Denise and her blog

Published : 16/07/2024

Annual Networking Day

Saturday 13th July saw the annual networking day for our Licensed Consultants – midwives who’ve completed their studies and are already in business as well as those just finalising their plans to start up a private maternity complementary therapies practice. We got together for a relaxed day of chatting about our businesses and meeting new midwives. We started with networking bingo where everyone had to talk to each other to find out interesting facts such as “I love rice pudding” or “I’ve changed jobs in the last year” , We went on to explore our successes and challenges from the past year as well as planning our goals for the coming year. We also enjoyed a lovely lunch from the local falafel shop.

Published : 13/07/2024

My Favourite Aromatherapy Oils

My absolute favourite essential oil is lime – to me it smells like the old-fashioned Opal Fruit sweets (not Starburst!), you can even taste it in your mouth because the smell and taste senses are closely linked. Lime is a gentle oil and can be effective for sickness in pregnancy but also goes well with many other oils to balance some of the heavy aromas of oils such as black pepper or ylang ylang. Should be avoided by anyone allergic to citrus fruit such as oranges.

Ylang ylang is another firm favourite, which is surprising as it is quite a heavy floral aroma and something I don’t usually like. The oil comes from the flowers of an Indonesian tree. Ylang ylang is incredibly relaxing and can be sedative so useful for relaxation and aiding sleep. It is also claimed to be aphrodisiac, presumably because it is so relaxing.  It blends well with lighter oils such as lime, grapefruit and even cypress. In practice, my only precaution is to avoid it when working with women with postnatal depression – it is so deeply relaxing that it seems to push negative emotions deeper inside, whereas these women may benefit from more uplifting oils.

Spearmint is also a firm favourite. It has a lighter aroma than peppermint but is equally as effective for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy and during labour. Spearmint is a very uplifting oil and enhances the mood. It is a good oil to use for pain relief in labour and can be helpful for headaches (with the proviso that they are not a symptom of pre-eclampsia) and for respiratory congestion, coughs and colds.

My least favourite oil is geranium – indeed, after many years of using it when teaching,  I am now allergic to it, developing headaches and nausea and increasingly experiencing throat irritation when inhaling it. This is an important issue to take on board when using essential oils and I always discourage midwives learning aromatherapy from using oils which they dislike. This is due to certain smell receptors in the nose being aggravated by one or more chemicals in the oil – and repeated use will exacerbate this effect until eventually an allergy can occur. Having said that, many women like geranium and it is a useful oil for relaxation and aiding labour progress.


Published : 30/06/2024

The Conveyor Belt Of Childbirth

OK, so now we have a new US research paper concluding that epidural in labour reduces maternal morbidity by 35% (Kearns at all, BMJ 2024). Of course, it's a team of anaesthetic and obstetric doctors which has completed the study, which gives it the political power to affect policy and to lead organisations such as NICE potentially to recommend epidural in labour as the optimal method of pain relief. If this happens, epidural will become even more of a routine than at present, with even more risk of needing other interventions in labour, likely leading to Caesarean section.

Intervention in birth is at an all-time high, to the extent that it affects service users, service planners and service costs. Women are either petrified that they will be coerced into unwanted and unwarranted induction or Caesarean, or conversely, they have lost all confidence in the ability of their bodies to give birth naturally. Midwives are fast losing their knowledge, skills and understanding of birth as a physiological process, and have certainly lost their confidence to enable women to labour spontaneously. Service managers and budget holders have completely lost sight of the fact that physiological birth is cheaper, more fulfilling for parents and staff and far less likely to lead to ultra-expensive litigation.

Having trained as a midwife in the middle 70s,. I've seen the battle for "normal" childbirth go round and round. In the 1980s we had the Maternity Care in Action reports, in the 90s it was Changing Childbirth and more recently we've had Better Births. Despite these initiatives, we are further away than ever from physiological childbirth and midwifery seems almost to be a dying profession. The incredibly vocal anti-natural childbirth lobby has inveigled itself into the debate too and is using the sad loss of many babies to add weight to the argument that medical management of birth is essential, a move guaranteed to increase unnecessary intervention.

Midwifery is no longer the autonomous ,champion of birth that it was 50 - or even 20 - years ago. Midwives in the NHS are bowed down by petty rules and regulations, too much paperwork and not enough time to care for parents. Childbirth is a conveyor belt of monumental proportions, In which all parties - parents, midwives, doctors, managers - are supposed to know their places in the system and behave accordingly to avoid breakdowns that might interfere with the complex mechanism of the maternity services. The more checks and balances we put in, the better that mechanism will run - supposedly - but at what cost?

Woe betide any maverick who challenges the system. They are subjected to coercion and emotional blackmail if they are service users, or to extreme bullying and unnecessary managerial processes if they are staff. This means that everyone either puts up and shuts up or leaves the system. Parents choose to employ independent midwives or Douglas or even to freebirth, while midwives and doctors leave their professions completely or risk alienating themselves by daring to work in private practice. 

I am not alone in despairing for the maternity services, for expectant and birthing parents and for the midwifery profession. I recently saw a post from another Facebook page, In which someone with a well-paid but unfulfilling job was considering training as a midwife and was asking midwives whether it was a good idea. Without exception, all the respondents said "don't do it" - a very sad indictment indeed for the profession. Yet if the current midwifery profession doesn't encourage new blood, the only thing that will change is the loss of midwifery as we know it and the further pathological approach to birth.

Previous articles

Annual Networking Day

My Favourite Aromatherapy Oils

The Conveyor Belt Of Childbirth

Best Foot Forward: Teaching Reflexology In Hong Kong 

Safe Use Of Natural Remedies In Pregnancy: Guidelines For Maternity Professionals

Why is it that “money” is a dirty word in the NHS?

It’s Aromatherapy Awareness Week!

Making The Move To Starting Your Own Maternity-Related Business

What Is A Practising Midwife?

The Power of Reflexology: Predicting Stages of the Menstrual Cycle