There are few experiences a woman will go through in life more personal than giving birth.

It is a moment that will stay with you forever and for many women making sure it is exactly the experience they planned for is vital.

And research is now revealing modern mums-to-be are demanding exactly what they want in labour with many personalising their labour by choosing alternative methods and locations to have their babies.

Netmums says research it has undertaken has found seven out of 10 women select how and where they give birth, with choices ranging from outdoor or silent births and slow caesarean, to swimming with dolphins.

Gone are the days, say professionals, when women simply accept whatever happens during labour, even if things might be done without their consent.

The Netmums study found 56 per cent of mums-to-be plan to include one of the newwave of alternative birth techniques in their birth plan, with more than a third considering hypnobirthing, using selfhypnosis to manage pain.

Almost one in five opt for the experimental slow caesarean - a new caesarean technique which minimises anaesthetic use for a more natural birth experience.

Another one in 10 women aspire to an unassisted birth, where there's no medical intervention, two per cent choose a silent birth, where everyone else in the room keeps quiet, and one per cent would like to give birth outdoors or alongside a dolphin.

This might not be the most practical of options in North Essex – or anywhere for that matter – but Colchester midwife Sandra Gosling says choice is definitely the main priority in north Essex.

There are three midwifery led units in north Essex, at Colchester General Hospital and at Clacton and Harwich.

Sandra, clinical specialist midwife for the delivery suite in Colchester, says pool births are hugely popular with mums.

A huge amount of thought has gone in to making the five pools at Colchester and further one each in Clacton and Harwich as relaxing and calming as possible.

LED candles, calming rural and seaside scenes on the walls and even twinkling coloured lighting on the ceiling in stateof- the-art suites add to the relaxed atmosphere.

All of the equipment that may be needed in an emergency folds away so cannot be seen unless it is needed and many of the newer rooms have their own en-suite bathrooms.

Sandra says it means mums who are in labour, even those whose pregnancy might be a higher risk, get the experience they want.

“I certainly think that in the last five years we have really moved to give women far more options.

“It used to be if you wanted things like twinkly lighting and LEDs then you went for a home birth.

“And for the majority of women a home birth is a very safe option. But if you cannot due to being in a higher risk with your pregnancy due to a medical condition, and therefore have to come to the delivery suite then you still have the choice of that.

“We have pools in the high risk delivery suites too,” adds Sandra.

She says pool births are hugely popular with mums because of the relaxation it offers and help with pain relief.

“When you are in deep water you don’t feel the weight of the pregnancy so it makes it much easier to move around and changing position when you are in labour is vital because it assists the labour in progressing.

“ Being in water also helps release endorphins which help women cope with contractions better,” explains Sandra.

And she says hypnobirthing, which proved so popular in the netmums survey, is equally as well supported in north Essex.

In fact, around 25 of the midwives there are trained in the practice and Sandra estimates around a third of mums giving birth there each year are attending hypnobirthing classes.

“It puts you into a very deep state of relaxation. It just helps them to keep calm throughout.”

Using this method might mean mums hoping to minimise use of pain relief will be able to achieve this aim.

And Sandra says while she is not aware of mums having slow caesareans at the trust, there is still evidence of parents making conscience decisions of how they want the birth of the child to be.

One of the benefits of the slow caesarean, fans of the practice say, is that women can reach down and touch the baby as they are born and Sandra says there is evidence mums are moving towards trying to do everything they can to help with the bonding.

“More women are asking for the curtain usually put up between where the surgeons are delivering the baby and the mum, to be taken down during the caesarean.

“And baby is not separated from mum at all and goes straight to her for skin-to-skin contact.”



GIVING a woman choice about how and where she wants to give birth is something hypnobirthing specialist Keri Jarvis believes passionately in.

Keri, from Southend, is the founder of Hypnobirthdays and also facilitates The Positive Birth Movement South East Essex.

She says: “While it's wonderful to see growing awareness of choice in childbirth, I believe there is still an underlying sense in our culture that women who are not prepared to just ‘go with the flow’ are somehow putting their experience ahead of their baby.

“This often comes down to a lack of awareness about the ideal environmental and physiological conditions for labour, and how these benefit the process, and can reduce intervention.

“Whatever their choices, feeling listened to and autonomous are significant factors in a positive perspective of the birth, and we must remember that these feelings follow women into parenthood, impacting their wellbeing and ability to mother.”

Expert Keri runs hypnobirthing classes at the Therapy Life Centre in Southend. Keri aims to teach expectant couples to rationalise and release the fear of childbirth that she believes has become indoctrinated throughout our society.

She does this by teaching coping techniques including relaxation, breathing and visualisation to facilitate a labour that’s as comfortable and positive as possible.

Keri, who has clients from across Southend and Leigh and even further afield, believes our preconceptions towards hypnobirthing can be holding many women back from exploring hypnobirthing further.

The name ‘hypnobirthing’ certainly doesn't do itself any favours!

“People imagine that I have dreadlocked barefoot couples sitting cross legged on the floor whilst I swing a watch in front of their faces, burn some incense and tell them there will be no pain in childbirth! “ Actually there are no magic beans involved, no hippie nonsense, it’s all about learning how to engage with your body and fine tuning your mind to deal with childbirth in a positive way.

Keri also says the fact more women are now talking about their birth experiences is helping.

She said: “The sharing of experiences is giving women confidence – the power of social media plays a huge part. The Positive Birth Movement which has grown through online word of mouth offers free gatherings with facilitated discussioninformation sharing, woman to woman, is incredibly powerful.

“The ‘too posh to push’ idea about celebrities is being replaced by a wave of more ‘alternative choices’.”

Keri cites the examples of TV and radio presenter Fearne Cotton and former Hearsay singer Suzanne Shaw, who both had hypnobirthing and have talked openly about how much it helped them: “It’s very positive that they have opened up about their decisions,” she said.