Monday, December 26, 2016

What is a Doula?

I have to admit, when I tell people I am a doula most people normally have no idea what a doula is. Even when I type in doula in Microsoft Word, the program does not recognize it! So this is my elevator speech: A doula is a non-medical support person hired by an expectant woman/family to help navigate the intricacies of pregnancy and birth.

Doulas offer support, bottom line. They help women and families understand birth better so that they are educated and can make sound decisions for themselves, no matter the type of birth they envision. Many women who have hired doulas, say they feel like they were in charge of the decisions surrounding their birth, even if the birth did not quite turn out as they had planned. And when women feel confident in their birth decisions, it has been proven they feel confident in motherhood and can have an easier time transitioning into caring for their new little one. Pregnancy and birth shape a baby and mother in more ways than science can possibly understand. And when stress is reduced, it benefits both mom and baby. A doula can be the bridge between an expecting family and the unknowns of pregnancy.

You can expect the following services from most doulas:

  • Nonjudgmental support surrounding the decisions you make regarding your pregnancy and birth.
  • Evidence based information on anything you have questions on or are unsure about.
  • Ways in which your birth partner can support you during pregnancy and labor.
  • Continuous physical and emotional support during labor including natural pain relief techniques, relaxation techniques, controlled breathing, and encouragement.
  • Reprieve support during labor, for when your partner may need a break.
  • Breastfeeding support shortly after birth, if you choose to breastfeed.
  • Postpartum visits to discuss the birth and to check on your general well being.
  • References to other professionals such as lactation consultants, chiropractors who specialize in pregnancy care, acupuncturists, massage therapists, birth photographers, etc. 
 In short, doulas mother the mother. To hire a doula, is to provide yourself with a gift that goes well beyond birth and pregnancy and will continue to benefit you throughout motherhood.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Mindful Pregnancy & Birth

As a doula, I know one of the best ways to ensure you have a healthy birth is to start with a healthy pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy can mean lower instances of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, difficulty during labor, and the necessary use of medical interventions.

Most know that eating right and exercise are key to a healthy pregnancy. But a truly healthy pregnancy goes beyond nutrition and optimal fetal positioning, your mind must be healthy as well. It is a tough concept for most Americans, to understand the role the mind plays in health. We live in a very busy, high stress society. And many times if a mental issue arises, pharmaceutical medications are prescribed. It should be noted that even though drugs can help it is still recommended to follow a mindfulness regimen to get to the root of the issue. Plus pregnancy brings along a whole other level of stress: financial stability, keeping baby healthy, juggling work/family with the pregnancy, unsupportive family members, etc.

When your body and mind are stressed, cortisol is produced, a buildup over time can be harmful. It is proven that babies who are exposed to high levels of stress, while in utero, are more likely to have mental issues and developmental delays. A hindered mindset will also impede labor. The laboring mother needs to produce the optimal amount of oxytocin to start and maintain labor and she also needs a certain level of endorphins, which are the natural pain relief produced by the body. But mental blockage can impede the right hormones from being produced and in turn make labor more difficult or stop it all together. A calm mental state will also help the immune system as well as the healing process after birth.

It is apparent that mental clarity and mental health are important in pregnancy, birth, and in the postpartum period. To achieve this, you can start a regimen in early pregnancy. Practicing throughout pregnancy makes you more aware of the pregnancy itself and will prepare you for the ultimate test, birth. Mindfulness can be achieved by daily meditation, yoga, massages and keeping a journal to jot down your feelings about pregnancy and life in general. There are several books available to help you on your journey to self discovery, some even tailored for pregnant women.

This practice is also helpful beyond pregnancy and birth. It will help you adjust to life with a newborn and a parent in general. Focusing on yourself is not just a luxury, it is a necessary element to help you become the healthiest person and parent you can be!