very calm and advocated for us clearly. The first midwife asked permission to palpate to check the baby’s position. She noted that it looked like my bladder was very full as there was a large bulge over my pubic bone and asked the second midwife to come in and confirm. I felt I’d been going to the toilet whenever I needed it but noted I’d not been for a while! As per my birth plan, I reminded them I wouldn’t consent to a catheter and spent quite some time trying to wee. Eventually, I emptied my bladder and moved downstairs for my cervix to be checked. 


The midwives said they’d like to listen to the baby before and after the VE, which I agreed to as I knew he was fine. He was. The VE confirmed I was pretty much ‘fully dilated’ (the midwife said she couldn’t feel any cervix), with the baby’s head right there in his bag of waters, and the midwife told me that she thought the baby was slightly tilted into my left hip. I declined more monitoring and everything else they offered, apart from allowing my bump to be measured, because I was mildly amused that they thought taking a measurement at this stage would be useful. 

Overall this visit from the midwives was positive for me as it boosted my trust in myself and my intuition.

After they had completed their checks, I sat bouncing on my ball, and one midwife said she couldn’t believe I was sitting on the ball, holding a completely coherent conversation and advocating for myself whilst almost completely dilated. I thanked them, told them I felt empowered to continue alone as the baby was fine, and asked them to leave. They did. 

Overall this visit from the midwives was positive for me as it boosted my trust in myself and my intuition. They confirmed everything I felt. Newly energised, Sophia and I did some more gentle biomechanical stuff to try and encourage baby out of my hip. I’d gone to the depths of my soul, emotionally released multiple times, physically released with vomit.  I felt like his position was the only thing preventing him from coming, and at this point, although I was feeling level-headed, I was tired! 


Within a few hours of the midwives leaving, the surges slowly started to pick up again. Lizzie came back for support, and I moved back to the spare bedroom, able to chat between surges until about 11am when I needed to lean over the bed and commence roaring. 

At about 11.15, my waters went with a gush, Hollywood style, completely clear of meconium. Sophia seemed pretty elated, and I remember her looking at my crystal clear waters and saying, ‘No distressed baby here!’ It felt like a massive milestone. I felt excited that something new was happening, and then my surges completely stopped. All I could do was laugh. Lizzie had to leave again, and I tried to keep my oxytocin flowing. I danced, rocked, expressed colostrum, bounced on my ball, and listened to music. Nothing much happened. It didn’t seem like surges were going to return anytime soon. Once again, my womb felt like she was asking for rest. I felt a mixture of amusement and exhaustion, but I knew baby was fine as he was still doing his usual river dance.


During the next few hours, nothing really changed. We spent some time pulling cards from my animal spirit cards, one each for Sophia, Ronan, and me. We couldn’t quite believe how perfect for each of us the cards were. Sophia pulled the Elk, which read about providing ‘underlying support and stability.’ I pulled the Frog, which read about clearing, healing, and using water to release! Ronan’s card was the Lamb, which read:

The lamb is the bearer of an important message…Lamb energy is the honest guidance you hear from an old friend, a young child, or sometimes a surprising stranger. Though the lamb’s message may channel through another person, the wisdom resonates within you. It will repeat and reverberate until you listen. Approach this gentle creature with utmost patience and reverence”…  

Lizzie came back around 3pm. She pulled a spirit card too, and pulled the Crow, “spiritually strong and watchful.”  At 4.30, Sophia left to refuel, and shortly after that, Lizzie left again. I got some sleep by myself as I had a feeling I’d be in for an intense night once my womb had recharged. 


While I was asleep, the midwife that had performed the VE early this morning called Sophia. Sophia told them baby wasn’t here yet but that my waters had broken. Despite our calmness and the fact my waters had only broken a few hours ago, they immediately began to ‘voice concern’ about malposition, risk of haemorrhage due to length of labour, tired womb, etc. When Sophia told me all this, I was really cross, firstly because they called in the first place when I had specifically asked to have no more engagement from them, and secondly because they called Sophia, not me. But what made me most angry was that the midwife said Sophia would be liable if anything happened. Of course, Sophia and I knew this was totally untrue and unfair.

I reassured her that while a freebirth is what I want, I wouldn’t be putting myself or my baby at risk. If there was any sign of distress at this stage, I’d call for midwife support.

I felt very happy to continue on and like things would be ok. My waters had broken, and my womb needed another break before the final push. I felt really unhappy that the midwife was involved. No matter how much you prepare for their fear and coercion, it’s so difficult to hold your ground once a concern has been voiced. All I wanted to do was focus inwards and stay tuned into my intuition. I now felt forced to sense check all of their fears, go over the evidence, and return to a place I felt I could trust myself because the midwives clearly didn’t trust me. I felt like my bubble had burst a bit. Not because I believed what they said but because I felt I had to be in fight mode rather than in a place of surrender.


At 8pm, Sophia came back to talk to me. She was honest that she was running empty from 4 nights of very little sleep. Her little girl had been upset that she was leaving again, for the 5th night in a row, and understandably pretty upset from the call with the midwife. She’d been a total rock to me over the previous days. At this moment, her humanness was really appreciated as she let her tears of exhaustion come.

I reassured Sophia that the decision to freebirth was mine. I acknowledged that without a partner, this is a lot for one person to support and said I wanted her to go home and sleep. Sophia was concerned about leaving me alone, and I reassured her that while a freebirth is what I want, I wouldn’t be putting myself or my baby at risk. If there was any sign of distress at this stage, I’d call for midwife support. I promised that if baby came while she slept, I’d call midwives to oversee my 3rd stage in case of bleeding, and I reassured her that I was still here, not because I was stubborn but because I genuinely felt baby would come at home eventually and safely and that medical intervention would get in the way of that.

I also suggested that I try and find some support for her/a second doula in case this went on for much longer, as I didn’t expect her to continue to be my only consistent support anymore. Sophia left feeling much lighter to get some sleep and asked me to call her back if things ramped up.


When Sophia left, I decided to try to get an emergency call with Sam Gadsden. I felt frustrated by the midwives and needed a fresh perspective and encouragement that I was making sensible decisions after such a long week. I also knew that if Sophia was going to tap out, it was Sam I wanted as my second.

She told me to have a low threshold for bleeding but encouraged me in my choice to continue to freebirth.

Thankfully, Sam was home and agreed to have a Zoom with me, and she was amazing! I’d been posting on the freebirth group intermittently. Sam said she expected me to be on my knees and was fully prepared that she might need to encourage me to seek intervention, but that upon speaking with me, it was clear I had loads of fire left in me and that I didn’t look like someone who’d been in labour for 5 days. Sam validated everything Sophia, and I knew about how unfair the midwives’ call to Sophia was and my choice to stay home without midwives present. She told me to have a low threshold for bleeding but encouraged me in my choice to continue to freebirth, providing some helpful suggestions. 

While talking to Sam, I was standing, rocking my hips from side to side, and began to feel the need to focus on my breathing as surges returned. Speaking with her put me back in my power and helped me to relax. Sam said she’d be able to tap in for Sophia tomorrow if needed, though I think we both knew it wouldn’t be, and she sent me on my way to continue. 


It was now about 10pm, and the next two hours were amazing. I remember somehow forcing a banana down and feeding the dog. Then I danced, swayed, breathed through surges, and felt baby dead central, moving lower. I hung off the banisters in the hallway to support my weight, knowing that today was the day he would be here. Hanging off the banisters made things very intense. I was finding it difficult to focus on my breath, so I called Sophia, and she said she was on her way.


Sophia arrived shortly after midnight to find me folded over the sofa in the living room, mooing through surges, and instantly got about supporting me, reminding me of my breathing. I became really hot and was very uncomfortable & no longer felt relief from lying down; this made things feel much more intense. I asked Sophia to run a bath and remember feeling I probably wouldn’t make it upstairs, but somehow I did! For the first time, the bath didn’t give me any relief. I couldn’t lie back, so I was on my knees in the water. Sophia pointed out that my bladder looked very full again, and I realised I’d not needed to wee or been for a wee in several hours. 

Once I became aware of how full my bladder was, it felt like the baby’s head was hitting it with every surge, and this was why I was so uncomfortable. I tried so hard to empty it in the bath and toilet. Sophia suggested we call midwives to empty it if I couldn’t. I protested, but she reminded me that I had promised I wouldn’t put myself or my baby in harm’s way and that continuing to labour and drink with such a full bladder could cause damage to my bladder (she was right, it’s not the same!).

Reluctantly, after a long time trying to empty it and discussions with Sophia, I agreed that it would be sensible to ask the midwives to come back to empty my bladder. Far from a serene scene with me breathing through the now very intense surges, I was pretty distressed at this stage and really wanted the help to wee! 


Two midwives arrived at 3am, and the first midwife came to see me in the bath after reading my birth plan. I reiterated that I only wanted my bladder emptied, nothing else. I just needed relief from the now excruciating bladder pain. 

Somehow I made it to my bed. The midwife used an in-out catheter and relieved my bladder of a lot of wee! I instantly felt more comfortable, got back in the bath, and breathed. Now I could lie back and really wanted to just get back in the zone and allow the opportunity for oxytocin to flow again.

I had decided over the past 24 hours that I might call midwives when Ronan arrived to do the paperwork + monitor my bleeding etc. I thought he would be here soon, so I agreed that they could stay away from me/in another room unless I asked for them.


The midwives kept calling Sophia out of the bathroom for various concerns and requests that seemed to be coming from the hospital. They were obviously getting pressure from a consultant as despite the boundary I’d set, one of them came into the bathroom and offered me a conversation with a Dr, to which I made my annoyance clear and told her to go away. I felt I was being treated like there was a lot of concern for the baby and had to dig my heels in that I was tuned into him. I knew he was ok and I didn’t need to speak to anyone. Sophia had to be quite firm with them that if they didn’t stop asking things of me, I’d likely send them away, which seemed to work as they went quiet.

I hadn’t come this far to risk strangers’ hands pulling him from me.


Being in the bath brought so much relief, but surges had become like gentle waves. My womb felt so tired again, and I became aware that I was drifting in and out of sleep. Sophia was slumped over the edge of the bath with her eyes closed too. It was a nice moment of team calm, but I remember thinking, “If these surges don’t pick up again with so much external fear surrounding this birth now (from the NHS), I’ll end up being heavily pushed into intervention and really having to fight.” This thought gave me a kick. I hadn’t come this far to risk strangers’ hands pulling him from me, and I remember focusing on how much I wanted my hands to be the first to hold him.

As tempting as it was to sleep, I didn’t feel it was safe to do so anymore, so I asked Sophia to please get my eye mask and put drum and bass on downstairs, loudly! My plan was to tune into some music that would energise me and block out the rest of the world, and this is what I did. 


10 minutes later, I was hanging from my banisters again, drum and bass blaring with my eye mask on. Surges were picking up again, and I could hear Sophia in my ear saying, ‘Yes, Kirsty’! It was finally happening; he was moving down!

Looking back now, what happened next was obviously just my body transitioning. I felt an overwhelming need to be on my knees and suddenly felt like Ronan was between my legs. I also suddenly felt a pretty overwhelming need to know Ronan was ok. For the first time during labour I felt worried. I crawled to the living room and grabbed a hand Doppler I’d been gifted, but never used, and tried to listen in.


Sophia suggested that since they were here and I wanted to hear him, I let the midwives do this instead so I could focus on my breath. I agreed, and she went to relay my request. The midwives were in the room from this point, but their presence is and was a total blur. I remember pushing Midwife One’s hand and doppler away the second I’d heard a few seconds of his heart. He was fine. I shouted at her twice more. Once to please stop telling me to push, as per my birth plan, especially when I wasn’t having contractions. Then again when she started laying out towels and gloves. My birth plan clearly said no to these things. I remember looking up and seeing the gloves and saying something like, ‘Don’t touch my baby; I’ll catch him myself,’ to which she cleared away the offending items!

I wished the midwives weren’t there but didn’t have the presence to remember that I could ask them to leave the room again. 

After I heard Ronan’s heartbeat, I ‘pushed’ to the background drum and bass for another two hours or so. I felt most productive in a squat on my rug, back against my sofa. I remember I couldn’t feel any pain; everything felt numb. It felt like my womb was almost asleep, and my roars were what was pushing him down and keeping my her awake.


I couldn’t hold my body up easily anymore; my legs had fallen asleep. Sophia held my weight from behind so I could focus. The midwives told me they could see the top of his head. It felt like it took ages to keep it from disappearing back up after each surge. My feet were numb from being in a squat. I moved to lie on my side on the floor, but here surges instantly began to slow down. My womb had had enough and was taking me moving as a signal to stop and rest. I knew that I would have to get back up and keep roaring to keep her awake!

I heaved myself back into a squat, Sophia holding me up from behind again and roared, and roared. It was working, the midwives told me he was coming, but I knew. I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to be naked and ripped off my top. They told me his head was out, and then turning. Then with the rest of his head all in the same almighty moan, I felt the weight of his body leave me as it flopped out onto the rug.

He screamed his bright pink head off before my hands scooped him up to my face. Sophia and the midwives hugged. Sophia cried tears of delirious joy as I sang to my son the song I’d sung to him every day for the last 9 months without realising I was doing so. 


At my request, the midwives immediately left the room and recorded an Apgar score of 10 at birth. Despite the NHS’s mistrust of my intuition and ability to feel my baby, he was fine, as expected.

I settled back onto the sofa with him, where we enjoyed 7 hours of uninterrupted skin-to-skin. Thanks to Sophia keeping the midwives out, I established breastfeeding, and enjoyed quiet visits from Lizzie and Alix Thorpe (doula). Alix had offered support to Sophia and me during labour. She agreed to be here with Sophia during the 3rd stage. Alix bought her baby boy, tea and tincture to help release my placenta. She supported Sophia in holding a calm and sacred space for me.

It felt incredibly special to sit in peace, 3 mothers drinking tea and soaking in oxytocin. 

Ronan was weighed about 24 hours later. He was 9lb 2 then, so I assume he was bigger at birth. From the start, he was bright-eyed, strong and engaged. We are 7 months into our life on the outside together. I feel proud every day of the fight I endured to bring him earthside at home.

Especially for first-time mums, having a freebirth or a homebirth feels like a constant battle against the system’s deep mistrust of variations of normal in pregnancy, physiological birth, and lack of ability to make birthing women the highest authority in their labours.


Ronan’s birth was not how I imagined it. Without Sophia’s support to prepare and the support of her and the other wonderful Doulas that rallied around us to get us to the end, it could have gone very differently. It tested every aspect of my being and called for so much surrender in preparation and practice, which I now realise was the perfect initiation to motherhood.”

If you would like support navigating the system or would like support during your wild pregnancy or freebirth, tap here to book a call with me.



Just as with my first pregnancy, my ‘guess date’ came and went. I’d anticipated this, as I knew only 5% of babies come on their due dates. At my 40 week appointment on 1st March 2017, my midwife booked me in for an induction at 41+3, with little discussion. Her reason for this was that “it gets booked up quick”, so better book me a slot. I was furious with how blasé she was. It wasn’t offered to me like I had a choice, nor were the benefits or, more importantly, risks explained. I made it clear I would not be entering into discussion before 42+ weeks as I did not want to be induced.

At that same appointment I was told my baby was head down and partly engaged, which made the induction date seem even more unnecessary. I went home feeling frustrated. The induction date hung over my head for days. I trusted my body, but wasn’t getting any niggles or signs of labour yet. I was dreading the prospect of my labour being interfered with. 

We walked a lot over those next few days! I was dragging Jack (my partner) & Elba (my eldest daughter who was just over 2.5 years at the time) out for walks everyday and bouncing on my birth ball at every opportunity. 

I toyed with the idea of a home birth during my pregnancy, but we opted for another hospital birth this time because I really felt I had such a positive experience the first time; I’d felt safe and things had gone exactly how I’d wanted. Naively, I thought that by keeping the hospital as my choice of place to give birth, I’d be able to have a similar experience. Of course, no two births are the same!


On Sunday 5th March (40+4) I had a familiar, dull period-like pain coming and going all day. During the night, the sensations were coming more frequently and I was sure something was beginning to happen. I took myself to bed to get some rest, assuming I’d be woken by labour at some point during the night. I was disappointed when I woke up in the morning to nothing! Everything seemed to have completely stopped, other than what I thought was my waters slowly trickling. I popped a pad in and went about my day.

We chose not to contact the hospital at this stage, as I didn’t want them to start clock watching or be given a time limit for my birth to happen spontaneously.

We chose not to contact the hospital at this stage, as I didn’t want them to start clock watching.

I walked with a friend that lunchtime. My waters were still very lightly trickling and I was feeling a lot of pressure in between my legs. I trusted that something was happening, but carried on as normal.

Once I returned home, at about 3.30pm, the tightenings and period-like pains returned. I decided to speak to a midwife. My mum drove down to be with Elba and we went in to be assessed at 5.30pm. At this point I was experiencing irregular surges.


As I arrived at the hospital my waters gushed. It was such an odd feeling and so unfamiliar. During my first labour my waters didn’t break until the last moment and I was already in the pool.

I was seen by a student midwife at around 6pm. She listened-in using a hand held doppler and felt my tummy to gauge the position of baby. I was grateful that she said she wouldn’t be offering a vaginal examination now my waters had released, as this would increase the risk of infection. This isn’t something I would have accepted anyway, as I didn’t feel it was necessary and knew a VE could stall things at this stage.

She then told me I wasn’t in established labour because my contractions weren’t regular enough yet; to go home, take a bath and have something to eat. Then, of course, told me I’d have to come back in the morning for an induction if nothing had progressed further by then. Again, this wasn’t portrayed as though I has any choice in the matter. I was adamant my baby would be here before the following morning! 


As we left my surges were so strong. By the time we reached the car park they felt quite close together. We weren’t timing them, but I was having to stop and really focus to breathe through them. We followed her advice and headed home anyway (in hindsight, perhaps we shouldn’t have, but I like to think our baby led us home as that is where she wanted to be born).

The journey home was pretty horrendous. Labour came out of nowhere and every bump in the road exacerbated each contraction. We arrived home at 7pm. I was so relieved! 

My mum was in shock to see us home. She’d made some dinner, but I couldn’t stomach anything to eat. I stood in our front room, bent over the table, breathing through regular, strong surges. Mum suggested taking off my leggings and shoes, and getting a little more comfortable. I was convinced I’d be going back to hospital soon, so just took off my shoes and stayed fulled clothed. 

I stood in our front room, bent over the table, breathing through regular, strong surges.

As my contractions were getting stronger and closer together, I suddenly felt so disheartened. I felt I was not coping with my surges as well as my first labour. Little did I know how close I was to having my baby! Elba was sitting on the sofa just opposite from me at this point. I asked my mum to take her up to bed.

Jack spoke to the hospital again just after 7.30pm. We explained how my labour had progressed substantially since leaving the hospital. They kept firing questions at Jack, who was repeating them to me. It was getting harder and harder to converse and answer him. I had zoned in; focusing on my body, my breath, flowing and moving intuitively. They asked Jack if we wanted an ambulance sent out or if we could make the 25 minute journey back to the hospital in the car. I just looked at him. I think my eyes said it all. At this point I had no idea how close together my contractions actually were, I just knew there was no way we were getting back to the hospital in time for our baby’s arrival. 


I felt calm. I had accepted that we were doing this at home, just us. Whilst mum took Elba to bed, Jack and I stood in the lounge swaying together. He took my weight as I hung from his shoulders. I felt the roar in my throat and the urge to bear down. When my mum returned I told her I felt like I needed a poo, so she helped me into the downstairs toilet. As I pulled down my leggings, the pad I had placed in my pants to catch my waters had a little blood on it. The sight of blood made me feel uneasy. Mum asked Jack to grab some towels from the airing cupboard. I went to the toilet and we laughed as she wiped my bum for the first time since I was a toddler! It still makes me crease just thinking about it.

A second later I felt my baby crowning. 

I felt the roar in my throat and the urge to bear down.

I said “mum, I can feel the head… the head’s there”. 

She said “let me check”. 

I said “No need.. I can feel it!”, as I reached in-between my legs and cupped my hand over the top of the head. A feeling I will never forget. In fact, sometimes now when I place my hand on the top of her head, it takes me back to that moment and I can physically feel how much she has grown. 

I genuinely don’t feel I had to actively push at this stage. My body took over and with my next surge, I experienced the fetal ejection reflex and my baby’s head was born. The rest of her followed very quickly with the next surge. She arrived earth-side at 8.05pm (an hour after arriving home from the hospital). Jack and my mum held the corners of a towel and created a hammock underneath me, catching her as she arrived.


As I stepped forward, mum wrapped the towel around her. We didn’t know what sex our baby was, but I didn’t even think about checking to find out. I just instantly felt I wanted her skin on mine, but the umbilical cord was trailing between my legs to where she was behind me. I still had my leggings around my ankles so I had to untangle myself! Mum was right… maybe I should have taken them off! 

I stripped off my clothes and mum passed her to me through my legs. I brought her up to my chest… and then she cried. What an amazing sound to know that she was ok. Jack and my mum wrapped us both in towels as I sat and cuddled her. I beamed as I realised I had another beautiful daughter. 


I sat naked, holding my little Wren for half an hour before the paramedics arrived. They checked us both over and allowed us to wait another half an hour for the placenta to be born. I was eager to get her straight on my breast to encourage a physiological third stage, but in all honesty, was less informed about how else to support it.

I feel I could have been withholding this belief that my body was unable to birth my placenta naturally.

She took a couple of minutes to latch on. Perhaps she was a little shocked after her speedy arrival! I had been disappointed not to achieve a physiological third stage after my first birth and perhaps should have done some more work around this before my second birth. I feel I could have been withholding this belief that my body was unable to birth my placenta naturally. My grandmother had previously told me stories of her retained placenta and said “we just can’t birth our placentas naturally”. This, combined with the adrenaline from my quick, unexpected, unassisted home birth, may be the reason I had to transfer for an actively managed third stage.

An hour passed, Jack clamped and cut the cord (about 90 minutes after Wren was born) – it was completely white! They then helped me into the ambulance. By this stage I just wanted to get cleaned up and my bum was numb from sitting on the floor! Wren laid on my chest for the duration of the journey to hospital with her eyes wide, staring into mine. I was experiencing regular surges on the way to the hospital, and on reflection, I feel that if we’d waited a little while longer and protected this time, my placenta would have eventually been born at home.

My birth didn’t go how I thought it was going to, but it was the most empowering experience of my life. To birth unassisted, calmly and in control, feels incredible! In hind sight, I should have given more thought into preparing and planning a home birth, but I am grateful I had a completely undisturbed birth (with the exception of a short trip to triage in the earlier stages) and it was very telling for how in times like that, instinct takes over.

Do you have a positive birth experience that you would like to share?




During her pregnancy Ellie invested time in preparing for her birth, enrolling on a hypnobirthing course, which led to her feeling confident and excited to birth her baby. Since becoming a mum, Ellie has trained and a Hypnobirthing and Antenatal Teacher to share her wisdom and encourage others to take control of their birth. You can find out more about her and her amazing courses here.

Below, she shares the story of her daughter’s arrival at 39 weeks.

“Since doing my hypnobirthing course, I felt confident heading into my birth. I even felt quite excited. I finished work and started maternity leave 2 weeks before my official “due date” and had spent the past week washing baby clothes, folding and putting them away (and re-folding and re-putting away – god knows why?!), batch cooking and general tidying and pottering. 

I woke up on April 6th 2016 to a message in my NCT WhatsApp chat, that the second baby of the group had been born overnight. My feelings of happiness for my friend were quickly overshadowed by jealousy and intense impatience. When was my baby going to come out? Looking back – this was crazy, I was still a week from my due date! (With the hindsight of both of my birth experience, impatience is definitely one of my signs that something is afoot – baby is having ideas.)

I went about my day as normal, pottering away and cooking the final few meals to put in the freezer. The only thing that I had noticed that day was that my Braxton hicks had completely stopped. I had been having quite a lot of Braxton hicks in the week prior to this day, but I hadn’t felt any all day. This only made me think that things had slowed down and I would be waiting sometime before my baby made their appearance. Little did I know!


That evening we went to meet my friend and her partner for dinner. As soon as I got out of the car, I felt a twinge. I ignored it. A few minutes later I felt another. I ignored that one too. These twinges continued, coming every few minutes and I continued to ignore them and carried on with my dinner and catching up with my friend. I didn’t let on to anyone what I was feeling and carried on chatting away and munching on my Nandos. 

About an hour into the meal things felt to have ramped up a bit and the sensations felt more like tightenings now. I also had the distinct feeling that I was going to poo myself. However, whenever I went to the toilet nothing happened. I eventually told Joe what I was feeling and he suggested we go home. But I hadn’t had pudding yet so I wasn’t leaving! We leisurely finished our meal and said goodbye to our pals and drove home.


Once home, I got into bed hoping that I would fall asleep. However, my surges were still coming fairly frequently (between 3 and 4 minutes). They were also getting more intense so I decided to get out of bed and spend some time on my birth ball, bouncing on it and then kneeling on the floor and leaning over it. 

I found the bath absolutely amazing! The feeling of the warm water was incredibly comforting…

It had now been about 4 – 5 hours of experiencing surges which had been fairly frequent from the start. Their duration was getting longer and the intensity continued to gradually increase. I decided I wanted a bath and Joe ran one for me. I found the bath absolutely amazing! The feeling of the warm water was incredibly comforting and I felt completely relaxed with just candles for light and joe stroking my arms when I was experiencing a surge. I started using my breathing techniques with each surge which I also found incredibly soothing.

Sometime later, Joe rang the birth centre to let them know that I was experiencing surges and thought I was in labour. I spoke to the midwife who listened to me breathe through one of my surges. She asked me if I felt I was handling the sensations and I told her that I was. The breathing and the bath were helping me through each surge. So she advised us to stay at home. Fine by me!

I continued to relax in the bath but after some time I started feeling like I wanted to move around so I went back into my bedroom to bounce on my birth ball and listen to my hypnobirthing relaxations. Joe had lit some candles in the bedroom and turned the lights down really low so it felt lovely and calm. 

Over the next couple of hours, my surges started to get a bit closer together. I was having one every 3 minutes (almost on the dot) and they were lasting for just under a minute. I started to get a bit worried about getting to the birth centre on time! I remember being told that this is when we should ideally head to the birth centre, so Joe called in again. Again, I spoke to the midwife who asked what the surges felt like. I explained that I was handling them fine with my breathing techniques and going between the bath and my bedroom to bounce on the birth ball. The midwife told me that I would ‘know’ when to come in and to try to stay at home for as long as possible. So I continued to do my thing, relaxing in the bath until I felt the urge to get up and move around.


By about 4.30am, I decided I wanted to go to the birth centre. So Joe called again to say that we intended on coming in and they agreed that this was sensible since we had already called twice before. I got dressed and Joe called my mum to ask her to drive over (she was my second birth partner).

The car journey was peaceful driving through Bristol in the dead of night. We saw a fox cross the road ahead of us just after we set off from home and for some reason, I took this as a positive omen. 

We got to the birth centre at 5.50am and we were showed to our gorgeous room. Cossham Birth Centre is incredible. I call it the “baby hotel” because that’s exactly what it feels like. Our room was beautifully spacious with dim lighting, a double bed, a gorgeous pool and an en-suite bathroom. As soon as I got into the room, I had the urge to take my clothes off and walk around, stopping and swaying and leaning on Joe when I felt a surge. 

My midwife asked me if she could do a vaginal examination and I politely declined. I asked if I could get into the birth pool and the midwife told me that I couldn’t unless she could examine me to confirm that I was in established labour (grrrr!). I still didn’t want an examination so we filled the pool up a little bit so that it felt like a bath and I continued to breath through my surges.

I kept feeling like I needed to do a poo so I spent some time in the toilet. Whilst I was sat there, I felt the sensations change to an incredible pressure inside bearing down on my bum. This caught me off guard and I called for the midwife who came in to check on me. She asked again to perform an examination and this time I agreed as I really wanted to be in the pool. 

Sometimes dilation happens like that – very gradually and then all of a sudden just snaps back like an elastic band. 

She told me that I was 5cm dilated. I remember feeling quite disappointed at this. I had been experiencing sensations for about 11 hours at this point and they felt to be getting really intense. I had hoped I would be further along. 

The midwife suggested that I try walking around which could break my waters which she told me could help ease the feeling of pressure I was feeling. She also offered me some paracetamol (even though I had asked in my birth preferences not to be offered any pain relief unless I asked for it – second grrrrr!). Despite this, I took them. Looking back I’m not even sure why, as I had been handling the sensations fine with my breathing alone. 

I continued to pace the room leaning on Joe for support until, fairly soon after, my waters went. At this stage everything ramped up very quickly. I felt I needed to stop moving and get settled somewhere. I wanted to be upright so I decided to kneel on the bed leaning over the back of it. I was feeling the urge to push. 

My midwife asked to examine me again and, reluctantly, I agreed. She told me I was 10cm and that baby would be here very soon! She also explained that sometimes dilation happens like that – very gradually and then all of a sudden just snaps back like an elastic band. 


I got back into my position on the bed (since we wouldn’t have time now to fill the pool up). With each surge, I felt my body instinctively moving the baby down. During this second stage, I could feel my baby’s head moving back and forth. With each surge I felt them move right down but then, the wave would pass and the baby’s head would retreat back inside. I found this incredibly difficult and it was then that I started to feel myself coming out of my relaxed state. I started exclaiming that I couldn’t do it. But with the next surge, my baby’s head was born and on the next, the rest of her followed.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My proudest achievement.

Poppy was born at 7.50am (just 2 hours after arriving at the birth centre) on 7th April 2016 to two delighted parents and an ecstatic grandmother.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My proudest achievement. I was left feeling like Superwoman and like I could do absolutely anything and I genuinely believe that, had you asked me to, in that moment I could have.” 

Do you have a positive birth experience that you would like to share?

If so, pop an email over to, I’d love to hear from you.




The third stage is the birth of the placenta, which takes place shortly after your baby is born. During the birth of the placenta you will experience uterine contractions as the placenta separates from the uterus wall, moves through the cervix and, when it has moved down far enough, you will work with a final contraction to push and get the placenta the rest of the way out.

As the third stage often gets little mention in pregnancy books, lets discuss how protecting the third stage environment, as we do with our birthing environment, may encourage a faster, natural delivery of the placenta, reducing the need for intervention or an ‘actively managed’ third stage.

For the new mother, the third stage is a time of reaping the rewards of her labour

Dr Sarah Buckley, Gentle Birth Gentle Mothering


(noun) A flattened circular organ in the uterus of pregnant eutherian mammals, nourishing and maintaining the foetus through the umbilical cord.

When you become pregnant, your uterus contains just a cluster of cells. Half of those go on to become your baby and the other half become the placenta. The placenta is a temporary organ that is attached to the wall of the uterus during pregnancy. It performs many functions including providing nutrients, oxygen and protection against harmful bacteria via the umbilical cord. More or less anything you consume will pass to your baby via the placenta.

The placenta also disposes of the baby’s waste, such as carbon dioxide, which passes back up the umbilical cord to your blood stream where your body disposes of it.

Put simply, the placenta serves as the baby’s lifeline during the 40ish weeks in the womb and should be recognised for it’s vital role!


In many hospitals now, it is routine to have an actively managed third stage. Which means, as your baby is born, you’ll be given an intramuscular injection of syntrometrine – a synthetic form of oxytocin. Some women may not have a preference whether or not they have an actively managed or a physiological (natural) third stage (see below for pros and cons) but for those that do, its good to know what things could help the third stage progress so that you are able to protect the ‘golden hour’ and deliver the placenta naturally.

As mentioned above, oxytocin continues to play a huge role during the third stage. Oxytocin is a very shy hormone and there are things within the environment that can cause adrenaline to spike and for oxytocin levels to decrease, which will slow uterine contractions. In order to keep a good hormonal balance it is important to continue to protect the birthing space.


Initialising that first feed encourages the release of oxytocin, but if your baby doesn’t show signs of wanting to breastfeed straight away, just holding her close to your chest will have a similar effect.


Maintaining the environment of the birth space with low lights, warmth and no observers encourages the mother to feel comfortable and, in turn, speeds up the duration of a natural third stage.

Stimulation of the breasts causes a powerful endocrine hormone called oxytocin to be released. Oxytocin in turn stimulates uterine contractions.

Ina May Gaskin, Spiritual Midwifery


  • Encourages a calm, quiet and undisturbed atmosphere allowing you to be present with your new baby.
  • Allows time for bonding through breastfeeding and skin-to-skin.
  • You can adopt different positions and move instinctively with your body.
  • Physiological management is less likely if labour has been induced or required pain management/intervention, as the administration of synthetic oxytocin will inhibit your ability to produce your own oxytocin.
  • Sometimes placentas can take longer to be born (anywhere between 1-12 hours!). This is not an indication the third stage needs to be actively managed. A gentle, hands-off approach is key here, as long as blood loss is monitored. It is worth noting, you are less likely to be given an extended amount of time to birth your placenta in a hospital setting.
  • For more information on why it is so important to have a hands-off third stage, check out this article by Sarah J. Buckley.


  • Is a quicker process than a physiological third stage, lasting 5-15 minutes. After synthetic oxytocin is administered the placenta needs to be delivered quickly to avoid retained placenta.
  • In the event of the placenta taking a long time to be born, it will have to be removed manually under general anaesthetic.
  • You may experience discomfort when the midwife performs the controlled cord traction (CCT), after you receive synthetic oxytocin via an intramuscular injection. A CCT involves the midwife placing her hand on your abdomen so that she can feel when the uterus contacts. She will then pull gently on the cord whilst applying pressure to the uterus.


Another thing very injurious to the child is the tying and the cutting of the navel string too soon; which should always be left till the child has not only repeatedly breathed but till all pulsation in the cord ceases. As otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a portion of the blood being left in the placenta which ought to have been in the child.

Darwin, 1801

For many years immediate clamping of the umbilical cord (between 10-15 seconds) after birth has been standard practice. There is now extensive evidence to suggest that it is beneficial to allow the cord to fully pulsate, or better yet ‘wait for white’, before clamping for the following reasons:

  • The cord and placenta hold up to 30% of your baby’s blood. Allowing the cord to pulsate means the blood can flow through it and aid the baby’s lung expansion. When the cord is clamped immediately, blood has to be “borrowed” from the rest of the baby’s circulation in order for the lungs to fully function.
  • As the baby receives the full amount of blood from the placenta, iron levels are higher and it reduces the chances of anaemia. Anaemia in infants can go on to effect the development of the nervous system and brain development.
  • Delaying the clamping of the cord allows the baby to receive up to a billion more stem cells than if it were clamped immediately after birth. Stem cells have wonderful healing qualities.
  • Increased birth weight and blood pressure stabilised.
  • If resuscitation is required after the baby is born, it is beneficial to leave the cord unclamped as it assists in oxygenating the lungs.
  • The cord stump will often take less time to heal and ‘drop off’ after delayed cord clamping.


Some people choose to burn the cord a few hours after birth. This can be a gentle and respectful way to sever the cord and break the connection between baby and placenta. It is also likely the cord stump with dry up and fall off quicker if it is burned.

For more information on cord burning ceremonies, tap here.
It’s worth noting, this option may not be supported within a medical setting.


“Lotus birth is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord uncut, so that the baby remains attached to his/her placenta until the cord naturally separates at the umbilicus – exactly as a cut cord does – at 3 to 10 days after birth. This prolonged contact can be seen as a time of transition, allowing the baby to slowly and gently let go of his/her attachment to the mother’s body.”
– Sarah J.Buckley, Placenta The forgotten Chakra.

For more information on lotus birth, tap here.


It can be very beneficial to include your wishes for the third stage in your birth plan. You have the right to an empowered third stage too. Things to consider for a physiological third stage:

  • State that you’d like to try for a natural placenta birth. Create an optimal environment for birth – warm, dim lighting, quiet, private, supported.
  • Do not allow a hat to be put on your baby’s head. This puts a barrier in the way of you being able to smell your baby, which is vital in stimulating oxytocin.
  • Allow time for the cord to go completely white before clamping. This is a sign that all the blood has been drained from the placenta.
  • Immediate skin-to-skin with your new baby.
  • Put your baby to your breast. Try to initiate the first feed. Keep things calm and undisturbed.
  • State if you want to wait for newborn checks and weighing.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask to see the placenta once it has been delivered. If you want to take it home to benefit from placenta remedies ensure you state this in your birth plan and have your birth partner discuss plans with your midwife upon arrival.


The placenta is becoming increasingly recognised for the important role it plays in post-birth healing. According to the Placenta Remedies Network “during and after a normal vaginal delivery (including post-natal bleeding) a new mother will lose between 1/8 to 1/10 of her body’s blood supply. Losing a large amount of iron so quickly can cause anaemia, leaving a new mum feeling tired, faint and exhausted. The blood needs high supplies of iron to carry oxygen to the cells. Low supplies of oxygen leave your cells starving and less able to heal after trauma.”

Consuming your placenta, which is rich in vital hormones and minerals, restores your iron levels reducing fatigue. Blood loss during the postnatal period can last for 3-6 weeks. Consuming your placenta can reduce postpartum blood loss to 5-10 days because the placenta is full of stem cells and growth factors, which play a huge role in healing the wound in your uterus. Your placenta also aids the replenishment of vitamins E and B6, is rich in hormones such as oxytocin and corticotropin and immune boosting proteins. In addition to reducing the duration of postpartum blood loss, all of the wonderful nutrients in your placenta contribute to encouraging a plentiful milk supply, boosting energy levels and balancing hormone levels reducing the chances of “baby blues” and postnatal depression.

Your placenta can be made into numerous different remedies, including:

  • Raw placenta smoothie
  • Placenta Encapsulation
  • Tincture
  • Essence
  • Homeopathic Remedies
  • Creams or balms

There is growing interest both in the placenta as an extraordinary organ which nourishes the baby during pregnancy, and the rituals surrounding it in other cultures.

AIMS, Birthing Your Placenta

Did you find this useful? Please use the comments section below to share your placenta stories!




This first time mum has anonymously shared her story of a birth that didn’t go quite as she thought it would, but how she was able to navigate a positive experience by remaining the decision maker throughout the process. See below for her full story.

“I’m a paediatrician who gave birth at the hospital I work at (so knew most of the midwifery, paeds and O&G team). I didn’t make a birth “plan” as have seen enough things go wrong to know you can’t control it, but I did have “preferences” – not on the bed, ideally not monitored, water for plain relief, hypnobirthing breathing techniques.

My labour was spontaneous but complicated by prolonged rupture of membranes. I was in established labour by 24h so didn’t need induction, but they wouldn’t allow me to labour at the birth centre.

The negatives of my delivery were that I cried hysterically when my husband wasn’t allowed in hospital with me initially, which I’m convinced slowed things down. I couldn’t use the pool because it was in use, and I had one puff of gas and air and nearly vomited.

However, I had a really positive experience overall. I had two absolutely amazing midwives who supported me completely in decision making.

I wasn’t sure what to do about pain relief because I couldn’t use the pool or tolerate the gas and air and although I’d got to 9cm with hypnobirthing breathing techniques I really needed something as was shattered after being awake for around 32 hours. After chatting with the midwife I made the decision to have pethidine 3 hours before he was born, which definitely allowed me a couple of hours to build my strength before pushing.

“The helped to guide me through a wonderfully peaceful, natural delivery”

I also declined continuous monitoring although it would definitely have been easier for them. They accepted this and did intermittent monitoring with a handheld Doppler instead.

Most of all they helped to guide me through a wonderfully peaceful natural delivery without over medicalising things.

Looking back I’m not sure I would have changed anything other than my husband being able to come straight in with me (we had such a good team approach to managing contractions at home that I struggled to cope without him). Although I didn’t want to be on delivery suite my birth wasn’t “medicalised” unnecessarily and the midwives were just amazing. It wasn’t the birth I had imagined but it was wonderful and I left hospital with a beautiful baby boy and an enormous sense of achievement! I’m hopeful I will be blessed with more children in the future and would love to have a similarly peaceful and empowering experience, wherever I end up giving birth.”

Do you have a positive birth experience you’d like to share?

If so, please email me at



Every woman who has a baby, however that baby is ultimately born, treads the path of the heroine, and yet it’s not always perceived that way.

Milli Hill, Give Birth Like a Feminist

Not only should every pregnant person (& their partner) read this book, but anyone who works in maternity services should. Milli Hill’s writing style kept me engaged throughout. She has perfectly articulated how mainstream birth culture and maternity systems disempower women and why. 

Too often, assumptions are made that women’s bodies need help to birth their babies, that they are badly designed and need medical intervention to be able to do so. By medicalising birth we have been conditioned to believe that we do not know our own bodies and think that qualified professionals know our bodies better than we do, which takes decision making away from us as mothers. We no longer realise that we have choice. Milli shares her own experiences throughout, but also provides practical tools for women to use when making decisions during labour, including the B.R.A.I.N decision-making tool, which as doulas we often refer to with our clients. For anyone unfamiliar with the B.R.A.I.N tool, I have a post about this over on my Instagram

This book delves into how and why we have perhaps become too reliant on interventions and have lost the ability to trust our own bodies. Hill highlights how birth is depicted in the media, TV & film – showing women distressed and screaming, lying on their backs in a brightly lit hospital room, hooked up to machines with people coming in and out of their birthing space – no wonder its daunting to so many of us! She also discusses how the censoring of images of birth and breastfeeding on social media also contributes to misrepresentation. 

GBLF reaffirms how important it is to know your choices, because without being educated you don’t have any. It doesn’t tell you that there is one right way to birth your baby, but that all preferences are valid, to respect all choices and be informed. Every decision during your birth is yours, but Milli shares some of the coercive language that is all too often used in the birth room and explores why you might come up against it. By being informed you can confidently give your consent (or not) and, no matter what path your birth takes, remain in control. Milli empowers women by recognising birth for the incredibly, primal act that it is and challenges the narrative of women being child-like in labour; clean shaven and often referred to as ‘good girls’.

In a time when there are such strict restrictions within maternity care, it is even more important to remember your rights as a birthing person. Your human rights don’t disappear because you are pregnant. I would highly recommend this book, it empowers the reader to educate themselves on their journey to meeting their baby. By being more aware of the history and how certain language and attitudes still exist today is eye opening, and by opening our eyes and supporting women and families so that they understand their birth rights, enables them to take back control in the birth room. 




Amy is a first time mum who had an undisturbed water birth at home at 37 weeks. Her experience was calm and positive. Read her story below.

By sharing positive birth experiences written by real women, we can empower.

“As a first time Mum I was expecting to have my baby sometime around 41 weeks. I had my home birth all planned and had just tested the pool out and got the right adaptors for the taps. A few days later when I was exactly 37 weeks pregnant (to the day) I had quite a lot of energy and was going about my business as usual. I cleaned the house, popped to shops and went on a long walk with my dog. After walking up a big hill I felt an ache in the side of my belly. It didn’t even cross my mind that this would be anything to do with labour I just thought it was a weird pregnancy pain. This ache continued until I was home so I had a nap for a few hours and by the time I woke up, the ache had gone so I carried on as normal. 

At around 7pm I sat my big old pregnant bum on my husband’s knee and gave him a squeeze. When I got up to walk to the kitchen I felt something run down my leg…”hmmm I don’t think I weed myself” I thought, before realising that this was probably my waters breaking. We called the midwife who asked us to monitor the situation and call her back in the morning. I had some dinner, had a shower and washed my hair.

A bit after that I lost my mucus plug (promptly took a photo of it which I still look at to this day) and started to think things might be kicking off a bit quicker than expected. At around 9pm I started getting quite intense surges and was just sitting upstairs on my yoga ball thinking I would have to deliver my baby myself…we called again and our lovely midwife said she would be on her way. She got stuck in traffic so I had a slightly worrying few hours breathing through my surges upstairs while my husband inflated the pool and got my birthing cave ready. 

“I had so much respect for my body and what it could do, without my conscious mind getting involved.”

When she finally arrived I had been having intense surges pretty close together, for a while (I didn’t time anything so I don’t have the details) I was surprised how much I felt it in my thighs, something I wasn’t particularly expecting. I had no vaginal examinations as I had requested and everything seemed to be moving very quickly. I had all these lovely active birth movements ready in my mind but in reality all I wanted to do was sit cross legged and bolt upright on my bed. My midwife just sat in my room and chatted to me in between surges. It was immensely comforting and reassuring. 

I think it was around 2am I shuffled down the stairs and hefted myself into the birthing pool. I think at this point I was in transition and having really intense surges, pretty much back to back. My midwife gently suggested that I try turning around and kneeling up leaning my arms over the side of the pool, which I did, and things seemed to kick up another notch. I decided that although it was even more intense in this position I would stick it out as it would probably be over quicker! Then I did the typical thing of thinking I needed the loo, hefting myself out of the pool and padding my wet feet to the toilet and realising I didn’t need to go after all! I got back in the pool and back into that same position leaning over the side and my body just started to push. This wasn’t a voluntary thing at all, my body just did it for me which felt totally bizarre but a relief from the back to back surges. I am not sure how long the pushing lasted for, my husband says it was 45 mins to an hour (if you asked me I would say it could have been 5 minutes or 5 hours, I have no idea). For a while my son kept edging down the birth canal and then what felt like him shooting back up again (this was alarming to me as I had not been warned it might happen) but around 4.30 am all 7lbs of our beautiful little guy eventually emerged, and was in my arms within seconds. 

I actually found the second stage easier than the first as it felt really productive and my mind was totally overridden by my body’s natural instincts, meaning I wasn’t completely aware of what was going on. I just went with it. Yes it was incredibly intense, yes it was incredibly challenging, but I would not have wished it any other way. I had so much respect for my body and what it could do, without my conscious mind getting involved.  I had a physiological delivery of my placenta and then after examination my midwife realised I had a small tear and so she stitched me up on the sofa, using the torch on her phone to keep the cosy atmosphere.

An hour or so after giving birth little baby Noah managed to latch on nicely and the three of us snuggled in bed, in disbelief that this had all happened so quickly! I believe that in addition to a certain amount of genetic luck, the preparation I did previous to my birth (pregnancy yoga, hypnobirthing, reading and watching positive birth videos) as well as my decision to have a home birth all strongly contributed to my straightforward and quick labour. Thanks to this I decided to retrain as a pregnancy yoga & hypnobirthing practitioner so I could help other people have a similar experience. 

Women’s bodies are incredible.” 

If you had a positive birth experience that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Please send your story and any pictures you’d like to include to