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Episode 166

Nikki McCahon

In today’s episode I chat to Nikki of Dear Mama Project - @dearmamaprohject -  an online community dedicated to creating social support for women as they navigate the transition into motherhood. Nikki talks candidly about her birth, her traumatic hospital experience and the lack of support which resulted in a postpartum depression diagnosis when her baby was six months old.

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Nikki fell pregnant easily and despite a bit of morning sickness in the first trimester and cravings for carbs, watermelon and mineral water, she enjoyed a relatively straightforward pregnancy. She opted for shared care with her GP but in retrospect wishes she had continuity of care with her local birth centre.

The Business of Being Born documentary was a vital part of education for her, particularly when it came to learning about pain relief options. She found the final weeks of pregnancy challenging as she was overdue, carrying a big baby and dealing with severe back pain. After two unsuccessful stretch + sweeps she faced the mental challenge of keeping herself in a low stress state. “Every night I’d go to sleep and think: maybe tonight is the night and then I would wake up disappointed the next morning. I had six acupuncture treatments, massages, I bounced on the fit ball, walked up hills and drunk raspberry leaf tea; nothing worked!”

Despite being fearful of induction, she went to hospital at 40+10 and requested a stretch and sweep before medical induction began. Her cervix was still high, her baby wasn’t engaged and yet there was a hind water leak which heightened the risk of a cord prolapse so induction began immediately. Regular contractions didn’t start for another 4-5 hours and Nikki used the tens machine for a while before she moved into the shower and found relief under the hot water.

She was regularly checked by the midwives and despite her cervix still being high, the OB managed to break her waters at midnight. She went in and out of the shower, was continually monitored and when her baby’s heart rate started to show signs of distress, the room flooded with people.

“I felt a bit out of body as I was in pain and there were a lot of people in the room and then the energy started to shift. Darren was right next to me and the anaesthetist said that the team would do another test and if they needed to go to theatre I’d have to be under a general anaesthetic for the birth. Thankfully the test came back fine and they let me labour till I reached 10cm,” she says.

Nikki admits that at the time, she didn’t consider her experience to be traumatic, she simply presumed that it’s what a lot of women go through. She birthed her baby boy on the bed and got her wish for delayed cord clamping and skin-to-skin. She was overcome with emotion: “It’s amazing that you can go through this intense, physical experience and then they’re there and it’s over,” she says.

They spent two nights in hospital and on their final day, the midwives were doing some final checks when they noticed an issue with his breathing. “They picked up a stridor noise when he was breathing so they whisked him to special care and explained that they needed to investigate further. There were lots of doctors checking him over, they put a drip in his arm and gave him IV antibiotics to rule out infections and they did a range of tests and scans. We were there for three nights and they came back to us with a diagnosis of floppy airways; basically his windpipe would collapse when he exhaled because it was still soft. They sent us home with a referral to a specialist team and told us that he would simply grow out of it.”

Understandably, Nikki experienced anxiety about her baby’s breathing. She didn’t have any postpartum checkups till her six week GP appointment and was refused a place in her local mother’s group because her baby was deemed too old.

“He was a happy baby but getting him to sleep and sleeping in general was a real issue. It would usually take 2-3 hours of crying for him to sleep for one sleep cycle and this happened over and over again, every day. My whole life was trying to get him to sleep. I was very tired and beaten down by the whole experience, not so much with him, I had a beautiful connection with him, but I felt let down by the lack of postpartum support.”

At six months old, he was referred to a sleep training programme which is when Nikki had a consolation with a psychologist. “He made me realise that the exhausted, anxious state I was in wasn’t normal. My GP suggested medication but at the time I didn’t want to take it because I was so anxious that something would happen to him.”

She was officially diagnosed with PPD and sought more help and support. It was also around this time that she started thinking about the Dear Mumma Project which has since grown to a community of 60,000+ women. “I just want to make sure that every new mum has the support she deserves and that no one falls through the cracks.”

Topics Discussed

Postpartum depression (PPD), Shared care, Induction, Postpartum anxiety

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You can find out more about Nikki and her Podcast Dear Mama Project HERE

Episode Sponsor

Today’s episode is brought to you by Physio Laura’s free online active birth class. Physio Laura is a women’s health physiotherapist who runs the online program The Pregnancy Posse. Laura has recorded an online active birth class as well as a downloadable birth class toolkit to help all the pregnant ladies right now whose birth classes have just been cancelled.

Laura wanted to help women feel positive, calm and prepared for birth as she understands how the current global crisis is causing many women to feel anxious and overwhelmed about their upcoming births. In Laura’s active birth class you will learn about the different stages of labour, why staying active is important, the different positions and techniques you can implement to have a positive and calm birth experience, breathing techniques to help with the pushing phase of birth and so much more.

To sign up to receive the free active birth class video and downloadable birth toolkit, just head to physiolaura.com/abs

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