There are many ways to improve your birth experience and give your baby the best start in life, regardless of the type of birth you are planning. We encourage all women to read about birth optimising and consider how you may want to incorporate this into your birth plan.

You can choose what fits yours and your baby’s needs and discuss this with your midwife at your birth choices appointment.

Hypnobirthing

Hypnobirthing is an antenatal training program for pregnant women using relaxation, breathing and hypnosis which can help keep the birthing process natural and gentle. It enables women and their partners to be calm, confident and in control during childbirth. Learning how to be free of fear and tension means that women can embrace the birthing process and place trust in their bodies to birth easily and effectively.

Find out more about hypnobirthing here.

Perineal Massage

Perineal massage from 34 weeks of pregnancy can reduce the chance of perineal trauma.

It is particularly beneficial for women having their first baby and women who have had an episiotomy (vaginal cut) before. It will help you to become familiar with the feeling of pressure or stretching of the perineum that you will feel when your baby is being born.

 Perineal massage leaflet

Optimal Fetal Positioning and Active Birth

In the last few weeks of pregnancy it is important to try and help your baby get into the best position possible. Sitting ‘slumped’ on a sofa may encourage the baby to lie with its back to your back, which can result in a much longer labour than if the baby were facing the other way around. We therefore advise that, whenever possible during this time, you try to adopt more forward leaning positions.

We try to make every labour room as comfortable as possible with a range of birthing aids such as the birth couch, bean bags, rocking chairs, mats, and birth balls. Women are encouraged to be as active and upright as possible.

Using gravity – keep upright and mobile

Being able to move freely and use different positions is also likely to help keep your labour normal. There are many advantages to staying off the bed and keeping yourself upright during the first and second stage of labour:

  • It will help your baby to move down the birth passage more easily and quickly using gravity to aid descent
  • There is less pressure on the blood vessels that supply the uterus (womb) with oxygen for your baby
  • When you are upright your pelvis is able to open wider and make more room for your baby to come through
  • It may help contractions to work better
  • It may help you feel more comfortable and feel less pain
  • In the second stage of labour it may help you to be able to push more effectively

Equipment such as birth balls, mats, and rocking chairs are available for all the delivery rooms; these can help you to use a variety of good positions for labour. Ask your midwife to advise you on positions to try. One of the most important findings of research studies is that you should listen to your own body and use the positions most comfortable for you. Try changing position frequently – and if you need to lie down remember to avoid lying flat on your back as this can reduce the blood flow to your baby and may affect the baby’s heart rate as well as tending to slow labour down. If you do need to lie down you may find it helpful to try relaxing on your left side with a large pillow between your knees; it is also possible to give birth in this position.

Please download our Active Birth Leaflet.

Water for Labour

Using water for labour can be very effective for some women. You may be advised to try using a warm bath in early labour to help soothe the discomfort of contractions or you may wish to use a birthing pool throughout your labour, usually once labour is established. Water can help you to remain mobile and help you get into comfortable upright positions to help your labour progress. At Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust we have birthing pools in both Birth Centres and at our main hospital. Please speak to your midwife if you think you may wish to use water in labour.

Visit the Tommy’s website for more information.

Delayed Cord Clamping

Delayed cord clamping is now recognised as standard practice following the birth of your baby. This means that the blood is able to flow through the umbilical cord to the baby for at least one minute following birth; this helps to increase the babies’ blood volume, iron and stem cell levels, as long as your baby has a normal heart rate and doesn’t require any breathing support. You can opt for a physiological birth of the placenta, in which case the umbilical cord should be left until it has stopped pulsating and turned white. This may take up to twenty minutes.

Delayed cord clamping is also recommended during caesarean sections, both planned and unplanned, as long as your baby does not require immediate support and your bleeding is normal.

More information can be found here.

Skin to Skin/Kangaroo Care

Skin to skin contact is a fantastic way to bond with your baby. It’s especially important if you intend to breastfeed, but regardless of your feeding intentions it will help your new-born baby adjust to its new surroundings, calm their breathing and keep them close and safe. We don’t just recommend skin to skin contact at birth– it’s a great way to calm and settle your baby and stimulate your milk supply anytime following birth. No matter which method of birth your baby is born by, we will do our utmost to ensure that your baby gets the best start possible and help you to enjoy skin to skin contact safely and for as long as you’d like. Your baby will be quickly dried and placed naked onto your bare chest and then covered with a warm towel or blanket to keep them warm. We also provide your baby with a knitted hat to minimise heat loss through their head.

Benefits of Skin to Skin Contact

  • Helps to regulate baby’s temperature
  • Helps baby to maintain its blood sugar levels
  • Helps to calm the baby’s breathing and heart rate
  • Helps baby recover from labour and birth
  • Minimises stress and separation anxiety in the newborn infant
  • Helps to initiate breastfeeding and encourages your baby’s instinct to feed
  • Stimulates your own milk supply
  • Passes the protection of your own skin bacteria onto your baby

‘Kangaroo Care’ involves placing a baby skin to skin against their mother or father’s chest. Through this physical contact, babies are kept warm and have a close interaction with their parents. Research shows that Kangaroo Care helps all babies regardless of feeding method: to keep warm, to create a special bond between mother and father, helps brain development straight after birth and makes breastfeeding more likely to succeed. Kangaroo Care is especially important for premature and small babies. Our own research at Tunbridge Wells found that Kangaroo Care helps small and premature babies go home earlier. Download our Kangaroo Care Leaflet

Hand Expressing/Antenatal Colostrum Collecting

Antenatal hand expressing is advisable for all women planning to breast feed but is especially useful if you have gestational diabetes or know that your baby is likely to be born early or require special care at birth. If you are planning to breastfeed your baby or give your baby expressed breast milk you can start trying to hand express before your baby arrives, any time after 36 weeks. If you are expecting Twins you can start expressing at 32 weeks. If you are able to express colostrum (early milk) you can store it and give it to your baby when they are born. Some babies are quite sleepy for the first day after birth and if you know how to hand express, and have practiced the technique, you will be able to hand express colostrum directly onto baby’s lips on the first day until your baby wakes up and is ready to feed. Ask your community midwife for some syringes to store your expressed breast milk or use a sterilised container. Remember you will only be collecting very small volumes of colostrum. The colostrum collecting clinic runs on Mondays evenings at 1730.

Watch our hand expressing video below or visit our infant feeding page.

Colostrum Collection Key slides

Antenatal Colostrum Collection: who benefits?

A mother who has:

  • Diabetes, including gestational diabetes
  • A raised BMI (35 or above)
  • A multiple pregnancy (twins or triplets)
  • A breast abnormality or previous breast surgery
  • Taken certain medication during pregnancy & treatment for high blood pressure (for other medications your midwife or doctor will advise
  • Found breastfeeding challenging previously.

If baby is:

  • At risk of prematurity (being born before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • At risk of being small for gestational age
  • Diagnosed antenatally with cleft lip or palate
  • Diagnosed antenatally with chromosomal disorder (eg Down’s Syndrome)
  • Freshly expressed colostrum can be stored in:
Where Use Before
Room 6 hours
Fridge (5*C – 10*C) 3 days
Fridge (0*C – 4*C) 8 days
Freezer (-18*C or lower) 6 months

Frozen colostrum can be:

  • Used immediately if defrosted at room temperature
  • kept for up to 12 hours if defrosted in the fridge.

Top Tips for expressing Colostrum

  • Pressure should always be backwards, towards chest wall and pain free throughout
  • Do not slide fingers forward during compression.
  • Fingers can be moved around your nipple. (Remember they should remain 2-3cm away from the base of the nipple)
  • A maximum of 10 mins expressing from each breast up to 3 times a day is sufficient
  • Alternate expressing from each breast

Colostrum may be slow to appear, just be patient and relaxed! It can take several attempts