It's official! I'm launching my career as a doula. A huge part of why birth work appeals to me is that I personally benefited from doula support during both of my own births. Even before labor, my doula was a great source of information and tools with which I could better understand what was happening to my baby and my body. From my own experience, I think standard maternal healthcare is severely lacking. Most moms aren't getting evidence-based care, and they're certainly not getting any of these extras I mention below. What's great about each of these is that you can bring your own to your birth, instead of hoping that your provider has them. (Except for the prescription, but even that can come from a primary care physician if need be!)
One of the best tricks in a doula's book, birthing balls are beyond helpful during labor. In fact, hospitals have been catching on and supplying L&D wards with balls of different sizes and shapes. Peanut balls look like...well, peanuts...and they can be used in a multitude of ways. Some moms like to sit and bounce on them since they have more of a "seat" than a typical ball. Of course, some moms can't get up and out of bed during labor, and the peanut ball can fit between their knees to keep their pelvis in a more favorable position. Don't forget to ask during your hospital tour if birthing balls are available or if you'll need to bring your own.
Doulas have been proven to improve favorable outcomes for both mother and child. Having a doula isn't just about feeling good about your birth experience, but actually having a better birth! Historically, birth work has been women's work - more experienced women would pass their knowledge on to younger apprentices and birth was not so heavily medicalized and institutionalized. At the very least, having someone there to witness this sacred moment, to pour strength and support into the birthing mom - that's invaluable. Doulas do NOT deliver babies - they merely support moms during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. Not only do I think doulas should be part of every woman's birth plan, I think every hospital should have them on-call for any mom who requests the help.
After my son was born and I started nursing, I realized that breastfeeding wasn't always going to be a cakewalk. For the first two weeks, my nipples were so incredibly sore. I winced and cried as he latched on again and again with no reprieve. Everyone tells you that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but both of my kids wreaked havoc on my poor boobs for a while. And, from all accounts, they're great nursers with strong latches! When I told my OB that my nipples hurt really badly, he prescribed "Newman's Ointment", also known as All-Purpose Nipple Ointment or APNO. It's a combination of anti-fungal, pain relief, and anti-bacterial compounds that soothe irritated nipples while preventing infection. And yes, it's totally safe for baby! I don't understand why this isn't just part of a standard prescription following labor, just like ibuprofen.
Speaking of standard prescriptions after labor! As soon as your baby is born, ask your care provider for laxatives. Why? Well, all that pushing is going to make everything downstairs feel a bit...off. And while you *will* survive that first post-baby poop, laxatives can make it feel much less intimidating or scary. I even brought my own in case I forgot to ask for them with my second delivery - that's how much I swear by this tip!
While there's no significant data that suggests continuous monitoring improves patient outcomes, many OBs and midwives prefer to have two fetal monitors strapped to laboring moms. One measures the duration and intensity of contractions, while the other tracks the baby's heartbeat. Laboring moms who aren't receiving any form of augmentation (like Pitocin or Cervadil) can request intermittent monitoring instead of continuous. With my son, I only needed to have monitors on my belly every so often. But when I was induced with my daughter, I had to be hooked up to all of these wires - and being confined to my bed was torture! I begged the nurses for a telemetry unit (essentially a wireless monitor), but the only available unit wasn't working properly and kept sending alarm codes for no reason. It was so irritating to not be able to move through the pain, or get into a better position for baby to descend into the birth canal. Instead of having the standard be continuous stationary monitoring, let's push hospitals to start using intermittent mobile monitors more regularly!
What tips do you have for making labor easier? Have you ever used any of these yourself? Tell me what you like best on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3.