Important New Info About Sleeping On Your Side

Tommy’s, the charity who fund research into miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth,
have just released some interesting new information about sleep position during pregnancy, following the publication of a large new research study.

In the third trimester, the advice is to go sleep on your side.
Research has shown that this is safer for your baby, whether at night or for daytime naps.

https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/sleep-side-pregnancy-campaign

While the numbers we’re talking about are very small (fewer than 1 in 200 UK pregnancies results in stillbirth), and the researchers are not sure of the reasons sleep position may have a part to play, it does seem like this small difference in the last three months of pregnancy is significant, and is what’s known as a ‘modifiable risk factor’ – something we can do something about.

I’ve posted more information, with links to the relevant studies and a video here: Sleep Position During Pregancy

How Risk Is Presented In Pregnancy

Today, Big Birtha was honoured to participate in a discussion about how risks are presented to women in pregnancy, organised by the British Pregnancy Advocacy Service (BPAS).

The room was filled with intelligent, interesting and influential women, from many different backgrounds, but who all share the passion that the way things are at the moment needs to change, and what can we do to bring about this change?

After years of running this blog, and feeling pretty isolated at times, it was so lovely to be in a room of like-minded people who agree that actually;

It’s not OK to make women feel failures that they are providing a ‘suboptimal’ host for their baby for whatever reason; be that because they dare to be overweight, or over 35 years of age, or have a medical issue controlled by medication, or want to enjoy the occasional glass of wine, or because they haven’t been taking folic acid and other dietary supplements religiously since reaching childbearing age just-in-case…

It’s not OK that statistics are often presented in the most alarming fashion possible – where relative risks are focused upon as routine because it’s a sure-fire way to make very small discrepancies look much more significant and scare the bejeezus out of us.

It’s not OK to unduly worry women and make them feel guilty about their situation, when that additional stress serves no purpose, can actually be detrimental, and is often at a point where the woman is not in a position to do anything about it.

It’s not OK that during a time when a woman is most apprehensive and in need of support and reassurance that she can be made to feel like she’s a bad/selfish/negligent mother who is undoubtedly doing harm to her unborn child, when she’s probably doing the best she can right now, probably has a perfectly healthy baby gestating inside her, and needs to be able to build rapport with and trust her care givers, not feel wretched every time she has contact with them.

It’s not OK that studies tend to focus exclusively on the behaviours/circumstances of the mother when drawing conclusions (usually negative!) about maternal actions and the consequences on their children (and sometimes their children’s children!), completely ignoring paternal and other societal influences role to play.

It’s not OK that when the media reports on scientific studies and research that the results are often presented with implied blame on the mother, usually from the most sensationalist angle, and that studies with poor methodology but the most sensationalist claims get more attention than those that are more balanced and better planned.

It’s not OK that women aren’t trusted to be able to look at the evidence (or sometimes lack of it!) for themselves in order to reach their own decisions about what’s best for them, their fetus, and their family, and instead are regularly presented with an oversimplified version of the available research, or worse still, a blanket ‘this is policy’ with no justification whatsoever.

It’s not OK that women routinely don’t feel supported in their ‘high-risk’ pregnancies, but that they’re a problem or ticking time bomb to be ‘managed’.

The fight for a more balanced, consultative, and respectful treatment of women in pregnancy is far from over, but this meeting really felt like the start of something positive.

If you want to see more of what BPAS have been doing on this topic, they’ve written some great press releases here:

www.bpas.org/about-our-charity/press-office/press-releases/

The Marks Of Life

I’ve had this song going round in my head for days.

In case you missed it, it’s blogger Sophie McCartney’s take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape Of You’ from a Mum’s perspective; gagging at the smell of baby poo and vomit, dealing with toddler tantrums, wondering where that strange smell is coming from, dealing with fussy toddlers at mealtimes, thanking God for CBeebies. It’s all there.

It was funny the first time, and the second, and the third… And now whenever ‘Shape Of You’ comes on the radio I no longer hear Ed’s original lyrics. Even if I do sing under my breath because I don’t really want the kids singing ‘Smell of Poo’ at the top of their lungs at every opportunity; scatological humour being their very favourite, of course, they’re kids…

Except one refrain keeps jarring with me; “What have you done to my body?”, sung as she wriggles and struggles trying to fit into a pair of jeans.

I can’t blame or credit my kids for my body – it looks pretty much the same as it did before they came along; saggy bits, wobbly bits, stretch marks, flat feet; it all predates them! No blame on their little heads!

Which got me wondering… do some skinny mums resent their kids for what pregnancy has done to their figures? Even if it’s just a tiny tiny bit, buried deep in the subconscious, that’s terribly sad.

Personally, I feel it would be far better to resent society and the beauty industry for suggesting that women should conform to some unrealistic ‘spring back into shape’ notion immediately after childbirth – but it’s hard to argue with the subconscious!? I know the mum in the video is playing for laughs, but as the saying goes ‘ many a true word spoken in jest’.

I’d never considered how the flipside of pressuring new mums to get back into shape, actually subtly implies that the children are to blame; the magazines don’t tend to call it ‘pregnancy weight, but ‘baby weight’, after all and language is a very subtle but powerful manipulator.

I don’t buy magazines, nor seek this sort of thing out online, so I don’t see this on a regular basis, but now I’ve been thinking about it, I’m glad this sort of content doesn’t appeal to me. Certainly, having a quick look before writing this showed just how much judgemental content there is out there for new mums in terms of body image.

When I’d just had my babies, I was blissfully ignorant of any such pressures! In hindsight, being fat and opting out of mainstream media actually seems like a really positive life choice! I just got on with being a new mum, trying to fathom my path through the sleep-deprived, bodily-fluid-covered, chocolate-digestive-fuelled world that is early parenthood; enjoying it and being exhausted by it in roughly equal parts.

At a time of the greatest upheaval and steepest learning curve in their lives, women should be able to just be with and enjoy their babies! But seriously, could this actually affect how women bond with their babies – wasting valuable time and effort trying to get back into the pre-pregnancy skinny jeans, and potentially feeling a sense of failure if they don’t achieve that lauded goal at a time when our hormones are naturally all over the place surely can’t be ideal?

I know I moan at times of the treatment of bigger mums. But actually, in this case I’m glad that my early days as a mum weren’t infected with this kind of poison. I felt no such pressure. Plenty of other pressures around keeping a tiny human alive, but none of this nonsense, and for that I am eternally glad.

For me, pregnancy and childbirth was (and should be!) a time of absolute wonder and amazement at what my not-so-little body was capable of. Well, wonder, amazement and general queasiness, but hey, that means the hormones are all working as they should, right?

Right from the first realisation that carrying a child had suddenly awakened my ‘spidey-senses’ and I was now able to detect the nauseating whiff of a tuna sandwich from half a kilometer away, to feeling the babies wriggling around inside me, to discovering that the dairy had sprung into production surprisingly early (about 20 weeks early!), through to having two awesome, pop-a-pea-out-of-a-pod births, and then feeding them well into toddlerhood, my amazing body did all of that, and I’m bloody proud of it. Wobbly bits and all.

In the Willy Russell play/film Shirley Valentine, the inveterate charmer, Costas talks about Shirley’s stretch marks:

Don’t, don’t be too stupid to try to hide these lines. They, they are lovely, because they are part of you, and you are lovely, so don’t, don’t hide, be proud. Sure. These marks show that, that you are alive, that you survive. Don’t try to hide these lines. They are the marks of life.

Shirley replies – to the audience; “Aren’t men full of shit?”, but do you know, I’m with Costas one hundred percent. Shirley reads too many magazines…

Don’t Assume, ASK!!!

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”, so the saying goes. But time after time during my ante-natal appointments I found that I was persistently judged by my ample cover…

Presumptive statements like “You need to cut back on the junk food”. Without actually asking about my diet first.

“You should be getting more exercise”. Again, without asking how much exercise I was already getting!

As soon as I found out I was pregnant I enrolled in Aqua Natal exercise classes twice a week, run by my local NHS service, and was pleased (and somewhat surprised) to discover that I actually had more energy, more stamina, and was seemingly fitter that a lot of the skinnier women in the pool with me.

Even I had made assumptions about myself. So perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised when Health Care Professionals do the same…

What got me thinking about this today was this article I read on Lauren Laverne’s ‘The Pool’ Website: Why the BMI is just one more unhelpful figure for women

Why BMI is yat another unhelpful figure for womenThis isn’t new news. Especially since scientists and doctors have been pondering the “Obesity Paradox” for a while now – that people in the BMI ‘overweight’ range, 25 to 30, may enjoy significantly lower mortality rates than their ‘normal weight’ counterparts.

Forgive me for linking to a health article in the Daily Fail, but for once, this one written by cardiologist Dr Carl Lavie is actually quite balanced, well put together, and helpful (if you can ignore the sensationalist headline).

What the science seems to show is that obesity in and of itself, while not necessarily ideal, is secondary to your level of fitness in determining how ‘healthy’ you are.

Feel free to remind your presumptive healthcare providers of this!

If I was being told the same unhelpful advice in ante-natal sessions now, I’d be fully prepared to challenge the speaker on their assumptions first. Trouble is, at the time, all I could do was mumble somewhat defensively that actually I was eating healthily and getting a reasonable amount of exercise…

Now I’d be a bit more confident at pointing out the blatant rudeness and frankly unscientific approach to advising more of something, or a change to something, without establishing a baseline first.

Also, as anyone who’s ever been to anything espousing the values of SMART goals – you’re much more likely to achieve something if it’s Specific, Measurable etc. I think a more targeted suggestion recommending increasing exercise to three sessions a week from the two I was already doing (having asked about that in the first place) would be far more person centred and motivating.

For the record, I’d really recommend Aqua Natal. I totally credit those sessions for the two incredibly easy, pop-a-pea-out-of-a-pod births I experienced, and no-one can see your wobbly bits in action!

x

Big Birtha