Monday, 17 July 2017

Birth is a Feminist Issue

Your voice is important. It is right that you should feel informed, in control and call the shots during your pregnancy, during the birth and in your life

Remember that just because you are pregnant, doesn't mean you have to hand over your power to someone else.  Growing a baby and giving birth are amongst the most powerful and empowering things you will ever do.

You and your baby are the most important people during your pregnancy and you have the power within you to learn about what is right for you, to gather good evidence-based information, to make the right choices for yourself and to assert your voice so that you get the care and the birth that you want. 

In this short video Gina explains why, for her, birth is a feminist issue. 


Gina Potts is Director of ZenBirth – Hypnobirthing UK. She comes from an academic research background, focusing on women's history, writing and feminism. Since 2009 has spent much of her time researching into all aspects of maternity care, pregnancy, birth and women’s postnatal health. In 2011, she founded ZenBirth and has helped hundreds of couples have a positive birth experience. Gina now leads a growing team of ZenBirth instructors who provide antenatal hypnobirthing education courses across London and the South East of the UK.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Keeping Fit in Pregnancy

Keeping fit is great for your physical and mental health.

In this week's blog, Mara Fekete, ZenBirth's resident fitness guru and hypnobirthing instructor in South West London, gives you some excellent tips on how to keep fit during pregnancy, even if you have never taken much exercise before.  

Doing regular exercise can help you to deal with the extra demands on your body during pregnancy. It also promotes muscle tone and strength, as well as improving feelings of mental well-being. Keeping fit can therefore have a positive effect on how you manage both your pregnancy and your labour.

When a woman finds out she that a little one is on its way, she may find herself changing her usual routines and habits.  Unfortunately, taking regular exercise is one of the thing that women often stop doing, or do less when they become pregnant. Sometimes this is due to having less energy due to pregnancy sickness or just being tired as a result of growing a little person. Because exercise has wonderful benefits it can be a mistake to give up on keeping fit altogether.  

If keeping fit wasn't part of your life before pregnancy, now is not the time to suddenly storm into a gym and start training like there is no tomorrow.  However, taking regular exercise within your fitness abilities is a really good idea. We all have different lifestyles, so some of us have done exercise on a a regular basis before, and some of us have not. The good news is, it does not matter what your usual habits or abilities are, because you can start at any time.  

Here are a few tips and ideas for keeping fit in pregnancy: 

  1. Check if your health care provider (GP, Midwife, Obstetrician, etc) what kind of exercise they suggest based on what they know about your health.  It's important to get advice when starting a new fitness routine, especially when you are pregnant and if you have any health conditions.
  2. Exercise has a 'feel-good factor' thanks to the hormones produced during physical activity. These include dopamine, serotonin and endorphins.  Enjoy how great exercise can make you feel mentally.  A positive mind has a great effect on how you feel in your body.
  3. Whatever type of exercise you do, always avoid overheating. This is especially important in the first trimester, especially in Summer.  The key is drinking plenty of water. Keep hydrated mamas!
  4. Always warm up before and stretch after your exercise routine. In pregnancy your hormone relaxin is raised in preparation for childbirth. This hormone relaxes the ligaments in the pelvic area and other parts of the body.  So it's extra important in pregnancy to stretch gently. It can also help to find an fitness instructor who is specifically trained to support pregnant women.
  5. Making exercise a new habit can be exciting! You have a great selection of classes you can choose from: water fitness (aquanatal), pregnancy yoga and pilates, walking, swimming and more.  If you are interested in weights and aerobic exercise, you can try these on a moderate level and get the support of your trained instructor to help you.
  6. If you are already really into fitness, and if you are having a healthy pregnancy, you can, for the most part, carry on with most of your activities as before.  But please listen to your body. It will tell you if it is too much.  You should consult a fitness instructor and your health care provider if you are unsure. And you should pace yourself and be sure you are not over doing it. 
  7. For all pregnant women, definitely get information and support from a qualified pregnancy and postnatal fitness instructor. These days nearly every gym has a trainer who specialises in pre- and postnatal training. And also ensure you are attending your regular check ups with your GP or midwife, and that you are not doing anything to an extreme level.
Enjoy and look after yourself.  Wishing you a wonderful pregnancy and a beautiful birth.

With love, 


Mara Fekete
Fitness Instructor and Hypnobirthing Practitioner


Monday, 5 June 2017

That gut feeling!

Research shows the important role that the gut plays in keeping us healthy and happy.

There is a profound dynamic interaction between your gut, your brain and your immune system, starting from birth with baby's development of gut microbiota. Zakia explains this important relationship.

Where does it all begin?

Let's start with a mini biology lesson. Trillions of bacteria live in your child's (and your own) gastrointestinal system, many of which are good bacteria that keep the gut healthy. These bacteria have been there since birth, when your baby's gastrointestinal tract became colonized with good, bad and benign bacteria (known as flora). This happens when baby passes through the birth canal during a vaginal delivery, during which baby picks up some of your microbes.

If you breastfeed your baby, you help your baby build up more good bacteria, because breast milk contains substances known as prebiotics that promote the growth of healthy bugs. Prebiotics are also found in high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Once your child weans and starts on solid foods, the gut microflora will change, and then remain pretty much constant throughout his or her lifetime.

Why is it so important to have healthy guts?

  • It helps the body to digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest.
  • It helps with the production of some vitamins (B and K).
  • Scientists have shown that brain levels of serotonin, the 'happy hormone' are regulated by the amount of bacteria in the gut during early life.
  • It helps us combat aggressions from other microorganisms, maintaining the wholeness of the intestinal mucosa.
  • It plays an important role in the immune system, performing a barrier effect.

What can disrupt the gut flora?

-        Antibiotics, for instance, can kill both bad and good bacteria in your child's gut flora. "About 20 to 30 percent of kids develop diarrhoea when they take antibiotics," says Daniel Merenstein, M.D., director of research in the Department of Family Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center, in Washington, D.C.

-        Various diseases can disturb this otherwise fixed amount of microflora.

-        Poor diet: sugary and processed foods, lack of fruits and vegetables.

How to help your little ones maintain a healthy gut, and trust their gut?

Always start with food. Teaching our children the importance of eating wholesome, unprocessed, unrefined food is crucial to help them develop healthy eating habits. Keep to a strict minimum of sugar, fizzy drinks, processed and salty foods. Increase foods that are gut friendly, including vegetables, good oils, good proteins (fish, lean meat), wholegrains, fruits, fermented foods and drinks, such as Kefir.

Teaching a healthy approach to eating will help your children as well. Teach them about eating slowly and enjoying their food, rather than just scoffing quickly whatever is available. Eating slowly make them more aware of their body and teaches them to recognise when they are full. Explain what different foods can do to their body and mood, by all means give them the odd chocolate bar as a treat, but do also explain why it is an occasional treat.

Science is only confirming what naturopaths and nutritionists have known for years: that good physical and mental health start primarily in your gut. So look after your children’s gut flora, and yours too.  And this will help the whole family live a healthier and happier life.

Stay healthy, stay happy!
Zakia Mance
Naturopath and Hypnobirthing Practitioner