Please note that NW8-mums provides information only and cannot held responsible for unsatisfactory experiences or undesirable outcomes.
On this page, there is some general information on the antenatal care system and further down you will find links to classes and more.
‘I’m pregnant! Now what?!’
Karin: ‘Where to start? What to do? What to look for? There were so many thoughts that went through my head when I first found out I was pregnant back in 2008. When I was pregnant, there were no yoga classes, no ante-natal class groups and so on in St John’s Wood. Since 2009 when my daughter was born, so much has changed and there is a lot going on locally from the meet-ups that I organise to classes in various venues and much more.
Below you will some general information and if you scroll down even further, I have gathered various exercise information which includes yoga, Pilates to name but a few things that are on offer.
‘For some women, pregnancy is easy and enjoyable on the whole whereas for others, like me, it was horrific. And then of course, you have everything in between. As always, if you are struggling in any way and need additional support, please be in touch.’For some women, pregnancy is easy and enjoyable on the whole whereas for others, like me, it was horrific. And then of course, you have everything in between. As always, if you are struggling in any way and need additional support, please be in touch.’
General thoughts about pregnancy
The first thing to do once you know you are pregnant is to go to your GP and tell them your news. They will talk you through options including the closest hospitals, should you like to go through the NHS, which, depending on where you live, the closest NHS hospitals which have maternity services are UCLH, St Mary’s Hospital and The Royal Free Hospital. There are private hospitals nearby and the most well-known ones are The Portland Hospital and The Lindo Wing situated within St Mary’s Hospital.
Not everyone will feel great when pregnant, and for those of you who have severe nausea and vomiting, you may in fact suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). If you would like to read my story about it, please click HERE. I also wrote an article about it for leading online parenting magazine MyBaba. Should you need support, please email me.
If you are under NHS care, your hospital usually has a tour of the labour ward and midwife led unit (if it exists) at your chosen hospital. They will typically also offer a birthing and breastfeeding class. The good thing about doing a course at your hospital (other than it being free of charge) is that you learn more about labour.
Another big reason to do a class is to meet other expectant parents who are due around a similar time to you. However, when do you a hospital class, the other people there taking it with you on the day could be from quite far away. The truth is, when you have a newborn baby, you are not likely to travel halfway across London to meet someone for a coffee; at least not when your baby is very young and you are still getting the hang of things.
This is where the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) comes in. They offer a lot of classes for parents-to-be and probably the main reason why their classes are so popular (apart from learning about childbirth, breastfeeding and more) is that you get to meet others living in (or near) your area expecting children around the same time as you.
Check the NCT website for their workshops. Please note, their classes book up very early, so it is worth booking as soon as possible. They don’t just offer antenatal classes, but much more, so it is worth having a look at their website.
Ultrasound and Health Screening
Dr Fred Ushakov (in action in the photo below) is a highly renowned sonographer not just in the UK, but worldwide. He took care of me (at his NHS post at UCLH) during the pregnancy with my son. He now has a private clinic, London Pregnancy Clinic, and I am delighted that women (outside of UCLH) can be under his care privately.
Bill Smith at Clinical Diagnostic Services offers various ultrasound services.
The Fetal Medicine Centre in Harley Street and various other places also offer ultrasounds.
There are of course other clinics that offer a range of services to accompany you during your pregnancy.
Anxiety & Perinatal Depression
This is a lot more common than many people think, because it is rarely talked about. So many of Karin’s friends have suffered from it and sometimes for no specific reason.
If you are struggling at any point during your pregnancy, or if you have a history of mental health problems even if mild depression, make sure you mention it to your GP, your midwife or doctor so they can make sure you get the best help possible. This is especially important for the postnatal phase too.
We have a page dedicated to this, general information as well as Karin’s own experiences, and please click HERE if you would like to read more.
Group B Streptococcus Testing (GBS)
GBS is one of the most common cause of life-threatening infections in newborn babies in the UK. Most GBS infections can be prevented by giving antibiotics through IV during labour.
GBS carriers won’t know they have it unless they have been tested. Karin tested for it with her daughter and was negative, however with her son, she was positive and needed antibiotics through IV as soon as she got into hospital when in labour.
During labour GBS can be passed on to the baby and there can be serious and life-threatening results. Testing for GBS is not standard practice in the UK, but it can be done very easily by yourself at home between 35-37 (or later) weeks of pregnancy.
The Doctors Laboratory offers a home swab test and the cost is very reasonable. You get sent all you need, do the swab and then get the result usually within three working days. To order your test kit click HERE.
ANTE-NATAL CLASSES & HELP FROM A-Z
Karin has the most amazing acupuncturist, Ping Li, who she saw before, during and after the pregnancy with her son. She only does home visits. She is Karin’s go-to person for anything health related and she has been a patient of hers since May 2013. Ping can be contacted on 020 8269 2862 or on her mobile 07783 385 727. Ping came to Karin’s house every week during her last pregnancy.
Dr Harriet Holme of Healthy Eating Dr is a local nutritionist whose work is evidence based. She is very knowledgeable and being a mum of two young children, she also understands the challenges that parents go through. She can help with all aspects of nutrition including weaning help for babies.
Simi Mirpuri offers a number of services including nutrition coaching.
Pepper Stewart is a nutritionist who has helped me.
Carla Pozner of CP Holistic who is one of our mums is an osteopath. She can also help postnatally as well as with paediatric cranial osteopathy.
Petra Kumar of Solace Mobile Massage is amazing. She does ante-natal and postnatal massage. She is also getting quite well known for her C-section scar massage which Karin is told by many of the mums in the group has helped not just with discomfort, but also with the scarring looking much better. You can enjoy Petra’s massages – she does regular massages too – in the comfort of your own home. Karin sees her regularly and she never disappoints.
Abi England is a local mother and reflexologist. She specialises in pregnancy and labour induction reflexology, but also sees clients for all manner of things from stress, insomnia, back pain, IBS, arthritis and more. Many mums in the group can vouch for Abi’s treatments being just amazing. Abi does home-visits in St John’s Wood/Maida Vale.
Karin has had shiatsu many times and love it. Many years ago, she even did a Shiatsu training course.
Doris Block sees patients (ante-natal, post-natal and regular sessions) in different locations. She is a very special lady with a magic touch. Contact her via her website to book.
For those of you who are pregnant, it is always worth checking what classes The Kailash Centre in St John’s Wood is offering. Other than yoga being great to do whilst pregnant, it is also a good way of meeting other expectant mothers.
Laura Della Guardia, one of our mums, runs pregnancy and postnatal yoga classes.
Carla Pozner of CP Holistic, another of our mums, offers pregnancy and postnatal yoga sessions. She is also the founder of Seity Collective which is an online wellness platform helping you find different therapists.
Simi Mirpuri offers a number of services including yoga.
Netta Imber – Netta is one of our NW8-mums
Westnine Yoga – Dani runs ante-natal yoga classes
For a more comprehensive list of exercise, please click HERE to a dedicated page with recommendations of trainers of different disciplines.
Other Pregnancy Conditions
If you have suffered a pregnancy condition and would like to share your story or simply tell us about it so we might be able to add it to this page, please be in touch on email@example.com.
Hospital Bag, Tips & What Nobody Tells You
Karin has collected some thoughts and tips from my own experiences of having two children as well as from fellow mothers and fathers.
Having a child is an expensive affair. If you have a Boots Advantage Card, here is something good which will give you more points that you will hopefully use to treat yourself (because mothers, in particular, tend to forget about themselves…): join the Boots Parenting Club.
If you are on a budget, and let’s face it, having a child is not easy on anyone’s bank account, there are many groups online where you can buy pretty much anything second hand from other parents. The only thing Karin wouldn’t get, unless it were from someone personally known and trusted, is a car seat. Here is a link to the NW8-mums Buy & Sell Group on Facebook.
There are now also three Buy & Sell WhatsApp groups; two for children’s clothes and various items (including cots), and another one for adult clothes and household items (including furniture). Please click HERE to join or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more.
For Your Hospital Bag
Karin has found the Lansinoh cream to be a fantastic nipple cream. She used to whack it on all the time. The beauty of this cream is that you don’t have to remove it before nursing.
Karin would use disposable breast pads as well as disposable maternity briefs. She bought washable breast pads after having her first child and after a few washes, they were pretty yucky. She threw them away and used these pads instead. Disposable items may not be the best for the environment, but for this purpose, Karin found she wanted to use what felt physically best for her. After delivering your baby, you will bleed and you will need maternity pads that are more absorbent that your usual period pads.
Disposable change mats are also good for the changing bag (sometimes you don’t want to use your changing mat when out and about if the changing facilities are dirty or if the baby has done a poo). While she was still bleeding a lot after giving birth, Karin also used these disposable change mats to sit on when on a sofa or armchair, and also had one in bed underneath her bottom in case she would bleed through. Karin felt she could relax a bit more knowing she didn’t have to worry about staining anything.
Karin used a tens machine for both labours and hired hers from Boots.
Nursing Clothes for You
For breastfeeding when out of the house some mothers want a bit more privacy and choose to use a cover. Nursing covers can also be useful when children are older and they get too distracted by what’s going on around them.
Karin’s recommendation is to not buy many or very expensive nursing bras until you know what your size will be once the milk has come in properly; it often takes a few weeks or more till your breasts have settled in terms of size. She wouldn’t buy anything expensive, because she doesn’t think it’s worth it – at least not to start off with. Karin would also go for comfort in terms of nursing bras; especially at the beginning. She found that once her daughter had been born, Karin favoured one type of nursing bra because she found it easier and better to use which is also why she wouldn’t stock up on loads beforehand.
Karin also had some fab nursing tops from H&M which washed very well. Hers were used with her two children and were also lent to two friends in between her two. They were still in good condition when they were returned for Karin to be used for her second baby.
Below is a list of a few companies that carry nursing bras and maternity clothes. There are of course many more options available to suit any budget. It can be worth checking TKMaxx online as they often have maternity clothes.
Clothes for Your Baby
For the first month, you usually need 0-1 month, and then 1-2 etc. Size 0-3 months clothes are usually too big when they are first born.
Karin would avoid buying lots of newborn size clothes because babies grow so fast, you don’t know what size your baby will be and people will give you so many presents (and often in a newborn size). Karin’s daughter was too big for several of the newborn pieces she had got her or had outgrown them in a week or two.
For first time mothers who feel anxious about putting baby clothes on, pulling their baby’s head through the top, feel anxious about supporting their baby’s head and neck whilst dressing them etc (that was Karin big time!), this type of design is great. They are also much easier to dress your child in as you them on top of it and fasten everything with poppers at the front. Super practical!
Karin’s daughter had massive feet as a newborn, so her recommendation is to get leggings without feet such as these. These are lovely because of the comfort and also because of the no feet you can get longer wear out of them too; you roll up or down the waist and bottom of the legs depending on how big your baby is, so you can use them for longer.
In general, you want to avoid clothes with too many buttons (unless they are poppers). Too much hassle and when your baby is screaming doing buttons feel like forever and you can get very stressed quite easily (especially if you are a first time parent). And, as one mother reminded Karin of when she was writing this: when you have a very poopy nappy, you want to pull down and not go over the head if you can avoid it. So true!
It is often a waste of money to get hats unless you can actually tie them underneath or on the side of the chin, because they will fall off all the time when your baby moves their head lying down. The majority of newborn hats look cute, but they are not that great in practice. In any case you will most likely get more than you bargained for in terms of gifts from family and friends.
These booties are great for winter; they are thermal and keep your baby’s feet warm and snug!
This kind of overall (they have warmer and cooler ones) is fab as you can easily unzip them when going indoors – which is especially important during colder months in order to avoid for overheating your baby – and you can much more easily get their arms and legs out even while they are sleeping without having to pick them up.
Oh, and Karin’s recommendation is to not buy more than one or max two blankets; you tend to receive many as gifts!
WHAT NOBODY TELLS YOU…
- For labour, pack snacks like energy bars or something you can take little bites of for you AND for your birthing partner. You don’t want them to go off for a snack and miss it all. Sometimes things can happen very suddenly and quickly too.
- If you would like a water birth, make sure your birthing partner brings swim gear should they wish to come into the pool with you.
- If you end up having a C-section and you know about it beforehand, it is a good idea get waxed as otherwise the midwife/doctor will shave you in hospital. Karin got herself waxed just in case towards the end of her pregnancies. Waxing during pregnancy hurts a lot more by the way.
- Bring straws to drink from during labour. It is hard to drink from a bottle or cup when you are having constant contractions.
- Pour warm water over your belly when you wee after you have had your baby or just wee in the shower – we know it sounds horrible but believe us when we tell you at that point you really don’t care about weeing in the shower! You will feel uncomfortable, it might hurt quite a lot and the warm water makes it sting less and thus makes it slightly less uncomfortable.
- The first poo after having your baby is usually a bit scary. If you have had any tearing and/or stitches you push in the same way/place as where you push to give birth. And if you have had a C-section, Karin’s friends tell her they felt like pushing out that poo made it feel like their stiches would break. It is not a great experience and can take some time before you feel a bit more comfortable doing a no 2.
- The first time/s you have sex after having your baby is often not very comfortable or even enjoyable. Everything changes internally and again if you have had stitches or tearing, you can be in pain. In fact, it can hurt for quite a while. For many couples, the first time/s are more to do it to get it over and done with, and that is completely normal and ok. Often women find it awkward having leaking boobs and they often find themselves uncomfortable with their postpartum bodies from a sexual perspective. Men can also find the leaking boobs a bit strange and they might also be scared that they are hurting you. Bottom line: Karin has pretty much never come across anyone who has found sex great or even that enjoyable immediately after giving birth. Some women find themselves ready to try more quickly than others do, so just go at your own pace. There is no right or wrong time, nor a right or wrong way. Communicating how you feel about it is key.
- 2-4 days after you give birth, your milk usually starts coming in and your hormones can go crazy. You might be completely overwhelmed, can’t stop crying, feel you can’t cope, might feel like ‘what have we done?’ etc. It is completely normal and usually passes after a while (a few days or sometimes a few weeks). However, should you feel that the sense of low, or that you just don’t feel right, that it is not lifting or that it is getting worse, please reach out for support either to your GP, health visitor or to Karin. Anything communicated to Karin is kept confidential and she will only ever share what you would like to her to share should she connect you with others be it medical professionals or other mums. Karin have a separate support group that she runs together with a psychotherapist for those suffering from PND (postnatal depression) or simply feel overwhelmed. Karin suffered from severe postnatal (including pregnancy) depression and anxiety. It is one of the reasons why she set up NW8-mums back in 2009 after the birth of her daughter. Please do not suffer in silence! Karin’s email is Karin@NW8mums-com.
- Your hair often starts falling out at some point after you have had your baby. It is completely normal and often starts happening once you start reducing the amount of breastfeeding or stop it.
Pregnancy after miscarriages and suffering perinatal & postnatal depression
This is how Karin described what she went through in a newsletter when pregnant with her son.
I would like to share something that is quite personal. It is not to get pity. It is simply in the hope that my story can help some of you who are struggling right now.
Today is a very emotional day for me. Yesterday, my baby boy who is not really a baby anymore, turned 15 months. Today, I had my last session with the perinatal psychologist at UCLH, Claudia de Campos, with whom I have spent almost two years after starting to see her when I was 11 weeks pregnant with him.
When I went for my booking-in appointment with him at 10 weeks, I completely broke down. It was the first time I had been back in that part of the hospital since my previous pregnancy. That last time on 10 August 2012 in the middle of the London Olympics, we learned that the baby girl I was expecting wouldn’t survive outside the womb. It is something you never ever think you will go through. It simply doesn’t exist in your mind. But, there we were. And, what we had to go through was simply too horrible to put into words. It will never completely go away and it is in me forever. I have learned to live with the pain and loss.
We never thought we would have the guts to try again, but we decided over a year later that we would give it one try. One last try.
This was to be pregnancy number seven and it was to be my little boy who is now snoring away in his cot in the next room as I write this.
Going back into that part of the hospital where we had learned that horrible piece of news brought it all back again and more vividly than I had ever imagined it could. My midwife was simply amazing. Her name is Carol Pitterson. I will never forget her or her name. Not only did she refer me to the perinatal psychology team, but she also referred me to the fetal medicine unit where I was taken care of by the wonderful Dr Fred Ushakov. All of this without me asking. They helped carry me during this extremely difficult pregnancy. It was emotionally sometimes too much to cope with, but knowing I had my weekly session with Claudia was my lifeline as well as my many scans with Dr Fred.
The fact that I was suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) didn’t help and I had already been hospitalised, on a drip in UCLH at 8 weeks. I was bed bound and couldn’t care for my daughter. My husband was a single father for most of the pregnancy with our son.
Once it became clear that everything was going well, I was terrified something would happen during labour. I couldn’t connect with the boy I was carrying because I was too terrified that I would lose him just like I had lost the little girl and the other babies.
Labour – on the due date just like his big sister five years earlier – was so unbelievably fast compared to the 26,5 hours in 2009. And then something did happen. I just couldn’t get him out. He was stuck. What had been very calm (and quick), became an emergency. I later learned it was shoulder dystocia. I had no idea that he had been born, I didn’t hear him scream and I couldn’t hold him for about 20 minutes. We also didn’t know if he would be fine for over 24 hours. It was extremely traumatic. When I was being stitched up, the midwife who managed to get him out came in to apologise for ruining my insides to get him out. In this case, we were incredibly lucky he was completely fine.
My therapist Claudia came to see us in hospital the following day and I saw her regularly again from when my son was a month old.
With my son, I was lucky enough to realise that I was getting postnatal depression again, and because I already had the support from everyone, it didn’t get as bad as after having my daughter. But, the reason it didn’t get that bad was because I was able to recognise the early signs and ask for help.
For the past year, I have seen Claudia at first every two weeks and then once a month. It has been such an important part of my recovery, together with having a great GP and health visitor who have looked after me. I have also tried to take extreme care of myself to help myself recover.
The moral of the story is this: please speak with someone if you are worried. Even if you don’t think it is bad. If there is something nagging you (even if it might seem tiny and insignificant), speak up about it if you can. Don’t try to be superwoman, because it doesn’t work (at least not in the long run). Ask for help. We can’t do this alone.
There is NOTHING WRONG with asking for help. You are not a lesser person or less able to cope; rather the opposite. If you can, try to let people help you. Even if it is sending you off to have a nap while they look after your baby; I will always be grateful to my wonderful friend Becky for doing that for me.
There is support out there. Cocoon Family Support and Jessica Warne got in touch with me after I wrote a newsletter about this. Jessica offered to come around to see me. In the end, I didn’t need it, but perhaps because I knew she was there, it gave me a bit of extra strength.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to tell your midwife, GP or anyone you are struggling. There is help available on the NHS (all of mine was on the NHS), but often you won’t get it unless you ask. Persevere if you have to. If you struggle to speak for yourself, ask someone to champion for you.
I hope that for those of you who are struggling right now, you might feel less alone. I hope you feel there is hope after all, and that this might help give you the strength to ask for help. This is for you.
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