Thursday, June 9, 2011

To doula or not to doula?

Have you ever heard of a doula? I had heard the term and knew that doula’s helped with the birthing process, but that’s about all I knew … until I went in to get a maternal massage, with a woman named Kathleen. Kathleen is not only a massage therapist, but she is also a certified doula, mother of six, and well versed in essential oils and herbs. I went in for the massage about a week before I delivered my first child (son). I was having a lot of pain in one of my ribs due to it being my baby boy’s favorite spot to kick, and also because I had the worst cold I’ve ever had in my life and was coughing so hard I think I pulled a muscle near my rib as well. Let’s just say…….. I really needed a massage.

After my massage with Kathleen, she mentioned that she is a doula and that if I had any questions about the upcoming birth of my son, to feel free to ask. I was planning on having an epidural, so I wasn’t sure I really needed a doula. But, I asked her what a doula does and why they are beneficial. She told the basics; doula’s are there as your advocate and help reinforce your wishes when you are in labor. They also assist the mother emotionally and physically. They can either assist directly, or can coach the husband/partner on what they can do to help, depending on what you desire. In short, a doula is a huge support who uses techniques to help calm the mother (breathing, oils, massage), and to help ease labor (acupressure, positioning, etc.).

She told me that she recently was a Doula for a woman who, while in labor, was told she was going to need a c-section because the baby was breech. Kathleen asked the doctor if he could give her 10 minutes, which the doctor agreed to. Within that time, Kathleen used some techniques and positioned the mother in order to help turn the baby around. She was able to get the baby turned around within 10 minutes, and the mother was able to deliver her baby vaginally. Once I heard that I was sold!

She met with me a few days later to help me create a birth plan. I didn’t have a ‘plan’ and didn’t know what a birth plan really was or why you should have one. I learned that a birth plan lays out what you do and don’t want during labor. They are nice to have so that you don’t have to deal with sharing all that information while you are in labor. She helped me come up with the basics and she also helped educate me on some issues, such as episiotomy, for example, so that I was better informed to create my birth plan.

If you need help starting a birth plan, here is a birth plan worksheet from, which is a wonderful website for women, whether they are already parents, trying to conceive, pregnant, etc. Check it out!

Did you know that tearing is actually better than getting an episiotomy? A natural tear heals much better than a straight cut. Also, many women don’t tear, and if they were to go ahead and get and episiotomy as a precaution, they may end up being cut unnecessarily. To help prevent tearing, my doula also suggests having the doctor do perineum stretching during labor. Also, as the head crowns, she coaches you on taking short little breaths while easing up on the pushing.

My birth plan goal was to wait and have an epidural once I was dilated to a 4. The longer you wait to have an epidural, the smaller the chances are of having a c-section, because epidurals can slow labor down- sometimes so much that a c-section must be performed. So when the big day came, she got to the hospital within a half hour of my arrival. When I got there I was dilated at a 2.5 and was asking for the epidural. She reminded me that I’m free to choose as I wish, but to remember that an early epidural could slow things down. So, I decided to hang in there. She rubbed the bottoms of my feet with peppermint oil, which helps speed up dilation. She also applied lavender oil beneath my nose to help calm me.

Each time I would have a contraction, she would press her hands on my hips. This technique helps ease the contractions and, at the same time, helps open the pelvis/birth canal. Other times, depending on each contraction, she would put her hand on my lower back and push upwards. And sometimes she would press on my knees as they were bent, which helped as well. She had many other techniques that also really, really helped. She also coached me on some breathing techniques. I swore I would never do the “hee, hee, hee, who” type of breathing, because it looks so stupid and I didn’t think it really would help. Believe me, it does help and I’ll do it again in a heartbeat!

My doula is in the red shirt, pushing on my knees to help ease contractions.

I was in labor for approximately 8 hours, and didn’t get an epidural until I was dilated to a 5 or 6. I wanted one at a 4, but the anesthesiologist couldn’t get to me until later. Once I had the epidural, after about 30 minutes, I was smiling. I didn’t feel painful contractions anymore, just pressure, yet Kathleen would still press on my hips with each contraction to continue helping the pelvis to open. However, when the baby was transitioning, I began having very bad pain on my left upper thigh. She massaged it, and that totally helped ease the pain. She also had me switch from side to side during my labor, which helped ensure the epidural was working evenly on both sides of my body. So, even though I ultimately had an epidural, I was so glad that I had my Doula.

After I delivered my son, she gave me amazing breastfeeding tips, which greatly contributed to my son and I’s breastfeeding success. We breastfed for 18 months! Kathleen also encouraged me to contact her with any questions I had about breastfeeding, recovery, or anything else. She also came to my house and followed up with me a few weeks later. I asked her if she’d be my Doula again, if I were to have another child. She said she would and I was so happy! I wouldn’t want to have a baby without her there, she gave me so much support, strength, and was such a great comfort just having her there. So, I told her that I’d consider another baby, but only because she agreed to be my doula again…… And now I am just about to pop with my second child (a girl this time), and Kathleen is, once again, my doula. So…… the question is; To Doula or not to Doula? It’s up to you, but as you can see, I highly recommend it.

If you are in Utah and interested in connecting with my doula, Kathleen, please email me directly so that I can connect you. My email address is

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