A Day in the Life of an Edmonton Doula

doula in EdmontonI’ve gotta say, life as a doula in Edmonton is quite odd. I mean I love it, but when I talk to friends or family (or anyone not in the birth industry, really) or meet new people, and the topic of what I do for work comes up, the conversation usually ends in a blatantly obvious change in subject to something a lot more generic (cue the ‘how about the weather?’). The Edmonton doula industry has its quirks and definitely isn’t made for your average-joe… but really, who will get as turbo-pumped to talk about perineal tears or pooping yourself as we do? We’re cut from a different fabric is all.

So I thought to lighten up the mood, I’d talk about a few interesting aspects of life as an Edmonton doula. Just so that all of you out there get a little taste of what makes us so… unique 😉

We operate on completely whack-o schedules

Ok so you know the usual work week – 9-5pm Monday to Friday, weekends off, simple schedule that is very predictable. Then we’ve got oil field workers who work out-of-town for days or weeks at a time until their job is complete and they get a series of days off (or sometimes they get the advantage of consistent days out and in). Then we’ve got the shift-workers like nurses and doctors, who work 12 hours straight and sometimes though the night. Thats all interesting, but an Edmonton doula? It is completely normal, in fact common, for us to work 24 hours straight, get called to work in the middle of the night and go without working for weeks to then all of the sudden be working 3 or more complete days out of our week. We literally have NO idea what day or time we need to work. With us frequently being awake at strange hours of the night, it’s very normal to get a text from us at 3 or 4am and to not hear from us when calling during normal human hours. I heard a hilarious phrase recently that said “waiting for a baby is like picking someone up from the airport… but you don’t know who they are or when their flight gets in”. I’ll be over here, living at the “airport” for the next two weeks for a complete stranger, haha!

Nearly nothing body-related makes us uncomfortable

There was a time in my life that I remember getting weirded out when my mom talked about periods in front of my dad. Or going red when someone asked if I had regular bowel movements. However now that I’ve entered this realm of working as a doula in Edmonton… I can’t wait to chat about ovaries! And placentas! And HORMONES! Wooo! I’ve had a client complain about talking about mucous plugs while we were sitting in Starbucks for our prenatal meet-up, and I felt bad afterwards but honestly it’s just so normal to me. Us Edmonton doulas see various bodily functions happen before our very eyes on a regular basis. We know what lots of different bodily fluids look like, and we are (well I am anyway) totally comfortable talking about sexuality openly because that is how we get our work in essence (also, just saying, it’s true – what gets a baby in, gets a baby out). I feel like becoming a doula in Edmonton has really opened my eyes to these systems that I only read about in textbooks before, and I so passionately am fascinated by them no matter how many times I watch them unfold.

We become close friends with complete strangers in a fraction of the normal time

I’ve never been a stranger to connecting with random people very easily, being the extrovert that I am, but as an Edmonton doula I am constantly meeting new people and getting to know them very quickly during such an intimate time in their life. I feel such a connection to every client I support, sometimes to the point where I find myself thinking about them months and even years after their birth. To me, being a doula in Edmonton has really made me feel closer to humanity. I see couples through one of the most, if not the most intense part of their lives and in order to allow me into this incredibly intimate space, they need to learn to trust me completely. The fact that so many people can do this really demonstrates how much humans as a species are so connected through our similarities and primal instincts. One added bonus is my friends know that they can take me pretty much anywhere and I’ll leave with a new friend, because thats how I do what I do!

Our bodies LITERALLY function differently

So this is a bizarre one, but many other Edmonton doulas can attest to this – regularly attending births, especially home births, messes with OUR regular hormonal ebbs and flows. I’m sure I’m not the only doula in Edmonton thats come home from a birth and felt incredibly emotional, crampy in my uterus, maternal, primitive, etc. We literally are subjected to come-downs from oxytocin from how receptive we become for our clients. We soak in all of the emotions, and hormonal climaxes that are around us, and physical touch with our clients who need it add to this (some may not believe it but I truly think that you can get a high from being in physical contact with someone who is experiencing a hormonal high). I have heard of many who’s moon cycles (periods) get disrupted due to attending births, and I’m sure my day will come for this. Overall I just feel like this work has made me more empathetic and more receptive to the energy of others, even though I felt sensitive in this way before.

We eat, sleep and breathe our jobs

One thing is straight across the board with all of us doulas in Edmonton (and I’m sure in other geographic locations too), we freaking love our job. Sometimes I think about how I get to help babies be born for a living and think, is this ACTUALLY what I do for a living?! Don’t get me wrong, I work dang hard for the money I make. And balance is a constant struggle and effort. But I just couldn’t imagine doing anything else ❤

Let’s hear your doula experiences in the comments below!

Precipitous Labour & Birth- When Babies Can’t Wait to Join the World!

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I was recently at a birth where a first-time-mom had her baby incredibly fast. In this particular case, stage 2 was the speedy part, but I know that there are many parents out there that have speedy first-stages as well (have we all seen those photos of the woman in Kansas who gave birth to her baby in the hospital hallway? If not click here to see the Facebook post… truly amazing!). As a doula in Edmonton I can’t say that I was completely ready for just how quickly things went during this experience, since most birthers experience longer labours and births, especially with their first babies, but now that this experience is under my belt I want to chat a bit more about the good, the bad and the interesting when it comes to precipitous labour and birth.

It’s not really that predictable

According to a study done by National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine to analyze the clinical significance of precipitous labour, fast deliveries are much more common in second-or-more-time parents than first-time parents (21.5% compared to 6.9%). Risk factors that are more common are physical – things like having an incredibly efficient uterus, a perfectly positioned baby and really great pelvic structure and soft tissues. These are all things that a first-time mom won’t be able to tell are even characteristics for her. While there are many women who have precipitous labours who have relatives that have experienced the same, this is less prevalent then you would think… many of us experience completely different births than our relatives.

Higher risks of pelvic floor/perineal damage and haemorrhage 

I’m all about delivering the bad news first and ending with the good (this Edmonton doula likes to share positivity and empowerment!), so with that I will say that the worst part about having a fast birth is the higher chance of tearing and haemorrhaging. Both of these things can be quite scary. A 4th degree tear is no joke and requires extensive repair, and from what I’ve heard it sometimes feels worse than the actual birth (not to mention the healing process is quite long). A PPH is more likely simply because the uterus expelled everything so fast that it hasn’t had time to catch up and contract back to a smaller size as quickly, which can sometimes cause more blood and tissue loss than normal. With both of these situations there isn’t anything you can do to prevent them from happening. Some evidence does suggest that giving birth on your back can slow down fast labours (where normally us doulas in Edmonton urge women to get off their back to push), but this is definitely not the case for everyone. One thing to remember is that while both of these situations aren’t great, recovery will happen as long as you are in the hands of a good care provider and follow their instructions for a safe recovery.

Higher chance of a vaginal and/or unmedicated birth

Is having a vaginal birth important to you? Or having an unmedicated birth? Well the good news is that many women with fast births don’t need a cesarean or any pain medications (or in many cases, can’t have pain meds due to the fact that they are already too far along in the process). Due to the fact that many women who do have fast births have extremely efficient reproductive systems, the chances of these births needed any help from medical interventions are slim. Whether it be excellent contraction strength, ideal pelvic openings (“birthing hips” as we’ve probably all heard before) or tissues that are responsive and just know exactly what to do, women with fast labours have got some really great stuff going on in their baby-makers! And sure, having the luxury of pain medication taken off the table would suck if that was a part of your original plans, but with things happening so fast that intensity happens fast too.

I’m glad that I was able to experience being a doula at a birth like this, as it really opened up my eyes and yet AGAIN proved to me just how unpredictable birth can be. Did you have a very fast birth? I’d love to hear you story, feel free to leave it in the comments section!

 

Had a Cesarean? What you need to know about your scar tissue

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Since having my second unplanned cesarean, I’ve been dedicated to both my personal recovery process and “preaching the good word” to potential clients of mine as an Edmonton doula. As someone who has had cesareans, supported women in the OR while having cesareans and supported women through VBAC’s (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), I’d like to think that I am quite knowledgeable of the difference you can expect in recovery as opposed to vaginal births. However, one thing that was never taught or talked to me about until my second child was scar tissue and the importance of work being done on your healed incision. Something so simple, yet oh so important and a powerful tool in healing your body post-op! Let’s dive into this whole realm, shall we?

So let’s start with a crash course on scar tissue – what it is, what it can cause and how to treat it. All of our body’s connective tissue is made up of a certain fiber called collagen. When any injury or incision is made into our skin, muscles, ligaments, etc, new collagen fibres replace the tissue that has been damaged to create scar tissue. The problem with these fibres is that they are not as smart and organized as our original tissue and often form in a very mismatched way, which can hinder the function of the structure where the scar has formed. There are many problems that can arise from this – movement in the area where the scar is can be stiff, nerves and sensory feedback to the area where the scar exists can be damaged, and it causes a disruption in well-functioning fascia. Ok now before I lose you (because this was all a lot of info for my average, Edmonton doula brain when I first heard it too!), basically this all means that a scar, especially one located viscerally (deep, abdominal cavity) can literally effect ALL areas of our bodily function. This is because fascia is like a giant spider web that moves smoothly with our muscles, so when part of this web is cut and grows back incorrectly, the whole web moves different. Fascinating, I know!

So how can we get back to a place where our body is functioning again as it should? This is where scar tissue massage comes in. This unique type of massage can be done on any healed scar, but cesarean scars are extremely important as they are located in a particular part of our body where function is extremely important and because a cesarean incision goes deep into our visceral layers. When a scar forms adhesions (these wacky new collagen fibres I was talking about earlier), the adhesions tend to pull on different organs and sometimes cause them to move out of their designated position. Scar tissue massage works to “break up” these adhesions to help our organs to move back into place and function as they should. This massage also allows the skin, fascial and even muscular layers of the scar to move with more flexibility, therefore allowing our whole body to function optimally.

Now who does work on scar tissue massage? Be sure to ALWAYS go to a professional when seeking out this type of work, as if this work is not done properly, a lot is at stake in terms of your overall health. Start by looking for an RMT (Registered Massage Therapist) who is experienced in scar tissue work. Personally, I’ve had my scar worked on by my physiotherapist (read here about why I think you need postpartum physio) and my chiropractor as well, and both did incredible work for me. You’ll likely have to get multiple treatments done before you notice a positive change, but stick with it! Whoever you decide on, allow them to help you navigate your number and frequency of appointments. Do know that some mild pain and discomfort are normal in this process as your systems get back into place… it will be worth it in the long run.

If you’ve had a cesarean I encourage you to read my story – especially if you are going to be attempting a VBAC or you are disappointed with the outcome of your birth. As a birth doula in Edmonton I understand the complexity of healing from a cesarean, and have both had my own emotional healing to do as well as aided in the emotional healing of others. Cesarean scar massage is a very important factor in your physical healing postpartum and the better you can heal physically, the stronger of a mom you can be to your little one(s) and the more smoothly you can move on and learn from the experience of a caesarean birth.

The Lost Art of Uninterrupted Pushing

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I’ve officially entered back into the adventures of being an on-call Edmonton doula, after taking a hiatus from attending births following my own pregnancy… and boy did I miss this! In the coming months I’ll be pushed out of my comfort zone and attending primarily home births (most of my previous clients have delivered in hospitals). While there are some things I quite like about attending hospital births (yes, a doula in Edmonton who likes hospital births… who would have thought!), one thing I definitely will not miss is the coached pushing phase. Many of you will be familiar with this method of stage 2 management, and this is one I’ve seen many-a-time. This type of management is characterized by health care providers essentially telling you what to do and when to do it when it comes time to push your baby out. And while this can sometimes be necessary and actually crucial to birth a baby, like in the case of an epidural on board for example, women who are unmedicated should never be told when they can or can not push (in my opinion).

Let me start off by giving those of you who have never experienced unmedicated birth a bit of back story. When a woman labours with natural surges of oxytocin and endorphins, a certain rhythm just sort of happens to the labour. There are times when contraction strengths and lengths shift to the next phase and then the next, until finally the birth person is ready and starting to push. Us Edmonton doulas can often visibly see when these shifts happens due to the birth person’s body language. Some classic signs of shifts into a further labour stage are low moans, inability to communicate and towards the very end, uncontrollable grunts and bearing down. These sensations are our body’s way of communicating that our baby has made it’s way through most of the pelvis and is ready to come earth-side, and these little pushes that we begin to involuntarily make actually help the tissues to stretch at a good pace to avoid tearing. Watching a birth person experience stage 2 of labour this way is incredible to see – it often doesn’t even look like they are pushing at all, and I guess technically they aren’t (it’s their body doing the work for them).

Now if a women is heavily medicated often this urge is blocked or less noticeable, in which case it may be best for nurses to monitor the tocodynamometer to see when your contractions are coming and when (and for how long) you should be pushing. Coached pushing is meant for these cases and important, so I definitely don’t want or mean to de-value the place that medical advances hold in certain circumstance. However, how can anyone tell you how big your baby is going to be, exactly what position their head is in during all stages of labour, therefore determining how long or strong a birth person can push, other than that particular person? The answer is, no one can. The female body is absolutely incredible and is expertly designed so that when it comes time to labour and birth a baby, an intricate concoction of hormones give us the signals to know what position we need to be in and what we need to do to get baby from in to out. Another fascinating component of labour are the cardinal movements (I really think this needs to be my next blog topic, kind of obsessed with these). Baby instinctively will move down and through the pelvis in just the way that they will fit through these crevices and passageways, and causing no or minimal damage along the way. Allowing baby the freedom to do this without exerting voluntary force is important and necessary for a safe birth.

So the problem begins when medications and instruments are used to block and interfere with these natural systems. In some cases these medications and instruments are life-saving or very important to the health of mom and baby. But many more times than us doulas in Edmonton would like, these resources are used at a time when they are not truly needed, thus removing the natural sensation labour gives the birth person to know how to bring baby out. Even more problematic is when a women has not had any of these medications or instruments used on her and is still being coached or told to push/not push. In our most natural state, our body knows when pushing is needed, and this is not the same for every women and can not be predicted. One woman might be fully dilated and feel that she needs to wait for an hour before that urge has kicked in, and another might just barely reach full dilation and be ready to get that baby through the finish line. Birth is unpredictable, and this is one of the things that makes it such an impactful and meaningful experience – we can truly see the variety of human form from childbirth. So let’s embrace these differences and leave a woman who’s experiencing a natural labour to push on her own terms!

What was your pushing stage like? Did it go smoothly or would you have wanted something different? Share your “pushing” stories below, I love to hear them all!

5 Common Myths About Doulas

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Doulas, and especially doulas in Edmonton, are notorious for being misunderstood. And when I say this, I don’t mean by our clients but more by the general public. I even find myself when teaching childbirth classes in Edmonton educating my students on what a doula actually does. Or let’s not forget about the countless number of times us Edmonton doulas are met with the response from hearing our profession, “oh, so like a midwife?” or “wow you deliver babies?!” and so on. As funny as some responses can be and as much as we reason with the public not knowing what we do (doulas only recently rose in popularity), us birth doulas really need to do our part in clearing up some myths and fog when it comes to our work. So today, I’m going to explore some common misconceptions that this doula in Edmonton has heard many a time!

#1: Every woman who is having a baby needs a doula

So some Edmonton doulas will disagree with me on this one, but in all reality a woman, or couple, does not need a doula to birth a baby. Babies are born everyday without us! While many feel that all women deserve a doula, and I do believe this is true, all doulas deserve to earn a fair wage and this is often a barrier between us an potential clients. However, doulas are a luxury, and one that is worth the money you spend on it. We really do enhance the couple’s birth experience, and this has been proven through various studies (this Evidence Based Birth article sums it up really well).

#2: If you have a midwife, you don’t need a doula

Midwives and doulas have very different roles at a birth. Midwives are primary care providers and perform any and all necessary medical tasks of a low-risk pregnancy and birth. Doulas are not medically trained, we help moms through education, advocacy and emotional/physical comfort. Read here for more information on the role difference between an Edmonton midwife and an Edmonton doula.

#3: If you have a doula, your partner doesn’t need to do any work

No one can replace the role of your partner in a birth. The birth partner is key because they know you best and what calms you/fires you up. A good birth doula will know how to contribute ways for the two of you to feel more connected, and help with comfort strategies when everyone is out of ideas. Plus, the partner is put on the spot to remember everything from their prenatal class! Read here for more information about the roles of a doula and the birth partner.

#4: Doulas are only for natural births or home births

This myth probably ranks number one in the amount of times I’ve heard it. Too many times doulas are passed up because the couple think we’re “hippy dippy” or don’t go to births in hospitals or will judge a mom for opting in for the epidural. While we do have personality and philosophy differences (spoiler alert – I’ll elaborate on this next), a good doula understands that it’s just as important that we support and help the mom advocate for what she wants in the birth experience. It’s very important that all decisions come from a place of education, and we will provide that… from there you decide the path that you want to take in your birth journey and we support you 100%.

#5: All doulas are the same

Like every other professional support person in this world, not all of us are made equal! Many may think that hiring a doula based on level of experience is the way to go, and perhaps that could be an important requirement for you but not for everyone, as in certain ways a doula with little experience could have a personality trait or a philosophy that just works really well with you. Also, when you book a consult with a doula, that interview is for us just as much as it is for you, because it is imperative that we are a good fit. For this reason, many of us will turn down a couple after an interview that leads to a hire. It’s no beef with you as a person, we just don’t vibe that well! You’ll never be able to open up as much as you can or feel truly comforted if you genuinely don’t mesh well with your doula’s personality. Birth is an incredibly raw and vulnerable time in both the birthing mother and the birth partner’s life – you’ll definitely want everyone who is in that room with you to fit into your team nicely.

What did you not know about doulas that you now know? Have you heard any of these myths before? Leave your comments below!

Prenatal Mood Disorders – They exist too

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In light of this month (January) being Postpartum Mood Disorders Awareness month, I thought I would share my thoughts on the well-being of moms prenatally and during birth… because let’s face it, from the time you find out you’re pregnant, it never seems to be about you anymore. As a birth doula in Edmonton and from teaching childbirth classes in Edmonton, I’ve seen many expectant mothers as their lives start to change, day-by-day, week-by-week. Many of them are told that the real change happens after baby is born and while it is true that most of us have to make many sacrifices once baby is home, the prenatal period as well as the birth of our littles are very important in ensuring this transition is smooth. I was at an event that was put on by the Doula Association of Edmonton recently and got to hear some of our city’s experts in PPMD speak about this topic, and what really resonated well with me that they both touched on (Claire Wilde and Jennifer Summerfeldt, click their names for more info) was hearing how important it is to have a plan BEFORE you go into labour. One reason I think this stood out for me is that I’ve seen women suffer even before the birth of their child and I feel that we don’t put enough energy into helping moms who struggle with prenatal depression and mood disorders as well.

During my time so far as an Edmonton doula, I’ve seen many cases of difficult pregnancies and how this can impact a couple who are embarking on their journey as parents. Things like hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme morning sickness), fertility issues and treatments, hormonal imbalances (which impact mood, which impacts relationships), etc. are more than just things you have to deal with for the sake of having a baby. These are all real problems that should be addressed in order to enter motherhood in a positive, empowered head space. These things are all contributing factors to PPMD and many don’t realize that having a difficult pregnancy can increase your chances of suffering once you baby has arrived.

Another is birth trauma. Now I really need to clarify the meaning of birth trauma, as many don’t really understand what makes a birth a traumatic one. Trauma can happen at any and all births – vaginal, cesareans, assisted deliveries, water births, all of them. Trauma is not defined as a specific event or chain of events that occurred at your birth. It’s caused by the mother’s (and partner’s) lack of self confidence and not being heard and respected by their birth team. I’ll use myself as an example for this one, as along with being a doula in Edmonton I am also a mother of two. My most recent birth story (read it here) may have been what many would consider “traumatic”, but in all actuality, it wasn’t. In fact, it may have been a better experience then a lot of women who have “textbook” labours in the hospital and feel minimal pain. The reason for this? I had an amazing team supporting me throughout pregnancy and labour, and that team provided me emotional support when I thought I couldn’t continue, gave me choices, and supported those choices as they knew they came from an educated stand point. I know many moms who have babies with very little knowledge of the childbirth process, and they came out saying it was traumatic not by the interventions or the kind of birth they had, but because they truly felt that they could not control anything. We all know childbirth has many elements that you can’t control, but there are definitely elements you can and when this right is removed, it’s very common to be left feeling betrayed. This is a common reason why moms and even partners can develop a PPMD.

There are of course many other risk factors for PPMD – things like the use of synthetic oxytocin in labour (read here about inductions) and previous struggles with mental illness all contribute. However, if we start to look at PPMD as a potentially preventable (or at the very least, reducible) illness during the prenatal period, and start to take moms seriously before they’ve had their babies, I feel like the number of severe cases would significantly lessen. This is a call to action for all of you expecting moms – reach out to your local resources and make a plan of attack for your mental health, both now and after baby arrives.

Have you suffered from a postpartum mood disorder? Feel free to share your experience or questions in the comments section.

Twin Birth: What’s it Really Like?

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For many first-time and even second-time moms, preparing for labour and birth can be overwhelming. With all of the conflicting advice out there, couple with the common media fabrication of childbirth, it’s no wonder many women have a tough time becoming mentally ready to give birth. And if one baby isn’t enough, imagine preparing for two! Twin births might seem scary and impossible, but prior to much belief vaginal births are achievable with a little confidence and a lot of knowledge and prep.

Today I am going to share the experience of a dear friend and new twin-mom Danielle, who recently had her 2nd and 3rd babies vaginally, confidently and using informed decision-making:

You’re such a champ and delivered both twins vaginally after undergoing an induction! Tell us a bit about how you managed to cope with the intensity of labour with two babies.

We are all very fortunate that everybody read the textbook! I had been induced with my first pregnancy after PROM, in which I originally planned no pain medication. I was severely unprepared for birthing a child at that time and had no clue about my options/choices/tools available to me and it really did a disservice to me and the experience. This pregnancy/birth was different, I really did look into my options and making informed decisions. I opted for an epidural once contractions were becoming unmanageable. I was ok with an induction because of the high risk nature of twins going overdue and because of my desire to have a vaginal birth. I work in a field where I see the benefits of Peri-operative Pain Management and how it can reduce recovery time with vaginal or cesarean births alike. Having appropriate pain control before trauma/stress to the body occurs really does help greatly reduce recovery time and with a 3-year-old and now two newborns, I don’t have time to be laid up in bed. Because I chose to have an epidural earlier than others might have, it was my only comfort measure. After carrying an extra 70lbs of fluid, placenta and babies for what felt like YEARS, walking wasn’t my cup of tea so I felt happy with this choice.

I can’t imagine how amazing it would feel during that very first moment after birth to have two babies in your arms. Describe that a bit for us!

It was a very surreal experience expecting twins and even more surreal when they arrived! It took me a week after they were born for it to really sink in that there was TWO of them. I was so relieved that they were both safe, perfect, healthy and fortunate enough to have been born without the need of a cesarean. I remember crying in the OR and the medical team thinking I wasn’t happy to hold them. They were in fact happy tears but not happy for them, more so happy that we were out of the scary parts that is birth of multiples. Now I could tackle having newborns without surgery or complications! It made everything we’d been through the past 8 months so worth it.

Us Edmonton doulas are big fans of informed decisions in childbirth, and you seem to be quite knowledgable. What tips or advice do you have for other expectant parents to help them prepare to navigate their birth their way?

Informed decision making is something that is used everyday in my industry (I work in a veterinary clinic) so I am no stranger to critical thinking, asking questions and thinking about what makes the most sense. At the end of the day we are our own advocates and need to be able to defend ourselves and our choices. I also didn’t want to experience not being informed like I did with my first birth. When considering an induction its important to look at credible sources of information as to why they are used, what types there are and when each would be used. Look into the risks and benefits of each. If you don’t want to be induced thats 100% ok but you need to be ok with all the possible risks of not being induced. When considering pain control of any kind, use the same kind of thinking. Also, it’s a good idea to look into what happens when pain control is delayed vs. planned early.

Thanks to Danielle for sharing your story! This is a wonderful example of why us doulas in Edmonton do not have a preference on how women birth their babies. The most important part of childbirth is understanding your options and the risks/benefits associated with each. We love and support all kinds of births as long as they come from a place of knowledge and confidence.

Doulas – they are for birth partners too!

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One of the biggest struggles with being a doula in Edmonton is selling our service to the birthing person’s partner. I’m going to be real with you… I totally get why! If you have no idea what a doula is, you probably assume that the service is not a needed one, and you’re not wrong. People here have babies all the time without Edmonton doulas supporting them! However, as I take off my birth doula in Edmonton hat and put on my Edmonton mom of two hat, I can say that doulas really do make a difference for partners. My hubby and I did not use an Edmonton doula for the birth of our first born but we did with my second, and I can say that he specifically really came into his own during that second birth! Along with him getting to take some much-needed breaks to call family and grab a coffee, I was a much happier labouring mama when he wasn’t cracking jokes at inappropriate times and getting in the way more than helping (reminiscing about that first birth…ugh haha). So let me break it down for all of you out there who are on the fence about hiring a doula in Edmonton because your partner just isn’t sold on the idea.

The doula balances the birth partner’s strengths

So the one obvious advantage that the birth partner has going into the birth person’s labour is that they know them well. We all have pet peeves as well as things that comfort us in times of chaos, and odds are your partner will know what these are (or you’ll have lots of time to talk about them – 9-10 months actually). The only problem is that it’s extremely hard to think fast when you are in a high-pressure situation about things that are quite new to you. Where you’d normally feel lost after trying every trick in the book to help your birthing person to feel comforted, a doula can give you a nudge in the right direction or bring some much-needed calm energy to a highly charged situation. For an example, if a woman normally likes light touching and soft speaking to relax her but the partner is not getting a good response from this, their doula can suggest a different technique of touching, some good phrases that might help or some new comfort techniques all together.

The doula is there for the stuff that the partner doesn’t know

Partners, as much as you might think you know about the woman, birth and motherhood will bring out a whole new side of her that you’ve never anticipated! It’s such a beautiful transition to witness, but also can be quite scary. ‘Is she really ok?’ ‘Should she be making those sounds?’ ‘I can’t help her and I don’t know why!’ These thoughts commonly run through the minds of loved ones in the labour space, but with a doula you get answers! You’ll know why things are happening when and how they are, what you can do to help or if you’re doing the right things. We are your coach just as much as we are the birth person’s. You’ll never have to be put on the spot to know all of the information you learned in your Edmonton childbirth class, as we are there to educate you on all the unknowns, when you need to know them. And in all honestly, it’s what we love doing best! (well it’s what I love doing best at least)

The doula allows the partner to take breaks

There’s a reason why labour laws in Alberta insist on workers getting a 15 minute break for every 2-3 hours worked. No one should be going at a tough job for an extended period of time without a break for their physical or mental well-being, and this applies to birth partners too! I’m not going to say that the partner’s role is nearly as tough physically as the birthing person’s role, but mentally and emotionally you partner will become drained. Imagine watching one of you favourite people in the whole wide world go through hours and hours of physically intense discomfort and not being able to help take their pain away… it can be torture if you aren’t fully prepared or get any sort of break. Doulas are there for times like these, to relieve the partner so they can grab a cup of coffee and decompress, catch a breath of fresh air, clear their head temporarily, etc. and be reassured that the birth person is not left alone. When looking back on the birth of your child, you’re going to remember how you felt and you’ll want to look back on that moment thinking that you felt inspired and in awe of your birth person’s strength, instead of thinking how you felt foggy, frustrated and ready for it to be all over.

Did you have an Edmonton doula attend your birth? How did it help your partner during the rough parts of your labour? Leave your experiences with doulas and partners in the comments section below!

 

The 4 P’s, a.k.a the driving force behind your labour

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Us doulas in Edmonton and those of us who teach childbirth classes in Edmonton very frequently consider four factors when trouble shooting or anticipating any stalls in our clients labours. These bad boys are what we like to call the 4 P’s of childbirth! (and how convenient that they all happen to begin with the letter P, right?). So here’s the deal with the 4 P’s and why they matter: essentially, these four factors are going to determine how, when and even if your baby will be delivered vaginally! They are all very complex and have many different possible scenarios, and today I’d like to dive in to each individual “P” and what it might mean for your birth.

Powers – oxytocin, the uterus and the strength of birth

Powers is the first of the 4 P’s and refers to the strength of the birthing person’s contractions. As most of you will know, oxytocin is the beautiful hormone that causes much of the power behind labour. Oxytocin is released when your baby is ready to meet you, and sends a signal to your brain to start producing it in super high amounts (getting higher and higher through out your labour as well). The oxytocin pulsing through your blood is what will cause your uterus to contract, and the contractions are the “powers” that bring baby out – therefore the amount of oxytocin will obviously determine the strength of your contractions. Many women experience what is referred to as “prodromal labour”, when your body starts to produce oxytocin but maybe in an amount that’s not high enough to progress the labour forward. This can cause days and sometimes weeks of labour and can cause women to get so frustrated that they decide that it’s a good time to get pitocin (the oxytocin drip) at the hospital. One thing to always remember about pitocin (or syntocinon, what us Edmonton doulas know it as) is that it is a synthetic form of oxytocin – it’s not the real stuff. Sure it will give you power that you might need to get baby out, but it may be more than your body can handle. You run the risk of over-stimulating your uterus, aka too much power, to the point in which it can tire out and stop functioning properly on its own. So how can you add some of this natural power that’s signaled by your own brain? Well, oxytocin is in fact the love hormone, so having intimate time with your partner, using nipple stimulation or even having an orgasm can start to bring up that oxytocin naturally so your uterus can work its magic!

Passage – your pelvis!

The pelvis can sometimes be a complicated factor in childbirth. Many do not know that the pelvis is so much more than just a bone structure; it’s meant to move into a more open state during pregnancy and birth to make room for baby. It does this by its structure also containing ligaments and joints, which soften with the presence of relaxin (which I’m sure you can all guess the function of this hormone!). With all of this in mind, there’s more than just simply opening involved with the pelvis. Unfortunately in today’s society things like driving, working in an office, accidents, etc. have the potential of causing our pelvis to be unbalanced and make it hard for it to function properly. Another thing to note is that there are 4 types of pelvic shapes, and not all are ideal for a vaginal birth (but not impossible!). There are lots of healing modalities that can help to better balance the pelvis to allow for optimal opening – things like chiropractic work, massage and cranio-sacral therapy can all help it become ready for the birth of your baby.

Passenger – your little human

Believe it or not, your little one plays a part in how they are born too! Things like their position or presenting part might be a bit tough for them to control, but there are a few ways in which you baby will control the outcome of your delivery. First of all, unless in the presence of a medical reason to induce, you baby actually determines when you will go into labour. Studies have suggested that babies lungs secrete a certain protein when they are near the end of development that signals the mother’s body to begin preparing for labour. It’s your baby that signals your brain to start producing large amounts of oxytocin (necessary for labour), and this ensures that baby is fully developed and ready for life outside the womb. Finally, babies instinctively move in the right directions to make their way through your pelvis. This involves their head rotating, chin tucking and others called the seven cardinal movements of labour (check out more information on this here). So as you can see, babies don’t just rely on their birthing parent to get them to come out!

Psyche – controlling your experience with your mind

The last of the P’s and probably the most under-estimated of all is your psyche. Our minds are hard-wired to shut down labour for a reason, and that has to do with our most primal instincts for survival. In our earlier years as cave men when we had predators who were going to attack, our brains would trigger an adrenaline release which actually halts oxytocin production. This is so that we aren’t giving birth when we fear an attack, instead we are able to find a safe space to birth. However, in today’s society with all the wacky stories and misinformation about birth out there, our fear is cultivated through reasons that aren’t really rational – but nonetheless, it’s still fear and still inhibiting our oxytocin regulation. So in other words, if we are afraid, our labour will not start or continue! Our mind is so powerful in regulating all of our systems, its no wonder that it has so much impact on birth. Keeping a calm mind, exercising regularly to reduce stress and being educated to eliminate irrational fears will all help labour start at the exact perfect time for you and baby, and will help to avoid any stalls along the journey.

So you can imagine that we can’t completely control the 4 P’s of our labour, but how can we positively impact them to have the smoothest experience possible? A big answer to your question is to hire a birth doula, as we have various tips and tricks to keeping your mind and body on the right path. Check out my post here to find out a bit more about doulas, and I’ve also got some helpful posts about our relationships with midwives, nurses and birth partners.

Have you ever experienced a slow or stalled labour? Post about your experience in the comments section!

Midwives and Doulas: the “Dream Team” of Childbirth

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As a doula in Edmonton and even during my childbirth classes in Edmonton, I hear more times than I can count that midwives and doulas are the “same thing”. This is problematic for so many reasons! First, as amazing as it would be to deliver babies for a living, I can not take that kind of credit. I haven’t gone through years of school, vigorous training and practiced delivering babies under guidance of a registered midwife for years in order to earn this amazing title. Also, if many of us think that doulas and midwives are the same, then it really wouldn’t make sense on hiring one if you have the other would it? Ah, but we are in fact not the same, and equally important in a birth setting. In fact, we work together like the PB&J of your birth team! So to better clarify, I’ve listed out some differences between Edmonton doulas and Edmonton midwives below for your reading pleasure.

The difference between our care

Midwives and doulas are cut from the same fabric of respect, dignity and informed consent in childbirth, so we both base our philosophy around this. However, as mentioned before midwives are baby-catchers! They provide the comprehensive care you need during your pregnancy, birth and postpartum period – including ordering blood work, prescribing medications, checking your blood pressure, performing cervical exams, etc. On the other hand, us doulas in Edmonton are not trained for any of this. Instead, we focus all of our time on staying up-to-date on the latest and greatest evidence-based information and support techniques to provide for you during the whole process. Never will an Edmonton doula check your baby’s heart rate with a doppler or check to see how dilated you are (unless they have some sort of additional schooling that would allow them within this scope of practice). If a doula offers you this, be sure to investigate them further!

The difference between our role at your birth

For starters, midwives in Edmonton are extremely popular… so much that they often have MANY clients due in the same month! Therefore, a midwife must divide her time between her clients wisely, so having them around right when you go into labour at your home just is not feasible for their overall health (that could, after all, be days!). Once your midwife joins you during the “thick” of your labour, she is there to ensure you and your baby leave this experience healthy and safe. This means frequent heart rate checks, administering any medication you choose and charting the whole process for your medical records. Makes it pretty hard for them to also rub your back and offer encouraging words during contractions right? Well, thats where us Edmonton doulas come in! We will join you at whatever point you need us during labour – for some this means after the first contraction, for others this may be once active labour has begun. We will never say no to an opportunity to help you through this! Once we join you during your birth journey, we focus entirely on you and your partner, and on your well-being. We love babies, but during the birth of one we don’t focus on them as our entire world revolves around how to help you bring them earth side in a pleasant way!

The difference we both make on your health

During my experience receiving care from my midwife and my doula in Edmonton, I recall both helping me in very different ways. My midwife was “the boss lady” – she told me what I should/shouldn’t do in order for me and my baby to stay safe. My doula was more like my counsellor/best friend/biggest supporter. She was there when I needed to vent about “still being pregnant”, she said things to me that made me feel like I was doing a good job, she reminded me that I was a warrior and that I CAN birth the way I wanted. So looking at both, my midwife was amazing for my overall physical health (and a pretty cool lady to talk to too, but without as much time to do so), while my doula contributed to my overall mental health (aka. my sanity). Both kept me healthy in equally important ways!

Did you have a midwife, a doula, or both at your birth? Did you feel they worked well together during the process? For more information about the role of a doula in Edmonton, check out our amazing advocacy organization the Doula Association of Edmonton