If you’re reading this it’s because you’re pregnant – so first of all congratulations! We are Leila and Katie, NHS midwives with 21 years of experience between us, and the founders of Better Births Antenatal Classes (BBANC). The reason we decided to start BBANC was because of the lack of honesty and integrity offered to women preparing for their birth experiences. The NHS is wonderful, but it’s also under a great deal of pressure, and so often women find themselves seeking out other sources of information, such as on social media and internet sites, where the advice may not always be helpful or trustworthy. Our aim is to empower women with evidence-based, practical and professional antenatal preparation to help them achieve a better birth.
So, here’s our top five tips for taking ownership of your pregnancy, birth, and beyond.
Do not compare yourself or your pregnancy:
Pregnancy isn’t always what society portrays it as, you might love every second of it, which is great, or you might hate it, which is also ok, but just know this: whatever your experience, it’s personal to you. It’s specific to you. Don’t compare your happiness (or lack thereof), don’t compare your bump (size or shape), your symptoms (debilitating or nonexistent), or your labour (a breeze or a marathon), and please, above all else, take this advice forward with you into motherhood and don’t compare your baby, or perception of yourself as a mother, to anyone else. Every single experience will be different and unique in one way or another and by making comparisons, you only put pressure on yourself to feel the way you think you ‘should’, which will in all likelihood leave you feeling like you’ve fallen short somehow.
Preparation is key:
Pregnancy can be so overwhelming, and there’s often a huge focus on the labour and birth – but what about what comes after? Once your baby is born, people often expect you to have magically acquired all the knowledge you’ll ever need to raise your little bundle of joy. Sorry, but unfortunately there is no magic wand to wave! Preparation is key. This doesn’t just mean sorting the nursery and buying baby clothes – it means educating and empowering yourself with the knowledge you need in order to grow a new human being, and also to grow yourself. The transition from woman to mother is huge, so preparing yourself for this change is a must.
Your body, your choice:
If we had to choose our most important piece of advice, it would be this one. Whether your care is in the NHS or the private sector, the rules are the same – you decide what happens. We can sometimes be made to feel like we have to do what the medics tell us, but that’s simply not true. Healthcare professionals are there to advise you, and arm you with information, so that you can come up with a plan for your pregnancy, labour, and birth together – but ultimately, all decisions are yours. That’s why knowledge is power. In order for you to feel confident in your decision and know what’s best for your body, you need to arm yourself with evidence-based information so that you are truly at the centre of your own care.
Fed is best:
As you journey into motherhood you will hear from healthcare professionals, friends, and even neighbours about how they think you ‘should’ feed your baby. Our advice is this: do the research yourself, find out what suits you and your lifestyle and go with what you want! Breastfeeding is truly incredible, but not when you’re not enjoying it. A happy mum truly makes a happy baby, so don’t put so much pressure on yourself – a fed baby is best! Be open-minded and arm yourself with evidence-based information, then make a decision that’s best for you, your baby and your family.
Put yourself first:
The best piece of advice we can give you as you make that transition from woman to mother is to prioritise yourself in those early postnatal days. Limiting visitors and connecting with yourself and your baby is vital for both your physical recovery and emotional wellbeing. Try to also do one thing for yourself everyday, even if that’s just putting on some mascara one morning and washing your hair the next! Do these small things with great love, but most of all be kind to yourself. Remember mama: the nights are long, but the years are short, so try and find a little bit of self-love and enjoyment in every moment.
You’ve got this mama, and at BBANC we got you too!
Much love, Leila and Katie x
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Leila began a career in midwifery at the age of 18 and hasn’t looked back since. With a first class honours degree, she has worked across four different NHS trusts over the last ten years and is now a team leader of a community team.
Katie completed a degree in sociology before starting her journey as a midwife in 2010. Upon returning from maternity leave in 2020, she has stepped into a maternity service innovation role.
In 2017, they teamed up to establish Better Births Antenatal Classes (BBANC) – sharing the latest evidence surrounding childbirth and the transition to parenthood in order to empower women to make positive birth choices – whatever these may be.