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Birthing business born in the Highlands


Karen McClay loves being involved with childbirth. She’s a part time midwife at Bowral Hospital with a hands-on role delivering babies, then every second weekend she teaches childbirth education classes at Calmbirth in Mittagong, where she is also Director of the organisation.

Calmbirth was founded 13 years ago by Karen’s father Peter Jackson, a Bowral midwife and mind – body practitioner. Today, there are 96 Calmbirth educators in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, and regular classes are held at the Royal Hospital for Women, Randwick, and the Sydney Adventist Hospital, Wahroonga. All educators are midwives or doulas.

“It’s quite amazing that this antenatal program that dad developed for local Highlands women has spread so far,” says Karen. More than 15,000 couples have done the program, which prepares couples by using mind-body techniques to replace stress and anxiety with knowledge and skills.

Peter retired as Calmbirth director two and half years ago, which is when Karen took over. Karen, who lives in Bowral, had been a Calmbirth Educator since 2009. “It was a natural step for me to move into the position,” says Karen. “I wanted to make sure that Dad’s work would continue. He has made such an impact on how Australian couples are birthing and has turned childbirth education into an empowering experience.”

Combining her practical and theoretical work is ideal, she says.

“Working at the hospital ensures Calmbirth stays up to date and vice versa.”

She says the best part of her Calmbirth work is seeing the change in couples by the end of the course.

“Most people turn up feeling anxious or scared. We help women gain confidence and to think positively about their ability to give birth. Empowering the partners is critical. When partners know what to do they are fantastic guardians. This kind of teamwork lays strong foundations for the couples’ lives as future parents.”



“Working at the hospital ensures Calmbirth stays up to date and vice versa.”

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