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What are Braxton HIcks Contractions?

What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

What are Braxton HIcks Contractions?

What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Braxton Hicks contractions are named for the doctor who “discovered” them in 1872. We can only assume, however, that women did, in fact, feel Braxton Hicks contractions in the centuries before their naming in 1872. So what are Braxton Hicks contractions?

Braxton Hicks contractions usually feel like spotty, painless, or intermittent contractions. They can begin about halfway through pregnancy and continue on throughout. Some people call them false labor, pre-labor, or even mistakenly refer to them as prodromal labor. (Prodromal labor, however, is a little different.) Sometimes women will mistake Braxton Hicks contractions as movement from the baby. They can even feel like a sudden urge to urinate that disappears quickly.

While considered a universal part of pregnancy, not all women notice Braxton Hicks. However, while not everyone notices the tightening of the uterus in preparation for labor, all women do experience these “warm up” contractions. They can be seen on electronic monitors even if they are not felt. Braxton Hicks, whether noticed or not, serve to prepare the body and the baby for the coming labor. And while, technically, Braxton Hicks contractions don’t dilate the cervix or cause recognizable “progress” towards labor, they very likely serve a purpose.

Women tend to have more noticeable Braxton Hicks contractions the more pregnancies they have. Cheryl, a mom of five and a childbirth educator in College Station, TX says, "The more babies I had, the more noticeable Braxton Hicks were to me. They were never super painful but kind of took my breath away." Her experience is typical for many women.

It is possible that these irregular contractions both exercise the large muscular bag we call the uterus and help prepare the baby for labor with their gentle massage.

What Causes and Prevents Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Many women notice that Braxton Hicks contractions are brought on by three main things: fatigue, hunger, and thirst. We all know that for most women, pregnancy doesn’t guarantee rest and relaxation. We have to go about our life and the demands associated with it, despite the extra energy and calories used by our growing baby. Many women notice that at the end of a long day on their feet, especially when they are tired, hungry, or maybe haven’t been able to drink enough water, Braxton Hicks contractions will begin.

Cara, a Birth Boot Camp instructor in Carmel, IN says, "When I noticed too many Braxton Hicks contractions during a short period of time I took this as a sign that I needed to hydrate and rest." Your pregnant body tries to communicate with you and help you slow down.

For this reason, the same things that cause Braxton Hicks, can be turned around to help alleviate them. Put your feet up. Have a sandwich or a soothing cup of soup. Check out this list of nourishing pregnancy foods that can help you feel and function at your best. Sometimes appropriate pregnancy exercises can help too. Get someone who loves you to bring you a tall glass of water or some honey sweetened herbal tea. Relax. Take a bubble bath. Let someone take care of you for a few minutes. These simple acts of self care often help alleviate the sensation of Braxton Hicks.

While women are often expected to put in long work days and act as though pregnancy doesn’t slow them down, the truth is that pregnancy in and of itself is work. Your body is growing. Your blood volume is doubling. You are creating a placenta and then an actual human being with your own food and power. This is incredible work! It is also tiring and taxing. Sometimes our bodies have to tell us to slow down. Braxton Hicks is one way that your body talks to you.

How Can I Make Braxton Hicks Work For Me?

Andrea, a Birth Boot Camp DOULA and childbirth educator in Cleburne, TX, says, "Braxton hicks are such a pain. I often get them early and deal with them for a long time throughout my pregnancy. Most of the time they are tolerable and don't last long. Other times they cause me to lose my breath and stop what I'm doing. Those are the ones I practice with. I use my Braxton hicks to prepare me for when labor happens and when I need to relax during contractions."

Andrea's advice, to "use" Braxton Hicks as a chance to practice and prepare for labor (even though she doesn't enjoy them!) is great. We all want to be prepared for a fabulous birth, and this is one way we can do it. Rebecca, a natural childbirth instructor in Mansfield, TX had a similar thought. She says, "With my first baby, I rarely noticed the Braxton-Hicks contractions. If I did, it was a sure sign I was overdoing it and needed to rest. With baby number two, I felt them pretty much every single night in my third trimester. I definitely used them as an opportunity to practice my breathing and relaxation before real labor started!"

Maybe rather than thinking of Braxton Hicks as merely an strange annoyance, we should use them as our body's way of reminding us to practice relaxation! But besides the reminder to relax, Braxton Hicks can also serve as an affirmation that your body works. Jillian, a childbirth educator in Keller, TX says, "I took great delight in the reassurance that my uterus knew what it was doing and was practicing for the big day." What wonderful knowledge to have!

While we may not want to listen, there is no weakness in self-care and self-preservation. Listening to your body now, during pregnancy, will make it even easier for you to do this during labor, birth, and more importantly, as you progress as a mother once this baby is born. There will be so much to learn and more to do than can ever be accomplished. Pregnancy is a patient teacher that can help you find balance in your daily life.

What more info about Braxton Hicks? Our founder, Donna Ryan, tells it like it is!

Cascade of interventions

The Cascade of Interventions

Doula shoot-157

The Cascade of Interventions

If you are taking a childbirth class, you will inevitably hear the term, “cascade of interventions.” No, we aren’t talking about a waterfall or dishwasher soap that leaves your glasses sparkling. When it comes to childbirth, the cascade of interventions is a term used to describe how one intervention in birth can lead to another, and another, and another until the whole process seems to spin out of control.

Lets walk through what is considered a typical “cascade of interventions” in birth.

Our birthing mom goes into labor. She is excited! The day to meet her baby has finally come! Thrilled at the prospect of having a baby, she and her partner quickly pack their bags and head to their birthing place.

When she arrives at her hospital she goes through admissions, fills out paperwork, has some standard tests done, and receives a vaginal exam. She is found to be three centimeters dilated and her contractions have slowed a little. They are now five to seven minutes apart.

Because this birthing woman is five days past her due date, she is admitted. Protocols at her hospital demand she receive a mandatory IV. A needle with a bag of saline is hooked up to her and she is given fluids and her vein is kept open, just in case more fluids are needed later.

The birthing mother is attached to two straps, one to measure the fetal heart rate, and one to measure her contractions. This is known as continuous fetal monitoring and it often requires that the birthing woman not leave the bed because these monitors are easily disturbed or inadvertently moved.

The mother is now confined to the bed because of her monitors and her IV. In her recumbent position, she finds that the excitement for labor has dissipated and her pain level has increased. Her partner is feeling somewhat helpless as he sits to the side of her bed, blocked by the rails and his lack of knowledge.

The birthing woman is having vaginal exams every hour or two, and while her contractions are becoming more painful, her body seems to be making little or no progress. She measures just four centimeters dilated. Hospital staff has broken her water in an effort to help speed labor. Many believe that breaking water can encourage dilation and help the head drop and allow more pressure on the cervix.

After three hours of struggling in the bed, mom opts for an epidural to help her pain and allow her to rest. The epidural is not a stand-alone product. Along with her epidural comes a bladder catheter, continuous monitoring, more IV fluids and a possible intrauterine pressure catheter. The epidural gives her respite but slows the contractions. She is given Pitocin in her IV. Pitocin is known to help strengthen and speed contractions. The Pitocin seems to work well and her contractions speed and her cervix cooperates. After several more hours she is found to be 8 centimeters dilated.

Our birthing mother has now been in labor for many hours and her water has been broken for some time. The birthing woman begins to develop a low grade fever. It is hard to know what caused this- is it a side effect of some of the interventions so far, or is mom developing an infection? Mom is given two more hours to labor.

The baby and mother however, seem to have had enough. Her cervix seems stuck at 8 centimeters and the baby is not handling contractions well as time goes on.

Mom is prepped for a cesarean section. Her baby is taken via c-section, and a healthy 7 pounds 6 ounce baby enters the world. He has a little trouble breathing in the beginning and there is concern about mom’s fever that developed in labor. The baby is taken to the nursery to be observed for a few hours and is then brought to mom in a recovery room. Both mom and baby are healthy and recover in a normal period of time.

The above is one version of the “cascade of interventions.”

There are a few things to know about the above illustration:

First, this story, while contrived, is not totally fictional. Similar scenarios play out daily in hospitals around the country and world. While the specifics may vary, the general theme is repeated often. Maybe an induction was the first intervention, maybe the epidural, or maybe breaking water. However it happens, this “cascade of interventions” is a very real thing in childbirth today. For an uninformed couple, it can seriously derail their planned birth.

Laurie, a childbirth educator and doula in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, tells her story. "When we arrived at the hospital in labour, we were told that if I wanted an epidural I had to receive it right away as the anesthesiologist was going home for the night and would not be available. I said yes and was shocked by everything that came along with it. I had no idea about the swelling from the fluids, how awkward it was to feel pressure and to look to a monitor to tell me when to push. I knew the next birth had to be different so I educated myself a lot more as to how a woman's body works during normal labour and birth. My second birth was unmedicated and so much more freeing as I moved as I needed and voiced my intentions." Laurie's story shows that the consequences of even common interventions are often unknown to the birthing woman and her partner.

Second, interventions exist for a reason. All of them are necessary and sometimes lifesaving in appropriate situations. Because something is an intervention in the natural process of birth, that doesn’t mean it is wrong all of the time.

In fact, sometimes that first IV can be helpful and save a mother from a cesarean section- especially if the IV helped prevent other interventions that could not have been prevented otherwise. Sometimes an epidural for pain relief can also help prevent a cesarean section. And sometimes, a cesarean is needed to preserve life or health of the mother and/or baby. And sometimes, though we prefer not to think of it, women will prepare and do everything “right” and this cascade still happens, possibly out of necessity.

Thirdly, while “the cascade of interventions” is often thought of as a linear chart where one thing inevitably leads to another and it all ends with a c-section, this is not always the case. While this does happen, birth is far too fluid and unpredictable to script down to one clear page with an obvious ending.

It is also important to realize that the policies and procedures of your birth place can play a powerful role in what interventions will be required during your birth. As Hailie, a childbirth educator and doula in Abilene, TX says, "You have to understand that when you go into the hospital, there is usually a set protocol for their model of care. Your birth is not the time or the place to buck the system - it will not go well. If some of these protocols are not negotiable for you, it is truly imperative that you start researching other options for your birth location. You may want to look at a different hospital or a location completely separate from the hospital like a birth center or your own home." Your birth teacher and doula can be invaluable resources helping you navigate the birth options in your area.

Some have said that in birth the first intervention is walking out your front door. While that view may be somewhat extreme, the thought is one that is worth pursuing. We have become very accepting of the interventions of birth. In fact, some of them are so commonplace and “standard” that we no longer think of them as interventions any more. For most birthing women it doesn’t even occur to them to ask for intermittent monitoring in labor or to skip the IV or the epidural. Women are often surprised to find that they don’t need to have their water broken in order to have a baby successfully. The vaginal exam has become so entrenched in our model of care that women wonder how they will know to push without this external measurement.

Truly, the interventions possible in our labor and birth are many. While they are not always as predictable as is taught, it is well worth the effort and time to re-examine them for necessity.

As you go forward in your preparation for your own birth, take the time to learn about what the standard of care is in your place of birth. Talk to your childbirth educator and your doula about care providers in your area that adhere to the mother-friendly childbirth initiative. Learn in your birth class about each of these interventions so that when you experience your own birth, you understand what is happening to and within you.

Sometimes interventions are necessary, and they don’t always cascade, but you deserve to be a knowledgeable, confident, decision maker in this process and not a helpless victim.



5 Ways Any Woman Can Feel More Like Royalty When She Gives Birth

5 Ways Any Woman Can Feel More Like Royalty When She Gives Birth


It's royal baby time again and the world is buzzing with the news of baby princess Charlotte born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. With the drama and pageantry of royalty, Kate emerged from the hospital just hours after giving birth in a springy gown, windswept curls and beautiful bundle in her arms. Some reports even claim that the Duchess delivered all natural and skipped the epidural. Who would have thought that something as everyday as giving birth could light the world on fire, not just because the baby is of royal blood, but because mom looked so great after giving birth.

And not everyone was happy! No, wherever there is birth there seems to be drama, hurt feelings, and accusations. While most of us don’t have our personal hairdresser show up before we leave the hospital, nor do many step out in three inch heels and flawless curls, more women CAN birth like the princess. In fact, more women DESERVE to birth like the Duchess Kate.

Without further ado, here are 5 ways any woman can feel more like royalty when she gives birth.

  1. Use midwives! - Word on the street (from the very reputable royal tabloids) is that princess Kate didn’t deliver the royal baby into the hands of a waiting surgeon- oh no. Instead Kate was accompanied by two faithful midwives as she birthed her first daughter. Tabloids reported that she “bonded” with said women and used them at the birth of her first child too. While we may not all get the royal treatment in a designated hospital wing for our birth, more women can (and should) choose midwifery care. In the US most women birth with OBs rather than trained specialists in natural births like midwives.
  2. Keep the OB, but just for emergencies. - The tabloids (and Wikipedia) also report that while Kate had her midwives there with her, she did have trained obstetricians near- but only in case of emergency. Most women in the US take an opposite approach and birth with trained surgeons and skip midwifery care altogether. In fact, OBs are a great resource for high risk women or for births that become high risk, but not every woman needs them. Many midwives consult with an OB in case a problem arises and refer out if needed.
  3. Feel beautiful- We have all seen the pictures of Kate, just hours after giving birth, radiant on the steps of the hospital. While heels and a new dress aren’t required, every birthing woman SHOULD feel beautiful when she is giving birth. She should be surrounded by support, love, and cheerleaders for this event. Why? Because a birthing woman IS beautiful. Each and every one of them. There is beauty in the raw power of birth and we shouldn't be surprised or angered by it.
  4. Be pampered- We all know that those luscious curls didn’t curl themselves. Kate has “staff”. And while you may not be a duchess of anything, you deserve to be pampered during and after your birth. Every woman, no matter her situation financial or otherwise, could use some help around the house, cooking meals, cleaning up, and giving her a chance to bathe and practice self care. Yes, even you. It might be someone in your family, your partner, or even a postpartum doula.
  5. Supportive partner- Who doesn't love those pics of the Duke himself holding their older child or looking on with awe? Every woman should have a partner who loves her, supports her, and is an active and integral part of her pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. Partners matter and they don’t have to be a duke to be awesome and prepared.

Anytime a celebrity has a baby the world pays attention. It is a beautiful thing that we still get excited about something as commonplace as birth. And while royal births aren’t realistic for most of us (and who would want to have a photo shoot in heels just after giving birth or the pressure surrounding that?!) we can remember that birth and the women who do it deserve to be honored, respected, and cared for during this time. As Ina May says, ”If a woman doesn’t look like a goddess during labor, then someone isn’t treating her right.”

Maybe we need to treat birthing women a little better.

doula training discount

Win Doula Training Discount!

doula training discount
Enter to win a huge discount off doula training!


Win Doula Training Discount!

To celebrate Wold Doula Week, Birth Boot Camp DOULA has organized a contest. You can win a doula training discount for our very own Birth Boot Camp DOULA training!

We believe that doulas can make birth better, improve the experience for the birthing mother, her partner, her baby, and her entire family. In fact, we believe that more fabulous doulas who have the business skills to build sustainable, successful doula practices, actually have the ability to change the world!

For this reason we are offering a huge discount to FIVE lucky winners in our doula training discount contest for World Doula Week.

Entering is simple!

Enter via this link.

There are four easy ways you can enter the contest right there! Each entry gains you more points and increases your likelihood of winning. At the bottom, click the button to "unlock bonus entries" to enter yourself even MORE times! There are so many opportunities to share and increase your chance of winning. You can share your entry all over social media and send your friends to do the same. We can't wait to see you on YouTube, google+, or even on your blog! Remember- you have one week to enter and you can enter DAILY! Maximize your chances of winning!

Have fun, tell your friends, and get yourself a huge discount on our fabulous Birth Boot Camp DOULA training! We can't wait to meet you and make birth better for couples everywhere!

Learn more about becoming a Birth Boot Camp DOULA here.

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No Certification Births For Birth Boot Camp DOULAS

No Certification Births For Birth Boot Camp DOULAS

No Doula Certification Births With Birth Boot Camp DOULA

No Certification Births For Birth Boot Camp DOULAS

Tradition is wonderful, but sometimes it becomes necessary to question why a certain tradition lives on. In the doula certification world, there is a long tradition of “certification births” that must be finished before you are officially a doula. While there are good intentions behind the certification birth requirements for doulas, in truth, requiring certification births that meet strict guidelines only serves to devalue the doula profession as a whole.

Maybe you’ve heard the story of the woman who cuts the ends off her pot roast before putting it in her (large) pan. When her mother notices, she asks why she is doing that. The daughter had never even thought to question why it was done, it was just something she’d seen her mother do all her life. Come to find out, the pan her mother cooked the roast in always seemed too small, so she cut the ends off the pot roast, but she should have just bought a new pan!

What does pot roast have to do with doula certification? Doula certification programs have always required certification births. To keep with tradition, we considered this requirement as part of the Birth Boot Camp DOULA program. As we started asking ourselves hard questions about the purpose of certifying births, we determined that just because they have always been part of the process, doesn’t mean they are still useful. In fact, a strict certifying birth requirement can hold a doula back professionally. In effect, it is time that doula certifying organizations metaphorically “buy a pan that fits”. At Birth Boot Camp DOULA we do not require certification births to become a doula. We have found a better way.

Why Require Doula Certification Births?

What constitutes a “certifying birth”? First, some organizations require the doula to be at the birth for a set amount of time for it to count towards certification. Birth Boot Camp teaches that labor is variable and takes as long as it needs, so setting a minimum time is not compatible with what we know about birth. Second, at Birth Boot Camp, we feel that women don’t need vaginal exams to progress in labor. To require a doula to be present from an arbitrary dilation calculation is not supported by our philosophy and continues to promote the erroneous idea that dilation is the only way of measuring labor progress. A final concern is that the Birth Boot Camp DOULA program has a huge emphasis on relational - not just physical - support. We train our doulas to connect with their clients so that they can best serve them. A certain number of certification births does not give us information about a doula’s skills in this area.

Continuous Doula Accountability

If the purpose of certifying births is accountability and experience, there is a better way. Birth Boot Camp DOULAS are accountable, not only for the first few births they attend, but all of them throughout their career with Birth Boot Camp DOULA! Based on the number of Supporting Arms booklets they order for their clients in a given year, our doulas are required to fill out a Birth Summary for 80% of them. We aim for 100% but realize this isn’t always possible. Our doulas, like Birth Boot Camp Instructors, keep statistics to be transparent and measure their own effectiveness so we can make changes as needed. Accountability for a doula should last far longer than her three certifying births.

An evaluation form is sent to every Birth Boot Camp DOULA client so that they may evaluate the care they received from their doula This form does not actually go back to the doula, but to our Doula Certification Coordinator, who can then share the evaluation with the doula if the client gives permission. So, the two evaluations are coming from the doula and her client, not a care provider who may have spent only minutes in the doula’s presence. Care providers and nurses may be willing, but generally they have no relationship with the doula or any incentive to help her reach her goal of certification. The most important opinion is that of the birthing mother. We seek her views on the birth and role of her doula and value them highly. At Birth Boot Camp DOULA, certification births are not held over the doula’s head, and ongoing evaluations simply become a part of constantly striving to be a better doula.

Changing the Culture of “Free Doulas”

It is impossible to have a conversation about “certification births” without addressing “free doulas.” At Birth Boot Camp DOULA, we talk a lot about professionalism, scope of practice, and sustainability. Doulas being forced to complete certification births perpetuates the problem of couples always looking for a “free doula” and a culture that undervalues the unique supportive role of female birth workers. Birth Boot Camp DOULAS complete a heavy workload, followed by an intense 3-day workshop. They complete an exam at the end of the workshop, and upon passing, they are declared certified. They are ready to work! We recommend they charge a starting wage at their discretion, charging not below $300. A Birth Boot Camp DOULA will never be encouraged to work for free nor will she be so desperate for her certification births that she feels compelled to work for free.

Doulas Supporting Doulas

Birth Boot Camp DOULAS leave training with all the skills, knowledge and business savvy to be incredible doulas.  She is not left to figure things out on her own, as she has a tremendous support team at Birth Boot Camp Headquarters and among her fellow Birth Boot Camp DOULAS. We have created an avenue to launch new Birth Boot Camp DOULAS to success and help them to reach their goal of having an enjoyable, profitable, and sustainable career as a doula.

Our doulas are enrolled in a mentorship program where they receive ongoing guidance and continue their development in several ways including a one-on-one consultation with one of the Birth Boot Camp DOULA creators and trainers, Amanda Devereux or Maria Pokluda. Our mentorship program is designed to develop each Birth Boot Camp DOULA’s relational support skills, business model, support them through their early births, and enhance what they learned through Birth Boot Camp DOULA training.

At Birth Boot Camp DOULA we have aimed to create a unique and superior doula certification program. We are not afraid to break tradition in order to make better doulas who can have lasting careers where they are compensated for their efforts. There is no doula certification program that offers the training, materials, and ongoing support that Birth Boot Camp DOULA does. Join our ranks today!

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