Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

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I have just “appeared” on 3 Counties Radio to discuss a local news item.  A Sainsbury’s employee refused to sell local woman, Janet Lehain, unpasteuried cheddar because she was pregnant!

Whilst applauding the employee for pointing out the recommendation that pregnant women do not consume unpasteurised products I have to say that I believe they overstepped the mark by refusing to sell her the cheese!  The woman could have been buying the cheese for her husband and whatever happened to freedom of choice? 

I am a firm believer in Informed Choice, we are very cautious where pregnancy is concerned because although the risks are very low there could be serious implications for the baby SHOULD the mother contract food poisoning.

The Department of Health guidance in early pregnancy is to be extra careful with hygiene; food poisoning is bad news for your baby. They suggest that women don’t eat any unpasteurised foods – most food is pasteurised, but some speciality milks, cheeses/diary are not.

The recommendation is to avoid moulded or veined cheeses and pate/salami. Eggs should be well cooked not runny. Fruit and vegetables should be washed prior to eating. It is suggested that you don’t eat swordfish or marlin and limit the consumption of “oily” fish to twice weekly. Sea food should be cooked not raw. Liver is not recommended for pregnant women.

Whilst pregnant the current recommendation is not to drink alcohol at all, and it is better to limit the amount of caffeine you take (tea, coffee, cola and fizzy drinks), and obviously it would be wise to stop smoking and avoid any “recreational” drugs prior to getting pregnant.

We are still evaluating the evidence regarding eating peanuts in pregnancy – the best current advice is that if you have nut allergies in the family it may well be best to avoid eating nuts in pregnancy; it there are no nut allergies then use your own instinct and judgement as to whether you feel safe to eat nuts (bearing in mind they are a good source of protein, particularly if you are vegetarian or vegan).

Having made a huge list of foods to avoid, you are encouraged to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (aim for at least five a day), plenty of protein (at every meal if you possibly can) and plenty of iron rich foods (red meat, pulses, green vegetables).

You can read articles I have written at: and!.pdf or

This evening I was asked to speak on BBC 3 Counties radio in response to an item in the press whereby a mother was asked to stop breastfeeding her 11 week old baby at her local Leisure Centre in Nottingham.

Staff advised the mother that she was contravening their health and safety regulations that forbid the consumption of food and drink on the poolside. Nottingham City Council later insisted there had been “a misunderstanding” and has promised to apologise to the woman.

I do believe this to be a relatively isolated instance, in general I think we are more tolerant and accepting of breastfeeding in public, however this and other rare cases sadly do reflect the need for the right to breastfeed to be enshrined in law as proposed by Harriet Harmen, Government Minister for Women and Equality who published The Equality Bill which is expected to come into force from Autumn 2010.  This right has been in force in Scotland since 2004

Headline “Alfie, 13, not father of baby”

Well, I was on Three Counties Radio again last night – there was an item in the news about smoking in pregnancy and I was asked to comment.

Apparently, there is a new government campaign targeted to help pregnant women stop smoking.  The advertising campaign, from NHS Smokefree, will highlight how every smoked cigarette restricts essential oxygen to the baby; it will show that a baby’s heart has to beat harder every time a pregnant woman smokes.

According to statistics put out, around one in five pregnant women in England smoke during their pregnancy.  I have to say that I find this figure surprisingly (and alarmingly) high.  It probably doesn’t correlate with my overall clinical experience and certainly not with my Independent Practice ( where almost none of my clients smoke; there is a definite correlation between social class and smoking and I guess I have usually worked in relatively affluent areas.

I think it is easy to be judgemental – people make choices in their lives, and may find smoking a relief to stressful situations, and one should not underestimate the power of addiction.  That said it is obviously harmful to smoke at any time and even more particularly when pregnant.  Women who smoke (or indeed whose partners smoke) are at increased risk or miscarriage, having smaller babies or cot death.  Additionally there are health risks for the child of an increase in coughs and colds, asthma or chest infections, meningitis, glue ear and lung cancer when they are adult.

It is important that you do not bed-share with your baby if you or your partner are smokers as this significant increases the risk of cot death, or indeed breathe too closely over a baby if you have recently smoked as you will be exhaling carbon monoxide for up to an hour after your last cigarette!

Interestingly a poll of 224 pregnant women for the campaign revealed 28% would seek help to stop smoking but were worried about being judged – this is something that we as Health Professionals need to be very mindful of – it is not our place to be judgemental, but to give appropriate information and support.  A total of 38% said they sometimes hid their smoking because they were worried about people criticising them, while 39% said they were ashamed to admit their habit to their midwife or healthcare professional.  A wider survey of more than 2,000 adults found 49% were critical of pregnant women who smoked.

The NHS Pregnancy Smoking Helpline number is 0800 1699 169 and more information can be found at

A woman in America has given birth to eight babies, and although born nine weeks prematurely, at present doctors say all of them are doing well.  The babies weighed between 1lb 8 ounces (820g) and 3lb 4oz (1.47kg) and will need to stay in Neonatal Intensive Care for some time.  It’s only the second time in the world that someone has given birth to eight babies at once, and doctors were only expecting her to have seven!

Also in the news is the story of surrogate mother Carol Horlock who has had eleven babies for other couples and also has two children of her own. I am sure surrogacy takes place in most cultures, often with the surrogate mother being a family member, of course this raises huge ethical issues not to mention the emotional issues for all concerned, but wow … this is something that I personally could never have considered, I couldn’t even have parted with my eggs, but I know many couples are eternally grateful for those that are able to help them have a family.

Today I was twice invited to speak on BBC 3 Counties Radio, partly in response to this news story and also to speak about my work as an Independent Midwife –

I had hoped to have the opportunity to discuss my new website but the interviewer was keen to discuss my blog. was launched only three months ago has already proved popular.  The site currently covers Bedford, Milton Keynes and Northampton and aims to be THE information site for all things Pregnancy, Birth and Baby.  For example on the site you can find therapists who specialise in Pre-conceptual support, pregnancy ultrasound, swimming classes for babies and even photographers to photograph your little one!  The site has a comprehensive Links section and an interesting selection of articles and the opportunity to sign up for a regular newsletter.

I have just heard about this story in today’s Telegraph.  Apparently Rachida Dati the French justice minister has returned to work, smartly dressed with make-up and high heels five days after giving birth by caesarean!

Gosh!  How do I comment on this one?  I really feel that women feel under intense pressure to be glamorous and function “normally” after having a baby.  Who exerts this pressure – well I think it is largely women themselves, and certainly this high-profile woman is sending a message to thousands of other women.

My reaction is that this is just crazy!  She has had major abdominal surgery (for that is what a caesarean is), she has had a baby and she should be at home resting and spending time with her baby.

Women obviously do vary in how they recover after a birth, but they need time to adjust to life with their new baby; their sleep will be disturbed, they will be physically tired and hopefully they will be making breastmilk and learning how to breastfeed.  Women need a “babymoon”!  There are, of course, dangers of postpartum haemorrhage (which although rare is serious), infection, mastitis and depression.  I do think that other cultures where women are cosseted and fed for up to a month after birth may have it right.

On the one hand, women are working until the eleventh hour before the birth, putting themselves at risk of high blood pressure and premature labour, and on the other hand not allowing themselves any recovery time.  I am not suggesting a return to the 10 day “lying in” period, we know that it is actually beneficial to be mobile as soon as possible (even after a caesarean birth) but shopping with a two-day old baby really!

I shall be discussing this issue later today on