What is Active Birth?

Janet Balaskas, the founder of the Active Birth movement - - Active Birth Manifesto 1982.

“the essential definition of an active birth is one in which the birthing mother is in charge of her choices and decisions”

The physiological process of labour happens due to the release of birthing hormones. An active birth is characterised by movement; standing, squatting, swaying. A birthing woman will instinctively find the most comfortable and appropriate positions throughout her labour.

Women need to feel safe and secure in a calm, dimly lit environment where their privacy is protected for the hormonal process to work effectively. Optimal release of oxytocin results in efficient contractions, an effective expulsion of the baby, the placenta and a good retraction of the uterus after birth which minimises blood loss. High levels of endorphins are essential to enable the mother to cope with the intensity of labour without needing intervention or medication. When a woman in labour has these conditions met and is confident in her body’s ability to give birth she has the maximum opportunity to birth her baby with joy and pleasure. She will feel a huge sense of achievement and empowerment which helps her to begin the next chapter of her life as a mother with confidence.

There is a history of women spontaneously giving birth in various forms of upright, often supported, kneeling or squatting positions from around the world over thousands of years. Whatever the race or culture, the same upright positions were the most common. Research tells us that freedom of movement in labour can result in shorter labours, more efficient contractions, greater comfort and less need for pain medication and interventions. Movement and changing positions are more important than a single optimal position. In upright and forward leaning positions the bones of the pelvis are free to move and adjust so the baby can move down and though the birth canal using gravity to assist the process.

Active Birth involves acceptance and trust in the function and involuntary nature of the birth process, as well as adopting appropriate positions women need to practice deep relaxation of body and mind, to access and trust their instinctive potential.

I was very fortunate to hear about the Active Birth Centre when I was pregnant with my first child in 1987. I attended Janet’s pregnancy yoga classes and my boyfriend and I attended Janet’s Active Birth Preparation weekend, both of these classes were invaluable in reassuring me that my instincts about birth were sensible and do-able and helped me to have two amazing birth experiences. I am very proud to be involved with the Active Birth Centre as I have been working from the ABC therapy clinic offering maternity and holistic massage since 2011. In 2013 I began to do my Active Birth Workshop training, I was taught by Janet Balaskas and qualified in July 2014 - www.activebirthcentre.com

Janet Balaskas Active Birth Workshop © with Sue BoughtoN

I am now running my Active Birth Workshops at The Well Garden in Hackney. The Well Garden  www.thewellgarden.co.uk  a natural health centre, is a beautiful little oasis of calm and tranquility in Hackney Downs Studios,  E8 2BT.  From March 2018 I am also running "Massage & Rebozo techniques for Labour" sessions for women in late pregnancy and their birth partners, see events for information

I also offer private sessions for couples in their own homes for people are unavailable for the evening or weekend workshop sessions. Please call me on 07811 953 277 or email souladoula@gmail.com 

Ashley 2015 "You will be pleased to hear that we had a very straightforward and quick birth.  It was amazing and I couldn't believe I did it!  I would never have had the confidence to do all the above without attending your course, it really was invaluable so a big thank you to you!"

Edwina 2016 after the workshop "I found the slow pace of the day meant I could take in the information without having to concentrate too much and I liked the mixture of listening, asking questions and physical practice. " After her birth "She was born in a pool in our kitchen after 18 hours of labour, which I would describe as the most gruelling epic all-round experience of my life so far. And the most rewarding! It was the best birth I could have wished for, now that I know what birth entails. Thank you again for the day of gentle preparation. "

Janet Balaskas Active Birth Workshops

This antenatal workshop is for single women and women and their birth partners. Find out how to maximise your ability to experience an empowering birth. The overall aim of the workshop is to help you to make informed decisions, enable you to trust your instincts and have confidence in your body’s ability to give birth. The focus of the workshop is on practical skills, deepening your knowledge of the physiology of labour and birth, coping with the intensity of labour and giving your birth partner effective techniques to support you throughout your labour and birth.

Cost is £70 per person for the whole workshop. The workshop is either taken over 2 evenings so there is time for reflection and feedback in the second session or in one day for your convenience.

We will look at and discuss:

The birthing process from the last few weeks of pregnancy, early labour, active labour and giving birth to your baby and the placenta

The hormonal process and how to create a good environment for birthing

The physiology of giving birth in an upright or forward leaning position, looking at the pros and cons of different birthing positions

How the uterus functions

The importance of the birth partner and working with the intensity of labour

Practical sessions:

Practicing movements and positions for labour and birth

Locating the bones, joints and structure of the pelvis 

Demonstration of the baby’s journey through the pelvis

Basic relaxing breathing for labour and birth including visualisations

Massage for late pregnancy and labour

Workshop participants will be given a copy of “Preparing for Active Birth Handbook” by Janet Balaskas. Each participant will also be registered to receive a free subscription to Janet Balaskas’ E-journal.

Contact The Well Garden or Sue on 07811 953277 or souladoula@gmail.com

Check http://www.thewellgarden.co.uk/workshops/4582778054 for dates and bookings. 

I also offer private sessions for women and couples who are unable to get to The Well Garden for the workshop dates. Please email souladoula@gmail.com for information and cost.


This is for women in their 3rd trimester and their birth partners. A shorter workshop focusing on using massage and a rebozo during labour, this is a useful practical addition to other antenatal courses. Partners will learn simple massage and shiatsu techniques that help to release muscular tension, calm the nervous system and increase the production of endorphins - your feel good hormone. You will learn simple shiatsu techniques to balance your partners energy  helping the flow of labour. Gentle massage helps to calm and relax a women in labour and encourages the release of birthing hormones.

A rebozo is a long piece of cloth often worn by Mexican women and a traditional midwifery tool for pregnancy, labour and post-partum. Using a rebozo during labour can encourage babies to move into a better position, it can provide comfort & relaxation and  also helps the mother to make the swaying, rhythmical movements that can improve labour progress. These are very useful tools for birth partners. The workshop also includes information on positions for labour and birth and some birth physiology. 

Please wear comfortable loose clothing as you will be sitting and kneeling on a yoga mat and leaning over a birth ball ...

Cost is £50 per couple, contact Sue for more information and booking 07811 953 277 or souladoula@gmail.com

Check http://www.thewellgarden.co.uk/workshops/4582778054 for dates 

Rebozo sifting for relaxation and comfort in late pregnancy and in labour

Rebozo sifting for relaxation and comfort in late pregnancy and in labour