My Journey to Becoming an Edmonton Doula

Doula Edmonton

Dancing doula in Edmonton, AB

I recently got asked by one of my previous Edmonton prenatal class students (thanks for the inspo Alicia!) about how I came to be an Edmonton doula, and it hit me how much I love telling the story of my journey. So why not dedicate a whole blog post to it! The path that lead me here wasn’t a straight shot… sometimes I think that if you told me 5 years ago that I would be teaching childbirth classes in Edmonton and getting to watch babies be born on the regular I would have not believed you. Alas, this is where I am in life and I’m loving it – so here’s my story 😊

Though I had always wanted to have kids, the time that this whole journey began was not planned. In fact, my first pregnancy was a little bit scary for me considering I was just completing the very first year of my brand new business venture – a dance studio for adults. That pregnancy unfortunately didn’t take and I miscarried at 7 weeks, but it really revealed that my heart was ready to start a family. So after my husband and I tried for about 4 months, we got pregnant with sweet Callie.

It was such a dream being pregnant with her, easy and straight-forward. The real troubles in my heart came from thoughts of the actual birth… it scared the shit out of me! I was in the common, rookie mindset that the actual pushing was going to be the worst. I knew absolutely nothing about how to have a baby and so I started with a blank canvas and set out to paint the picture that I would most desire. I did my research, hired a private prenatal instructor, and read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (LIFE CHANGING book, it’s a must read). Before I knew it the day came for my daughter to arrive, and my birth, which ended up being 2 days of prodromal labour, an induction and ended up in cesarean due to fetal distress/failure to progress, ended up not being what I thought it would be at all… but that didn’t matter at that time because she was here! And she changed my whole world, in ways I never even imagined.

Months after my birth I started to feel this missing piece in my life. My business was struggling to grow, and I was slowly losing my motivation to keep growing it with all of my time and interests wrapped up in being a mom. January 2016 was the first time I had the thought about becoming a doula. I remembered someone telling me about it once in passing. I hardly even knew what the job entailed at that point but I thought “if this can be a little side job for me on top of my other business and I get to keep researching about birth, sounds good to me!”. After a google search I stumbled upon Sonya (my mentor and the head of the Collective I belong to, Full Circle) and called her up to see about registering for the April CAPPA doula training. Turns out she had an opening in the February training… one month to mentally prepare? Sure, afterall this wasn’t (at this time) the start of a career or anything, just a side gig.

Fate and my life’s calling all hit me like a ton of bricks when I took that training. I started the weekend thinking I was going to learn a cool new skill and I left thinking I neeeeeeed to do this work. I’ve never felt so compelled by the universe in my entire life. So yea, pretty major!

After this training my life got a little cray cray. I attempted to continue to run my business while also attending births and being a stay at home mom… it was chaos, and not the good kind. I was constantly in a battle between my head and my heart. My head was telling me to keep working on growing my studio, it needed me and my time. I invested too much time and money and sacrificed too much to throw it all away for some hippy dippy lifestyle. But in my heart… I wanted to be at a birth. I wanted to help women cross that threashhold of being a daughter to being a mother. I wanted to relive what had changed me for the better. And most of all, I wanted more time with my family. For those of you who have had babies and recall that beautiful shift from logical to primal that happens during labour… this is what I needed to do, just in the every day life sense. And after a lot of heartache, disappointment and major growing pains, an opportunity came for me to say good bye to my first born, aka my dance studio, and move on to what my real life’s work is.

This was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Even harder than childbirth – I was grieving a loss of a huge part of myself while also discovering who I really was. And in the midst of all of this, I also suffered another pregnancy loss and months later, became pregnant with my second born. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a shift like this before… but the me standing here today and telling this story. This is exactly who I’m meant to be!

Since focusing my energy on becoming an Edmonton doula and instructor of prenatal classes in Edmonton, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and helping nearly 50 families through the most transformative time of their lives. This career has brought me closer to human nature and what life is really all about. I’ve felt allllll of the feels. I’ve absorbed so much of my clients energy and I grow every single birth I attend and with every single parent I meet. My journey was rocky yet so worth it to be where I am now. I’m a doula and I’m proud!

Thanks for allowing me to share my crazy life with you, feel free to share your thoughts about my journey below!

The best way to find the perfect doula for you!

Edmonton doula

A lovely gift from one of my clients! As if getting to witness their birth wasn’t enough of a gift already!

Doulas in Edmonton (and likely everywhere else) can attest to this statement – we have a type! Though I love each and every family I support, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look back at specific births with more overjoyed emotion  than others. This has little to do with what was happening in the moment and more with my connection with the couple. I genuinely feel like when I walk away from some births, that I’ve made a soul connection with people I didn’t even know before 9 months ago. This is a feeling that I, as an Edmonton doula, wish all could feel in whatever we do for work. This is, after all, essential to human nature – to serve others and treat them the way we wish to be treated, therefore relating in some way.

Now as amazing as this feeling is, being this connected with a client, it’s not easy to find the type of people that bring me this level of joy. I’m sure many doulas can attest to being hired by a couple that is not a total personality match, and it doesn’t feel like this. In fact, some situations feel downright yucky! So I’ve decided to write about a little tip for expecting parents when you head out on your search for an Edmonton doula. It’s simple really – you need to ask a friend!

How did you find your hairdresser? Your massage therapist? Your favourite bar? Your gym? Your friends? I can guarantee that all of you reading this can answer at least one of these with “through a friend”. That’s because we trust our friends to deliver the honest truth about services! You’re likely friends with people because you’ve got something in common. Similar personalities, similar faith and beliefs, similar occupation, etc. You trust your friends recommendations because you know that they have done the dirty work for you. They’ve tried the service, probably more than once, and they know it’s quality and that it’s a great fit for you. So when it comes to hiring a doula, I HIGHLY encourage you all to do the same!

As a doula in Edmonton, nothing brings me more happiness then when I get a referral for a new client from an old one. Seriously this is such a great feeling and it’s not just about flattery (though that is a small part of course ;). It’s more the fact that the couple was referred to me through someone I’ve already worked with and who appreciated my help enough to want me to support the people they care most about too. When I get referrals from past clients it also reaffirms that my love for them was also reciprocated, and to know that I positively impacted their lives is precisely why I love being a doula so much!

So now you know that it’s good on both ends for you to find your doula based on referral – so before you start your search for an Edmonton doula, ask your network and see if you can find a referral from someone you trust! Specifically, find someone you know who used a doula who has a similar personality to you so there’s a higher chance that doula will be a match. If you are interested in a doula but don’t know anyone who’s used one, I encourage you to check out the referral list on the Doula Association of Edmonton (click to go their page). Happy hunting! I hope you all find the perfect doula for you 😊

 

How to have a “mindful” pregnancy and birth

Doula in St Albert

The word “mindful” has become a regular word in many people’s vocabulary and I’ll be the first to admit that as an Edmonton doula, I use it often. Meditation has completely changed my life and I’ve felt compelled to share why with everyone I know, but especially with those about to birth a baby because it’s such an incredibly useful tool! So what’s mindfulness? What’s meditation? And why are the linked to each other? Let’s dive in shall we?!

I first came across the idea of mindfulness   before really honing in on how to meditate. I’ve been someone who’s struggled a lot with stress and anxiety in the past and once I caught wind of this natural way of alleviating these symptoms I was intrigued. In all honesty I did not think I was a good candidate for meditation – as a doula in Edmonton and a mom, I can barely find time to take a shower most days and I’m also quite high-energy. So even 5 minutes alone in peace is hard to come by! However the idea of being mindful through everyday life seemed reasonable. I adapted strategies of being always aware and in the present moment so that I could target the precise moment when stress and anxiety were beginning and prevent further emotional damage. Of course after practicing this for some time, I wanted to go deeper and it was at this moment that I realized the difference between mindfulness and meditation. Often these words are used together and while they come from the same group of principles to live your life by, they mean very different things!

Meditation and Pregnancy

If I could only give you one piece of advice as an Edmonton doula, it would be to meditate everyday. Start out slow, 5 min or less, and gradually work up to 30 min daily as you get better. The purpose of meditation is to strengthen mind power which is EXACTLY what you need for your birth… birth is 98% mental! An analogy for you all is thinking of your mind like you would your physical body. Just as if you wanted to run a marathon you would run everyday, if you want to strengthen your mind you need to meditate everyday. However it’s for a different reason than “exercise” – it’s actually the opposite! The only way to strengthen your mind power is by giving it time to rest and process emotions that still exist deep within your psyche. And do you know when your mind rests when you don’t meditate? Almost never! Other than a short period right before you fall asleep at night, your mind is always going (yes, even when you are asleep). So for those of my Edmonton doula clients who I instruct to “focus on your breath, nothing else”, this will make way more sense and become much easier if their minds have been strengthened through out pregnancy. Mind power is an evidence-based comfort measure that works no matter where you are or what stage of labour you are in!

Mindfulness and Birth

Now I’m sure there are some very skilled meditators out there who actually may achieve a meditative state while having intense contractions, but for those of us who aren’t there yet switching over to mindfulness may be a more realistic tool while in labour. There are 5 elements to mindfulness that you can use as you work your way through your birth. The first element is simply stopping whatever you are doing/thinking. By stopping your current thought processes, you open yourself up to new directions. Step two and three are observe and describe the feelings you’re having, and then step four and five are ensuring you are not judging or reacting to what you are feeling. So to sum up, you need to approach each contraction one at a time and acknowledge the sensations each one is giving you, but have neither a negative nor a positive opinion of it. Mindfulness is a way to live your life, whereas meditation prepares and strengthens you for living life. They both are important, but very different in concept!

Find a Teacher/Guide

Many people, myself included, embark on the journey of mindfulness and meditation on their own. This is fine to an extent, but once you become stronger or hit a wall, only an experienced teacher can help you progress along this path. While one day I do hope to extend my Edmonton doula scope to provide meditation coaching, I’m not there yet in my journey. But if you are looking to get a base knowledge on these principles please reach out and I can direct you to some resources!

Have you ever used mindfulness in a stressful situation in your life? Where you successful in combatting this? Share your experiences below 😊

The scoop with occasional drinking during pregnancy

Doula Edmonton

Enjoying my first glass of wine post-baby Brady’s arrival, with my bestie and fellow wine lover! 🙂

**Disclaimer: I am not a medical care provider and the following post should not be conceived as medical advice to drink or not to drink during pregnancy. As a doula I am here to present the available evidence on the matter, and as a mom I will simply state my non-medical opinion**

Mamas, if you’re anything like me you miss that evening glass of vino so dearly while you’re cooking a baby. I remember having to abstain from alcohol during countless holidays, many summer nights and even on my own birthday more than once. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I love a casual drink (ok, maybe not always just singular, heehee). That being said, as an Edmonton doula I’ve been asked by so many if drinking a glass of wine while pregnant is safe. I’ve heard everything you can think of, from “people in Europe do it and their babies are usually fine” to “how dare you harm your unborn child like that”, and aside from the issue of judging others decisions, I completely understand how vague and blurred the lines are when it comes to this hot topic. So this doula in Edmonton is going to attempt to help you all understand what’s out there for info so you can decide if kicking back with a glass of your favourite cab sav is the right choice for you!

I’ve been looking into the small amount of evidence thats actually out there about light to moderate alcohol use during pregnancy (trust me guys, theres hardly any). One thing I came across is the statement that there are no known benefits so why even bother? The reason why I’ve been inspired to write this post is because one of the ways that I’ve seen a drink (specifically, a glass of red wine) be effective is when a birth person is overdue and looking to get labour to start naturally. So diving into this, how would this particular beverage be of benefit to someone wanting labour to start? For starters, look at the one side effect you notice from drinking just one glass of red wine: relaxation and drowsiness. For anyone who has drank just one glass of red before, I’m sure you can recall how tired you get – to the point of either drinking more or going to bed! Well, for me anyway. So this is exactly why some women anecdotally swear by red wine to induce labour. The women who have seen success from this method of inducing were likely either sleep deprived, or stressed about getting medically induced, or worried about the birth, or even all three. We can pull out all of the stops – acupuncture, massage, float tanks, spa days, romantic dinners, etc. but sometimes none of these are effective in getting your head out of the gutter. And by reading my Edmonton doula blog you should know by now that you aren’t going to get going on your labour journey if you are in your head and anxiety ridden. So for some, they choose to run a warm bubble bath, light some candles, and soak while enjoying a glass for the first time in what seems like forever. And boom, things start happening! However, in our society we are advised time and time again to avoid any and all alcohol consumption “just in case” – so many birthing people will never share their best kept secret of avoiding that induction date.

Let’s take a look at the hard facts that are available about alcohol consumption during pregnancy. We know now that excessive drinking during pregnancy puts fetuses at risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). FASD is an incurable disease and effects from it can include facial and other physical changes, brain and central nervous system disabilities, as well as cognitive, emotional and behavioural problems that include difficulty with reasoning and learning from experience. This is all likely something you know and have heard before, however what about light or occasional alcohol consumption? The issues I see with obtaining any solid evidence on this particular facet is that A) trials would be considered unethical as most women would not want to risk putting their baby in danger to produce results on how much alcohol is too much and B) studying birthing people who already consume alcohol during pregnancy would be biased as many of these people struggle with addictions and abuse of other substances that would cause adverse outcomes as well. It is also hard to rely on evidence derived from a study that involves self-reporting… especially when there’s alcohol involved and our memory may not be the sharpest. For these reasons we don’t have much, but here’s what we do have for evidence: researchers in the UK systematically reviewed all the data from observational studies on the impact of light drinking vs. no drinking. They selected 26 appropriate studies to review and found that drinking up to four (UK standard) units per week while pregnant, on average, was associated with an 8 per cent higher risk of having a small baby. There was also mention of a heightened risk of premature birth by about 10 per cent. It’s important to note that this evidence is far from perfect, and this whole subject is still very much a grey area.

So… now what? What does this all mean for you, who may be faced with an impending induction date and desperate to avoid that whole dance as much as possible. Well, taking off my Edmonton doula hat for a minute I’ll put you into my frame of mind when I was expecting. As a mom who has lost multiple pregnancies, the thought of doing anything with even the slightest chance of negatively impacting this child that I worked so. damn. hard. to get in my tummy was a big fat no to me. With that being said, as a doula in Edmonton I’ve had clients be told to go and drink a glass of red wine in the bathtub by their care provider who wants them to avoid an induction – and I say good for you, you go girl! I have no judgement as to what you should and should not do in this matter, my only advice is, like with every other facet of childbearing, follow your gut. Weigh the benefits of potentially avoiding an induction with the risks of a small baby or premature labour (which, if you’ve reached this point, shouldn’t even be a problem as you’d be full term. Trying to induce yourself before you’re 40 weeks is a hard NO). Go through the BRAIN acronym (read about BRAIN here) with your partner and get their perspective on the issue as well. And make a decision that you feel good about! This is all a part of having babies.

Did you have a drink to bring on labour? Did it work for you? Share your experiences in the comments!

Cardinal Movements – the Dance of Childbirth

Edmonton doula

As a doula in Edmonton, AB, I find myself asking why many concepts around labour and delivery are not more discussed – especially at the childbirth classes in Edmonton. The cardinal movements are one of those concepts, and for those of you who know what they are and what ways they can impact the birth experience, you’ll likely agree! Contrary to the common belief, you and your body aren’t the only active participants when trying to bring a baby earthside… your baby has a part in this dance and it’s a rather big one! And if you can better understand the “dance” that baby needs to do to be born, you can work with your body to make this whole process smooth.

So starting from the beginning – there are seven cardinal movements that babies go through to get from utero to in your arms. I won’t get into each of them specifically as this post would be the longest post from an Edmonton doula that you’ve ever seen! I’ll just list them and the important facets. Starting with engagement, your baby reaches the pelvic brim either before or during labour. Then baby travels down a bit for the descent stage, and then flexes their head for the flexion stage (this one i’ll explore in a bit, it’s quite important). Once baby is nice and low, they start to rotate (internal rotation) until they reach the outlet of the pelvis in a position thats hopefully most optimal for pushing. Once baby is close enough to push out, they start to extend their head from a tucked position (extension) and come through the vagina bit by bit. When the head is out, often times with a bit of assistance from the care provider the baby does one more rotation (external rotation) so that the shoulders can be delivered one-by-one. And after the shoulders come, the rest of the body is expelled and voila! You’ve met your babe!

You can probably notice that each movement is hard to achieve without the other happening first. Baby can’t descend when they aren’t engaged in your pelvis, and the head can’t extend if it hasn’t rotated into the best position for enough room. But arguable one of the most important facets of the cardinal movements is flexion. The baby’s head is made up of plates that overlap and mould to the shape of your birth canal, but this moulding can’t happen as easily if baby doesn’t enter the birth canal with the occiput (the upper back of baby’s head) presenting first. The occiput is the spot where these plates join and easily overlap! So flexion needs to happen, in whatever position baby is facing. Flexion comes from the pressure that contractions put on your baby to put from the head to the pelvic floor, but there will be more efficient pressure if baby’s head is optimally positioned. The best way for the pressure to happen, and the rotation if it’s needed, is by labouring in upright, open positions. A great doula in Edmonton will be able to tell you what position will work best for you at each point in your labour, and you’ll want to advocate for yourself when you find care providers being bossy about what position they want you in for things like fetal monitoring, blood pressure checks and cervical exams when they are needed.

When you can visually put together the cardinal movements, it looks a lot like a dance routine. Ok Im a bit biased, as this “Dancing Doula Edmonton” sees everything in life as a dance, but hear me out. The baby over time TWIRLS out of the pelvis! So thinking of it as a dance, and the cocktail of hormones your body is producing being the music, it only makes sense for you to dance along in your own way to keep that rhythm that’s such a big part of physiological childbirth. Being in tune with your body and understanding the movements that need to happen can empower you to do exactly what you need to do to help baby make their way to you. Dancing your baby out is literally a thing, and something I’m very passionate about!

For those of you who have had babies before, what does your labour dance look like? What positions felt the best, what ones did you try and what did they remind you of?

Long Distance Partners: how to survive pregnancy, birth and postpartum when your partner works away

Edmonton doula

A shot from older days when hubs worked away from me and my first! Reminiscing as my life heads back in that direction with two 😮

So the thing I’ve dreaded since 2016 is happening… again. My husband, who has been fortunate enough to land an oil field job in Edmonton will officially be moving to an in-town/out-of-town rotation in Fort McMurray. DUN DUN DUNNNNNN (cue dramatic music). I say the word “again” because this isn’t my first rodeo – back when my oldest was just a little turnip in my belly the hubs worked out of town two weeks in and one week out. Following the birth he continued to do so until summer 2016 – I had my second pregnancy loss and while it was a very hard time for our family he had just received the one shred of good news at the time which was he would be moving into the city! However, knowing what the good ol Alberta work force is like for people who work in oil and gas, I knew I had to enjoy it while it lasts… and alas, here we are. This time with two children and a pretty decent load of Edmonton doula clients!

Not going to lie though guys, I’m not really worried. I got through it during some of the most life-changing moments – moments I was pregnant, awaiting labour and postpartum. I know as an Edmonton doula that women are incredibly resilient human beings and can make it work. I’m writing here today to share some of my “tricks of the trade” with those of you who may be pregnant or brand new moms and dealing with the same challenges in your home life.

Solidarity, Sista!

First off I’m sure as a fellow Alberta mom, I don’t need to tell you that this is quite a common scenario for households in our province. However, coming from someone who at the time didn’t know a ton of people in the same boat (I sure do now), find your village! Look to people in your life that may also have out-of-town spouses to talk, cry, vent about everyday trials and tribulations. Swap childcare so that you can have a bit of time to yourself. If you don’t know anyone in the same boat, look to your partner’s work to see if there are any other moms with kids around the age of yours. Or post on a Facebook group asking for mom’s who have partners who work out of town (you’ll be surprised at just how many responses you get!). What I’m trying to say here is don’t do it alone, it will get quite hard to parent on your own most of the time with no peer support.

Changes during pregnancy will seem much bigger

Still pregnant? If you think you’re noticing your body looks different, imagine how it looks for someone who only sees you for one week out of the month! You may hear a lot of “you’re getting so big!” and try not to take offence to that – they only mean that your tummy is growing so fast (and it really does!). It’s normal for partners to be a bit overwhelmed by how fast the changes are happening, and you might notice they go through their own little nesting phase too. For years of their lives they read that a pregnancy is nine(ish) months, but when you work away those nine months pass more quickly than anyone can imagine. Allow your partner the space they need to process everything and help then when you can by making to-do lists for when they are home of things you are unable to do on your own.

Involve them in EVERYTHING while they are home

One thing I remember hearing my husband say is that he felt like when he was away, that he was missing out on so much of the pregnancy. And honestly he did… and I felt for him in that regard. He wasn’t with me when I first felt baby kick, he had to miss almost all of my midwife appointments, we were very limited to the Edmonton prenatal classes we could take and ended up having to arrange private childbirth education, and the list goes on. One thing I started to realize mid-way is that even though it was my body, he really wanted to be involved so that he could start to develop some connection to the baby before she was born (and the bonding could really start to happen). I made sure that when he was home, we filled our week with baby-related activities and appointments. We also spent lots of quality time together so I could reminisce about the last couple of weeks being pregnant and dream about what kind of parents we wanted to be. I made sure that once you could feel baby kick from the outside, that he had his hand on my belly as soon as she started her utero dance parties. Little things like this they will appreciate for a lifetime, because nothing can replace memories!

Labour/Birth support from other areas will be key

When it came down to the nitty gritty, my due date was approaching and he was still working out of town, the panic started to set in a bit. What if he was away when I went into labour? Most of the time things work out but I definitely know of some times where partners have missed the birth due to working out of town (especially in precipitous labours, read about that here). One thing my midwife suggested and I really wish I would have done the first time, was hire an Edmonton doula! Women in our boat NEED reliable support in the event that partners aren’t physically available in time. Doulas don’t always replace the partner but for a short time, we can absolutely assume that role until the proper person arrives. Plus we can help to update the partner as they make their way to us, and we can involve them as much as possible so that they arrive completely in-the-loop.

Postpartum matters too!

I was incredibly fortunate that my husband managed to save up two months worth of vacation days (basically he took no vacation at all for the first 3 years of work) so that he could stay home with me until I was feeling more comfortable. Luckily so, most of my family lives in Manitoba so I don’t have a parent to call on to come over and let me get some sleep. Had he not been able to be around, I most definitely would have hired an Edmonton postpartum doula. For those of you who have never heard of one, postpartum doulas work on shifts and will come into your home and support you however you need to make that transition from single to mom-of-one (or two, or three, etc) positive. They’ll help you with everything from housework to breastfeeding to mental health support and beyond. Edmonton moms deserve postpartum doulas! We’ve got a few really great ones in our city too (shoot me a message and I’ll make some recommendations).

All-in-all being an oilfield family has challenges for sure, but it also has rewards. There will most likely be some point in the month or year where you get a long stint of days as a family with no work involved, which is lovely! The biggest takeaway I hope you get from this article is the importance of self-care at any stage of your childbearing journey – be sure to take advantage of those days when your spouse is home to go for a coffee with a friend alone, get your hair done, go for a massage, etc. You deserve it mama, the work you do is unbelievably hard (but always worth it)!

How to make the best of Gestational Diabetes

Doula Edmonton

Me at the end of my pregnancy with Gestational Diabetes… am I crying because of how big I am or how dirty my mirror was?

So you’ve received the annoying news that you’ve got “the ‘betus” (as my husband calls it). You went through that awful screening where you had to wait, bored out of your mind, at the clinic after drinking a horrible orange drink all to get poked, probably twice… and now you’ve confirmed with your care provider that you have gestational diabetes. Now what?! Well as an Edmonton doula I can tell you that no birth person ever takes this news well, and as an Edmonton mom who’s been there, I can confirm that this limitation sucks. However, this doula in Edmonton is writing today to give you some tips on how to make this nuisance of a situation easier and more pleasant then what you may have heard of it in the past. I got you girl!

First off, don’t panic!!!!! (especially at my use of exclamation marks)

For those of you that have been following my Edmonton doula blog for a while, you’ll probably notice by some of my posts that I feel that our birth culture in many ways is set up to scare us more than it is to empower us. Gestational Diabetes diagnosis does it’s part to add to this culture and to be honest, it drives me nuts! Between the additional appointments with a diabetes-specific clinic, to the talk of “big baby”, shoulder dystocia, cesarean birth, etc. it’s no wonder why most of my clients as an Edmonton doula call me in a mad panic. So here’s the deal – yes, there have been babies that have gotten quite big from a GD mom… but there are just as many that have been a normal size, especially from those moms who did the work to keep their blood sugars under control. Yes there have been cesareans performed on GD moms… but in many cases this has nothing to do with the baby being “too big” and everything to do with other factors completely unrelated to GD. Yes a baby is at a higher risk of shoulder dystocia with a GD mom… but according to this study done by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (my favourite evidence-based site), you can expect a 7% chance of shoulder dystocia with a gestational diabetes diagnosis (regardless of if your baby is big or not) and a 0.5% chance of an injury to the baby caused by getting stuck. So guys… don’t panic! Gestational Diabetes doesn’t mean your birth with all go to hell in a hand basket.

It’s all about the diet

I’ve said this before in my Preparing For Labour post, and I’ll say it again – the GD diet is the best diet out there (whether you’re pregnant or not!). Now I’m not about to go off on a tangent about how “carbs are the devil” and push a fad diet on you… I believe in healthy carbs! The problem with a GD patient is that eating too many carbs will send your blood sugars into a frenzy. So to start off, think BALANCE. If you want to eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, great! Throw some greek yogurt in there and maybe some hemp seeds and that is a beautifully balanced breakfast right there. Love sandwiches? Cool! Consider adding lots of good meat, load up on veggies and add some avocado and grass-fed butter and you’re sandwich is perfecto (and who doesn’t love avocado?). You’re going to want to eat just as much protein and “good fats” as you are carbs. Label-reading is going to become second nature to you, because you’ll want to find out whether what you’re about to eat is a serving of carbs, protein or fat. It would also be a really good idea to start tracking your macronutrient percentages (carbs, protein and fats are macronutrients), so consider looking into an app to do so – MyFitPal is an excellent one that is free! The final thing I want to say about diet is that just because something is labelled “low fat” or “diet” doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Often times low fat labels will actually show more carbohydrates, and diet drinks like diet soda or juice often times contain aspartame which is a big no-no both during pregnancy and everyday life. Don’t be afraid of good fats – the omegas and MCT oils (coconut or palm kernel) will be your best friends with a GD diet as they will fill you and avoid that sugar crash you’d get if you ate a pack of Timbits instead.

Fear not the GD labour

My GD clients as an Edmonton doula often express the fear of what this will do to their labours – can I still have a natural birth? A home birth? Is it going to be way harder to push this baby out? Will my baby have to go to NICU after birth? The answer to all of these is very much dependant on the individual patient, but I will say that in a well-managed gestational diabetes patient the labour and birth will likely be straight-forward and average! (when it comes to all things GD, anyway). If you are a midwifery client and you end up needing insulin to manage GD, you’ll need to be transferred to an OBGYN and home birth will unfortunately not be in the cards for you. However, you still have the option of having an empowered birth as your midwife will remain involved for support (AND you can hire an Edmonton doula to help navigate the hospital birth process). Induction is commonly recommended when a GD patient reaches 41 weeks (and sometimes even before), and as always it is SUPER important to weight the risks of an induction with the risks of birthing a GD baby at 41+ weeks. Whatever you do, DO NOT rely on the weight measurements from a late ultrasound – they are about 45% effective which is not reliable, plus the whole size of the baby is not particularly what causes issues in the birth, more so WHERE GD babies gain their weight. If your labour and birth are straight forward, the only other issue you may face is a baby that has a blood sugar crash following the birth. This can be a tough issue since your baby may not want to feed and feeding is important for them specifically. Something you can do to prepare for this is what my lovely Edmonton doula partner Vanessa refers to as “the feeding insurance policy”. One you reach term (37 weeks) and it is safe for you to go into labour, start hand expressing colostrum from both breasts until you get enough to fill a small syringe (like the ones you get with a bottle of infant Tylenol). You can express into a spoon or small cup, and it may take a while to get the whole thing full but be patient or persistent. Suck the contents of the spoon or cup up with the syringe and then put the syringe in the freezer. Before you leave your house to go to the hospital (if you are birthing in the hospital), bring those syringes along. If baby is struggling to latch initially, simply assume skin-to-skin and feed them the syringe of colostrum so that their blood sugars stabilize and they are more motivated to give breastfeeding a good shot. I WISH I knew this when I had my first baby, who was GD and had a bad blood sugar crash… luckily my L&D nurse mother had my back!

To sum up, I really want all you GD moms to try your best to shift your thoughts from “this sucks” to “this is an opportunity for me to change what I put into my body to best suit my growing baby”. You’re going to be ok! And you’re going to now have tools to improve your eating habits for years after baby arrives. If you are reading this and haven’t yet done the gestational diabetes screening, I highly encourage you to read this wonderful Evidence Based Birth article before you do! Please contact me to discuss any of this info in more detail, I’ve got the unique experience of GD from both a mom and Edmonton doula perspective.

Can you REALLY birth without having a Vaginal Exam?

Doula in Edmonton

Ha! So true Forrest Gump…

So I’ve gotta say, vaginal exams SUCK. I’ve experienced them myself and I’ve watched the clients I support as an Edmonton doula struggle through them countless amounts of times. However, most of us Edmonton mama’s just accept the uncomfortable pain because they are very important. After all they tell you how far dilated you are! Because… dilation will tell you how much longer you’ll be in labour for right? Sorry friend, there’s no way of predicting how much longer you’ll be in labour for.

But what if I told you that you could actually have a baby without getting ANY vaginal exams? That before medical advances birthers had no vaginal exams and managed to get a baby out? That scientifically, there is ZERO evidence that shows better birth outcomes with more vaginal exams? Many people are never told this and many care providers spin this part of birth so that women think that this info (dilation, effecement) is useful and necessary. I’m here to tell you today that it’s not.

I recently took a Spinning Babies course and it was life-changing as a doula in Edmonton.  One of the issues with offering birth doula services is that I am not trained or able to do a vaginal exam. Before taking this course this used to frustrate me so much as I felt like I couldn’t truly help a woman without knowing exactly where she was in her labour. After the course, I learned many valuable lessons that I will take with me to every birth I support! Number 1 – If anything would matter about a vaginal exam, it would be if the care provider could tell the baby’s position and/or station. Dilation and effacement are not steady or predictable variables during labour… eeeeevery birth person opens and thins at her own rate. However, if you knew what position a baby was in you could help the birther to position her body better for her pelvis to open. You could also guess by how far up or down the baby’s presenting part is as to which part of her birth canal is preventing progress. Such an important thing!

So after learning how valuable knowing baby’s position and station came lesson Number 2 – you don’t need a VE to determine these two things! It was almost unfortunate for me to hear originally how important station and position were, so I asked the question “as an Edmonton doula on her own with a birthing couple, how do we know?”. The answer: look at what the birther’s body is telling you. Is the contraction pattern steady? Is it consistent? Is she having pain, and where? The reason that birth happened prior to our medical system is because as birth supporters we can intuitively tell what stage the birth person is at just by being with her (or in contact with her). At the very least, as a birth doula I can keep the mom at home (without the presence of warning signs of trouble) to cope and allow baby to come down naturally and easily. THIS was probably the greatest take-away from the Spinning Babies workshop I took.

The last valuable lesson came from a birth I was at with a midwife at home. This lesson, Number 3 – not all women will be fully dilated when their body begins fetal expulsion (pushing). Known as the early urge to push, many women feel “grunty” or “pushy” before their body is ready to push. So should they be? There’s hardly any evidence about adverse outcomes but the small research that has been done has linked no adverse outcomes to women who do push early (you’ll likely hear things like swollen cervix, damaged cervix, exhaustion, etc. as reasons why you should not push before you are dilated). So crazy enough, if we feel the urge to push early, we are usually told to wait until we achieve some random measurement of one of the organs at play instead of listening to what our body tells us!

Is your mind blasted?? So was mine when I began to learn all of these things! It’s pretty exciting to hear that enduring vaginal exams is not necessary. VE’s are yet another choice you have to make while you are in labour (notice how I say YOU, birthing person, and no one else). For some, the comfort of knowing how far along they have gotten provides a sense of relief. It can be very exciting to hear of progress, but it can also be disheartening if you haven’t gotten as far as you thought you have. It’s so important to know yourself, know how you’ll react to the information you hear, and also to know that those measurements are tricky little buggers! If you want to hear your dilation, effacement, station with an open mind, then a VE wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s like with anything else in childbirth – educate, prepare for all scenarios, and let the process take over.

How many vaginal exams did you have in labour? Did you hate them, or not mind them too much?