(image credit: Science Blogs)

If sex and orgasms offend you or your sensitive nature, then please, turn off your computer, the internet is not for you. Especially a page that is about being a student midwife – I mean, babies appear in the majority of cases because sex has preceded them approximately 9 months earlier, and usually someone has achieved orgasm (some think it can even improve your chances of conceiving!).

So let me get straight to the punchline: I think that female sex aides should be part of the holistic tool kit available to women to boost contractions.

Read that sentence again if you like, it still says what you think it says.


(Image credit of Oxytocin as a molecule: Wiki)

As a midwife, or a student, there will probably have been some point in your training or career where you have explained the miracle of oxytocin to women (and their partners) and its wondrous effects on birth. You haven’t? Don’t fib. I know I have, because I like to give women actual information due to my sciencey, facty, “this is why” nature.

I get a fair amount of feedback about how much information I give women – not that I shouldn’t give it, but that I need to find a more concise way to convey it AND I need to judge when that information is really needed (in my opinion, it’s always needed because informed choice, but hey, I get the point). So my explanation of syntocinon is a little like this:

It’s a synthetic form of oxytocin, and that’s the hormone that gets your uterus muscles to contract.

Pretty snippy innit?

Oxytocin explanation?:

Your cervix being stimulated, especially by baby’s head pushing against it, acts like a “release button” every time it’s pushed, it tells your brain to release oxytocin to get the uterus contracting – it’s why we ask you to be active, to go for a walk, to use the stairs – gravity is going to help that baby’s head press the button.

A fair mix of fact and colloquial, in my humble opinion.

So as for the activity advice some units (ours does) provide birthing balls for women, it takes pressure off their coccyx it bounces baby a bit to get it downs wards onto the cervix. We have a huge set of stairs in the unit that women are encouraged to use, and an even bigger set round the corner in an adjacent unit. I’ve lost count of the number of times that women have told me that these stairs have been responsible for the onset of labour for them. We also have essential oils available for women to use including clary sage, which is provided with the information that it aids uterine contractions.

All these things working because OXYTOCIN.

We offer syntocinon as a synthetic option to get labour going, but what if we offered something else to release a massive shot of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine? All the good birthing hormones, the enemies of adrenaline.

What if we offered something like this:

clit stimulator

No it’s not C3-PO’s appendix, it’s a clitoral stimulator. You can get one here if you’d like from Ann Summers, only £5.

Clitoral and nipple stimulation to induce an orgasm is a win-win for a woman in labour, banishes those pesky stress hormones and potentially jump starts what should be happening more often.

(Gif source:

You’re either laughing now, or thinking, “What in the effing Jeff is this post about? Is she serious.” Why yes, yes I am.

An orgasm releases all of those chemicals and as Ina May Gaskin said (ish) What got baby in will get baby out.
I wrote about something similar towards the end of last year, the couple who were interrupted by a domestic while having sex in the woman’s hospital room. The spokesperson said that it was an encouraged method of starting contractions and they have no issues with it, but ask people to put a “Do not disturb” notice on the door (although I maintain that if the woman had knocked and not  had permission to go in, she should have stayed outside…didn’t I make a joke about “Come in” of course I did. Too good an opportunity for a pun to be missed there).

Anyway, let’s get back to what I was saying: I think that for the low price of £5 a woman could make used of evidence based research to help her labour. Is it really that ridiculous? I have mentioned it to a couple of people and been met with laughter and then “Wait…you’re serious? The NHS giving out vibrators to women?!”

Imagine the awesome birth boxes people would keep “This is your name band, this is a picture of your dad changing your first nappy,  here’s your umbilical cord, and this is the little beauty that helped mummy get you out into the world!” Would it be more embarrassing than seeing that your mother kept your foreskin? Who knows.

So the evidence is there, the price is lower than a birth ball, and perhaps the cost of a syringe of syntocinon (is it? Actually I don’t know how much that costs) AND the woman would get an orgasm – I’m not seeing the negative here. It can work for women whose membrane have ruptured as there’s no vaginal insertion required. I reckon this is a Million Dollar idea.

Of course, it could be completely mad. I haven’t decided.

What do you think?

Heather xx

ps – just in case you didn’t get the Rabbit picture reference > Rabbit


Come to the Ca-boob-ray

“Thank you, Heather, thank you so much”

That is what you will be saying at the end of this post, because you will realise that if you have been breast feeding in public – you’ve probably been doing it all wrong. This handy guide will help you sort that out and avoid any further embarrassment.

If you’re not breast feeding, but see someone in public without the following kit, this guide is to help you show them where they are going wrong – every mother likes to be told how wrong they are doing something by strangers and family-members alike, so she will welcome your comments.

For instance, some mothers may think that the needs of their baby – like feeding – are the most important thing when it comes to breast feeding in public, but WOW are they wrong.

Your Guide to Ostentatious Breast Feeding

Step 1
Before you leave the house, be sure that you are wearing attire similar to this:

carnival costumeI

If you don’t own an outfit like the one above, it’s clear that you have your priorities wrong, and clearly need this guide. If you own something equally flamboyant, or if you are able to transfigure yourself into a peacock with boobs, that’s also very helpful.
Keep this outfit in your bag, then before starting to feed, go to the toilet and change into it – that’s what people mean when they say women should “go to the bathroom” when they see them feeding their babies in public – it’s because you haven’t changed into your carnival attire and everyone around you is embarrassed for you. Seriously, will you never think of others?

Step 2
Did you put “Fanfare” on your baby shower wish list? NO?! Goodness this is worse than I thought.

Ok, Google some musicians forthwith so that you can employ them to play this just before you begin the feed.

This will alert the entire venue you have chosen for your display to the fact you are about to begin. It will usually command a short period of silence – during this time you can ask each and every person present for permission to feed your baby – if anyone objects, well pack up your bags and move along.
Don’t worry if the noise startles your baby or if they begin to scream with hunger as you move to a more suitable place – a corner perhaps, he or she will soon get used to it. Please, stop being concerned over this child’s needs – you’re going to ruin them with love if you’re not too careful.

Step 3
Ask a nearby person if they would mind holding one of these for you:

portable spotlight

They should point it directly at you and make sure that everyone has heard the fanfare and given permission for you to feed your child. If the light is glaring and baby squints uncomfortably, consider getting a blanket for baby’s face. It’s often what people mean when they say “Use a cover, no one wants to see that” they mean that baby’s mug is getting in the way of the breast show. This display is all about you anyway, that baby is just distracting people from your clear efforts to show off your breasts.

Of course, it’s more helpful to bring one of these with you:

neon arrow

but if you’re one of those terrible women who are single mothers, you might not be able to lug it around on your own, or install it, because let’s face it, you’re only a female, aren’t you, dear?

Step 4

Once baby has finished breast feeding, you can probably expect a round of applause, possibly flowers being thrown at you, certainly an Olivier nomination.

Yes, of course I’m joking, this is not a serious post and should not be inferred as such. If you think I’m serious, you’re being silly.

Breast feeding is a choice mothers make for themselves and their children – so is artificial feeding. If the person complaining did not grow the child inside their own body, they don’t get to be on the list of people for consideration of that decision.

Nigel Farage had one thing right about using the word “ostentatious” – the definition reads:
“characterized by pretentious or showy display; designed to impress.”

and guess what? When someone is breast feeding you should be impressed – they are making food with their body and using that food to feed the child they grew inside them.

What’s your super power?

Media links used in this post:
Carnival Outfit

Farage Story (don’t worry, it’s a link to The Independent)

Heather xx

Sex With Strangers…walking in.

During the past week there was a momentary blip across the news desks of the nation; something happened in Bristol that shook the prudes among us to their very cores. Was it a giant, inflatable butt plug being passed off as a Christmas decoration? No.

The news was that a domestic at St Michael’s Hospital, Bristol, has walked in on a couple having sex in a private room on the maternity ward. The woman having sex was heavily pregnant and she was waiting to be induced.

mrs overallJulie Walters as Mrs Overall in Acorn Antiques.
Image from BFI

While it was in discussion for a few minutes at uni over coffee, the usual phrases came out that we all talk about when trying to give advice to women about non-pharmacological ways of inducing labour:

  • Orgasms stimulating uterine muscle contractions
  • Relaxing helps the flow of oxytocin – responsible for uterine contractions
  • Semen being rich in prostaglandin (a synthetic version of this being used as a pessary for induction otherwise)

Unfortunately there is no hard and fast evidence that sex itself leads to the onset of labour – but the reasons above are all true. As Ina May Gaskin says:

“Breast stimulation is especially effective in starting labor at term when it is combined with sexual intercourse. Unless your partner is an abysmally poor lover, this combination is by far the most enjoyable method of induction.” 

The one other point that was brought up was the lack of the domestic’s common courtesy; now the story says that she had heard complaints from other women…then walked in on the couple and was offended not only by what they were doing, but the fact that everyone else (midwives MSWs etc) pretty much told her that it’s fine for couples to get down to it. They are, however, asked to put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, which apparently hadn’t been done.

First: massive round of applause to St Mike’s for standing up for women against prudishness. How someone can work in a maternity ward and be offended by sex, I’ll never know. Perhaps she thought a midwife’s duties involved waiting for storks and pruning the cabbage patch.

Second: I was at St Mike’s a few weeks ago (not as a student midwife!) and the other sign that is up all over the place is about knocking and waiting for a reply; signs about dignity and privacy.

Maybe she did knock and thought someone yelled “COME IN”? *ahem* 😉

Evidently I must have missed the signs about talking to a newspaper regarding people’s personal business.

The way that it has been phrased in the press is “a hospital source”; so has this domestic reported it herself, or has she gossiped to someone else (who comments “Amazing” read somewhat sarcastically) who then goes to the paper? Either way it’s tasteless behaviour by anyone involved in bringing it to the attention of the press, but I must also applaud the vast majority of commenters on al the stories saying that sex is a way to achieve childbirth and everyone needs to get over themselves. Well done, people!

As for the domestic, I’m not sure where she’ll end up, but it looks like she started here as the child in the blue baseball cap 🙂

Bright Friday

Dumbing down the science as much as possible, I will tell you that the “colour” black isn’t a colour at all; it downright refuses to reflect any of the colours that light bounces against it. Rams all the colour into it and keeps it for itself. Greedy black.

So Black Friday is well named, isn’t it really? Judging by recent footage people are rammed into a small space and greedily grab as much as they can carry.

I used to work as a customer service assistant at The Bear Factory (now Build-a-Bear) – yes it was as awesome as it sounds…until it was very, very crowded and people lost sight of the fact that they were getting cross about pricing ON A FOOTBALL KIT FOR A BEAR. In a buzzing crowd, it’s easy to lose perspective, I guess.

Perspective: this is one of my friends from school, bright, enthusiastic, kind – and reached out to me when I was a lonely “keener” weirdo.

Trina Hamblin

Trina on Leavers’ Day 15th May 1998

Trina, yes that’s her real name, yes I know that I said it would only be my name that was real on this blog, but there’s a good reason for her name being here.

At a young age, Trina was fostered into the family I knew as hers. While at school her foster mum sadly died, and she experienced a loss I couldn’t understand or quantify. She was bright and enthusiastic and joined Army Cadets and LOVED it. She left school after her GCSEs and the last time I saw her face-to-face  was about two years after that and she was telling me about what she was studying at college. Telling me about society being any group of people, some really insightful stuff and she was doing well.

That was about fifteen years ago; we’ve chatted on Bookface now and again – but I can safely say we lost touch.

I was shocked to hear a few weeks ago that she’d died rather suddenly; my first thoughts turned to that bastard we all love to hate: Cancer. It made sense, cancer can be quantified, publicly fought, proudly beaten, or agonisingly terminal. It doesn’t discriminate between the old and the young. That’s how my mum died – I could relate to it, if not accept it.

Sadly Trina was fighting a different disease: depression. The killer that walks among us, thriving on silence and misunderstanding. It was an even greater shock to be told that Trina had in fact taken her own life.

I was stunned, what could have happened? I has some selfish thoughts: “Could I have been there for her more?” “If only we hadn’t lost touch” “Maybe I could have been someone she could have talked to.”
They’re selfish thoughts because Trina was surrounded by family and friends who loved her, and being perfectly frank with myself – who the hell do I think I am that could have been there for her instead of her family?!

I attended her funeral on the 5th November and I’m pleased to say that I did *not* sit down. I couldn’t – Canford Crematorium was absolutely packed to the rafters. You might think that off for someone who saw death as a solution, but often people who feel a deep loneliness can do so surrounded by people.

I squeezed in at the back among strangers. My tears fell freely as the person holding the service read out a letter…written by Trina. I won’t disclose what was written, it was directed to the people who had come, but it was heartbreaking to hear words she had written herself having made up her mind. Her birth mother spoke and said much the same, that Trina had seemed to cheer up in her final days, and they guessed afterwards that it was because she knew that she was going to do it.

I hadn’t known Trina in her adult life at all, I don’t know what she faced in that time, or how any of her past pain my have re-surfaced. I regret this; I really regret this.

There will be someone reading this now who has faced depression or may be going through it now, you might be at the end of your tether and feel hopeless, or helpless or that no one cares. This one is for you

a sign

Please call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90

To some that might seem crass, but I’m happy to risk that if just one person sees it and thinks “Ok, I wasn’t sure why I was going to read this blog post, but now I see why”, then that’s ok.

So why the link to Black Friday? Why call it Bright Friday instead? Because for all the TVs, games consoles, electronic bargains that people have clambered over each other to buy, snatch and grab, I’m sure that there are countless others who would crawl over hot coals to grab, snatch and *steal* a few more hours with a lost loved one. THAT is perspective.

Call the people you love, visit the friends you miss, god dammit write a letter to relatives, just reach out and stop missing out on the chances to catch up and show you give a monkeys. There will be new “stuff” every year that we can buy, but some things pass by and are wasted.

I apologise if this has been a depressing post, but when I see how much material stuff seems to matter to people that they will literally trample others, it’s time to get a reality check and consider what is really worth your time and effort.

Allie Brosh is an incredibly talented bloggess, she has a “real life” but her blog  posts about depression are wonderfully open and honest.

Read the first one here.

The second is here

You should read her other stuff too because it’s very funny, click the image for a link to one of her all time funniest posts for a bit of cheeriness!


FAS: Support vs Blame

Switching from an 8.30 – 4.30 placement to shifts last week, I found myself within earshot of the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2. I was shouting at the radio as people mansplained the catcalling video that’s still doing the rounds. However, that’s not what this post is about; we’ll leave the objectification of women and how they should be grateful for the attention (*sigh*) to another post, another day.

The story that struck me was that there is currently an appeal taking place for compensation to be awarded to a child who is suffering the effects of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). The high tribunal found that the pregnant mother was not at fault as the nature of the crime alleged couldn’t be a committed against a someone who was classed as “not a person” in terms of the law. You can read it here.
Cases have been successful before, but the rules changed in November 2012, so only cases submitted before that date have paid out (if awarded) since that date. Just this September compensation of £500,000 was awarded to a girl whose mother “drank heavily” during pregnancy.

When alcohol is consumed during pregnancy it has the potential to cause physiological damage to the foetus and later behavioural issues too. Organ development, hormone function and dysmorphic facial features of children have been linked to the impairments presented by alcohol consumption of the mother. There is also the increased possibility that a child will have a lowered concept of consequences of their actions as they grow up and a lack of understanding boundaries making it difficult for them to socialise at their age level. Difficulty in communicating can lead to frustration, and subsequent lashing out both verbally and physically.

Where folic acid is most effective during the first 14 weeks of foetal development, alcohol is most damaging in the first half of that period – a time when a lot of women don’t even know they are pregnant.
The advice given by midwives is “We don’t know what would be classed as a “safe” amount of alcohol, so our advice is to avoid it completely.” avoidance in place of evidence is currently best practice when it comes to drinking. The word “excessive” is used in relation to the amount of alcohol being drunk, but as that’s a subjective term to most it’s not particularly helpful. Nor is it helpful to read or hear of news stories and studies proclaiming that it’s “nothing to worry about” – this creates blurred lines, confusion, and often leads to women having to interpret the recommendations for themselves.

So then, what of this story? It’s asking that women who have babies with FAS are to be prosecuted and the victim (child) to be compensated. I have endless sympathy with all children born with extra struggles and obstacles to be overcome…or insurmountable ones – but will criminalising women really help?


Gosh that was black and white of me, wasn’t it? Yep.

In my personal experience caring for women with both drug and alcohol misuse, trust is a damned precious thing. In many cases, they have been engaging with the health services on and off for a long while for various reasons and may have been let down, reprimanded, or made to feel less than they are worth. When they choose to come to midwives with their pregnancy, the last thing they would want would be to hear about the legal implications of their actions; damnit it’s already difficult enough to sensitively assert the effects of the substances on the life growing inside them, and that’s without looming criminal proceedings.

Negative discriminatory attitudes exist in all walks of life, and I shudder to recall some of the things I have overheard from seemingly disillusioned health professionals. In my humble opinion, if you feel so strongly about a Daily M*il-type comment spinning around your thought process that you have to verbalise it perhaps working with people is not for you.

Honesty from women about what they are consuming is something borne of their trust, and if that has already been taken for granted, abused, and generally disrespected by others, why the hell are they going to give it to me? I have to earn it, and that would be made one hundred times harder if they are thinking that I’m helping with one hand, but writing secret updates for the Crown Prosecution Service over their “intrauterine child abuse” with the other.

Women who are smoking while pregnant are offered rightly support, not condemnation despite the health and behavioural problems this can cause children – including the anti-social disorders linked with FAS. Stop Smoking services are offered, but not compulsory. With women I’ve cared for, I have congratulated their efforts in cutting down on cigarettes, even if they are not at zero. The fact that they have reduced their smoking means they understand the health implications and are actively making an effort (much as the mother in this particular case did) – that should be applauded and encouraged. I can’t imagine they would share anything else with me if they thought they were always going to be met with negativity and reprimands.

I very much hope that there is a measured response to the appeal currently taking place; the suffering of the child in question is to be acknowledged, but if that is through the persecution and subsequent prosecution of their mother – I cannot support it.
When women with problems like alcoholism become pregnant, it is often the only regular contact that they will have with health services and we should be making the most of the opportunity to engage with them for support and help. If they think they will be deemed criminals of sorts we run the risk of them not engaging at all, further endangering their unborn child. I have had the opportunity to work with excellent specialist midwives and doctors so far who uphold the same ideals. Should the ruling for the appeal deem it necessary to wholly hold mothers accountable, the antenatal care will undoubtedly change and I fear this will be to the detriment of mothers, and subsequently their children.