BabyGaga had the honor of speaking with childbirth expert Gail Janicola for an exclusive interview. The New York-based doula has been a certified childbirth educator for 24 years and is also a prenatal/postnatal expert, health coach, and doula instructor. She holds a lot of titles so she can support women in everything pregnancy based.
Needless to say, she knows a lot about pregnancy, childbirth, and everything in between. Gail is a mother of three herself and someone who has always been fascinated by pregnancy and the miracle of childbirth since before she had her own children.
She truly believes that every single pregnancy and birth is 100% unique and that every woman should have the best birth possible. Whatever is the best birth possible is dependent on the mother. Gail advises women to advocate for themselves and seek out practitioners and facilities that align with what they want.
Keep reading to not only learn more about Gail but to read her advice on what you can do to have the best birth possible.
BabyGaga (BG): What is your background as a pregnancy and childbirth expert?
Gail Janicola (GJ): I've been a certified childbirth expert. I'm also a certified doula, doula instructor as well as a prenatal and postnatal educator and expert.
BG: In your opinion, what is the one thing first-time moms should know about pregnancy going into it?
GJ: That the majority of women will have normal, typical pregnancies and births. There are so many horror stories, word of mouth horror stories, and a lot of drama surrounding pregnancy but that isn't quite true. Most women go through pregnancy as a normal physiological process. Complicated births and pregnancies happen but usually, they're complicated from the on-set. Birth almost always unfolds naturally.
BG: What are some of the most common fears/concerns new moms have about pregnancy and giving birth?
GJ: Fear of the unknown. The idea that things are going to happen. What will happen to my body? Pregnancy discomforts will I ever feel like myself again. How will my partner react to my body? Is my baby healthy? And then when birth is impending, not knowing what to expect or how to handle labor or pain. Will something bad happen? My partner will watch me and you won't care, important to not care.
BG: What are some common pregnancy myths you can debunk for us?
GJ: Eating for two is a myth, you don't need more food, only an extra few hundred calories by eating to hunger. The quantity of food doesn't matter. The quality, truly nutritious food is what's needed most. Most women don’t know what to eat when they're pregnant. Prenatal vitamins are very important to create a human. Most women don’t get the right amount of minerals and vitamins. They need folate acid, not folic acid. As plant-based diet as possible is better but add in quality animal protein.
BG: You teach childbirth classes for expecting parents. What do your courses cover? What’s some of your best advice for new parents you can share now?
GJ: I teach pregnancy wellness, childbirth, one on one childbirth coaching/consulting, and refresher courses. Pregnant women/people/couples need to get educated and take classes based on have evidence-based information.
BG: How does a woman know if she should choose an OB, midwife, or doula as their main provider? What are the main differences between them?
GJ: OBs and midwives are both trained medical professionals but OBs are surgeons where midwives are not. OBs study the pathology of focusing on the detection of and management of disease and complications of pregnancy and birth. They are trained as surgeons. There is typically no focus on prevention of complications (aside from screenings) or lifestyle considerations, such as nutrition, exercise, and stress management.
Midwives are trained to view birth as normal. They are also expert diagnosticians and refer to OBs and other physicians when more complicated situations are out of their scope of practice, often times co-managing care. They allow the process to unfold, only utilizing medical intervention in isolated circumstances when benefit outweighs the risk. Labor doulas are not medical practitioners. They provide physical and emotional support throughout labor and help to initiate breastfeeding.
BG: Do you recommend using one over the other?
GJ: Anyone birth cannot be treated the same. For someone who wishes to have a natural childbirth, I would recommend a midwife. However, not all midwives are preferable to doctors and vice versa. Anyone birth cannot be treated the same. It is a very personal decision. I encourage women to think of their birth as being totally unique.
BG: How common are doulas these days?
GJ: Much more common now than ever before. They used to be called professional labor assistants. There are many more certified organizations making certification easier. Labor doula and postpartum doulas take care of the mother, skilled in breastfeeding, will do whatever needs to be done to
BG: How are the second, third, etc. pregnancies different from the first one?
GJ: It varies. Everyone is different but now there is the fear of the unknown is gone. There is way less anxiety, typically, yet with a second pregnancy, there is another child to care for. You can't focus on yourself as much making it harder in some ways. Women who had bad experiences can be proactive in attempting the birth they deserve to have.
BG: How did your own pregnancies and childbirth experiences inspire you to pursue this career?
GJ: I've always been a birth junkie for as long as I can remember. I've always been enthralled with pregnancy and birth. I've always wanted to be in the birth arena. When I educated myself during my pregnancies I took a basic hospital-based class that was more logistics than birthing class. It was a huge wake-up call. We're a part of this culture where we think there is only one way to have a baby and that the doctor will take care of it. That isn't true and completely ignorant. Empowering women to become amazing parents n their own terms is what led me to this career path.
BG: Did you enjoy your pregnancies and birthing experiences? What do you tell women who may be struggling?
GJ: I had really amazing pregnancies and births. Mother nature was on my side. I absolutely see how my knowledge and true prep mentally and physically made things easier. My first two pregnancies were medicated and I had my 3rd birth baby on my own terms. I've done both, medicated and unmedicated birth and there are no medals. It isn't a competition and that's important to stress to women.
Focus on the whole meaning you’re not just a body or process and being pregnant and giving birth is way beyond the physiological process your body goes through. This experiences, like so many others, gives you an incredible opportunity for growth and learning. If you're truly struggling, seek support, consistent support.
BG: What do you think is the most difficult part of giving birth? How can women make it easier, if possible?
GJ: Physically, you cannot control your circumstances and being treated like a number is difficult. Seek out evidence-based information from someone who can coach you and learn how to communicate and advocate for yourself. Give yourself a chance to make this most profound event of your life your own. It truly isn't about vaginal or c-section birth or medicated vs. unmedicated. In this situation seeking out the scale of professionals that will seek out your values best is key. Let go of what can’t be controlled, control what you can. Go in with flexibility and an open goal. Have support birth team you need. Doesn’t matter if you wanted natural and got a c-section as long you flexibility without giving up get educated first and use your intuition.
Gail, thank you so much for sharing your expertise on childbirth! We love your take on giving birth.