Our Hospital Bag Must Haves: Aromatherapy, Alternative Therapies And Affirmations

With induction day looming (and potentially being brought forward after the last few days of yet more reduced movements), I’ve been preparing more for what I want to use during induction and labour to help me through. However, with multiple allergies meaning that most forms of pain relief are out of the question, I’ve ended up looking for alternatives to use which will help me through. Although I’m unable to feel from the top of my naval below, which means I won’t feel contractions and can only palpate them, I can get redirect headaches if there are any painful stimuli below my naval. Worse still, they can spike my blood pressure if it’s not controlled – something you don’t want happening in labour! 

So what am I planning to use? 

Various oils, pillow sprays, and roll-on's are laid out on a light grey sofa. The spray pillow sprays are contained in a purple organza bag and there is a rose gold and silver colour bracelet in the middle. Towards the bottom of the photo is a pack of 2 black anti-sickness bands.
Some of the aromatherapy items as well as sickness bands going in my hospital bag

Aromatherapy: I’m a massive fan of aromatherapy. Despite having brittle asthma on top of everything else, I often use aromatherapy to relax and calm myself. There are some essential oils that I cannot use as they set my asthma off big time, but others work really well. Products I adore using include Aveda’s Stress-Fix Composition Oil. This oil is so versatile that you can use it in the bath as a bath oil, on its own as a massage oil, or just warm up a few drops in your hands and breathe in to relax. Unfortunately, it has clary sage in meaning I haven’t been able to use it during pregnancy. However, it is safe to use in labour, meaning that Alex will be on massage duty! 

Another duo that I often use, especially when travelling, is the This Works Choose Sleep Bundle. This pillow spray and roll-on combination is a dream! The Deep Sleep Pillow Spray really helps to send you into a nap, whilst the Stress Check Roll-On contains a mix of essential oils to help you fully relax. I also recommend getting an additional pillow spray if you’re being induced, especially as some inductions can take a while, and you’ll want to get your sleep in whilst you can! 

I’m also putting in The White Company’s Relax Pulse Point in my case to work alongside the This Works Stress Check Roll-On. Although they do similar things, they have different essential oils. The pulse point contains the perfect mix of lavender, clary sage, and peppermint. This combination is said to be perfect for helping you relax whilst also speeding up labour, plus reducing sickness and headaches. 

As well as using aromatherapy blends like those above, I’m also taking pure lavender and peppermint oils to use in an aromatherapy bracelet. This bracelet has felt discs that you pop a few drops of oil on, then place in the disc holder on the bracelet. This is an excellent option if you find that putting oils directly on the skin irritates you, as the oil doesn’t come into direct contact with the skin. You can also use the oils in a diffuser. Some hospitals have diffusers on their labour wards or in the birth centre, so it’s worth asking your midwife about whether or not this is something they provide. Also, some hospitals require you to use their stock of oils, but you can choose which oils you want to use, so you may not be able to use your own oils with the diffuser if they do provide them.  

Other non-medical options: As well as my combination of aromatherapy products, I’m also taking sickness bands in with me, just in case. Even though I’m still on a powerful cocktail of anti-sickness medications to control my sickness, there are still some days I use the bands on my ankles as well as my wrists. 

I’ll also be using the relaxation techniques and breathing exercises that I learnt through watching The Positive Birth Company’s videos on YouTube. I also have some of their affirmation cards packed ready to go for during induction if I need a pick me up! They also have an affirmations function on Alexa, which I use at home each evening. However, if you download the Alexa app, you’ll be able to use them on your phone at the hospital as well! 

What About TENS or water?

Unfortunately, because of my condition, as much as I would love to try TENS in the early stages of labour, it’s contraindicated, so it wouldn’t be a good idea to try. I’m also not able to have a water birth as there’s no way to be able to hoist me out of the pool in an emergency. I am, however, hoping that we get one of the rooms that has an ensuite bath in so that Alex can help me get in and out of that in the early stages of labour. Of course, this is dependant on how much monitoring little one requires. Still, we’re hoping we won’t need to be on monitoring continuously. 

What if we have to go down the medical pain relief route?

As I said at the beginning, I’m allergic to most medical forms of pain relief. Outside of the hospital, the only painkiller I can take is paracetamol, so of course, that will be the first thing. I take paracetamol regularly to keep the edge off of my day to day pain levels, so, likely, I’ll just continue that regime through labour. Luckily, I’m able to tolerate fentanyl in small doses. There’s a fast-acting version that can be given if needed, but I’m hoping to avoid it. We also have the option of gas and air. I just have to be mindful of how much I take at once.   

What about an epidural?

Epidural is something that has been discussed at length with various people in the team looking after us. We’ve already decided that if we need it, we’re going to try it even though it’s technically challenging because of how my spine is. Another problem is that my body doesn’t always respond to local or regional anaesthetics, which caused my thumb fusion to be done under a general last year after a regional failure where I ended up screaming in pain. However, you never know if you don’t try, and I’m willing to try anything to get the birth I want! 

Did you use any alternative therapies or treatments during labour and birth? Share them in the comments for others to see!

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Our High Risk Pregnancy So Far: Why We’ve Accepted Induction Of Labour

The last few weeks have been stressful with no news and, as a result, no plan. Finally, at 36 weeks, we now have one, but it might not be the plan everyone was expecting us to have. If you haven’t read our previous post about our pregnancy journey so far, you can read the last one here

From the start, we always knew that I’d require some sort of medical input when it came to labour time and birth. Our biggest fears were that I’d be pressured into accepting a c-section which for me would mean a difficult recovery and relying on Alex and our families for almost everything for the first 8-12 weeks, both in terms of my care and little one’s. I’ve always been for a physiological birth, or as close to it as I can possibly get, only going for a c-section or other interventions if absolutely necessary, especially as it would very likely need to be done under general. Luckily, the result of the MDT meeting was that if I don’t want an elective c-section, then I don’t have to have one, but it’s under the condition that I’m aware we could still be heading down that route if either little one or I don’t cope well in during labour. 

How the option of induction came about and why we accepted

One of the biggest things about not going down the c-section route is unpredictability and the risks involved. For us, not only do I have a medical condition which means I can’t feel movements or contractions and have to palpate for them, but I’m also at risk of precipitous labour. Then, to top it off, we found out that I have Group B Strep at 26 weeks, and I’m also at risk of other complications. It meant that the idea of induction was proposed to us, with all the risks and benefits involved. Benefits? We’d have an idea of when my labour will begin, and with it, the option to ensure Alex is off work for a few days so that he doesn’t miss the birth. It also eliminates the risk of me giving birth at home with no help other than Alex’s Avmed training, which, whilst the scope of what Avmed covers is fantastic, where childbirth is concerned, it doesn’t equip you for a complicated labour birth. Cons? If it fails or something else happens, it’s a c-section since assisted delivery via forceps or ventose is out of the question due to dislocation risk. It also further increases my haemorrhage risk, something my consultant already factored in early on so that there’ll be medication drawn up and on standby if it’s needed. 

As my midwife talked to me about induction some weeks ago when Alex’s roster and being back at work was causing me stress around whether or not he’d even make the birth, Alex and I had actually spoken about the possibility of induction. We researched the risks and benefits before my consultant had even offered it to us to come to a decision together without feeling pressured. After those discussions with Alex and my midwife, I said that if induction was offered to me, I’d accept it to reduce the risk of that happening as him not being at the birth would be heartbreaking for us both. It also gives us some control over the situation as long as little one stays put and I don’t go into labour before induction day, something which could happen and my consultant warned us about when we accepted the offer. Alex had already made it clear that he’s scared of waking up during the night to find me still asleep whilst in advanced labour, something which we both know would affect him massively even with all of the training he’s equipped with, thanks to him being crew! 

As you can see, accepting an induction of labour was an easy decision for us once we’d weighed up all of the risks and benefits. Even with the risk of having to go down the c-section route if something goes wrong, the thought of having an unattended labour and birth with all of the dangers attached due to my complex medical history scares Alex and I more. We are also fortunate that we never felt pressured by the team looking after us to accept induction, mainly because we’d had that discussion ourselves beforehand, giving us time to fully consider everything. Not only is there information on induction of labour available to read in my handheld notes, but we also turned to Google to research the specific risks that are unique to our situation and spoke to other pregnant people who have EDS. But what if you’re enjoying a lower risk pregnancy and offered induction, or just don’t know if you want one?

Research is your best friend

Alex and I both know people who have been offered induction of labour and felt little pressure to accept, as well as plenty of people with low-risk pregnancies who felt forced into accepting an induction to keep their team happy. We started looking into our options quite early on once our consultant told me that she’d do everything possible to keep our options for labour and mode of delivery open. That kind of support from her when every other specialist outside of obstetrics had told me that c-section was the safest way forward meant the world to both of us. It also meant that we felt even more supported by the teams looking after us, both at our local hospital and the Silver Start Unit in Oxford, who we’re so thankful to have the specialist input of. 

Great places to research induction include Google (especially as you can tailor your search to your unique situation) and your handheld notes if your hospital provides information on induction of labour in these. I also highly recommend speaking to people who’ve had an induction of labour offered about their experiences, even if they didn’t accept the offer, as firsthand experiences can often help the decision making process. This same piece of advice goes for those who have medical conditions which could influence management. There are plenty of online groups on Facebook etc., which allow you to connect with others going through similar! If you can, start researching and discussing your thoughts with someone else early! This means by the time an offer of induction is given to you (if it is), you’ll have already thought about it and either decided on whether or not to accept, or you’ll have an idea of what questions to ask. It also means that whatever your decision is, you’ll be able to explain the reasoning behind your decision to whoever is looking after you knowing that you’ve given yourself time to consider all the risks and benefits. I’ve also learned to use one acronym that has helped us massively with each decision we make, called B.R.A.I.N. 

What is B.R.A.I.N?

B.R.A.I.N really is what it says it is; it’s using your brain to make an informed decision. 

B – Benefits (what are the benefits of this test or procedure for me and my baby?) 

R – Risks (what are the risks of this test or procedure for me and my baby?)

A – Alternatives (What, if any, are the alternatives?) 

I – Instinct (What is my instinct telling me? What do I think and feel about this test or procedure? Who else can I ask about it?)

N – Nothing (What could happen if I decide to do nothing or wait and see? Can this test or procedure be delayed? Can I take some time to think about it or research?)

B.R.A.I.N is something we’ve used throughout our pregnancy journey to make informed decisions and choices that we know are right for us without feeling pressured into doing something we may not necessarily want to do. It’s also something that we will continue to use and advocate that others use, especially as it is such a handy tool to have. With the NICE draft guidelines meaning that an increasing amount of people are already being offered induction at 39 weeks even if there isn’t a clear clinical need, now more than ever, birthing people and their partners must be able to make informed decisions without feeling pressured into accepting something they may not actually want. 

Have you been offered an induction of labour or had one in the past? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments with us! 

Our High-Risk Pregnancy So Far: 32 Weeks And Still No Plan!

If there were a list of posts that we hoped we wouldn’t be doing, this is one of them! I knew from the start that pregnancy wouldn’t be easy. Alex and I spoke about that fact in detail quite a few times, as well as about what we would do in set situations, but we never thought we’d get to a point where we have no plan so soon to little one’s arrival! 

Going through a high-risk pregnancy takes its toll, and with ours, we have another problem; high levels of uncertainty. Uncertainty around labour because I can’t feel movements (more on that subject here), uncertainty and worries around neonatal withdrawal and how my medication has impacted little one, and finally, uncertainty over whether or not my body will cope with physiological birth. The latter could be true for anyone. After all, no one knows for sure if they’ll get the birth experience they dream of, but we quietly hope that everything will go to plan and for our preferences to be fully respected and carried out without question. 

For me, I’ve been adamant from the beginning that when it comes to mode of delivery, I want a physiological birth if at all possible. So when I attended my first appointments with obstetrics and my midwife, I made a point of telling healthcare professionals that I want to try, even with the uncertainty around my body being able to cope. Here’s the thing with my EDS; it’s unpredictable, especially as my dislocations can happen at any given moment. I also have autonomic dysfunction, spinal involvement, and on top of that, we don’t know for sure what type of EDS I have. Although I found out in 2015 that I have EDS, until 2019, everyone assumed it was the hypermobile type. But when my thumb joints failed to the point of needing fusion and other symptoms began popping up, there were concerns that I have classic EDS and not the hypermobile type. So when I fell pregnant again and got referred to Silver Star in Oxford, doctors there decided to get me tested and find out once and for all if it is indeed classic EDS. This very bit of information will be the difference between me getting my way and getting the chance to have a physiological birth or having to go down the c-section route. 

Up until 26 weeks, the obstetric teams I’m under all agreed to keep an open mind. However, a swab I had done when I started spotting again picked up Group B Strep. It’s not an issue during pregnancy, but it’s a problem in labour or if waters go since you need to be on antibiotics as soon as possible to reduce the risk of passing the infection onto baby. It’s yet another complication we could have done without, as it’s further heightened both mine and Alex’s anxiety around labour and birth. It’s also left me worrying that even if I can have a ‘normal’ delivery, physiological birth could out of the question if the team eventually recommend that I have an induction. 

Why The Idea Of A C-Section Scares Me 

Let me start by saying that you have to do what is best for you and your baby, and no two birth experiences will ever be the same. For birthing people who choose to go down the c-section route, I fully respect your decision and know that it isn’t always easy to make. 

For me, many of the worries around c-section delivery are linked to past medical trauma, which I’m still working on processing. My EDS means that both local and regional anaesthetics are ineffective to the point that I’ve had to be put under general for surgeries where most could be awake. In one surgery last year, I had a failed regional, and my last memory before being put under was screaming in pain as the anaesthetic failed to numb my arm. I also had problems coming around from the general afterwards, which wasn’t ideal. Luckily, we’ve been able to speak to the lead obstetric anaesthetist at the hospital in-depth about this and other issues, including my long list of allergies! During our conversation, the anaesthetist we spoke to joked, ‘you’re not an anaesthetist’s best friend, are you?’ ‘No, I’m not, I’m a paperwork nightmare’ was my light-hearted reply. That conversation also highlighted other issues. However, we also had our minds put at rest over certain things. 

One of the other worries about having a c-section under general is that we were both put under the impression Alex would not be allowed into theatre for the birth. Usually, this is the case and was so even before covid. But we’ve been reassured that depending on who is the team on the day, Alex’s emotional state (good thing he’s crew) and that there are no emergencies involving myself or little one, he may be allowed into theatre for the birth. It’s something Alex is super happy about, and I’m just relieved over even if it isn’t for certain. Having my birth partner with me means having someone I know and fully trust to fight my corner and ensure my birth preferences are respected. This is especially true where delayed cord clamping and skin-to-skin contact are concerned (both of which I want regardless of delivery method). 

There’s also the worries around my recovery from a c-section. People forget that it’s major surgery with a lengthy recovery period! In my case, it means not being able to transfer myself for 6-8 weeks which means I’ll probably need to be on hoist transfers – something I heavily detest! A c-section recovery would also mean heavily relying on Alex, my dad and others since I’ll likely have to restrict how much time I can be in my wheelchair and up and about. I also take longer to heal, thanks to my EDS, so there’s the risk that the usual restrictions could last even longer. All of this makes me worry about how much I’ll be able to be involved in our baby’s care in those first weeks.

32 Weeks and still no plan

When I had my genetic blood panel done to find out what we’re dealing with in terms of my EDS, I was informed that the results would be the most significant determinating factor regarding what mode of delivery would eventually be recommended. There was hope we’d have them back at around 28-30 weeks, enabling us to get a plan in place and know what to expect. We also need to have an MDT meeting, where all the specialists involved in both mine and little ones care meet to discuss the way forward. However, we can’t have the meeting until the genetics are back, something that is starting to worry not just Alex and I, but my consultant, who is now chasing them up. 

We’re hopeful that by 34 weeks, we’ll have the results, the meeting and know what will happen. However, I feel disheartened and stuck in limbo. My birth preferences still aren’t complete because I don’t feel I can fully finish that off until we know what is going on. As we get further along, the possibility of going into preterm labour without a clear plan is not only becoming more likely as the days go by, it’s becoming more and more worrying! However, the biggest thing for me is that whilst there’s no plan in place, I’m holding out hope I’ll get the physiological birth I’m hoping for, even if others think that option is fading away.