In the history of humans there have been many birth guardians along the way who have studied, collected data, traveled, and practiced to unlock the mysteries of pregnancy labor and birth. Ina May Gaskin, Penny Simkin, Grantly Dick-Read, Sarah Buckley, are just a few of the standouts from my bookshelf. Through work and observation it became the life work of these birth-ologists to foster successful births and that a successful birth meant more than just a healthy baby. It means a whole experience. Birth days are and should be a profound day that begins a new journey of who everyone will become from this point on. These birth experts have consistently analyzed what practices and behaviors support the happiest healthiest deliveries and lasting positive memories of the birth. It is in this spirit and with the knowledge that has come long before us, that a doula operates. It is the work of the doula to unlock the particular formula to guide each individual family through their birth journey. Doulas know that preparation (both mental and physical), confidence, support, happiness, comfort, and safety are essential to a healthy birth experience, and they know how to replicate that in any environment.
The word doula originally comes from ancient Greek and meant, “woman who serves” (and other variations) while this is still true, the definition of a birth doula has evolved today to, “a trained professional who gives continuous physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to expectant clients, during pregnancy, labor, birth and the postpartum period. “ After receiving comprehensive training a doula learns to follow a strict scope of practice to best support their clients. Doulas believe in informed choice and do not impart opinions. A doula will help you to feel strong and empowered as you begin your journey into parenthood.
It is now widely recognized that the addition of doula support has an overwhelming positive impact. A Cochrane review updated in 2012 compiled data from 22 trials of 15,000 women whose birth experiences included women who had different kinds of continuous support during labor or none at all. The results undeniably showed that parents who had continuous support, especially from a doula, were more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to have any pain medication, epidurals, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, c-sections or negative feelings about childbirth. Other benefits include an increased chance for a positive birth experience, better maternal self esteem, higher breastfeeding success rate, increased natural pain management and less stress from unnecessary outside forces. Dr. John H. Kennell said it best when he coined the phrase “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”
How will a doula fit in with your birthing team?
While a doula is predominantly there to serve the birthing person, the doula can also be a wonderful calming resource for the the entire birthing family and team. A doula can direct a partner to be supportive in the most helpful ways, while helping the partner feel informed, confident and part of the experience. Your partner knows you and your doula knows birth, together they can really form a super team. Doctors midwives and nurses will also be helped by a doulas attentiveness and caring for their clients basic needs. You'll find that your doula will be a pro at fitting right in and in unifying the team of everyone involved in this glorious day.
Birth days are the best days!
Birthing (exercise) Ball
I would like to introduce another member of our team to you. Meet the birthing ball. This space eater is as valuable as it is big. I would definitely say it's worth the investment to purchase an exercise ball at any point in your pregnancy. Their benefits are limitless, and once you're tired of tripping over it; it can easily be sanitized and donated to any number of willing recipients. The benefits of this spherical wonder include, but are not limited to strengthening of the abdomen and lower back, gentle hip exercise, pelvic relaxation, ligament loosening, pain relief in lower and upper back and hips, as well as stress relief ( just try and be angry while gently bouncing on this bad Larry). The movements and support of a birthing ball can also promote the optimal position for baby for birth. This buoyant bombshell can also be a great comfort in labor with many different positions which will lead to opening and expanding the pelvic outlet AND reduce or prevent perineum tearing! THEN, after all of THAT this superstar turns into Disney World/ bouncy sleepy town in your living room for you and your baby once they join us air breathers! As a doula I have learned through experience that there is a formula to having a productive labor that brings baby earth side calmly and smooth. A birthing ball can fulfill many of the components needed to achieve that. Now, as you let that awesome info sink in let's get you ballin.
There are a million and two sizes of exercise balls in the world. Too small, and you won't feel well supported, too big and you'll need a mule and a Sherpa to get to the top. Many brands boast “anti-burst” on their label. I say go with that. I've never been witness to a bursting, but I don't wanna. The internet will give you MANY different opinions on cm size suggestions. Most of my clients land in the 65 cm comfort range. If you're vertically challenged, 55 cm might be more your speed. If people have asked you how the weather is up there your whole life, I'm sorry because that's a dumb joke, but a 75 cm birthing ball will give you all the bouncy loving you need. If you're extra picky or concerned or just that darned prepared, many sports stores offer floor models to test out or you could pop in a yoga studio for a quick ohm and bounce. Make sure it comes with a hand pump, and then slide that card or click purchase! Once you get your ball in a box safely delivered from the Amazon courier of the day, it's time to go to bouncy town. Fill it following the enclosed instructions. In all of my ball experiences it is suggested to add air again the following day as the material stretches and lets go. With that, you're ready to take first place in this season's birthballympics. Sorry, that's not really a thing, but I will still totally give you a medal.
Birthing ball exercises in pregnancy and then in labor
Expert advice: find a spot in your home or office where you will be reminded to be a baller. Remember to keep those legs wide. The more often you use it the better off you'll be. If this is your first time or you're a Clumsy Chloe, work with a spotter. Just sitting on this thing is effective, and if that isn't just about my favorite effort level I don't know what is! Add a little bounce and you're an overachiever.
For the next level on the proficiency scale plop yourself on that ball, find a good balance and footing and work those hips in a figure 8, just like Missy Eliot would want you to. Nice and smooth.
Once you've put your thang down flipped it and reversed it, try a modified side lunge, open those legs wide, just like your bull riding days. Lean heavily to one side for 3 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
Do circles! Do twenty to the left then twenty to the right then do the hokey pokey and take a little nap!
That is what it's all about.
Stand with the wall and then the ball behind you and stretch your back.
Double diamond move: lower the ball and do a few squats while leaning slightly back.
Another move that looks as great as it feels can be done on a bed or yoga mat. Kneel in front of Roundy Rounderson and lean over it, drape your arms over the ball letting your belly gently hammock between you and the ball while you stretch and then rest.
Get creative, love the ball, be the ball. Check out Pinterest, talk to your doula and check with your birthing place to make sure they stock some balls (most do).
Birthing Ball in Labor
All of the above bb moves are also fantastic tools in labor. While this ball is a best supporter in pregnancy, it's a superstar in labor. A birth can remarkably speed up dilation, provide pain relief, improve baby's position, and soften and relax the entire pelvic floor.
So get to bouncing darlings! It takes balls to give birth. Birthing Balls.
Up next.... The Amazing PEANUT BALL