Everything You Need To Know About Doulas

Everything You Need To Know About Doulas

“If doulas were a drug, it would be unethical to use it”- Dr. John H. Kennel

A doula provides non-medical continuous physical, emotional and informational support during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period to you and your partner to help you achieve the most satisfying experience possible.

What does a doula do?

It varies from doula to doula based on their experience and other qualifications. Some are only “birth doulas”, that is, they offer prenatal care, attend births and may provide support up to 6 weeks post birth. Whereas “postpartum doulas” offer support for the first year after birth.

Birth Doulas Support:

A birth doula provides the continuity of care that most hospitals are unable to provide. They usually meet with you several times before your baby’s estimated due date to build rapport and establish trust. These meetings are an opportunity to discuss your birth wishes, previous births, fears, ask questions and receive guidance on writing your Birth Preferences.

Physical Support

A birth doulas is usually on- call 24 hours a day for 2 weeks before and for 2 weeks after your baby’s estimated due date. 

When you go into labour, they’ll help you decide whether or not you’re in established labour and if it’s best to stay home or go to the hospital.

Your birth doula won’t usually arrive in your home or at the hospital until you’re in established labour.

Whether you’re having a homebirth or hospital birth with a midwife or an obstetrician, a doula will be a constant presence during your labour and birth. She’ll ensure that you feel private, safe and unobserved so that your body produces endorphins- Nature’s pain relief.

She may offer natural pain management techniques, remind you to rest between surges to avoid exhaustion and offer suggestions for positioning to make you more comfortable and to help your labour progress.

If you and your partner have done Hypnobirthing, she may prompt your partner to read you affirmations and visualisations, read self- hypnosis scripts to help you relax, use anchor touch or light touch massage or remind him to use acupressure points.

After you deliver your baby, she’ll encourage you to have skin to skin with your baby, sit upright and breastfeed to deliver your placenta naturally (without syntocinon).

If for any reason you can’t have skin to skin with your baby after birth, she’ll support your birth partner in doing so.

Emotional Support

Doulas provide emotional support to you and your partner during labour and birth. They’ll offer reassurance and encourage you to help you feel safe and empowered.

Birth Advocate

Doulas will act as your advocate by communicating your Birth Preferences to your Care Providers and may translate medical terminology for you. If a situation arises where you need to make a decision, she may speak with your Care Providers on your behalf (so you can stay calm and relaxed) and ask for more time or what your options are (if you and your baby aren’t in danger) so you can make informed decisions and have your birthing preferences honoured.

Postnatal/ Postpartum Doula Support:

After birth your doula will usually leave you and your partner to spend time getting to know your baby. She’ll usually come and visit you within a week after birth to debrief your birth and answer any questions. This may be the only postnatal visit for a birth doula.

Much like birth doula’s, the services that Postnatal Doula’s provide depends on their experience and background and other qualifications.

Prior to your baby’s arrival, your postnatal doula may meet with you and your partner prior to birth to help you:

  • Create Your Postpartum Vision: your postnatal doula will help you prepare for a positive postpartum. She may help you clarify what a positive postpartum means to you, identify your fears and help you to release them.
  • Build Your Village: your postnatal doula may help you build your village by helping you identify where you can get physical and emotional support, help you find free support or where you may need to pay for support.
  • Create Your Sanctuary: your postnatal doula may help you to decide where in your house it will be best to bunker down with your baby in the first 6 weeks after birth, how to make it comfortable and practical for you and your baby.
  • Prepare To Eat Good Food: your postnatal doula may help you meal plan, stock your pantry, fill your freezer and set up a meal train to ensure you nourish and heal yourself with good food in the first 6 weeks after birth.

After your baby arrives, they may provide support for the first 6 weeks up to the first year after birth and support may include face to face visits, phone and text support or zoom calls.

Emotional Support

Your postnatal doula will bridge the gaps and become anything you need… whether it be your confidant, your best friend or your cheerleader. They’ll offer an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on as you talk about the joys and challenges of mamahood.

Your postnatal doula may offer a weekly or monthly Mother’s Circle either face to face to virtually to meet other mothers and receive support.

Your postnatal doula may facilitate a private facebook group for you to connect with other mothers, ask questions and receive support.

Physical Support

During a face to face visit, your postnatal doula may cook you a meal or do light housework such as changing your sheets, washing the dishes or folding your laundry. Or they may hold your baby while you shower, enjoy a hot cup of tea, have a nap or go for a walk to get some fresh air.

They may also provide resources on newborn care and breastfeeding or bottle feeding.

Do I need a Doula?

Support is one of the key ingredients for a positive birth and postpartum. This support may be in the form of a birth partner and caregivers that support your preferences. The problem with our current model of care, is that it doesn’t offer continuity of care. For example, if you choose a Public Hospital then you may see a different midwife at every prenatal visit and have a number of different midwives attend your birth. Postnatally, a midwife may visit your home (depending on which model of care you’ve chosen) in the first 6 weeks after birth to provide baby care but this system is not a mother- centric model.

A doula’s main role is to care for the mother.

How Do I Find A Doula?

For Birth Doulas, The Australian Doula College has a Doula Directory. If you have an idea of the kind of doula you’re looking for, give them a call and ask them if they can recommend someone who matches your criteria.

For Postpartum Doulas, Newborn Mothers Directory is a great place to start.

Once you have a shortlist, arrange to meet with them for an informal tea and chat and ask them any questions. The most important thing is that you both feel comfortable with one another and you both think you’re a good fit.

If you live in the Shoalhaven, I offer birth and postnatal support. Please get in touch here to discuss.

If you’re a tired, pregnant mama, get your free 20 minute Yoga Nidra to take you from exhausted to energised HERE. Fill in your details and I’ll send it to your inbox for you to download.

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The Best Prenatal and Postnatal Care Providers in Milton Ulladulla

The Best Prenatal and Postnatal Care Providers in Milton Ulladulla

As a Birth and Postpartum Doula, my job is to help you find the physical, emotional and educational support you need throughout your pregnancy and postpartum. I’ve created an easy- to- use Directory of the best prenatal and postnatal care providers in Milton Ulladulla. I’ve spent the last few months meeting these incredible people and trialling some of their treatments and hand picked the best for you.

The Directory includes acupuncturists, breastfeeding support, childbirth education courses, chiropractors, massage therapists, osteopaths, naturopaths, reflexologists, Womens’ Circles, Playgroups, postpartum doulas and Prenatal Yoga and Mums and Bubs Yoga and Massage classes.

For the best Prenatal and Postnatal Care Providers in Milton Ulladulla, CLICK HERE

Are you a tired, pregnant mama? Get your free 20 minute Guided Deep Relaxation (Yoga Nidra) to take you from exhausted to energised. Fill in your details HERE and I’ll send it to your inbox for you to download.

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Here’s The Food To Pack For Labour

Here’s The Food To Pack For Labour

Did you know that dehydration and hunger can cause exhaustion and slow down labour?

Labour is a marathon for which you’ll need energy and hydration. Don’t rely on the hospital canteen being open or the junk in the vending machine for sustenance. Be prepared and pack an esky with some easily digestible finger food or food you can drink.

FOOD TO PACK FOR LABOUR

  • Cut up fruit such as watermelon, grapes, strawberries, oranges or apples. The high water content will keep you well hydrated.
  • Cut up veggies such as cucumber and celery with some guacamole or hummus dip.
  • Bliss Balls
  • Frozen berries: some women like to suck on ice so frozen berries will hydrate and satisfy your hunger.
  • Smoothie
  • Soup in a thermos

DRINKING IN LABOUR

During early labour, water will keep you well hydrated. As your labour progresses, you probably won’t have a desire to eat and may experience nausea and vomiting. Drinking coconut water, which is high in calories, will give you energy and replace your electrolytes. Pack coconut water poppers (juice boxes) in your esky.

ASSIGN YOUR BIRTH SUPPORT PERSON A JOB

Give your birth support person the job of offering you a sip of your drink after every surge. Using a bendy straw means your partner or doula can hold it to your lips so you can sip without effort.

Every hospital has a different policy on eating and drinking during labour so ask your midwife about their food and drink policies.

In the past you weren’t allowed to eat anything but ice chips during labour in case of an emergency cesarean in which you were given a general anaesthetic. However, now most cesareans are performed using an epidural or a spinal tap so you can be conscious when you meet your baby.

FOOD FOR YOUR PARTNER

Don’t forget to pack a meal and some snacks for your partner. He’s in for the long haul with you so keep his energy up so support you and also so he doesn’t need to leave your room for long periods to search for some food.

FOOD FOR AFTER BIRTH

Arrange for a friend or a family member to bring you a home-cooked meal after birth. 

Choose a meal that is sweet, warm, oily, simple and moist. Food that is easy to digest such as soups and porridge are perfect. Avoid cold, dry foods that can make you constipated. But most importantly, choose a meal that you love. One that brings back childhood memories will help to boost oxytocin and help your body to heal.

Tell me in the COMMENTS below.….what meal are you craving after birth?

Are you a tired, pregnant mama? Get your free 20 minute Guided Deep Relaxation (Yoga Nidra) to take you from exhausted to energised. Fill in your details HERE and I’ll send it to your inbox for you to download.

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Here’s a Quick Way to Fill Your Freezer

Here’s a Quick Way to Fill Your Freezer

Do you remember being ravenous when breastfeeding your first born? But you were so exhausted the last thing you felt like doing was cooking. And besides, cooking one- handed is a learned skill. So until you waited for your hubbie to come home from work, you devoured a pack of Tim Tams.

Make it easier on yourself this time and as the Girl Guides say, “Be Prepared”. You’ve probably already got everything under the sun for your new baby so instead of having a Baby Shower, why not have a “Fill Your Freezer Party”?

It’s similar to baby shower in that you invite your closest family and friends but instead of giving you gifts for your baby, they gift you their time. And rather than playing the same old games, you’ll cook a bunch of meals together for you to store in your freezer to eat once your hubbie has gone back to work and your visitors have disappeared.

In her book, “the first forty days, Heng Ou says, “women have gathered in circles around the kitchen table to “put up” provisions in the larder for the season ahead.”

It’s the perfect way to gather your tribe before your baby arrives and enlist their support. As the guest of honour, ask your mama, sister or best friend to help you plan ahead and on the day.

Follow these steps to organise your “Fill Your Freezer Party” so you can enjoy the planning process and the party.

4- 6 WEEKS IN ADVANCE

1. Set a date
Any time between 32- 38 weeks is a good time to start preparing food for your postpartum.

2. Choose the venue
If your kitchen is too small, ask family or friends to host it.

3. Create a guest list
Include family and friends that don’t enjoy cooking. They can help out by labelling the containers, washing up or stacking the dishwasher or keeping an eye on things in the stove or the oven.

4. Organise food for your guests
You don’t need to do it all. Ask your tribe to bring a plate of food to share or a bottle of wine or Seedlip (a non- alcoholic spirit that you can enjoy too). Make a list of the food and drink you’d like to serve and add it to your So Kind Registry. Your family and friends can choose what they’d like to bring from your list and ensure you don’t end up with only cheese and crackers.

5. Send out the invites
Send out the invites 4- 6 weeks in advance to give guests time to find a babysitter. I’m a huge fan of evite which enables you to send free invites via text, email or a shareable link, track RSVPs and send messages to your guests. Make it clear on the invite that instead of bringing a gift you’d love them to help you fill your freezer and bring a plate or something to drink. Include the link to your So Kind Registry.

2- 3 WEEKS IN ADVANCE

6. Make a list of your favourite freezer friendly meals and snacks
Meals you enjoy boost oxytocin which improves digestion, increases nutritional uptake and balances your appetite- all of which will help with your postpartum recovery. Foods like broths, soups, stews, casseroles are very healing and nourishing and perfect for freezing. Having nutritious snacks on hand will keep you satisfied and stop you reaching for packets of biscuits laden with sugar and guilt. Bliss balls, muffins, slices and banana bread are all good options.

7. Find recipes, print and laminate them
One pot meals are the easiest. Some of my favourite websites for recipes are: Low Tox Life, Well Nourished, The Healthy Chef, Honest to Goodness, Brenda Janschek, Star Anise Organic and Wholefoods Simply

8. Make a list of the ingredients to buy
Make a double batch of all your meals so double the ingredients. Create a list on the Wunderlist App and add all the ingredients for the recipes you’ve chosen. Share it with your mama, sister or best friend. When they buy any of the ingredients they can “tick it” off the list so all Users will know what has and hasn’t been bought yet. Don’t forget to add labels to your list.

9. Check the host has enough cooking equipment, tables and chairs
Look at the recipes to see what equipment you’ll need to cook them. If you don’t have enough space on your kitchen island and dining table to prepare meals, borrow cooking equipment, tables and chairs from family and friends.

10. Prepare your freezer
If you don’t have a big enough freezer, hire a deep freezer from Radio Rentals, loan one from a friend or ask your friends and family to store some of the meals in their freezers. If you’re cooking at a friend’s house, bring an esky or cooler bag or two to bring your meals home in. Ask your friends to load into your car and have your hubbie empty the car when you get home.

A WEEK IN ADVANCE

11. Gather your glass jars or containers to store meals
Save money and the environment by reusing your glass jars to store and freeze your soups and broths. For casseroles and stews, store them in glass containers. Or ask your guests to bring one with them.

12. Create a plan
Create a rough idea of how you’d like the day to pan out. For example, allow 15- 20 minutes for guests to arrive, time for getting to know one another, cooking, packing, cleaning and socialising. Decide in advance how many cooking teams you’ll need and how many guests you’ll put in each team.

THE DAY BEFORE

13. Ask your mama, sister or best friend to go shopping for the ingredients
You can buy them from Coles, Woolworths or Aldi or have them home delivered. If you’d prefer organic ingredients, buy them from your local farmers market or wholefoods store.

ON THE DAY

14. Set up workstations
Allocate space for workstations, then allocate a recipe to each station. Put laminated recipe, ingredients, cooking equipment, storage containers and labels and a pen on appropriate station.

15. Set up a “food and drink station”
Set aside an area for the plates of food and drink your guests will bring and set up drinking glasses, crockery and cutlery.

16. When guests arrive
Ask guests to put their food or drink on the food and drink station and to help themselves. Before you begin cooking, put guests into teams and allocate them a station. Explain what to do and how to do it. You may like to start with a game or an ice- breaker.

17. Divide portions into storage containers or jars and label them
Once a meal is cooked, have guests divide portions into storage containers or jars and label them. (The size and number of portions will depend on the size of your family). Once cool, put into your freezer.

18. Clean Up
If you have a non- cooking guest, you can have them cleaning as the day progresses or you can take turns washing and drying or packing the dishwasher.

19. Celebrate
Once everyone is finished cooking, kick back and relax, play a game or ask your guests to send a wish to the pregnant mama.

Not convinced a Freezer Party could work for you?

1. Double Batch: From 32 weeks, start making double batches of your evening meals. Eat one and freeze the other.

2. Pot- Luck Dinner: Invite your family and friends to a “pot- luck” dinner where they prepare the meal at home, store it in a container, bring it to your ‘baby shower’ and you can store it in your freezer.

Tell me in the COMMENTS below.….what’s your favourite freezer meal?

Are you a tired, pregnant mama? Get your free 20 minute Guided Deep Relaxation (Yoga Nidra) to take you from exhausted to energised. Fill in your details HERE and I’ll send it to your inbox for you to download.

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Here are my 5 steps to make your hospital room feel more like home

Here are my 5 steps to make your hospital room feel more like home

“the best environment to have your baby is the same environment where you could make a baby– or at least have a good time trying”

Dr Sarah Buckley

Whether you’re birthing in a hospital or birth centre, it’s important your space makes you feel:

1. Private
2. Safe
3. Unobserved

In “Ten Moons”, Jane Hardwicke Collings gives the example of a cat, “Everyone knows that cats need to give birth undisturbed in a dark, secluded place- perhaps preparing a softly lined box in the darkest corner of the furthest room underneath the bed. And everyone who knows about cats understands that you must never disturb a cat in labour or a newly delivered cat and her litter of kittens, otherwise the cat’s labour will stop or she may reject her kittens. Everyone who knows cats knows this.”

As a mammal, you’re no different to the mama cat. When you feel private, safe and unobserved, your body releases oxytocin, the hormone that provides natural pain relief and an efficient labour and birth. If you’ve been labouring at home and you arrive at the hospital where your room is bright, unfamiliar medical staff are speaking loudly and you’re made to put on a hospital gown, your labour may stall or slow down. However, if your room makes you feel “at home”, your labour will continue to progress.

Five Steps to Make Your Hospital Room Feel More Like Home

1. SIGHT

Lighting: You feel more comfortable and uninhabited when the lights are dim when you make love right? It’s the same for labour and birth. Draw the curtains or blinds, turn off the fluorescents or dim the lights. Or switch on a lamp or turn the bathroom light on and leave the door ajar. Or you could take your own fairy lights to add a touch of romance. Or use some LED tea lights and scatter them around the room.

Decorate: Bring photos from home of other children, pets, loved ones or your favourite place and stick them on the wall so you can feel their presence and support.

People: Only have people in your birthing room that you trust and get a good vibe from to help your labour to progress. This could be your partner, family members or a doula. If you’re not comfortable with medical students in your room, say so. You could also add this to your Birth Wishes.

Equipment: throw a sarong or sheet over any unsightly medical equipment or clocks that might throw you off your game.

2. TOUCH

Clothing: Instead or wearing a scratchy hospital gown that gapes at the back, change into your own labouring clothes. Perhaps one of your husband’s over- sized t- shirts that smells like him and your home or anything you feel comfortable in.

Robe: At times during your labour you may feel hot or cold so take a robe from home (after your baby is born you can open your robe and put your baby onto your chest but stay warm).

Sheets: put a sheet or over the plastic floor mats and bean bags so they feel softer against your skin.

3. HEARING

Hospitals can be noisy so block out distracting sounds.

Music: Research shows that the effective use of music during labor lowers anxiety and pain perception as well as increases emotional and physical comfort.” Make playlists of your favourite songs. Choose a variety of songs that makes you feel energetic and motivated or calm and relaxed. Playing music may also make your feel more confident using sound during labour and birth.

Listening to the same music when you’re pregnant can be calming and reassuring to both you and your baby during labour.

Either play on the hospitals bluetooth speakers if they have them or take your own or wear bluetooth headphones if you want go deep within.

Ear Plugs: If you want to block out the noise around you, use ear plugs.

Chatter: Write in your birth wishes that you’d like any visitors in your room to speak to each other and to you calmly and quietly.

Phones: Write in your birth wishes (and remind your birthing partner) to turn their phones onto silent so as not to distract you.

4. SMELL

Let’s face it, hospitals smell nasty! Research shows that smell triggers memories and emotions. So mask the hospital smells with essential oils. Using these same essential oils during pregnancy at times you’re calm and relaxed can evoke these same feelings in labour. Essential oils smell nice and they provide emotional support. Lavender is calming and relaxing whilst wild orange and peppermint are uplifting and energising.

Diffuser: Use a diffuser like this which also helps to humidify and purify the air. Just add water and 3-5 drops of your chosen essential oil. If you’re unable to use an electric diffuser in your birth room you can make a spritz and pack it in your hospital bag.

Spritz: Add 25 drops of essential oil to a 4oz spray bottle and top with distilled or purified water. Use as a room, linen spray or face spritz.

Apply Topically: Add a teaspoon of fractionated coconut oil into the palm of your hand and a drop or 2 of essential oil and rub onto your pulse points.

Inhale: Holding your hand like a funnel over the opening of the essential oil bottle, take a few deep breaths in breathing in all that essential oil goodness.

Pillow: take your own pillow which smells like home.

Your Partner: Cuddling up to your partner and smelling him can help you to relax.

5. TASTE

Eat homemade snacks like bliss balls, cut up fruit and veggies, dip, a smoothie or soup to give your energy and stamina. Eating good quality snacks from home will make you feel like a strong, confident birthing woman rather than a sickly hospital patient.

From the list above, plan what you’ll need and then delegate the job of creating an environment that is private, safe and unobserved to your birth partner or doula and ask them to manage this throughout your labour and birth.

To ensure your labour continues to progress when you arrive at the hospital or birth centre, stay at home as long as safely possible, ideally with support from your midwife or doula.

Are you a tired, pregnant mama? Get your free 20 minute Guided Deep Relaxation (Yoga Nidra) to take you from exhausted to energised. Fill in your details HERE and I’ll send it to your inbox for you to download.

I’d love to hear your comments and questions in the COMMENTS below.

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Must Ask Questions On Your Hospital Tour

Must Ask Questions On Your Hospital Tour

If you’ve decided to birth in a hospital or a birth centre, take a tour to become familiar with the space and to help you decide what you will or won’t need to pack in your hospital bag. Being familiar with the space and knowing what labour props they have helps to eliminate fear of the unknown when it’s time to go to hospital and helps you to clearly visualise your birth.

Stay at home as long as safely possible, ideally with support from your midwife or doula. Transferring to hospital too early can slow down or stall your labour.

YOUR ARRIVAL

  • When should I come in?
  • What’s the phone number I call to let you know that I am in labour?
  • Where should we park?
  • Where should we check- in and what documents do I need to have with me?
  • After I check- in, what are the next steps?
  • Who do I give a copy of my birth wishes to?

YOUR ROOM

  • Can I see a room that is similar to the one I will labour and birth in?
  • Are the lights dimmable? Are there lamps? Can I bring LED candles?
  • Can I use diffuse essential oils in my electronic diffuser?
  • Is there a bath or a birthing pool that I can use?
  • What labour props do you have? For eg. birth balls, peanut balls, padded floor or yoga mats, bean bags, birth stool or squatting bar.
  • Do you have bluetooth speakers? If not, can I bring my own?
  • Do you have WIFI and can I use it? (If not, check your network is accessible in the labour ward/ birth centre).
  • Can I take photos/ videos?

YOUR POSTPARTUM

  • I’d like to get my placenta encapsulated. Can I take my placenta home? If so, can you store it in your fridge?
  • Do you have a lactation consultant on staff to help me learn to breastfeed? When is she available and how often?
  • Is there a microwave that I can use to heat up home- cooked meals? And a fridge where I can store food?
  • How long will I stay in hospital after birth?
  • Once I’m discharged, what postnatal support is available?

YOUR VISITORS

  • What’s your Visitor Policy?
  • Can my partner stay overnight? If so, will they sleep in a cot, couch, recliner, etc? Is there an extra cost?

This is your birth, your body and your baby. It’s your birthright to ask for what you want during labour, birth and the postnatal period. Becoming an empowered mama starts from the moment you conceive. Practise asking for what you want now during pregnancy so it becomes second nature during labour, birth and beyond.

Are you a tired, pregnant mama? Get your free 20 minute Guided Deep Relaxation (Yoga Nidra) to take you from exhausted to energised. Fill in your details HERE and I’ll send it to your inbox for you to download.

I’d love to hear your comments and questions in the COMMENTS below.

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