Many of you may know that in addition to birth, my other passion is language. I believe that language is powerful and influential, and I dig into why this matters in the realm of birth over at my other website, Birth Words. I have a variety of offerings through Birth Words, from a podcast to classes for birthing families and birth professionals, and lots more.
I thought I'd update you all here with news from the Birth Words August newsletter, because there are a couple of exciting announcements relevant to birthing families! Check out the relevant bits below:
*NOTE: Check out the browser version of the full newsletter HERE!*
A new FREE PDF download for you!
6 Questions for a Better Birth
Six questions about language to ask yourself as you prepare for or support the BEST birth possible.
Visit www.birthwords.com to get this PDF in your inbox!
Birthing families, this one's for you!
(do you hear the drum roll?)
I've got a book coming for you!
Birth Word for Birthing Families will take your mind and heart on a journey from pre-conception through postpartum. At every stop along the way, we'll think about the impact of our words and the language that surrounds us.
If you want to be the first to know when the book will be available, sign up here!
This post is the fourth in a series about comfort measures for labor that appeal to each of the five senses. Today, we're focusing on the sense of touch! Check out these six ways that touch can help you manage labor.
(Photo by Isaac Ordaz on Unsplash)
In early labor, it may feel nice to have someone (your husband/partner, doula, friend, etc.) to lightly run their fingers along your arms, shoulders, back, or other places. The backs of the fingers work well for this, and the light, stroking motion should feel like a pleasant tickle, encouraging you to release any tension you may be holding. A head massage tool, like this one, gives a similar sensation for your scalp. Some people (e.g. me) love it, and some people (e.g. my husband!) hate it.
Counter pressure during labor relieves the stretching and contracting sensations, invites you to focus your attention somewhere else, and can give baby more room to descend. There are tons of different types of counter pressure, and lots of places where a little pressure gives great relief: head, shoulder, knees, tail bone, hips, and more! If you're the one giving counter pressure to someone in labor, always ask to know how much pressure feels good--it may be a lot more than you'd guess!
Get the Oxytocin Flowing!
(Photo by Annette Sousa on Unsplash)
Oxytocin--the love hormone--makes you feel SO good, AND it keeps labor moving along! Kissing and cuddling can be an effective way to make labor as enjoyable as possible, and it will bring you closer together as you enter the next stage of parenthood!
Heat and Cold
(Photo by Pixabay)
During labor, both hot and cold can be helpful for different purposes. A heating pack on your lower back can feel great during contractions, and as you get closer to meeting your baby, a nice cold compress on your forehead or shoulders may feel fantastic.
(Photo by Yellow Kite Lifestyle Photography)
Sometimes the comfort of a hand on your shoulder or a nice leg rub can feel great in between (maybe even during) contractions. Comforting touch can add a sense of security and safety for you--which is critically important as you open your body to bring your baby into the world!
No, Thank You
(Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash)
It's also possible that you won't want anyone to touch you at all during labor! You may turn inside yourself and find outside touch distracting or uncomfortable. It's important to have a birth team that you trust to be responsive to your needs in the moment, because it's hard to predict what exactly you'll want during labor!
What kinds of touch do you expect you'll like during labor? Or do you think you'll prefer a hands-off labor?
We've been preparing for this event for a loooong time. After multiple attempts to reschedule, we're excited to be offering this class in person at the beautiful Aspenwood Manor! You'll have a cozy spot six feet apart from other couples, and we'll have hand sanitizer on tap. :)
Join us for an engaging evening designed to strengthen your relationship and preparation for birth.
Whether it's your first baby or your sixth, come learn how to make every stage of labor progress more smoothly. You will move beyond feelings of uncertainty to claim your power as life-giving agents.
You'll learn and practice hands-on comfort measures so you can work together as a couple during labor.
A decadent dessert of warm Chip cookies served with locally made gourmet Rockwell ice cream will be provided, along with fresh fruit and cheese.
We're excited to see you!
"I have never felt more intimate and in love with my husband than I did during the labor and birth of our child."
-Sarai L., previous client
It's been a while since I've posted here. Honestly, I've been pretty overwhelmed by the way the world has turned upside down in the last couple of months. I have struggled to know the best way to respond. Doula work has slowed for many of us, as most hospitals have limited hospital visitors (support people) to just one person. I've fortunately been able to support clients at a home birth and at the one hospital in my county allowing two visitors, and have advertised virtual doula support. But I'm so happy to say that better times are coming to Utah birthing families. And it starts tomorrow!
You can read all the details here, but hospital policy is changing to allow TWO support people (visitors) at all Intermountain Healthcare facilities, so long as they are in good health, complete a screening (answer a series of questions--no long q-tips up the nose!), and meet a few other guidelines.
If you're looking for a doula now that we're able to be back in the hospital with you, Mary Caplin and I would love to set up a free consultation to see if we're a good fit!
Today, in the third post about comfort measures for labor that appeal to each of the five senses, we’ll be looking at your sense of taste… or at least, what you can do with your mouth to benefit your labor!
Eating During Labor
(Photo by Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash)
Laboring and giving birth are hard physical work! You wouldn’t want to go for a long hike without anything to eat—your body would be tired and hungry, and it would make the hike feel ten times harder! The same is true for labor—you need energy from food to sustain you through it!
There may come a time in your labor when food doesn’t interest you, which is why it’s especially helpful to eat during early labor when you have an appetite. Don’t eat anything overly heavy or greasy, but do make sure you’re giving your body energy for the life-giving work it's doing!
Some people have concerns about the safety of eating and drinking during labor because some hospital policies have restricted it due to a concern about potential aspiration if emergency anesthesia was needed. Updated research and updated anesthesia technology show that low-risk birthgivers should have the right to choose whether to eat and drink during labor (you can read a detailed summary of current research and recommendations here, at Evidence Based Birth).
(Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash)
Drinking water or other liquids during labor is important! Dehydration can interrupt healthy labor patterns and lead to fatigue. Drinking plenty of water also ensures that you’ll be getting up to empty your bladder frequently throughout labor, which helps you progress through labor. (An empty bladder gives the uterus space to do its job, sitting on the toilet naturally relaxes the pelvic floor—a necessary part of cervical dilation!, and moving around helps baby descend and encourages your body to keep doing the work of giving birth!) There's no need to be extreme or drink excessive amounts of water; just be sure to stay hydrated!
(Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash)
Okay, so this one has nothing at all to do with your sense of taste. But another thing that you can do with your mouth during labor is “sound out” your contractions/surges. When you feel that tightening sensation, open your mouth and make low, unrestricted sounds. High-pitched sounds can tighten the muscles in your throat, jaw, and surrounding area. Increased tension means increased pain, so let it go! (And read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth for a description of “sphincter law” and how releasing your throat muscles also encourages your cervical muscles to relax and expand!)
(Photo by Dave Phillips on Unsplash)
Honey sticks are my secret weapon for a quick energy boost when you’re past the point of interest in food. So pack several in your hospital bag, or ask your doula if she carries them—I always do!
Today’s post is the second in a series considering comfort measures that appeal to each of the five senses.
Let’s consider the sense of hearing. What are some things you can do during your labor that will bring you comfort that appeal to your sense of hearing?
Listening to Music
(Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels)
Studies indicate that listening to music may be an effective way to help manage discomfort during labor. The most important thing to remember about music selection during labor is that it’s personal. You should choose and listen to music that is positive/relaxing/motivating for you! So, put together a playlist of your favorite songs, and you may find that listening to them helps to set a positive tone, give you energy, distract you when needed, and ease any anxiety or tension!
(Photo by lascot studio from Pexels)
Sarah Buckley, author of Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, says, “avoid talking to the laboring woman unless absolutely necessary.” There are points during labor when you may not want to hear anything so that you can be more deeply in tune with your body and what’s going on inside of you. You may want to turn off the music and request that no one speaks. Having conversations with your birth team about this possibility beforehand will make it easier to request if silence becomes your preference during labor. Ask your partner or doula to share your request for silence with nurses, other family members, and anyone else in your birth space.
Sometimes, though, you’ll want to hear reassuring words from others and from yourself. Make sure the people in your birth space are aware of the power of their words and are mindfully using them to add to a positive birth experience! This is SO important! (So important that I have a whole other website and weekly podcast about this topic!) Check out my Birth Words podcast and other resources at www.birthwords.com for more resources about the power of words!
The post about visual comfort measures mentions that written affirmations can be helpful. You may also want affirmations spoken to you, or you may want to repeat them to yourself over and over again. During your pregnancy, find phrases that center you and help you feel confident and calm, and repeat themselves to yourself multiple times each day. As your labor begins, these phrases may become anchors for you that you can continue to hold on to throughout the course of your labor and birth.
Visualization Exercises/Hypnosis Tracks
(Photo by Krivec Ales from Pexels)
Visualization exercises take advantage of your mind’s ability to create and enjoy visualized scenes that bring you comfort, relieve anxiety, and increase relaxation. Some visualizations exercises walk you through your favorite season or have you imagine hiking to a mountain’s summit! Others guide you as you mindfully relax every portion of your body. Others describe the vibrant colors of a rainbow. The possibilities are endless, and you can choose exercises that appeal to you!
Hypnosis during childbirth is really just another variation of these relaxation exercises. You can listen to pre-recorded tracks or have a support person read scripts that guide you through deep relaxation exercises. If you’re interested in more hypno/birth resources in Utah county, visit http://www.hypnobirthingutahcounty.com/ or https://curtismethod.com/.
(Photo by Pixabay from Pexels)
During your pregnancy, consider which sounds bring you a sense of calm and comfort. Maybe you love listening to the sound of ocean waves or rainfall. For some, listening to the sound of baby’s heartbeat brings comfort, while the constant sound of the fetal monitor is distracting to others. Consider what you anticipate will be best for you, and come prepared with a recording to listen to. Popping in headphones can be a great way to tune out distracting stimuli in your birth space.
What other auditory comfort measures have you considered? I’d love to hear your ideas!
Today’s post is the first in a series of five: we’ll take a look at each of the five senses. For each sense, we'll consider some tools that appeal to it that can invite comfort and calm to your labor and birth.
Let’s start with what often seems like our dominant sense: sight.
(Photo by Bekka Mongeau from Pexels)
I encourage my clients to consider their own feelings and beliefs about birth, work through their worries and concerns, and discover the power of their own beliefs about their strength and ability in birth, then turn these into affirmations. Affirmations are personal to your journey and unique, but here are some examples of some that may be centering and affirming:
I am giving life!
My body is designed to birth.
Each surge brings my baby closer to my arms.
My body releases and opens as my baby descends.
I am powerful and flexible.
I am a co-creator with God.
My contractions are not stronger than me because they are me.
Again, those are just examples, and your affirmations should speak specifically to you. If none of those do, work through why they don’t, and grab on to some positive words that do speak to you! And when you’ve found your affirmations, write them down, print them out, make them look nice, and post them where you’ll see them often during pregnancy. Take them with you to your birth space and have someone hang them around the room to affirm your truth as you birth.
For more about affirmations, you can check out this podcast episode I did at Birth Words, and you can also order customized affirmation cards.
Dim or Natural Lighting
(Photo by Hakan Erenler from Pexels)
Birth is an intimate experience. Harsh lighting can interrupt the flow of oxytocin and make the whole process feel much more clinical and much less personal. So turn down the lights, and consider lighting some candles (or, in the hospital, using LED candles) or hanging a string of lights.
(Photo by https://www.instagram.com/Didssph/)
This comfort measure doesn’t have to do with what you’ll actually see with your eyes, but what you visualize in your mind. Imagining calm, serene scenes, or places that are personally meaningful for you, can bring comfort during your labor. Sometimes, these visualizations will be guided my someone else, as your partner or doula reads aloud to you or describes a favorite place. But if you’ve practiced visualizing pleasant images before labor, you may be able to take yourself there without another person verbally guiding you through it.
I’ve found some fabulous visualization exercises in this book. And this podcast episode talks a bit more about the power of symbols and imagery that you can incorporate in your visualization.
The Faces of Loved Ones
(Photo from https://www.pexels.com/@pixabay)
It’s important, during labor, to surround yourself with those you love—people you feel comfortable around and supported by. Inviting people into the birth space who bring up feelings of discomfort or tension will likely slow your labor and make you less comfortable, both physically and emotionally. So, during this important time, surround yourself only with people who will create a feeling of warmth and love.
So carefully choose your birth team: friends and family you feel safe with, a care provider who respectfully cares for you, a doula that you feel emotionally connected to, a photographer who you feel comfortable with, etc.
Also, if there are loved ones who can’t physically be with you, you may want to bring pictures of them. Perhaps you admire a grandmother and her picture would bring you strength, or maybe you have young children that you don’t want in the birth space, but keeping their pictures with you will comfort you.
As you prepare for your labor and birth, consider if there are any other visual comfort measures that you’d like to have in your birth space. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
I posted a while back about how I'd be working in partnership with Mary Caplin during 2020--you can read here about how our partnership works. Now that the new year has arrived, let me take a minute to introduce you to her so you know why I'm so excited to be partnering with her!
I met Mary several months ago, shortly after she moved back to Utah county after spending nine months in Ghana with her family. I was struck at once by her gentle and kind nature. She is just the type of person you'd want in your birth space! She says this about her experiences serving women and their families:
"The mothers I’ve attended in Utah and Ghana have amazed me. I believe in the strength of women and the power of their love to change the world. Birth is intense, and the experience matters. It shapes us and our story."
As we got to know each other better, Mary and I felt that we could offer complementary and compassionate care for our clients, so we joined forces! I love talking with her about birth and benefitting from her ideas, insights, and perspectives.
One thing that I admire about Mary is what a great listener she is. I've watched her--in our conversations and with clients--take time to really process what the other person is saying and give plenty of time for them to express themselves. She is also skilled at recognizing and encouraging the father as an integral part of the birth experience. She says:
"You want the birth of your baby to be a beautiful, sacred experience. I do too. My goal as your family doula is to enable mother and father to have this through education before birth and providing continuous emotional and physical support during labor. I love to see a father more involved because of what they've learned, a woman reach to become a mother, and a family be born. It is incredible."
You can learn more about Mary at her website:
And if you reach out to either one of us, we'd love to schedule a free meeting so you can get to know us and see if we'd be a good fit for your birth team!
I first learned of Rebecca Dekker’s work at my doula training. That next summer, as I trained for a half marathon, I listened to episode after episode of the Evidence Based Birth podcast. I love and admire Rebecca’s work, as she uses her skills as a nurse and researcher to compile and review the most up-to-date research on important topics surrounding birth, and publishes them in ways that are easily accessible to the public through evidencebasedbirth.com. She’s covered topics such as natural induction techniques (I summarized a few in this post), the use of saline locks, circumcision, Vitamin K supplementation, doula support, and everything in between.
When I found out she was writing a book, I was thrilled! The title of her book, Babies Are not Pizzas: They’re Born, Not Delivered, also shows that she’s passionate about using language that empowers birthing families. So am I! (For more on that, visit www.birthwords.com or listen to the Birth Words podcast on your podcast app. I even had her as a guest on my podcast in October!)
Babies Are Not Pizzas is a fairly quick read for a book filled with as much information as it is. That’s because Rebecca interweaves her research findings about birth with her own personal narrative—the story of how she became interested in the evidence about common birth practices, why she started sharing what she found, and the repercussions that ensued because of her research.
The story was intriguing, and the research she uncovered along the way was just as fascinating. Through the book, she tells about what the research shows about birth practices that are the safest and most effective, and why they’re not always practiced in hospitals. Reading this book re-acquainted me with the research and also gave me a better understanding of why institutions work the way that they do and why change can be difficult and slow. But it also re-inspired me to continue to be a change-maker in every sphere I can influence so that birthing families can have safe, empowering, positive experiences as they bring new life into the world.
I don’t want to give away her story, but I will say that I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book! (There’s one in my lending library!)
One question that comes up for a lot of people at the end of pregnancy is the efficacy and safety of natural induction methods. Always remember, before attempting any induction method (natural or otherwise), you should have a conversation with your care provider about its safety and benefits/risks/alternatives for your specific situation!
This week, Evidence Based Birth hosted a webinar on three of the most popular natural induction techniques: acupressure/shiatzu/acupuncture, breast stimulation, and consuming castor oil. They reviewed the most up-to-date research about these methods and whether they're safe and effective. After watching the webinar, I created this summary for you.
A summary always leaves out important details, so I encourage you to check out this link as well for more information about these and other natural induction techniques
(NOTE: some have been found to be unsafe and are not recommended, so make sure you read each entry!)
And always remember to check with your care provider before attempting any induction technique!
Studies indicate that care from a licensed acupressurist or acupuncturist or may help promote cervical ripening.
Shiatzu treatment has been linked to less Pitocin use for labor induction.
Studies show that these techniques are NOT linked to adverse effects.
More high-quality studies that investigate a wider range of pressure points and other uses of these techniques would be helpful!
Breast stimulation was found to be effective for inducing women at term with a favorable cervix. For those without a favorable cervix, it may help with cervical ripening
Breast stimulation has been found to reduce postpartum hemorrhage.
Not recommended for those categorized as "high risk." Should only be done with the guidance of your care provider!
Studies indicate that castor oil is an effective natural induction method, especially for subsequent pregnancies.
No evidence linking castor oil use to adverse effects for baby.
Possible side effects of castor oil use: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
More higher-quality studies are needed!
I hope you enjoyed this quick summary of the evidence on these induction methods! Don't forget the best induction method: PATIENCE!
Hi, I'm Sara. I'm a birth doula serving Utah county and the Wasatch front. I'm a twin mom (plus one!), natural VBACer, and birth lover!