Tracy Sealey, Doula and Hypnobirthing guru, answers the key questions you might have before giving birth; from what a Doula is and does and how they could help you to have a more positive birth, to preparing mentally and physically for the times ahead. If you want to check Tracy and her team out and see how they could help you with your birth and beyond then check out the BirthSense website or join her Facebook page. Thanks so much to Tracy for pulling this together (and apologies to anyone reading about my slackness in posting recently!).

Whenever I meet someone new and they ask me what I do for a living, I’m often greeted with confusion. The conversation usually goes like this:

New person: So what do you do?

Me: I’m a doula

New person: You’re a dealer?!?! (I get this a lot)

Me: No, I’m a doula.. D.O.U.L.A  - I support women and their partners before, during and after the birth of their babies.

New person: Like a midwife?

Me: Not exactly. I’m not medically trained but I know a lot about how to help women experience better births. I can help them learn about their options and rights so that they can make choices about their care that feel right for them. I can help them with deep relaxation techniques and I know some really cool ways to help mum feel more comfortable and to help her work with her body to make the birth a lot easier. I can help to create a calm atmosphere and provide lots of reassurance and a continuous familiar, friendly face for them. I can help them to navigate a new set of circumstances if things aren’t going exactly to plan. I can advocate for their wishes and make sure that their care providers understand what they need.  Oh, and I can sort out lots of practical stuff like making sure everyone is fed and watered and that Dad or mum’s partner has opportunities to rest and recharge.

New person: That sounds great! I wish I’d had someone like you when I had my baby.

And then come the stories. I hear a LOT of birth stories and, sadly, they are not all as positive as I would like them to be. Most of all there’s a real sense of fatalism contained within them. A sense that it couldn’t have been any other way. That birth is just difficult and painful and traumatic and it often ends in medical intervention and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. But here’s the thing. That’s just NOT TRUE! Of course, there is an element of luck, and mother nature is not always predictable, but you might be surprised to learn that a little preparation can go a very long way when it comes to getting the birth you want. So here in no particular order, is a collection of some of my top tips to help you prepare for the birth you want.

1. Do your research; know your options and your rights

If I had a tenner for every time I heard things along the lines of “They wouldn’t let me”, “I wasn’t allowed” “I had to” or “I had no choice” I would be a rich woman by now. And it drives me crazy because the truth is that you ALWAYS have a choice despite what your hospital’s policy or your doctor’s recommendation might be. It’s your body, your baby and your birth. Hospitals are not prisons and policy is not law. In reality, you have a lot more decision-making power than you probably realise and helping my clients to have meaningful discussions with their care-providers and develop a care plan that feels right for them is a big part of my job. This is true whether you are hoping for a home birth or asking for an elective caesarean. Your care providers have a duty to provide you with unbiased, evidence-based information so that you can make decisions about your care. Of course, if you don’t know your options or you don’t have the right information to help you weigh up the benefits and risks of each one, then you don’t really have the ability to make decisions at all so it’s super important that you do your research.

2. Watch some real birth videos and read some birth stories

Close your eyes and picture a woman giving birth. Don’t overthink it – just accept the first image that comes to mind….

If you are anything like most people you probably pictured a woman on her back, in a brightly lit hospital room, her face contorted in effort and pain and lots of people yelling at her to push. Why? Because that is the image of birth that is promoted in the media and it’s not a pleasant one! No wonder women are so terrified of giving birth! If the Hollywood portrayals are to be believed it looks like a dreadful ordeal. I think it’s really important to counteract this kind of negative fear-inducing narrative of birth with something more realistic and more positive so it’s time to hit the internet and seek out some alternative portrayals. Search you tube for positive birth videos. Check out or ask your friends that had good births to tell you their stories. Seeing is believing and once you’ve watched a few women bring their babies into the world without all the drama it will open your eyes to what is possible.

3. Take a Hypnobirthing class


Take a hypnobirthing class

Aiming to lower anxiety levels and allowing you to stay calm and in control

If you haven’t looked into hypnobirthing yet or have dismissed it as a load of hippy-trippy nonsense, do yourself a favour and just read up on it. You might just find that it makes a lot more sense than you realise. There is a whole bunch of research which shows that women who are fearful, stressed and anxious about giving birth are far more likely to end up with longer, more difficult labours.

Stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisol interfere with the natural process and inhibit oxytocin and endorphins which are the hormones you need to get your baby out with the minimum of fuss. Fear also causes muscle tension which makes the job of the uterus much more difficult. Hypnobirthing is a collection of techniques which will help to lower anxiety levels and help you stay calm and in control.

4. Get active

Hypnobirthing is a great way to prepare yourself mentally for the big day but it’s important to remember that birth is also a physiological process. Mum and baby work together as a dynamic duo so that baby can descend into the pelvis and out through the birth canal with ease and it is now widely accepted that when mums move instinctively, swaying their hips, staying upright and mobile and harnessing the power of gravity this makes the process a lot easier. Unfortunately, our sedentary western lifestyles can cause a few problems here. Tight muscles and ligaments that are not functioning at their best can restrict the space available in the pelvis, prevent baby from getting into the best position, and prevent mum from opening up. Luckily there are lots of things you can do. Pregnancy Pilates is a great way to get those muscles moving and keep yourself nice and mobile. If you can’t get to a class, check out Joanna’s Private Pre-Natal sessions, which allow you to focus on your individual needs from your pregnancy. If this is still challenging then definitely look up some online resources. is a great place to find some suggestions for daily and weekly exercises. Ditch the sofa in favour of a birth ball that will really help your posture and book yourself in for regular massages.


5. Consider hiring a doula

Sometimes the maze of options and choices can feel like a bit of a minefield but hiring a doula is probably one of the best things you can do to help you navigate it. I like to use the analogy of a Sherpa. If you were climbing a mountain and you’d never been there before you wouldn’t go it alone. You’d hire a Sherpa who knew the mountain well and had walked it many times to help guide you and accompany you along the route. There’s good evidence that doulas can improve outcomes for women and their babies. Research suggests that women who have a doula reduce their risk of caesarean or instrumental birth, reduce the need for induction of labour, reduce the need for pain relief or epidural, have shorter labours and are more likely to feel happy with their birth experience. Doulas typically cost between £500 and £1500 depending on location, experience and skill set but are worth their weight in gold! This is an experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. It’s worth investing in. Check out for more information.


6. Prepare for your babymoon

Sometimes it’s easy to get so fixated on the pregnancy and birth that you forget about the fact that you get this lovely present at the end of it. The first few days and weeks after having your baby can be an emotional roller coaster and it’s important to think about what support you might need during this time.

If you are planning on breastfeeding think about making contact with your local breastfeeding counsellor or support group in advance who can help you to prepare for the experience and manage your expectations. Maybe book a meal delivery service for a few weeks or batch cook and freeze meals in advance. Get some extra help around the house if you can so you can focus on recovering, adjusting and learning about your new baby. Keep visitors to a minimum at first and remember that you shouldn’t be expected to play hostess.  

If you want to find out more from Tracy and BirthSense then just drop her a line:


Joanna Nicholls