What Is A Birth Doula and Why Might You Want One?

What Is A Birth Doula and Why Might You Want One?

"It is absolutely worth hiring a doula. You get more than just someone supporting you and your partner at the birth. And you have a team behind you. Whilst it might seem like a luxury to get a doula, the service really makes a significantly positive contribution to both the mother's and partner's birthing experience. It's a decision that you won't regret, and having had a doula, it is hard to imagine not using the service again. It goes beyond just the birthing experience."

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Jen's Pregnancy Diary: Week 34

This weekend started off with a trip into town with the kids to see the Chinese new year celebrations. We went to where we thought it was, but the lady told me that is was on further down town. So we walked and walked but couldn’t find anything happening. I was in bits with my pelvic girdle pain and Leon's little legs were so sore. We sat down near the Liffy and had the sandwiches and crisps I had packed. We continued to walk but could not find anything. I started to ask people – eventually one person told us it was on next weekend (if you could have seen my face!) We had been in town about 3 hours at this point...aimlessly walking LOL I put on my Mary Poppins cheery voice - “That’s ok guys, sure we have had a great adventure and it was much better than sitting at home all day” They didn’t look too convinced. We went and had a hot chocolate and cake in a cafe. Then we pottered around some shops. We got a taxi back up toward the Ilac car park (where the car was) as I was fighting back tears with the pain, while trying to remain outwardly cheery. 

To say it was a disaster is an understatement, but I racked up almost 22,000 steps on my fitbit!

On Tuesday I went to my first physiotherapy appointment. I was actually surprised how bad I was when she started her assessment – trying to stand on one leg was near impossible without feeling like crumpling onto the floor. She told me my thighs and lower back muscles were overtight trying to compensate for the weakness in my pelvis. She worked on easing that tension (which was super painful, I was literally sweating) She then gave me exercises to strengthen my hips/pelvis. She also gave me a different belt for the symptios pubis. She had mentioned my pelvic floor was too tight, and that could have had an impact on my previous two births. I have always been very conscious of doing pelvic floor exercisers, as my grandmother has severe incontinence. Apparently I have been over doing it and a pelvic floor that is too tight can cause as much issues as a weak one. I had never heard this so I was grateful for the information. I felt better after the appointment, armed with some tips to help before birth.

Mary doing a Google Hangouts session with myself and Paul on VBAC support and birth options. It was really helpful 

Mary doing a Google Hangouts session with myself and Paul on VBAC support and birth options. It was really helpful 

Wednesday evening brought another GoogleHangouts call with Mary. We chat weekly, keeping up the running of DoulaCare. This time there was a difference...it was to chat with myself and Paul about our labour and birth. Mary offered Paul some wonderful tips and explained hospital policy and so on. I was amazed at how little Paul had taken in from me (as we had covered it all before!) He seemed to get really engaged in the conversation when it was coming from our Doula and took away some great understanding of the difference in policy around a VBAC mum.  It was really nice for us both to chat with Mary too, as I spend so much time on the phone/laptop with her ;)

On Thursday I had my 34 week check up in the Rotunda. I was called by the doctor first (normally I see the midwife first) He was a lovely young reg who was open to listening to me. I had my birth preferences with me in the hope we could get them signed off but he told me I needed to speak with Claire Burke at my next visit as she was the consultant.  He measured my belly, which measured 36 weeks. So he did a quick scan, measured baby saying she was measuring a week ahead but I did have a lot of amniotic fluid which is making my bump bigger. He seemed happy enough. I felt things were going well and then, as often obstetricians do...he came out with his random gem... 

So apparently at my 38 week appointment they will check if my cervix is favourable, if it is they would schedule an ARM (breaking my waters to induce labour) I sat shocked for a nano scond. Then I asked why they would intend on doing this, as a VBAC mum ARM is the only induction method I could have so if contractions didn’t begin he would basically be signing me up for a caesarean birth. He was a bit taken back by my reply. He said everything would of course be a discussion with me at the time and it would ultimately be my decision but the reason he would suggest it would be to “avoid another big baby getting stuck” 

He was a lovely young doctor, who clearly wanted to respect my wishes but perhaps was so institutionalised he presumed by offering interventions he would be saving my preference for a vaginal birth. 

After the doctor I waited for another hour to see the midwife to get my blood pressure and urine tested. All was well. I met a gorgeous midwife Jeannine, who is such a warm and caring woman. She is an active advocate for women and midwives – trying to maintain surroundings to facilitate normal birth. We recognised each other from social media and attending workshops and seminars. She was so lovely and listened to me with such kindness, encouraging me to stay strong and voice my wishes for my birth experience. The Rotunda really have some amazing midwives in their semi private clinic and I would encourage everyone to speak with the midwives about any concerns if you feel your doctor had not heard you. 

On Friday myself and Paul had our second antenatal with Mim. It was great to get her feedback on the situation as I know I am too close to see clearly (and probably think rationally) We had a really good chat about Paul's role in the birth and he felt so much better afterwards. She spoke to him about his chat with Mary and helped him to get everything clear in his head. Again, Paul was so engaged with Mim and opened up so much about his feelings around the birth. I was thrilled to have our Doulas facilitate that and allow us to find a balance and to feel prepared. 

That night Paul said he wasn’t sure if he had been brainwashed with all our Doula speak, but he was feeling so much better about the birth and even feels excited now that he knows how to support me while still ensuring both baby and I are safe. It was so lovely to hear – that’s what Doula support offers!

I attended a meeting at the end of the week to plan for World Doula Week. One of our team Lorna has extensive marketing experience and we also met with one of DoulaCare Irelands past client's who is an expert in the field of PR and campaign strategies. It was an amazing morning. We really focused in on what we want to achieve and how to go about it. Mary and I are so grateful for all the support we have surrounding us, helping us to learn and grow. 

This week Mary was also invited onto Cork's 96FM Opinion Line as a Mum had contacted worried about her distance from the hospital and how she would manage in labour. Mary had a lovely chat with P.J who was very interested in the idea of a doula. You can listen back here to the interview: 

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Until next time...Jen x

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What Is Happening With Your Baby: 

 

  • Your baby is the size of a cantaloupe this week. 
  • Their brain is fully developed by this stage and if they need to be born baby's usually do really well (they may have to go to Special Care for a day or two but most have very few issues thankfully). 
  • They are becoming rounder as fat layers continue to develop. These will help your baby regulate their body temperature outside of the womb.
  • Your baby's lungs are still continuing to mature. 
  • Their fingernails are almost fully formed. 
  • If this is your first baby they may have 'engaged' which means they are head down and they are pressed deep into your pelvis ready for the birth. 

Week 34: What Might Be Happening To Your Body

  • Exhaustion has probably kicked in again by this week (if it hasn't already!). A combination of hormones, restless nights (with lots of disturbance as you try to get comfortable or breaks to go to the toilet frequently). Your body will want to slow down - do listen to it
  • You may have blurry vision. Or your eyes may be extra dry (due to a decrease in tear production). These changes are usually temporary though. Again this is all due to hormone changes which will readjust after baby arrives. Pop into your optician and get some eye drops and don't forget to let your HCP know if you have any issues with your vision so they can check it out. 
  • Your breasts may feel heavier. 
  • If your baby has engaged any breathlessness you may have been feeling will ease off and you will be able to breathe more freely. 

 

Week 34: Pregnancy Tip 

Perineal Massage

If you are a first time Mum there is some evidence that that Perineal Massage may help reduce your risk of tearing (have a read of this article for more information). If you are going to give it a try use a plant based oil (try to make sure it is unrefined. Mary our co- owner sells a perineal massage oil blend that you can find over on her website). 

This is a good step by step article on how to do Perineal Massage 

 

Jen's Pregnancy Diary: Week 30

So this has been another busy week – surprise surprise! 

On Sunday night I woke several times with terrible leg cramps in my right calf. I haven’t experienced them this pregnancy and they were the type that makes you leap up in the bed, rubbing furiously! I had a check up this week with my GP anyway so mentioned them (as it was like I pulled a muscle in my calf and have been limping) She just said it was normal and not to worry.

You should always mention leg cramps with your care provider, as for a small percentage of women there is a risk of developing a clot. This is especially important If they are persistent or if your legs are swollen or  tender in one spot

This week I finalised my birth preferences both for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) and one for a Gentle Caesarean Birth. Both Mim and Mary were so helpful with feedback to keep my language open, while still being firm with my wishes. I have supported so many families with creating their birth preferences but it can be difficult to do your own when the time comes, so feedback from my Doulas was much appreciated. We have written  a really helpful blog post, with tips to help you create yours:  “How to Create Birth Preferences.” 

This week, while writing my birth preferences I began to think about what I would like to do with my placenta. There are many options open to women:

  • Do nothing (the hospital will dispose of it)
  • Bring it home and plant it in the garden under a tree
  • Encapsulate it with a Placenta Encapsulator (preferably one who has been trained with IPEN or some similar self regulatory body which ensure those trained with them operate to certain standards). 
  • Eat it raw in a smoothie
  • Donate it to a search and rescue organisation 

I was debating planting an apple tree with it but thought I would love to do something worth while with it. To me the placenta is such an amazing organ, that was created to keep my baby nourished during pregnancy – so having it  discarded was not a nice thought. On my research I found out that search and rescue dogs need human tissue to be trained. I reached out over email to www.irishsearchdogs.com  and the lovely chairperson Glen got back to me to say they would be delighted to accept my placenta.

He explained that they only need a tiny amount to train each dog and they have found it to be very successful for both land and water. This would hopefully help so many families get comfort in finding their missing loved ones so they could be laid to rest. Thrilled with this prospect I have Paul all set to take it home after birth and freeze it until Glen and his team can come and collect it. I will write after baby is born to let you all know how that went!

A lovely meal out in the Cedar Tree in Dublin 

A lovely meal out in the Cedar Tree in Dublin 

On Thursday Mary came up from Cork to join me at a business meeting for DoulaCare Ireland. It went really well and I am so proud of everything we have achieved so far. We work really well together and I feel our mix of skills and knowledge magnify our talent. After the meeting we had a gorgeous dinner at The Cedar Tree in town. The food was amazing and I would highly recommend it! I had home made lemonade which was delicious and we shared a vegetarian mezze platter of the most gorgeous Lebanese food. We were both starving and tucked in with gusto, the mix of flavours was unreal. Yummy!! We followed it with one of my favourite desserts Baklava. The time flew by and before we knew it we had spent 4 hours there! I dropped Mary back to her mothers (who lives in Dublin) and we made plans for the weekend. . . . . Our DoulaCare Ireland CPD day is finally here! 

I will fill you all in on the next blog.

Until next time....Jen x

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Week 30: What Is Happening  To Your Baby

  • Your baby is the size of a large head of cabbage this week 
  • Your baby's eyesight is still developing (it's still not great right now and won't be even after they are born - it will develop further outside the womb). 
  • The languno they have been covered in (the soft hair covering their body), is beginning to disappear as your baby's brain and fat cells are now capable of regulating their body temperature. 
  • The vernix (the white greasy substance that was covering your baby's skin) is also starting to disappear now. 
  • At 30 weeks your baby's bone marrow is now making their red blood cells. This is a very important step as it means your baby will be more able for life outside the womb when born.

 

Week 30: What Might Be Happening To your Body

  • Some women find they have very intense and strange dreams at this stage of their pregnancy. Perhaps it is a result of all the hormones in your body - we don't really know! 
  • Lots of pregnancy symptoms you thought had disaapreaded for good after you got through the first trimester reappear around this time (such as tiredness, tender breasts and the need to go to the toilet all the time). 
  • You may find you are suffering from shortness of breath as they lungs get squashed by your growing baby who is still high up around your rib cage this week. 
  • Notice your belly getting hard? You are having Warm Up Surges (or Braxton Hicks as they are more commonly known). They tend to happen more often after exercise or when you are tired/dehydrated so make sure to rest and drink water as often as possible. They will go away after rest (and if they don't do let your care provider know) 
  • Your feet may go up a size - this is due to your ligaments relaxing in preparation for pregnancy. You may need to invest in some new shoes as a result! 

Week 30: Pregnancy Tip

During your pregnancy you will have 2 antenatal visits with your doula - who will help you draw up your birth preferences, show your partner comfort measures for your labour and listen to your hopes and fears for your upcoming birth    

During your pregnancy you will have 2 antenatal visits with your doula - who will help you draw up your birth preferences, show your partner comfort measures for your labour and listen to your hopes and fears for your upcoming birth 

 

Have you thought about who is going to support you during your labour? Have you considered hiring a doula for some extra support for you and for your birth partner? A doula is not there to replace your partner but to provide an extra pair of hands and an extra resource while you birth your baby. They can be hugely helpful throughout your pregnancy - someone you know who will be at the end of the phone or just an email away if you need them. Your doula is there to offer evidence based information and support. You will usually have 2 antenatal visits with your doula before baby arrives. These visits will each be approx 2 - 3 hours long and your doula will help you draw up your birth preferences, teasing out why you might want or not want a certain intervention (always once all is well with baby), talk about what you are hoping for in your labour, offer you information and support, show your partner some useful physical comfort measures and offer you reassurance and a listening ear. They can also show you how to use your birth ball, brainstorm about where to set up your early labour nesting room and help you pack your hospital bag (if you are going to have a hospital birth). If you are having a home birth they will often show you how to set up the birthing pool if you are using one. During labour they will be at the end of the phone supporting you and when you need them they will drive over to you or meet you both at the hospital. There they will be a reassuring presence - a familiar face in the busy hospital for you both. While you partner may be happy to be hands on, they may never have attended a birth before whereas your doula will be used to the hospital. Here at DoulaCare Ireland we have a team of doulas to support you and can take the stress out of looking for the perfect match - as we know our doulas intimately we can choose for you (so far we have never been wrong!). Pop us an email - info@doulacare.ie if you think you would like to find out more. Also check out our Instagram account. One of our current birth clients is sharing her story throughout her pregnancy on working with a birth doula and will be doing regular InstaStories which we will be keeping on our favourites for a while.