Thursday, September 26, 2013

New Business Happenings!

Hi everyone,

Sorry it's been a while. Work and family have taken me away.

Since last writing, our business has expanded! We now have 2 doulas (one of which is nearly a midwife - yeh!) and a lactation consultant (who is also a midwife)!! We've also added a few new services -- check out the new-look website at and let us know what you think.

For regular updates on what's happening and up-to-date research articles, head on over and Like our Facebook page: We are always interested to hear your feedback and accept enquiries there.

Yours in pregnancy, birth and parenting!

The Empowered for Birth Team. :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Life got busy!

So, here I  sit three years after my last post, finally getting a chance to update.

Wow, life sure has been busy. In three years, we've increased our family from 3 to 5, my doula business has more than doubled and I've come two-thirds of the journey of becoming a midwife! In hindsight, it's not a wonder I never found time to blog.

This is a photo of Ilsa and Pete, the first couple that I have been honoured enough to support for the birth of two babies! A special thank you to them for such a lovely experience.

Well, I'm here to say that I'm back. Watch this space for more fabulous material about everything pregnancy, birth and family.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Planning Your Birth

Today, the evidence of risk of intervention in private vs. public is very sad. In public hospitals, the c-section rate is around 28% on average. In some private hospitals in Australia, the c-section rate is climbing part 60%. The World Health Organisation recommends a c-section rate of 10% to be a healthy number. (Here, a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald delves more into statistics and reasons why the rates are getting so high.)
Below, I have written an article to help inform women of their choices, the difference between those choices and the importance of choosing your care provider carefully:
Where will you have your baby? Who will offer you support? Public or private? And the choices go on... Planning your birth is not just about having a birth plan, and here's why.

The choices you make during pregnancy will more than likely have a direct impact on what kind of birth experience you have, therefore largely determining how at ease you feel with caring for your baby after the birth.

Often the first major decision that needs to be made is where to give birth to your baby. Women can tend to feel rushed into determining where they will give birth and booking in (if a hospital / birth centre is chosen). But approach with caution, as you'll see that where you decide to have your baby and who supports you during this time could very well be the most important decision you will make regarding the birth of your baby. This is because the model of care that you choose in pregnancy can hold the consequence of limiting your options and choices during your labour and birth.

Consider your beliefs about birth. Does your chosen model of care uphold the same beliefs?
Consider what type of birth you desire. Is this type of birth encouraged or even possible with the model of care you have chosen? In other words, how likely is it that you will achieve this type of birth under this model of care?

Consider your definition of a safe birth for you and your baby. What are the statistics for the model of care you have chosen? Do you believe you can achieve your definition of a safe birth under the model of care you have chosen?

Consider who should be at the centre of your birth experience. Is the model of care you have chosen woman-centred, doctor-centred or perhaps protocol-centred?

Consider how much input you should have in your birth experience. Does your care provider practice active management (completing procedures before they are required, "just in case") or expectant management (wait and see how you and your baby handle it, then intervene only if medically necessary)?

Consider when you feel interventions may become necessary. Does your care provider practice any routine procedures or interventions? Do they practice evidence-based care (when there is evidence to prove that an intervention, under certain circumstances, is safer than not intervening at all)? How do you feel about interventions and are you comfortable with your care provider's policy on interventions?

As mentioned above, planning your birth is more than having a birth plan. But birth plans are probably the best way for you to inform your birth team about what you would definitely like to see happen, what you would definitely like to avoid and what you are open to. Make your birth plan easy to read and to the point. Include in your birth plan your decisions about support people, the environment, interventions, monitoring, who's catching your baby, who's cutting the cord, when to cut the cord and where you would like your baby straight after birth. Have your care provider keep a copy of your birth plan on file to check back on so that you only have to discuss a minimal amount whilst you are in labour.

Now that you have thought more about your model of care and your birth plan, the time has come for you to be conscious of the fact that your lifestyle during pregnancy can directly affect the experience you have during the birth of your baby. It is wise to make positive lifestyle choices during this time, including good nutrition, exercising well and getting enough rest. You might also benefit from preparing yourself physically for your baby's birth, practising positions you would like to use (e.g. squatting or lunging) .

Towards the end of your pregnancy, it is a good idea to be thinking about encouraging your baby to be lying in the easiest way possible to be born. Avoiding postures where you are slouching/lying on your back and making sure you spend some time each day in the "crawling position" will encourage your baby's spine to swing to the front of your tummy. This means your baby's face will be towards your spine, which is the optimal position for your baby to be born. You can find out more about this by researching "optimal fetal positioning".

Take the time during pregnancy to practise your relaxation techniques, including using breathing and meditation to relax your body and mind. These will come in handy later on; many women find that these techniques assist the most in helping them through the discomfort of labour.

Pregnancy is a time to inform yourself about your options and make choices that are right for you. Approach the birth of your baby with an open, positive mind and think of labour as being only one contraction at a time, with a beautiful prize and well-earned rest afterwards.

Remember, your body has been beautifully and wonderfully made and you CAN achieve the birth you desire!

I hope this has given you some "food for thought".
Jen Staniforth

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quick Facts About Birth - Birth Works!

Here is an article I wrote to empower pregnant women, and to help teach them that their bodies are made perfectly with the ability to birth their baby, just how nature intended. Enjoy!

Did you know that you have been wonderfully made, with all the perfect equipment and tools required to birth your baby just the way you would like to?

Your uterus has three layers of strong muscle, made especially to birth your baby. The outer muscle layer has longitudinal fibres that allow the baby to descend by retracting. The middle layer is made of criss-cross fibres that provide the other two layers with the blood they need to work. The inner layer is made of ringed fibres that wrap around the uterus and the cervix and expel the baby by contracting.

Did you know that the blood in your body goes to where it is most needed? It is important during labour for you to relax, so that the uterus is getting as much blood as possible. If you are not relaxed your body will send more blood than is required to your extremities ready for what it predicts will happen – a ‘flight or fight’ response – and your uterus will not be able to work as efficiently. Good practices of relaxation include meditation, visualisation and positive affirmations.

Did you know that when you breathe slowly and deeply you provide your body with as much oxygen as possible? This is important during labour as the more oxygenated the blood is that goes to the uterus, the more effective it will be at birthing your baby. It is a good idea to practice breathing long, slow breaths. This can be incorporated with your relaxation routine to be used during labour.

Did you know that if you are afraid of labour being painful, it is more likely that you will actually experience pain? This is due to the “fear, tension, pain” cycle. When you experience fear, your body produces chemicals that change the way your body works, that in turn triggers the ‘flight or fight’ mechanism. This causes your uterus to continue working with less oxygen, the body tries to stop labour (thinking there is danger), and the muscles begin to work out of sequence, which causes unnecessary pain. It is important that you deal with any fears about the impending birth while you are pregnant to prevent them from having a negative affect on your labour. Relaxation and meditation can help with these.

Did you know that when you are praised and loved it can make a labour shorter, easier and happier? This is because when you feel good, a powerful hormone called oxytocin (the love hormone) is being released into your body. Oxytocin is a potent stimulator of contractions, and helps to dilate the cervix and move the baby down and out of your body. Your body will produce oxytocin to help birth your baby when you are relaxed, when your partner speaks positive words and gives you hugs, when you are comfortable and when you trust in your body and those around you.

Did you know you can help your body birth your baby by having an active labour? This does not necessarily mean continually moving around, but putting your body into positions which encourage the descent of the baby. You can use gravity to help expel your baby and you can use positions that encourage your pelvis to open and allow the baby to move through easier.

So, birthing your baby will be made much easier if you firstly surrender to your body – it knows what to do. Prepare yourself while you are pregnant to help you relax as much as possible during labour, clarify anything you are unsure about beforehand, surround yourself with people who speak positively about the impending birth and talk to your partner and your baby about the feelings you are experiencing. When the day comes, try to remain as calm as possible and focus on the practise you’ve done to prepare yourself for a beautiful labour experience!


Jen Staniforth

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Language of Birth

When I say "The Language of Birth" I don't mean all those clinical terms your birth team use (usually between each other, that you may or may not understand); I'm referring to the way you are spoken to, about or on behalf of during the labour and birth of your baby.

Imagine you had been labouring for a long time. You are tired. You are feeling weak. You may even be questioning whether you can actually do it! You arrive at the hospital. The 'medical person' asks if you'd like her to check how dilated you are. You consent. She or he does the V.E. (vaginal examination) and finds out you are 3cm. In the realm of language, it can be said one of two ways:
  • "Oh, you're only 3cm. You've really only started labour. If you haven't had the baby in another X amount of hours, we'll have to think about augmentation (speeding up labour) [which means you'll need to be strapped to a monitor and your movement will be limited, and there's also a much higher need for pain relief as chemical contractions can be much more intense than 'natural' contractions]." You are being restricted in your abilities already. Is there any need for implying that you don't have a choice as to what happens next if your body doesn't birth your baby in a certain time? This language may be considered quite threatening and you might start to feel as though you can't trust this person.

  • "Wow! You're 3cm. You've done such a good job to get to this point at home. Some people consider the most difficult part of first stage labour is 0-3cm. Keep doing what you're doing and if you need more support just let me know." You are been given a lot more freedom and probably feeling much more positive about how far you've come.

The language of birth can be so vastly different, and in the same way drive vastly different outcomes. When thinking about what to say during labour to a woman there are many things to consider, such as:

  • past experience of the woman

  • choices the woman has previously made

  • how much the woman already knows

  • what the woman would like to know

  • present choices the woman is currently needing to make

All in all, the language of birth should always be positive (even if an unexpected outcome occurs). Consider that any person that supports a woman during labour and birth (including doulas, midwives, obstetricians and others) can strongly drive how a woman copes with labour, how positive her experience is, how confident she will feel going into parenthood, and specific labour and birth outcomes, such as:

  • comfort during labour

  • feeling safe during labour

  • feeling supported during labour

  • length of labour

  • outcomes for the woman

  • outcomes for the baby

How then can the language of birth not be considered as a main concept of supporting women during such a cathartic time?

Talk to your support team during pregnancy to find out what they consider important when it comes to communicating with you at the birth of your baby.


Jen Staniforth

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Am I Allowed, Really??

I hear so many women ask if they are allowed to do something, particularly while in labour. I cringe inside at the sound of that phrase - "Am I allowed, really?"

Most women don't understand that what happens in labour is pretty negotiable. I always try to help women to remember that it is their body, their baby and their experience to protect.

For the most part, medical professionals (but usually midwives) are fairly accommodating to a woman's wishes - after all, she is having a baby; she is bringing a new life into the world; she will always remember this day... but, especially, she will always remember how she was treated.

Common questions I hear asked in terms of what a woman is "allowed" to do, include:

  • eat during labour (Why not?! Remember your body is doing some of the hardest work it will ever do, and you need to give it the energy needed to work effectively. Some hospitals [grr] are somewhat old-fashioned and prefer you not to eat should you require surgery, i.e. a c-section. Do your own research and find out there's absolutely no evidence to support that refraining from eating during labour is beneficial, in fact I would think it were on the contrare!)

  • move around during labour (There is much information on the positives of having an active labour and birth; specifically, a woman being able to take the position she feels is best will assist in keeping her as comfortable as possible, offer opportunities to get labour going or to provide the woman with some rest and allows the woman to use her intuition in adopting the best position to help baby move down through the pelvis and birth canal)

  • labour in the bath or shower (Even if the place where you are giving birth does not have a water birth policy, it is in the woman best interest to allow her to enter the bath or shower at any time she feels during her labour. There is specific information on labouring and birthing in water here.)

  • stay home as long as possible (There is actually evidence to support that staying home in labour while ever things remain 'uncomplicated' is beneficial. This is because you are generally more comfortable at home, less likely to get an infection if your membranes have ruptured, and [most importantly] you are less likely to feel as though you require the use of pain relief or intervention.)

  • have a trained support person (See my website - - or go here to read about how the Australian College of Midwives support the use of a doula.)

There are many other questions about what a woman is "allowed or not allowed" to do. My general advice would be to discuss your options during pregnancy with your birth support team - this means the people that will be supporting you on the day, including the midwives in the birthing unit. They should be helpful on what their policies suggest a woman do during the birth of her baby.

Most midwives are very accommodating in allowing women the freedom to do what makes them feel best. This is because midwives primarily practice care that is woman-centred.

Go to the Australian College of Midwives website to read about the evidence that supports every woman being attended by a midwife during the birth of her baby. And remember that the choices you make BEFORE you have your baby will strongly determine how likely it will be that you are "allowed" to do what you wish during labour and birth.

Blessings and happy informed choice making!

Jen Staniforth

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Make Birth Yours

Make Birth Yours is a series of informal meetings organised by the ACT Branch of Maternity Coalition.

As part of Maternity Coalition, Make Birth Yours is non-profit, non-political and non-sectarian.

The aim of Make Birth Yours meetings is to:

• encourage a woman-centred approach to the birth process;
• support women in viewing pregnancy and childbirth as normal physiological processes, not illnesses; and
• emphasise women's rights to make informed choices about their caregiver and place of birth.

Information on birth choices available in the ACT and surrounding area is made available at Make Birth Yours meetings.

Come and join us for an open, informal chat about how you can best prepare for a positive birth experience.

For more information, check out:

Hope to see you there!


Jen Staniforth