Top 5 packing essentials for a calm and relaxed birth

Top 5 packing essentials for a calm and relaxed birth

By 37 weeks, the majority of mums to be have their hospital bags packed and ready to go at the first sign of the slightest twinge down below. No doubt it will be filled with newborn nappies, vests and baby grows along with multiple packs baby wipes, cotton wool and breast pads. From the baby’s perspective, you’re 100% ready. But what about what you need? 

As an antenatal instructor, the course I teach focusses on how to have a calm, relaxed and positive birth experience, and having experienced a positive birth with both of my babies, I’m often asked by my clients what they should pack to help them relax while in labour.

So here’s my top five essential items that I literally wouldn’t leave home without:

1. MP3’s and music. I’d spent almost my entire pregnancy going to sleep at night listening to my Wise Hippo hypnobirthing MP3s and I would have been absolutely lost without them on the day. I purchased a small, portable speaker that worked really well and made sure all my devices were fully charged with backups just in case….For me there would never have been a worse time to run out of battery!

2. Photos of family and loved ones. Photos of your kids, your dog or simply that beach you visited on your honeymoon is a sure fire way to get the Oxytocin flowing. This is the body’s love hormone and is essential during birth. It’s the sole reason behind the saying ‘hugs before drugs’ because if your body can release oxytocin in high enough levels not only will it ensure your surges are regular, it will mix with your bodies endorphins to act as a natural pain reliever.

3. Your birth plan. If you haven’t written one yet, make it your priority. Without it, you can never expect to get the birth you want for you or your baby.  Midwives and care givers are not mind readers and you should make the assumption that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. It’s also a great exercise to make sure that you and your birth partner are on the same page. Once you’re both happy with it, print it multiple times and hand a copy to literally everyone you come into contact with.

4. Flannel / eye mask. Bright lights stimulate adrenalin in your body, which can slow your surges down. You would rarely see an animal in the wild giving birth out in the open. Even my neighbour’s cat disappeared under the sofa once and came out two days later as a mum of six! An eye mask is the perfect light blocker but my preference was just a simple face cloth which my husband kept wetting with cold water and laying across my eyes while I floated in the pool, relaxing and cooling all in one.

5. A plastic drinking straw. While I appreciate the environmental impacts, this is an item I simply couldn’t have done without and not once did I use it for drinking with! Not many people are aware that a woman’s vagina is physiologically connected to their jaw! Strange but true. And tension held around the jaw will automatically be mirrored down below. The key to a calm and positive birth is to keep the whole body as relaxed as possible –  this is where the straw comes in. If you simply place a drinking straw in your mouth, it positions your lips in such way that it is incredibly difficult to bite your teeth and clench your jaw. Give it a go, it really works.

Of course I had also packed a huge amount of other stuff, just in case I needed it….I didn’t. And yes it looked like we were moving into the Birthing Centre at West Middlesex Hospital but who cares? I felt prepared, I felt ready, I felt excited and that’s all that mattered.

Louisa McDonald


Ten is the magic number. But three is pretty magical too.

Ten is the magic number. But three is pretty magical too.

When you hear those magic words, ‘you’re 10cm dilated,’  you know it won’t be long until you finally get to meet your baby. 

For some, you may be surprised how quickly you reached the all important 10cm and for others it may feel like the longest, hardest journey of your lives.

But to reach 10cm, there was a point in time where you were 3cms! I hear so many stories of  women getting disheartened when they have an examination and their midwife turns to them and say’s ‘you’re only 3cm.’

At that moment, it may feel like you’re wading through treacle, you’re not getting anywhere fast and you still have a mountain to climb. 

Trust me, there is no such thing as ‘ONLY’ being 3cm dilated. If you had any idea what your body had already achieved for your cervix to be 3cm dilated, you would be celebrating how utterly brilliantly you were doing.

To get to 3cms your cervix has already done a superb job. It is softening and thinning out and it’s committed to doing this to the very best of its ability.  You don’t need to know the details you just need to know that it’s a lot. A lot for someone who has spent the last nine months growing and looking after an actual human. A lot for someone who for the past three months hasn’t had a full night’s sleep due to said human lying and kicking on your bladder relentlessly. Just alot.

For those who do like to know the details, your cervix starts out at about 2cm thick, think the thickness of an average thumb, and needs to become as thin as a piece of paper. That’s a lot of thinning required.

All this is happening during early labour. Each and every one of your surges have got you to this point. Each and every surge is bringing your baby closer to you. 

And remember, the number of cm you are dilated is simply a snapshot in time and bears no indication of how long your labour will last. you might be 3cms right now but you could easily reach 10cm within the hour. Every woman is different, every baby is different and no one can predict how quickly you will progress.

So if you hear those words, ‘you’re only 3cm,’ stop, take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve already come and celebrate the fact that YOU ARE 3CM! Your body is amazing. You are amazing. You’ve totally got this.

Louisa McDonald

With thanks to for the excellent illustration.

The majority of labour is pain free.

The majority of labour is pain free.

You’d be forgiven for thinking I was lying if I was to tell you that you won’t experience any pain at all for the majority of your labour….77% of your labour in fact. Well I’m not lying and its a stat that literally lights up my client’s eyes and certainly put everything into perspective during the birth of my son.

This mathematical masterpiece comes courtesy of Milli Hill, author of The Positive Birth Book, an absolute must read for anyone preparing to give birth.

As Milli explains, the average surge lasts for one minute and the first stage of labour, when our cervix is dilating, lasts on average, eight hours.

During your first hour, you may experience three surges. That’s three minutes.

Things may increase during the second hour and you may experience a surge every 10 minutes. That’s six minutes.

During the third hour, your surges may increase to five minutes apart. That’s 12 minutes.

Throughout the final five hours you’re likely to experience the ultimate, ‘3 in 10’, three surges, every ten minutes which equates to 18 surges in an hour. That’s 90 minutes over the five hour period.

So we have a total of 111 minutes of an eight hour labour where you are experiencing any kind of pain or sensation. The other 369 minutes (77%) is completely and utterly pain free.

Milli also reminds us that in fact its only really the 20 seconds at the peak of the surge that is the actual painful bit. The first 20 seconds of the surge is the build up and the last 20 seconds is the come down. So out of 480 minutes of labour we’re now looking at just 37 minutes of discomfort. Pretty impressive huh? 

Louisa McDonald


Did Kate Middleton have ‘The perfect birth?’

Did Kate Middleton have ‘The perfect birth?’

When the Duchess of Cambridge emerged on the hospital steps just four hours after giving birth to Prince Louis, jaws dropped around the world.

How is it possible to look that good a matter of hours after having a baby? She certainly proved that she was not too posh to push, there’s no way she would have been standing there, waving at the world’s media, if she had undergone a C-section earlier that day.

Kate Middleton has now confirmed that she used hypnobirthing techniques for all of her babies and while I’m sure we will never find out exactly what went on in that birth suite, I’ve heard many people say she must have had ‘the perfect birth.’ But what does that actually mean?

Some think that to achieve the perfect birth it has to be quick, natural, drug free and set to a backdrop of relaxing music and battery powered candlelight. And of course many people achieve exactly that.

However while this may be the dream, if it doesn’t work out that way it does it mean you have failed? Does it mean you did not achieve ‘the perfect birth?’ Not at all.

There is a staggering amount of evidence suggesting that by visualising exactly what you want will help you to achieve your goals and therefore it’s hugely beneficial to focus on your perfect birth experience throughout your pregnancy. However it is more important to remember that in fact, the perfect birth is simply the birth that was right for you and your baby on the day. Not what was right for me, or your sister, or the future Queen of England, but for you.

I literally can not emphasise enough that it doesn’t have to be painless, easy and involve Tibetan chanting for it to be perfect.

The perfect birth is where you are able to look back and know that you were calling the shots.

The perfect birth is being able to reflect on your experience positively and cherish the memory of the first time you met your baby.

The perfect birth is where you know you were in the driving seat, completely in control, even if that meant making the decision to hand over to the experts due to special circumstances.

The perfect birth can be raw, powerful, exhilarating and breathtaking.

The techniques included in The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme will not only enable you to let go of any fears you may be holding onto around childbirth, it will teach you how to stay calm and relaxed while empowering you to take control of your birth experience. In other words, this means failing to achieve the perfect birth is simply not an option. 

And let’s be honest, if it’s good enough for a Princess, it’s good enough for you.

Louisa McDonald.



ESTIMATED due date

ESTIMATED due date

After the news sinks in that the little blue line on the white stick means you are in fact pregnant, your next thought instantly turns to when is my little bundle of joy going to make an appearance. Obviously, Google will know the answer so we get out our phones, answer a few simple questions and are presented with a date. A date that we have no control over. A date when our lives will change forever. A date that we will be counting down to over the coming months.

Everyone asks about the due date, our nearest and dearest set reminders on their calendars, its written on all our medical notes, highlighted and underlined twice, at 12 weeks we are even invited to a dating scan to check the date. The date is important, there’s no doubt about that but if it’s being referred to as an ‘Estimated Due Date’ (EDD) how accurate is it?

Well, the truth is, not very. We still use Dr Franz Naegele’s method of calculation that he publicised all the way back in 1812. A theory based on information found in the bible, that a pregnancy lasts 10 lunar months. More specifically, Naegele’s rule calculates the estimated due date by adding one year, subtracting three months, then adding seven days to the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period. Obviously, the rule doesn’t take into account differing lengths of menstrual cycles, actual conception dates or how long it took for the sperm to reach the egg, which believe it or not can take up to four days!

The Royal College of Midwives states that the average pregnancy lasts anywhere between 37-42 weeks. This means less than 5% of babies are actually born on their due date. For the vast majority of pregnant mums, they either never make it that far, or the date just comes and goes like any other day, except they feel that little bit heavier and they have replied to over a dozen messages with the words, ‘no sign of any movement yet’!

If your Estimated Due Date changes as the result of your dating scan, hospitals will consider the scan date to be the most accurate. It’s important to remember however, that not only are scans not 100% accurate, women are all different and our babies grow at different rates.

The number of days hospitals will be happy for you to go over your due date before they are keen to induce varies from trust to trust, a further indication that there are no hard and fast rules about Estimated Due Dates.

As I approached two weeks overdue with my first child, I was under pressure from my midwives to be induced. Thankfully by 40 weeks + 12 days, I went into labour naturally and my daughter was born at a tiny but perfect 6lbs, 6oz. She clearly was nowhere near ready to make an appearance on my ESTIMATED due date.

If you find yourself going past that all-important due date and you are starting to face pressure from your midwife to schedule an induction, here’s a few things to consider when making your decision:

  • How accurate do you think your estimated due date really is? A few days could make all the difference.
  • What is the hospital policy and how does this compare to the national NICE guidelines?
  • What are the risks of being induced vs. the risks of waiting for labour to start naturally?
  • What are the alternatives to being induced? Generally, hospitals will want to regularly monitor you when you pass a particular date.
  • What is your intuition telling you? Remember, only you know how you really feel.
  • Most importantly, don’t forget that you are in charge of all decisions when it comes to birthing your baby. It is absolutely ok to decline an induction if it is not what you want so work with your midwives to find an alternative instead.

And while you’re waiting, get drinking that raspberry leaf tea, go for a hike and start walking up the stairs sideways. You never know, it might just do the trick!

For more information check out the Born 2 Birth website,

Louisa McDonald, Born 2 Birth.



Ten reasons why hypnobirthing is right for you and your baby

Ten reasons why hypnobirthing is right for you and your baby

If you’re anything like me, finding out your pregnant can be both exciting and daunting in equal measures. Half of you sticks your bump out proudly wherever you go, while the other half is quietly panicking inside…..what will labour be like? How will I cope with the pain? How on earth am I going to prepare for this massive life-changing event?

Well, the good news is, you don’t have to worry about any of those things, or the other hundred issues swirling about your mind. Wouldn’t it be amazing if all you had to think about is the excitement of meeting your beautiful baby for the very first time? This is how I felt after doing The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme. Not only did it prepare me for two amazing births, but it changed my perspective so much I have now trained to become an instructor myself.

The vast amount of pregnant women attend some form of antenatal education during their pregnancy. Of course these sessions are packed with interesting and relevant information to guide you through your pregnancy and birth but do they really give you EVERYTHING you need when you’re preparing for the most important day of your life?

Unlike traditional antenatal courses, Born 2 Birth’s Wise Hippo Birthing Programme focusses on providing you with the tools you and your birthing partner need to make sure you have the right birth on the day.

1. You will learn about the physiology of birth and how our mind impacts our body.
2. You will learn valuable tools to enable you to become an expert in deep relaxation.
3. You will learn how to look at birth as a positive, exciting experience.
4. You will release any fears you may have about birthing your baby so that you can become relaxed and confident.
5. You will learn how to make informed decisions that will support you through your pregnancy and birth to ensure you have the right birth on the day.
6. You are more likely to birth naturally and are less likely to need pain relief.
7. You will be able to remain calm and in control no matter what path your birthing takes.
8. You will feel more prepared for your babies arrival on both a practical and emotional level.
9. Your birthing partner will learn about their role and how they can best support you on the day.
10. You can make sure that the birth of your baby becomes a memory you will always cherish.

For more information check out the Born 2 Birth website,

Louisa McDonald, Born 2 Birth.