“Once a Cesarean, always a Cesarean” has been the standard recommendation for many years. But the increasingly high cesarean section (C-section) rates around the world have led doctors to reassess the risks of a cesarean section versus delivering vaginally after having a previous C-section.

Repeat C-section or VBAC? The answer is not straightforward. Both options do come with some risks, and those risks vary depending on the woman and the specific pregnancy.

Here’s what you need to know about a vaginal birth after cesarean section and what you should discuss with your doctor if you want to try delivering your next baby vaginally.

1) What is a vaginal birth after cesarean delivery (VBAC)?

If you’re pregnant again and your last baby was born via cesarean section, this time you have two choices about how to give birth:

  1. an elective repeat caesarean section (ERCS), or
  2. a VBAC. “VBAC” stands for “vaginal birth after cesarean” and refers to giving birth through the vagina after a woman has already had a C-section. Vaginal birth also includes deliveries assisted by forceps or ventouse.

Planning for a vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) or choosing an ERCS have different benefits and risks (see below).

A TOLAC (trial of labor after cesarean delivery) is the attempt to have a VBAC. If it is successful, TOLAC results in a vaginal birth. If it is not successful, you will need another cesarean delivery.

2) What are my chances of giving birth vaginally after having a C-section?

As long as you are an appropriate candidate for a VBAC, there are good chances to succeed: about 60 to 80% of women who attempt a VBAC will deliver vaginally.

There are certain factors which affect the chances of success, both related to the mother and the baby (see below). Nevertheless, it’s impossible to predict with certainty who will be able to have a vaginal delivery and who will end up with a repeat c-section.

A previous vaginal delivery, particularly previous VBAC, is the single best predictor of successful VBAC and is associated with a VBAC success rate of 85–90%.

3) Am I a good candidate for a VBAC?

Planned VBAC is appropriate for the majority of women who:

  • are pregnant with one fetus (as opposed to twins/multiples),
  • their baby is positioned head down (cephalic presentation),
  • have a pregnancy at term (37+0 weeks or beyond),
  • have had one previous lower segment caesarean delivery.

4) When is VBAC contraindicated?

Planned VBAC is strongly discouraged in the following cases:

  • Three or more previous caesarean deliveries. See below in case you have two previous C-sections.
  • The uterus has ruptured during a previous labor, as this increases considerably your risk (7 times higher) of a recurrent uterine rupture with the next pregnancy.
  • The previous caesarean section was “classical”.  In the vast majority of women, the uterus is cut horizontally, in its lower segment. This is called a low-transverse uterine incision. Rarely, a vertical incision in the upper uterus is required, this is known as a “classical” incision. Occasionally, a J- or T-shaped cut is performed. In both cases of vertical and J/T-shaped incision there is higher risk for uterine rupture. Therefore, it is very important to know which incision was performed in your previous C-section. You should note that the type of scar on your skin does not necessarily match the one on your uterus.
  • A previous uterine surgery, such as fibroid removal (myomectomy), as this increases the risk of uterine rupture.
  • There is other pregnancy complications that requires a C-section.There are certain absolute contraindications to vaginal birth that apply irrespective of the presence or absence of a scar (e.g. placenta previa)
  • Breech presentation (the baby comes with buttocks and/or feet first) or other abnormal presentations.
  • Multiple pregnancies (twins or more).

5) What factors reduce my changes of having a successful VBAC?

In general, the chances of success are lower in the following situations:

  • The reason for the previous c-section is likely to be problem this time around. Let’s say that a woman who already had a vaginal delivery and then had a c-section because her baby was breech (buttocks or feet first) is much more likely to have a successful VBAC than one who had a previous c-section after achieving full dilation and pushing for three hours, which may signal a narrow basin.
  • Labor is induced (did not start spontaneously).
  • You are older than 40 years old.
  • You are overweight.
  • The baby is big (over 4,000 grams estimated weight, or 8.8 pounds).
  • Advanced gestational age at delivery (more than 40 weeks).
  • Having a short time between pregnancies (less than 19 months).
  • You have preeclampsia (high blood pressure) at the time of delivery.

You should discuss with your practitioner about your individual chance of success and carefully weigh the benefits and the risks.

6) What are the benefits of a VBAC?

C-section is a major abdominal surgery, and as such is associated with certain increased risks as opposed to a vaginal birth. Therefore, a successful VBAC entails:

  • Shorter recovery period
  • Less post-partum pain.
  • Lower risk of infection.
  • Less blood loss, reduced need for a blood transfusion.
  • Less chances of needing an emergency hysterectomy (uterine removal).
  • Lower likelihood of damaging other organs (bladder and bowel).
  • Lower risk of developing a blood clot (thrombosis) in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) or lungs (pulmonary embolism).
  • Reduced risk of pelvic adhesions (internal scar tissue that forms between the organs, which may be responsible for chronic pain, infertility or intestinal obstruction).
  • Decreased chances of breathing problems for your baby. About 4-5% of babies born by planned C-section have breathing problems, compared with 2-3% following VBAC; the risk is  slightly higher if you have a planned caesarean section earlier than 39 weeks. In fact, breathing problems are quite common after caesarean delivery, but usually do not last long.
  • Many women would like to have the experience of vaginal birth, and when successful, VBAC allows this to happen.

If you plan to have more children, VBAC may help you avoid certain health problems linked to multiple cesarean deliveries. In fact, C-section complications, such as haemorrhage, emergency hysterectomy, bowel or bladder injury, adhesion formations are all higher with the increased number of cesarean deliveries. Moreover, every C-section you have raises your risk in future pregnancies of placenta complications, such as placenta previa (the placenta lyes low and covers the cervix) and placenta accreta (the placenta implants too deeply and doesn’t separate properly at delivery). Both conditions can result in life-threatening bleeding and a hysterectomy. If you know that you want more children, this may figure into your decision.

7) What are the risks of a VBAC?

  • One of the most feared complications of a VBAC is the possibility of uterine rupture, that is, the scar of the uterus tears or separates. Even if you’re a good candidate for a VBAC, there is a 0.7% risk (that is, 7 out of 1000 woman undergoing a VBAC) that your uterus will rupture at the site of your C-section incision. If this happens, it may result in severe blood loss for you, eventually life-threatening, and possibly oxygen deprivation for your baby, which may result in brain damage (in 8 out of 10,000 cases) or even death (in 2-3 out of 10,000 cases). While this risk is very small overall, it is higher as compared to a scheduled C-section.
  • Regardless of uterine rupture, VBAC carries in increased risk of long-term neurological damage or even death. Again, the risk is very small, but is higher in women who undergo an unsuccessful VBAC than in women who have a successful vaginal delivery or a scheduled C-section.
  • If you end up being unable to deliver vaginally, you could endure hours of labor only to have an unplanned C-section. This may be very frustrating for certain women, as their expectations for a vaginal birth are not fulfilled.
  • You may need an assisted vaginal birth using ventouse or forceps, which may lead to increased risk of having a tear involving the muscle that controls the anus or rectum (third or fourth degree tear).
  • You may need to have an emergency C-section during labour. This happens in 25% of women. An emergency cesarean carries more risks than a planned C-section. The most common reasons for an emergency caesarean section are if your labour slows or if there is a concern for the wellbeing of your baby.

You should note that while a successful VBAC is less risky than a scheduled repeat C-section, an unsuccessful VBAC requiring a C-section after the onset of labor carries more risk than a scheduled C-section. And the risk of complications is even higher if you end up needing an emergency cesarean.

8) Can I have a VBAC if I have two prior C-sections?

According to the American (ACOG) and British (RCOG) guidelines, women who have had two prior lower segment caesarean deliveries may be offered VBAC after careful counselling. Nonetheless, they should be aware that the risk of uterine rupture is increased up to 5 times (0,9 to 3,7%).

VBAC after 2 previous C-sections is highly controversial, and may not be acceptable for certain physicians or institutions.

9) What to expect during a VBAC 

  • VBAC should take place in a hospital or maternity that can manage situations that threaten the life of the woman or her fetus, and should NOT be attempted at home.
  • You should meet all the criteria, and have none of the contraindications for VBAC above-mentioned.
  • Factors that may reduce or increase the likelihood of success will be thoroughly discussed, and are different for each woman and each pregnancy.
  • Best candidates for VBAC are those women whose labor starts spontaneously, as induced labor (started with drugs or other methods) reduces the chances of a successful vaginal delivery and carries 3 times higher risk of complications.
  • You will be advised to present yourself at the hospital at the earliest sign of labour for careful assessment.
  • Your baby’s heartbeat will be monitored continuously during labour; this is to ensure your baby’s wellbeing, since changes in the heartbeat pattern can be an early sign of problems with your previous caesarean scar.
  • An intravenous (IV) line is indispensable in order to promptly manage any eventual complication.
  • You’ll have to refrain from eating anything during labor in case you require an emergency c-section later.
  • You can choose various options for pain relief, including an epidural.
  • The following signs may be indicators of uterine rupture, and warrant an emergency C-section:
    • Persistent fetal bradycardia (the baby’s heart rate drops; this is the commonest sign of uterine rupture).
    • Vaginal bleeding.
    • Uterine scar tenderness.
    • Pain between contractions.
    • Cessation of contractions.
    • Pain “breaking through” the epidural analgesia, or excessive epidural requirements.
    • Palpation of fetal parts outside the uterus.
    • Haematuria (blood in the urine).

It is important that you understand that uterine scar rupture may be silent, and that even an emergency C-section may not prevent serious complications, both for you and your baby.

In conclusion:

  • Successful VBAC has the fewest complications.
  • The greatest risk of adverse outcomes associated with VBAC occurs when a VBAC results in an emergency caesarean section.
  • It is often impossible to predict who will be able to have a successful VBAC and who require a repeat C-section.
  • Spontaneous (not induced) VBAC has a 1:150 risk of uterine rupture.
  • Uterine rupture is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, both for the mother and her baby.
  • Even an immediate emergency C-section may not prevent serious complications, both for the mother and her baby.
  • The absolute risk of severe fetal problems and death associated with VBAC are very low, but higher than for planned C-section.
  • Babies born via planned C-section have increased risk of neonatal respiratory problems, which are usually short-lived.
  • Planned C-section is associated with an increased risk of placenta praevia/accreta complicating any future pregnancies; other complications such as pelvic adhesions are higher as the number of C-sections increases.

VBACs are controversial, and it may be challenging to decide whether is the best choice for you. Find a practitioner willing to support VBAC, discuss with him/her your options. Give yourself plenty of time to inform yourself and consider carefully the pros and cons of each option.


  1. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) – Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Delivery FAQ 070, December 2017 (For patients)
  2. ACOG Practice Bulletin Number 184 – Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Delivery, November 2017
  3. Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) –  Birth options after previous caesarean section – July 2016 (For patients)
  4. Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) –  Birth After Previous Caesarean Birth – Green-top Guideline No. 45, October 2015
  5. National Health System (NHS) UK – Clinical Guideline for: The Management of Vaginal Birth After Caesarean (VBAC). July 2016

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Almost there! The third trimester is full of expectation, as the moment you will hold the baby in your arms approaches. But the excitement comes with a lot of uncomfortable symptoms…

The third trimester lasts from the 7th through the 9th month of pregnancy, that is, from week 28 till the moment you give birth, usually around week 40. This period can be challenging and tiring, as your womb grows and creates a lot of discomfort. Most of the symptoms you will experience are those that appeared during the second trimester, although they will be more intense now: back pain, leg swelling, sleep problems, itchy skin…

But keep a positive attitude! Read this list with the most common symptoms of the last three months of pregnancy and learn what you can do to relieve them. We will focus on the symptoms that appear during the third trimester, or that are somewhat different now. This is what you can expect:

1) Abdominal muscle separation

As your uterus grows, it pushes against the abdominal wall and stretches its muscles (the ‘six pack’ muscles), which will start separating in the middle and cause a bulge, or gap  in the middle of the abdomen. This condition, called diastasis recti abdominis, is more evident when the abdominal muscles are tense, such as during coughing or getting up from a lying down position. Diastasis recti can cause lower back pain, making it difficult to carry out certain activities, such as lifting objects.

Not all women develop abdominal muscle separation; you are more likely to get it if you are older than 35 years-old, have a multiple pregnancy or carry a large baby, or have repeated pregnancies.

What can you do about it:

  • Muscle separation lessens in the months that follow delivery, although some degree of separation may remain. Certain exercises will help you regain abdominal strength after childbirth.
  • During pregnancy, avoid aggressive abdominal exercises (such as sit-ups), which may provoke or worsen diastasis recti.
  • If abdominal muscle weakness associated with diastasis recti is interfering with your daily activities, seek the advice of your care provider or a specialized physiotherapist, who can indicate certain strength and postural correction exercises.

2) Breast leakage

By the end of pregnancy, you may notice a yellowish fluid leaking from your nipples, and this is normal. This substance, called colostrum, will nourish your baby in the first few days after birth.

While some women leak quite a lot of colostrum, others don’t leak at all. Leaking won’t make any difference to how much milk you will produce once your baby is born.

What can you do about it:

  • If you just leak a few drops, then you don’t need to do anything. But if it bothers you, you may wear nursing pads inside your bra to absorb the milk.
  • You should call your doctor or midwife if the nipple discharge becomes bloodstained.

3) Carpal tunnel syndrome

Tingling, numbness, weakness and pain in the hands during the last trimester are usually caused by a condition called carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

CTS is common in pregnancy, and happens due to the fluid retention in the tissues of the wrist, which in turn squeezes a nerve (the median nerve), that runs down to your hand and fingers. Women that keep doing forceful or repetitive hand and finger movements (such as long hours at a computer, or the use of vibrating equipment) may have worse symptoms.

What can you do about it:

CTS usually disappears without treatment after childbirth, when pregnancy-related fluid buildup is relieved. In the meantime, you may try the following:

  • Avoid activities that may be causing symptoms.
  • Wear a wrist splint to keep your wrist straight, especially at night, when the symptoms can be more bothersome.
  • Do exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the hand and arm.
  • Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture might help relieve hand pain.
  • If nothing works, talk to your doctor, who may prescribe certain medications.
  • Surgery is the last resort treatment, but unless CTS become intolerable, it will be delayed until after birth.

4) Dreams and nightmares

You knew about the sleep problems during pregnancy. But you may get surprised, even disturbed when you start getting frequent and vivid dreams, occasionally nightmares; you may also realize that you remember your dreams more clearly.

The exact reason of these changes in the dream pattern is not clear, but they seem to be related to hormonal and emotional factors, as well as the frequent sleep disruptions that come with pregnancy (read more here).

What can you do about it:

  • If your dreams are just more frequent or more vivid, you will just have to cope with them.
  • However, if you have frequent nightmares, that are too disturbing, don’t let you sleep or cause you intense anxiety, you may consider sharing them with a friend, your doctor, or a therapist.

5) Clumsiness, waddling

You may have noticed that, as pregnancy progresses, you get clumsier: things fall from you hands, you bump into doors, you may accidentally fall down! It is not just you, clumsiness is normal in pregnancy and is related to many factors: you are heavier and your growing womb changes the center of gravity, making it more difficult to move; your “pregnancy brain” makes it harder for you to concentrate on your activities; in addition, a hormone called relaxin relaxes all the joints in your body. Therefore, you won’t have the balance or dexterity you used to have.

The same reasons explain why, at the end of pregnancy, you will start waddling, which in turn will make you even clumsier!

What can you do about it:

Clumsiness is normal and there is not much you can do to prevent it. However, it is important that you take measures to protect yourself -and others- from accidents:

  • Avoid situations where you have a high risk of falling, such as standing on a ladder, using stairs, riding a bicycle, etc.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, that should not be neither too flat or too high (read more here).
  • Pay attention whenever you walk on wet, icy, or uneven surfaces.
  • Avoid gaining too much weight, which will make clumsiness much worse.
  • Call your doctor if, besides clumsy, you feel dizzy or lightheaded, your have blurred vision, headache, or any pain.

6) Emotional changes

As you get closer to childbirth, your anticipation grows, so do your anxiety, fears and concerns! Besides all the hormonal-related emotional changes, you may start getting worried about the delivery itself, as well as all the changes the baby will bring, your role as a parent, etc (see here).

What can you do about it:

  • Stay calm, mild physical activity can help (read here), eat well (here), indulge yourself with a beauty treatment! (here).
  • Taking childbirth classes can help you feel more prepared to face labor and delivery.
  • Discuss your emotions and fears with your doctor or midwife.
  • Sharing your feelings with friends, your partner or other moms-to-be can be very helpful.
  • Nevertheless, if you feel constantly down or overwhelmed, if you have negative or suicidal thoughts, if you can’t go ahead with your daily life you must discuss it with your doctor.

7) Fatigue

Forget the energy you had during the second trimester: fatigue is back! Carrying extra weight, waking up several times during the night to go to the bathroom, and dealing with the anxiety of preparing for a baby can all decrease your energy level.

What can you do about it:

  • Eat healthy, frequent and small meals: it’s a good idea to keep with you healthy snacks that you can grab whenever you feel out of energy.
  • If you work, take regular, small breaks; you may even consider taking a quick nap!
  • Light exercise can make you feel more energetic: walking, swimming or prenatal yoga are good options, but listen to your body! Don’t force yourself.
  • Check with your doctor if you feel extremely tired, so that she/he may do some blood test to rule out anemia or other problems.

8) Forgetfulness (“Pregnancy brain”)

It’s not a myth: intense forgetfulness, known as “pregnancy brain” is a normal symptom of pregnancy, which nevertheless can be very annoying!

It is mostly related to pregnancy hormones, but sleep disturbances and fatigue can make it worse.

What can you do about it:

Don’t worry! Your brain will work normally again after delivery. Well, sort of, as you will have to deal with the sleepless nights while taking care of your baby 😉

In the meantime, these tips may help:

  • Stay organized! Write down what you need to do, technology may help: reminders on your phone or to-do lists in your computer will make it easier.
  • Ask for help: cut down on what you’re responsible for by delegating some jobs to others.
  • Eat well: certain foods may boost your memory: eating plenty of choline-rich foods and DHA-rich foods during pregnancy may help boost your -and your baby’s- brain function.

9) Frequent urination, urinary incontinence

As your baby grows, the pressure on your bladder increases, causing a constant feeling you need to go to pee. This may be worse during the night, because when you lie down, the fluids you retained in your legs and feet during the day make its way back into your bloodstream and eventually into your bladder.

Many women also experience stress urinary incontinence, that is, they lose some urine when they cough, laugh, sneeze, lift heavy objects, or exercise.

What can you do about it:

To reduce frequent urination:

  • Avoid beverages that contain caffein, which has diuretic effect.
  • It’s not a good idea to cut down on fluids, as your body needs plenty of them during pregnancy. Instead, you may reduce fluid intake in the hours before you go to bed.
  • Lean forward when you urinate: this helps empty out your bladder better.

To avoid incontinence:

  • Empty your bladder before exercising.
  • Wear a panty liner to catch any unexpected leakage.
  • Kegel exercises, which strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, can also help minimize stress incontinence.

You should inform your doctor or midwife if you feel pain or burning with urination, if your see blood when you wipe or if you feel the urge to pee even when you produce just a few drops at a time. These could be signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI).

10) Heartburn

Another symptom you may have experienced during the first three months of pregnancy, got better during the second trimester but now came back! While the heartburn you experienced during the first trimester was hormone-related, now your enlarged uterus is to blame, as it crowds the abdomen, pushing the stomach acids upward.

What can you do about it:

  • Eat small, frequent meals, don’t eat too much before going to bed.
  • Avoid too spicy, greasy, acidic or sweet foods.
  • Don’t lie flat, sleep with two or more pillows to have your head at a higher level than your body.
  • Call your doctor if you can’t cope with heartburn, who can prescribe you an antiacid medication that is safe for pregnancy.

11) Pelvic pain

Once you’re in your third trimester, you may experience pain and pressure in your pelvic region, as the weight of your growing fetus presses down on certain nerves that run into the legs; for the same reason you may also feel tingling, numbness and pain along the outer thigh; which can be very annoying for some women.

Relaxed pelvic joints are a common cause of pelvic pain: toward the end of your pregnancy the hormone relaxin helps the ligaments become loose in preparation for childbirth. This hormone can also loosen your pelvic joint, and even cause it to separate a bit. It’s common to feel pain near your pubic bone, and you may also feel like your legs are unstable. This is called Symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD).

Your fetus’s head can also to rub your tailbone, causing tailbone pain and pressure. The condition is called coccydynia and occasionally the pain can be very intense.

Braxton Hicks contractions can also cause pressure and tightening in the pelvis (see below). Constipation also can cause pelvic pain or discomfort (see here).

What can you do about it:

Be patient! Once your baby is born, all the pressure-related symptoms will be gone; in addition, relaxin production will cease and the joints will be firm again, easing your pain. In the meantime:

  • Get plenty of rest;  a change of position that shifts the pelvic pressure away from the nerves responsible for the pain should provide some relief.
  • Avoid lifting heavy things.
  • Warm compresses on the painful the area may ease soreness.
  • Pelvic support belts can help stabilize the area.
  • If the pain is severe enough, ask your doctor about painkillers.

12) Swelling

During the second trimester some women experience some swelling of the ankles and feet. Now, swelling – or edema will be also evident in the hands, face and upper legs.

Swelling is normal and is caused by the excess blood and fluids your body produces to meet the baby’s needs. This extra fluid will also soften the body and help it expand as the baby grows, and prepare the joints and tissues to open more easily during delivery.

Swelling is usually worse with warm weather, if you stand up for long periods of time, if you consume too much caffeine or salty foods, or if your diet is low in potassium.

What can you do about it:

  • Reduce salt intake, avoid adding extra salt to meals.
  • Avoid caffeine consumption.
  • Eat foods high in potassium (such as bananas).
  • Minimize outdoor time when it’s hot.
  • Avoid long periods of standing or sitting.
  • Move regularly your feet, or keep your legs elevated while sitting.
  • Wear comfortable shoes (read more here).
  • Avoid clothes that are tight around your wrists or ankles.
  • Wear supportive tights or stockings.
  • Get plenty of rest, swimming may also help.
  • Use cold compresses on swollen areas.

13) Shortness of breath

As your pregnancy progresses you may start feeling breathless after minimal amounts of physical exertion, or even when talking!

Mild breathlessness is totally normal; during early pregnancy is due to pregnancy hormones, which make you take more and deeper breaths, so that you get additional oxygen for the baby. But in the third trimester, shortness of breath  is mostly related to your expanding uterus putting pressure on the lungs and diaphragm, making it harder to take a deep breath.

What can you do about it:

  • Don’t overdo it with your daily activities or while exercising; when you feel breathless, slow down.
  • Make room for your lungs to take air: stand up straight, don’t sit down for long periods of time, sleep propped up on pillows.
  • If the shortness of breath is severe, you have chest pain or a quick pulse, call your doctor immediately.

14) Vaginal discharge

Increased vaginal secretions are completely normal and start during the first trimester. These discharge helps prevent infections travelling up from the vagina to the womb.Towards the end of pregnancy, the amount of discharge increases and can be confused with urine; close to delivery it may even contain streaks of thick mucus and some blood (this is called “bloody show”; we will discuss more about it in another post). Vaginal secretions should be white or clear, and should not smell unpleasant.

What can you do about it:

  • You may wear panty liners, but do not use tampons.
  • Prefer cotton underwear, avoid string or thongs that may cause intense rubbing, which together with the increased discharge can favor yeast or other infections.
  • Avoid vaginal douching (which is never a good idea, but especially during pregnancy).
  • Pay attention to washes and wipes that could be irritating, increasing your chances of a vaginal infection.
  • Call your doctor or midwife if you have discharge that is yellow, green or foul-smelling, if you have intense itching or burning, symptoms that may show that you have a vaginal infection. Likewise, call your healthcare provider if you have a lot of watery, vaginal discharge, which may signal that you broke your water bag.

15) Vulvar varicose veins

If you feel something “like worms” on your genital area, together with some pressure, swelling of discomfort in the vulva, don’t panic! These are dilated vulvar veins and occur due to the increased blood flow to the area, and the pressure the growing uterus puts on the veins of your lower body. Vulvar varicosities are seen quite often during pregnancy, either alone or with varicose veins of the legs, or hemorrhoids. Long periods of standing, exercise and sex can aggravate them. Occasionally though, they are completely asymptomatic, and the only way you’ll know you have them is because your doctor tells you.

What can you do about it:

Most of the times, vulvar varicosities don’t affect your mode of delivery, and they go away on their own after birth. If they are bothersome, you may try the following:

  • Wear support garment specifically designed for vulvar varicosities.
  • Avoid standing for long periods of time.
  • Swimming helps lift the baby from the pelvis and improves blood flow, relieving your pain.
  • Elevate your hips slightly when lying down to promote circulation; you may place a folded towel beneath your hips.
  • Cold compresses applied to your vulva may ease discomfort.

What else to expect

Baby movements

  • During the second trimester and beginning of the third, your baby has plenty of room in the womb, so most likely you will feel pushing, swirling, twisting, and kicking. But as he/she grows bigger, there is less space for movement; thus probably you won’t get the punches and kicks you were used to. Instead, you’ll feel more wiggles, stretches and turns. Although by the end of pregnancy mobility may be reduced when he gets engaged in the pelvis, the baby should keep moving until the moment he is born.
  • Keep in mind though that the baby is not constantly on the move: there are times when she sleeps. Towards the end of your pregnancy, the baby rests for about 20 minutes at a time, but occasionally the rest periods may be as long as 50 or 75 minutes.
  • Although you may have read or heard you need to count the baby’s kicks, there is a huge variation among babies, and no normal values for baby’s kicks have been determined; therefore, a written record of your baby’s movements is not necessary. Since every baby has a different pattern of waking and sleeping, what is important is to follow up on your baby’s own pattern of movements. If you notice a change in your baby’s pattern of movements, or are worried at any stage, contact your midwife or doctor, so that they can check the baby’s wellbeing with certain specific tests.
  • At some point you may not be sure whether you felt your baby kicking. Keep in mind that you’re more likely to be aware of your baby’s movements when you’re lying down rather than sitting or standing. Therefore, in the doubt, have a snack, particularly something sweet, lie down on your side and wait. You may also try making some noise, or playing loud music. If your baby starts moving around, most likely everything is fine.

But you should contact your midwife or doctor right away if you notice any of the following:

  • You don’t feel several movements while lying on your side for two hours.
  • Your baby doesn’t start to move in response to noise or some other stimulus.
  • There’s a big decrease in your baby’s movements, or a gradual decrease over several days.

Weight gain

  • You should aim for a weight gain of about 1-2 kg per month during your third trimester, but it is not unusual to lose 1 or 2 kilos by the end of pregnancy, as your stomach gets compressed by the baby and you get a feeling of fullness even with small meals. In total, you should have put on about 12 kg (8-16 kg). However, your doctor may recommend that you gain more or less weight if you started out your pregnancy underweight or overweight.
  • It is very important that your weight gain doesn’t exceed these limits, as it may lead to several complications in pregnancy and delivery, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, backache or delivery complications due to increased fetus weight. Not to mention that it will be more difficult to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight…

Braxton Hicks contractions

  • Pressure or tightening in the pelvis that comes and goes could be contractions, but if they’re sporadic and not painful, they’re most likely Braxton Hicks contractions. They usually begin as early as the second trimester; however, they are most commonly experienced in the third trimester.
  • Braxton Hicks are also called “practice contractions” because they are a preparation for labor. They are irregular in intensity and frequency, usually painless or just uncomfortable (although sometimes they may be painful).
  • As Braxton Hicks intensify close to the time of delivery, they are often referred to as “false labor” and they may help prepare the uterus for delivery. These practice contractions may be more intense or frequent when you are too tired, your baby is very active, after sex or due to dehydration.

If you are not sure whether the contractions you feel are true or false labor, try the following:

  • Lie down, get some rest and wait.
  • Take a warm shower or bath.
  • Drink some fluids.

If none of these steps works at any stage of pregnancy; or if you are less that 37 weeks pregnant and you have contractions every 15 minutes or closer that persist over two hours, contact your health care provider.

Signs of Labor

When getting closer to the due date, most certainly you will start wondering: What are the signs labor is coming? How will it feel? and mainly: Will I understand when it’s time? A post answering these questions will follow soon… Stay tuned!

When to worry

Any of these symptoms could be a sign that something is wrong with your pregnancy. Call your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Severe abdominal pain or cramping
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Bleeding
  • Severe dizziness or fainting
  • Rapid weight gain or intense swelling
  • Fever (unrelated to a cold)
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Watery vaginal discharge
  • Abundant green, yellow, foul-smelling discharge.

This list of not exhaustive; do not hesitate to contact your healthcare provider for any other symptom you are unsure whether it’s normal or not.


  • NICE: Antenatal Care- Routine Care for the Healthy Pregnant Woman. March 2008, UK
  • HAS: Comment mieux informer les femmes enceintes? Avril 2005, France

Photo credits

Intro:; 1); 2); 3); 4); 5); 6); 7); 8); 9); 10); 11); 12); 13); 14); 15); Baby movements:; Weight gain:; Braxton Hicks:; When to worry:


Embed from Getty Images

You just made it through the first trimester of your pregnancy! Congratulations!

The second trimester – which lasts from the beginning of week 14 through the end of week 27- is for most women, the easiest of all three: the annoying symptoms of the first trimester usually disappear and you feel full of energy again! In addition, you will be less heavy, tired and anxious than during the third trimester…

The fact that you feel better doesn’t mean that nothing is going on! Your baby grows very fast during this period, and your body is working incessantly; thus you will notice many changes…

From all the symptoms you had during the first trimester (see here), many will disappear, other persist and some new will show up.

These symptoms usually disappear or ease during the second trimester:

  • 2nd trimester B&Wnausea and vomits,
  • food aversions,
  • heartburn,
  • frequent urination,
  • acne.

These are symptoms that may persist:

  • dizziness,
  • bleeding of gums and nose,
  • stuffy nose,
  • vaginal discharge,
  • headache,
  • constipation,
  • food cravings.

In this article we will focus on the symptoms that make their appearance during the second trimester, or that are somewhat different now. Here is what you can expect:

1) Backache

While back pain during the first trimester is mostly related to mild uterine cramping, as pregnancy progresses it’s caused by weight gain and  the shift of your center of gravity as a result of the growing uterus. Thus, you gradually adjust your posture, which results in back pain or strain.

What can you do about it:

  • avoid standing up for long periods of time,
  • sit up straight; use a chair with good back support,
  • sleep on your side; a pillow tucked between your legs may help,
  • avoid carrying anything heavy,
  • wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes with good arch support (read more here),
  • a heating pad may provide some relief,
  • if you feel really uncomfortable you may have a pregnancy massage.

If these measures don’t work or if the pain is strong, call your doctor, who can prescribe you a pain medication suitable for pregnancy.

2) Breast enlargement

2nd trimester breastsWhile the tenderness and swelling you experienced during the first trimester usually wear off by now, your breast will keep growing in preparation for breastfeeding. You may occasionally have some leakage of milk.

What can you do about it:

  • wear a support bra; most likely you will need a bigger size,
  • avoid lacy or wired bras.

3) Emotional changes

2nd trimester emotional prenatal yogaAs pregnancy progresses your body changes, so do your emotions! Your hormones certainly play a role, but it’s not only that: there is so much going on! So it’s natural to be worried or anxious at times, or to have mood swings (see here).

You will most likely feel less tired and with more energy than before, so enjoy your pregnancy! Start preparing yourself for the coming of your baby, you can learn more about labor and delivery. Focus on healthy lifestyle regarding nutrition (read here) and physical activity (here). This may be also a good time to indulge yourself with a trip, or some vacations! (see here).

Some women experience increased sexual desire during this period of pregnancy (more info here); others may feel unattractive as the womb grows. Spoil yourself with some beauty treatments! (read more here).

Although mood swings are an inextricable part of pregnancy, keep in mind that if you feel constantly down or overwhelmed, if you have negative or suicidal thoughts, if you can’t go ahead with your daily life you must discuss it with your doctor.

4) Hair changes

2nd trimester hairHormonal changes during pregnancy favour hair growth. This may be great for the hair on your head, which usually becomes thicker, but not so great for hair growing on your face, arms or back!

What can you do about it: 

  • Shaving, tweezing and waxing are safe options, although not always easy to implement as your belly grows!
  • Regarding laser, electrolysis and depilatory creams the experts’ opinions are divided (read more here).

You may discuss with your doctor which is the best technique for you.

5) Hemorrhoids

2nd trimester hemorrhoidsMost women will feel, at some point in their pregnancy, some soft lumps around the anus. In fact, hemorrhoids are swollen veins, which enlarge in pregnancy due to the increased pressure exerted by the growing uterus.

Although sometimes hemorrhoids are asymptomatic, the can be itchy, or painful; they may eventually bleed.

What can you do about it:

  • avoid constipation – they will get worse,
  • you may try a sitz bath (that is, you sit in warm water),
  • if they are too uncomfortable, you may ask your doctor about a hemorrhoid ointment.

6) Leg cramps

2nd trimester leg crampsPainful leg muscle contractions typically affect the calf, foot or both; they are common during pregnancy, and usually occur at night.

The exact cause of leg cramps isn’t clear; possible reasons include pregnancy hormones, compression of the legs’ blood vessels, and calcium or magnesium deficiency.

What can you do about it:

  • regular physical activity might help prevent leg cramps; stretch your calf muscles before bedtime,
  • stay hydrated,
  • choose comfortable footwear with good support,
  • a hot shower, warm bath, ice or muscle massage can all help,
  • eat magnesium-rich foods, such as whole grains, beans, dried fruits, nuts and seeds.

Discuss with your doctor whether it’s OK for you to take a magnesium or calcium supplement.

7) Restless leg syndrome (RLS)

2nd trimester restless legIf you are among the 20% of pregnant women who suffer from this condition, you may have felt an itchy, pulling, burning or creepy-crawly sensation which causes an overwhelming urge to move your legs.

RLS usually strikes at night, when you are lying down or sitting for prolonged time periods; it may also affect the arms. Once you move your legs or arms, the feeling subsides; the problem is that, by then, the movement has already woken you up, making you feel tired and cranky during the day…

The cause of RLS is unknown, but in some women it may be triggered by a deficiency of iron or folic acid.

What can you do about it:

Be patient! RLS goes away right after birth… If your RLS is not that severe, simple lifestyle changes may help:

  • avoid drinking beverages with caffeine (coffee, soda, etc), particularly during the afternoon or evening,
  • don’t exercise close to bedtime (exercising can wind you up),
  • establish a sleep routine: go to bed and wake up at the same time every day,
  • relax before bedtime: take a warm bath, read a book…

When you wake up with RLS:

  • massage your  legs,
  • apply warm or cold compresses to your leg muscles,
  • get up and walk or stretch your legs,
  • a vibrating pad placed under the legs (Relaxis) seems to help some women.

The treatment of severe RLS is challenging during pregnancy, as medications used for its treatment are possibly dangerous for the baby.

  • You may ask your doctor to check your iron levels, if they are low you can take an iron supplement.
  • If RLS makes you feel miserable, discuss with your doctor the possibility of a medical treatment (opioids); this would be the last resort as opioids can cause withdrawal symptoms in the baby.

8) Round ligament pain 

2nd trimester round ligament painAs the womb grows, the ligaments that support it start stretching, making them more likely to become strained.

Round ligament pain is one of the most common complaints during pregnancy. Sudden movements can cause the ligaments to tighten quickly, which provokes a quick jabbing feeling, often felt in the lower belly or groin area on one or both sides, most commonly on the right side. Generally the pain is triggered by exercise, sneezing, coughing, laughing, rolling over in bed or standing up too quickly, and lasts only a few seconds or minutes.

What can you do about it:

  • avoid sudden movements,
  • flex your hips before you cough, sneeze, or laugh,
  • mild exercise will help you strengthen your abdominal muscles,
  • stretching exercises and yoga can be helpful,
  • a heating pad or a warm bath may ease pain,
  • you may take a painkiller such as acetaminophen.

Round ligament pain usually doesn’t last long. If you have severe pain that lasts more that a few minutes, or if it is accompanied by fever, burning with urination, or difficulty walking you should call your doctor right away.

9) Skin changes

2nd trimester skin changes woman with hatPregnancy hormones and your growing uterus are responsible for numerous skin changes that you will start noticing from now on. Here are the most common:

Pregnancy glow: pregnant women often look as though they are “glowing” because hormones increase the skin oil production and vascularisation, thus your face may appear flushed and shiny.

Mask of pregnancy: also called chloasma;  an increase in the pigment melanin leads to brown marks on the face.

Linea nigra: related as well to increased melanin, it’s a dark line down the middle of the abdomen.

These skin changes should fade after the baby is born. In the meantime, you can use makeup to conceal them.

Keep in mind that your skin is more sensitive to the sun right now, so make sure to wear a high-protection sunscreen;  limit also your time in the sun, especially between 10 am and 4 pm; a hat and sunglasses will provide extra protection.

Itchy skin: as your skin stretches due to your growing belly -and weight gain- it may feel itchy and dry, especially around your womb and breasts2nd trimester skin changes.

To relieve it, moisturize often with mild skin care products; do not take hot showers and baths, which will dry out even more your skin. Also, avoid synthetic clothing which may irritate your skin.

Inform your doctor if your itching is unbearable, she/he can recommend you a medication adequate for pregnancy, and eventually rule out certain rare conditions which may be dangerous for you or your baby (though they usually appear during the third trimester).

Stretch marks: as with itching, stretch marks are the result of your skin expanding. Starting now, you may notice red or purple lines on your abdomen, breasts or thighs.

Watch your weight gain! The more weight you gain, the more likely to get stretch marks. Many creams and lotions are available to prevent them, although their efficacy is not backed up by much scientific evidence… In any case, most stretch marks will fade on their own after delivery.

10) Sleep problems

2nd trimester sleep problemsWhile everybody tells you to rest now to get prepared for the sleepless nights ahead once the baby is born, sleeping in pregnancy is not easy! A recent study showed that 3 out of 4 women! experience poor sleep quality: from all women included in the study, all of them reported frequent awakening, mostly due to frequent urination and difficulty finding a comfortable sleep position; insomnia, breathing problems (snoring and sleep apnea) and restless leg syndrome (see above) were also common complaints.

And let’s not forget heartburn, leg cramps, stuffy nose, eventually vivid dreams or nightmares…

What can you do about it:

  • avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening,
  • stay away from sugar at night,
  • don’t drink too much right before bedtime to avoid frequent visits to the toilet,
  • work out, but only until early evening, as exercise can be energizing,
  • have a light snack before bedtime to prevent “hunger attacks” at night,
  • a glass of warm milk before sleeping may help,
  • take a warm bath just before bed,
  • keep your room cool; research has shown that is useful for better sleep,
  • a massage before sleeping can soothe you, as well as relaxation exercises, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, etc,
  • making love can also help!

You should mention any sleep problems to your doctor, who might be able to suggest more tips or eventually prescribe you medications that are safe during pregnancy.

11) Spider and varicose veins 

2nd trimester spider and varicose veinsYour blood circulation increases to send more blood to your baby; this can cause tiny red veins known as spider veins. Pressure on your legs from the growing uterus can result in swelling of your legs’ veins, which become blue or purple; these are called varicose veins.

What can you do about it:

Spider veins usually fade once your baby is born.

Varicose veins should improve within three months after you deliver. In the meantime, you may prevent them from getting worse:

  • avoid standing up for long periods of time,
  • get up often, move throughout the day,
  • keep your legs elevated (prop them on a stool) whenever you have to sit for a long time,
  • wear support hose.

12) Swelling of the ankles and feet

2nd trimester swollen legsA very common symptom, is experienced by about three in four pregnant women, starting at about week 22 of pregnancy and lasting until delivery.

What can you do about it:

  • try to keep active,
  • avoid long periods of standing or sitting,
  • if you can’t avoid sitting or standing for a long time, move regularly your feet, or
  • keep your legs elevated while sitting,
  • support hose can help.

What else to expect

Quickening”, baby movements

At about 20 weeks you will probably start feeling the first flutters of movement in your belly, which is often called quickening. Quickening may be first felt as early as week 15, but usually around weeks 18 to 22. A multipara (that is, a woman who has been pregnant before) usually feels the baby earlier. Some women won’t experience quickening until week 26, so don’t worry!

Keep in mind that babies, like the rest of us, are all different: while some are very active, others are more calm; activity also varies among different days and within the same day.

Weight gain

2nd trimester what elseYour appetite should be back during the second trimester, once nausea and vomits have diminished or gone away. Since now you will feel hungrier, be aware of how much you’re eating! You only need about an extra 300 to 500 calories a day during the second trimester, and you should be gaining about 1,4 -1,8 kilograms a month until delivery. However, if you were overweight before pregnancy, your doctor may recommend gaining less weight.

Discuss with your health care provider what’s best in your case in order to manage your weight throughout pregnancy.

Braxton Hicks contractions

During the second trimester, your uterus may start contracting. These contractions, called Braxton Hicks, should be weak and come and go unpredictably.

If contractions become painful or regular, they could be a sign of preterm labor, so you should inform your doctor.

When to worry

2nd trimester warningAny of these symptoms could be a sign that something is wrong with your pregnancy. Call your doctor right away if you experience:

  • Severe abdominal pain or cramping
  • Bleeding
  • Severe dizziness or fainting
  • Rapid weight gain or intense swelling
  • Fever (unrelated to a cold)
  • Watery vaginal discharge
  • Abundant green, yellow, foul-smelling discharge.



  • NICE: Antenatal Care- Routine Care for the Healthy Pregnant Woman. March 2008, UK
  • HAS: Comment mieux informer les femmes enceintes? Avril 2005, France

Photo credits

Intro: Getty images,; 1); 2); 3); 4); 5); 6); 7); 8); 9),; 10); 11); 12); What else:; When to worry:


Embed from Getty Images

A recent study came -again- to incriminate certain environmental toxins known as phthalates as being responsible for pregnancy losses. Women undergoing assisted reproduction techniques (in-vitro fertilization or intra-uterine insemination) had urine exams to assess the presence of certain phthalates; it became evident that women with high levels of phthalates had up to three times increased risk of pregnancy loss. The study was recently presented at the Annual Meeting of American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).

For several years now we have been hearing about the toxic effects of phthalates, but what are they exactly? Where do we find them? Are they really harmful? Check out this article to learn more about these enigmatic toxins…

What are Phthalates?

Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastics and make them more flexible (they are also known as plasticizers). These substances do not bound to plastics, therefore they are continuously released into the air, foods or liquids. Certain phthalates are used as dissolving agents for other materials.

Where do we find them?

Phthalates are used in an astounding array of products. They are most commonly found in:

  • Plastic bottles.Phthalates plastic bottles
  • Plastic containers and plastic wraps.
  • Cosmetics: in creams and lotions (to help them penetrate and soften the skin), in perfumes (to help them last longer), in hair sprays (to reduce stiffness), in nail polish (to prevent chipping), in deodorants, soaps, shampoos and almost every cosmetic with fragrance, including baby products.
  • Household products: air fresheners, paints, plastic flooring.
  • Plastic toys and other baby products such as teethers.
  • Certain medical devices, e.g., blood bags, intubation tubes, intravenous catheters.
  • Objects made of vinyl or PVC.
  • Phthalates are present even in seemingly unexpected sources. One example is milk: even in glass bottles, high levels of phthalates have been found, presumedly due to the plastic tubing used in milking machines.

We get exposed to phthalates by:

  • Ingestion: eating food contaminated from food packaging; drinking beverages from plastic bottles that leach the chemical; sucking plastic objects (e.g., baby toys, teethers).
  • Absortion: using cosmetics products. According to the CDC, women of childbearing age have the highest levels of phthalates, possibly due to the use of cosmetics.
  • Inhalation: breathing dust or fumes from products containing vinyl (vinyl floors, the interior of cars, shower curtains, etc).

Which are the most commonly used phthalates?

Phthalates perfumeThese chemicals have very difficult names, but there are a few you may want to keep in mind (see the studies below):

-In cosmetics: the primary phthalates used in cosmetic products have been dibutylphthalate (DBP), used in nail polishes; dimethylphthalate (DMP), used in hair sprays; and diethylphthalate (DEP), used as a solvent and fixative in fragrances. According to latest survey of cosmetics conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010, DBP and DMP are being used rarely, while DEP is the most commonly used phthalate. The use of DBP and DEHP is banned in the European Union  but they are still found in cosmetic products.

-In food packaging: the most commonly used is Di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). Bisphenol-A (BPA) is not a phthalate, but is also being used as plasticizer in food packaging and plastic bottles.

-In paints, plastic and PVC objects, solvents and adhesives: DEHP, Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP) and DBP (also called DnBP).

-In children toys and child care products: In the USA, phthalates used in these products have been divided in three categories:Phthalates toy ducks

  1. permanent ban (permanently prohibits the sale of any “children’s toy or child care article” individually containing concentrations of more than 0.1% of DBP, BBP or DEHP);
  2. interim ban (prohibits on an interim basis the sale of “any children’s toy that can be placed in a child’s mouth” or “child care article” containing concentrations of more than 0.1% of DNOP, DINP, or DIDP); and
  3. currently unrestricted under Section 108 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (DMP, DEP, DIBP, DCHP, DIHEPP, DIOP, DPHP).

Similar recommendations apply in Europe, where the six above-mentioned products are banned.

What is the evidence linking phthalates to pregnancy losses?

In addition to the recent American study (where they measured metabolites of DEHP), two previous studies had found a relationship between phthalates and miscarriages:

In 2012, a Danish study  found an increased risk of early pregnancy loss in women with high urine levels of DEHP‘s breakdown products. More recently, a Chinese study, comparing urine samples of women who had miscarriages and healthy women found that pregnancy loss was associated with higher levels or three phthalates: DEP, DBP, and di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP).

Another American study also found and increased risk of miscarriages in women with high levels of BPA.

Eliminating phthalates and BPA from our lives is virtually impossible, but you can take some measures to minimize exposure, especially if you are trying to conceive, are pregnant or have young children”

Are there any other health risks?

Phthalates are widely known as endocrine disruptors: they mimic hormones, interfering with their function. Some possible consequences of this are:

Effect on male fertility: phthalate exposure in men was associated with reduced fecundity.

Birth defects in baby boys: several studies have found abnormalities in baby boys’ genitals when pregnant women were exposed to high levels of certain phthalates; another study found increased risk of hypospadias (the opening of the urethra is on the underside of the penis) in occupational exposure of pregnant women.

Neurological problems in newborns, infants and children: such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), reduced IQ, behaviour problems.

Obesity: both in children and adults.

Asthma: in children when pregnant women were exposed to high level of phthalates.

Interference with puberty in girls: the evidence is inconsistent on this subject; while some studies found that phthalates may be related with precocious puberty, others reported delayed puberty.

Breast cancer: a small study showed increased breast cancer risk, but the evidence is not conclusive; there is a large study being conducted in the USA, which will provide more clear answers on this matter.

What can I do to reduce exposure to phthalates?

Phthalates glass food containersEliminating phthalates and BPA from our lives is virtually impossible -they seem to be everywhere- but you can take some measures to minimize exposure, especially if you are trying to conceive, are pregnant or have young children:

  1. Read labels on personal care products. Unfortunately, manufacturers are not forced to list phthalates, and  they can be added as a part of the “fragrance.” Many companies have voluntarily removed phthalates from their products, so you may search for products labelled as “phthalate-free”.
  2. Limit the use of baby care products in babies and young children.
  3. Don’t microwave food in plastic, or use only “microwave safe” and phthalate-free containers to microwave food or drinks. Phthalates can leach from containers (or plastic wrap) into foods on contact and when heated, particularly oily foods or with a high fat content. Don’t put plastic containers in the dishwasher (heat will increase phthalates leaching).
  4. Replace plastic bottles, cups, dishes and food containers with those made of glass, porcelain or stainless steel, especially for hot food and beverages.
  5. Check labels on plastic bottles and containers: choose only those with recycle codes 1, 2, 4, or 5. Plastics made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are safer than those made of PVC (“PET” or “HDPE” may be printed on the label or the bottom of the bottle).
  6. Use only toys and toothbrushes labeled “phthalate- free”. There are strict regulations banning the most dangerous phthalates in toys and baby products, both in the USA and in Europe.
  7. Reduce your use of canned foods, as they are often lined with material that contains BPA. Prefer fresh products or those in glass containers. Avoid canned milk (including canned formula for babies).
  8. Phthalates baby bottlesChoose only bottles and cups that are BPA-free. In fact, BPA was banned in all baby products in 2011 in Europe, and since 2012 in the USA.
  9. When using paints or solvents, keeps the area well ventilated. Prefer natural paints, phthalate-free (DBP is the phthalate usually used in these products).
  10. Choose non-vinyl products, such as shower curtains, raincoats or furniture, as the chemical off-gassing from these products introduces phthalates to your environment.
  11. Keep your house clean, as phthalates can remain in dust.
  12. Avoid air fresheners; prefer essential oils instead.

Is anything being done?

Phthalates safe cosmeticsAs people are becoming more aware of the harmful effects of phthalates, increasing information is being available to consumers; websites such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have actively advocated the elimination of dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products. As a result, certain companies and retailers have been taking measures to reduce toxic substances in their products.

Initiatives are also being taken at governmental level. European authorities have restricted the use of phthalates in some baby products, cosmetics, and plastics designed to come into contact with food; more phthalates will be soon banned from medical equipment, electrical and electronic devices. Recently, a very extensive Report to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission by the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel on Phthalates and Phthalates alternatives (CHAP) analyzed the available data on each phthalate and phthalates alternative and provided recommendations, which will hopefully lead to banning certain phthalates that proved to be toxic.


Photo credits

Getty Images; Reciclado creativo,; Etienne,;;; Alicia Voorhies,


Natural Birth KM 2 resized

Μοναδική. Συνκλωνιστική. Μαγική. Είναι δύσκολο να βρεις μια λέξη που να περιγράψει την εμπειρία ενός φυσιολογικού τοκετού. Ως μητέρα -που είχα την τύχη να βιώσει αυτή την εμπειρία -και ως μαιευτήρας, έχοντας ξεγεννήσει χιλιάδες μωρά, δεν μπορώ παρά να θαυμάσω κάθε φορά την ομορφιά ενός φυσιολογικού τοκετού, σαν να ήταν μια τέλεια σχεδιασμένη χορογραφία…

Αλλά το γεγονός ότι κάτι είναι φυσικό δεν σημαίνει ότι στερείται κινδύνων ή επιπλοκών. Έτσι, ένας φυσικός τοκετός στο μαιευτήριο επιτρέπει σε μια γυναίκα να γεννήσει με ελάχιστες παρεμβάσεις, διασφαλίζοντας παράλληλα την κατάλληλη φροντίδα σε περίπτωση που κάτι πάει στραβά. Και πιστέψτε με, μερικές φορές στραβώνουν τα πράγματα, και τότε μπορεί να έχουμε μόνο λίγα λεπτά για να σώσουμε τη μητέρα ή το μωρό …

Είναι αλήθεια πως τα νοσοκομεία μπορεί να επηρεάσουν τη διαδικασία της φυσικής γέννας, με μέτρα όπως η παρακολούθηση του εμβρύου με καρδιοτοκογράφημα ή ο ορρός που βάζουμε στη μαμά -συνήθως μη διαπραγματεύσιμες παρεμβάσεις κατά την διάρκεια ενός τοκετού εντός μαιευτηρίου… Να ξέρετε όμως πως αυτά τα μέτρα είναι πολύτιμα, και μπορεί να είναι σωτήρια σε περίπτωση έκτακτης ανάγκης.

Φυσικός τοκετός χωρίς φάρμακα στο μαιευτήριο; Βεβαίως που γίνεται! Αρκεί να συνυπάρχουν μια μαμά με πολύ ισχυρή θέληση και μια υποστηρικτική ομάδα (εννοείται ότι πρέπει να υπάρχουν και καλές προϋποθέσεις για φυσικό τοκετό)…

Σε αυτό το άρθρο, η KM μοιράζεται μαζί μας την εμπειρία της ενός φυσικού τοκετού σε μαιευτήριο, και παρέχει μερικές συμβουλές για να ξεπεραστούν τα εμπόδια που ενδέχεται να παρουσιαστούν κατά τη διαδικασία της γέννας…

Ο δικός μου φυσικός τοκετός στο μαειτήριο: Πως να ξεπεράσετε ορισμένα εμπόδια για να έχετε μια γέννα σαν την δικιά μου

“Γέννησα φυσιολογικά, χωρίς επισκληρίδιο, και θεωρώ τις δεκαπέντε ώρες που διήρκησε ο τοκετός μου ως μερικές από τις καλύτερες της ζωής μου. Ο σύζυγός μου απεδείχθη σπουδαίος συνοδός τοκετού – μια ευχάριστη έκπληξη, ιδιαίτερα επειδή αποφασίσαμε να μην προσλάβουμε μαία ή doula.

Με την έναρξη του τοκετού αφεθήκαμε στις μελωδίες του Don Carlos «Rivers of Babylon» και του Simon and Garfunkel «I am a Rock», μεταξύ άλλων χαλαρωτικών ήχων της δικιάς μας «Chill Mix για τοκετό», μουγρίσαμε σαν αγελάδες, και ο άνδρας μου ανέλαβε τα μασάζ στην πλάτη με μπάλες του τένις. Τις πρώτες δέκα ώρες στο σπίτι και καθ’ οδόν προς το μαιευτήριο ένιωθα σαν να πήγαινα σε μία πολύ αναμενόμενη συνάντηση: γέλιο, ομαδική εργασία, και πολύ χυμό καρπουζιού (ήταν Αύγουστος, στην Ελλάδα!)… συν κάποιο υποφερτό πόνο που παλέψαμε μαζί.

Natural Birth KM 1 resized

Αυτό που βρήκα λιγότερο ευχάριστο στην εμπειρία του τοκετού μου δεν ήταν ο πόνος. Ήταν η διαδικασία της παραλαβής στο μαειυτήριο, στην οποία ο σύζυγός μου και εγώ έπρεπε να χωριστούμε. Κατανοώ ότι τα μαειυτήρια δίνουν προτεραιότητα στις ιατρικές πρακτικές -και στην νομική αυτοπροστασία- πάνω από την συναισθηματική ευεξία. Οι διαδικασίες ρουτίνας, όπως ο ορός εφαρμόζονται για να επιτρέψουν γρήγορη και εύκολη πρόσβαση σε ιατρική επέμβαση, όχι για να χαλαρώνουν την έγκυο γυναίκα για να γεννήσει το μωρό. Δεν περιμέναμε ότι το νοσοκομειακό περιβάλλον θα ενθαρρύνει τον φυσικό τοκετό, οπότε δουλέψαμε με την γυναικολόγο μου αρκετό καιρό πριν για να αντιμετωπίσουμε τα εμπόδια που θα μπορούσαμε να προβλέψουμε.

Είχα διαβάσει το Birthing from Within και το Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (ένα από αυτά προτείνει να μουγκρίσουμε σαν αγελάδα για να χαλαρώσουμε και να ανοίξει ο τράχηλος της μήτρας), και είχαμε παρακολουθήσει μαθήματα τοκετού στην Ευτοκία και στο Babycenter’s online birthing course. Ήμασταν πεπεισμένοι ότι όσο λιγότερη άσκοπη ιατρική παρέμβαση γινόταν, τόσο το καλύτερο και για τους δύο μας, μαμά και μωρό. Το να αποφεύγουμε άσκοπη παρέμβαση μου φαίνεται κοινή λογική, αλλά η γυναικολόγος μου μας θύμισε ότι η κοινή λογική δεν είναι και τόσο κοινή. Και τονίζω ότι επρόκειτο να γεννήσω στην χώρα με το υψηλότερο ποσοστό  γεννήσεων με καισαρική στον κόσμο (70%), σύμφωνα με την Human Rights in Childbirth case study.

Παρακάτω αναφέρω τις ανησυχίες που είχαμε σχετικά με το μαιευτήριο, και πως καταφέραμε να τις αντιμετωπίσουμε:

A. Τα δικαιώματά μου πάνω στο σώμα μου. Η γυναικολόγος μου με κράτησε ενηήμερη για όλες τις επιλογές μου. Η εμπειρία της με τον φυσιολογικό τοκετό, η προθυμία της να εξηγήσει την κάθε μας επιλογή, η υποστηριχτική της στάση απέναντι στις προσπάθειες μας να είμαστε πλήρως ενημερωμένοι, δημιούργησαν έναν αμοιβαίο σεβασμό. Όταν μας πρότεινε παρεμβάσεις, αυτές γίνανε αφού είχαμε συναινέσει. Είχα μια κολπική εξέταση με αποκόλληση των μεμβρανών μια ημέρα πριν την πιθανή μου ημερομηνία τοκετού, και η ιατρός μου έσπασε τα νερά όταν είχα περίπου 8 εκατοστά διαστολής.

Β. Η ευθύνη μου απέναντι στο μωρό μου. Το να προστατέψω την εμπειρία του τοκετού το αισθάνθηκα σαν την πρώτη μου επιτυχία στην ανατροφή του παιδιού μου. Η ανάμνηση αυτή εξακολουθεί να μου παρέχει ένα βαθύ αίσθημα ικανοποίησης και εμπιστοσύνης στον εαυτό μου, πολύτιμα όπλα για αυτό το «άθλημα αντοχής» που αποτελεί η μητρότητα.

Γ. Ο χρόνος ανάρρωσης. Χάρη στο φυσικό τοκετό ήμουν σε θέση να περπατήσω μέχρι την τουαλέτα χωρίς βοήθεια αμέσως μετά τον τοκετό, και να πηγαίνω μέχρι το γραφείο της νοσοκόμας να ζητήσω να μου φέρουν πίσω το μωρό μου.

Δ. Επιτυχημένος θηλασμός. Επέλεξα το rooming-in –δηλαδή να είμαι μαζί με το μωρό συνέχεια στο δωμάτιο-, και για να τηρηθεί αυτή η επιλογή, ζητούσα το μωρό μου πίσω όταν μου το παίρνανε, επειδή ακόμα και με το rooming-in, το μωρό μας περνούσε αρκετό χρόνο μακριά από μας. Η γυναικολόγος μου ενημέρωσε το προσωπικό του νοσοκομείου ότι θέλαμε αποκλειστικό θηλασμό και ζήτησε να μην του χορηγούν ξένο γάλα ή νερό. Η αναχώρηση μας από το μαιευτήριο στις 24 ώρες διασφάλισε ότι οποιοδήποτε τυχόν τάισμα κατά λάθος στην απουσία του μωρού από το δωμάτιο μας δεν θα ήταν εμπόδιο στο στόχο μου για αποκλειστικό θηλασμό.

Ε. Η ευκαιρία να συνδεθώ με το μωρό μου. Η γυναικολόγος μου έκανε ότι περνούσε από το χέρι της για να μειώσει το χρόνο που θα ήμασταν χώρια: κανόνισε να περνάμε αρκετό χρόνο μαζί οι τρεις μας αμέσως μετά τον τοκετό. Επίσης, υπέγραψε τον “πρόωρο” εξιτήριο στις 24 ώρες.

Natural Birth KM 5 resized

Οκτώ συμβουλές για να έχετε έναν φυσικό τοκετό στο μαιευτήριο:

  1. Να ξέρετε τι να περιμένετε. Είχαμε διαβάσει για αυτή τη στιγμή, κάπου στα τελευταία εκατοστά διαστολής, που σκέφτεσαι «δεν νομίζω ότι μπορώ να το κάνω αυτό». Επειδή το γνωρίζαμε εκ τον προτέρων παραμείναμε ψύχραιμοι και αργότερα γελάσαμε με το προβλέψιμο της στιγμής. Το ότι ο τοκετός (και ο θηλασμός) είναι κάτι φυσικό, δεν σημαίνει ότι έρχεται εύκολα ή χωρίς την ανάγκη για γνώση.
  2. Να είστε συνειδητοποιημένοι σχετικά με το τι θέλετε, και να έχετε μια ομάδα στο ίδιο «μήκος κύματος» με σας. Ο σύζυγός μου και εγώ γράψαμε το πλάνο τοκετού (βλέπε παρακάτω) και το συζητήσαμε μεταξύ μας, με την γυναικολόγο μου και με το προσωπικό του μαιευτηρίου μέχρι να φτάσουμε σε πιο ρεαλιστική εκδοχή. Η διαδικασία του γραφήματος αυτού του πλάνου ήταν ανεκτίμητη, μας βοήθησε να είμαστε πιο ενημερωμένοι και να προετοιμαστούμε κατάλληλα για την επιτυχία.
  3. Να μην πηγαίνετε στο μαιευτήριο από πολύ νωρίς. Ακολουθώντας την συμβουλή της γυναικολόγου μου, φύγαμε από το σπίτι μας όταν οι συσπάσεις ήταν κάθε τρία λεπτά, περίπου δέκα ώρες μετά την έναρξη του τοκετού. Είμαστε ευγνώμονες για αυτή τη συμβουλή, αλλά φαντάζομαι ότι αυτό μπορεί να μην ισχύει για κάθε περίπτωση.
  4. Να φροντίζετε να νιώθετε στο μαιευτήριο σαν στο σπίτι σας. Στο μαιευτήριο χαμηλώσαμε τα φώτα, βάλαμε τη μουσική μας και -ομολογουμένως- φέραμε μια μικρή βαλίτσα γεμάτη με διάφορες προσωπικές πινελιές, οι οποίες τελικά δεν χρειάστηκαν. Στα τελευταία στάδια του τοκετού στο μαιευτήριο ήμουν τελείως επικεντρωμένη στην διαδικασία του τοκετού, και ο σύζυγός μου και η μουσική ήταν το μόνο που χρειαζόμουνα για να είμαι χαλαρή. Εξακολουθώ να πιστεύω όμως πως το να έχω μία μικρή τσάντα με διάφορα αντικείμενα ήταν παρήγορο.
  5. Να έχετε τουλάχιστον έναν «αρχηγό» που θα εκφωνήσει αυτά που θέλετε. Προς το τέλος του τοκετού ήρθε η στιγμή που ήμουν «αλλού» και μου ήταν δύσκολο ακόμα και να μιλήσω. Ήμουν τυχερή να έχω τον σύζυγό μου και την γυναικολόγο μου να απομακρύνουν -καλοπροαίρετες-  νοσοκόμες που μου προσφέρανε επισκληρίδιο προς το τέλος του τοκετού, πρόταση δελεαστική, αλλά που θα ήταν για μένα μη επιθυμητή. Μετά τη γέννα μοιράστηκα το δωμάτιο με μια μαμά στην οποία χορηγήθηκε όψιμα επισκληρίδιος, ενώ είχε ήδη κάνει σχεδόν όλη την δύσκολη δουλειά.
  6. Να επιλέξετε rooming-in, και να ζητήσετε να σας φέρουν το μωρό σας πίσω! Στην εμπειρία μου τα μωρά που κάνουν rooming-in περνάνε ένα μεγάλο χρονικό διάστημα σε ένα θάλαμο στον οποίο οι γονείς δεν επιτρέπεται να παραβρεθούν, και μετά τον καθιερωμένο καθημερινό έλεγχο πολλές φορές δεν επιστρέφουν άμεσα, παρά μόνο αν τα ζητήσετε.
  7. Natural Birth KM 4 resizedΖητήστε όσες συμβουλές χρειάζεστε για τη φροντίδα του μωρού σας και του εαυτού σας – πώς να αλλάξει μια πάνα, πώς να κρατήσει το μωρό για να το καθαρίσετε, το σωστό τρόπο να πιάσει το μωρό τη θηλή, πώς να θηλάσετε ξαπλωμένη. Πολλές από αυτές τις διαδικασίες είναι πιο εύκολο να τις μάθουμε στην πράξη παρά μέσα από τα βιβλία. Παρατήρησα ότι το προσωπικό του νοσοκομείου είναι συνηθισμένο στους γονείς που τους δίνουν τα μωρά τους να τους τα φροντίζουν, αλλά που χάνουν την ευκαιρία για μάθηση ενώ είναι στο μαιευτήριο.
  8. Να φύγετε από το μαιευτήριο το συντομότερο δυνατόν, εκτός και αν θεωρήσετε ότι το μαιευτήριο είναι πιο ξεκούραστο από το σπίτι σας (η γυναικολόγος μου υπενθύμισε ότι το νοσοκομείο μπορεί να είναι ένα ωραίο διάλειμμα όταν υπάρχουν και άλλα παιδιά που περιμένουν στο σπίτι). Εγώ γέννησα στο μοναδικό μαιευτήριο που επέτρεπε τότε την έξοδο στις 24 ώρες, με την προϋπόθεση ότι όλα είναι καλά. Αισθάνθηκα πως θα ήταν πολύ πιο χαλαρά στο σπίτι μου και δεν θα χρειαζόταν να ζητήσω το μωρό μου πίσω.

Ο σύζυγος προσθέτει:

Natural Birth KM 3 resized

Η προετοιμασία είναι το κλειδί για να έχετε μια μοναδική εμπειρία τοκετού. Για να στηρίξω τη σύζυγό μου θεώρησα σημαντικό να συμμετέχω, όχι μόνο με την παρουσία μου στον τοκετό, αλλά και πριν από τον τοκετό. Διάβασα τα βιβλία που η Κατερίνα αναφέρει, το Birthing from Within και το Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, τα οποία ήταν κρίσιμα για να κατανοώ ακριβώς τι συμβαίνει – και τι να περιμένω – σε όλα τα στάδια του τοκετού, και πώς ο πανικός μπορεί να χαλάει όλη την διαδικασία. Να προετοιμαστώ πολύ καιρό πριν μου επέτρεψε να παραμείνω ήρεμος και συγκεντρωμένος. Επιπλέον, το να συμμετέχω ενεργά δημιούργησε μια αίσθηση κοινής προσπάθειας, και έναν ισχυρό δεσμό με την Κατερίνα, τα οποία μας προκαλέσανε αισθήματα εμπιστοσύνης και ασφάλειας μεταξύ μας κατά τη διάρκεια του τοκετού.

Και κάτι ακόμα: αν είστε συνεργάτης τοκετού και φοβόσαστε πως δεν θα συμπεριφερθείτε «σοβαρά» κατά τη διάρκεια του τοκετού, να το ξεπεράσετε! Τα βιβλία είχαν πολλές χρήσιμες συμβουλές για το τι έπρεπε να κάνω σε συγκεκριμένες περιπτώσεις να βοηθήσω την Κατερίνα να ξεπεράσει τους φόβους της και να διώξω τις εντάσεις που συχνά προκύπτουν. Εάν επρόκειτο να ανοίξει ολόκληρο το σώμα της για να αφήσει έναν άνθρωπο να βγει, το να μου ζητήσει να μουγκρίζω σαν αγελάδα ήταν το λιγότερο που θα μπορούσα να κάνω!


Πιθανή ημερομηνία τοκετού: Κυριακή 11 Αυγούστου 2013

Το μωρό: το πρώτο μας, κορίτσι, το οποίο σκοπεύουμε να ονωμάσουμε CLLB

Μαιευτήρας Γυναικολόγος: Dr. Liliana Colombero

Είμαστε σύμφωνοι με κάθε παρέμβαση που η ιατρός κα. Colombero θεωρεί αναγκαία για την ασφάλεια της μητέρας και του μωρού. Ζητάμε, εκτός από περίπτωση έκτακτης ανάγκης, να ενημερωθούμε πριν από κάθε διαδικασία και να έχουμε τη δυνατότητα να κάνουμε ερωτήσεις σχετικά με τα πλεονεκτήματα και τα μειονεκτήματα της κάθε επιλογής. Γνωρίζουμε ότι τα πράγματα μπορούν να αλλάξουν ξαφνικά. Παρακάτω είναι το καλύτερο σενάριο, όπως εμείς το φανταζόμαστε σήμερα, 9 Αυγούστου 2013. Σας ευχαριστούμε για το χρόνο που αφιερώσατε να διαβάσετε τις επιθυμίες μας για τον τοκετό.


Στην παραλαβή, θα ήθελα:

• Να μην γίνεται ξύρισμα, εφόσον το έχω ήδη κάνει.
• Να μην γίνεται κλύσμα εάν το έντερό μου θα έχει ήδη αδειάσει από μόνο του.
• Να έχω έναν ηπαρινησμένο φλεβοκαθετήρα, αντί του συνήθους ορρού, με την προϋπόθεση ότι δεν πρόκειται να γίνει επισκληρίδιος ή καισαρική τομή.

• Να ακούσω μουσική και να περιορίσουμε τους εξωτερικούς θορύβους.
• Να χαμηλώσουμε τα φώτα όταν η ορατότητα δεν είναι σημαντική.
• Να μπορέσω να πίνω νερό ή άλλα υγρά.


Εφόσον το μωρό και εγώ είμαστε καλά, θα ήθελα να:
• Αποφύγετε η καισαρική τομή.
• Αποφύγετε η χρήση οκυτοκύνης.
• Δοκιμαστεί την αποκόλληση των μεμβρανών πριν από την χρήση οκυτοκύνης.
• Προχωρήσει ο τοκετός χωρίς χρονικά όρια.
• Μην μου προσφερθεί επισκληρίδιος, εκτός και αν τη ζητήσω.

Όταν έρθει η ώρα να εξωθώ, θα ήθελα να:
• Δοκιμάσω διαφορετικές στάσεις.
• Επιχειρήσουμε μασάζ ή πίεση στο περίνεο.
• Σπρώξω ενστικτωδώς όταν έχω την αίσθηση.
• Λάβω οδηγίες για το πώς να σπρώξω όταν βγαίνει το κεφάλι του μωρού, για να μειώσουμε τις πιθανότητες ρήξης του περινέου.
• Αποφύγετε η περινεοτομή, εκτός εάν η Dr. Colombero θεωρεί ότι το σχίσιμο θα είναι πολύ εκτεταμένο αν δεν γίνεται.
Μετά τη γέννηση, θα ήθελα να:
• Τοποθετείται το μωρό πάνω μου αμέσως για επαφή δέρμα με δέρμα.
• Μην κοπεί ο ομφάλιος λώρος μέχρι να σταματήσει να σφύξει.
• Προσπαθώ να θηλάσω αμέσως.
• Περιμένετε τον πλακούντα να βγει από μόνο του, όσο το δυνατόν περισσότερο.
• Αναβάλουμε τις διαδικασίες (αποτυπώματα, θεραπείες, εξετάσεις) για λίγη ώρα για να μπορώ να θηλάζω και να συνδεθώ με το μωρό μου.
• Μένουμε μαζί με το σύζυγο και το μωρό μου όσο το δυνατόν περισσότερο κατά τη διάρκεια της ανάνηψης.


• Θα ήθελα να είναι ξύπνια και να έχω επαφή δέρμα με δέρμα με το μωρό όσο το δυνατόν συντομότερα.

• Παρακαλούμε να ράβετε τη μήτρα σε δύο στρώματα για να αυξήσουμε τις πιθανότητές μου για VBAC (φυσιολογικό τοκετό μετά από καισαρική τομή) στο μέλλον.

• Θα ήθελα να μείνω μαζί με το μωρό μου κατά τη διάρκεια της ανάνηψης, και να θηλάζω όσο το δυνατόν συντομότερα.


Ενώ αναρρώνω, θα ήθελα να:
• Έχω 24-ωρο rooming-in με το μωρό μας.
• Εκτελεστούν οι περισσότερες διαδικασίες στο μωρό στην παρουσία μας, εφόσον είναι δυνατόν.
• Θηλάσω αποκλειστικά.
• Μιλήσω με έναν σύμβουλο θηλασμού, το συντομότερο δυνατό.
• Αποφύγετε το τάισμα του μωρού με ξένο γάλα ή νερό με ζάχαρη. Να μην δοθεί πιπίλα στο μωρό μου χωρίς τη συγκατάθεσή μου.
• Πηγαίνουμε στο σπίτι το συντομότερο δυνατό, αν όλα είναι καλά.»

Ένα τελευταίο υποσημείωνα της γυναικολόγου: Ο τοκετός που η ΚΜ περιγράφει έλαβε μέρος το 2013. Θεωρώ πως από τότε έχουν γίνει πολύ γενναίες προσπάθειες από τα μαιευτήρια να υποστηρίξουν τον φυσικό τοκετό και το θηλασμό. Μάλιστα, τα περισσότερα μαιευτήρια έχουν πάρει την πιστοποίηση “Baby friendly” (δηλαδή φιλικά προς το θηλασμό) από την Παγκόσμια Οργάνωση Υγείας… Είναι γεγονός ότι ακόμα πρέπει να γίνει αρκετή δουλειά, αλλά πιστεύω πως είμαστε σε καλό δρόμο…

Έχετε κάποια εμπειρία για να μοιραστείτε μαζί μας; Μπορείτε να βοηθήσετε και άλλες γυναίκες! Στείλτε μας την ιστορία σας στο


Wonderful. Empowering. Overwhelming. It is difficult to find a word to describe the experience of a vaginal birth. As a mother -who went through this experience-  and obstetrician, even after having delivered thousands of babies, I can’t help but admire every single time the beauty of a vaginal birth, it always feels to me like a perfectly designed choreography…

But the fact that something is natural doesn’t mean that is devoid of risks or complications. Thus, a hospital natural birth allows a woman to deliver with minimum intervention, while assuring peace of mind in case something goes wrong. And believe me, sometimes things DO go wrong, and then we may have just a few minutes to save the mother or the baby… 
True, hospitals can sometimes interfere with the process of a natural birth: measures such as fetal monitoring or the IV line are usually non-negotiable requirements for a hospital birth, but they can be invaluable, even life-saving in case an emergency ensues.
A natural, unmedicated hospital birth IS possible, it’s just a matter of having a motivated mom and a supportive team…
Here, KM shares her experience of a natural birth at a hospital and provides some tips to overcome the obstacles that may present in the process…

Natural Birth KM 2 resized

My Natural Hospital Birth: Overcoming obstacles to get to the birth I had

“I gave birth without pain relief and I consider my fifteen hours of labour as some of my best. My husband turned ace birth partner – a nice surprise, and a lucky one considering we opted not to hire a midwife or doula. We swayed to Don Carlos’s Rivers of Babylon and Simon and Garfunkel’s I am a Rock, among other soothing tunes in our Labour Chill Mix; moo-ed like cows; and got tennis balls rolling on my back. The first ten hours at home and en route to the hospital felt like a date: laughter, teamwork, watermelon juice (it was August, we live in Greece)… and some manageable pain thrown in to rally against together.

Natural Birth KM 1 resizedWhat I found least pleasant about my birth experience wasn’t the pain. It was the hospital admittance process keeping my husband and me apart and waiting. The hospitals I know prioritise hospital practicalities and legal self-protection over emotional wellbeing. Routine procedures like the IV are designed to allow quick and easy access to medical intervention, not for soothing pregnant women to “open up and let the baby out”. We didn’t expect the hospital setting to encourage natural birth, so we worked with my obstetrician ahead of time to overcome the obstacles we could predict.

Having read Birthing from Within and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (one of these suggests moo-ing like a cow to relax and open the cervix), attended birthing classes at Eutokia and Babycenter’s online birthing course, we were convinced that the less unnecessary medical intervention the better for both mom and baby. Avoiding unnecessary intervention seems like common sense, but as my obstetrician reminded us: common sense is not so common. We prepared for birth in the country with the highest rate (at 70%) of caesarean births in the world, a Human Rights in Childbirth case study.

Here is what was at stake at the hospital and how we managed each concern:

A. My rights over my body – My obstetrician kept me informed of my choices throughout. Her track record in vaginal births, willingness to explain our options, welcoming attitude to our attempts to be informed all set the stage for mutual respect. When she suggested interventions, we agreed. I had a membrane sweep a day before my due date and had my waters broken when I was about 8cm dilated.

B. My responsibility towards my baby – Protecting my birth experience felt like a first success at parenting. The memory still provides a deep well of confidence that we draw from in the endurance sport of parenting.

C. Recovery time – I was able to walk to the toilet by myself after the birth, and to walk to the nurse’s desk to ask for my baby back.

D. Breastfeeding success – I chose to room in with my baby and I enforced this choice by asking for my baby back. Even though we were “rooming-in”, our baby spent a lot of time out of our sight. My obstetrician informed the hospital staff that I was interested in exclusive breastfeeding and asked that they not to offer formula or water. Leaving the hospital after 24 hours ensured that any accidental feeds during the baby’s long absences from rooming in didn’t sabotage my breastfeeding goals.

E. The opportunity to bond with baby – My obstetrician did her best to remove unnecessary separations between us and our new baby. She arranged some alone time for the three of us before the hospital’s priorities took over again after the birth. She also signed off on our “early” release at 24 hours.

Natural Birth KM 5 resizedEight tips to having a natural birth in hospital: 

  1. Learn about what you can expect. We had read about the “I don’t think I can do this” moment getting through the last couple of centimetres. Knowing about this ahead of time kept us calm and later we laughed in recognition of the predictability of it. Just because childbirth (and breastfeeding, for that matter) is natural, it doesn’t mean that it comes easily or without need for knowledge.
  2. Be vigilant about what you want and get your birthing team on the same page. My husband and I wrote our birth wishes down (see below) and talked them over with each other, our obstetrician and the hospital staff until we reached a version that was more realistic. The process of writing this one pager was invaluable – it helped us become more informed and helped us mentally prepare for what success could look like.
  3. Arrive at the hospital late. On our obstetrician’s advice, we didn’t leave our home until after my contractions were about three minutes apart, ten hours into labour. I credit my obstetrician with sharing this advice, but I imagine that the advice she is able to give varies based on how informed a couple is.
  4. Make yourself at home in the hospital. We dimmed the lights, brought music and admittedly a small suitcase full of other personal touches we didn’t end up using. It turned out that I was focused inward much of the time in the later stages of labour at the hospital and my husband and music were all I needed to feel relaxed. I still claim that having the little suitcase of other supplies was comforting.
  5. Have at least one champion who will be vocal about what you want. There came a time when I was in another zone and talking was difficult. I was lucky to have both my husband and obstetrician fend off well-meaning nurses offering an epidural too late into my labour,  when it was tempting but would have been counter productive. I later roomed with a mom who was given such a late epidural, essentially sabotaging her natural birth efforts after having done most of the hard work.
  6. Rooming in – ask for your baby back! In my experience “rooming in” babies seem to spend a surprising amount of time in some auditorium that parents aren’t allowed even to look into. They are not returned after their individual checks are done but when they are all done, unless you ask.Natural Birth KM 4 resized
  7. Ask for the advice you need to care for your baby yourself – how to change a nappy, how to hold the baby to wash away poop, how to help baby latch onto nipple, how to breastfeed lying down. Many of these are much easier to learn with guided practice rather than through books. I noticed that hospital staff are used to parents who are content to let them handle the baby, but who miss out on learning while in the hospital.
  8. Get out as soon as possible, unless you find the hospital setting a rest from home (my obstetrician suggested I keep an open mind about this since the hospital can be a nice break when there are other children waiting at home). I gave birth at the only Greek hospital at the time that allowed exit after 24 hours, assuming all is well. We fought for our exit and the two couples we roomed with decided to do the same. We were much more relaxed at home and I could stop demanding for my baby back.

The husband adds:

Natural Birth KM 3 resizedPreparation was key to having an excellent birth experience. To support my wife, it was important to be involved, not just by being present for the labour but at an early stage. Reading the books Katerina mentions, Birthing from Within and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, were critical to understanding exactly what was going on – and what to expect — at all of the stages of labour, and how panic can cause the process to go into reverse. Doing my homework beforehand allowed me to remain calm and focused. Being involved also created a sense of shared endeavour with Katerina, an important bond necessary for fostering the feelings of trust and safety between us during the labour.

One more thing: if you’re a birth partner, and you have any feelings of self-consciousness about not behaving “seriously” during the labour, get over them. The books were full of useful tips about what to do in specific situations to help Katerina overcome fears and relieve tensions that commonly crop up. If she was going to open up her whole body to let a human out, mooing like a cow was a small ask for me.




Due date: Sunday, 11 August 2013

Baby details: Our first, a girl, we intend to name her CLLB

Obstetrician: Dr. Liliana Colombero


We are open to any intervention that Dr. Colombero judges is necessary for the safety of mom and baby. We ask that, outside of an emergency, we are informed before any procedures and be allowed to ask questions about the pros and cons. We are aware that things can change suddenly. Below is our best case scenario, as we imagine it today, 9 August 2013. Thank you for taking the time to read our birth wishes. 


Once I’m admitted, I’d like to: 


  • Opt out of being shaved, assuming I’ve shaved myself already.
  • Opt out of the enema, assuming my system has emptied out ahead of time on its own.
  • Have a heparin lock instead of routine IV, assuming I’m not going for an epidural or c-section.


  • Listen to music and limit outside noise.
  • Dim the lights when visibility isn’t important.
  • Drink water, or other clear fluids.


As long as the baby and I are doing fine, I’d like to:

  • Avoid a cesarean.
  • Avoid being induced with pitocin.
  • Try a membrane sweep before induction by pitocin.
  • Progress in labor without time limits.
  • Not be offered an epidural, unless I request it.

When it’s time to push, I’d like to:

  • Try different positions.
  • Try perineal massage or compress.
  • Push instinctively when I have the urge.
  • Get guidance about how to push during crowning to reduce the chances of perineal tearing.
  • Avoid an episiotomy, unless Dr. Colombero feels that tearing will be very extensive.

After birth, I’d like to: 

  • Have the baby placed on my stomach immediately for skin-to-skin contact.
  • Hold off on the cutting of the umbilical cord until it stops throbbing.
  • Try to nurse immediately.
  • Wait for the placenta to be delivered in its own time, as much as possible.
  • Hold off on procedures (labelling, shots, tests) for an hour to allow for nursing and bonding.
  • Stay together during recovery with my husband and baby as long as possible.


  • I would like to be conscious and have skin-to-skin contact with the baby as soon as possible.
  • Please use double-layer sutures to raise my chances of a VBAC in future.
  • I would like to stay together with my baby during recovery, and to breastfeed as soon as possible.


While recovering, I’d like to: 

  • Choose 24-hour rooming-in with our baby.
  • Have procedures on our baby done in our presence, as much as possible.
  • Breastfeed exclusively.
  • Speak to a lactation consultant as soon as possible.
  • Avoid baby formula, sugar water, or a pacifier being offered to my baby without my consent.
  • Go home as soon as possible, if all is well.”


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