What IS a DOULA? (Part 1)

What IS a DOULA? (Part 1)

When I tell people that I am a birth doula, their first response is normally “You’re a what?”

“A doula–I support women and their families during birth,” I say.

“That is really cool,” is normally their response.

They are correct: Being a birth doula is one of the coolest, most rewarding jobs out there.

So, what exactly IS a BIRTH doula?

Labor and birth doulas specialize in pregnancy and birth. They are trained professionals who provide informational, emotional, and physical support for mothers before, during, and after birth.

What does this mean?

In many way, doulas provide birth concierge services.

We provide support and education throughout pregnancy to answer your questions, both big and small.

We provide continuous support throughout labor and birth, and assist the family during their postpartum time.

Isn’t the Midwife or OB there to support the family? What about the nurses?

This is a common question. Surprisingly, a birth doula is likely the only person, aside from the mother’s partner, who remains present continuously throughout labor.

Every other birth team member will intermittently check in, but a doula does not leave the family’s side.

The birth doula will provide comfort measures, such as suggesting labor positions, performing massage or acupressure, ensuring mom and partner are well hydrated, and “holding space” in the birth room (which means ensuring the environment is conducive to labor.)

What is the evidence? Is doula care just “woo?”

Currently, 6% of births in the US are attended by doulas, with a growing interest in and recognition of the positive impact of doula care.

Extensive research has shown the many positive benefits of having a birth doula as part of your birth team. Women with doula support are less likely to have pain relief medications administered, less likely to have a cesarean birth, and reported to have a more positive childbirth experience[1].

Research also consistently finds that partners feel positively about the choice to hire a birth doula. In a 2008 study, all of nearly 200 partners rated having a doula as “very positive” (93%) or positive (7%). Those are some pretty good ratings!

Are Birth Doulas just for “Crunchy Moms” or Moms wanting a Natural Birth?

Birth Doulas are not just for families desiring an unmedicated birth. Doula support can be helpful in any type of birth. In fact, almost every birth I have attended has had some type of intervention, from induction to planned and unplanned Cesarean section.

The testimony below from a birthing mom truly encompasses the non-judgmental support that doulas provide:

“Mandy was the first person I called when I went into labor at 36.5 weeks.

 

She was there the entire time throughout our short and sweet natural birth (3.5 hours!), suggesting labor positions, helping my husband use massage and counterpressure during my contractions, bringing me washcloths with lavender and clary sage oil to calm me as I labored in the shower, feeding me snacks and keeping me hydrated, encouraging me as I pushed, and taking photos as my husband and I bonded with our daughter and I nursed her for the first time.

 

Our daughter had to be monitored briefly due to low temperature and low blood sugar, and Mandy attended to me and my postpartum needs while my husband stayed with our baby.

 

Finally, she checked in with us regularly throughout our hospital stay and over the next few weeks as we got settled at home.”

You may now be thinking: “Wow! This is pretty cool. I want a birth doula!”

There some great sites to check out as well so you can find the doula that is right for you.

Doula Match– A one-stop shop of doulas in your area who are available on you due date.

DONA – A certifying organization for doulas with a directory.

I would be honored if you filled out my contact form to schedule a meeting and discuss your desires!

The Rebozo: What it is and Why I Love it!

The Rebozo: What it is and Why I Love it!

The rebozo has become an integral part of how I support laboring people. You may be asking yourself, ‘what is it and why is it so important?’.

This traditional Mexican shawl has the ability to become an extension of your partner’s hands and arms during labor.

The rebozo also serves as an extra doula in the room! I use the rebozo to help provide additional support, massage, and, when necessary, to help release muscles to create balance in the body.

My original rebozo was a gift from my very first client, and I treasure its calming blue presence. I think of her, her husband, and her baby (now a school-aged child) every time I use it to support a family during labor.

The rebozos I bring to labor carry with them all of the energy and wisdom of the previous births they have attended.

A Brief History of the Rebozo

The rebozo (pronunciation) is a traditional Mexican shawl, used to help with carrying objects, carrying babies, massage during pregnancy, and support during labor and birth by midwives. Rebozos are long, traditionally 2 feet by 9 ft., giving plenty of fabric to wrap and support the body during work, which was its original purpose.

The rebozo is a highly personal piece unique to each woman. The way a woman would wear the rebozo signaled her status as married, single, or a “lady of the night.” Rebozos became very fashionable when artist Frida Kaholo and Mexico’s first empress wore them in the 1800’s. During the Mexican Revolution of 1910, rebels used the rebozo to smuggle guns and other weapons past checkpoints. The rebozo became a symbol of Mexico’s struggle for independence.

Since rebozo’s are so useful for daily manual labor, it is no surprise that women used rebozos to support the hard work of becoming a mother and mothering. Rebozos can be worn around women’s waists during pregnancy to help alleviate discomfort and provide additional support. Midwives used the rebozo to help shift the baby into an optimal position for labor, thus helping the head descend through the pelvis. The rebozo is also used as another pair of arms that can hug the mother by being wrapped tightly around her shoulders, or provide counterpressure on the back or hips through tying the rebozo.

A Little More About How I Use The Rebozo

Every Brainy Birth doula client receives an authentic rebozo, as I believe it is important to pay homage to the cultural significance of the rebozo by using an actual rebozo instead of a sheet or scarf.

During the prenatal visit, I work with you and your partner to teach you how to use the rebozo for massage and to help alleviate any pregnancy discomforts you may have. I leave you with a “prescription” of exercises and massage to do with the rebozo specific to your needs. This gives you and your partner a chance to become comfortable with the rebozo before birth so that its use feels natural. Experimenting with something new during labor usually doesn’t work very well!

Here is a sneak peak at a few rebozo techniques:

Rebozo Sift:
Using the rebozo to take the pressure off the mother’s back while providing a massage that releases the lower back and the muscles supporting the uterus. It feels really nice.

Rebozo Lift:
Using the rebozo to baby wear while you are still pregnant! This technique lifts the baby to provide relief in mom’s back and hips. You can wear the rebozo like this all day long!

Rebozo Shimmy:
A fun technique that releases the lower back and pelvic floor.

I know it might sound a little odd that a ‘piece of fabric’ can do so much, however, my experience truly shows that a rebozo can be an amazing source of support for women during labor. During some labors. the rebozo is used consistently and during others, it never comes out of the bag. Just like a good doula, it is always there, holding space and waiting for the appropriate time to make itself known..