The policies are ever changing at the moment but this is a current snap shot of doula status at Twin Cities area hospitals. We will do our best to update as new information becomes available.
I so often get asked “So, like, what do you do, you know, while you wait for a birth?” Good question, my friend. And one I asked myself multiple times in the early days of my doulaing. In fact, I remember texting my doula after I had become a doula and was on-call and waiting for my client to request me. My text said something like “Oh my goodness, how do you not drive yourself crazy waiting for a call to a birth?!” And I was serious. Here I was, a new doula, anxiously waiting the we’re-ready-for-you call and I couldn’t sit still. I paced, I ate, I channel surfed the 7 channels we had, I obsessively checked my phone, I ate some more, I checked my phone again, nothing. As it should be. Babies come when they are ready. My doula responded with a light-hearted giggle I’m sure, and said “You do you. But do things that are easy to leave. Garden, read, write, coffee/lunch with friends, clean, nap.” All things I love to do anyway, what was my problem?
No problem, just an eagerness and a readiness to be satisfied. I quickly learned that what I do while I wait for a birth is I Do Me. Just as I tell all my clients, “You do you, Boo. Baby will come when baby is ready.” Funny, once I figured out how to follow my own advice, I became much more comfortable with the continuous waiting period of labor.
Labor can have very much a feel of “Hurry up. Wait. Hurry up. Wait.” You get everything set at work to be off for a set amount of time and then you wait. You get the baby’s space all set up and ready and then you wait. You text all the family members “No baby yet. We’ll let you know.” and then everyone waits. You go into labor and then are told to sleep. And by that I mean, you wait. You get to the place of birth and oh wait for it, you wait again. Babies come when babies are ready.
And no one understands that better than a doula. It’s all we do. And we absolutely love it. However, don’t be fooled, we do have lives. It’s not like we sit all serene-like with a never-ending cup of coffee and the best book ever written on a dock by the clearest lake, just calmly waiting. (But doesn’t that sound fantastic?) We have families and other jobs and responsibilities, all that adulting stuff they tell you about in school. But man, when that call comes, when that client who is at so-many-weeks-and-a-few-days who has been ready for that plus some, calls and says “We could really use your support.” it’s like some mysterious force lit a fire inside and to keep that fire alive, we NEED to get to that family.
The life of a doula is a life lived all on it’s own. Until it’s not. And for a small amount of time in this big expansive universe, it is a life that is lived just for that birth and that birth alone.
by Brittany Bushaw
Editor’s Note: A version of this post first appeared HERE.
When I became pregnant with my first baby, I felt a powerful shift begin to happen – not just within my physical body, but also within my heart. I desired to experience my pregnancy with intention, present moment awareness, and trust for my body, baby, and birth. I desired a sacred pregnancy in hopes that it would flow into creating a sacred birth experience.
Moving forward into my pregnancy, I expanded my yoga practice, and I wanted to learn more about the pregnant woman’s body. I had a desire to take space for myself and to be engulfed by a community of women and learning. That’s when I discovered Blooma. I enrolled in their prenatal yoga teacher training in October 2011 and loved every moment of my experience there. I dove into myself in every yoga class, experienced the power of being surrounded by other pregnant mamas, and felt the bliss of truly feeling supported without judgment. My confidence in myself, my choices, and my communication was emanating out of me in response to all of the inspiration and abundance. I was actively recognizing my needs and desires and manifesting them!
I. Welcoming a new mother
II. Welcoming for baby
III. Welcoming a new father.
With the greatest of intention and communication, we created a circle with the wiser and older women in my life whom could share their journeys as women and mothers. We created quilt squares and tied the quilt together to wrap the baby in our wisdom and love, they brought me beads to assemble a necklace to surround me in their energy, power, and wisdom during labor and mothering, and they showered me with intentional gifts for my birthing alter. Every time we gathered I experienced a shedding and releasing of old thoughts, beliefs, and stories that were no longer serving me. The circle ceremony allowed all of us space to let go of our egos and to become present with our deeper selves. We felt connected, alive, and valuable in our life journey, struggles and all. I felt (and still feel) from these women and ceremonies an incredible amount support, love, and laughter that will forever stay with me. I was indeed experiencing a sacred pregnancy. Like a flower gently rooted into the earth, I was feeling vulnerable yet strong in my process of growth.
My spirit sister Amy and good friend Steph were inspired not just by pregnancy but by life itself. They planned and created a Celebration of Life gathering for our close group of friends to be intentional in their support for my process. Everyone brought a blessing, poem, song lyrics, or their own writing to share what life means to them. We lit candles and gathered around the table. So much giggling, love, and intentional conversation was happening. Celebrating with delicious, wholesome food along with beautiful energy of acceptance and understanding. It made my heart sing.
We created artful affirmation signs for me to hang on my wall for the labor and birth. Words like flow, breathe, power, trust, exist, now, rest, and focus were created. It was a peaceful, calm time in the evening as everyone allowed for an opening for creativity to flow. Through art, we cultivated our intentions and love.
The affirmations were a powerful addition to the energy of our home as we began to make active preparations in creating the sacred birth that I knew in my heart was possible. These affirmations still exist within my home to remind me in my mothering (and in life) to flow like water, to breathe, exist, and to trust the process of struggle and inner work.
At the end of pregnancy when the baby showers began to take place (I had four of them), it was very apparent that my desires were being heard. The women throwing these baby showers made them bright, fun, and filled with life. My gifts were hand made, bought with intention, or things that I truly needed (cloth diapers). Like the Minnesota River after the snow has melted, I was bursting at the banks and over flowing with abundance and gratitude. Feeling the deepest connection I had ever felt with those closest to me, and to myself, I was ready whenever the BABY was to move into the next phase of sacredness and connection. I was ready to give birth.
After the birth of my daughter Abyl, I spent time reflecting on the power that exists within us, not just as women, but as human beings. Abyl was part of this entire process and was taking my lead the entire time. By inviting beautiful energy, support, and trust into my experience, I also shared it with her in the womb. The sacred pregnancy I set the intention for, sought out, and actively manifested (with the help of my loved ones) flowed beautifully into experiencing a sacred birth. My amazing friend Amy, supportive husband Adam, and attentive midwife Rachel all supported me gracefully while I experienced a labor full of struggle, opening,shedding, letting go, peace, and in the end, pure joy and love.
Walking into any baby store or paging through one of the numerous magazines aimed at parents, one is bound to find a list of “must haves” for every baby. These are usually things that are meant to help you parent your baby “best”. While no one can tell you what your individual family’s needs are, what we do know is that at its most basic, babies’ needs are quite simple. The most important things your baby needs are things you already have.
Babies are born learning how to maintain a normal body temperature, and immediate skin-to-skin contact with mama is ideal. Studies have shown that a mother’s chest is able to lower or raise an entire degree based on her baby’s temperature needs (and on either side independently if she is mothering twins!).
Getting your baby right to your chest immediately following delivery will also help both of you connect after birth. It helps baby to regulate their breathing as they feel your chest rise and fall and you are bathed in your newborn’s intoxicating smell as you establish your bond as mother and child. This shows them where home is as they take in your mama scent.
Your baby has spent three seasons growing in an environment where his needs were immediately met. Baby was kept at the right temperature and could hear your heartbeat and voice at all times. Keeping your baby close after birth helps to maintain and strengthen his sense of security and safety while helping you to learn his cues and respond to his needs quickly.
Wearing your baby is a wonderful way for both mom and partner to help baby recreate that environment and provide this comfort for him. It keeps baby close and secure, providing opportunities for attachment and affection at all times. Babies can sleep, eat and play all while staying connected to you, and you are able to get basic tasks accomplished without having to put them down – a win/win situation!
Humans are well-designed down to the last detail. While pregnant, your breasts begin to produce colostrum which is the first food your baby will get in the few days it takes for your milk volume to increase. Colostrum is packed with energy, vitamins, and antibodies, and it lines babies’ intestines with beneficial bacteria and flora that stay with them for life. It also acts as a natural laxative, helping babies to pass their first stool, known as meconium.
Colostrum and breastmilk provide all the nutrition your baby needs – there is no need to supplement with anything else. Breastmilk is tailored to your baby’s needs at every stage of development; as baby grows and changes, so does your milk. As an added bounus, babies whose mothers eat a varied diet while nursing typically grow up to be more adventurous eaters later in life, enjoying more diverse flavors and tastes.
Parenting a newborn is all about following his cues and responding with what he needs. Your instincts as a parent are strong and if you listen to them and to your baby, you will quickly learn that what your baby needs most is you.
About the Author
Angie Sonrode is a DONA-trained Doula and a Lactation Support Provider serving clients in the Twin Cities Metro area. She lives in Minneapolis with her supportive husband and 4 amazing kiddos.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the Winter 2011 print version of Collective Thoughts.
by Joyce Geving
My first of three sons was born December 21st, 2004. We labored for hours and I was given an epidural followed by Pitocin. His cord was wrapped around his forehead, so with each contraction his heart rate would fall. So I was rushed into the operating room. I remember feeling so scared and helpless. I am not sure if a cesarean could have been avoided with his birth. Afterward, I really mourned not being pregnant any longer, and I think it was the safe feeling of my pregnancy that I missed. I no longer had my baby safe and warm in me but had this scary birth story. I also left feeling like my body had been violated in some way. All of these feelings I shared with others and my doctor but were dismissed or hardly acknowledged so I thought I just needed to get over it and move on.
My second, July 6th, 2007, was a scheduled repeat cesarean. The hospital had a no VBAC policy in place and my doctor convinced me that a cesarean would be the safest option, and I went along with it. It wasn’t until a couple years later, after watching the “Business of Being Born” that I began questioning the necessity of my cesareans and how I and my babies missed out on the natural experience and all the benefits that happen with that.
When I became pregnant with my third I knew I wanted to give birth, to do what my body was meant to do, even with a scar. I was so happy to hear the nearby hospital was doing VBACs again but was told it was not for me because I had had two previous cesareans and the risk was too high…so now what? I felt defeated.
I contacted the ICAN Minneapolis chapter and was informed of hospitals in the metro that would do VBA2C. I began making appointments and looking into a couple that were within reasonable driving distance. After each appointment I left feeling like they were setting me up for another cesarean, and more interested in adding my birth to their statistics – good or bad. I began questioning what my birth was going to look like at the hospital with all their policies and protocols.
Mean while, we had hired a doula because we had read the statistics supporting reduced risk of cesarean when doulas are present. I also knew I would need someone to help us make informed decisions in a hospital. Right from the start, we had a connection with our doula, Ashley; she gave us so much support and information that we needed.
While doing my research online, home births always came up as an option or in success stories, but my husband and I were both really scared of the idea thinking, “what if something goes wrong” and “what would we do with the dogs and my dad during labor, how are we going to come up with the money?”
Our doula encouraged me to just meet with homebirth midwives to rule it out, if nothing else, and at 30 weeks my husband and I made an appointment to do so. After our first meeting, we knew this was our path and had a sigh of relief. We left feeling excited again and validated, instead of stressed about the birth and our plans. We could really enjoy the pregnancy and the preparing for our birth.
My prenatal appointments were always at least 45 minutes long, usually longer. We talked about the importance of eating well and drinking water and my tea. The care I experienced during our appointments was amazing, they always made me feel comfortable and that I could do this. Nothing like what I experienced in any of my clinic visits.
On January 21st, my contractions began at 10:40 at night. I was so excited, we were up timing contractions all night and called our doula so excited at 4am. She convinced us to get some rest. I slept a couple hours and my water broke at 7:35the next morning. Then I called everyone, because I felt like now’s the real deal, but contractions were still steady and not increasing or getting stronger. I was in constant contact with our doula and midwives. One of the midwives came to check on our progress and things were moving so slow we were urged to get some rest that evening and labor would hopefully pick up after some sleep. Just as soon as I laid down, contractions really began – and we had just told our doula to take her time and come that night when she wanted. One of the midwives came and hurriedly called the other to come now after she said she could see his head and then reassured me that my body was doing what it was supposed to be doing.
That night, in our family room, I gave birth to our third son. He came out and cried “momma” (sounded like that to me) and nursed like champ all while his cord was still attached to me. My husband was so comforting and amazing while supporting me. It was so calm, comfortable, and full of love and encouragement…it was a beautiful setting for our little guy to enter the world.
by Dr. Kelly Silvi
This is often a question that I get from patients, or just parents in general when they learn that I am a Pediatric Chiropractor. It is a great question! I see it as an opportunity to teach parents about the human body and how that translates to their new baby.
In order to understand why you should bring your baby to a Chiropractor, you need to have an understanding of what they do. Chiropractors focus on treating the joints in your spine. This is a concept that is generally known, but what people may not know is that the focus is on the spine due to its intimate relationship with the nervous system. Treatments bring increased function and movement to the joints and muscles, which in turn decrease the irritation to the nerves. An optimally functioning nervous system is key to your body sending and receiving the appropriate messages at the appropriate times.
So why should you bring your baby to a Chiropractor? The simple answer is because babies have spines too! The same concepts apply to babies as they do to adults. A chiropractor will check baby’s spine and remove restrictions in their joints so that the nervous system can function optimally. Their little bodies are growing quickly and it is important that the appropriate messages are being sent at the appropriate times!
New babies go through a lot of transition phases in a short amount of time, starting with birth. Whether it is traveling through the birth canal, or being born through the uterine wall, it is a significant physical stress to their little bodies. I frequently treat babies in their first day of life to assist their bodies in finding balance after the hard work of being born. Babies are developing and adapting at an incredible rate in their first 5 years of life. A chiropractor that is trained in Pediatric care will have great knowledge to treat their little bodies through all stages of their development. Chiropractors can correct restrictions in the cranium (skull) and spine before they manifest as symptoms.
When a baby is treated or adjusted by a Chiropractor it looks significantly different than an adult adjustment. This is a very important distinction to make for parents. There are no quick movements or firm pressure when working with babies. The treatments are gentle and progress slowly, going at a speed that is dictated by the baby’s comfort. It is common for babies to sleep or nurse during treatments, which is fun for the parents to see.
I mentioned that treatments can often make corrections to the body before symptoms appear. Symptoms in babies often look very different compared to adults. Babies can’t verbalize that they have a headache, are constipated, or have pain when they turn their head to the right. Instead, they might not sleep well, cry and grunt a lot, or have feeding difficulties. As a Chiropractor it is our job to piece together their symptoms and determine what will help them feel better. In addition to balancing their bodies, we are also trained to provide nutritional and lifestyle advice for you and your newborn.
I believe every baby should be checked by a Chiropractor after birth. If they do have restrictions in their joints, getting them adjusted and balanced will help your baby start off with a good foundation for growth and development.
For more information, the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association is a great resource for families. Their website provides research on Chiropractic care and a variety of other wellness topics.
Dr. Kelly Silvi practices in South Minneapolis. Her fascination with health and the human body grew into a passion for supporting and educating her patients, while providing safe and comfortable Chiropractic care. She is certified by the Academy of Chiropractic Family Practice and the Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics in pregnancy and pediatric care.
by Cori Levin
Along with a yoga practice, eating healthy and sleeping often; it is helpful for pregnant women to incorporate monthly bodywork. Bodywork can include Thai massage, traditional massage, Reiki, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and many others. With all the shifts happening in a woman’s body while growing her baby, a feeling of imbalance may arise as her style of life changes. Our culture lacks in teaching us how to slow down and take time for self-care: we are do-ers and achievers. Challenge yourself to be mindful of your breath and teach your baby a calm rhythmic breath by incorporating bodywork sessions in your busy life!
Thai Yoga Bodywork (TYB) is a healing art that combines holding yoga poses, breath work and ancient healing wisdom. The practitioner begins with a breathing exercise and assessing the client’s energy body with a pendulum. It is similar to a massage however a client (pregnant or not) is on the floor with clothes on, lying on a mat with pillows supporting her while being stretched and pressed on. In this tradition, it is believed that by stimulating the acupressure points, the body aligns itself and heals ailments. TYB is thought to help balance the body energetically and emotionally. It feels uplifting and calming.
Tremendous physical changes happen to the female body during pregnancy, birth and beyond. The hormonal shifts affect a woman’s state of mind while her nervous system goes for a ride. Thai Yoga bodywork can help minimize pregnancy ailments including nausea, sleep issues, fear of birth, restless legs, and back issues. It also has many benefits for the postpartum stage and into motherhood assisting in helping women tap into their intuition allowing women to feel strong in making decisions throughout their journey as parents.
Cori Levin is the mother of two girls; a Thai Yoga Bodywork practitioner at Enlightened Mama, Reiki-master trained , creator of “Heal Fast” postpartum bath herbs, Birth Doula and Registered Yoga teacher. She can be reached at email@example.com and https://www.facebook.com/PachaMamaDoula
Website coming soon www.pachamamacori.com
Editor’s Note: Today we have a post from Collective member Mandy Herrick, who explains how a somatic bodyworker approaches working with a pregnant mama.
by Mandy Herrick, RSMT, GSP
We all know pregnancy is a time in a woman’s life that is full of new awareness, whether it be aches and pains or breath and bliss. Either way, it’s a time to relish in the self. To nurture, to savor, to behold. And to get some bodywork.
Not many of us remember our own self being born. But here at our very own birth we start a relationship with ourselves that continues through our life. How we relate to our body. How we relate to others and our environment. And through our hectic, adventurous lives we develop patterns – not just lifestyle patterns – but physical movement patterns that can intertwine with energy levels, emotional well-being, and musculoskeletal discomfort. The way we sit, stand, lie down and move around can all impact the balance of our tensegrity, the natural 3-dimensional tension system our bones and fascia create within our body. There are several ways to approach these symptoms from a Somatic Therapy standpoint. And in the context of pregnancy and postpartum, these approaches can be very helpful in understanding your body – the main tool you will need to birth and nurture your baby.
The body is a marvelous dynamic system full of muscles, bones, organs, fascia, fluids, ligaments, nerves, hormones, and energy that all communicate together in an interwoven network. My goal for clients is to find healing by attuning to the interdependence of all these systems. I combine Craniosacral Therapy, energy healing (Reiki and Vibrational Aspects™), gentle massage, and breath to find relief and restoration from sore and tight areas, stress and anxiety, and just feeling “off.” In pregnancy, the ligaments and fascia in the pelvis and sacrum are stretching and re-adjusting as the bones move to make room for baby. Here, energy work and “embodied massage” can be very relieving. Embodied massage is a term I use for hands-on palpation of a certain area that integrates the bone, the nearby joint, the ligaments and the fascia to allow the muscle to not only restore balance and fluidity, but for the tissue to have an inner awareness, or a mind, that can communicate what it needs. This is where the body/mind connection comes in – that to trust the body is in fact to trust the intelligence of our muscles, bones and organs. For pregnancy, birth and postpartum, it is essential to be reminded of our body’s wisdom and the wisdom of our baby, who swims in utero and spirals out into the world.
Other hands-on modalities I practice include Reiki, Vibrational Aspects and Craniosacral Therapy. Reiki and Vibrational Aspects work together to access the body’s delicate energy system, finding healing by channeling energy or vibration into tissues, organs, or a more global area of the body that calls for equilibrium. Craniosacral Therapy is a modality that uses very light pressure to work with the craniosacral system – brain, spinal cord, dural tube, cerebralspinal fluid, and sacrum. Relief is found by navigating the nervous system and allowing the natural healing process to unfold. Pregnancy is a wonderful time to receive both of these modalities as they seek to support body, mind and spirit.
I recently participated in a webinar called “Finding your Root: Balancing Your Foundational Core and the Pelvic Floor Muscles” by Yoga Practitioner, Leslie Howard who stated that “sitting is the new smoking.” It turns out our bodies are not a bunch of bones stacked atop one another with muscles fixed to them. The way we align ourselves in basic positions and movements throughout the day can affect our musculoskeletal integrity. Sitting, for example, is an action that, these days, if practiced for long periods of time in inefficient postures (i.e. slumped over) can impact not only our low back and pelvic floor, but also our energy level, mental clarity, and general well being. And the epic proportion of people that follow the rhythm of Sit Sit Sit Sit all day (sit in the car to work, sit at work, sit in the car back home, sit on the couch) is growing exponentially in our country.
A pregnant woman’s body is in constant counterbalance. As the belly widens and reaches out into the open, the tissues and muscles living on the back of the body are contracting and pulling to regain balance as the mother walks, sits, reaches down, stands up, or even rests upright in meditation. We are subject to gravity, there’s no way around it. As a Somatic Therapist, I am interested in a base level how my clients:
Use their Breath
Relate to their Spine
Relate to their Pelvis
Integrate their whole body
Together we find landmarks of the spine or landmarks of the pelvis that help the client find anatomical neutral – where the body is aligned most efficiently. Landmarks such as our ‘sitz bones,’ pubic bone, kidneys (to support the back of the spine), heart (to support the front of the spine and opens the chest) all help in gaining more awareness to our body. And with more awareness, comes self re-aligning and re-patterning and ultimately healing.
I also integrate the surrounding organs, not only as physiologic systems, but as complementary support structures for the bones. And we notice how the fascia, a weblike system of tissue with innervating nerves, moves and envelops around the bones, organs, and areas of imbalance. With nerves weaving in and around our every structure, there is no way we cannot attribute a ‘mind’ to our tissue. So we trust the body.
With every motion, there is an attention the body takes with itself and its environment. We learned this in our earliest movement explorations inside our mother’s womb. From playing with our earliest toy, the umbilical cord, to mouthing our tiny hands, to pushing against the strong intrauterine walls (sometimes into our mother’s rib) thereby understanding our boundaries, we have experienced the crucial developmental stages of becoming a human. Post-birth, we enter the world of gravity, and our strong and supple newborn bodies continue to repeat all the movement we learned in our comfy amniotic ocean. We then learn more advanced developmental movements that eventually lead us to crawling, standing, walking. And although these small movements started early (we were moving even as embryos), they can contribute to the functionality of our brain, our emotional capacity, and the optimal capability of our movement potential.
In a nutshell, if baby is allowed free movement of limbs, these out-of-womb reflexive stages look like this:
Yielding with gravity into the earth (aka the floor)
Exploring core to extremities relationship
Exploring head to tail relationship
Exploring upper/lower body connection
Exploring body half differentiation (symmetrical)
Full integration of all the above
As we grow older, we may learn that some of these reflexes need more integration within our bodies. It may not be obvious because as adults we are operating with our cerebral cortex, our high brain, as we “successfully” live our fast-paced life. Practicing and re-integrating these developmental movement patterns can reawaken the low, reptilian brain and can potentially restore the needed physiologic experience into what is most essential for our complex body/mind connection: consciousness within ourselves tied with a gentle awareness to our outer environment.
I can’t think of a better time to get back into our reptilian brain other than pregnancy. It’s the brain that will lead us in to birth, that will guide us to our instincts.
So as you imagine yourself being born, coming into the world fresh and new, tap into that tiny newborn self. The part of you that might need skin to skin touch, swaddling, holding, or affirmation that you are you. In pregnancy and birth, consciously experiencing your own body can be a transformative endeavor. And you may not like it. But it’s here where we open ourselves to the unknown.
Mandy Herrick is a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist specializing in pregnancy and birth. She is also a Global Somatics™ Practitioner, Prenatal Yoga Practitioner, dance artist and mother. For more information visit www.mandyherrick.com
by Julie Colby
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient healing system that has been extremely effective in treating women on their journey through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum phase. Three commonly implemented modalities in modern day practice are: acupuncture, herbal medicine, and dietary therapy. The underlying premise of TCM is that energy (Qi) is a life force that everyone and everything are made from. We all require Qi to survive and maintain. When disharmony manifests, whether physically emotionally, or spiritually, we practitioners of TCM say that there is a disturbance in the flow of Qi. Pregnant mamas throughout the ages know that pregnancy, birth, and postpartum cause our Qi to travel far off the beaten path. As TCM postulates that we are all unique, dynamic beings, the roads down which the childbearing years take us depend on many factors (age of conception, underlying disposition, lifestyle choices, just to name a few). The point of departure, as well as the paths we veer off on our healing journey, are known as our pattern according to to TCM. That is a rudimentary synapsis of TCM theory. Let’s get to some of the juicy specifics of what TCM can address:
Pregnancy is when the Palace of The Child (the uterus) is growing and nurturing a sweet babe. As sacred and miraculous as this critical life event is, TCM views pregnancy as Qi blockage for women’s bodies to function optimally. Let’s face it, week-by-week, the growing uterus expands and pushes the internal organs upward, where space is less than abundant. Conditions such as: heartburn, nausea and vomiting, round ligament pain, urinary tract infections, itching, back and sciatic pain, and carpal tunnel are quite common. Other common issues that arise in pregnancy are: positional concerns (breech and occiput posterior are the most common), postdates (babies gestating beyond the traditional forty weeks), and anxiety.
Acupuncture, herbal medicine, and dietary therapy are all helpful in reducing the severity of these conditions and have almost no side effects. In contemporary clinical practice, disposable surgical steel needles are placed in various acupoints along pathways (also known as meridians or channels) of the body and retained for 20-40 minutes. The intent of acupuncture is to access and manipulate Qi that needs to be redirected. Some describe the sensation as tingling, itchy, heavy, relaxing, or warming. Herbs and foods also can be prescribed according to one’s individual pattern. TCM employs an amazing model called the Five Element System (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood). Each herb and food belongs to a particular Element and possesses a particular thermal (Hot, Warm, Neutral, Cool, and Cold) property. Knowing which ones work for you and why is helpful in making practical decisions when going to the grocery store and considering what’s cooking for dinner.
Most TCM practitioners, particularly those that focus on pregnant women, know that regular acupuncture treatments throughout pregnancy and especially in the last month keep Qi flowing throughout the body. Harmonious Qi flow often has powerful outcomes for labor encouragement and we see better outcomes in birth. In fact, acupuncture can be a remarkable tool during labor itself for: relaxation, fatigue, positioning, and progression. In the immediate postpartum, acupuncture can be used to: promote urination, reduce bleeding, encourage birth of the placenta, and to strengthen a woman’s overall Qi.
TCM has a gorgeous protocol for postpartum women known as The Golden Month. During these forty days, women stay home (preferably skin-to-skin) and bond with their precious newborn babe. Cold foods and beverages are forbidden and warm, nourishing foods are served. Visitors are kept at bay, family (often a mother, grandmother, aunt, or sister) attends to all household chores, and mama’s activity and attention is focused on recovery and breastfeeding (if this is her wish). Women given this incredible gift of healing in the postpartum phase have amazing outcomes in: establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship, nurturing emotional health, healing tears or lacerations related to birth, and overall, navigating life with a new member of the tribe. Another powerful tool that TCM suggests is placenta encapsulation. The placenta contains nutrient rich medicine that reharmonizes the overall Qi of the body.
Above all else, making intentional decisions regarding our own health is empowering. To pause, reflect, and make informed decisions about how we birth, how we live, and what goes into our body and our healing is a very normal thing that should be rooted in personal preference and evidence-based research. Being a TCM practitioner, mother of three, and embracing these principles throughout my own birth journeys has propelled me to commit my life calling to trusting in women’s wisdom and particularly in knowing a little can go a long way. A little insight into The Five Elements and thermal properties can make some revolutionary changes for many.
Julie Colby is a Licensed Acupuncturist, a Birth and Postpartum Doula, and an Aspiring Midwife. She owns Lady Slipper Wellness Center in NE Minneapolis and loves fielding inquiries regarding health. From time to time she teaches classes or holds workshops on TCM and Women’s Wisdom. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are excited for our first “Ask a Doula” post to have responses from not one, but two of our Collective doulas! On the heels of April’s International Cesarean Awareness Month, a mama on our Facebook page asked, “How can a doula assist my family during a planned, medically necessary C-section?” Women having a necessary surgical birth still have choices for this important day! If you know you’ll be having a surgical birth, interview several providers and find one who can help you have the cesarean birth experience you want. If you’re interested in learning more, check out this video on the Natural or Family-Centered Cesarean movement being implemented in the UK.
Our first doula response comes from Karrie Nesbit CD(DONA), CLC, HCHD:
When considering a planned surgical birth, getting the information you need to make informed decisions is critical. A doula will ensure you understand all of your options, and because a doula is not accountable to your provider, she will provide you with unbiased information to help you make the decisions that are best for your family. With such a wide variety of birthing options available nowadays, it can be comforting to speak with a doula about her experiences with different birth techniques, providers, and birth places. In short, if you are not completely comfortable with the options you are getting from your provider, a doula can help you find more of what you are looking for with other providers or birth places.
Once the decision to have a surgical birth has been made, your doula will prepare you for what you are going to see, hear, smell, and feel during the birth. I find that for most families, just knowing what to expect takes away a lot of the anxiety. Sometimes the hospital staff forget to explain the details, or they explain them in a way that is not calming or easily understood.
In the operating room, your doula will explain procedures as they happen to reassure, comfort and calm everyone throughout the process. She will help you understand the circumstances immediately following the baby’s birth. If the partner needs to leave the operating room with baby, the doula will remain with momma. Whether in the operating room or recovery room, your doula can help facilitate skin to skin and breastfeeding.
Above all, doulas encourage and help you to speak up for what you need and want for your baby’s birth. No matter how your baby comes into the world, the presence of a doula will help you to look back on your baby’s birth as a positive and empowering experience.
Our next response comes from Gina Picht with Partners in Birth:
Sometimes when a family finds out they need or chooses a planned Cesarean birth, they stop thinking of it as a birth. It becomes a procedure, a “section”. Something that the doctors do to them, not them birthing their baby. A doula’s role becomes the keeper of the birth, bringing the focus back to the family and how they can best work with their circumstances to welcome their baby is a gentle, interactive way.
Your doula will likely meet with you before the day of surgery to review options, which some families are surprised to learn they still have! Cesarean birth is more and more viewed as an experience that can be tailored to a family’s wishes. Hospitals and even doctors themselves handle the surgical experience in their own unique way. It is worthwhile to ask questions beforehand to better understand what options may be available to you. Your doula can arrive early with you and help keep you relaxed through the preparation process, giving massage, using scented oils, dimming lights, and offering guided visualizations, just as in labor. As questions are asked of the family by the medical staff, the doula can help give context for those questions, and help get more information when needed.
When the mother goes into the OR to get anesthesia, the partner is usually left alone outside the room. Your doula will stay with your partner during this time and can be a calming presence in an unfamiliar time and environment. Most often, the doula is allowed to join the family in the OR where she continues her support, using massage, her calming voice, and maybe a scented oil to mask any surgical odors. If desired, the doula can narrate the procedure to some extent, letting the family know at what stage the surgery is and when the birth is close. The time it takes to get to the baby can seem incredibly short, and the doula helps the family participate emotionally in the process, anticipating that moment when the baby is born. She can encourage the screen to be lowered so the family can see the baby when it’s born, and advocate for the mother’s hands to be unstrapped so she can touch and hold her baby.
In certain cases the mother will feel ready to attempt nursing while the surgery is being finished. If not, the doula can assist with this in the recovery room. If the baby needs to leave the OR for any reason, the partner usually goes with the baby so the doula will stay with the mother. She can help the mother process the experience, and go to get updates on the baby’s condition, maybe bringing back photos to help the mother stay connected. Of course as soon as possible, the doula will encourage the mother and baby to reunite, facilitating skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding. And lots of photos!
A Cesarean section is still a birth. In the end, a family is born, and a doula can help bring the focus back to that family.
Karrie Nesbit is a doula and lactation counselor who recently relocated to sunny Southern California. Find out more about Karrie at Birth, Etc.
Gina Picht has been a birth doula since 2001 after the birth of her second (and last) child. She is Treasurer of The Childbirth Collective and lives in Eden Prairie. She believes all women already know how to birth. www.partnersinbirth.com