Contemporary Birth Culture – a free webinar with Rhea Dempsey

Contemporary Birth Culture

We’re thrilled to announce that Rhea Dempsey (renowned counsellor, best selling author and childbirth educator) is offering a wonderful free event to all practitioners about understanding contemporary birth culture and its impact on birth experience.

Register your spot for this free 45 minute webinar with Rhea Dempsey, going live on Wednesday July 27, 2022 at 4pm AEST.

“I hear far too often of the dismay you feel as a practitioner when the pregnant woman, whose body and being you have been treating and preparing for birth returns with a distressing birth story. A birth story filled with interventions and just-in-time emergencies, leading to distress and trauma – and you wonder what on earth happened?

In this free 45-minute webinar I will introduce you to the key structural factors in contemporary birth culture that hijack so many women’s birth dreams and leave you puzzled.”

Rhea Dempsey


Contemporary Birth Culture

This webinar is open to all health professionals

In particular, this webinar is for those counsellors, psychologists, naturopaths, acupuncturists, doctors, birth workers and all supporting practitioners who are integral to the healthcare team of patients moving through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.

You’re most welcome to register for this event. Please share it with any colleagues you believe would also benefit.

Rhea’s classes and workshops have long been held in high regard by practitioners and patients alike. She has been doing incredible work in the birth space for decades and we’ve no doubt you’re already a raving fan (as we are).



We are honoured to be launching this digital offering with Rhea and creating a reservoir of her wisdom for people to access. It will feature in the Fertile Ground Legacy Series – an initiative we are creating to translate the decades of collective wisdom that Fertile Ground practitioners have amassed, because we want to ensure that this important knowledge is passed on to you and the next generation of practitioners to come.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Charmaine Dennis & Carly Woods
Directors | Naturopaths
Fertile Ground Health Group
Facebook & Instagram
a: 33 Smith Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9419 9988

PS – Register now for the Free Webinar with Rhea Dempsey – going live Wednesday, July 27 at 4pm.

Build your best healthy pregnancy diet

Freya Lawler Healthy Pregnancy Diet Fertile Ground Health Group
How do you build your best healthy pregnancy diet?

In this article I will share with you our top non-negotiable recommendations.  At Fertile Ground health Group, we believe in educating patients on their fertility journey with the most up to date and relevant research when it comes to making healthy babies.

This type of education involves jumping ahead of the curve in regards to current preconception and fertility dietary guidelines. There is often a wide gap when it comes to emerging research making its way into public policy; therefore our job is to merge the two and share the most up-to date nutritional and dietary information available. At the core of our philosophy on prenatal care is ensuring that every mother is educated on the nutritional foundations of a growing a healthy, thriving baby.

It is now more commonly understood that most conditions occurring in adulthood originate in foetal life. This evidence highlights the importance of following an optimal prenatal diet to not only set the stage for the health of your growing baby and your personal pregnancy, but it holds a strong influence on the health outcomes of future generations. By making evidence-based food choices and becoming familiar with real wholefoods, you will provide an excellent basis for great pregnancy nutrition.

Our top dietary tips during pregnancy include

Eat small, regular meals

The notion of ‘eating for two’ has been largely disproven in literature, when in fact there is only a modest increase in caloric requirements during pregnancy. Smaller meals and snacks benefit a pregnant mother in a number of ways; they balance blood sugar, providing your growing baby with a consistent stream of nutrients, prevent nausea, heartburn and reflux whilst keeping energy levels balanced.

Enjoy high quality proteins and fats

Ensuring meals are rich in quality protein and fats rather than being high in refined carbohydrates will keep you fuller for longer, reducing unwanted energy dips and preventing the incidence of overeating. Our advice is to keep snacks at arms reach at all times to ensure you’re eating regularly. Wholegrain crackers, vegetable sticks, dips and a handful of nuts are all excellent options to keep available at all times.The key is to prioritise high quality foods wherever your budget allows.

Choose grass fed and free range over grain fed and conventionally raised meat and poultry. Healthy fats to include are small fish rich in essential fatty acids, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados. We understand it’s important to allow yourself some dietary flexibility during your first trimester when you may be suffering from morning sickness and food aversions are prominent. After this period, the above recommendations should form an essential basis of your prenatal dietary requirements, reflecting a wholefood, non-processed Mediterranean style diet.

Avoid sugar and processed foods and adopt a lower GI way of eating 

Evidence shows that increased sugar and processed food consumption during pregnancy may contribute to increased gestational weight gain and the development of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth. To mitigate this, our suggestion is to move away from foods that offer empty calories and little nutritional value. Swap processed bread, white pasta and sweets for more nutrient dense options such as wholegrain sourdough, pulse pastas, legumes, whole grains, full fat yoghurt and seasonal fruits.

Whilst these recommendations are an essential part of any pregnant mothers daily nutrition, we suggest ensuring foods rich in vitamin A, folate, iodine, iron, choline and B12 are consumed regularly and supplemented where necessary. In addition to this, conventional dietary guidelines are designed for women who are healthy and nutritionally replete. Therefore, individual prenatal nutrient requirements may differ from woman to woman. Seeking guidance from an experienced health provider can be beneficial in assessing your unique nutritional needs.​

Written by Freya Lawler

Freya Lawler, Naturopath and Functional Nutritionist at The Melbourne Apothecary, is passionate about food. She believes that in order to optimise your health from the ground up, you must begin with your diet. She loves to identify simple ways to make a huge difference in your health, through optimising your diet and creating tailored nutritional plans. Whether it be for supporting your pregnancy, balancing your hormones, clearing your skin or improving your digestion – Freya can guide you back to your best health through functional nutrition. 

Learn more about Freya

Free Resources

Are you prepared for one of the biggest days of your life?


Giving birth to your baby is a momentous event, particularly if it’s your first child. It is your initiation into motherhood, a rite of passage and you will be entering into unfamiliar territory. You may not have thought about just how big this will feel, or perhaps you’ve been thinking about the big day obsessively with equal amounts of curiosity, trepidation or uncertainty.

Much of our thoughts and energy during pregnancy go toward eating well, exercising and preparing for the days and months after the baby’s arrival, but it is equally important to consider how you can prepare to have a good labour and birth on this momentous day.

With so many opinions and different birth stories to hear, it can be difficult to know who or what to trust and how to feel confident about giving birth to your baby. Navigating this unfamiliar territory doesn’t have to be arduous, especially when there are experienced guides known as doulas or birth attendants. A guide to help you with birth preparation, creating a birth plan and gathering a good support team during pregnancy and birth, so when the big day arrives and you first greet your newborn babe, it can be the best experience it can possibly be!

What is a Doula?

A doula is another word to describe a birth attendant, birth coach or birth support companion.  She offers guidance and information as well as emotional and physical support.

A Doula will help you and your partner prepare for birth by giving you tips and tools for effective labour, help you understand what to expect when you are in hospital and assist you to navigate your way through risk management. They also work with you to create a plan for the kind of birth experience you would like to have and offer reassurance for when things don’t go to plan, bringing a calming presence to what can potentially be a confusing time.

Doulas add to a positive birth experience where birthing women feel safer, more informed and more aware of birth choices and the implications of these choices.

Why do I need a Doula?

Most Australian woman have fragmented maternity care and see multiple people across the pregnancy and birth journey. This can leave some women feeling unsupported and fearful about birth because they haven’t developed a relationship with a trusted guide, who they can rely on to assist and support them during the physically and emotionally intense experience of giving birth.

A good Doula is respectful of the demanding roles that obstetricians and midwifes have in the birth process. They understand that hospital midwives and medical staff can be weighed down by paperwork, protocols and safety during the birth, which can sometimes mean they have less time for the emotional, practical and physical care of birthing women.

By having a Doula you are filling in the gaps and giving yourself consistency of care and an opportunity to develop a supportive, trusting and educational relationship which has multiple benefits for you, your support team and family.

Does a doula need special training? Are they qualified to provide advice?

Anyone can call themselves a doula, so it is important to check that your doula has been trained by a reputable and experienced person or organisation.  It is also important to remember that doulas cannot give you medical advice or diagnose and assess your condition. This is the job of your GP, medical specialist or midwife.

A doula’s role is to educate and support you in birth preparation through to labour, delivery and immediately post-partum.  It is always best to engage a trained birth attendant doula. Our FGHG birth attendants have been trained with one of Australia’s most experienced childbirth educators and counsellors, Rhea Dempsey.

What happens at each appointment with my FGHG Doula?

You can engage a doula to attend your birth at any stage of your pregnancy but it is ideal to establish the relationship a few months before the baby is due. This allows time for you to get to know each other and feel comfortable and confident with your birth attendant.

Doulas at Fertile Ground Health Group are also massage therapists and many women choose to have regular pregnancy massage to further strengthen the relationship, build trust and to support a positive labour and birth. FGHG birth attendants can also recommend who to see when you need help with common ailments during pregnancy and what kind of support you might need post-natally for birth recovery, breastfeeding and nutrition.

At the initial 30 minute meeting – you will get to know your practitioner, how they work, what to expect, costs, share your concerns and history and have your questions answered to make an informed choice.

At the Birth meeting – this is a comprehensive 2 hour meeting that is ideally done as early as possible in the pregnancy because it is all about developing the relationship, establishing the birth team and bringing all interested parties together – i.e. partner, family and other support people, anyone who is attending the birth.

You will prepare a birth plan which talks you through all aspects of what to expect at the birth, which will allow you to get clear about your birth preferences and be more informed about the times when decisions and choices need to be made about pain relief, vaccination, placenta and umbilical cord.  You’ll also discuss where to park, medications and what food to bring as well as techniques to use during labour for active birth and optimal foetal positioning, birth preparation and resources you can use for any issue that arises.

Leading up to your due date you will have access to your birth attendant:

  • With 24 hour on call period from 38 weeks until the birth of your baby
  • Support for the full duration of active labour and the immediate period (1-2hrs) after your baby is born
  • One post-natal visit at your home to ‘debrief’ after the birth
  • Access to a “back up” birth attendant if needed

Having a trained birth attendant at your side to help you navigate unknown territory, support you and provide guidance ultimately gives you more confidence, reassurance and preparation for one of the biggest days in your life – the birth of your baby and the growth of your family.

More information about doulas at FGHG:

Fiona Harrison, FGHG Massage Therapist and Birth Attendant

Michelle Lowe, FGHG Massage Therapist and Birth Attendant

More information and prices

Introducing Dr.Sushen Naidoo, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist

We are all abuzz at FGHG with news of an exciting new collaboration with Obstetrician & Gynaecologist Dr.Sushen Naidoo, who will be consulting from Fertile Ground Health Group from November 2017.

Whilst we have long collaborated with our patients’ primary medical carers and pride ourselves on being in communication with them whenever needed, working alongside an empathetic obstetrician who we know and trust is going to be an absolute bonus for everyone coming to FGHG.

The opportunity for education and information sharing amongst practitioners at FGHG has always been a contributing factor to our inspired practice and most importantly, better health outcomes for our patients. Now with Sushen practicing from our rooms we bring another dimension to the collaboration.

There is also just the simple convenience of having all your needs met in one location so there is less running around between appointments – phew!

By way of introduction we thought we’d let the charming Dr Sush do his own talking.  Here he is talking to us about his practice, his work ethic and his hopes and dreams for patients and the future.

I understand the name Naidoo has some history in the gynaecological/obstetric world?

Yes my dad, Jan Naidoo was an O&G who worked for almost 30 years in Melbourne’s West, so I’ve grown up with maternity and women’s health. He retired recently and I’m actually going to be consulting from his old rooms in Keilor as well, which will be nice.

I decided to call my webpage and practice, “Next Generation Obstetrics Gynaecology and Fertility”, which is a nice allusion to Dad, and also to a more open minded philosophy to health care.

Do you think growing up with a dad who is an obstetrician kind of normalised birth for you in some way?

Yeah I think it did. I remember being dragged to the hospital as a kid, when my dad had to go in for a delivery. So I think I understood even at an early age that my dad did something special.

Other doctors often say you must be mad to do obstetrics after seeing your dad be on call your whole life!

But I think it was only when I starting my training that I realised how amazing the relationship between the Obstetrician and the mother is, and how this is the most rewarding interaction you can have in medicine.

Now that I have become a  specialist, my dad and I have a great bond, and he is the first one I call to discuss an interesting case or to discuss my plans for private practice. His reputation in Melbourne was exemplary, so it is very special to follow in his footsteps.

Where have you been working prior to setting up in private practice here in East Melbourne?

I trained at Monash Medical Centre and completed my advanced training in Sydney, with a special interest in Laparoscopic surgery.

I also worked and travelled last year in regional Australia, working as a Consultant in Darwin, Rockhampton and Launceston.

This was an invaluable experience clinically, and gave me an opportunity to explore and have a few adventures before starting in Private.  I needed a break after the long period of training, and I really feel that now I have the energy and passion to build a great practice in Melbourne.

This year, I have been covering for some great specialists in the city, and working at the Royal Women’s Hospital and the Northern Hospital, and have begun consulting in North Melbourne and Keilor, in addition to FGHG.

How do you think private practice will be different from working within the public system?

I don’t think my approach will differ greatly, I feel like I’ve been waiting to have “my own” patients all these years in training.

Often in a public clinic you only encounter patients sporadically or by chance.  The nature of public work is that you may not see patients again, or have the opportunity to be involved in their birth.

I feel now that I really can’t wait for the continuity of care that comes with private practice. I covered for a colleague for 2 weeks earlier this year, and even within this very short period I was amazed at how rewarding and wonderful the continuity actually was.

In the last few years many of my friends have started their families and I have readily made myself available for advice or opinion on their pregnancy.  Often my friends will ask whether it’s a drag discussing pregnancy outside of work. It is never ever a burden, it’s an absolute pleasure to be able to really help people I know and care for.

These are the type of relationships I hope to foster with my own patients.  I want to be excited to see my patients at each visit, and for them to look forward to seeing me.

And my hope to be then involved in the care of families long after I meet their babies.

Everyone at Fertile Ground Health Group is pretty excited to have you working with us. It sounds like you are open to collaborating with natural approaches to support women in pregnancy and birth? What do you think the benefits are?

I think I’ve always been open minded and have had the philosophy that as long as there is no risk for the patient, I’m willing to support their choices. 

I was introduced to FGHG by my sister Yudhika, who had worked there for many years as a musculoskeletal and massage therapist. She always said that FGHG was an amazing multi disciplinary team, that does amazing things with their patients.

When I met Charmaine and the team, I felt we definitely had the right philosophy, connection and energy to work together.  Working in collaboration with FGHG I aim to learn about aspects of complementary medicine that I am ignorant of and hopefully we can develop approaches that provide the best information for me, for FGHG practitioners and most importantly for our shared patients.

To me, the idea of collaboration and learning through an integrative approach to patient care, between complementary fertility practitioners and an Obstetrician is an achievable goal in Women’s health. There are historical barriers to this – there is still that notion of an “ us and them” mentality that perpetuates between complementary and conventional medicine.  I think there is a distinct ignorance of what CM practitioners actually do, and I think better communication can help resolve this.

I’m  hopeful that our new partnership can highlight these many benefits, so that our patients can get the best of both worlds, and we can show that collaboration is actually what women want.

When you consider the remarkably high rate of women under the care of a complementary medicine practitioner for fertility,( around 45%)  it is clear that collaboration and better communication between providers is essential for safer and better health outcomes.

I also have an interest in supporting both women and their partners with perinatal anxiety and depression. Having spent time with the team at FGHG ,  its clearly evident that pratitioners from each CM speciality have a wealth of experience and insight into helping their patients with anxiety and depression. This is certainly true of our infertile clients,  many of whom go on to healthy pregnancies and l still rely on their CM practitioner for psychological support.

In pregnancy, patients are commonly reluctant to take medications, and the management of anxiety and depression can be a challenge. Each CM speciality at can offer a unique potential benefit for a patient’s psychological wellbeing.  Hence this is the perfect situation to encourage a holistic and collaborative approach and certainly at FGHG we can embrace this together.

What do you think is the most important element in your relationship with your patients? What do you hope for them? How do you get there?

Trust is the most important element, as most of what I do during the pregnancy is reassure mothers.  I feel my strength as a communicator and my temperament ensure meaningful, informative and reassuring consultations. It has always been a pleasure to see anxious and stressed couples leave a consultation feeling more informed and confident.

Every step of the pregnancy journey can be stressful, and this can exacerbated when combined with a lack of understanding or poor communication with your doctor.

My hope for my couples is for them to truly enjoy their pregnancy and to look forward to our consultations together, knowing they can ask me anything, and be reassured when needed and then feel secure and supported, confident under my care. This culminates in us sharing a safe and rewarding birthing experience, where my patient’s choices are well informed and supported.

Every patient you meet is unique. So you have to take an individualised and respectful approach to get them through their birthing experience.

Birth plans don’t always go to script, and this can sometimes be devastating to a woman and her partner.

My job is to use the trust built over the whole journey, to guide and support them through these challenges. And again communication is vital to achieve this.

What are your top recommendations for women during their pregnancy to optimise their health/birth outcomes?

General good health principles are a must. A healthy balanced diet and some exercise is important, as well as good pregnancy vitamins in the first trimester.

I would not be too worried about weight gain. The focus in the antenatal period is on your baby’s growth, not your weight, everyone is different with weight. For some patients with a high BMI it may actually be beneficial to have static weight or even some loss in pregnancy.

I think if your diet is an issue, then certainly input from a Naturopath can certainly be useful.

My biggest tip to new mothers is to be open minded and flexible.

Its great to read, prepare,  plan, and have a clear idea of what you want your birth to be like,  but the classic cliché for pregnancy and birth is that  “ we don’t have a crystal ball”.

Its ok to get an epidural if you need one, even if you were certain you weren’t going to,  and its equally ok to not get one, if you’re coping well, even if you were certain you’d need it.

Everyone’s labour is different, and not always predictable, that’s what makes my job so interesting.

I do believe in the power of positive thinking, preparation and having the right mind set for labour and birthing. Thinking about your breathing and being in the right mind set before labour starts can be very helpful for coping with your labour. 

There are great resources such as Hypno birthing and Calm birth, and of course the wonderful Rhea Dempsey does classes at FGHG.

I am also a fan of Juju Sundin’s book Birth Skills. As well as Rhea’s birthing book “Birth With Confidence”.

Also I can only see benefits from massage in pregnancy, which I’m going to encourage for all my patients.

What do you wish men knew about birth before they came into the birthing room with their partners?

Another common phone call from friends is from fathers coping with stressed partners. Pregnancy is a time where emotions are commonly labile, due to hormonal changes, past stressors and the nervous energy of experiencing everything for the first time.

Some men just want to reassure and convince their partner that everything is fine and may not be used to seeing their loved one as emotional. Even the most caring and logical reassurance can be unsuccessful.

I tell them that they just need to let their partner go through it: “It’s part of their process”.  I advise them to just be there for them without trying to fix anything.

Knowing how to support women through labour and birth can also be a challenge for men, that is certainly part of my job to make sure they know everything is going well, even when things appear very uncontrolled.

There is a good resource for fathers that I’m involved with called “Beer and Bubs”.  This is birth education for men, where the class is held at the Pub, over a beer and meal.

I’ve attended a few, and they are great, fun and informative and a great experience for expectant fathers

You Recently premiered your Webpage:  It looks great and is a bit different. Tell us about it?

Yeah I was really happy with it, I had been working on it for a while. I wanted it to be modern and stylish, and different, and I think I’ve achieved that.

It has a bright colour scheme to go with the Dr Sush Next Generation branding.  It has some awesome images of babies I’ve delivered, (one which some find a little confronting, but others have really liked)

And some original content as well. Dr Sush Healthy Minds is a video channel for patient information and support.  I hope to maybe create some videos with FGHG moving forward, that highlight the team’s expertise.

There is also Birth Beats by Dr Sush, with is a collection of specially selected songs for Mothers to possibly include in their birth experience.

The tracks selected had to firstly sound very good, reference baby, birth, parenting in some way.  And also convey an emotion, complimenting the Joy of birth, and become a reminder for parents, who could then tell their child “that was the song you were born to…..” 

The response to this has been really positive, and it was really fun putting it together for the website page. In fact, just recently a fabulous story from one of my patients about her birth experience with Birth beats was featured on channel 10 news! (See the story).

What can someone come to see you for?

I look after pregnant women and manage their antenatal care and birth.  I support natural physiological birth, as its many benefits are well documented.  Hence I’m also interested in Vaginal birth after caesarean section and Vaginal twin delivery.

I can see women for a full range of Gynaecology services including pap smears, colposcopy, painful and heavy periods, PCOS  and endoscopic surgery, including ovarian cysts , laparoscopic hysterectomy and treatment of endometriosis. I can also assess and work with couples for infertility.

How do they make an appointment with you?

Appointment’s can be made via my team directly on 03 8579 0958 or email . I am consulting at Fertile Ground Health Group and also at Chelsea House, 55 Flemington Rd North Melbourne and at Complete Children’s Health 769 Old Calder highway Keilor.

And I provide private care at Frances Perry House, Epworth Freemasons, and St Vincent’s Private.


SushenColourDr.Sushen Naidoo, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist consulting from Fertile Ground Health Group

Sushen genuinely believes it is a privilege to be involved in a family’s pregnancy and birth. He values his time with his patients and his strength in communication and temperament ensure meaningful, informative and reassuring consultations. It is his aim and pleasure to see anxious and stressed couples leave a consultation feeling more confident.  Sushen aims to foster long lasting relationships and hopes to be involved in care of families long after meeting their babies.

Natural Induction. Could it really help?

Natural induction for labour podcast

We hope you enjoy this Finding Fertility podcast interview by Naturopath Gina Fox with Acupuncturist Jo Sharkey and Massage Therapist & Birth Attendant Fiona Harrison on everything you wanted to know about natural induction and birth preparation techniques.

At Fertile Ground we’re receiving more and more referrals from midwives and obstetricians to encourage going into labour naturally, using acupuncture, massage and other techniques that have become increasingly popular.  With more questions than ever being asked, we thought it was time to share everything you needed to know to prepare your body and mind for labour and birth.

Listen here to learn more about how acupuncture, massage and naturopathy can help to prepare your body for spontaneous labour.