Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 Year in Review

2017 has been a pretty awesome year for me and I hit some pretty great mile stones. Although I started exploring the idea of becoming a doula in 2016, it wasn't until 2017 when I started my journey. Here is a list of what I accomplished on my doula adventure in 2017

  • Started my doula training
  • Received my certification in birth and postpartum doula support
  • Attended my first birth
  • Helped families with postpartum doula support
  • Designed and launched my doula webite
  • Launched a doula blog (but let's be honest, I've been lacking in posts these last few months!)

And I can't post a new years post without adding my 2018 goals
  • Assist more families in postpartum doula support
  • Become a certified Childbirth Educator through Lamaze 
  • Create a schedule in which I can attend more births
  • Connect and network with more doulas/childbirth educators/lactation consultants and other birth workers and birth advocates
  • Blog more often and gain more social media followers

Thank you to everyone who made 2017! I am looking forward to 2018 has to hold. 

Happy New Years Everybody! 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Your Due Date is Just an Estimation

Photo by Joey Thompson on Unsplash
Inductions for non-medical reasons have been on the rise in the U.S. and for a lot of these non-medical inductions the reason is because women are believed to be beyond their due date. In order to prevent these medically unnecessary inductions it is important to learn and understand how doctors determine your due date and what your due date actually means. So let's discuss due dates, how to calculate an estimated due date (EDD) and what is considered "full term"

So how is a due date calculated? One way to calculate your EDD (assuming you are fairly regular at a 28 day cycle with ovulation on day 14) is called the Naegele Rule. Start with the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) add seven days, then add nine months. For example, if your last period started on June 10, 2017, you would add seven days, June 17, 2017 then add nine months, March 17, 2018. But remember, this date is just an estimation as everyone's body's are unique and not many women have the regular cycle with ovulation on day 14 as this method suggests. It is also important to know that this formula is not based on current evidence, but rather on studies done in 1744 and in the 1800's.

Another common way to calculate a due date is through an ultrasound. An ultrasound early in pregnancy has been shown to be more accurate than the Naegele rule, especially in women who don't have regular cycles. Based on this study, finding out gestational age by ultrasound was most accurate between 11-14 weeks with accuracy dropping by 20 weeks. Women who had an ultrasound between 11-14 weeks had delivered their baby ±11 days from the EDD, the most accurate so far.

A more recent study has shown that EDD's shouldn't be calculated at 40 weeks exactly, but rather at 40 weeks 3 days (for second time mothers) to 40 weeks 5 days (for first time mothers). An even newer study looked at 113 healthy women and measured their hormones daily in order to know the exact days the women ovulated, conceived and when their pregnancies implanted. This study found a median time from ovulation to birth of 268 days or 38 weeks, 2 days and the median time from the first day of the last menstrual period to birth was 285 days or 40 weeks, 5 days.

But what do all these weeks and days mean? Let's look at this definition from Evidence Based Birth of full term to understand what weeks are currently considered full term.
"For many years, a baby was defined as being born at “term” if it was born between 37 weeks 0 days and 41 weeks 6 days. Anything before that 5-week period was considered “preterm,” and anything after those five weeks was “post-term. Over time, though, research began to show that health problems were more common at certain points during this 5-week “term” period. In particular, newborns are more likely to die (although the overall risk was still very low) if they are born before 39 weeks, or after 41 weeks. The chance of a newborn having problems is lowest if he or she is born between 39 weeks and 0 days and 40 weeks and 6 days (Spong 2013). In 2012, a group of experts came together to define “term” pregnancy. Based on their review of the research evidence, they broke the 5-week term period into separate groups (Spong 2013)
“Early term” babies are born between 37 weeks 0 days and 38 weeks 6 days
“Full term” babies are born between 39 weeks 0 days and 40 weeks 6 days.
“Late term” babies are born between 41 weeks 0 days and 41 weeks 6 days
“Post term” babies are born at 42 weeks and 0 days or later"
Like EBB says, there is a higher (but still very low) risk when giving birth outside of the "full term" period, which is why OB's often encourage inductions between 38-40 weeks. However, inductions come with their own set of risks and EDD are after all, an estimation and not an exact science.

Inductions can be done in a few different ways and there is no way to naturally induce labor. The most popular way labor is induced in a hospital setting is through synthetic Oxytocin, also called Pitocin. This disrupts your body's natural hormone cycle, causing you to stop producing oxytocin (the love and bonding hormone) and endorphin's (your body's natural pain killer), makes contractions stronger which makes labor more painful and difficult and to manage and causes the uterine muscles to never fully relax between contractions. Sweeping or stripping of the membrane is another way you may be induced. This may cause a higher risk of premature breaking of your water.

Of course there are legitimate medical reasons for inductions in higher risk births where getting baby out quickly is important for health and safety reasons, but for low risk births there is rarely a true medical need for inducing and it most often occurs just because mom has gone past her estimated due date. When induced there is usually a cascading waterfall of interventions to follow including increased risk of cesarean in addition to a baby that may be significantly less mature than if labor were allowed to start on it's own. If you have a midwife or obstetrician who is considering induction because you are past your EDD, ask them about waiting until labor spontaneously begins on it's own. To read more about this, check out The Lamaze 6 Health Birth Practice's, Practice #1- Letting Labor Begin on It's Own. 

In conclusion, figuring out the day of your little one's arrival is not an exact science and is hard to predict accurately. Every woman's menstrual cycle is different, and every pregnancy is different, calculating an EDD is an educated guess. Focusing on that date as "the day" will most likely cause unnecessary stress and lead to induction and further interventions. Instead focus on the fact that your baby is using these last days to mature, develop and prepare for life outside of the womb. If you have any further questions or concerns be sure to discuss this with your care provider or doula and read up on the sources below.

Sources and for more information:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Creating A Birth Plan

Let's talk birth plans!

It is important to remember that birth can be unpredictable. You may find yourself and your baby in situations you didn't plan for or anticipate, but a birth plan will help communicate your wants and needs in a variety of situations to everyone involved in your baby's birth.

Customize it. There are a lot of options to print an already established and thought-out birth plan online. Although this is the easiest thing to do, it will most likely not cover all of your individual needs and wants.

Include the names and roles of everyone you wish to have in the room during your labor and delivery. Who are the people necessary for your baby's birth? Do you have a doula? A family member you want present? Make sure everyone knows what their role and other's roles are during the birth.

Make informed, educated choices and make them clear. Whether it is about your pain management, interventions, routine procedures etc. make sure you know what your options are and make your choice clear. If you have one, ask your doula for evidence based information and talk to your doctor about your options, remember you have the right to informed consent on any and all medical procedures regardless of how routine they may be to your birthing place. But also keep in mind that different hospitals have different policies, so it would also be a good idea to read up on the policies at your desired birth location and talk to your doctor about any concerns or questions you may have. As an example, some hospitals follow delayed cord clamping, and some do not. Is this something you wish to have

Talk about the atmosphere that makes you the most comfortable. Do you like quiet, dark spaces to relax? Or do you prefer an environment filled with conversation, laughter, etc.

Include any medical history you feel necessary. Are you allergic to anything used in a hospital, like latex or adhesive? This is something you would want your medical care providers to know. In addition it could be beneficial to add previous birth experiences or any medical concerns you may have.

Talk about newborn care. Knowing what you want to happen when your baby has arrived is just as important as what happens during labor and delivery. Do you prefer skin to skin? Even after a C-section it is still possible to have skin to skin. You can also talk about breastfeeding wishes, vitamin K shot, antibiotic eye ointment, hep B vaccine, baby's first bath, who you want to hold baby in the first minutes, hours after birth, etc.

Talk about your own care preferences after baby is born. After your baby is born a lot of focus will be on baby's care, but make sure you talk about what you prefer for your own care. What pain relievers would your prefer, if any? What about laxatives or stool softeners?

Remember that birth does not always go according to plan, have a back up plan just in case. You can talk about and prepare your birth plan to be as ideal as possible, but you also have to expect the unexpected. Sometimes there are medical emergency's that will change your plans. Including a detailed back up plan will save you some stress and panic if you are told something will not go as you have planned. If you have to have an emergency C-Section when you were planning for a vaginal birth, what are your preferences? It may not be ideal, but at least you will have a plan in place if needed.

There is certainly a lot to think about when creating a birth plan. In addition to the tips above here are a list of things you can research, think about and discuss with your doula and/or medical care provider to decide what option is best for you, your baby and your family.

During Labor and Delivery:

  • 6 Healthy Birth Practices
    • Let Labor Begin on it's own
    • Freedom of Movement
    • Continuous Support 
    • Avoid Interventions that are not medically necessary
    • Avoid giving birth on your back, follow your body's natural urge to push
    • Keep mom and baby together
  • Preferences for a C-Section if medically necessary
    • types of drugs used 
      • do you prefer to not use drugs that would alter your conscious state?
    • who do you prefer in the operating room with you?
  • Epidural
  • IV
  • Unmedicated Birth
  • Labor Props
    • shower/tub
    • birth ball
    • squatting bar
    • birth stool
  • Artificial breaking of water/sweeping membranes
  • Comfort Techniques
  • Birth Positions
  • Coached breathing/pushing preferences
  • Fetal monitoring
  • Vaginal exams/progression assessments 
  • Research your hospital's routine procedures and policies during labor and delivery and discuss any questions or concerns with your ob or midwife. 

After Baby is Born:
  • Skin-to-Skin
  • Delayed Cord Clamping
  • Breastfeeding 
  • Golden Hour
    • When to do routine procedures
      • weight
      • measurement
      • footprint
      • full assessment 
  • Antibiotic Eye Ointment
  • Vitamin K
  • Hep B Vaccine
  • Pacifier use 
  • Baby's First Bath
  • Visitor preferences
  • Rooming In
The most important part of your birth plan is that you feel confident in your decisions. Remember that these are YOUR decisions for you and your baby. There are a lot of opinions and information out there so it is important to do evidence based, non-biased research. Discuss your options, ideas, thoughts and opinions with your care provider, doula, birth partner, family or close friend. Here are two links that I have found very helpful and informational for evidence based information. 

Lamaze for Parents:

Happy Birth Planning! 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Why You Can't Afford Not To Hire A Postpartum Doula

The first few days and weeks of parenthood can be rough. You have a brand new responsibility that does not come with instructions and you are trying to figure it all out. You are learning your baby's cues, trying to establish feeding, wondering if you are doing everything right, not getting enough sleep and are overall overwhelmed and exhausted. It can be a lot.

Many cultures around the world come together when a baby is born, hence the saying "It takes a village." While some women are cooking and preparing nutritious meals for the new mom, others are showering mom with ceremonies to welcome her into parenthood or teaching her tricks or "life hacks" about breastfeeding, diapering, caring for herself and baby, etc. There is always someone around to step up and help out when needed. Somehow, In America we lost that. Mom spends a day or two after birth in the hospital surrounded by nurses who help care for her and baby, but are then sent on their way, often with no further help. If parents are lucky they have family or good friends nearby who can help, but the village mentality no longer exists.

So how can a postpartum doula help? Here are a list of just a few of the amazing things a postpartum doula may do to love on and support mom, baby and family. 
  • Allow the parents to express any questions or concerns they might have in a non-judgmental atmosphere
  • Teach parents basic newborn care from swaddling, how to bath baby, how to recognize baby's hunger cues, and more
  • Offer non-biased, evidence based information
  • Refer parents to local resources to seek additional help if needed
  • Assist in feeding, bathing or any other newborn care needs
  • Cook a nutritious meal for the family
  • Help with light housework, from baby's laundry, to doing the dishes, etc. 
  • Watch for signs of postpartum depression and offer resources for mom to find help if needed
  • A time to care for baby so parents can nap, shower, care for or spend time with other siblings or family members, etc. 
Doula's are not just great at helping first time parents either. Second, third, fourth time (or more!) parents can greatly benefit from a postpartum doula. Having that extra hand around the house to assist in the demands of a newborn can give mom and dad a quick sigh of relief. It can reduce stress and help calm and affirm mom and dad that they are doing a good job.

But what about the financial cost? Postpartum doula support might not fit into everyone's budget. We know that. We understand that not everyone who needs our services can easily afford it. We understand that keeping on budget is a huge priority for a lot of families. If you decide not to hire a postpartum doula because you feel you can not afford it, I urge you to reconsider. While not every doula will offer a discount, most of us are willing to discuss your budget and see what would work to benefit both client and doula. Sadly, I have heard of doula's telling potential clients to open up a new line of credit or remortgage their house or some other ridiculously budget-unfriendly advice in order to afford their doula services. But I am here to tell you that that is a terrible idea. Please do not do that.

Instead, here are a few other ideas to help you save up for and pay for postpartum doula support if you are on a tight budget:
  • Ask for money to go towards postpartum doula support, as a baby shower gift. 
  • Additionally, if you are looking to hire a specific postpartum doula, ask them if family and friends can buy gift certificates from them to help offset your cost. Many doula's would be more than happy to create gift certificates for clients friends and families to give as baby shower gifts.
  • Talk to your doula (or potential doulas if you have not hired one yet). Honesty can go a long way. Not every doula will be able to offer a discount, but they may offer a payment plan to help you out if you are open and honest about any financial concerns you have. 
  • Prioritize other spending. I know, this option is not the most fun. But once you start looking at your budget you will see what you don't really need to spend money on, and what you do. Maybe you don't really need the car seat that connects to bluetooth and has speakers so you can play music for your baby from your phone into the carseat. Opting for a simpler car seat* without all the gizmos and gadgets in order to put more money towards hiring a postpartum doula to support you, will likely be something that you will not regret. (*insert "car seat" with any other expensive baby gadget that is not totally necessary)
  • Money Jar. This is how I personally have saved up money for big purchases over a longer period of time. When I got engaged I had a jar of cash and coins I would add to frequently. At the end of about 6 months of doing this I had enough to pay for my wedding dress up front. My main rule was, any money put into the jar could not be taken out for any other reason. 
Overall, there aren't a whole lot of reasons why you should not hire a postpartum doula. We will love on you, support you, help you, empower you, encourage you, and so much more! To chat with me further feel free to email me at or check out my website at 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My First Birth Experience

I can't seem to find the right words to start this post, so I'll just jump right in. Last week, I got to experience my first birth. I am absolutely in awe of the whole experience, it has almost left me speechless. No amount of studying, reading or viewing videos of birth could have ever prepared me to see it first hand and to be a part of the action. I am so amazed at our bodies ability and design, the strength women have and the miracle of life itself.

Throughout my training and up until I left for the hospital, I kept thinking to myself "Is this what I want to do?" "Will this make me happy" and now I know that 100% for sure, THIS is what I want to do with my life. I want to empower women to advocate for themselves, I want to support them, educate them and their partner on the process of childbirth and on caring for their newborn. Being able to be such an important role in my client's lives is a blessing and an honor. Their trust in me during such an intimate time, is something that I will never be able to thank them enough for no matter how many families I support and how many birth's I attend.

At the current moment I am offering postpartum support. I absolutely loved my first birth doula experience, however my schedule is not flexible enough to properly support births. I am so thrilled to be able to offer postpartum support to moms, dads, and babies and am excited to continue learning and growing alongside my clients. Thank you to everyone who has helped me to get to this point, and thank you to everyone who I will be serving and supporting throughout the rest of my doula career.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Journey to Certification

There is a sense of accomplishment when you take steps towards following your dreams and achieving your goals. As of this weekend, I am one step closer to not only starting my own business, but to use my passion for loving on other's to serve and help mom's and babies.

To see how this journey began, let's take a look at the past year. Summer or 2016 was a strange summer for me. Summer has always meant spending multiple weeks at the beach, going on missions trips, to music festivals, sleeping in, spending the nights star gazing, watching movies and being with family and friends. Although I had a busy traveling schedule in the summers, I always managed to be spontaneous and carefree. But after I got married, I needed to become a little more responsible (Ugh, adulting is the worst). So I got an office job. I would sit at my desk in a windowless hallway on those beautiful, hot sunny days, nostalgic for spontaneity and flexibility. That's when I realized that if I wanted life to change, I had to work towards making that change for myself.

I started brain storming of ways I can make money while doing what I love. I love napping, but a professional mattress tester didn't sound like a real job. I love going to the beach and the pool, but I don't have the attention span to be a lifeguard, always on the look out, and what would I do in the winter? That is when it hit me. I want to be a doula. At the time I only had a basic understanding of what a doula was, I just knew they worked with mom's and newborn babies. And for those who know me, you know I love some good baby snuggles.

After some research and conversations with a friend, I got connected to Wendy Shiffer from Family Trees Doula School. It took me some more time, research, and asking for money for Christmas, but I finally saved up enough money and did enough research to feel confident that this is what I wanted to do, so I registered for the Spring 2017 session of Doula School.

For the last five months I have been reading about, researching and studying everything from the stages of labor, to the benefits of breast milk, to hormone cycles, epidurals, home births, medical interventions, how to properly swaddle baby, and so much more so that I can give evidence based information to families. All this studying, researching and reading all lead up to this past weekend. Our class met for a hands-on training workshop/seminar, resulting in our official certification. I am beyond excited to take this next leap of faith as I work towards working for myself, taking on clients I love, and serving them with all my heart. I may not be able to go back to being the completely carefree, spontaneous person I was growing up, but I will have more flexibility working for myself. I will be the one in charge and making all the calls, and I will be the one reaping the benefits of my hard work. And I can't wait to see where else this adventure takes me.

I can not write this blog post without sending a huge shout out to Wendy. She has been such a major blessing through this process. She is not only knowledgeable and passionate about what she teaches, but she is caring and wants to see her students succeed. She goes above and beyond and is there every step of the way. If becoming a doula and helping mom's and babies sounds like something you'd be interested in, I highly recommend you check out Family Trees Doula School and talk to Wendy.

To keep up with my adventures be sure to follow me on my social media pages (linked on sidebar)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Benefits of Vernix Caseosa

If you are like me, you saw the newest Johnson and Johnson commercial and cringed. The commercial sets the scene in a hospital room, a beautiful newborn baby is being bathed by a nurse. The narrator explains that this baby is just minutes old and that Johnson and Johnson is the brand most hospitals trust to wash newborns. But why do I, along with so many others find this cringe-worthy? It is because newborns are born with Vernix caseosa.

Vernix is a naturally occurring, cheesy like substance that coats the skin of newborns. This lipid-rich substance covers and protects the fetus from amniotic fluid during the third trimester but it also has a variety of benefits outside of the womb. Some of these awesome benefits are that it helps baby's skin surface adapt to it's new environment and keeps the skin moisturized. It has antioxidant properties due to the presence of vitamin E and melanin, and contains antimicrobial peptides(1). The best way to take advantage of these benefits is to rub the vernix into the baby's skin soon after birth, rather than wash it off.

In the womb, vernix works as a separation between the baby and the amniotic fluid. It is a lipid-rich substance that is unique to humans. Once baby is born it helps the skin defend itself from outside bacteria and fungal agents. More specifically it has been tested and shown beneficial to defend against E. coli, Group B Strep, Staph aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans, Listeria monocytogenes, Serratia marcescens and Klebsiella pneumonia (2). All of which could be a potential risk for baby.

Newborn baby with vernix still on their skin
Skin is our biggest organ, and one that continues to develop after birth. A baby's skin is not fully mature until about twelve months of age, so it is important for parents to care properly for their baby's skin and to know about healthy bathing practices. It is advised to give baby a bath 2-3 times a week for the first six months while being aware of the soaps and detergents that could irritate or dry out baby's skin (3). For a list of EWG verified baby wash products click here.

In conclusion, using a combination of healthy bathing practices as well as holding off your baby's first bath until the vernix is rubbed into their skin, has the potential to benefit your baby in the world outside of your womb. Although not every hospital follows this procedure, the benefits are becoming more well known. If you have any further questions or concerns, be sure to reach out to your health care provider.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Benefits of Breastfeeding

We've all heard the saying "breast is best" but what are the benefits of breastfeeding? How can breastfeeding help your little one and how can you use breastfeeding for your own selfish gain? *hint: it may involve being able to lose weight while eating more food. I bet Jenny Craig can't do that for you, now can she?

Benefits to baby

  • The first day or two after birth you are producing colostrum. This thick substance is very rich in antibodies, low in fat and high in protein and carbohydrates to help keep your baby healthy.
  • The composition of your breast milk is unique to your baby and will change to meet your baby's needs. For each child you have, your body will produce a different composition of breast milk based on the unique needs of your newest baby. 
  • Your breast milk contains living cells that will coat the mucous membranes of your baby's digestive system. this will protect him against all kinds of bacteria and viruses that he will be exposed to in the world outside of your womb. 
  • Exclusively breastfeeding your baby for at least the first six months will reduce the risk of:
    • asthma
    • food allergies
    • allergy rhinitis (runny nose) 
  • Several studies on the development of intelligence in babies have shown that babies exclusively fed breast milk have shown higher scores on IQ tests (note: breastfeeding alone will not make your baby a genius, other factors such as loving touch, skin to skin and being held can contribute to a baby's development.) 
  • Breastfeeding also has analgesic properties. Babies who are breastfed while getting the heel poke to draw blood will cry little, if at all. It also comforts baby if they have a cold or the flu

Benefits to Mom
  • Oxytocin release
    • This can cause uterine contractions which help the uterus shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size
    • Helps reduce the chance of postpartum hemorrhage
    • Suppression of ovulation and menstration
  • Helps mom return to pre-pregnancy weight faster, while being able to eat an extra 500-600 calories a day- Score! Who doesn't want to lose weight while being able to eat more food?
  • Reduced risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer
  • Reduced risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures once mom is postmenopausal
  • Breastfeeding is FREE
    • formula can cost anywhere from $1,800-$2,600 per year per baby, but your body creates breast milk at no added financial cost (except maybe the extra burrito you bought at Chiptole to make up for all those burned off calories... but don't worry, your secret is safe with me) 

Although this is just a short list you can already see how beneficial breastfeeding is for both mom and baby. For more information check out Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding also look into your local Le Leche Leaque , talk to your doula, midwife, OB, and other friends who have breastfed. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Benefits of Hiring a Doula

Doula's have great benefits to a mother, her partner and any other family members involved in the birth and in raising the baby. To properly answer the question "How can a Doula benefit me" let's first look at what a doula does and does not do. 

What Doula's do:
Provide emotional support
Gives non-biased, evidence based information
Reassures and comforts mother
Uses comfort measures like breathing, relaxation, movement, etc.
Helps mom become informed on various birth and parenting choices

What Doula's do NOT do:
Not medical professionals
Do not perform clinical tasks such as vaginal exams or fetal heart monitoring
Do not give medical advice or diagnose conditions
Do not judge you for decisions that you make
They do not let their personal values or biases get in the way of caring for you
They do not take over the role of your husband or partner
They do not deliver the baby

A doula's main job is to be a "mother to the mother" to be present, and aware of the mother's needs during Labor and in Postpartum. 

How can a Birth Doula benefit you? 
Women who have continuous labor support experienced a:
31% decrease in the use of Pitocin
28% decrease in the risk of C-Section
12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
9% decrease in the use of any medication for pain relief
14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience

How can a Postpartum Doula benefit you? 
They can help identify symptoms of postpartum depression
Help with soothing techniques for baby
Help with breastfeeding or bottle feeding support
Help with light house chores to free up some time to bond with baby, other children or your partner.
They can help watch baby for a time so you can take a shower, spend time with other children, take a nap without worry, etc. 
And so much more! 

In conclusion, you deserve to hire a Doula! They will be your best friend through your birth and a great help and sigh of relieve during the postpartum period. 

For more benefits and information check out:

Why Did I Decide to Become a Doula?

I often get the question "Why a doula?" especially by people who don't always understand what a Doula does. Personally, I decided to become a doula because I care about and love people. Childbirth is one of the most personal and memorable things a woman will ever do and caring for a newborn can sometimes become overwhelming. I want to help mom's (and dad's) feel more confident about their decisions in childbirth and in caring for their newborn by not only being a non-judgmental support system, but by also educating them about evidence based practices.

Our current medical system is not doing the natural process of birth justice. Women's bodies were not only designed for this, but women's bodies know what to do and when without any second thought. Your body will tell you when baby is ready to come out and your body will tell you when you need push. I believe birth to be one of the most natural things I woman can do and I want to educate and empower her to have the best birth possible.