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Meet the midwives helping you to take back birth 'control'

Getting ready to have a baby is a very exciting time. But this life-changing experience can also seem overwhelming.

Jenny Mison and Tracey Lewis
Jenny Mison and Tracey Lewis

Helping to put women at ease as they guide them through the final weeks of pregnancy are practising midwives Jenny Mison and Tracy Lewis.

They have teamed up to use their midwifery knowledge to offer relaxation courses to prepare women for labour.

Jenny is also an experienced hypnobirthing teacher while Tracy is trained in reflexology, acupuncture and massage.

Based in Wolverhampton, they have combined these individual passions to offer pregnant women at 37 weeks and above antenatal courses.

During her midwifery training at Sheffield Hallam University, Jenny, who graduated in 2015, witnessed first-hand the benefits of hypnobirthing for women during births she attended.

Hypnobirthing is an effective technique used to release fear and anxiety surrounding childbirth that is said to lead to a calm, gentle birth and positive experience.

It also aims to provide an understanding how the mind and body work together and teaches different relaxation techniques such as visualising and breathing exercises.

Jenny completed a research assignment on hypnobirthing as an alternative therapy for labour and birth and was awarded funding from the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust to complete her KG Hypnobirthing training.

Since then she has taught private and group classes, alongside her midwifery job in the NHS, and enjoys being able to make a difference to women's lives.

"As a midwife, I was taught to offer pain relief if a women is in pain during labour but I was never taught about the cause of the pain, why they are feeling it and how they are feeling. In my third year I wanted to know more about what was happening in the body. This led me to hypnobirthing," explains Jenny.

Some people can be put off by the name but Jenny says there is no reason to be afraid of it. "What I teach women is complete science. It's very much what's happening in your body, why it's happening and what you can do to feel more in control," she explains.

As a practising midwife, Jenny is also able to offer an understanding of the biology and science behind birth as well as in-depth information about the different options available to women and what they can expect from the moment they arrive at hospital.

"There is a big gap in what women are able to access in pregnancy. I want hypnobirthing to be accessible to anyone feeling anxious in pregnancy. I'm really passionate about it," she tells us.

As Jenny tends to teach hypnobirthing during the earlier stages of pregnancy, typically at around 20-24 weeks, she was keen to offer women more support as they prepare for their baby to arrive.

"I've always been at the end of the phone or an email if they needed me but I knew I wanted to do more," she says.

Latest figures show that between 25 and 40 per cent of labours in the UK are induced. It was this statistic that prompted Jenny and Tracy, who were already friends through their midwifery jobs, to join forces.

"We knew we had to help these women so they had a better chance of having a spontaneous labour," says Tracy, who first qualified as a nurse in 1985, before training as a midwife.

Some women will need to be induced if there's a risk to their health or their baby's health and this is usually planned in advance. This enables women to prepare fully for this experience so they know what will happen and when.

Some women will be induced because they haven't gone into labour naturally and they are overdue. In this case,women may be offered an induction between 41 and 42 weeks of pregnancy with time limits varying depending on the hospital.

"When you go into labour spontaneously in your home environment and you have your birthing partner with you, labour generally progresses better and faster. When you are induced, you are in hospital and your birthing partner can't be with you 24 hours a day. You're in a room with other people, you can't eat and drink what you want, when you want. You can't even make yourself a cup of tea.

"Induction isn't a risk free process and it's usually more painful than labour that starts on its own. If we can support women to labour spontaneously, they are more likely to have a less stressful and invasive experience," says Jenny.

"It's more likely to be an enjoyable experience too because you've got all your loved ones around you and you haven't gone to hospital too soon. It's also more cost-effective for the NHS because women aren't spending so long in hospital," adds Tracy, who also offers holistic treatments for people going through IVF.

Jenny and Tracy say that women have a better chance of going into labour spontaneously if they can relax and stay calm during those final important weeks.

They want to reduce any anxiety and fear women may be having about giving birth by ensuring they are as prepared as possible for the process.

"When women produce adrenaline through being scared and anxious, it stops them from being able to produce labour hormones. When women are stressed at the end of pregnancy they have no chance of going into labour," says Jenny.

Their classes, which take place at St Catherine's Clinic in Wolverhampton, aim to provide women at 37 weeks and over with relaxation techniques useful information which will help them to understand the labour and birth process and what they can expect.

"I think this last bit of pregnancy is when women are at their most vulnerable," says Jenny. "They're not sleeping well, their backs are hurting, they're feeling uncomfortable and all of their relatives are contacting them asking if the baby has arrived yet. It can be really stressful, especially if a women knows there is a risk they might have to be induced.

"If we can help them to relax and feel prepared, they more likely to labour before they reach the time limit for an induction. It's great when we hear women say they've never slept better after a class."

Together they also offer reflexology and massage courses for mums and their babies. Baby massage - the gentle, rhythmic stroking of a baby's body using hands - can offer lots of benefit.

"It's a good way for mums and babies to interact and bond," says Tracy, who retrained as a midwife in 2010 after being inspired by television show One Born Every Minute.

"We show them techniques they can use day to day and it can help with sleep, teething, colic and chest infections. We get mums who come to us when they are pregnant and then they come back with their babies so it's lovely for us and it's lovely for them."

Both women says it's both rewarding and an honour to be in the position to offer women support at such a special time in their lives.

"Jenny and I are passionate about what we do and how it should be done. We know exactly what happens in that hospital room so we can use our experience to really make a difference," says Tracy.

"It's a pivotal time in a woman's life," says Jenny. "They have to trust that their body is capable of doing something it's never done before. As a midwife, we don't take for granted the privilege it is to share in these moments. It's a privilege that somebody wants you to help them in such a life-changing moment in their lives."

For further information about hypnobirthing see Jenny's website thebirthingbible.com and for details about reflexology, acupuncture and massage contact Tracy via her website midwifeacupuncture.co.uk. The pair can be contacted by email mommasandbumps@outlook.com for information about their relaxation and baby massage courses.

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