The insider’s guide to birth! 10 taboo things only midwives know


03 Oct 2023

The insider’s guide to birth! 10 taboo things only midwives know

Cathy Tabner
The insider’s guide to birth! 10 taboo things only midwives know

When it comes to the miracle of childbirth, there's more to the story than what meets the eye. Behind the scenes, midwives hold a treasure trove of knowledge and experiences that often go unspoken. Cathy Tabner, a Registered Midwife from My Expert Midwife, is here to shed light on some of the most intriguing and seldom-discussed aspects of childbirth. From the surprising role of bowel movements to the power of warm water and the wisdom of your body's instincts, this insider's guide reveals the secrets that only midwives are privy to. So, prepare to be enlightened as we dive into the world of midwifery and explore ten taboo topics that will forever change the way you think about giving birth.

1. Midwives love poo, we really do. We commonly see a smidgen sneak out, which means we know the baby is not far behind. Don’t be embarrassed you’re passing on the gift that keeps on giving - the invisible bacteria passed from your bowel to your baby as a starter kit for their own gut biome. We’re so discreet and speedy at cleaning it away too.

2. Midwives carry out most perineal repairs (suturing / stitching) after birth, using local anaesthetic. We often see women doze through the process. Partners are ideally placed to give the baby skin-to-skin at this point.

3. Women in advanced labour display a range of behavioural and physical signs which experienced midwives can assess without the need for a vaginal examination. An internal vaginal examination may not always be necessary, but always requires your consent.

4. Although plenty of babies are born in water pools in the UK, midwives also encourage women to use warm water as a coping strategy for pain relief. If you have access to a bathtub in labour, a 30-to-40-minute soak works wonders. 

5. The hormone - relaxin - loosens the musculoskeletal system, particularly the pelvis, in labour and midwives recommend upright active, mobile positions in the first stage of labour. This is because these positions can help the pelvis to open almost 30% more, providing more room for your baby to be born. 

6. During the second stage of a physiological labour, many women will listen to their instincts, and you can observe that women will automatically put their knees together and their calves out to relieve pressure on their perineum. This is called Knees in Calves Out (KICO). Listen to your body. 

7. Guidelines may recommend continuous CTG (cardiotocograph) monitoring of a baby in labour. However, this does not mean that women cannot mobilise or have a break to use the bathroom. Technology advances mean that in most hospitals you can ask to use their wireless CTG if it is available. 

8. Hunger in advanced labour is rare as digestion and stomach emptying is suspended by the hormones of labour and the blood supply to the stomach is diverted to the uterus. Women may snack but midwives regard a woman with a hearty appetite as unlikely to be in advanced labour.

9. Theatre gowns are worn for various procedures in maternity settings such as perineal suturing or a manual removal of the placenta. Midwives recommend women tie it at the front or wear it like a dressing gown, making skin-to-skin with baby easier.

10. Helpful mnemonic midwives often give to birth partners is ‘UMBRELLA.’ This is where they encourage their partner to be upright, mobile, breathing, relaxed, eating (and drinking), having frequent loo breaks and receiving loving language and from an advocate by their side.

Cathy Tabner will be speaking on the Live Talks Stage at The Baby Show with Lidl GB Olympia London on Sunday 22 October about breastfeeding.

You can also find her on Stand C50 throughout the show, along with My Expert Midwife’s co-founder Lesley Gilchrist and their wonderful team of registered midwives.

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