In Part 1 of this series, we interviewed doulas Jessy French-King and Jillian Camisasca-Lopina to understand how doulas provide support to expectant moms. At Breath of Life, a doula becomes part of your birth team. Together with our midwives, they work hand-in-hand with you to provide you with maximum care and comfort during labor and birth.
In this second part of our doula interview, we talk more with Jessy and Jillian about:
- Pain management techniques
- Prenatal exercise
- Eating during labor
- The superfood that helps with labor and postpartum bleeding
- How to feel empowered during pregnancy, labor, and birth
Do you have pain management techniques that you recommend for laboring moms to use?
Jillian: One of the simplest things a mom can do is change positions during labor. Switching positions every half hour or so can be really helpful. While that sounds easy, when a mom is in labor she’s not thinking about that. All she’s thinking is how much her back hurts or how uncomfortable she is. That’s why I’m there to remind her, “Why don’t you try a new position?” Even small shifts can relieve a lot of pressure in an area. Or, if things aren’t progressing fast enough, I’ll suggest some positions to open up the pelvis in certain ways.
Some of my other go-to resources for pain are hot and cold packs, applying counter pressure, aromatherapy, calming music, and using a Rebozo—which is like a scarf that can be used in a few different ways to relieve pressure on the belly.
Jessy: And then obviously hydrotherapy is an excellent pain management tool, as well. Whether that means getting into the tub or shower, using water can help mom relax and feel more at ease. I also want to repeat what Jillian said, because positioning makes a huge difference in pain management, and it’s the one thing women often overlook if they don’t have someone there to remind them.
Is there anything women can do ahead of labor to prepare?
Jessy: Jillian and I meet with our clients prenatally, and we will often encourage clients to start practicing relaxation and meditation every day because that’s really a big tool that they’re going to be using while they’re in labor. I think of labor as anything else physical you have to train to do. For example, you don’t just wake up and decide you’re going to run a marathon, right? No, you plan for it and build up endurance so you’re ready. The same is true with labor. Practice meditation and relaxation breathing prenatally, then when you’re in labor your body will be programmed to know what to do because you’ve already been doing it. I even tell moms, if you’re going to play music during your labor, then play that music at home while you practice your breathing. As soon as your brain hears that music, it will trigger your body to relax.
Same with essential oils. Diffuse the oils that relax you or energize you. Let your body recognize that smell and begin to make those associations with relaxation. Visualization is also a strong tool. Some moms look at their ultrasound picture or something that reminds them of their baby. Using that as a focal point can also trigger the body to relax through contractions.
Jillian: Preparing prenatally definitely makes a big difference. The more you prepare prenatally, the easier it will be to slip into that relaxed state during labor. And that’s one of the keys to going through labor with more ease–the ability to allow yourself to go to that internal place. As a doula, it’s our job to support moms so they can get into that place. Then, we also come alongside and add some massage, some light touch, position changes, and whatever else will enhance that state of relaxation.
Does prenatal exercise help with labor?
Jessy: Absolutely. I encourage moms to continue to do whatever they were doing physically before they got pregnant. As long as it feels good and it’s safe for the baby. If you’re a runner, keep running or at least walking. Yoga feels great, too.
Toward the end of pregnancy, when movement may be harder, I often encourage moms to utilize a yoga ball at home as much as possible. Sitting on a yoga ball is good for opening up your pelvis and getting more comfortable. When you’re sitting on the ball, you can use it to stretch and exercise your pelvis, preparing for labor.
Jillian: There’s a website called Spinning Babies,which has a lot of great movement geared specifically for pregnant moms. It includes videos by a prenatal yoga instructor and birth doula who offers unique stretching for comfort in pregnancy and flexibility for your upcoming birth. The movement helps the pregnant body make space for baby’s best birth position. That website is a really great resource and there are a lot of tips on it for expectant mothers.
That’s great information about prenatal movement and activity, but here’s a big question that we get asked a lot. Moms love to eat, right? But so many people say that once a mom goes into labor she shouldn’t eat anything. What are your thoughts on this?
Jessy: I definitely encourage her to eat if she wants to, especially in the early stage of her labor. You never know, especially with first time moms, how long the process is going to be. Labor is a physical task. I want to make sure moms have the energy and endurance to get to the finish line. I just can’t imagine going 12+ hours and not having anything to eat since the day before. I would encourage a mom to eat some healthy, small things to maintain the energy she needs. I actually suggest eating a nutrient-dense meal before you come to the center and packing a cooler full of healthy foods that are easily digestible. Whatever you ate during your pregnancy that made you feel good works well.
Jillian: I agree. I love that Breath of Life allows moms to eat, because it’s okay to eat things that you know are easily digestible. A lot of moms won’t have a big appetite, but having a little bit of protein or something to sustain you is good. The reason most hospitals don’t allow women to eat is due to old policies based on former research that’s no longer valid. Now, it’s well known that women need the fuel to run the marathon that is labor.
Are there any “superfoods” that you recommend moms eating during pregnancy that will help during the labor process?
Jessy: Actually yes! Dates. This is not an old wives tale. Dates have actually been shown to reduce the length of labor. So, mamas, I recommend eating six dates a day starting at 35 weeks until you go into labor.
Jillian: I know it sounds crazy, but studies have also shown that they help with postpartum bleeding. Some people are using dates to help with that as well.
So, do they just eat them whole? How do you recommend they add them into their day?
Jessy: You can eat them whole, but they are so sweet and great in a smoothie or cut up and put in oatmeal or yogurt. They’re an excellent natural sweetener so you can put them into anything that could use added sweetness.
How would you encourage women to advocate for themselves during their pregnancy and labor?
Jillian: That’s a great question, because we tell our moms that our job is not to advocate for you. We’re there to help you advocate for yourself.
Planning and education is crucial during pregnancy, so let’s talk about all of your preferences. What do you want your experience to look like? Labor is an emotionally vulnerable time, so you’re not in the best state to make decisions then. You need to plan in advance. So talking early about the pros and cons of different options, what to expect, what roles everyone will play–those things will help empower you when you are in labor. We’ll help you with all of that.
One thing that both Jessy and I love about being doulas is that we really get to facilitate this huge transition in a woman’s life. Each pregnancy is different. Each child is different. So, we want to make sure that each woman has a healthy pregnancy, healthy labor, and a very healthy baby. That includes a mom’s mental health, and we are here to make sure that her pregnancy, labor, and birth are all a really positive, empowering experience.
MEET THE DOULAS NIGHTS
Our Breath of Life Doula Team provides full-service support and is an extension of the midwifery team. When choosing to add our doulas to your care team, you can count on receiving seamless support. Our doulas are focused on our clients and are committed to providing the utmost level of care for you!
You can meet our Breath of Life Doula Team at our monthly Meet the Doulas Night.