Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Archive for the ‘hospital’ Category

I was recently asked a question about painful stitches/perineum after childbirth  and thought it would be useful to share my reply.

I’m not so sure you were told all this! You *should* have been, but sometimes things get missed in the busy hurly burly of hospitals!
Okay, so the pain … I take it this is when you wee? This may well have passed by now? This can be eased by weeing in the bath or shower or by pouring water from a bottle of jug over yourself as you pass urine. The pain gradually lessens but it should already have started to improve. If it is getting worse then you definitely need to get your midwife to check you out.

Don’t know whether you have opened your bowels yet, or if this is what you are referring too? Women are naturally worried about the first time after stitches. I usually suggest that if a woman is anxious that she might like to support the perineum (the stitched area) with some toilet paper when she goes to the loo. This is mostly a psychological prop, but … if it works … it will be fine I promise! Just make sure you drink plenty of fluids (this will also help dilute the urine) and eat so that you don’t get constipated.

Regarding the bleeding, it is normal to bleed for several weeks after having a baby. Again, the bleeding quickly lessens and will often stop only to start again … it is not unusual to bleed on and off for somewhere between 2 – 6 weeks after having a baby.

Your midwife will be very happy to have a look at your stitches and will usually ask you if you are comfortable or not. If you are unsure definitely ask her to look as occasionally they can become infected and need treatment.

Hope you soon feel more comfortable … in the meantime enjoy your new baby.


This is a guest blog written by Sarah Ward.

 Homebirth & PPH

Women often worry about what would happen if a woman bled heavily after a home birth. Throughout history, severe blood loss has been one of the main causes of women dying in childbirth, and it remains the most common cause of maternal death in the world [WHO, 1994].

Efficient management of postpartum haemorrhage is one of the wonders of modern obstetrics. The key is the availability of oxytocic drugs, which make the uterus contract down and normally stop bleeding.

You can choose to have either a ‘managed’ or a ‘physiological’ third stage, at home or in hospital. A ‘managed’ third stage means you have an injection of syntometrine as a precautionary measure. A ‘physiological’ third stage means you take a ‘wait and see’ approach to the delivery of the placenta, and only have drugs if you are worried about bleeding or if the placenta is taking longer than you want to wait for it to turn up

Sometimes one hears of doctors trying to dissuade women from home birth because of the risk of postpartum haemorrhage yet in fact severe bleeding after a home birth in the UK is rare, and postpartum haemorrhage is usually managed at home or by transfer to hospital. Despite the fears of some doctors, you would be very unlikely to bleed to death after a planned home birth in a developed country.

A famous review of quality studies of home birth (Olsen, 1997) looked at outcomes for over 24,000 women and found no maternal deaths. The National Birthday Trust Fund study looked at around 6,000 planned home births in the UK, and found no maternal deaths.

Where treatment for postpartum haemorrhage is needed, there are two elements. Emergency treatment focuses on stopping the bleeding, and in severe cases, keeping blood volume up while the bleeding is stopped. The other element of treatment is helping you to recover from blood loss, by administering a blood transfusion or iron supplements, this usually occurs several days after the bleed after blood tests have been performed.

What can a midwife do about heavy bleeding at a home birth?

Your midwife would follow exactly the same steps that she would take in hospital. Oxytocic drugs to manage blood loss are part of the basic kit that midwives take to every home birth.

If these did not bring the situation under control quickly then an ambulance would be called, and the midwife would take other steps if necessary, such as manually compressing your womb to stop bleeding.

In the UK most midwives can put an intravenous drip in at home while they are waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

What if the midwife isn’t there?

In the rare circumstances that a baby is born so quickly the midwife has not arrived yet, or the bleed has occurred after the midwife has left (also extremely rare), then you can do the following:-

  • ·       Call 999 if you can’t get hold of your midwife immediately
  • ·       Massage the uterus firmly – this often stops the bleeding immediately
  • ·       Pass urine
  • ·       Bi-manual compression – only if bleeding is extreme – involves someone continually massaging uterus externally and internally until help arrives

When the midwife arrives…

  • ·       She considers what we call the 4 T’s: Tone, Trauma, Tissue and Thrombin (clotting) factors.
  • ·       She can make sure the woman has passed urine and does not have a full bladder.
  • ·       She can use massage of the uterus, syntometrine or ergometrine medication to try stem bleeding. These medications induce a sustained uterine contraction. The massage of the uterus will sometimes expel any tissue obstructing good uterine clamp-down.
  • ·       The midwife can check for a tear, sometimes we can tear internally and it be less obvious
  • ·       Bi-manual compression will be used and transfer to hospital will happen as soon as an ambulance arrives if bleeding is not slowing.
  • ·       If bleeding has been easily stopped and woman feels fine then she may end up declining transfer to hospital. However in hospital they can offer a number of extra helpful interventions for anyone who has experienced or is experiencing a life-threatening PPH.

Placental Problems

  • ·       Occasionally the placenta doesn’t separate properly and obstructs, the midwife can manually remove it allowing the uterus to contract down and stem the bleeding

Can more be done in hospital than at home?

  • ·       The answer is yes, but only because there are more staff on hand, however the chances of having a life threatening PPH are far far greater in a hospital than at home in the first place.
  • ·       The most common reason for PPH is to do with atonic uterus, where the womb fails to contract down properly. At home, this is dealt with in the same way and with mostly the same drugs that would be used in hospital.
  • ·       It’s important to mention that PPH at home is reasonably rare, by the very nature of the fact that the major risk factors for PPH are things which only happen in hospital (instrumental deliveries, long hours on syntocinon drips, caesarean section etc).
  • ·       The last confidential enquiry into maternal deaths listed approx 5 deaths from PPH, all of which were in hospital, four of them were following instrumental deliveries and one following caesarean.

 How likely is post-partum haemorrhage after a home birth?

  • ·       PPH is significantly less likely to happen after a home birth than after a hospital birth.. This is probably because home birth reduces the risk of interventions which can contribute to PPH
  • ·       For more info, see the National Birthday Trust Fund study in the first instance, but numerous other studies have also found a reduced PPH rate in planned home births.
  • ·       Part of the reason for higher rates of blood loss after hospital birth is that PPH is statistically more likely to occur after intervention such as caesarean section, assisted delivery (forceps or ventouse), or medical induction or augmentation of labour (having a drip to speed labour up). None of these things will be happening at home. If you were to have any of these interventions, you would already be in hospital.
  • ·       There are some ways in which planning a home birth actually reduces your chances of having a PPH. Simply planning a home birth significantly reduces your chances of ending up with a caesarean or an assisted delivery – labour just seems to progress more smoothly at home, leading to less call for intervention. As these interventions increase the risk of PPH, by reducing the risk of the intervention, you are reducing the risk of PPH.

Can you have a home birth after having had a PPH with a previous baby?

  • ·       To try to work out the chances of a PPH recurring, and whether this is ‘safe’ for a home birth, you’d need to know why the PPH occurred, and if the same circumstances were likely to recur.
  • ·       Much depends on how you felt after the PPH.  Some women feel great even after losing a considerable amount of blood whereas others may feel terrible only losing 300ml.
  • ·       Its often hard to accurately measure the amount of blood loss. In the UK we call a loss of 500ml a PPH, but Europe don’t record a PPH unless over 1000ml.
  • ·       What were the circumstances the PPH occurred in? Were there known risk factors for PPH which would not apply this time? For instance, PPH is more common after assisted deliveries, first babies, large babies, induction or augmentation of labour.

o      If she needed an assisted delivery this time she would transfer to hospital, so that shouldn’t affect her status as regards home birth.

o      Likewise, her labour is not going to be induced with prostaglandins or augmented with syntocinon.

  • ·       Was the PPH a ‘true’ PPH in terms of being blood loss from her uterus, or was it associated with perineal tearing or episiotomy? Blood from both sources ends up in the same measuring jug, but the difference is significant.
  • ·       Did she have a retained placenta, or did the bleeding occur after the placenta was delivered – some ‘uterine atony’ involved?


All in all the risks of a PPH are lower in a planned homebirth than in a planned hospital birth.

However if one should occur, there are many ways it can be treated successfully at home, or by transfer to hospital.

It’s also important to realise that a negative outcome from a PPH can also occur in a hospital situation as well as at home.

Having experienced a PPH following a birth is not an automatic barrier to home birth in the future, it would depend on the reasons why it occurred. In fact planning a home birth may significantly reduce the chances of having a PPH in the future.


Where to start?  Every day is different, so I’m going to give you a flavour of the sort of things I get up to.

Of course I have antenatal appointments; from the first tentative telephone enquiry I then arrange to meet up with a potential client (usually for an hour or so) so that we can discuss their past experiences, their hopes for this pregnancy, their concerns and most importantly so that they can get a “feel” as to whether they actually like and trust me.  Once a couple have decided to book me as their midwife I then usually give all their antenatal care in their own home (although I have done antenatal visits in The Bank of England medical room!).  The format of visits is that I carry out all the usual blood tests, urine and blood pressure checks, but also leave a lot of time for discussion so that over the course of the pregnancy we cover issues such as waterbirth, Vitamin K, when to call me and so on.

My clients come from a wide area – I am happy to take clients who live within approximately an hour’s radius of my home in Leighton Buzzard – so I do spend a fair bit of time driving, as well as liaising with G.P.’s and hospitals where necessary.

Four times a year I jointly organise an Antenatal Exhibition, this is an opportunity for pregnant couples to gather information about breastfeeding, pregnancy yoga, cloth nappies and the like.  We also organise Birth Preparation Workshops and am often to be found at the Community Desk in Central Milton Keynes on hand to speak to expectant parents and also regularly attend Study Day’s and midwifery meetings to ensure that I keep myself up-to-date with current research.

Obviously I spend much of my time being “on-call” for births.  My own family are now pretty much grown-up and the commitment isn’t as big as one might imagine as I rarely have more than two births during a month – it is important that I don’t over-commit myself as the whole point of what I do is that I guarantee to be there for the birth.  Babies don’t always read the text books though!  I have had three births in one week, as of course some babies do come early and some come late!  As you will appreciate, the birth is the big event, and it can on occasion go on for some time.

Baby being here doesn’t mean that my job ends!  In fact, postnatal visiting is often one of the busiest times as the family may need quite a lot of support in the early days.  The majority of my clients choose to give birth at home; however some either need to, or choose to give birth in hospital.

I visit my clients for up to four weeks postnatally and it is a joy to see the baby thriving and although discharging clients is always tinged with sadness it is also great to know that I have played a part in helping the family on to the next stage of their life.  (I do usually keep in touch, perhaps not as often as I would like, but I often get e-mails and photographs and usually pop in when I’m passing!).

So, in summary I guess the main differences between me and an NHS midwife are that you are buying my time; antenatal visits usually take around an hour and a half (instead of perhaps 10 – 15 minutes at your local surgery), are arranged more frequently and take place at a time and place to suit you. Most importantly you will receive full continuity of care – I will see you at each visit to build our relationship and plan your care and you will know that (barring exceptional circumstances) I will be with you in labour and available 24/7 for urgent help.

I am always happy to discuss anything that you are concerned about; please do feel free to call.

Written by Valerie Gommon, BA (Hons), RM, Independent Midwife 01525 385153

I’ve just been listening to the latest episode of The Archers where Helen has just had an emergency caesarean section for pre-eclampsia and thought that it would be a useful subject to write about.

I think it is fantastic that the subject has been covered by the radio programme and on the whole they have got it right (wouldn’t expect anything less from The Archers!) but I would like to add a bit more.

Pre-eclampsia is a potentially serious condition of pregnancy that we are still learning about.  For serious pre-eclampsia the only treatment is to deliver the baby (sometimes prematurely), however for most pregnancies the pre-eclampsia can be monitored and the labour may well start normally and spontaneously, or the labour may be induced around your due date and you may well have a normal birth.

Pre-eclampsia is one of the things that your midwife is looking for antenatally and is usually characterised by a collection of symptoms: raised blood pressure, protein in your urine, swelling (oedema), headaches, visual disturbances and upper abdominal (epigastric) pain.

Many women will experience one or more of these symptoms without developing pre-eclampsia, but if you have two or more symptoms or feel concerned you should definitely speak to your midwife urgently.  For example many women will have a headache or some swelling and this is normal during pregnancy – it is usually only when you have several symptoms that pre-eclampsia is suspected and you will then be referred to hospital for further investigations including blood and urine test and monitoring of the baby’s wellbeing.

Women at increased risk of pre-eclampsia include:

  • Those in their first pregnancy
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having certain blood clotting disorders, diabetes, kidney disease, or an autoimmune disease like lupus
  • Having a close relative (a mother, sister, grandmother, or aunt, for example) who had preeclampsia
  • Being obese (having a body mass index of 30 or more)
  • Carrying two or more babies
  • Being younger than 20 or older than 40

However if you fall into any of these categories you are still more likely NOT to get pre-eclampsia.

There is some evidence (though not mainstream) that pre-eclampsia may be prevented by eating a really healthy diet and by increasing your protein and salt intake.  It may also be beneficial to stop work slightly earlier in your pregnancy and not to overdo things at the end of the pregnancy.

More information on the dietary aspect can be found at

I guess the first choice is where do you want to give birth, at home, in a birthing centre or in a hospital?  Although you may be asked this at your first appointment you can actually decide at any time, even when you are in labour (although it may be easier if you make plans earlier).

There are so many factors to take into account, but the most important thing is to give birth where you feel safest.  Labour is a very instinctive, hormonal event and if you are scared or unhappy with your environment you will not labour so easily.


There are many benefits to be gained by giving birth at home.  The woman is in familiar surroundings and is therefore more relaxed allowing the birthing hormones to work properly.  Labour is usually shorter, less painful and the mother is more likely to have a normal birth (so less need for ventouse, forceps or caesareans), she is more likely to breastfeed and less likely to suffer postnatal depression and she is more likely to report that she is satisfied with her experience.  These claims are backed up by research and evidence can be found at

Birth Centre/Midwifery Led Unit:

These are often seen as a half-way house between home and hospital.  They have many of the benefits of home, a more relaxed environment but if you are concerned about the privacy aspect of birth (for example if you live in a shared house, or are concerned about the neighbours) or the mess (which in reality is rarely an issue) then a birth centre may be right for you.

Birth Centres are only an option for women whose pregnancy is defined as “low risk” which means that the birth is expected to progress without complication.  Should a complication occur you will need to be transferred into a hospital where more advanced help is available.


Many women choose to give birth in hospital because they believe it to be the safest place.  Of course it is true that the hospital will have advanced facilities if needed however you should also bear in mind that sometimes these facilities are over-used and that just by setting foot in a hospital you increase your chance of using some of that help!  If you choose to give birth in hospital my top tip would be to stay at home as long as possible.


I think the use of water in a labour and birth can be hugely beneficial.  I recognise that not all women will want or need a waterbirth, but I would strongly recommend all women not to rule the use of water out.  It may be that you use water by having a bath or shower in labour; it can be hugely comforting to have shower water jetting onto your tummy or back whilst in labour.

As I see it, if we are achy or tense a bath is usually helpful.  It works in just the same way in labour; water is usually relaxing.  Another benefit is that women are much more mobile in labour and have their weight supported by the water making it easier to move around.  Lastly (dare I say it) if you are in a birthpool no one can interfere with you!  You are in your own space and are much more in control of what happens.

Most hospitals now have at least one birthing pool and if it is something that appeals to you I suggest you discuss it with your midwife and let the labour ward midwife know as soon as you arrive at the hospital.  For homebirths there is a considerable choice of birthpools available, for example rigid “bath” type pools that come with and without water heaters and inflatable pools.

Active birth:

Most midwives will agree that by being as active as possible you give yourself the best chance of having a normal birth.  In early labour listen to your body – if you can rest then do so, if you can eat then have something to eat and also make sure you drink plenty and pass urine frequently.  As the labour progresses keep changing position as your body directs; some women want to squat, be on all fours, pace around … most importantly change your position don’t just take to bed.  Being active and gravity will help you baby find its way through your pelvis and may well shorten your labour.

Antenatally it is helpful to prepare for the labour by undertaking gentle exercise, perhaps walking, swimming or yoga.  I wish you a lovely birth wherever you decide it should be!

I am excited to tell you that I have a new promotional video which details the work I do at

I also have several other videos hosted on YouTube and plan to add more as soon as possible; I should tell you that some of the content is explicit and shows graphic scenes of childbirth.

Another guest blog by Sarah:

Harlow Zen’s Birth Story

Harlow is my third baby having had Rohan 9 years previously and Nayt almost 8 years ago.  With Rohan I was induced at 10 days late, in hospital, with an epidural given as I was told he was back to back and it would be too painful, I ended up after 17 hours flat on my back, with a nasty tear and a pretty miserable painful experience to tell but a beautiful baby nonetheless.  I had Nayt 16 months later and keen to never set foot in a hospital again, we used 2 Independent Midwives and had an amazing natural home water birth, in less than 4 hours with no pain relief, no stitches and 23 days late! I was out and about within days, a completely different experience to my first. Both babies were reasonable sizes at 8lb 13oz and 9lb 2oz respectively.

With Harlow, because he was my husbands first and I was a bit rusty having had a good few years off baby making, we decided to use another Independent Midwife as the 1-2-1 care is like nothing else, and gives you the confidence that you will get the best birth outcome and overall experience possible, as they really get to know and understand you.  As my pregnancy progressed it was clear this baby was going to be on the large size, which I had kind of expected. I was advised to cut down on sugar but with a massive cake craving, this didn’t really happen, so I tried damage limitation by continuing to ride as long as I could and towards the end to swim daily and keep up with walking the dog.

I think my confidence in giving birth was knocked a bit towards the end because I had to have a series of late scans to check the placental position, as was slightly lying low at the 20 week scan. This showed up that at 34 weeks the baby was the size of a full term baby. I am reasonable at simple maths, and that added up to one BIG bubba!!

Because of this, I was told to expect an early baby. Unlike my other two pregnancies where I had no pre-labour signs whatsoever, I was starting to get runs of proper contractions about 3 weeks prior to my due date. I had so many signs in fact that I have decided there are no signs until the baby is literally crowning!! Along with contractions, I was nesting, had a show,  had a permanently bad tummy, babies head engaged….never happened to me before labour with the other two, bump shifted down….and then my due date came and went…and my bump un-engaged and shifted up!!!

On Tuesday 18th May after my husband Adam had taken the kids to school I started to get decent contractions. I really felt like today was the day. By midday they had gone, and annoyed I took my dog on a hill walk hoping to jolt the baby out with some gravity! Nothing! I was really sure that was it too, as my dog Phoebe had been all over protective, following me around and sleeping beside me wherever I went.

They started again around 11pm, but having sent our midwife numerous ‘I think its started’ texts over the last few weeks, decided to sleep on it.  At 1.55am Wednesday 19th May I woke up with a jolt as my waters literally burst all over the place. I managed eventually to wake my husband up who had fallen asleep on the sofa downstairs and after a massive clean up operation we called our midwife Valerie and she came out straight away.

The contractions had stopped but restarted around 3am and were roughly every 3 mins, reasonably painful (a 5-6) but not lasting too long. We all tried to get some sleep at 6am, but the contractions slowed down a lot.  By the time my kids woke up and we had agreed they could take the day off school, they were back to quite painful and we all thought finally ‘this is it!’. By about 9.30am I got into the birth pool my husband had busied himself filling and my labour ground to a halt and slowed down. My parents came and took the kids out for lunch as it was my Dads birthday, and gave me a bit of space and peace. At 1pm-ish we asked Valerie to examine me and I was disappointed to find I was barely dilated, and all that pain and hard work had merely helped Harlow to get into a better position.  Valerie left for home and me and Adam went for a walk, had some lunch and then at 5.20pm decided to get some sleep.  My kids were sent off to their rooms to watch a film.

At this point I was feeling despondent and was sure my pain threshold was rubbish. I started soon after to get contractions every 8-9 mins, lasting almost 2 mins and they were really painful. The peaks seemed to last for 40 seconds before subsiding. By almost 7pm I was crying and convinced I was still about 3 cm dilated.  I got very emotional and was convinced I would end up in hospital with a c-section. Adam was amazing and really supported me. He suggested we call Valerie, who had just text me. She came out with the entonox and as soon as she arrived I was getting the urge to push. I was on all fours and could not move into any other position…how I got downstairs I have no idea!!!

I managed to get downstairs and Adam re-filled the pool which we had drained down partially earlier.  I got in, and contractions were very close, strong and the peak lasted ages. Adam was great and helped me get the gas and air when I needed it, and provided emotional support as well as an arm for me to dig my nails in (sorry Adam!!), and Valerie helped me to get past the panicky ‘I cant do this’ with encouragement that I could really trust in.  At 8.20pm I could feel Harlow move down and he was born in the birth pool at 8.40pm. Valerie had called my kids down and they both watched their little brothers entrance into the world.

Harlow was born behind me, so with some jigging I was able to climb over my cord and hold him.  He cried a little and had a feed quite soon afterwards.  He was covered in vernix and his skin felt so soft.  He looked just like 3d scan picture and apparently my first words were ‘Hello Harlow’.  Adam cut the cord after it stopped pulsating and Valerie tied the cord with a cord tie I made specially for the event, and as I delivered the placenta naturally an hour later, Adam, and the kids had all taken turns to hold Harlow and make their introductions. It was the most special sight ever and something they will never forget, nor will I.

At 10.30pm we sent the kids to bed, and after a glass of champagne with Valerie; myself, Adam and Harlow settled down for our first night together. Perfect.

We were all a bit shocked that Harlow tipped the scales at 10lb 6oz, and I got away with a tiny tear and a graze and no stitches!! It was a more painful labour than Nayts birth, and the longest overall labour, but an amazing experience that 5 days after the event makes me ask ‘when can I do it again’???.