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Labor and Birth

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21 Things Women Are Really Thinking In Labor

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Labor. The BIG day. Birth.

What is a partner to do?! How do you remember it all? How can you make it through with all well and a mama who still loves you?

Here are some fabulous tips from moms who KNOW what a woman in labor needs from her partner. Compiled from our expert birth instructors (who have each had a natural birth themselves) these ideas can help both of you come out better on the other side of your birth.

1. ”Don’t take it personal if I don’t want to be touched or talked to or tell you to be quiet.”

Some women just labor best when left alone. (But don’t plan on this because you never know!)

2. ”Be an active participant.”

Interact, massage, encourage, etc. Get involved. (This sounds contradictory to the last one, doesn’t it?! The truth is, different women want different things and you need to be prepared for ALL possibilities. Don’t assume she will be one way or the other because you really don’t know until you are in it! Your birth class should prepare you for all possibilities.)

3. ”Let me do what works for me!”

If mom wants to play on her phone and it helps her, don’t take it away! There isn’t really a “right” way to cope in labor, as long as mom is happy.

4. ”Don’t leave!”

Stay there–your presence is important.

5. ”For the love of all that is holy, don’t forget your Altoids!”

Breath mints. Do we really have to explain this one? Coffee breath, garlic bread from the night before, that tuna salad you had at lunch, for goodness sakes, brush your teeth or eat a mint!

6. ”PAY FOR A DOULA!”

It is worth it for you AND her.

7. ”When mom asks for something in labor it’s because she NEEDS it (it’s not a want).”

Women in labor have needs. NEEDS!

8. “The relaxation exercises will help dad stay calm in labor so he should practice too.”

You will get lots of relaxation exercises with your birth class. Use them, practice them, get comfortable with them.

9. ”It’s okay to be nervous – most dads are – take a birth class to ease fears!”

10. ”My husband couldn’t think of things to say when I needed him to give me encouragement. He said he hadn’t had his coffee yet. Good thing the baby was born a few minutes later because he was about to get fired! So a list of good things to say to mom if she wants or needs encouragement is really helpful.”

You will talk about this in your birth class, so go home and write them down in the appropriate spot in your workbook! Review them. Then review them AGAIN.

11. ”I will feed off of your energy, so please be confident in me. (My husband was awesome at this!!)”

Sometimes the biggest help is just believing that she can do it when she doesn’t even believe it herself.

12. ”Be completely present with me.“

We make kids put away their distractions at school; possibly the same rule is appropriate for birth! The phone, the work, ESPN, whatever it is that distracts you- it can wait.

13. ”Maybe watching a movie or ballgame during labor will be totally not worth it later and she may never forgive you!”

TRUE STORY.

14. ”Please cry with me when the baby is born. Because I will. And because if you can’t, you’re dead inside.”

(OK- not everybody is emotional or a crier – not even mom. That is fine and understandable. But it is also true that there is nothing wrong with a man being deeply touched and showing it after the birth of his child.)

15. ” Know how to set up and take down the birth pool…before I’m in labor!“

Nothing quite like yelling instructions in between contractions…

16. ”A doula will enhance Dad’s role and at the same time take a lot of stress off him.”

A great doula doesn’t steal the show- she supports everybody there.

17. ”The most important thing (at least for me during my births) was simply his presence and holding his hand. I think sometimes dads feel too much pressure to do stuff beyond their scope…”

Have we mentioned doulas yet?!

18. ”I think for me, at our home birth, it was just like ‘Babe, take beautiful pictures of this amazing experience. Capture the essence of this!’

They’re all blurry.”

(Maybe this tip should be, “Spring for a photographer!”???)

19. ” I always think it’s powerful when dad gives mom a gift after the birth. I am not a gifty person at all, so I don’t know why I feel this way, but after birth for dad to give something special to mom to acknowledge how much she went through to carry and birth their child is really touching. Especially something she can keep forever that has personal significance. Especially for dads that find it hard to be involved in birth in an intimate way or say emotionally intimate things in general. He can just hand it to her and say “Thank you.””

Who wouldn’t love a little bobble for their wrist?

20. ”My husband makes a cheese cake for us to eat after each baby is born. It’s a tradition started by his father. This last time we used our own farm eggs and local blueberries for the topping.“

Awwwww!….Love is a timeless tradition!

21. ”Speak up! We created a birth plan together so remind me of my goals and encourage me to follow through with them, even if I look exhausted or defeated.”

After all the hours of preparation, talking, classes, planning and hard work, don’t let it all fly out the window in labor because you got nervous. You’ve got this! Sometimes a smile and a whispered compliment is just the thing she needs.

We can’t really tell you what your partner will be thinking in labor, but we can tell you one thing for sure–this day matters and you are one of the most important parts of it.

We hope that all women and their partners have an AMAZING birth! The work you put into it beforehand will ultimately pay off because then you WILL know what she is thinking and respond appropriately.

Here’s to a wonderful birth!

Looking for some great books for the partner to read to prepare for your upcoming birth? Here are a few fabulous ideas, in addition to your Field Manual:

The Birth Book by Dr Sears: This book is a classic with helpful hints that anybody can appreciate. With the perspective of both mom and dad thrown in but from one of America’s most trusted physicians, The Birth Book is a must-read and as invaluable as it is readable.

The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin: This book is specifically geared for the partner and has a wonderful quick reference section with helpful, illustrated birth positions and much, much more. This is one to pack in your birth bag.

Mind Over Labor by Carl Jones is a short book but packed with information. This book will change the way you view birth!

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From Epidurals To Home Birth- Meet Instructor Hailie in Abilene, TX

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Birth class couples after playing a game to learn how epidurals work in Hailie’s birth class!

We are excited to share with you a series of articles highlighting our diverse group of birth instructors. These are the amazing women who are doing real work trying to make birth better for women and their families all over the world. Today we introduce Hailie Wolfe, a birth teacher in Abilene, TX, mother of five (and kinda famous You-Tuber) who has birthed in so many different ways. In fact, one of her birth videos is featured in our classes! We love Hailie and we are sure you will too. Thanks and enjoy!

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First, could you introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about your own birth experiences and how they influenced your desire to teach birth classes.

My name is Hailie Wolfe and I own Country Bumpkin Birth Services in Abilene, TX. I have five children – four of them were born in the hospital; three of which were medicated and one was unmedicated.

My medicated births were very standard hospital births. There were several things that I didn’t like about those experiences, but it was years before I realized that how I was made to feel for those births really DID matter. I had some wonderful nurses, but oddly enough, the one I remember most was the one who treated me terribly and that makes me sad. I was given routine episiotomies. I was given the highest pitocin drip on more than one occasion. I thought all of this was “normal”.

When I became pregnant with my 4th child, I decided I wanted to do things differently. At the time, we planned for #4 to be our last baby and I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to experience birthing naturally. I came to view it almost as a rite of passage I had missed out on because of my ignorance during my previous pregnancies. When I gave birth naturally, I finally understood WHY it was so important. I had an easy postpartum recovery for the very first time. I was on a birth high for days and felt very empowered.

I enjoyed birth so much that it influenced our decision to add another baby to the family. My fifth child, a surprise breech birth, was born at home in my bath tub. You can watch her birth video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFabMR4sg5g

I was able to have a natural birth with self education, but the whole time I was pregnant with my 4th child I wished there was an accessible class where I could get the information in one place. That inspired me to become a Birth Boot Camp instructor. I wanted women in my community to have easy access to this important information. 

What first got you interested in the realm of birth?

Looking back, I always have had an interest in birth itself. I remember as a teenager being really into watching shows about birth on the Discovery Channel and being disappointed when they didn’t actually show the baby come out. When we had to watch The Miracle of Life in high school health class, I was secretly excited to see what it would look like for a baby to come out.

I’d like to say that I was so inspired by birth that I went into the medical field after high school, but that would be a lie. I didn’t want to go to nursing school because I didn’t want to wipe butts or clean up puke – no gross stuff for me. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that was in the job description for motherhood, because I signed up for that without concern! I became an elementary teacher where I wiped noses and pulled teeth. What can I say? I have a mothers’ stomach.

The point that REALLY got me interested in pursuing birth work was when I went through a very painful induction with my third child and had a terrible recovery. When I decided to go natural with my fourth and I had such a wonderful experience – that was when I really discovered my passion sharing birth with others.

What are your particular passions concerning birth?

Over the last few months, I’m becoming increasingly interested in reaching disengaged dads. I hear birth workers constantly blast dads for thinking birth classes, doulas, etc. are a waste of money. It hits home for me because my husband was one of those dads. He pretty much agreed to hire a doula just to make me happy – but then seeing was believing for him. He was amazed at how much better the experience was when we birthed with a doula. I want to figure out how to reach the skeptical dads like my husband, and I want to reach them before their wives are insisting on having a doula because they’ve been through a bad experience. I’m preparing to host a Doula Dad night soon so that my husband can speak to other dads about the benefits of having a doula. I’m hopeful that hearing another dad’s perspective will encourage others to be more open about birth preparation.

There are lots of different birth educator training programs out there. Why did you choose Birth Boot Camp?

I actually have a dear friend, Megan Martin, who teaches classes in Burleson, TX. When I voiced my interest in Birth Boot Camp she really encouraged me to go for it. I didn’t even do very much research on other programs. The organization is very transparent about their beliefs, which perfectly align with my own birth philosophy. It is clear, concise, and complete, and those are attributes that will truly prepare couples for birth. I knew early on that it was the right program for me to teach

Tell us a little about your Birth Boot Camp training experience. Where did you train? What did you like about it?

I attended Birth Boot Camp instructor training in July 2013 in Grapevine, Texas. I really enjoyed getting to meet and gain knowledge from other woman across the country who share the same passion as me. I love my children with my whole heart, but it was refreshing to stimulate my brain for a few days alongside a great group of ladies.

During my hotel stay for the training, I was roomates with Lauren McClain, creator of MyBreechBaby.org. She taught me so much about breech birth during break times and when we’d stay up late chatting. I remember thinking how great it was that I was learning all this new breech information in preparation for teaching other moms. I never would have dreamed that I would personally be putting all that information to use when I delivered my own surprise breechling just three weeks later. I will never forget Lauren.

How is teaching your own classes going for you? What do you enjoy most about it? 

Each series I’ve taught has gone great! The part I enjoy most is getting to connect with couples and share information that I wish I had known earlier in my birthing years. It makes me feel like I am making a difference. It is also incredibly enjoyable to see dads gradually become more and more engaged in birth preparations. Over the 10 weeks it gets very “real” for them. It’s a neat process to watch.

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Hailie with her youngest baby, born at home.

In what ways did the Birth Boot Camp teacher training help prepare you for teaching actual classes?

I was really nervous at instructor training when we had to individually teach a specific topic. It was reminiscent of my elementary teaching days when the principal would come in for observations; judgement from colleagues can be intimidating. BUT, it was completely judgement free with lots of constructive feedback and I even learned new information from some of the other trainees during their presentations.

I also really liked that we practiced relaxation exercises and labor positions in groups. You’d be surprised how difficult it can be to read aloud using a “yoga voice” for the first time ever. It was great practice, though! I was 36 weeks pregnant at the time, so it was super relaxing to be the guinea pig for some of those – I felt like I was getting pampered at the spa!

Tell us a little about your students. How do you believe childbirth education is having a positive impact on them? 

I feel like my students are benefiting so much just from hearing about all the choices they will be making for in preparation for their births. My students almost always leave with a list of questions for their care provider that they would have otherwise never known to ask . I truly feel that it’s also helping the dads be able to connect with the pregnancy on a more meaningful level. As the series progresses, I notice dads becoming more confident in their ability to make joint birth decisions,  and also more confident in their ability to be a good support to their wife on the day of baby’s arrival. Seeing the friendships develop between the couples is great too.

To close, tell us how you see natural childbirth education having a positive impact? Why does this work matter to you?
Specifically in my community, where we have a 37% cesarean rate, I am hopeful that my empowered students will go out into the community and share the impact that education had on their births. I really feel this will lead to more and more couples investing in their births and having more positive experiences. Also, when we as women are educated, we can hold our doctors accountable and at a higher standard. This is the first step in lowering the astronomical cesarean rate in the Big Country.

Where can we find you?
A few different places, actually! Come visit me. I LOVE communicating with moms and dads who are interested in birth!
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Rock Your Natural Birth…at the Hospital! – Guest Post By Lauren Rauseo

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Today we have a guest post from Lauren Rauseo. A mother of three and author of the recently published book, “Natural Birth for the Mainstream Mama,” we are excited to share her thoughts on some basic things that can help you have an amazing natural birth in a hospital. Her book just happens to mention us as a possible childbirth education option and we couldn’t be more pleased! As you can see, she gives some great advice for getting the birth you want in the hospital, and she manages to do it in a funny, approachable and readable manner. Check out a review of Lauren’s book here and find it on Amazon.

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So you are planning a natural birth. You imagine dimmed lighting and quiet music as you labor, and a peaceful entrance for your baby. The thought of monitors, drugs and a doctor shouting, “Push!” at your va-jay-jay gives you the heebie-jeebies. Maybe you don’t see yourself popping this kid out on your living room sofa, but you long for a more home-like experience.

While the hospital offers comfort that you’re in the right place in the event of an emergency, it also brings a few challenges when preparing for an intervention-free birth. Follow these five tips so that you achieve your goal to go au naturale at the hospital.

1. Choose your hospital and care provider wisely.

This is, hands-down, the most important piece of advice you’ll get. Even if you’ve been with your OB/GYN since you got your first period, you need to interview him like you two just met. What is his C-section rate? What were the reasons for his last 10 surgical births? And since you never know who will be on call on the big day, are the other providers in the practice aligned philosophically? Don’t forget to find out what the hospital policies are as well. How long can your water be broken before the baby needs to be born? Are you allowed freedom of movement during labor? Are different positions encouraged for pushing? What are the monitoring requirements for a low-risk delivery?

Listen to not only what he is saying, but also how he is saying it. If your hunch is that he is not supportive of natural birth, then he probably isn’t. Even if your due date is close, it’s never too late to find a care provider that’s more in line with your birth plan. Consider switching to a midwife. Her expertise lies in trusting a woman’s body to do what it was physiologically designed to do, and not looking for crisis at every turn (but don’t worry; she can recognize warning signs when there is something that requires attention).

If your care provider truly believes in your body’s ability, your natural birth has a much better chance of happening. Your job is to find that care provider.

2. Assemble a supportive team.

Now that you have the right medical crew lined up, you can rest assured that you wont be offered interventions during your birth unless it’s absolutely necessary. (Half the battle has been won already!) But that doesn’t mean you won’t be asking for an epidural yourself when you’ve been in labor for 24 hours and you’re only 4 centimeters dilated.

That’s why you need your birth peeps cheering you on! First, make sure your partner in life is on board with all this natural jazz from the get-go. You both need to see eye-to-eye on your goals, and he’ll need to stand strong as your advocate that day.

But maybe even more important will be your doula, or labor coach. She’s a non-medical birth professional who actually knows what she’s doing and how to be helpful to you in your time of need. She’s seen a lot of these natural births go down, so she’ll know when it’s time to go to the hospital, how much counter pressure to apply to your hips, and why getting on all fours may help baby into a better position.

3. Make a commitment.

Have you ever said you’re going to decide whether you’ll get up early to exercise when your alarm goes off? How often does that strategy work? I’m guessing never. You must commit to your decision and eliminate the option to hit snooze. Likewise, when someone asks you if you’re going to have a natural birth, your answer should be simply, “Yes.” If yours is, “Well, I’m going to see how it goes,” then you have commitment work to do. You need to walk into this adventure with 100 percent confidence that you will do it.

Repeat after me. “My body was made to birth this baby. It will be hard, but I trust this process. I am about to have the best day ever!”

4. Retrain your brain.

Maybe you’re afraid of committing to this because you are terrified of birth! This isn’t surprising. You’ve been trained to be afraid of this event your entire life. How many times have you heard, “Childbirth is awesome! You’re going to love it!”? Zero. Mostly, you’ve been listening to women regale horror stories, and you’ve been watching ridiculous TV that exaggerates the risks and hyperbolizes the pain of childbirth in the name of ratings. You need to stop all that crap. Immediately.

Instead, surround yourself with women who have positive birth stories to share. There are plenty out there! Common themes will include a supportive midwife, an inspirational doula, lots of movement, infrequent (or no) cervical checks, intermittent monitoring, mother-led pushing, immediate skin-to-skin with baby, and overall, an environment where the mother’s voice was heard and respected.

Go places where there are others who are also preparing themselves for an empowering birth. Try a natural-focused childbirth class, and stay away from hospital-based classes, as those will likely center on risks and interventions. Read natural birth blogs and follow them on social media for constant bursts of inspiration. Once you’re in the right frame of mind, it’s easy to commit to your goal. Don’t fear for this birth; get excited for it!

5. Be patient and relax.

Patience begins while you’re still pregnant. Perhaps 41 weeks pregnant. Remember, your baby knows when to be born. Once labor does begin, trust me, you’ll be glad you refined this skill. Your doula will use comfort measures to help you during labor. Maybe she’ll rub your back, let you squeeze her hand, or read birth affirmations aloud. But none of that will help if you’re tense and working against your contractions. In order for your cervix to open, you need to totally let go and release the tension from your body. Think savasana at the end of a yoga class times a hundred; that’s how relaxed you should be. Practice often so that you’ll be able to bring yourself into relaxation more easily on the big day.

Each contraction only lasts one minute or less, even during the hardest part. And I know you can do anything for one minute. Never think about how much longer you have to go. Just breathe into this one contraction you’re having right now.

So there you have it! Are you ready to rock this natural hospital birth? Remember, every moment of this journey is fleeting, and each minute that goes by brings you one step closer to the prize: Your baby. Come on now, you got this.

If you like what you read here, get the whole book, Natural Birth for the Mainstream Mama, in paperback or ebook. http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Birth-Mainstream-Mama-practical-ebook/dp/B00I3448X0


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Lauren Rauseo is a work-from-home mom to Dylan, Liv and Fiona. Her favorite things are going for walks with the kids to collect “treasures” and singing in the car, and she isn’t afraid to admit that Starbucks, manicures, wine and yoga make the list too. Now that she’s done birthing her own brood, she has moved on to sharing her enthusiasm for natural birth with others through her book, “Natural Birth for the Mainstream Mama: A practical guide to achieving a drug-free birth in a hospital setting”, available on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Birth-Mainstream-Mama-practical/dp/1494415321). You can follow Lauren at www.facebook.com/MainstreamMama.

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Doula Myth: I Don’t Need A Doula, My Nurse Will Help Me!

 

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Today we are excited to share a guest post from an incredibly experienced doula and one of the driving forces behind our very own Birth Boot Camp DOULA program, Maria Pokluda. Maria’s words of wisdom on the importance of and difference between both a doula and a labor and delivery nurse are so important.  Enjoy reading, and share with your pregnant friends!

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I attended a birth recently at a local hospital. When we arrived at the hospital the nurse greeted us and did all the right things: she asked for the couple’s birth plan, she told them that everything on their birth plan looked acceptable and she smiled as they talked about their plans. She was a great nurse and this couple (who took a Birth Boot Camp class) did go on to have a pretty amazing natural birth many hours later. As the nurse was leaving at shift change, she mentioned that she was excited to have seen a natural delivery because she had only seen ONE other natural birth in the SIX years she had been working as a labor and delivery nurse. I am still stunned by her comment and I think (and hope) that her experience is not reflective of all nurses who work in labor and delivery rooms. However, the fact is that it is neither a nurse’s primary job nor the focus of her training to help couples have a natural birth.

All couples birthing at a hospital will have a labor nurse, and I frequently get asked why a couple would need a doula since they will have this nurse to help them while they are at the hospital. Labor and Delivery nurses are a wonderful resource, however they have the clinical duties of monitoring baby and mom, the charting that is part of today’s medical care and they also have other patients – how many depends on the time of day and how a particular hospital staffs the floor. All of these other roles can limit the amount of time a nurse has to spend taking care of mom’s physical and emotional needs, but perhaps more importantly, most are simply not trained in helping women who are planning a natural birth and many don’t see natural births all that often.  If one sees medicated births day in and day out, that becomes the norm and a couple planning a natural birth will seem unusual.

In a study examining pregnant women’s expectations, first time mothers anticipated that their nurse would spend 53% of her time offering physical comfort, emotional support, information, and advocacy. However studies have shown that the actual amount of time an obstetrical nurse spends doing these things is closer to 6%*. With hospital interventions at an all-time high, nurses may want to do these things for women, but the reality is that they have to spend a lot of time just managing medical concerns and hospital policies. In fact until a women starts to push, nurses do not usually spend time in the labor room but rather monitor remotely at the nurses’ station. In my own experience as a doula, it is not unusual to attend a whole labor and never see the nurse touch mom in a non-clinical manner. She may move fetal monitors, take a woman’s temperature or feel her cervix by placing her fingers in mom’s vagina but never touch the mom outside of these tasks.

On the other hand, a doula’s primary focus is on the laboring couple. Her continuous care allows for her to respond quickly, make recommendations based on how labor is unfolding and provide immediate emotional and physical support. A doula sees natural birth all the time. She is familiar with the sights and sounds of normal labor and can often anticipate what a woman will want as she labors. She is trained to suggest position changes, relaxation methods and comfort measures. If a couple has taken a great birth preparation class they will have confidence and information, but that does not replace having someone there to answer questions and provide ongoing encouragement. A doula does not have to analyze a fetal heartbeat, administer antibiotics or enforce hospital policies.

The relationship between an expectant couple and their doula is also different than with their nurse whom they generally meet the day of delivery. The doula has likely been working with the couple prenatally and often has been laboring with a couple in their home prior to arriving at the hospital. The doula will know the couple’s desires, their concerns and even the dynamics of the couple’s relationship.  She knows if a relative is someone that should be in the labor room. She knows that mom wants to have the cute nursing bra on for pictures even if she says she doesn’t care at the time. A doula is there through as many shift changes as it takes which offers stability when other faces may be changing and a doula will stay with a laboring woman so her partner can get coffee, check on older children or get some food. In the weeks after the baby is born, the doula is available to talk, to answer questions, and to process concerns.

Despite all the things I just listed that doulas do, a nurse’s role is just as important. The way most hospitals operate means that the labor nurse is the primary liaison between a couple and their care provider. She will be the one calling the OB and passing along the details of the labor, she will be the one that makes ongoing analysis of baby’s wellbeing.  In the rare event that something needs immediate medical attention, it may seem as though the OB is swooping in to save the day…but it will be the nurse that calls the OB to come. Part of a nurse’s training is being a patient advocate. The American Nurses Association includes in its definition of nursing  “advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations.” Nurses can advocate for a couple’s expressed treatment preferences which is a very distinct and different role from that of a doula who can help couples express preferences, consider options and facilitate communication, but not actually advocate for a couple or act as a liaison.

I remember working with an excellent nurse at one birth where the care provider and the couple were in disagreement of the use of a routine intervention that was part of hospital policy.  The nurse pulled a chair up to the bed and told the laboring couple exactly what their options were, what could be expected to happen with each choice and how to say no in a manner that would be most respected by the care provider.  She also took it one step further and told the couple that she would speak to the care provider on their behalf and that she could be the one that told the care provider that they had declined. While this may not be a common scenario, a nurse can choose to do this as part of her job; a doula cannot.

The roles of the labor nurse and the doula will overlap in some areas which actually works out well as very few couples will complain about extra support, but they also have marked differences. Ideally the roles should complement each other, which is why laboring couples need both. With a great nurse and a great doula a couple can expect to have an empowering birth.

 

Maria Pokluda has been a doula serving the Dallas/Ft. Worth area since 2004.   She has a Masters in Political Science and while she finds that slightly funny, she feels her degree helps her work with all types of people and she can now appreciate those statistics classes as she reads the research about evidenced practices in maternity care.  In the last 10 years, Maria has attended hundreds of births, helped form Dallas Birth Network and in 2013 and 2014,  she was voted Best Doula by North Texas Child Magazine. (Maria has recently co-written the Birth Boot Camp Doula program and can’t wait to start training Birth Boot Camp Doulas.)   Maria has been married to Brian for 18 years and they have 4 children, each with a very different birth story ranging from one with all the bells and whistles in a hospital to a homebirth.  

* Tumblin A, Simkin P. Pregnant women’s perceptions of their nurse’s role during labor and delivery. Birth. 2001;28(1):52–56. [PubMed]

 

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Exercises For A Great Birth Pregnancy (& Birth!)

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We are honored to share a guest post today from one of our newest board members, Katie Dudley.  Katie first became interested in natural birth as she prepared for the birth of her own child and attended our founder, Donna Ryan’s, birth class.  Our newest student manuals include her contributions in both exercise and nutrition.  They are nothing short of incredible and we are so proud and excited to have her on our team.  Today she shares three exercises (there are many, many more in the complete Birth Boot Camp class series!) to get you started in preparing for a great pregnancy and birth.  

One reason we chose Katie as the developer for our pregnancy fitness program is her trust in the female body and its inherent power. We too believe that women are capable of birth and that they are strong! There are many in the fitness industry who believe that pregnancy and birth are very harmful and damaging to women’s bodies and they need to be “put back together” afterwards. With proper exercises before, during and after pregnancy, in addition to phenomenal pregnancy nutrition, we don’t believe this to typically be true. 

As with any fitness program, seek approval from your physician before beginning, especially during pregnancy. These exercises are widely accepted as safe for pregnant women in general, but (as with everything relating to birth) there are exceptions. Be aware of your body and listen to it. Consult with your care provider if you have any questions.

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I always thought it was humorous when people would come up to me during the last couple of months of my pregnancy and say “Aren’t you ready for that baby to come out?” It was my first child! Of course I’m ready. They would then they would follow it up with “I’m sure you are so ready, you must be miserable!”

Being in the health and wellness industry, I find this sentiment is pervasive. In fact, my husband recently had a conversation with a pregnant couple urging us to get pregnant too so “we could be miserable together.”

As a personal trainer and fitness junkie, I don’t just love exercise and nutrition; I also believe that just as our bodies are strong and capable of fitness, women’s bodies are also strong and capable of an enjoyable pregnancy and birth.

Are there “uncomfortable” aspects to pregnancy at times? Yes. The possible months of nausea are not great, the swelling is pretty interesting, we all know about the weight gain aspects, the going to the bathroom throughout the night, being physically out of sorts and many other common pregnancy “symptoms”. Pregnancy is a multifaceted experience both wonderful and filled with unique challenges for each of us. A woman’s body goes through a lot of changes, but does it really have to be as physically uncomfortable as many women experience, let alone miserable? I say for many women, “No”.

I believe we can be proactive in combating many of these discomforts through proper exercise. That was my personal experience, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the experience of countless pregnant women I have worked with over the years. While I did experience months of nausea (not fun), other than that I felt great. I didn’t experience the aches and pains that other women talk about in their backs, hips and joints that I had anticipated before becoming pregnant. Pregnancy can be a joy! I felt good and I felt strong. I had a physical confidence with the extra 45 pounds I was carrying on my body and I really attribute that to being physically active before and during my pregnancy and eating nutrient dense foods.

I was on my feet 8-10 hours a day with clients and I focused most of my exercise on my postural health. Making sure my spine and my hips were supported by a strong core can be life changing.Many women complain of lower back pain during pregnancy. There are things we can do about this!

Most of that pain is caused by lordosis (rotated pelvis). Many other women also have SI Joint dysfunction, leg cramps, numbness and aching in the hips and legs. The majority of these ailments can be alleviated with appropriate physical activity, massage/myofascial release, chiropractic and stretching. By doing so, individuals create strength and balance in their alignment relieving a lot of unnecessary pressure on their frame. I’ve seen this myself through my own pregnancy and the many women I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years as well as others my colleagues have trained.

It’s a new physical world that we live in. Many of us spend our days sitting behind a desk or at a computer. Others are in the car for work or with their families. These positions can weaken and put strain on our bodies. We just do not have the physical demands as those generations that came before us. Our days are generally not spent foraging food, washing clothes by hand, and carrying water on our shoulders. Most of us have to make a point to get physical activity to strengthen our bodies. And that’s ok! We can do it!

Don’t know where to begin? Here’s a great place to start. These are a few of my favorite specific strengthening exercises for preparing the body for a comfortable pregnancy and a great birth.

bridging

-Bridging-

One of my favorite core exercises for everyone is bridging. Bridging is utilized to strengthen the glutes, hips, pelvic floor, and core. It is especially beneficial for individuals who spend a significant amount of time sitting. This particular exercise helps to lengthen those muscles that are contracted during sitting and help strengthen the muscles that are relaxed in that position. Women and men that sit often have weak glute muscles and have a difficult time activating them which can affect the knees and lower back.

Bridging is also advantageous for those that have an anterior rotated pelvis, by strengthening the hips to stay in a more neutral position.

~Simple directions~

1. Lie on back or stability ball with knees and feet straight and in line.

2. Tuck pelvis to neutral position, keeping shoulders relaxed and spine straight.

3. Squeeze glutes and pelvis up off floor keeping core tight and knees straight. Pause.

4. Slowly lower down to starting position and repeat.

*Try 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions 3 times a week.

squatting

-Squatting-

Squatting is one of the most functional exercises people can do. Individuals use it almost every day whether bending down to grab something out of a cabinet or to sit on the floor. It not only supports movements in everyday life, but can also help women achieve an easier birth physically and support their bodies throughout the pregnancy. A squat strengthens the glutes, hips, core, feet, back, pelvic floor and the stabilizing muscles around knees. People with previous injuries are often afraid to squat, but when executed and practiced with proper form, squatting can actually help prevent an injury from recurring.

The squat pictured above is a deep birthing squat. Not all women will be able to perform this easily or with proper form the first time. Pay attention to your body and listen to it! Consult with your care provider if you have questions. More specific thoughts are also found in your student “Field Manual” and the videos in your class. The deep squat was once a natural and everyday movement for women, now we often need to “re-learn” it to prepare for birth. But be assured: squatting is an incredibly important position for pushing with the ability to shorten and speed the second stage of labor. You don’t want to learn it in the heat of birth.

Squatting isn’t a competition! Go to a comfortable depth for you. Keep your spine and pelvis neutral. Don’t push beyond what you are able.

~Simple directions~

1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, toes following knees.

2. Keep core and glutes tight, sit back straight and lower as if sitting in a chair with a neutral spine

3. Pause at bottom, keeping feet flat on floor.

4. Sitting up tall, keeping glutes contracted, press through heels and return slowly to starting

*Try 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.

quadruped

-Quadruped-

A perfect asymmetrical exercise for pregnancy, the quadruped helps to strengthen our core through an unstable position. By executing exercises in this manner, it allows for better control over the body by strengthening the stabilizing muscles. To keep the body in a neutral position when practicing an asymmetrical exercise requires better muscle recruitment. Over time this provides more support for the spine and more control over the body. This is an especially beneficial exercise for those combating sciatica or Diastasis Recti. (If your Diastasis Recti is known and severe this may not be the best position for you. This will often feel wrong for these particular women. We encourage all women to pay attention to their bodies.)

In addition, “all-fours” positions are fabulous for birthing and women left to their intuition often birth in this position. Many care providers notice that hands and knees positions can help in properly positioning a baby when done during pregnancy and even during the birth. They can also make labor more comfortable, particularly back labor. Practicing things like the quadruped or pelvic rocking can help prepare you in many ways. Exercises like this help strengthen your body so that you can function better in pregnancy and during your birth.

~Simple directions~

1. Start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips.

2. Activate core and glutes.

3. Keeping back and hips level, raise arm and opposite leg straight out. Relax shoulder.

5. Take your time, move slowly keeping core tight (draw belly button to spine) and glutes

6. Return to starting position and alternate sides.

*Important to keep spine straight and not twist or shift hips.

Pregnancy and birth are miraculous and under-appreciated times in our life. Opinions are pervasively negative regarding the functioning of our bodies during pregnancy. But knowledge, effort, and some labor can help prepare our bodies, ease the burdens placed on them, and help us enjoy the amazing moments of pregnancy and birth a little bit more.

bbc_katie-dudley

Katie Dudley is responsible for the new and improved exercise and nutrition program in the Birth Boot Camp 10 week educational series.  This article is just a tiny taste of what she has created for our students. Her amazing program appears in our new online classes and our new work book for students (the “Field Guide) and includes myofascial release, stretching, exercises, postural support, nutritional awareness and charting and much more. You can find her at Cornerstone Integrative Fitness and Wellness in the Atlanta, GA area and weekly in your online classes!

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