Meet Mya, Our Newest Postpartum Doula!
As you know, when we bring a new person onto the Gold Coast team, we love to find out more about them and
share that with you!
Let’s find out more about Mya.
1) What did you do before you became a postpartum doula?
Before becoming a doula, I worked as a swim instructor, and as a head swim coach for young children in
Naperville, Illinois. After that, I went to Central Michigan University to earn a bachelor’s degree in science.
2) What inspired you to become a postpartum doula?
I’ve always been fascinated with pregnancy as a whole, after watching my family members, experience,
pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. I knew I would be the perfect helping hand for those who look like me,
which is what inspired me the most. I want other minorities to feel comfortable while giving birth, which is why I
pride myself on creating such a warm and open environment.
3) Tell us about your family.
My family has a very tight bond, we are quite a small family, because of this we spend lots of our free time
together whether it’s hanging out and enjoying each other’s company or traveling and going on new
adventures. Overall, my family is very loving and supportive, and most of all we love to have a good laugh.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My favorite vacation spot is probably Barcelona Spain, the reason for this is because I’m a total foodie, and the
food there was beyond fresh and different from anything I’ve ever had before. Also, the architecture of all the
buildings were incredibly breathtaking.
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is a hard question, considering I enjoy listening to almost all genres of music.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
The best advice I have for families is to stick with their goals and values, just because they don’t align with
others in your community does not mean they are wrong, and also to give yourself grace and patience. Some
things take time to heal, and we must be mindful of that.
7) What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?
I believe my doula superpower is making people feel comfortable and empowered, no matter what the situation
is. Growing up looking different from most of my peers I know how it feels to be in uncomfortable situations.
This is why I pride myself on being able to make others feel both comfortable and confident in all environments.
8) What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is tacos, I could probably eat tacos every day for the rest of my life.
9) What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Since I’m not a Michigan native, I absolutely love going to the dunes, we don’t have anything similar to that in
Chicago so it’s always a fun treat.
10) What are you reading now?
Self-care for new moms
11) Who are your role models?
I would say, my mom is one of my biggest role models, she’s taught me how to be kind, empathetic,
independent, and resilient.
Mya serves day and overnight postpartum and infant care clients in West Michigan, SW Michigan and Northern
Cervical checks aren’t quite the crystal ball some providers make them out to be. The truth is, we don’t know how your birth will unfold. But by preparing your body you are creating balance in your pelvis and enhancing your baby’s chances of a smoother, more efficient birth! As a labor doula and prenatal yoga teacher I have witnessed how effective body balance work is for my pregnant clients.
Here are my 3 favorite yoga moves to do to get your body balanced for birth:
Thoracic movement with 360 breathing:
Super simple and often overlooked. Opening the ribs makes space for baby and organs to move up which releases tension in the pelvic floor, the back, and ultimately helps the sacrum have mobility to move out of the way during delivery. Breathing down feel baby lift, ribs expand, heart space lift, and back body widens.
Rocking Cat / Cow with a kickstand:
These poses can release tension in the lower back and help maintain mobility of the spine and pelvis. The extended leg is gaining length through the adductors which connect to the pelvic floor – lengthening and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. From a table top pose extend one leg to the side, rock forward into cow, inhale, and back into cat (almost childspose) exhale.
You can do this with a book, yoga block, and even a curb. This pose helps release tension in the psoas muscle. The psoas plays a big role in how labor can progress. Since the psoas runs behind and cradles the uterus, tightness can cause an imbalance of the uterus and encourage pelvic misalignments. This would interfere with the baby’s position and descent, and could possibly lead to a longer and more challenging labor. Standing with one foot on an elevated surface, allow your free leg to swing back and forth gently and dangle. Allow the hip to drop.
You will never regret doing the work that may give you and your baby the best chance at a more functional birth with less interventions. Where do you want to spend your time and energy- in the delivery room or in the yoga studio?
FOUNDER | MAMA |FERTILITY, PRENATAL, POSTPARTUM YOGA CERTIFIED | DOULA
Heidi is a yoga teacher, a doula, a wife, and most importantly, a mama.
Her goal is to create a community space for you that feels safe, supportive, and empowering. She holds certifications in Fertility Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, Postpartum Yoga, and Children’s Yoga. She is also a certified Postpartum and Infant Care Doula and a Labor Doula. She is one of two Yoga Alliance Certified Registered Prenatal Yoga Teachers in all of West Michigan. This is the highest credential in the field of Prenatal Yoga.
IG & FB: @mindbodybabyyoga
Need a bigger house but don’t know where to start?
The idea of finding a house that checks all the boxes while you’re growing your family sounds daunting. I promise we can make it happen. Have you been to Target multiple times to buy new storage containers, totes, and any other organization hacks, but still feel like your closets are bursting at the seams? I know exactly what you’re going through, and what you need is more space. You need to actually be able to put things on the counter in the kitchen and a dedicated place for snowing boots to dry without getting your socks wet. Trust me, you’re not messy, you’re not unorganized, you don’t have too much stuff.
You feel like your life is chaos right now, but let’s get to the root of what’s actually going on. Your house is too small. Your family has grown, and it only makes sense for your house to as well. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about this for a while, but just don’t know where to start. That’s OK! They say asking for help is a sign of strength. I can help. Check out the link below for a guide for using my More Space Method. Read below for more information on how you can make this happen.
How to buy if you need to sell.
I’m sure that you’ve heard it’s a sellers’ market and it’s crazy hard to find a house right now. There are a couple of ways to buy before you sell…
1. Write a contingent offer telling the seller that you have to sell your house before you can buy their house. In a steady market, this would work out just fine but not in this sellers’ market. They’re already getting multiple offers and there are buyers who don’t have to sell their house before they buy this one. Most likely, they will go with the sure thing.
2. Take out a home equity line of credit (HELOC) on your current house to be able to finance your next house. This works if your debt to income ratio allows you to afford two mortgages. Or if the HELOC is enough to finance your next house.
3. Find a lender who offers a bridge loan. This bridges that time between the sale of your current house and the purchase of your new house. There are fees associated with this loan (usually about $1000). However, if you can get into a new home at a lower interest rate you’re going to be money ahead. You’ll be better off even though you’re spending the extra $1000 to be able to qualify for the bridge loan.
4. Ask someone near and dear to you who trusts you for a loan. This may allow you to be able to pay for the new home in cash. Then pay them back with the proceeds from the sale of your house.
5. Perhaps you can afford to buy your new house without selling first. If you’d like to go that route, you need to make a few (usually 3) mortgage payments. Then you can refinance using the proceeds from your home sale to increase your equity. We can definitely get creative and different scenarios will work for different people. I want to express that it is possible to upsize in this market. Imagine your family in a new home, in that perfect school district, with space to grow. Your closets aren’t bursting at the seams. The kids actually have their own space. The toys are in a dedicated toy room. You have a sprawling backyard and a neighborhood with other growing families. That dream can become a reality.
What’s happening in the market now.
Even though prices are rising, it’s still a good time to buy. The reason for that is interest rates. To put that into perspective, if you bought a house at $350,000 with an interest rate of 2.5% your monthly payment is $1,106. If you were to buy that same house for $300,000 at an interest rate of 4.5%, your monthly payment would be $1,216. Interest rates make a huge difference, and currently, they’re at record lows.
Low inventory means that there aren’t enough houses on the market. There are many buyers out there, but not enough homes for them to buy. Right now inventory is at about two weeks. A steady market is six months of inventory. That’s referring to how long it would take for all the houses on the market to be scooped up. And that’s why it is a sellers’ market. There are many offers on a home, and homes are going over the list price. We’ll have to get a bit aggressive when we go to write an offer for your new home. On the flip side, with the right preparation and marketing plan, you can expect to get the same activity on your current house.
Everybody’s scenario is a little bit different. Everybody’s personality is a bit different too. If you want to be more hands-on, we can make that happen. If you totally want somebody else to take control and you want to be told where to sign, we could do that too. When you’re choosing a realtor make sure you find somebody that you respect and that respects you. You’re going to spend a lot of time together. You’re going to share your thoughts, dreams, and finances with them. Make sure you trust them to get you where you need to go.
Hello! I’m Sarah.
I help growing families upsize in West Michigan. I strive for a smooth, low stress, and straight forward transaction. The best praise I’ve received from a client is, “Sarah was incredibly detailed with helping us buy and sell our homes. She was the first realtor I have ever worked with that really made us feel like she was doing everything she could to get us the most money for our home. She made the process of buying our new house a breeze as well. I can’t say enough about how pleased we were using Sarah and I would highly recommend her to anyone!”
Helping people like that makes me so proud and drives everything I do! If you’re looking for a Realtor who handles the heavy work for you, I’d love to work with you, too!
Sarah Medina | Green Square Properties
Phone: (269) 929-1373
Preeclampsia is a prenatal and postpartum condition that is hallmarked by gestational hypertension and the presence of protein in the urine. It occurs in approximately 5-8% of pregnant women and can be life-threatening. Women who have had preeclampsia with a previous pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing it again.
The symptoms of preeclampsia can be varied and confusing. Edema (specifically pitting in the ankles), sudden weight gain, headaches or vision changes are all common complaints amongst patients with this condition, but presentation varies on the underlying cause.
Research has shown that nutritional deficiencies may play a role.  There have been several studies linking different nutritional deficiencies with an increased risk of developing gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. In this article I will address the individual nutrients linked in these studies, as well as nutritional principles to get you started.
NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES ASSOCIATED WITH AN INCREASED RISK OF PREECLAMPSIA
Magnesium: Magnesium is essential for the proper development of the placenta from mid first trimester on. We see significantly lower levels of magnesium in preeclamptic patients.  Not only is Magnesium necessary for many of the other nutrients, like Calcium, Sodium and Potassium, to function properly, it is also necessary for the hormone receptors to accept certain hormones. Without proper levels of Magnesium, sodium and calcium build up in the blood causing increased blood pressure and increasing the risk of preeclampsia. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, and deficiency can cause tightening of the blood vessels. The demand for magnesium grows exponentially from 28 weeks of gestation through childbirth.
Calcium: Calcium supplementation in pregnancies at a higher risk for preeclampsia has been shown to reduce the risk of hypertension and preeclampsia  as well as reduce the maternal mortality risk due to preeclampsia. Calcium supplementation help prevent dysfunction in the placenta by affecting Nitric Oxide Pathways.  Calcium also interplays with a other nutrients associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia, Vitamin D/K/Magnesium.
Zinc: Zinc is an important mineral for hormone development and immune support. It is one of the most essential minerals for pregnancy. Deficiencies are associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, birth defects, and stillbirths. Too much copper or iron can deplete zinc (there is a tricky balance), it is also necessary for proper B6 absorption. Zinc is the catalyst for the millions of enzymatic reactions that are occurring as your baby develops. It is also necessary in protein synthesis (protein is what your oxytocin is going to be made from). Zinc plays a role in the formation of red blood cells, and deficiency can lead to anemia. All things associated with preeclampsia. A 2015 study found lower zinc levels in preeclamptic mothers. 
Manganese: A new study, published in 2020, may possibly be bridging the gap among manganese deficiency, oxidative stress, and preeclampsia risk. This study was led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The analysis found significantly lower levels of manganese in early pregnancy increased the likelihood of the development of both gestational hypertension and preeclampsia.  This is the first paper linking manganese to preeclampsia. Manganese makes up a very important enzyme called superoxide dismutase that helps to reduce inflammation in the placenta.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a hormone. It is formed from cholesterol in the diet which interacts with the UVB rays to create Vitamin D. It is a fat soluble vitamin in the diet, and there MUST be a fat present for absorption. We do know that Vitamin D plays a significant role in the regulation of the hormones of our body. The role of Vitamin D in hypertension is still not fully understood, but we know there is a connection between low Vitamin D preeclampsia. There is an interesting correlation between winter pregnancies (lack of sunlight) and preeclampsia rates. Vitamin D is necessary in the formation of several enzymes produced by the placenta, which are missing in preeclampsia. Vitamin D is necessary for Calcium and Phosphorus to function. Supplementing with Vitamin D is associated with a decrease in preeclampsia risk.  Vitamin D and K work together, and in combination with Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium. Without vitamin K, these nutrients cannot work together correctly.
COQ10: A 2003 study found a marked decrease in CoQ10 in women with preeclampsia.  The theory is that increasing oxidative stress “consumes” the CoQ10, decreasing mitochondrial function. Interestingly, this difference is more prominent in women living at altitude than women living at sea level,  and with age.
Folate/B12: Homocysteine is a byproduct of the methionine cycle. This is cycle is the “methylation” cycle and is dependent on folate and B12.  Homocysteine increases cardiovascular inflammation, and the decrease in proper methylation affects the stability of the placental cells and their function.
Sign up now for our BECOMING a Mother online course! Gain confidence and reduce fear in pregnancy, labor, and early parenting! We’d love to see you there!
HOW TO PREVENT PREECLAMPSIA WITH DIET
The idea that diet influences the onset of hypertension and preeclampsia is a huge component of the functional medicine approach to chronic disease. Bear in mind that the development of the blood vessels between the placenta and the uterus begin early in gestation. In prevention, it is important to begin proper nutrition prior to conception. This doesn’t mean that it cannot develop later, or that severity in symptoms cannot be prevented during gestation. The placenta is growing for several months, as your baby develops, and at any point proper nutrition can be used to grow these blood vessels properly, create healthy blood flow, and relax tense blood vessels and stabilize placental function, all to lower hypertension and preeclampsia risk.
Here are my top guidelines for preventing preeclampsia through diet.
REDUCE PRESERVATIVE SODIUM: Research shows that once you have come into a hypertensive state, you are more sensitive to sodium and will react stronger than you would out of the hypertensive state. Typically, because there is an imbalance in the sodium levels in the cells and out of the cells (in the blood). This imbalance causes a strain on the blood vessels and increases blood pressure. Preservative sodium is different than sea salt sodium, or table salt. This synthetic form of sodium is more difficult for Magnesium to transport and becomes built up in the blood more quickly. Learn to read the labels. Synthetic preservative sodium is found in most packaged products.
REDUCE EXCESSIVE AND ADDED SUGARS: In a natural and balanced diet, our body needs sugars. Fructose is a fuel for the brain, and Glucose is a fuel for every cell in our body. But in excess, or not properly balance, these fuels become toxins. In our society, we consume excessive amounts or processed and packaged foods that are full of refined flours and sugars, and typically lead very sedentary lives. These inactive lives and diets rich in unused fuels causes excessive weight gain, hormone disruptions, and internal damage. Stick to natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, and fruits and fruit juices when needing to sweeten a recipe. If you are craving sugar, it could mean that you are not consuming enough vitamins and minerals, or you are not balancing with enough fat. When your cells are malnourished, you will crave sugar.
LEARN TO LOVE FAT: Many nutritional fats work as anti-inflammatories in the body. Without a proper level of good fats in our bodies, our hormones cannot function (Our hormones are made from fats!), our brain slows down (over 60% fat), our nerves become hypersensitive to stimuli, and our cells become weak. During pregnancy fats and cholesterols are even more important. They are the building blocks of the hormones that sustain pregnancy.
TASTE THE RAINBOW, AND I DON’T MEAN SKITTLES: What I mean is embrace the rainbow of colors found in fruits and vegetables. Foods that are rich in color are also rich in nutrition. They are also higher in antioxidants. Greens, Reds, Yellows, Blues, Purples, all of these colors are associated with nutrients and antioxidants.
SPICE IT UP: Use herbs to flavor your meals. There is such an amazing array of herbs out there that not only add vibrancy to our meals, but are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. Garlic, Ginger, Turmeric, Parsley, Cilantro, Oregano, Lemongrass, Curry, Fennel, Dill, Mint, the possibilities are endless. Stimulate your body and your brain with these intense flavors, not added sugar. Many of these herbs are also important sources of pregnancy important nutrients (parsley – Vitamin K), others are specifically known to help treat hypertension (Basil, Cinnamon, Garlic, Ginger, Parsley, Dandelion)
CHOOSE QUALITY NOT QUANTITY: The adage of eating for two is a misnomer. The baby growing inside you, at the most, needs 300 extra calories a day at its biggest. What we do need is more nutrients that sustain the health of your body…not calories. Excessive meals are hard on the system and put strain on the body. Often those consuming poor diets, or nutrient deficient diets, find themselves craving more food, even though they are eating large amounts of calories (well over what they need). This is because the foods they are consuming are nutrient deplete but high in carbohydrates and sugars, and the cells are actually STARVING for nutrition. Choose nutrient dense foods and smaller amounts over large amounts of poor-quality foods. You’ll be surprised at how much your food cravings and excessive hunger go away when your cells are getting the correct amount of nutrients.
STAY HYDRATED: Water makes up the majority of our body (80+%). It is a cooling, and lubricating mechanism. When we are deficient the body can heat up and dry out, causing friction and inflammation. Dehydration also causes an increase in pain perception, and reduction in blood flow to the brain. Over time, chronic dehydration can affect the neurotransmitters of the brain. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood, causing mood swings and depression. During pregnancy, your body is making and filtering amniotic fluid, which is a combination of water Vitamin C, E, and other electrolytes. You need to consume enough for your needs, the amniotic fluid, and your developing baby. The old adage of eating for two, should really be drinking for two, which would be more accurate. A little drink to absorbing more and peeing less…. add fruit, lemon, trace minerals, etc.…to your water. Tap water is lacking in naturally occurring minerals, they are removed during filtering, and processing. Traditional peoples didn’t carry around and fill 32 oz water bottles 2-4x per day…they didn’t have to, the water they drank was more nutritional with little bits of soil and debris which aided in absorption.
Sarah Thompson founded Sacred Vessel Acupuncture in 2012, after years of working alongside western medicine physicians. Sarah has dedicated her practice to those with complicated conditions, and those seeking to improve their health. She brings over 20 years of experience working directly with medical doctors in the fields of Pain Management, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and advanced studies in both Acupuncture and Functional Medicine.
Want to know more? Pick up her new book, Functional Maternity – Using Functional Medicine and Nutrition to Improve Pregnancy and Childbirth Outcomes.
1. Grum T, Hintsa S, Hagos G. Dietary factors associated with preeclampsia or eclampsia among women in delivery care services in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: a case control study. BMC Res Notes. 2018;11(1):683. Published 2018 Oct 1. doi:10.1186/s13104-018-3793-8
2. Kharb S, Goel K, Bhardwaj J, Nanda S. Role of magnesium in preeclampsia. Biomed Biotechnol Res J 2018;2:178-80
3. Hofmeyr GJ, Lawrie TA, Atallah AN, Duley L, Torloni MR. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for preventing hypertensive disorders and related problems. Cochran Database Syst Rev. 2014;6. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001059
4. DeSousa J, Tong M, Wei J, Chamley L, Stone P, Chen Q. The anti-inflammatory effect of calcium for preventing endothelial cell activation in preeclampsia. J Hum Hypertens. 2016;30(5):303-308. doi:10.1038/jhh.2015.73
5. Ma Y, Shen X, Zhang D. The Relationship between Serum Zinc Level and Preeclampsia: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2015;7(9):7806-7820. Published 2015 Sep 15. doi:10.3390/nu7095366
6. Liu T, Hivert MF, Rifas-Shiman SL, et al. Prospective Association Between Manganese in Early Pregnancy and the Risk of Preeclampsia. Epidemiology. 2020;31(5):677–680. doi:10.1097/ EDE.0000000000001227
7. Fogacci S, Fogacci F, Banach M, et al. Vitamin D supplementation and incident preeclampsia: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Clin Nutr. 2020;39(6):1742-1752. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2019.08.015
8. Teran E, Hernandez I, Nieto B, Tavara R, Ocampo JE, Calle A. Coenzyme Q10 supplementation during pregnancy reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2009;105(1):43–45. doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2008.11.033
9. Teran E, Chedraui P, Racines-Orbe M, et al. Coenzyme Q10 levels in women with preeclampsia living at different altitudes. Biofactors. 2008;32(1–4):185–190. doi:10.1002/biof.5520320122
10. Mujawar SA, Patil VW, Daver RG. Study of serum homocysteine, folic Acid and vitamin b(12) in patients with preeclampsia. Indian J Clin Biochem. 2011;26(3):257-260. doi:10.1007/s12291-011-0109-3
Audra Geyer, Gold Coast’s newest birth doula, tells us her birth story and how birth support from her doula was a game changer. She also took HypnoBirthing classes and went from being afraid of labor to looking forward to it! Her experience with Gold Coast let her to become a doula herself! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Audra to talk about her birth and HypnoBirthing experience. Welcome, Audra!
Audra: Hi. Thank you!
Kristin: So tell us a bit about yourself. I know we met at the Baby Expo in your early pregnancy stages.
Audra: Yeah. I live in Alger Heights with my husband and our two dogs, and we have a seven-month old daughter, Charlie.
Kristin: This was your first pregnancy. So tell us about how you planned for your birth.
Audra: So initially, I had no plans for my birth. I just envisioned that it would not be an enjoyable experience, and I just had to get through it, and it was just part of what the process was for having a baby.
Kristin: And how did you get that information? Was it from movies or friends, or what made you sort of fear birth?
Audra: I think just society’s view on birth. You know, everyone I had talked to, I had just heard horror stories about their own personal experience. And, yeah, watching movies, TV shows, everything just shows that this is a terrifying, awful experience, and so that’s just — I was just preparing myself for that.
Kristin: And I think people tend to share negative stories more than they do their positive birth stories with friends and family. That just feeds into it. So you took some classes with us in early pregnancy, and also used both birth doula support as well as postpartum. So tell us a bit about that preparation and maybe how it changed your mindset.
Audra: Yeah. So I went with a friend to the Baby Expo, and I had heard about doulas before but just assumed they were for natural home births. So we just started talking, and I heard about HypnoBirthing. I remember the first question I asked you guys at the Baby Expo was, can I still get an epidural? And they were like, oh, of course. Whatever birth you want, we’re just there to support you. So I went home and just did a ton of research, and I was like, holy cow. There’s this whole world of doulas and support for women that I never knew about.
Kristin: Yeah. There is a misconception that doulas are only for home birthing, unmedicated birthers, and, you know, especially at Gold Coast, we pride ourselves on judgement-free support, and we have clients who want an epidural the second they get to the hospital, clients who are planning a surgical birth and they want support emotionally and with resources for that birth. So, yeah, doulas are definitely for all birthing persons, not just unmedicated birthers.
Audra: And my whole life I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression, and my husband and I knew that would be something we’d have to keep a close eye on while I was pregnant but also postpartum, and to be like, oh, I could have this support right away, and just knowing that I will have someone in my corner and someone to support my husband, too. It just provided us both with a lot of comfort.
Kristin: Yes! So tell us about HypnoBirthing and what you learned in that class.
Audra: HypnoBirthing was amazing! First off, we just learned so much about the birthing process and what happens to our bodies in labor. Stuff we’ve learned, but I’ve never really taken a deep dive into it and thought about it. And just a big focus on labor and delivery and pregnancy — our bodies were meant to do this. We learned a lot of medication, breathing techniques, but it was also a big focus on bonding with your baby, bonding with your partner. Every class we left, I just felt so connected to my baby, to my husband. A lot of positive affirmations and just really starting to envision my pregnancy, my labor, delivery, as such a beautiful experience no matter what happens. And what a gift I’d been given to be able to go through this.
Kristin: Right. Exactly. And what I love about HypnoBirthing is it’s, as you said, it’s more like that mind-body connection versus just positions and some physical techniques you can do to reduce the perception of pain. So it’s just — there’s such an emotional connection to birth and your partner and your support team, and of course breath and using positive language in birth and taking the fear out of it. It’s a huge aspect of HypnoBirthing.
Audra: I remember my husband was like, sure, I’ll do this with you. And when we left our first class, he was like, that was nothing like I imagined. He thought we were going to be in a gymnasium with pool noodles on the floor in different positions, and I think he just felt really empowered, too, that look at what I can do to help support my partner and be just as involved in the birth.
Kristin: Right. Beyond HypnoBirthing, I know you took some other courses through Gold Coast. What else did you do preparation-wise?
Audra: I took the Saturday Series course. So Comfort Measures, Breastfeeding, and then Newborn Survival.
Kristin: And what were your takeaways from that one day series?
Audra: It was just so nice to have information, and I just felt so much more calm and educated and kind of knowing what to expect and knowing that there’s no right or wrong way.
Kristin: Right. It’s what right for you. I think all of us, you know, emphasize that in our classes, whether it’s Alyssa’s Newborn Survival or the Comfort Measures that I teach, and certainly Kelly’s breastfeeding class is eye-opening in so many ways and shows how a partner can be involved in feeding, as well.
Audra: Yeah, and I think with the breastfeeding, it really just prepared me, that if that’s the route I choose to go, it’s going to be hard, and it’s okay that it’s going to be hard. I think I had an idea that, oh, no, breastfeeding is going to be so easy. She’ll latch right away. We’ll have no issues. But to know that, yep, you’re not alone. This can be a struggle, and again, you have to figure out what’s best for you and your family.
Kristin: Exactly. Now we’re getting to your birth phase and working with birth doulas and so on. I know Katie was your doula. Tell us about that experience.
Audra: Oh, it was amazing. I went from initially, “Of course I’ll have an epidural,” to, nope, I’m going to do this all naturally, thanks to HypnoBirthing, to at 37 weeks finding out I needed to be medically induced.
Kristin: Lots of changes with that. Tell us how Katie supported you in pregnancy and then leading up to the induction. A lot of people don’t really understand the role of a birth doula through pregnancy and labor.
Audra: Yeah. I had — the minute I signed the contract with Gold Coast, I had Katie’s support. Through the phone; I could text her with any questions, anything I was worried about, anxious about. She would respond, provide me with resources. A lot of what I needed was just reassurance that things were going how they were supposed to go, that I was okay, baby was okay. And especially as a first-time mom and first time being pregnant, your body does a lot of things that you don’t know would happen.
Kristin: Right. There’s a lot of, “Is this normal, or do I need to call my provider?”
Audra: Exactly. And so just knowing I had someone there, nonjudgmental, you know, just supporting me — because, you know, calling your provider, you don’t always get to talk to them, or they’ll just yep, yes or no, give you a short little information, and then they have to move on with their day. So having someone who can sit down and really just talk through your options, talk about how you’re feeling, checking in with you emotionally.
Kristin: So when you found out you needed to be induced, how did your doula support you through that process before she supported you in the hospital?
Audra: So I left my appointment with the doctor sobbing in the car, just absolutely terrified about getting induced. So the first thing I did when I got home was text Katie. I just expressed all my fears to her and what I was feeling, and first and foremost, she reassured me that the medical team I had chosen were going to take the best care of me. My baby was going to be safe and healthy. I had blood pressure issues, and so I was just terrified of what could happen if my blood pressure gets really high. She encouraged me to write out a list of questions to ask my doctor. Like, if this happens, then what do we do, or what would this step be? What would this look like? So I could have more of an understanding of what potentially could happen at the hospital. And then also she really encouraged me to write out some affirmations, because I love writing affirmations and I use them all the time, and so I was able to write a list of affirmations that I would use while I would meditate to just help calm me down and center me, focus me, and let me still enjoy these last few moments of being pregnant.
Kristin: That’s fantastic. So you were able to have conversations before the induction started, and you got the answers you needed to feel empowered. So tell us about some of the induction process and when your body started to kick in and when you felt like you needed in-person support and how that went.
Audra: We knew it was going to be a long induction process, just because I was 37 weeks and my body was not near ready for labor. So between Katie, myself, and my husband, we were basically in constant communication through text message, just how I was doing, how I was feeling, what the next step was. And Katie actually came the first night we were at the hospital just to check in, see how we were doing, letting us know whatever we needed, she was there and ready for us. And things were going pretty stable at that point; nothing that we needed a lot of support. We were just resting. So she went home, and said, I have my phone with me. Anything you need, call, text, reach out. And things were slowly progressing. It got to the point where I did end up getting an epidural, but I was just pretty relaxed. And then the next day around noon, my water broke, and things started to pick up pretty quick.
Kristin: Yes. It intensifies everything, for sure.
Audra: We reached out and said, hey, you know, I think we’re ready for you to come. Labor has officially started after 24 hours of being at the hospital. And so by the time Katie got there, my epidural had kind of worn off a little bit. So I was in a lot of discomfort. I was not feeling well, and I just remember her coming in and with her and my husband, they were both just supporting me as I would breathe through my surges. And I actually — Katie has two sons, and I remember at one point looking up at her, and saying, I just need you to tell me what you love about being a mom, in between, so that I was able to focus on the things I had to look forward to as I was in some of these deep pains and discomfort. And it was just so amazing to hear. You know, I had my husband on one side telling me the birth affirmations we’ve written, and then I had Katie on the other just sharing these amazing things that I knew I would soon be experience.
Kristin: Yes. I love it!
Audra: With that, I was able to just relax, surrender, and just — I felt so calm despite being in one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve ever been in.
Kristin: That’s great. So things intensified. Did Katie help you move into different positions?
Audra: Since I had the epidural — because I finally got some relief — she would help with the nurses, with moving me, and I think the biggest thing for me was just the reassurance she was giving me, that I was doing great, my body was moving along, this was where I was supposed to be, helping me feel excited. And I think for Rob, too, she just was an extra support for him because he was supporting me so much, and it helped me to know he was taken care of as well.
Kristin: Yes. That is a huge part, because we do support a couple as a whole and make sure that the partner has gotten rest if needed with inductions or had a chance to get food or to step out and take a break because it can be intense when they’re pouring everything into you and are trying to be that supportive partner. We don’t want them to be depleted at the time of pushing and meeting their baby. So I’m glad that he felt taken care of, as well.
Audra: Yeah. And once I finally felt relaxed and got a lot of relief, Katie encouraged us both to take a little rest. And there’s actually a picture of us, with me in the bed sleeping, Rob on the couch sleeping, about an hour before I gave birth, and it’s just one of my favorites. The last few moments of us resting, just the two of us, and that moment was able to be captured.
Kristin: And then did Katie offer support after the birth? Like, how did she help after your daughter was born?
Audra: When Charlie was born, she came very quickly and ended up needing to be on CPAP pretty quick after she was born. So as a new mom and just already very anxious, I was terrified. Like, what is this looking like? Is she okay? Is this normal? What are they doing? And I had just given birth and my body — you know, I was just in this tremendous amount of emotions in general, and she was able to support both my husband and I. She encouraged Rob to go stand by Charlie and then was able to be there with me while the doctor was finishing up with me and just kind of keeping us informed, educating us about what was going on and that things were okay because the nurses and doctors, they’re all talking to each other and saying terms we didn’t understand, and just encouraging me to ask questions if I had any and validating that, you’re doing a good job advocating for yourself, Audra, and just — yeah, it was nice knowing my husband could be with Charlie for that brief time, and I had someone right there with me, as well. And so then after Charlie was able to be off of CPAP, we were able to do our skin to skin. She helped us with latching and, again, I was just very anxious. Is this supposed to be happening? Does she look okay? Is she breathing okay? And just, like, bringing me back to focus of, look, you just gave birth, and you have this newborn baby in your arms.
Kristin: I love it. Did she follow up after she left to see how you were doing when you were still in the hospital?
Audra: Yes. She would follow up to see how feeding was going, and then we did — I would say about a week after Charlie was born, she came to our house to just follow up and see how things were going, and she got to see Charlie and hold her. And it was just so nice to have her support and to have — like, that she was such a part of this experience to us, where I was so vulnerable, but yet it was such a beautiful, emotional experience that I feel just so connected to her now.
Kristin: Yes. I feel that way with my doulas. It is vulnerable, and a time of reverence. So, yeah, you end up feeling like your doula is part of your family for that journey, whether it’s a birth doula or a postpartum doula. And, of course, you delivered pre-COVID, but your postpartum phase was during COVID. So that’s changed your initial plans as far as postpartum doula support went.
Audra: Yeah. So we had — I’m trying to think. Maybe a couple weeks before COVID hit, being at home and being able to use our postpartum doula. And I remember initially being like, okay, what do I do? How can I entertain the doula? Like, I need to clean the house. I need…
Kristin: You’re a helper, obviously!
Audra: I need to look presentable! And Jen was our doula, and she came over and was just like, oh, my gosh, Audra, like, you can relax. I have Charlie. Don’t you worry. And I would go take a nap. I would rest. I would come downstairs, and the house would be tidied. She’d have a snack waiting for me. My pump parts would be clean. The diapers bag was packed and ready to go.
Audra: Yeah. Less things I had to worry about or to focus on later that day. And I like to talk and talk through experiences, so a lot of times, too, we would just sit and talk, which is what I needed at that time.
Kristin: And we are there to process the birth with our clients as far as postpartum doula support and then help you heal and talk to you emotionally. I feel like friends and family ask more about the baby and don’t check in enough with the birthing person and how they’re doing and how they’re feeling. Everyone wants to hold the baby and give gifts for the baby, and there’s not enough attention to the birthing person.
Audra: Yeah. The amount of times I got asked, how’s the baby sleeping? You know, it was never, how are you sleeping? How are you doing? It was, oh, how is she sleeping? And I also got a lot of, oh, I’m glad that’s going great now, and you just wait until you see what happens. And I’m like, my body is still healing from this crazy experience. I’m keeping another human alive. What about me? I need help, too.
Kristin: Exactly. And in traditional cultures, women are supported for 30 to 40 days from friends and family, and they aren’t expected to do anything. And in our culture, it’s like, okay, get back to work. Get back in shape. You should be feeling great and don’t complain.
Audra: Keep the house clean!
Kristin: Right. Be perfect! And that’s not how it should be. So we’re trying to bring back some more of that focus on the birthing person. So you are now a doula with us! So tell us how you became interested in becoming a doula after your experience and a bit about why you are drawn to this work, because you obviously have another career.
Audra: Yes. So like I said earlier, I went from not knowing a lot about birth, just expecting, you know, this to kind of be a terrible experience, and through my education and through the help of having doulas, I was able to make my birth one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve gone through, and I found myself, after giving birth, wanting to talk about birth a lot, and I was doing a lot of research, reading a lot of books, reading about postpartum, and right now, I’m a speech language pathologist. I work with people who’ve either had a stroke or a brain injury. So I’ve always worked with people, helping people. That’s been a passion of mine. And just realizing the lack of knowledge, especially in the United States, of the postpartum experience, the birth experience, and what a doula is. And I just thought, wow, if I could help give other women the support I had and help them through this journey, help them have the experience and support that I had, that would just be so fulfilling and just — it makes me sad when I think about all the people I know who look back on their birth and their postpartum and it was — they felt like they had no support and they felt so alone. And that shouldn’t be the norm.
Kristin: Right. Yeah, they feel isolated, especially now during COVID, and we’ve been working all through COVID. Some of our postpartum work had halted, and some hospitals weren’t allowing doulas in, so we offered virtual support only, but I feel like now more than ever, because of the isolation with COVID, doula support and that connection is so essential and providing information, as you said, so couples can make informed decisions about their birth and their postpartum phase and planning out what they want to do after baby or babies are born and how they can accept help from others or hire help, like postpartum doulas or a housekeeper or a meal delivery service, whatever it may be.
Audra: Yeah. And even the comfort of knowing you guys have a sleep consultant, and if I ran into issues, you know, I had 12 weeks off for maternity leave, and a big area of anxiety was, what is it going to look like when I go back, with sleep? And so I always knew I had Alyssa if I needed her. Thankfully, Charlie got on a good sleep routine on her own, but just knowing the amount and the diverse support that Gold Coast had, I knew I was going to be taken care of, and I knew I was in good hands.
Kristin: So what did you learn — obviously, you worked with doulas, but then you recently took your birth doula training. What opened your eyes that you didn’t know before about the doula role? Tell us a bit about your training.
Audra: It was so amazing. Just learning about nonjudgmental support. No matter what someone is thinking, feeling, we are just really there to support them. And, obviously, as we go through our own births and raising our own kids, we can develop our own feelings, but putting those aside and saying, we are there to support you, and no matter what you choose. So it was nice to just learn about all those different strategies and how I could go in and help a woman in any situation, no matter what. I would feel confident doing that.
Kristin: Right. And your particular training through ProDoula — and I’m also trained through ProDoula — you realize you don’t need all the things as a doula, and you have that instinctual knowledge, and you’re able to just serve; again, without judgment, and an open heart, and a brand new doula can be just as effective as someone who’s seasoned like myself.
Audra: Yeah. And, again, before I knew much about doulas, I always thought, oh, they have the birthing balls and they’re in the tub and, you know, all these other knick-knacks that you have to have. And it’s really just yourself being there. That’s all you need.
Kristin: I mean, I have a birth backpack that is filled with things, but outside of, you know, my bosu and a couple other things — like, I like the LED candles to put in the bathroom if a client’s in the tub or shower, but I don’t use everything I bring. Other than snacks for myself, and that’s key. Got to keep going! But, yeah. So we’re excited to have you on the team!
Audra: Yes. I’m so excited!
Kristin: And I know you have plans eventually to become a postpartum doula, but you are available for hire for labor doula support.
Kristin: So we’re excited to begin that process with you. Thanks for sharing your story, Audra!
Audra: Yes. Thank you for having me! I love sharing it and talking about my experience.
Kristin: You’ll impact so many families, not only from listening to the podcast, but when they begin working with you. And we will include a link to your bio in our podcast notes and the blog. Thanks for listening to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. These moments are golden!
Kristin Revere, Co-Owner of Gold Coast Doulas talks with Vikki Nestico of Grand Wellness about acupuncture to help relieve stress, tension, and anxiety. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Vikki from Grand Wellness to talk about how acupuncture can help with anxiety, both in pregnancy and after delivery. Welcome, Vikki!
Vikki: Thank you for having me! It’s awesome to be here again.
Kristin: Yeah, it’s great to have you back! We spoke about acupuncture and fertility last time. So I’m excited to delve into anxiety. A lot of our clients struggle with anxiety, both in pregnancy and after giving birth. So I’d love to hear a bit about you personally and also your practice before we begin.
Vikki: Well, I moved here from New York City about six years ago and was so happy, because I do love it here — it’s such a great city — but really exciting to bring — I wouldn’t say I brought this medicine here, but, you know, I’m one of handful of people that do acupuncture in West Michigan. And in New York, every corner has an acupuncturist. So it’s wonderful to be a part of the crew that can — that really gets to share this medicine for the first time to so many people.
Kristin: Right. Yeah, it is definitely all about education, and we feel the same way about birth support and certainly postpartum doulas. Everyone has a doula in New York or Chicago or in other markets, and so both of us in our practices have the challenge of educating the community on the benefits of our services. So it’s great to partner with like-minded professionals like yourself and refer clients and know that you’re a trusted referral source. You know, we tend to refer a lot of our clients who are either struggling with pain in pregnancy or are trying to induce labor or have a baby who’s breech, for example, and they’re trying to do everything they can to flip baby. So we appreciate how much you’ve helped our clients.
Vikki: Oh, thank you. I love working with women and with women in the process of getting pregnant and working through pregnancy, giving birth. There is nothing more exciting than to get that note from a client with a beautiful picture of their baby on it.
Kristin: Yes! That is the best. And then if you continue the relationship, that’s also quite lovely, to follow up and see how they’re doing.
Vikki: Absolutely, and usually when you get in — you know, obviously, with doulas, you then work on next pregnancies and sometimes around that. For us, it really opens our clients’ eyes to what acupuncture can help with. So if we’ve helped somebody through fertility and through pregnancy, we’ll often see them down the road for the beginning of other conditions. You know, they’ll pop in and say, you know, you helped me with this. Before I have to go in and, you know, take maybe a certain medication, you know, can acupuncture help? And so it’s really wonderful to, exactly, continue on and help them throughout other struggles they may have in the future.
Kristin: So, Vikki, tell us how acupuncture can help a birthing person with anxiety during their pregnancy.
Vikki: Well, first of all, we are all aware when we’re pregnant that the body is making these huge changes. And with that, we are increasing our blood supply. We are just making this little human. And that amount of added blood in our body can really affect how smoothly our circulation flows and how smoothly our energy flows. So when we look at things like anxiety, in particular, you know, we want to make sure that we are helping somebody have everything circulating through their body with ease. But why things may struggle: there can be a whole host of different reasons why, and so with Chinese medicine, we — for those that have never had it, there’s not just one answer to a condition. So there’s not just — you know, say somebody is having struggles sleeping. There’s not one pill or one herb or one item for the whole idea of insomnia. And the same way with anxiety. If we’re having a client who’s struggling with anxiety, we need to ask a lot of questions and go through a lot of our diagnoses to find the pattern and to help unravel that pattern. So we do — we ask a lot of questions. We want to know things like, have you had anxiety before? Or is this something new due to the hormonal changes in pregnancy? Are you eating differently? You know, we change our eating habits when we’re pregnant, and sometimes we’re craving things, maybe more items that are hot and spicy, or dairy, or fried foods. That can affect anxiety. Being depleted because we’re working at home or at the office a lot can, you know, cause some fatigue in the body. That can add to anxiety. But then also we want to know the physical symptoms of what they’re feeling.
Kristin: Sure. And if someone’s had back to back pregnancies, there can be a lot of depletion with that.
Vikki: Absolutely. Absolutely. So we just take all this information that we get during our conversations with our clients and through our own diagnoses or tongue and pulse diagnosis that we do. You’ve had your tongue looked at before, so you know.
Vikki: It gives us a lot of really objective information.
Kristin: I felt like your intake session was very thorough and, you know, even getting into the supplements that I take and how that affects my mood and energy level and so on. Yeah, it was very thorough.
Vikki: Yeah, and then that gives us, you know, how are we going to release this anxiety; how are we able to cool the body if it’s more of a racing anxiety; how are we going to be able to bring that down and allow our clients to take this big, healing, deep breaths. And acupuncture’s really helpful for that.
Kristin: Yes! And so as far as this session — and you describe sort of the intake process, but for clients who say they have a fear of needles or are uncertain on, you know, what a session would look like, and you mentioned that it’s relaxing, and I would definitely agree with that — can you take — walk our listeners through what a session would be like during pregnancy?
Vikki: Yeah. I totally understand that it seems really odd that it could be relaxing, until you’ve had it done. And I see a lot of clients that come in who are very hesitant because they’re very — they may be fearful of needles. And so I work within their capacity. Here, we’re very gentle, and as I always say to my clients, you’re in control when we’re in the room. The importance for me is to help the patient find comfort so when they are resting with the needles in, then they’re able to really relax. So treatments usually start by a lot of talking. You know, our first treatments are about 90 minutes, and that’s because we do a good chunk of talking to unravel where this pattern starts so I know how I’m going to approach the treatment. It also helps our clients get comfortable with me or Corey, who’s the other acupuncturist here. And know that this isn’t a rushed treatment. What we do here, we take our time, and we always make sure that our client is comfortable. And then after we chat for a while, we do that tongue and pulse, that diagnosis, which is, you know, just how we can objectively see what’s going on in the body. And then we choose the points that we’re going to use to right the imbalance, and the client gets to lay for about 25 minutes or 30 minutes with the needles, which, again, sounds like it wouldn’t be relaxing, but you don’t even know they’re there.
Kristin: Right. I would agree.
Vikki: And it’s a very deep rest. A lot of times, people are surprised how deeply they nap when they come in for acupuncture. Very relaxing.
Kristin: Now, after baby’s born, walk us through how that can be helpful if a listener is struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety or OCD after giving birth and how you can level hormones and so on.
Vikki: Acupuncture’s a really wonderful and natural way for women to build their strength and to heal after birth. First and foremost, it’s a great therapy for restoring energy and boosting that immune system, and that is not just, you know, after — for women after they’ve given birth. That’s for clients going through cancer treatments. That’s for people struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome. Acupuncture is just a really great therapy to bolster our energy of our body and really direct it to helping us heal and be stronger. But specifically to helping after a baby is born, acupuncture helps to rebuild blood that was lost during childbirth, which can bring on other conditions. It helps you increase circulation that will speed up wound healing and helps stop pain. It helps with women with breastfeeding issues, increasing milk production or healing mastitis.
Kristin: That’s amazing. I didn’t realize. I knew that the milk supply would be affected, but mastitis healing — fantastic.
Vikki: I know I see people that, you know, come in and we have certain points that really help to increase that milk supply but also helping our body just to use our body fluids correctly and to create that breastmilk. It’s wonderful to see women be able to get some support, not with the aspect of how are you positioned and how is the baby breastfeeding, but internally, how your body is actually dealing with the milk supply. We also, after the baby’s born, we help a lot with emotional issues. And, you know, like you said, it’s not just anxiety and depression. It’s worry. It’s grief. I see women that aren’t breastfeeding and maybe they couldn’t for some reason, or they chose not to, and after they made that decision, they’ve been feeling grief about it. We are here to help; we help them process that.
Kristin: Right. Or grieving the birth that they wanted that didn’t happen. There’s so much.
Vikki: Absolutely. You know, I always — I often say that in China, women have a whole month where their job is to rest after giving birth, and, you know, they take — the baby is brought to them. They feed the baby; they cuddle the baby. But for the most part, their family is there to take care of that baby and to take care of that mom and feed her great food and get her energy and her blood back to normal so she’s at full capacity when she’s back, when she’s clicked into really taking care of that baby. And we don’t do that here in America.
Kristin: We don’t, unfortunately.
Vikki: Yeah. And so it can take longer for us to heal physically, for us to heal emotionally, because, you know, we don’t — we haven’t nourished ourselves and been able to rest as much and to have as much self-care time.
Kristin: And you describe what we do as postpartum doulas, like in that role of what a family member would do in other cultures, making sure that they’re nourished and they’re taking care of their house and bringing baby to them and encouraging them to rest or take a shower or have a cup of tea. And so, yeah, so we love that role. It is such a depleting time, and I feel like our culture is so rushed. I do love the first 40-day concept of healing and rest and care.
Vikki: Absolutely. As I say to my clients when we talk about working with doulas, during that time — in a lot of these traditional countries, villages, our families were so close that we didn’t need all this, you know, this other — we had somebody that was coming. There was somebody in the village coming. But now, we don’t have people in the village coming. We don’t have our families right there. We need our doulas. We need our acupuncturists. We need our advocates or people that listen to us. Therapy, I often will say, is a wonderful thing, because we don’t always have the support here.
Kristin: Right. Exactly. And a lot of people move here for work and don’t have any family to help care for them and, you know, it’s so needed to take that time. And like you said, that 30-minute session is a time away from family and responsibilities as a mother, and you can just rest and relax and have someone take care of you.
Vikki: And in that 30 minutes, that 30 minutes isn’t even just the whole treatment. That is just the 30 minutes that you’re laying and resting with the needles in. You’ve already been able to share your truths, to share what’s going on, and we can begin treatment, but then you get that time in just a safe, healing environment, with gentle music, to just relax and let the body just take full control of healing and making some really great, balancing changes.
Kristin: I love that. So, Vikki, tell us how our listeners can get in touch and payment methods. I know you take health savings and flex spending and some insurances and so on.
Vikki: Yeah. So we are happy to work with our clients when it comes to billing, in many ways. First off, if their health savings or FSA does cover acupuncture, we definitely take it, and we definitely supply people with superbills that needs them for insurance reimbursements if they’re unsure about reimbursement. We do bill insurance directly for those that do have benefits for acupuncture. And we also have loyalty programs where we, for our clients, we offer the tenth treatment complimentary, and that is a mix of many of our treatments here from acupuncture to reiki to massage. We understand that, you know, the Western world hasn’t really gotten on board to the preventative medicine, and so insurance doesn’t cover everything. And we love to be able to help in ways that we can. So, you know, that’s how with insurance and that. But they can get in touch with us from our website, and on there is a whole bunch of information. You can also book online there. Otherwise, clients can call the office directly and make appointments with our front desk, and the number there is 616-466-4175. I often encourage people that are unsure to schedule a complimentary consultation with myself or Corey, the other acupuncturist who works here, who’s awesome. And, you know, we’re happy to really answer questions and for people to hear our voices and to be able to have some conversation about them directly to help with their comfort level as to whether or not they feel like this is the right therapy for them.
Kristin: That’s fantastic. Do you have any parting words for our listeners?
Vikki: You know, when it comes to dealing with changes in our mood, especially around the times of pregnancy and giving birth, these times are just really a struggle for us. It’s what makes us as women so powerful is the ability to be able to roll with these changes and to experience what is amazing about our bodies. But it doesn’t mean that everything goes smoothly, and I often see people get caught up in — you know, women seeing other mothers who just effortlessly fall into being a mother and gave birth and just the ease of raising children. And I can usually guarantee most women that that is — that we all struggle. We all struggle. And there are many options for help, and acupuncture is a great one. It’s not the only one, but it is a great therapy for supporting women during these times and just unraveling the stressors and emotions that we struggle with during that time.
Kristin: I love that. Thanks for sharing!
Kristin and Alyssa, owners of Gold Coast Doulas, talk about the things they wish they had known before having a baby. Listen to this fun episode packed with advice and lots of little gold nuggets of information for new parents! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin.
Alyssa: And I’m Alyssa.
Kristin: And we’re here today with a fun idea of what I wish I would have known before pregnancy and having a baby. And this is inspired, actually, by your newborn class, Alyssa.
Alyssa: That’s kind of why I created it, yeah, because there’s so many things that it’s like, why did nobody tell me this? Or if only I had known, this would have been so much easier!
Kristin: Yeah! So I will start. We’ll go through, like, the top five things that each of us wished we would have known before having kids. So my number one is no PJs, especially if you’re registering, that have snaps on them. You want zippers. Snaps are a pain in the middle of the night. They’re noisy. They might wake your baby.
Alyssa: Same with Velcro. But, yeah, I never really thought about snaps and doing that in the dark. It can be really tricky. I’ve had it where, you know, the top button is — or the top snap is hooked to the second one, like everything’s kind of off because you’re doing it sleep-deprived.
Kristin: Yeah. So Alyssa, what would you say?
Alyssa: One of the things I remember the most is a friend told me to have pads on hand, and she actually had just had a baby, like, two months before I did. So she’s like, you know, ran to the bathroom and said, here, I actually have some left. I never used them. I’m like, what do I need these for? And she said, well, afterwards, you just kind of leak, and there’s blood and who knows. And I’m thinking, okay, whatever. So I brought them home. But then I was one of the, what, 25 or 30% of people that your water actually breaks. So I wore them for — gosh, my water broke at, like, 4:00 in the morning or something, and I had — I didn’t go to the hospital until noon, so I had, like, eight hours of slow leak. So I wore the pad constantly, and then afterwards, it’s almost like spotting or like a light period. And I didn’t know, too, you could put, like, witch hazel or something on it and freeze the pad, kind of like in a — like, around a melon or something so that you could sit on it.
Alyssa: I didn’t know that. I didn’t do that, but that’s kind of an afterthought, too.
Kristin: Similar to what they give you, but without the witch hazel, at the hospital. The ice pads and ice diapers if you have more abrasions.
Alyssa: Yeah. A client told me that they had heard — or a student in my class, the adult diapers, they kept those around for leaking or spotting or water breaking. Any of the things. So having something around like that was probably one of the best things that I was told that many people aren’t told.
Kristin: Right. I had one of those pads for my car when I was driving in case my water broke.
Alyssa: Oh, you sat on it all the time? That’s actually a good idea. You could buy those puppy pee pads or something.
Kristin: Yeah. I had a long commute to Lansing with my first pregnancy, so it was like, if my water breaks, I’m just…
Alyssa: I actually thought about that as I sat in my office, you know, the couple weeks before I was due. Like, what if I — that will be so embarrassing if my water breaks and I’m sitting in my chair. Had I thought about that, I probably would have sat on something, just to save myself some embarrassment, I guess.
Kristin: And my number two tip is to look into childcare as soon as possible. If you plan to go back to work full time or are looking for a nanny or a nanny share, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, don’t delay until your third trimester. It’s so hard to find help. And in that in between time, of course, you can have a postpartum doula, day or night. But that childcare search and nanny search is time-intensive.
Alyssa: Yeah. It takes forever, and it’s the last thing your brain is capable of doing when you have a newborn at home.
Alyssa: So if you have to go back at 12 weeks, you can’t — you can’t start at 6 weeks, looking for childcare. A, you probably you won’t find it, or you’re going to have to settle for something that you don’t necessarily love, and that’s the hardest thing to do is you have to leave your baby for the first time. You want it to be with somebody that you 100% feel comfortable with and trust.
Alyssa: You don’t want to have to settle.
Alyssa: I wish that I would have taken a breastfeeding class, and I wish I knew there was lactation consultants that actually come to your home because I suffered through — I got mastitis twice, and even though I knew enough about breastfeeding to know, like, the whole supply and demand thing, in the fog of new motherhood, I was nursing and pumping because I was, like, oh, my gosh, my boobs are so full, and I just need to drain them. And I was, like, doing the worst thing possible because I’m producing then twice as much, which then I got mastitis, and my boobs were so swollen that it was hard for my daughter to eat then, and then my one nipple got really cracked and sore and it was bleeding one day, and I just remember sitting in the rocking chair sobbing, and my husband came in and was like, oh, my gosh, what can I do? But had I just taken a breastfeeding class, I would have probably more easily reminded myself like, oh, yeah, it takes a couple weeks for this whole process to, you know, adjust and my body to adjust to what baby needs and that I didn’t have to sit in that rocking chair by myself and cry, and my latch was wrong.
Kristin: Right. Kelly saved me with both of my kids. I had mastitis as well and thrush, and —
Alyssa: You know, I knew about Kelly Emery. Or maybe I didn’t until after. I might have found her because she did Baby and Me yoga classes. She was one of the only ones, like, seven and a half years ago that did baby. So I think I might have found her after the fact. I wish I had known about the lovely Kelly Emery before.
Kristin: Yes. We’re lucky to have her at Gold Coast, along with Cami, of course.
Alyssa: What’s your next one?
Kristin: So I highly suggest, based on personal experience, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, hire a birth and postpartum doula. With my second pregnancy, my doulas were some of the first to know that I was pregnant, before family. And I needed resources, and they were there emotionally and to connect me with resources in the community. So I recommend hiring early, especially as doulas get booked up quite early. Like, we’re working with clients with due dates in late March, and as we’re recording, it is August. And so thinking about if a team or individual doula takes two clients or even four a month, how quickly they can get booked up. So hire your doula early, and same goes for postpartum.
Alyssa: Yeah. I don’t think I even fully understood what a doula was or did, you know, eight — almost eight and a half years ago that I got pregnant. And if anything, I knew what a birth doula was but didn’t know enough to even consider looking into one or hiring one. And, of course, now that we do what we do, it’s a no-brainer. But I’m not having any more kids.
Kristin: Right. Same.
Alyssa: But if I was to do it all again, absolutely.
Kristin: Exactly. So what about you, Alyssa?
Alyssa: So this wasn’t, like, a big deal, but I didn’t really know what to expect with the baby’s cord and how it fell off and what it looked like, and I don’t do well with blood and scabs. It just turned into a big, giant, thick, button-sized scab.
Kristin: Yes. It’s gross.
Alyssa: It really grossed me out, and then just falls off, and I remember finding it in her diaper or something one day. But I’ve also reminded and I always tell people in my class about, if they’ve ever watched Sex in the City — oh, gosh, what’s her name? The redhead? I don’t know.
Alyssa: Miranda. She has a baby, and the cord falls off, and then the cat finds it and is batting it around the house, and I — it’s like one of those, oh, my god, I’m going to puke in my mouth kind of situations. But I didn’t know how gross it would be to me, but I’m just squeamish when it comes to scabs and blood. But, yeah, I didn’t really know what to expect with that.
Kristin: And then you have to know to, like, flip the diaper down so you don’t cause more irritation. I didn’t know that at first.
Alyssa: Yeah. We go over a lot of that. And they make diapers now, too, that have little tiny cutouts where the belly button is, and they’re very, very small, for newborn only, but you only need one little package of them because if it falls off within the first week, you don’t need many of those.
Kristin: And my advice is, with the registry, don’t — it’s not your wedding registry. You don’t need to register for all the things. Babies don’t need all that much. And so my suggestion is to register for a meal service, a doula, classes, lactation support, versus all of the onesies and the high chair and things you don’t need until much later. I mean, some things are essential.
Alyssa: Car seats, stroller, yeah.
Kristin: You know, if you’re going to wear your baby, the different carriers are great. You know, a diaper bag. There’s some things that — you know, a thermometer, that are important to have. But you don’t need all the things.
Alyssa: I know. I always see on baby registries, like, spoons and bibs and bowls. Like, you realize your kid — it could be a year. You know, you might start solids at six months, but they’re not sitting up at a table by themselves for probably 12 months. So it’s a lot of wasted money for something that’s going to sit in a closet for up to 12 months unused.
Kristin: Exactly, especially if you’re in a tight space. Where do you put all that stuff?
Alyssa: Right. Definitely. Like, have people spend money on support and food. Bring me food! And send someone to watch my baby and pick up my house and care for my toddler and let me rest or take a shower.
Alyssa: Or sleep all night. So one thing I learned later into have a newborn was to always pack two extra sets of clothing for the baby or at least, you know, maybe not two full outfits, but a couple extra onesies. And then I also would pack one for myself. Like, something — yoga pants and a T-shirt. Something that was easily folded up, because I can’t tell you how many times I either — you know, you’re out and about, and you get spit up on, and of course, it will be, like, yellow spit up on a black shirt.
Kristin: Of course.
Alyssa: That everyone can see, and then it stinks like crazy. Or she’d have a blowout on my lap, and then the poop would come out the diaper onto my pants, and now I have puke on my shirt and poop on my pants. So I would just always have — even if it’s just in my car, an extra set of clothes for me, as well.
Kristin: That applies for birth doulas. I always have an extra set of clothes in case I get fluids or water breaking. So, yeah, wise advice. And my advice is, for those of you that aren’t prepared for baby poop, meconium is really interesting for a first-time parent. It is so dark and sticky and hard to, like, wipe off.
Alyssa: Like, what did my baby eat? Tar?
Kristin: Right! For breastfed babies, in my opinion, breastfed poop does not smell and is quite easy to deal with, but then you introduce food or formula, and things get totally different. It’s like, okay, I got through the meconium, then I had my breastfed baby, and now food is like, what?
Alyssa: Yeah. We do talk about that. Breastfed baby poop doesn’t — exclusively breastfed babies — the poop doesn’t smell. And that’s another thing. On the registry list, the very expensive diaper genie with the expensive refills — you don’t even need to use that in the beginning. You can literally throw in in a little trashcan and just take it out at the end of the night or even every couple days. The second formula or solids are introduced, it’s a whole new ballgame. It stinks, and you’ll want to use that diaper genie.
Alyssa: My last one, again, is kind of about breastfeeding because it was tricky for me in the beginning, but I wish that I didn’t buy — like, I bought nursing bras, nursing shirts, nursing dresses, all the things, and there were just so many layers and levels to this breastfeeding thing that I could never do it in public because I had to, like, undo the nursing bra, which was under the other shirt, which — I would always have to go somewhere private. But then I found these nursing tanks, and there’s like a shelf bra in them, and I could have worn like what I’m wearing now, like a frilly, flowy shirt, and you lift that shirt up. You have the tank on underneath to cover your belly, and very nonchalantly, you breastfeed your baby. Nobody even knows. Oh, and the covers. All these — I had this thing that looked like an apron. I put it over my head, and it was this cloth, and then baby’s whipping it all around. And in my class, I tell people, you’re basically waving a flag to everyone, saying, I’m about ready to breastfeed. Look right here. Whereas if I would have just nonchalantly unclipped, put her on, nobody would even notice. So there’s too many things, and the more things you buy, the harder it makes it, I think. It’s simple. Keep it simple.
Kristin: I agree. I always used tanks, and obviously, for larger-chested women, that may not be as much of an option support-wise, but I even labored in tanks, and, you know, speaking of labor, my biggest advice is don’t give birth, unless you’re birthing at home and it’s not as big of a deal, in a sports bra. If you’re at the hospital, there’s no way to get it off. If there’s an IV line, it often has to be cut off. So a nursing tank, again, that has the snaps or a nursing bra if much easier.
Alyssa: People wear a sports bra because they’re comfortable and think, I’m just going to labor in this because my underwire bra is not the most comfortable things.
Kristin: But then you can’t get it off for skin to skin. It’s so tight.
Alyssa: Right. I just think I didn’t wear a bra. Free flowing.
Kristin: Yeah. I was pretty much that way toward the end. Started out modest, and then it just all changed. So we would love to hear your top five things that you learned. You can always reach out to us, and maybe that will make some future episode ideas. But we’re happy to share other advice in Alyssa’s amazing newborn class, and for those who are expecting twins and triplets, we have a multiples class. And, of course, labor advice is given in HypnoBirthing, and we have the breastfeeding and pumping classes that also give some very helpful tips.
Alyssa: Yeah. So check out our classes. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks for listening!
Kristin: These moments are golden.
Today Kristin talks to Vikki Nestico, R.Ac of Grand Wellness Acupuncture. We learn a lot about fertility and how acupuncture supports the nervous system, reduces stress, and increases blood flow to the reproductive organs. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Hi, Vikki!
Vikki: Hi, how are you?
Kristin: I’m good. Good morning!
Vikki: Good morning.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Vikki from Grand Wellness to talk about fertility and acupuncture. So welcome, Vikki!
Vikki: Thanks, Kristin! It’s good to be here.
Kristin: So tell us about yourself before we begin.
Vikki: Well, I am an acupuncturist, and I own a holistic care clinic here in Grand Rapids called Grand Wellness. And we’ve been here for about six years. So it’s been wonderful being here. Previously, I had moved here from New York City where acupuncture is used very often, and so moving here, it’s been wonderful to see it growing and holistic health in general just growing every year by leaps and bounds. So it’s been really wonderful.
Kristin: And I think we met when you first moved to Michigan through a mutual friend.
Vikki: Yes. Absolutely, yes. That was quite a while ago.
Kristin: Yes. It sure was! We’re glad to have you here, and I love seeing how well your practice is doing.
Vikki: Thank you! Yeah, so we work with a lot of different conditions here at the office, but, you know, a group that I really enjoy working with are couples who are trying to conceive. It’s very rewarding to work with these women and men who are trying to conceive naturally or maybe they’re using IVF or anywhere in between.
Kristin: Sure. Take us through the process of how a couple would work with you as they’re trying to conceive, whether they’re using natural methods only or if they are going through a fertility center, for example, and want a mix of holistic and medicine.
Vikki: Yeah. So we really meet each couple or mother at whatever place they’re at. So, you know, optimally, you know, as soon as they have a little glimmer in their heart that they would like to start a family, that’s when we love to start seeing them. But that doesn’t always work out. A lot of times, we — and we see people after they’ve been trying for a while. We see probably our greatest group of couples when they’re working with a fertility clinic. So we do a lot of work with the local fertility clinic here. I think they know our smiling faces over there. But we really meet them where they’re at, and we’re able to help in all aspects of preparing both the women as well as the men, and I think that working with men is an aspect of fertility that people don’t think about.
Kristin: I’d love to hear more about that! Do you work with the man surrounding his emotions or just basically to repair him biologically?
Vikki: I guess the easiest way to explain is to really explain how acupuncture works in the body. There’s a couple different ways to look at it. There’s through the eyes of Chinese medicine, and then there’s through the eyes of our scientific knowledge, right, of how the body works. So I’ll sort of walk you through, maybe, the scientific knowledge, since that’s what most people think of when they’re trying to figure out what’s going on with their fertility. So acupuncture really is great at calming the nervous system, balancing hormones, and increasing blood flow. Blood flow, blood flow, blood flow. I can’t say it enough when people come in for treatment. And the reason that acupuncture can help and is so helpful is because, first off, if we look at just increasing the blood flow, we’re focused on having that blood flow reach the reproductive organs. And so in that way, we’re looking at it to improve the function of the ovaries, to nourish and help grow these healthy, ready eggs, to send more blood to the uterus to create this thick and healthy lining. And those aspects are, you know, obviously extremely important when we’re looking at ease of getting pregnant. Another way that acupuncture helps is by reducing stress, and I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, right? Stress can really cause a lot of problems for us across the board, but when we’re looking specifically at fertility, it’s easy to see how it can cause a problem. I always explain stress by using my little prehistoric story of a woman. She’s sort of walking down the street, and this saber tooth tiger jumps in her path. And at that moment, her body clicks, the sympathetic nervous system. And all the blood and all the energy in her body is getting out to the muscles so she can run fast, so she can be strong. To her eyes, so she can see. Opening the ability to bring in more oxygen, to breathe more, to be fast. And that’s great in that situation, but at that time, the blood is not in your reproductive organs because it’s not necessary there. And so nowadays, we’re in this time where we’re overloaded by work. We’re overloaded with family obligations. And so we have this ongoing chronic stress that can be overreacted to by our bodies. So our reproductive organs just aren’t thriving in that environment. So having acupuncture be able to click us back into that parasympathetic nervous system, where we breathe, where we get more blood to our organs and can really focus on healing our body and nourishing eggs and all of those things – it’s extremely important. And especially when people are trying to get pregnant, they add that much stress because they’re always stressed about whether they’re pregnant.
Kristin: Yeah, and for our clients who started out their journey with The Fertility Center, there’s a lot of stress with that, or clients who had loss in the past and their worry about experiencing loss again. I can see how emotionally it would be great in preparation. Our clients who had an easy time getting pregnant the first time and then struggle with secondary, and they come to me wanting resources and help, and I do bring up acupuncture, but I’m learning so much with you today about the whole process and the benefits. It seems like even if it’s years away that preparing their bodies well in advance would be beneficial for couples.
Vikki: Absolutely. And even when we look at males in this way, they’re doing research, and there’s research out there showing, that stress can reduce the amount of sperm, healthy sperm, that a male has. It can alter the shape and reduce its ability to be a great swimmer and all the things we need to make sure we’re making some good quality and in some cases quantity, depending on what we’re working with, embryos. So really important for males to be in on that. And I say this to all of my women that come in: a third of fertility difficulties lie with the man. And I don’t think we as women always understand how high that number is.
Kristin: A lot higher than what many women think. It’s surprising.
Vikki: In fact, I think that what the research states is about a third of difficulties are on the female side, a third are on the male side, and then a third are somewhere in between.
Vikki: Very interesting. And I think we take on the burden as women that it must be ours. And many men just assume it’s a problem, you know, with the female side. So it’s great to know that men can really help out and be a part of increasing success. A couple other things that acupuncture is great for, especially when we’re working with IVF, is it can prevent uterine contractions. So the way that we work with the nervous system, we can calm that nervous system, which connects to that smooth muscle tissue, and — yeah, so when we do embryo transfers — or when we work before and after embryo transfers — the after treatments really are focused on eliminating uterine contractions as much as possible, and that really helps to have successful implantation.
Kristin: So if any of our listeners or clients have yet to experience acupuncture, can you describe what a fertility session would be like and how many visits a male and female client would have? I don’t know if you work with the partner in a certain number of sessions ideally and then the expecting person? Is it different as far as the number of sessions or what that would look like?
Vikki: Ultimately, we like to work with them on a course of 12 treatments, and it’s not an arbitrary number. Three months of acupuncture helps to create good healthy eggs and is about the time of how long it takes to regenerate sperm. So it takes about 90 days for this egg to mature to be ovulated. And so we can get to working with the woman right away. We can get more blood flow. Inside that blood is all these nutrients to really impact the health of that egg and, equally, the health of the sperm. And so that’s why optimally we’re looking at three months, though I will always say to my clients, three to six months because we want to make sure we’re working over, you know, a couple of cycles in that capacity with healthy eggs.
Kristin: That makes sense. And would that be a session a week? An hour long session? What would that look like?
Vikki: So all the sessions are an hour long. The first one is usually longer, so probably about 90 minutes, because we do a pretty lengthy intake, lengthier than if you went to the doctor. We ask a lot of questions, and a lot of the questions, people can’t possibly understand how they would connect with their reproductive strength, but we look at the whole body. And so we’re using a tongue diagnosis, pulse diagnosis. If somebody brings in their BBT charting because they’ve been charting their basal body temperature, we use that information. And we put together this story. You know, where does the imbalance lie? And we work to change that as well as helping to just move that blood to where it needs to go. And so they’re about an hour after the first one, and we like to do them once a week.
Kristin: And I know you have a male acupuncturist, as well, for those who prefer.
Kristin: So that’s a great option. And do you treat — do you ever do dual sessions, since you have multiple acupuncturists?
Vikki: We’ll do them at the same time. We can book people at the same time. We don’t do them in the same room. For the session itself, you know, people come in and we talk. We assess. And I put together my point prescription, choosing the acupuncture points that I’m going to use. And it seems like it wouldn’t be extremely gentle, but it actually is. I mean, ultimately, my goal is for people just to feel very relaxed. I treat a lot of people that are very afraid of needles, and they’re always happy when they’re done that they came to treatment because it’s very relaxing. Many have gotten over their fear of needles. It’s nothing like going and having a blood draw.
Kristin: Right. I would agree. I just had a session a couple weeks ago, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was very relaxing! I enjoyed it.
Vikki: It’s a great way to be treated, right? To walk out and be like, ah, the relief, the relaxation. It leaves us feeing very balanced.
Kristin: Agreed, yeah. And I can see how some people would, with a fear of needles, would have a challenge, but if they’re going through traditional fertility methods, they’re dealing with needles in a different way.
Kristin: So maybe that could help their fear.
Vikki: You know, it does. And it’s funny because I’ve had clients who don’t have the support, maybe, to do some of those needling, and so while I can’t do any of that, the needling from the fertility clinic for them, sometimes I’ll sit and I’ll just support them and just be, like, you’re doing good. You’re doing good. So we’ll do a treatment before, and then they get that support. You know, we really help our clients wherever they are with whatever tools we have.
Kristin: I love it. So how do our listeners find you?
Vikki: We have a great website. It has a lot of information on it, and they can make an appointment on there. They can also call. I always do — so does Corey. We do complimentary consultations, you know, just so people can really talk, because everyone is approaching this from a different place. And sometimes the need to just check it out and say, you know, is this right for me, is important. And so we always love people to have the option to really talk to us, so see how they connect with us, and to ask their questions before treatment starts.
Kristin: Thanks for being on! Do you have any parting words for our listeners who are struggling with fertility?
Vikki: You know, I think it’s important to remember — and I say this to all of my clients — that when you’re told or see that infertility is your condition, that it’s not a word we use here because my clients aren’t necessarily unable to conceive. They just haven’t conceived yet. And I think it’s really important for us to keep that in mind because our nervous system, our brain, our heart, really can make change in many different ways in our body. So coming at it knowing that we can do this, you know, and your body can do this, is a great way to approach your future.
Kristin: I love it. Words matter. We believe that with HypnoBirthing. Just changing the language and the imagery can make a big difference in getting the fear out.
Vikki: Absolutely, and to know you’re supported.
Kristin: Exactly. You’re talking some doula language there, about just telling them that they’re doing great and being there emotionally as a support person. So it’s great to have a big team supporting you, especially during this time of uncertainty with coronavirus. I love that you’re a great resource for our families and listeners.
Vikki: And we also offer — we have a couple of conditions that we know are big struggles, and we like to treat people for a certain amount of time. Because of that, we have some programs that we do offer, and fertility is one of those programs. So on our website under programs, you can see the different programs we put together to give a little financial help to those going through this struggle to make it a little bit easier.
Kristin: That’s wonderful. And I know you do take most health savings and flex spending; is that correct?
Vikki: We can give receipts, and it really depends on if your health savings and flex spending covers acupuncture. But if it does, yes. And more insurance companies are starting to cover acupuncture, but it really depends on if they cover it and what they cover it for. But we’re happy to give super bills to everyone and anyone so they can, you know, get reimbursement if that’s applicable with their insurance.
Kristin: Thank you! It was great to chat with you today, Vikki, and we’ll have you on in the future to talk more about pregnancy and acupuncture.
Vikki: Fabulous! That would be wonderful. Thank you for having me!
As you lie in bed thinking about your day and putting your brain to rest, you might think about the great presentation you gave today. Did you put the clothes in the dryer? When was your last period?…. When was my last period? Was it over a month ago? Am I pregnant?!
The best indicator of pregnancy is taking a pregnancy test. Today’s home pregnancy tests can be over 99% accurate, and many can be taken even before you miss your period. You can even get them at the dollar store. But what are the symptoms you might experience that mean you could be pregnant?
Remember that everyone is different, so you might have one, none, all, or a handful of symptoms. Probably the most common first indicator of pregnancy is a missed period. Every month your body prepares for pregnancy by thickening the lining of the uterus, and when no fertilized egg implants into the uterus, the additional lining sheds, and you have your period. This can be a little tricky, though, because 15-25 % of women will have implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding is when you have a small amount of bleeding or spotting as the fertilized egg (zygote) implants or anchors itself into the uterine lining. For all three of my pregnancies, I took and had a positive at-home pregnancy test at the start of my “period” which was actually implantation bleeding, and not a period at all.
But let’s say you’re lying in bed, don’t have a pregnancy test at home, and may or may not be spotting. What other symptoms might imply you are pregnant? As soon as your body recognizes you are pregnant, it starts going into overdrive and your hormones quickly shift to prepare for the pregnancy. You might be surprised how quickly your breasts change. They might feel tender or swollen, and you might notice your nipple and areola, which is the area around the nipple, become darker. Surprisingly, this is already in preparation for childbirth, when the darkened nipple and areola become a “bullseye” for baby to easily see and help him or her latch on for breastfeeding!
You might also noticed an increased need to urinate. You might think this is something that comes with a large uterus pushing on your bladder, which it does later in pregnancy, but at this point, your new pregnancy hormones and increased blood supply cause your kidneys to filter more fluid and increase the need to urinate.
You might also notice an increased sense of smell, or changes in food preferences. All of the sudden you may crave a lot of potato chips, and the smell and taste of chicken may send you running to the bathroom, even though chicken was a favorite food before. For me, I have always been a chocoholic, but for the first 14 weeks of my first pregnancy, the thought of chocolate was repulsive to me. And along with food and smell aversions, you may have nausea and/or vomiting. This may or may not be directly linked to food or smells, though. Many women find they get nauseated, or have morning sickness, if they get too hungry in the first trimester. That’s why it was originally associated with the morning… you are probably hungry from not eating all night, so might have morning sickness. A helpful trick might be to have some crackers by the bed, and eat a cracker or two before you move or get out of bed. This may help ease this hunger related morning sickness. Unfortunately for many, though, morning sickness doesn’t just stick to the morning. Some may experience it all day.
In early pregnancy your body is working really hard to get everything set for a healthy pregnancy, and as such, you may feel an overwhelming fatigue. You may also experience increased irrationality, mood changes, headaches, dizziness, or faintness. When this happens, it’s best to sit or even better, lie down, if you are not feeling well. Your body temperature may also increase slightly in early pregnancy, though not high enough to be considered a fever. Some of the less talked about symptoms of early pregnancy may be increased gas, constipation, and a change in vaginal discharge.
Finally, you might notice some insomnia in early pregnancy. Your mind may be racing with all of the questions and excitement pregnancy brings, making it hard to fall asleep. So as you lie there trying to fall asleep, you now have a good list of symptoms you may experience in early pregnancy. And if you are still wondering if you are pregnant, it is probably a good idea to take a home pregnancy test and call your health care provider if it is positive!
This post was written by Lauren Utter, a ProDoula trained Birth and Postpartum Doula with Gold Coast Doulas.
Finding out you are pregnant can bring an array of emotions – planned pregnancy or not. Maybe you’re excited because you have been waiting for this day. Maybe you are surprised because a baby wasn’t on your radar. Maybe you’re fearful – of what your pregnancy will be like, how you will look, if the baby is going to be okay, or how you’ll feel.
All of these feelings are normal. Being pregnant causes your body to change. Not just a growing belly, but new hormones, cravings, thoughts, and illnesses. 70-80% of women suffer from morning sickness. At least 60,000 cases of extreme morning sickness, also known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), are reported (the number of cases is actually higher as many are treated at home). Perhaps you wonder if this is how all pregnant women feel or is it just you? Or maybe you question your ability to handle nausea and pain. Do you feel as though others minimize how you are actually feeling- giving you tips that you have relentlessly tried?
Morning sickness is difficult to deal with; it’s exhausting and frustrating, but there are many differences between HG and morning sickness. Women with HG lose 5% or more of pre-pregnancy weight. Morning sickness doesn’t typically interfere with your ability to eat or drink, whereas HG often causes dehydration from the inability to consume food or drinks. Morning sickness is most common during the first trimester, while HG lasts longer – sometimes through the whole pregnancy. A woman with HG is more likely to need medical care to combat symptoms.
HG is often described as debilitating, making everyday activities like working, walking, cooking, eating, or caring for older children hard to do. Not only are women having difficulties eating and drinking, but taking their prenatal vitamins is often difficult, too, which results in a lack of proper nutrition. Because of severe dehydration and insufficient nutrients, headaches, dizziness, some fainting, and decreased urination can present as greater symptoms of HG.
On top of all the physical signs of HG, secondary depression and anxiety may also be present. There are potential complications that arise when HG is present. We talked about malnutrition and dehydration, but some others include neurological disorders, gastrointestinal damage, hypoglycemia, acute renal failure, and coagulopathy (excessive bleeding and bruising). Fortunately, with effective treatment these complications can be managed or even avoided completely.
While there is no cure for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, there is a variety of treatments including medications and vitamins, therapies (nutritional, physical, infusion), bed rest, alternative medicine, chiropractic care, massages, and more. Not all women and cases respond to treatments in the same way. Caregivers typically believe early intervention, even prevention, is most effective.
Medical providers work with each woman to discuss which treatments work best for them. Common medications offered to women suffering from HG are antihistamines, antireflux, and metoclopramide. Because HG can be traumatic and highly stressful, 20% of mothers experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). Early intervention proves to be effective, and your OB/GYN, primary care doctor, or a mental health specialist are fantastic resources for mothers experiencing symptoms of any mood disorder. Along with medical professionals there are many forms of support and resources. There are several Facebook groups of women who are suffering or have suffered from HG. This is a great way to feel supported by knowing you are not alone.
The website Hyperemesis.org is equipped with resources, facts, and blogs from other sufferers and their organization, HelpHer, are leaders in research for HG. The HER Foundation puts on events throughout each year for women and their families to come together.
Another great support system is hiring a doula. Doulas offer support through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Through pregnancy we can be there for bed rest support, informational, and emotional support. We provide you with evidence-based resources, and factual information. With this information, women suffering from HG can self-advocate for proper testing and treatment that best suits their pregnancy journey. During the postpartum time, not only do doulas help with infant and family care, but doulas are trained to notice signs of PMADs and will provide you resources that can assist you through recovery.
Doulas want to see you be successful, confident, comfortable, and healthy. I know I can’t be the only one who pushes aside her feelings, physical and emotional, and says “Oh, I’m fine” or “It’s nothing.” Our bodies are designed to “tell” us when something is wrong. Here is a tip: start logging your symptoms, from a single headache to daily nausea and vomiting. This will help your medical provider reach answers. Trust your body and trust your intuition, strive for testing that you believe is necessary, and find your people.
Today’s guest blog is written by Isabella Caprario, Content Marketing Specialist at Porch.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we all feel uncertainty. We don’t know what will happen or what steps to take next. We only know that the best way to end this madness is to sit at home and take all the necessary precautions to be able to take care of ourselves and our family. Stay home and stay safe.
Being quarantined can feel a bit overwhelming. We may feel stressed or anxious about being locked up in our homes, but it definitely doesn’t have to be that way! We must focus on the positive. I firmly believe that we will become better humans, more responsible with our environment, and above all think more about others than ourselves.
For future parents that still have to continue planning a nursery for their baby during this pandemic, there is no need to panic or worry! In this post, I will give some tips, recommendations, and activities to create the perfect nursery for your needs and those of your baby.
Where to start:
At this point, surely you already have defined the place, space, and distribution of what the nursery room will be like; and if not, the first thing that we should consider is, what is the space/place that would be most suitable for the baby?
To answer this question, the most important things to take into account are the following:
- A place/room that is close to yours and is easily accessible.
- The room has enough light during the day, can be darkened for naps and bedtime, and is isolated from any type of noise that may scare or awaken the baby.
- It must have the right temperature for the baby to feel comfortable and safe in his/her new space.
- It has to be a pleasant and comfortable space for parents as well.
- The room must have the necessary space to have everything that the baby requires, such as a crib, a diaper station/changing station, chair for feeding, and a space to accommodate clothing.
Once we have defined the most appropriate place for your baby, we go to the next step which would be to choose a theme, if you wish. This allows you to purchase accessories and decorate the nursery based on that theme.
The best place to get creative ideas is Pinterest. Here you can find color designs and everything you need for your nursery. If you do not already have an account, I recommend you get one so you are able to create a board and save all the ideas that you like the most.
Tip1: “Less is more”. Go for a minimalist look since it helps to make a room seem wider, cleaner, and more organized. It will help you save money and look more luxurious at the same time.
Taking into account how we want to distribute the nursery, colors, furniture, and accessories, we can start planning online purchases.
Choosing the right furniture:
Since we currently can’t leave our homes during the pandemic, luckily, we can still shop for the furniture and accessories that we need. Online stores are still open and many are offering sales!
First of all, we must create a list of our favorite online stores. Creating this list will help us to make a comparison of prices and items between stores. Once this comparison is made, we can remove from the list those stores that have very high prices, those that do not offer a wide variety of products, or those that are lower quality. It is up to you how you prefer to discard possible online stores.
Tip 2: Use an excel spreadsheet to organize your options. Write down the description of the product, where you found it (online store link), delivery time, delivery cost, how many units are available (enough stock), and price. This planning will help you with budget reduction and delivery time frame.
Also, keep in mind that some online stores will guide you when choosing furniture and accessories and can create a package with discounts and other extra benefits that will help you save money if you place your order in advance.
Get ready for some DIY Projects:
There is no more perfect time than now for some DIY projects at home. A DIY project can be quite therapeutic and will also keep you occupied throughout the day. Your mental health will thank you. You can exploit your creativity and forget for a moment about what’s happening outside. It can also help you relax and feel productive.
Some DIY ideas to try:
- Baby blanket arm knitting tutorial. This so much fun and easy to do at home. You will find tutorials on Youtube and Pinterest.
- Nursery name sign. You can show how creative you are with this activity.
- Make a nursery mobile. Here you can find different materials you would like to use, like paper, or glitter, etc.
Tip 3: Keep in mind that you should look for DIY projects that you can make at home with the things that you already have. Do not do very large projects that might make you feel overwhelmed because you lack the necessary materials or it’s simply not coming out as you would like.
Planning your nursery is a very fun and relaxing activity, despite being in a difficult situation. It’s better to smile and spread that happiness and positivity to your family and your baby on the way.
Isabella Caprario is a SEO Marketing Specialist and does Content Marketing at Porch. She has an International MBA, and her hobbies are reading, writing, and music.
Sam & Justin recently had their baby boy, Judah, in the hospital in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. They describe their experience in the hospital as well as how beneficial birth doula support was throughout pregnancy and then during labor and delivery, even though support was virtual instead of in-person. You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hi, welcomes to the Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast, and today I’m talking to Samantha and Justin, who recently had a baby at a hospital in this midst of this Coronavirus pandemic. We’re going to talk to you about what that was like. Gold Coast is not attending births after Governor Whitmer’s declaration that we have to stay at home, and we don’t know when the order will be lifted. So we kind of just wanted to get a sense of what it was like for you two to go through this whole process. How far along were you when you hired us?
Samantha: Pretty early when we found out. We knew when we were trying to get pregnant that having a doula was something that was really important to us, as well as a midwife and just trying to go that more natural route. So the minute we found out we were pregnant, it was kind of getting things in plan. So I would say after the first trimester after we kind of told everybody.
Alyssa: So you hired pretty early, and that was before all this crazy virus stuff happened. And you worked with Kristin and Ashley as your birth doula team. Even before all this stuff happened, what did support look like through the majority of your pregnancy?
Samantha: It was wonderful. Being a first time mom, obviously, you have a ton of questions, and I just didn’t want to be the person to be blowing up my midwife all the time, plus it’s hard to get ahold of them. Our midwife was through Spectrum, so obviously you can’t just pick up the phone and call her. It’s not as easy. So being able to have a team of doulas that, any question I had from — I had artisan cheese one day and freaked out thinking I did something wrong. So to be able to text them things like that and just have that reassurance all the time was awesome, as well as after every appointment, they wanted updates on what’s going on with baby, so it was just that extra support and knowing that they’re there no matter how stupid the question was.
Alyssa: Well, and as a first time mom, I think we feel like all of our questions are stupid. Oh, I hear the baby! Hi, Judah! So, yeah, obviously, because of this, we’re on speakerphone, and they’re at home and I’m at my home because nobody can go into work. You guys are quarantined at home with the baby, which is probably kind of a blessing in disguise, maybe. You can actually kind of hunker down and just focus on bonding and feeding and all these great things without visitors. But like you said, Grandma comes over and she can’t see the baby! That’s so hard.
Justin: It’s been a blessing for dads, I think, especially because I would have had to go back to work today. I am working, but it’s from home and it’s slower, and I’ve got some time to help support Sam and build my relationship with Judah, too, so it’s kind of a blessing in disguise for — I mean, it sucks, but it’s been nice.
Samantha: And as a new mom, you’re hunkered down. I mean, I was planning on not leaving my house for a month, anyway, so it’s kind of nice, especially during this quarantine time, because you’re quarantined anyway with a newborn, so it gives you something to do and keep occupied with.
Alyssa: Right. Well, and focus on the positive, right? Like, there’s so many negatives that we can be focusing on, but you’re stuck at home with a newborn baby. Boohoo, right? This is what you’ve been looking forward to for nine months!
Samantha: Exactly, exactly.
Alyssa: So your support during pregnancy really would have been the same, Coronavirus or not, because it’s a lot of text and phone calls and emails, right? It’s all virtual, anyway?
Samantha: Yeah. Yeah, that wouldn’t have changed, and like I said, they were available pretty much 24/7, so it was just nice to always have them in our back pocket when we needed them.
Alyssa: Right. Tell me about the labor, then. What happened when you were at home, and how did that support, the actual virtual support after finding out that your doulas can’t support you in person, how did virtual support look then once labor began?
Samantha: So we came up with a plan that we would utilize anything that we needed. If we needed to do a video chat, we had my laptop ready to go to bring to the hospital. But once labor started, we kind of — before I went into labor, we talked over, you know, what are the signs, when we should contact them, how long I wanted to labor at home; all that stuff that we would have done anyway if it was just normal circumstances. So when I went into labor, it was the middle of the night, of course, and we texted both of them and ended up calling Kristin. She was the one who answered, and we told her how far apart the contractions were. She could hear, you know, how I sounded and could tell that they were ramping up. You know, you can just — moms — everybody says moms have the telltale sign of when contractions aren’t a joke anymore. So, yeah, she said, yep, sounds like you’re really getting in the swing of labor. She told me to get something to eat before I went to the hospital and kind of gave us some tips before we — as Justin was packing the bag and getting our bags in the car, some tips I could do before we headed out the door. And so we did that and then headed to the hospital, and from the moment we got there in triage, I had a couple — well, of course, birth is always unexpected, but I had a couple things come up that I wasn’t expecting to happen. So from the moment we were in triage, we were in constant contact with Kristin and Ashley, whether it was me or — it was actually mostly Justin.
Justin: Yeah. I actually took — like, I would step out of the room a few times just to call her. There was just a couple moments there when we were down in triage where she was uncomfortable, and the room is a little small. It was hard to get into that calm state of mind that we were looking for. So without trying to stress Sam out, I stepped out of the room and just called Kristin. I was, like, hey, you know, what are some things I could try to, you know, bring her back into this calm state of mind that we’ve been working on forever. It was great. She gave us some positions to try, some things to talk to the nurses about. Like, she knew there was a tub down in the triage area, so she said to go ask them to use the tub. So it was good to have them just there — just any questions we had, just to call real quick.
Samantha: Yeah. And we had a couple unexpected things, because I wanted to labor naturally, but we had some issues. I had a LEEP procedure a couple months ago. Well, not a couple months ago; about a year ago, but that caused some scar tissue that made my labor really difficult. So we had to have the conversation of having an epidural because my labor was so erratic and my body was under a lot of stress. So that decision we talked over with the doulas. And then having Pitocin brought in, which was also something that was on our “absolute no” list, but it was nice to be able to call Kristin. Spectrum was wonderful, too. I mean, the nurses and midwives were great as far as giving us all the information we needed and then giving us time to talk it over. But having Kristin there to be able to call and say, here’s what they’re telling us, here’s what we’re thinking — to have that reassurance from them was huge, especially because our birth plan changed so much, and it was upsetting for me, especially.
Alyssa: Right. That’s hard when we get into this mindset of, like, here’s my plan and I’m going to stick to it, and baby or your body says otherwise. To have an expert to ask those questions and give feedback that’s not — and I think that’s one thing a lot of people thing, that doulas are there to tell you what to do. It’s more about asking you the right questions so you can figure out what’s right for you.
Justin: Just having that — just having that information so that we can make our own decision. Just having them giving us all the proper information we knew everything that was at stake and we could make a better, informed decision. It was a huge help.
Alyssa: Right. Knowledge is power in this instance, for sure.
Samantha: Yeah, and even the positions. Once I did get the epidural and Pitocin, we still wanted to do a really low dose of Pitocin to try to have my body naturally ramp up contractions, so Ashley and Kristin sent us a bunch of pictures of positions we could try. They were always available for Facetiming and virtual, as well, but we never needed to. But to have that in the back pocket was comforting, as well, that if we needed to virtually see them face to face, knowing that we could do that was very comforting for me, especially.
Alyssa: So once you actually moved from triage to the labor and delivery room, you said you didn’t actually have to use Facetime or anything. Was it more of you, Justin, were in contact with them because Sam was in active labor?
Justin: Yeah. It was a lot of text messages and a few phone calls. If it was something we wanted to all talk out together, we’d call, or if it was just a quick question, I’d just shoot them a message real quick.
Samantha: And I definitely think if I didn’t need — if I wouldn’t have had the epidural, we definitely would have utilized Ashley and utilized some of our HypnoBirthing techniques to help me get through labor and probably would have used virtual face to face more, but just because things moved so fast as far as me needing some intervention, it again changed our plan as far as utilizing the doulas a little bit differently. But, yeah, it was constant contact throughout the whole labor process, and it was actually nice after I did get the epidural. I was able to then talk to them and tell them what’s going on and what kind of positions I can try and different things like that. So the plan changed a little bit, but staying in constant contact with them didn’t. It was pretty consistent throughout the whole labor process.
Alyssa: And what about when you got to the point where you were ready to push? Was there anything they could do to support you during that time?
Samantha: Well, we planned on having them Facetime for that, but my pushing went very quickly. I only pushed for about 30 minutes, and we didn’t even — when we started, it was — we texted them saying, oh, they want us to do some practice pushes, and 30 minutes later, we were messaging them saying, well, baby’s here! So, yeah, we had the whole plan set up for them to help — especially because I had an epidural, they were really going to help me try to breathe baby down, which is what we ended up doing, but to have them face to face so they could see what was going on. But it just ended up happening so fast that we weren’t able to do that. But after baby came, we were in contact with them, telling them his birth weight and all that stuff, and once we got up to the room, letting them know how latching was going as far as breastfeeding. So it was just the best experience possible, especially because I was so devastated, you know, being nine months pregnant and all this emotional — that’s emotional in itself, and then to find out your birth plan is completely blown to smithereens…
Justin: Two weeks before we even go to the hospital.
Samantha: Yeah, two weeks before the hospital. It was just terrifying, but to have them there in that virtual sense was everything because it would have been a very different experience if we weren’t able to have them at all, that’s for sure.
Alyssa: So let’s say a couple just found out they’re pregnant, and they knew they wanted a doula, like you, but then they have this worry. They’re going to do the hospital birth; they want a doula, but the doula may or may not be able to be there. What would you say to a family who’s kind of on the fence about hiring a doula because of the current situation?
Samantha: I would say, hire. Hire a doula because, yeah, the situation has changed, but I think even more in this time, you need that extra support more than ever, especially because, in my circumstance, my midwife wasn’t even able to be there. I had a totally different team because of the way they split up her team, so not only is your birth plan changed, but then my midwife who I’ve been seeing for the last nine months wasn’t able to be there. So just to have that team, that constant contact, still stay the same even though they’re not there in person, was just a huge comfort and relief for me. And especially for Justin.
Justin: I was going to say, for the fathers-to-be out there, I think it’s even more important for them. We went through a lot of the classes and stuff, and we had good knowledge going in, but you get in the heat of the situation, and you know, her surges and contractions were starting to really hurt her, and I didn’t know what to do in that situation. So we had this whole plan, and I was doing my best to stick to this plan, and when you get thrown that curve ball, having someone to turn to and just get that reassurance. I might have made the right decision in that situation, but just to have them say, “Yeah, you did,” or, you know, this is — “Yeah, you did do a good job there. This is what’s going to happen. Here’s the outcome.” Just having that extra sense of security in this very unsecure time is a huge benefit. Even though they’re not there, it was almost like they were, and it was very helpful, especially for the dads that sometimes might feel a little lost.
Alyssa: Right, which usually, most of them, I feel like, they do probably feel a little bit lost.
Justin: Especially the first time.
Samantha: Yeah, and it takes the pressure off, too, you know, just because I’m telling him one thing, and he’s trying to say, you know, it’s going to be okay, but for him to then reach out to the doulas and say, you know, here’s what’s going on, and for them to not only give me reassurance but him was a game changer, for sure.
Alyssa: And like you said, you’ve built a rapport with them throughout your pregnancy. I didn’t know that your midwife couldn’t be there either! So without your doulas, you would have not had your midwife either, and you would have literally been in a hospital with a bunch of nurses who you’ve never met, and that was it.
Justin: Right. Exactly.
Samantha: And thankfully, we had an amazing team. Our nurses and midwives that we ended up getting were amazing. But also, you’re going — it’s your first time. You’re laboring. It’s new. And then you have a whole bunch of strangers, so you’re throwing that mix in it. So having the doulas there that we’ve had throughout the whole pregnancy, virtually, even though they couldn’t be there, was such a comfort because it just — you had somebody to turn to that you know.
Justin: One more thing, too, is the hospital — I don’t know about other hospitals in the area, but Spectrum — it was like a fortress. It was so clean and locked down in there. We kind of forgot this whole thing we even going on until we left. I mean, I went down in the cafeteria a few times, and every time I went down there, a whole different section was being completely pulled out and cleaned. There was no visitors walking around. There was no one walking around. I mean, it really did feel like a fortress. Even getting into the building, we had to go through a couple security checkpoints, so if anyone was worried about the hospital part of it, I think that especially Spectrum, that I know of, I think they’re doing a very good job of keeping everything separated, and the sections of the hospital that need to be cleaned and all that.
Alyssa: That’s a good point. For those who maybe have that as a main point of fear for them, delivering in the hospital, they’re doing everything right. I mean, they obviously want to keep their patients safe and healthy. It’s got to be weird to walk through that hospital and hardly see anybody because there’s no visitors.
Samantha: It was weird pulling up because they have the whole security detail, and it was, like, “Why are you here? What’s going on?” It was very weird, but like Justin said, it ended up — I almost was sad to leave, just because you’re in this clean, sterile bubble, and like I said, we almost forgot about this whole Corona thing because you’re in — you are — you end up being in the bliss of having your baby, even though it’s such a scary time. But having — you know, right after he was born, we talked with Ashley and Kristin, and then it was just kind of that blissful — we went up to the room, and they’re doing a very good job. Obviously, things change, but I think they have it pretty locked down.
Alyssa: That’s great.
Justin: They’re definitely out in front of it.
Alyssa: So then you guys go home, and usually, they do a postpartum visit, but I’m assuming they did that virtually, as well.
Alyssa: Did you have that already?
Samantha: We did. From the moment we got home, too, we were in constant contact with them, from them asking how he was sleeping. I had a couple questions just as far as my recovery and what I could do for comfort as far as that goes, just because as a new mom, you just don’t really expect the discomfort. I kept thinking, you know, I didn’t have stitches or anything like that, so I thought, oh, I’m going to be good, but you don’t realize what you’ve put your body through. So it was just nice to have them there so I could say, I’m feeling — you know, what can I do about this pressure that I’m feeling? I’m having some pain and discomfort here. To have that support on the postpartum aspect, because, you know, this whole time leading up to the birth, you’re thinking pregnancy and delivery and labor and all that, but postpartum support is also huge, and they really, really helped with that, giving me ideas and tips of helping my milk supply come in. It was just — they’ve been wonderful. And we just had our virtual visit with them face to face, and that was great to be able to see them. They could see the baby. And then to tell them the birth story, since they weren’t there — I mean, they were there, but they weren’t.
Alyssa: They got bits and pieces but finally got to hear the whole thing. That’s great. Well, is there anything else that you wanted to add or that you think other parents should know?
Samantha: I just think if you’re on the fence, I mean, nothing — I had this whole — I thought I planned for even the most unexpected in pregnancy, and I definitely didn’t because pregnancy can change in an instant. But I think that’s why even more now in these times to have that extra support and to have a doula because we plan on having another child, and I’ve already said to them — I said, well, hopefully you guys will be there in person for our next baby! But I couldn’t imagine going through labor and birth and even through pregnancy and postpartum without having a doula and support, and I think Justin feels the same way.
Samantha: It’s like having your best friends to be able to talk to, and it’s such a comfort, especially —
Justin: But a best friend who’s also very knowledgeable!
Alyssa: Your best friend who’s knowledgeable and judgment-free and can give you all the best support.
Samantha: Yeah. And especially because my birth plan changed so much in the sense of having to have interventions, which I didn’t think I was going to, so that was even more unexpected, and to be able to — you know, you’re in the rush of the moment, and I was really upset, and, you know, you get down on yourself as a new mom thinking you’re failing in some aspect. To be able to have them — obviously, Justin can sit there and tell me all day that I’m doing the right thing, but to have somebody else who’s not only gone through that experience but seen other women and giving me advice and telling me what I’m doing and the decisions I’m making are right for me and my baby was such a relief and such a comfort because it’s such an emotional time, and when things aren’t going already as planned, and then you throw in more wrenches into the mix, it can overwhelming. So to have them as support was just everything to me.
Alyssa: Thank you so much for sharing! I wish that I could see little Judah, too.
Samantha: I know! I know.
Alyssa: It’s really hard! But, yeah, focus on bonding with that little guy. How’s breastfeeding and everything going?
Samantha: Breastfeeding is going good. We’ve had to supplement a little just because he’s such a peanut, but, again, they’ve helped with that, as well, just because that can be hard as a mom. You know, you think, oh, breastfeeding is going to be this simple thing, and it’s hard. Being able to talk it over with people — they’ve given me some great articles, and I had a virtual meetup with some new moms that Kristin suggested, a team that I should join in on, and that was really helpful. I got some great tips from that, and to not only see new moms who delivered around the same time as I had, and that was all virtual and really cool to be able to hear from them. You know, they might not be going through the same issues as I am, but to hear they’re also having questions and not knowing what to do was really reassuring because you can get stuck in this loop of, why is this not working for me? What am I doing wrong? Why is it so easy for everybody else? And you don’t realize other moms have, you know, if not the same issues, then different issues. It’s all different for each person.
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s not easy for everybody else. It just seems like it is.
Samantha: It does, and it’s easy to get down on yourself and think, oh, you know, woe is me, why is it not working for me? But to be able to have not only doulas but then give me other resources to be able to reach out to was also great, as well.
Alyssa: That’s awesome. Thank you for taking the time to share your story!
Samantha: Of course! Thank you
Reduce Your Risk by Megan Mouser, NP.
March 31, 2020
With statistics regarding the novel coronavirus changing daily (and even hourly), the most up-to-date information can come from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control. To date, at the time of this publication, there have been over 163,000 cases in the U.S. alone with over 2,860 deaths. Michigan appears to be an emerging epicenter for COVID-19, making our efforts to reduce the spread of this virus even more emergent.
WHAT ARE WE SEEING? WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?
Locally we are beginning to see an increase in cases. Today there are 108 presumed positive tests with 119 tests pending. You can find local updates for Kent County on the Access Kent website.
With coronavirus being a new (novel) virus, very little is known about best practices. This is why you are seeing information and decisions varying day to day. The clinical picture for those suffering from this virus can range dramatically from very mild symptoms (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe illness resulting in death. Current treatment options are fairly limited, however new therapies and studies are emerging. Even with recovery from the illness, long-term consequences are possible. Coronavirus is also very easily transmitted, even without an individual ever presenting with symptoms. This is why socially distancing and practicing preventative measures is so important! In regards to healthcare resources here in West Michigan, we are preparing for a large influx of possible patients from this virus which will put a strain on our healthcare resources if we do not slow the spread. We are already beginning to see this in the metro Detroit area.
We cannot stress enough the importance of washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (if not available, use hand sanitizer with at least a 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol alcohol content), covering your mouth and nose with your elbow when coughing or sneezing, avoid touching your face, cleaning “high touch” surfaces daily, limiting your contact to only people in your household, and practicing social distancing by remaining at least 6 feet apart from anyone else if you absolutely must go out.
I also think it is important to recognize that this is a very stressful time for many of us and it is important for our overall health to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves including getting adequate sleep, regular exercise, eating a nutritious and healthy diet, getting out for some fresh air (while maintaining social distance), reaching out to our support systems, and allowing yourself some “slack” regarding loss of control and frustrations.
In regards to specific populations, this virus does pose a higher risk to people who are older or have other serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease. Women who are pregnant are also considered at increased risk, however to date limited data is available regarding this illness during pregnancy. Coronavirus has not been shown to cross into amniotic fluid or into breastmilk at this time. However, if a pregnant woman became ill with the virus, additional precautions would certainly need to be taken at the guidance of your healthcare team. While on the topic of pregnancy, we can rest assured that healthcare providers and hospital staff are working diligently to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19. While locally there has been visitor restrictions in place at the hospitals, your support person (as long as healthy) will be able to support you through delivery and hospitalization at this time.
Infants are also considered to be more at risk for not only COVID-19, but illness in general due to underdeveloped immune systems at birth. I would encourage all new parents to continue to practice not only standard precautions (including hand washing, cleaning surfaces, avoiding sick contacts, etc.) but also to continue to restrict visitors to the home after delivery to only members of the household. While this is certainly a time to celebrate your new addition, our primary goal is a healthy baby and family!
As for older children and teenagers, we know that this is very challenging time with the cancellation of schools or daycares and changes to routines and schedules. The risks for these age groups from coronavirus continues to be present, therefore as difficult as it can be to enforce and practice social distancing, it is imperative for parents to not only model this behavior but to also help our children understand why this is necessary. In a time of uncertainty, parents can continue to lessen anxiety in children by discussing together as a family, remaining calm, and continuing to offer love and support.
As a community we all share responsibility to continue efforts to reduce the significant risk from COVID-19!
Megan Mouser is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner serving the Grand Rapids area since 2014. Born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, she completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing through Northern Michigan University and went on to obtain her Masters of Science in Nursing through Michigan State University. She has over a decade of experience working with infants and children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and most recently seeing both adults and children in her outpatient family practice office. She also volunteers her time teaching graduate students as an adjunct clinical faculty member with Michigan State University School of Nursing’s graduate program. Megan is passionate about preventative medicine and creating strong relationships with her patients and families in order to provide personalized, high-quality healthcare. Megan resides in Grand Rapids with her husband Matt and two golden doodle rescues “Max” and “Marty”. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, being in nature, cooking, and gardening.
To all of the couples who have had retrievals, transfers, and IVF schedules postponed or affected by the Corona virus outbreak my heart breaks for you. IVF is no small or easy journey; it takes a toll on your mental, emotional, and physical state. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. It’s expensive and stressful. It’s all the feels at once every single day.
My journey with the Fertility Center of West Michigan began after my son was born. I suffer from secondary infertility. My son was conceived naturally and born in May of 2012. I began doing hormone therapy to conceive again a year after he was born. Unfortunately every pregnancy I had resulted in a miscarriage. We did several months of hormone therapy and endured four miscarriages. Unfortunately we never made it to IVF, instead my then husband and I divorced in 2016. I remarried in 2018 and in January of 2019 my Husband, Matt, and I began working with the Fertility Center again doing the hormone therapy for 6-months, which again resulted in another miscarriage. It was time to step up our game.
After taking a break in April of 2019, Matt and I decided to travel and take some time away from the constant thought of trying to get pregnant. It had become a chore and that can be so hard on a marriage. When December rolled around we decided to get on the IVF list and signed up for March of 2020. During this wait I began doing something for myself, I started taking a close look at my own health and began to prepare my body for pregnancy. Starting IVF at 35 years old made me a senior citizen in this setting. My body had changed immensely since my first pregnancy. So I began working with my coworkers at Grand Rapids Natural Health to address my thyroid and hormone issues as well as my food sensitivities and stress. I began weekly acupuncture sessions that I planned to do all the way through IVF and into pregnancy. I was working out to build my body’s strength to carry a baby and to create healthy habits I could continue into my pregnancy. I also began sharing my journey with the world via Instagram.
Sharing my journey was very important to me. Working in the health industry I notice too often that these sensitive topics are not spoken about enough and I wanted to share my story in hopes that my own vulnerability might help others along their journey. I wanted to empower women to talk about their pain, their loss, and their sadness instead of hiding it from the world. I found once I started to share my journey that there were so many others like me out there. I didn’t feel that I was carrying that burden alone anymore which was incredibly comforting.
When February arrived they started me on birth control. During this time we did our mock transfer and Endosee. I was thankful for the mock transfer because it calmed my nerves and answered a lot of my questions in regards to how the procedure worked. Since I have undiagnosed infertility an Endosee was performed to make sure that my uterus looked healthy and had no underlying problems that may prevent me from getting pregnant. We then met with Dr. Young and our nurse who walked us through every detail of our care during this process. Since my problems weren’t about getting pregnant, but more about keeping a pregnancy, our plan was a little different than what they were use to seeing. They decided, because of my age and history of miscarriages, that they would transfer two embryos. Our chances of twins are now much higher since twins are on both sides of our family, my age, this being my second pregnancy, and because we are transferring two embryos. As scary as that sounded we took our chances and agreed to the two embryo transfer. From there we waited for my period.
During our wait I began getting myself organized, ordering medications, supplements, syringes and needles for injections, and sharps containers, all of which were provided by our pharmacy. I found so many wonderful resources along the way to help me organize and reduce the stress of injections. My favorite was My Vitro. My Vitro is a small business that have created organizational items that help make the process of IVF a bit smoother. I was so thankful for their Caddy and mat. It helped me organize everything I needed everyday in one place. They also offered the gel hot cold pads to use before and after injections to ease the pain of the needle pokes. They were a great resource for support since they were a couple who had also been through the IVF journey and created products they wish they had had when they were going through it.
When February 28th arrived I began my injections. I started with two evening injections. The Follistem and Menopur injections were used to increase the number of follicles and to help with the quality of the eggs. I did these every night between the hours of 6pm and 8pm in the belly, until I was instructed to stop using them on day 10. Alongside these injections I had blood work and Ultrasounds every other day to measure my progress and determine exactly when I would be ready for my trigger shot and retrieval. On day six of my cycle we introduced an injection of Cetrotide, which was also administered in the belly daily in the morning hours between 6am and 10am. Cetrotide inhibits the premature LH surge to prevent ovulation from occurring while the follicles are maturing. By March 6th my ultrasounds and blood work had become a daily routine instead of every other day. By March 7th I was done with my Follistem & Menopur injections, and by March 8th I took my last injection of Cetrotide and was instructed to take my trigger shot. The trigger shots consisted of two injections, hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadatropin) and Lupron, one in the belly and one in the muscle of the upper thigh. These two injections were used to trigger ovulation, help the eggs to mature, and make it easier to retrieve the eggs from the ovaries.
Monday, March 9th I had my last ultrasound and no injections that day which I was so thrilled about because I had a really hard time with the injections making me physically ill, causing migraines and vomiting. Everyone reacts differently to the medications and they all have different side effects. Some women don’t have any trouble with the medication, others do and that was just how my body reacted to them. Our retrieval was scheduled for the morning of March 10th and we were ready to rock. The procedure went beautifully with the successful extraction of nine eggs. Three of the nine were immature; six were mature and ready for fertilization. We did a two-day fertilization process and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection), a technique for in vitro fertilization in which an individual sperm cell is introduced into an egg cell. We were thrilled to hear they all fertilized beautifully.
Thursday, March 12th was our transfer date and our two little embabies transferred smoothly. After our transfer we would continue injections of Progesterone up to the day of our pregnancy test. If we were not pregnant we would stop taking the progesterone. If we were pregnant we would continue injections for 11-weeks in the muscle of the upper booty. Progesterone is the hormone that is needed to maintain the lining of the uterus and to help support a pregnancy. Now it was time to go home, rest and wait.
After our transfer was complete, our 2-week wait had begun but I had never anticipated what would happen next. That Friday morning, I woke up to the school closings due to the Corona Virus. Our State was gearing up to take action against the spread of this deadly virus that seemed to be doubling in cases overnight. By Monday morning I read with tears in my eyes a message from the Fertility Center of West Michigan that they were suspending initiation of new treatment cycles and strongly recommended patients consider canceling upcoming embryo transfers due to lack of data on the risk if pregnancy complications when COVID-19 is acquired during first or early second trimester of pregnancy. My heart sank. I was terrified for my embabies who just days earlier were tucked into my uterus, and devastated for all the mamas out there that I had met and connected with along my journey. They had supported me every step of the way, they had become sisters and friends throughout this time and now in an instant their worlds, hopes, and dreams came crashing down.
The same day that we were informed that the Fertility Center would be postponing future cycles and transfers, we found out we were pregnant. It was a bittersweet experience at first but I have decided to make it the light that has come out of these dark times. People are dying, losing jobs, and unable to hug loved ones but through it all I was able to finally create life amongst all the turmoil and that is the most beautiful thing in the world. I am taking this time at home and resting, accepting this time as an opportunity to bond with my son before he has to share me with another baby and that is such a gift. I am taking care of my mental, emotional, and physical health and working hard to create a healthy environment to grow a baby in. April 7th is our first ultrasound and my husband will not be allowed to attend it with me to keep down the amount of exposure at the clinic. As disappointing as that is, I am thankful that they are taking these precautions and count my blessings everyday that we have even made it this far because I know so many would love to be in our shoes.
So I ask you to be gentle with yourself, be forgiving, and be kind. Allow yourself to break down and cry, you have earned it. But also be strong, be safe, and be vigilant because your time will come. Take this time if you are able to show yourself some self-care. Eat healthy, exercise, and brain dump into a journal so you can sleep soundly at night. Reach out to me, or a friend along the way, when the days get hard because you are not alone and your story needs to be heard so that others do not feel alone in this time of isolation.
Jen Smits is the Office Manager at Grand Rapids Natural Health.
Meet Emma Stevens, the newest birth doula on the Gold Coast Team. Let’s learn a bit about her!
What did you do before you became a doula?
I am currently finishing up my Communications degree at Hope College where I was able to study abroad in Kenya and intern in a local maternity ward. I also work in assisted living to further my nursing experience.
What inspired you to become a doula?
Ever since I was little, I wanted to work with new moms and infants. My time in the delivery room in Kenya solidified my passion as I was able to comfort women when family members were not allowed into the room.
Tell us about your family.
I have my mom and my dad and two younger sisters. In addition, we have the two cutest wire-haired griffon puppies.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
Elbow Cay, Bahamas is where I hold the best memories with my family and friends. We visit often and I have made some great local friendships as well.
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is always changing but right now it would be these 5:
1. Allen Stone- great driving music
2. Vampire Weekend- reminds me of highschool days and has remained one of my favorite bands since 3. The Mamma Mia soundtrack for singing and dancing!
4. Sauti Sol- My favorite music from Kenya
5. Fleetwood Mac- an oldie but goodie
What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, do what’s best for YOU and YOUR baby.
What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
Inclusive and non-judgmental support.
What is your favorite food?
Italian food (Indian food is a close second).
What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
What are you reading now?
The Birth Partner
Who are your role models?
My parents, Rachel Hollis, and travel vloggers Kara and Nate.
My name is Kaysie, and I am currently 20 weeks pregnant. This is my 4th pregnancy and the first one where I have maintained a very healthy and fit lifestyle. I am a mom of three – 16, 13, and 7. After my last child was born I was the heaviest I had ever been and I knew I wanted better for myself. I wanted to set a good example for my children as they grew up. It took a year to lose the weight but almost 6 years to be in the best shape of my life, and I continue to maintain it!!
After I had lost the weight I competed in the NPC bikini competition in 2017 just to say I got up on stage and did it!! Even though the stage was not my favorite, the road it took to get there was what made me who I am today. I surrounded myself with women that empowered me and supported me. After a lot of hard work and dedication, I decided I wanted to be the light for someone else in a tough spot. I wanted to be the woman that supported and empowered other women to be the best versions of themselves. In 2018, I received a certification as a group trainer. Along with that, my knowledge of nutrition has put me in a place to teach others how important their food choices are along with exercise.
I think most of us know how important it is to stay healthy and fit throughout our lifetime. Whether we choose to execute this or not is the hard part. To some it comes easy and natural. To others it may be a very difficult task to complete daily. Now that you’re pregnant, it’s even more important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and some type of daily exercise.
Personally, I am in the gym 4-6 days a week and my workouts last 1.5 hours-2 hours consisting of cardio warmup/HIIT, strength training, and stretching. I eat 1700-2000 calories a day and I carb cycle two days of the week and I drink 90-120 ounces of water daily. I choose to eat organically 98% of the time.
If you’re new to exercise, I don’t recommend starting out as heavily as I do. Even though my body has been used to doing hard exercise for a long time, I keep an eye on my heart rate and don’t go over 150 per my OB’s recommendation.
Here are some tips you can try daily to ensure you continue to have a healthy and fit pregnancy.
Exercise at least 30 minutes daily
(please talk to your doctor/midwife/OB before starting a new exercise routine)
Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily. If you weigh 140 you should be drinking at least 70 ounces if not more.
Eat lots of veggies, some fruit, organic grains, and limit your fat content. Stick to healthy fats like avocados and nuts. (I personally chose to buy all my foods organic.)
Stay away from sugars. Try to only consume sugars from fruits and veggies
Get a good night’s rest.
Stay positive. Surround yourself with people that support you, uplift you, and motivate you to make positive choices for you and your family.
For more health and fitness tips. follow Kaysie on Instagram.
1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I was a labor and delivery nurse for 13 years, a nurse for the maternal infant health program for two years, a phone triage nurse at a pediatric office for almost a year, and am currently working as a childbirth and breastfeeding educator, as well as teach a sibling’s class and infant massage class.
2) What inspired you to become a doula?
My mother was a doula, though only assisted friends and family. That’s how I saw my first birth at 14 that shaped my future career. I also feel families need a lot of support when a new baby comes home. Unfortunately, most mothers don’t get the help they need.
3) Tell us about your family.
My Husband and I have been married for 6 years. We have two boys. Kaden is 5 years old and Carson is almost 2. We are a pretty close family, and grandma and grandpa are usually over several times a week. I love to do crafts with my boys.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My favorite vacation spot is Disney World. Every year as a child my family went to Disney World, so there are a lot of very special memories. About every 5 years my family, including my parents and my siblings and their families go down to Disney World together. It is great to spend time with family in the most friendly and magical place in the world!
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
1) Justin Timberlake – He has catchy songs that make me want to get up and move.
2) Taylor Swift – I love her songs and she is great to her fans.
3) Imagine Dragons – Just like their music.
4) Ed Sheridan – I like his music and positivity.
5) Colbie Caillat – I like her positivity.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Do what works for you and your family. Don’t worry about impressing others or doing what everyone else is doing. Keep life simple at the beginning.
7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
Encouraging others and being calm and nonjudgmental.
8) What is your favorite food?
9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I love going to the Fredrick Meijer Gardens with my kids because there is so much to do there.
10) What are you reading now?
Love and logic.
11) Who are your role models?
My Grandmother – she was a strong woman, always spoke the truth, and was a great artist.
Photographers Kris and Autumn of The People Picture Company answer questions about birth photography, what a photographer actually does in the delivery room and how the process works for hiring a photographer and talking about birth plans. You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to the Ask the Doulas podcast. I am Alyssa Veneklase.
Kristin: And I’m Kristin Revere.
Alyssa: We are co-owners of Gold Coast, and we are here today with Autumn and Kris from The People Picture Company. We wanted to bring you in because you do a lot of birth photography and a lot of our clients use you, but I know a lot of people are cautious or maybe don’t understand quite what the role of a photographer is in the delivery room, and I think it might be weird for people to say, you know, there’s going to be this stranger with a camera photographing my private parts. Like, I don’t know this person! Can you ease people’s fears and maybe tell us what the whole process looks like?
Kris: Of course! It all starts with a prenatal consult. So this is where we get together and discuss your birth plan and what you want your birthing experience to look like. This helps give us an idea; like, okay, are you doing a hospital birth or a home birth or a birthing center? All of these things kind of factor into it. We exchange phone numbers and all the information there, too, and then pick packages. But it’s really a time for us to get together and to get to know each other because it is a very personal, private, intimate experience, and we’re going to be there with you, so we want to be able to know you and have you be comfortable with us.
Kristin: It’s almost like when you do weddings and you have a shot list. In your prenatal, I’m sure you go over, okay, this is what’s acceptable, and this is what I don’t want.
Kris: Exactly. We also go through and we show off some of the other births that we’ve done that the mothers have completely agreed that it is okay for us to show. We have a couple of photos on our website, if you go into Maternity and Birth. But when we go into a consult, you get to see a little bit more in depth. These are ones that are, like, you know, actually during the birth experience. So sometimes there’s nudity because you might get really hot when you’re giving birth to your child. Sometimes people want that crowning photo. I’m not going to put that online, but if you want to see what that looks like or a photo of your placenta where your baby lived for a while, then I can show you those during the consult so you get more of an idea and a feel of what you can expect from your birth photos.
Alyssa: So it’s kind of like, if I were to say I want birth photos, but I don’t want any shots of boobs; I don’t want any shots of vaginas; I don’t want a butt. Then you would know that going in, saying, okay, we need to crop this out or I’m not going to…
Kris: Not going to photograph it. If you want the photos of your child coming into this world but you don’t want that crowning photo, I don’t have to be right where the doctors are. We can be right up by your shoulder. In fact, that’s how it was with my photos. I don’t have any crowning photos of my son coming out, but I have some great photos from over my shoulder, and you can see him just emerging into the world. It’s so magical because you can ever see everyone that’s in the room and my husband and my doctors and everyone, and it’s just so magical. Especially because most of that, I had my eyes shut, and one of my friends was, like, no, open your eyes. Open your eyes! You have to see this moment!
Autumn: I think a part of it, too, is during the consult, you are getting comfortable with each other, and there’s a moment where you kind of think past the nudity, you know? We’re basically capturing the emotional experience between you, your baby, your family. That is something that is bigger than the nudity sometimes.
Kristin: And I love that you’ve also supported surgical births and shown the beauty of that as they’re getting prepped to go into the operating room and so on. Some of those pictures are amazing.
Kris: Yeah! With the Cesarean births, we’re not allowed in the operating room for those, but we are allowed in the prepping areas and as you’re walking down the hallway or being wheeled into the operating room, we can do all of that and we can do the couple of hours after the birth, as well. It’s just that for those we’re not actively allowed in those rooms for the surgical process.
Kristin: I’ve loved attending births with The People Picture Company because you really do capture the emotions of the couple and the intimate experience that they have, as well as, obviously, meeting their new baby or babies for the first time and really, you have a way. That’s why we have you photograph our team and a lot of the events we do. You really capture that moment so perfectly and the beauty of birth, the raw and realness of all of it.
Autumn: And no birth is the same, no two births.
Kris: No. But they’re all emotional. I cry at every one.
Kristin: For sure. They are. It’s an honor to be in someone’s birth space. I don’t take that lightly as a doula.
Alyssa: So you’re essentially on call; that’s why you exchange numbers. So how does that work from your client’s end? You exchange phone numbers, and then when the due date approaches, you just kind of — they know that your phone’s going to be on next to the bed all night?
Kris: Yep. My phone is on next to my bed all night. It is turned up as loud as it possibly can be, and in case I’m asleep, my husband is a very light sleeper, so if he hears it, he’s definitely going to be waking me up.
Autumn: You’re pretty amazing. You wake up, and you’re there, and it’s magical.
Kris: It’s so funny because almost all the births that I’ve been on have been in the middle of the night where we’re getting a call. Hey, we’re starting to have some contractions. Okay, great. Keep us informed. Let us know when your water breaks, and we’ll be there, wherever you’re going to be having your birth. We’re very flexible, so if you were originally going to be doing a home birth and then something is weird and you need to go to the hospital, then just have someone let us know. It doesn’t matter who it is. Just put our number in your birth plan, and we’ll be there.
Alyssa: That’s what a doula’s good for. We can call you and let you know. By the way, we’re headed to the hospital.
Autumn: And the greatest part is we have a whole team, so during that time when Kris is on call and she needs to be ready whenever, anything that she has going on, we’re there to kind of help take care of that so we free up her time to be available to be at the birth no matter what.
Kris: Yeah. I block off your due date for sure. That entire day is completely reserved. I won’t schedule anything. And then for a week or so before and a week or so after, because babies come when they want to come, I have those listed as on-call, which means that if someone else needs to take one of my other sessions that I have prebooked because you’re going into labor at that point, then they have that. I have a bag packed and with me wherever I am, so I am ready to go and meet you as soon as I get the call.
Kristin: Sounds just like what I do as a birth doula! And most of my calls are in the middle of the night unless it’s a planned birth. Or early morning; I sometimes will get a call. They’ve been laboring at home in early labor, and then they want my support early in the morning.
Kris: Babies just love coming at night.
Autumn: They do!
Kris: My son came right after midnight, and our birth photographer, Bree — she’s one of our team. She actually doesn’t shoot anymore, but she picked up a camera for me. I think I was her last session that she did. And she came — she was so sweet. She came at — oh, gosh. I don’t even know what time. She came pretty early. Probably about 7:00, I think, is when my water broke and everything, and she was there until about 1:00 in the morning when I finally kicked her out. You need to go home; you need to go to sleep. We got our photos; we’re great. We got our few things that we wanted afterwards. Go home and sleep. But that also leads me to the photos of after the birth, like how long we get to stay for that. That’s actually a really good segue there that I hadn’t planned.
Kristin: And I know some clients can hire you just for that first hour or that time of bonding and not the actual labor if their preference is to not be photographed during the birth itself.
Kris: Definitely. It’s still all the same thing. We’re still on call and everything, and the way our packages work, we have two different ones. They both include up to two hours of post-birthing, and that covers the first moments of your child’s life. So if you want us in there for the birth, then that can include the cord cutting and such. If you want us there for the first little bit afterwards, it can include the first time you’re nursing your child if that’s what you end up doing. If you’re doing skin to skin contact; the weight, height, and head measurements, the footprints, and the first family photo of you all together in that blissful moment. And then also if you have any family members that are coming to meet the newest addition, so if you have an older child that’s coming to meet the younger sibling for the first time, or you have some grandparents that are being grandparents for the very first time, we can be there for that, too.
Alyssa: How does it work — let’s say a client gets induced and says, hey, I’m going to the hospital, but then it ends up taking two days. How do you — or have you had a client like that where you’re there for a really, really long time?
Kris: We’ve had one where we’ve been there for —
Autumn: We’ve had to do switch shifts.
Kris: Yeah. I’ve done some switch shifts before where we kind of tag out. Okay, I’ve been here for, like, 12, 13 hours. I need a momentary break. I need a little cat nap, but we don’t want you to have to worry about us missing it. So then we just kind of tag out with one of our other team members, and then we swap for a little bit.
Alyssa: So there’s no price difference?
Alyssa: It’s just whatever birth you have, whether it’s two hours or two days?
Kris: Yep. Your kid comes in the time when your kid wants to come, and we’ve got to be flexible with that.
Kristin: Right. And even with inductions, there can be some sweet moments where they’re on the birthing ball or moving around the room, and you can capture – again, if it is a couple, you can couple the intimacy with the couple, or if there’s a doula supporting…
Autumn: Well, the greatest part is it’s not just one single moment with the birth. It’s the entire process, and being able to capture that for basically the entire family is so special because we literally see the moments before, where they’re on the ball and they’re trying to get them out, and then they —
Kris: It’s the whole story.
Autumn: It literally is the story.
Kris: And going back to personal experience, I was induced for my son because he was a week late and didn’t want to come. And there are times, because it was a long, emotional, hard birth, that don’t necessarily remember. But because I had my photographer there and I made a book later on, I’m able to remember and to kind of — not necessarily relive, because I don’t remember the pain, thank God, but I do remember the joy, and I remember thinking – like, for me the birthing ball was bad, and all I can remember was saying, “Ball bad! Ball bad!” But I remember that because I have the photo of me with that ball and then the ball completely on the other side of the room because I didn’t even want to see it.
Kristin: Listening to your body is key! That’s what I say. That’s part of it!
Alyssa: So once you get into the labor and delivery room, what does that look like? Are you kind of like a fly on the wall trying to stay out of — like, you don’t want them to even know you’re there, or are you talking to them and —
Kris: It kind of depends on the couple or on the mom and what they want, and this is why we do the prenatal consult. We usually try to help out if we can, like either be a gopher — like, so if mom is really sweating but doesn’t want her partner to leave and needs a wet washcloth or something, then we will do that. If you need some ice chips or something, we can go and do that for you so that your people don’t have to leave, although of course if you have doulas, then they usually end up helping out that way, too. So we help out where we can, but otherwise, it’s usually very intimate, and the couple is pretty much in their own world. We just kind of capture that and stay out of the doctors’ way. After you have your baby, we know that you’re really excited to show the photos of your new little baby to friends and family and all your loved ones, and so instead of sending cell phone photos that can look a little weird, we do sneak peeks so we’ll provide you with a handful of photos that are completely ready to send out to friends and family.
Alyssa: Like the next day?
Kris: Within 24 hours. Usually less than; it’s usually one of the first things that we do when we leave the birthing room.
Autumn: She gets really excited. She gets back to the studio, and she’s, like, “I’m doing this! I’m really excited!”
Alyssa: You always do. Every team photo, you’re, like, okay, give me a couple weeks. And then two days later, you’re like, “They’re ready! I was just too excited. I had to go through them.”
Autumn: Well, I mean, it’s our work, and we get so excited about it, and we can’t wait to show it off because what is the point of just sitting on it when we can share it with everyone?
Alyssa: In my past life, I was a photographer, and it was the same thing. While it’s fresh in my head, I wanted to go through them. It’s exciting to see what you just created. So I get it.
Kris: You’ll get a handful of photos the same day, usually within a few hours, so you can send them out. And then the final photos, we say two weeks, but it’s usually sooner.
Kristin: And certainly, I feel like birth is a major rite of passage, and as wedding photographers, you understand how much time, money, and preparation is involved in planning for that rite of passage, but really, when you look at minor investments in the birth and postpartum time for a family, hiring a birth photographer or doing newborn shots doesn’t even compare to the investment in a wedding photographer, for example.
Kris: Oh, yeah, no. It’s a fraction.
Kristin: Can you explain a bit about what your fees are so people who aren’t familiar with birth photographers — as you talk about being on call and longer lengths and so on?
We have a couple different packages when it comes to the birth, and they each include high-resolution images for you to share, to do whatever you want with. And then you also get an album to create for our highest package, which is a 20-page lay-flat album.
Kristin: You’re saying a digital album?
Autumn: No, a photo album. So you get digital files, high-resolution, and then our highest package, you get a 20-page album to share and have it on your table so you can show it off. And plus like Kris said, you get to relive the moments because sometimes you just don’t remember, and having that printed album is so important because you can’t have all of your images live on digital because you don’t know how long they’re going to last. We always want everybody to print things.
Kris: Which is why we provide you with the high-resolution images, too, because those are good quality for printing. So you’re welcome to print them yourself or you can print with us. We have a la carte print packages, too. So the first package, like Autumn was saying, it’s $850. It includes everything: the prenatal consult, the on-call availability, the two hours after birth, and then 100 or more, however many, high-resolution images, and a 20-page 5×5 print photo album. And then our second package, which is our base package, is $500, and that includes 30 to 50 high-resolution images, so that’s if you need just a little bit; just a little reminder, not the whole big coverage of everything. And then because we want to see you guys again and provide you with a really good first family photo that’s not right after birth, we include 10% off your newborn session if you get either of these two packages because, yeah, your first family photo — yeah, it’s great to have one in the hospital, but let’s get one where your hair and makeup are actually done, too.
Kristin: And I know you do documentary-style or more of the posed family shots, depending on preference and price and so on?
Autumn: Absolutely. We actually prefer doing newborn sessions in the home because it’s where you’re going to be the most comfortable, and then you also don’t have to worry about packing up the family and moving them to our studio, which can be a hassle sometimes. Our goal is to make everything hassle-free, so we come to you, and we can document your entire family as you are, and we can also get some posed shots that would be printed and put on the wall. The documentary style also work well if you do an album. Plus, it’s more realistic. It’s you in your zone. It’s where your family is. And if you have other kids, it’s also really fun to see how they interact with the baby, also.
Kris: Some of the documentary ones that we’ve done are within your nursery, so if you’re changing your baby on the table or nursing them in a rocking chair or something like that and then you get a photo of the entire nursery in this environmental setting, too.
Kristin: It’s nice. You did that with a twin client of ours.
Kris: Yeah. They were so sweet. They were adorable, and we had grandma in there, too.
Alyssa: So if anyone is interested in birth photos or family photos or baby photos —
Kristin: Or maternity photos.
Alyssa: Yeah, maternity photos — what’s the best way for them to reach out?
Kris: Probably our website would be the best. We have all our packages listed on there.
Kristin: And you also have a page on the Gold Coast Doulas website.
Kris: We do, so you can just go to the Gold Coast Doulas website and go into Birth Photography and find us that way, too. And then we have all of our packages listed and a handful of images to show you, just kind of a portfolio of examples to see if we’re your flavor of photographer or not.
Autumn: And the best way to find out is just reaching out and setting up a consult to get to know us, really.
Kris: Yeah. You can do that straight from the website. We have contact boxes. You can email us.
Alyssa: And probably depending on the time of year, as long as it’s not wedding season, you could do it last minute. Like, hey, I’m 38 weeks and I just decided I want a photographer.
Autumn: Oh, absolutely.
Alyssa: As long as you’re not in the throes of wedding season, you might be able to say yes?
Kris: You know, as long as you’re not a Friday or Saturday, chances are really high.
Alyssa: Cool. Well, thanks for joining us. Is there anything else that we didn’t cover?
Autumn: I did want to point out that another thing after birth – one of our favorite things to do is follow you through the first year. What we have is a package that basically is dedicated to capturing your baby at several stages in the first year. So then you can do the three, six, nine months and then the one year, so you can also print that out and get it on the wall to see how much they’ve grown.,
Kris: They change so much in that first year.
Autumn: They really, really do. It’s amazing. They go from literally —
Kris: Tiny squishes to little humans.
Autumn: Yeah. It’s amazing. And it’s really fun for us, especially somebody like Kris who’s there during the birth, probably the maternity session, and after with the newborn, and then we get to follow you through and literally watch your family grow. It is so much fun.
Kris: It’s awesome watching them grow.
Autumn: Yeah. Because our goal is to become lifelong friends, not just the photographer one day.
Kris: Yeah. We want to get to know you and become friends and tell your story.
Kristin: I love that.
Alyssa: That’s cool. Thanks!
Have you ever set out to accomplish something life-changing? How did you prepare for it? Did you research it online? Did you read a how-to book? Did you seek advice from those you trust? Would you ever show up for the big day without preparing ahead of time?
Back in November of 2017, I finally saw those two blue lines on a pregnancy test. I was unbelievably excited, but yet filled with fear and anxiety. After over a year of trying to conceive and a devastating miscarriage, my husband and I were blessed with the opportunity to try it again. For anyone that has experienced a miscarriage you know that each cramp, test, and Dr. appointment is filled with intense emotion and fear.
The fear and anxiety wasn’t completely gone after our 12 week ultrasound, but it definitely became a background noise that I could drown out with our baby registry, nursery decorations, and my efforts to create the perfect environment for my baby for the remainder of the pregnancy.
During my first trimester, I was gifted The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland (highly recommended by the way, even if you’re not a super crunchy mama) by my sister who unknowingly would become the trail blazer that would go before me by about 12 weeks and share all her child rearing wisdom with me. This was new for me as an OLDER sister, but her recommendations and personal experience were pivotal in creating an empowering childbirth experience for me.
Fast forward to the third trimester where it really started to sink in that I was going to birth this tiny human inside me. This is the part of the story where I realized I was going to experience something life-changing that I knew very little about. After reading the best books, talking with seasoned mamas and investing in a bomb childbirth course (Mama Natural’s once again!), I decided that my ideal birth plan was to have a vaginal delivery with as few medical interventions as possible. I did the research to get the facts and my husband was very supportive (but also a rookie) so I wanted some reinforcement to help me achieve my dream birth story. This is the part where my very wise sister recommended talking with Gold Coast Doulas about how they could help me reach my goals. She had just accomplished a successful, low intervention vaginal delivery so it didn’t take much convincing for me to call and get matched up with doulas that were a good fit for my birth goals.
At 41 weeks and 3 days, it became apparent that my son had not read my birth plan and despite my best efforts was coming out on his own terms. In the midst of my research, I learned that induction could be intense, unpleasant, and ruin my plans for an unmedicated birth; unfortunately, my OBGYN had decided this was the best option for me. My husband and I walked into the hospital like a couple headed to Baby-Mart to pick-up our baby. I had not experienced one real contraction to this point, was dilated to 1cm (I still think this was a pity centimeter) and I had shed many tears as I realized how little control I actually had over this birth experience. I prayed God would help me surrender to His will for this birth.
As if this was the moment my son had been waiting for all along, I felt my first real contraction minutes after being hooked up to the fetal heart monitor before beginning the induction process. I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself about my “ruined” birth plan and regained my confidence knowing this was MY birth plan and no matter how it ended, it was the perfect plan for me!
Contractions continued to come, and they recommended that I receive a dose of Cytotec to soften my cervix. Thankfully labor continued to progress on its own without any further doses of cytotec or pitocin. Several hours after contractions started, I peed the bed… or so I thought. After 2 trips to the bathroom and continued “leaking” I realized my water had broken. My cervix continued to dilate and my husband was now recruited to help me through my increasingly more intense contractions. My nurse was amazing and encouraged me to change positions by kneeling and leaning forward on the bed and rolling from side to side with a peanut ball between my legs to encourage continued progression of my labor. It’s funny because I knew this movement was important, but in that moment, all I could think about was how it made my contractions hurt worse and that I didn’t want to move at all. Turns out that’s the point! You want to intensify contractions, progress labor, and get that baby in your arms!
As the hours progressed my husband continued to ask if we should ask Mary, our doula, to join us (she’d been checking in with him periodically) and I continued to say no. I guess I had heard too many stories about long labors because I was convinced we still had a long way to go. When my attentive husband noticed the signs of transition he quietly vetoed my decision and let Mary, along with family, know that we were getting close and it was time to come to the hospital. When Mary arrived they were wheeling in delivery equipment and it was go-time. She reminded me of the breathing techniques I had practiced and was available to help with whatever comfort measures we needed even when it was silence.
There was no mistaking when it was time to push as my fetal ejection reflex kicked in. I was thankful that my provider let me stay in a side-lying position to push while my husband and Mary held legs and hands (focusing on my needs) allowing the doctors to focus on our son. My husband excitedly updated me that they could see his head, but he just didn’t seem to want to move past that point. Despite my best pushing efforts for about 40 minutes, our baby’s heart rate was dropping, and I was now needing oxygen. At this point, my OBGYN highly recommended an episiotomy to deliver my son quickly. This was not part of my birth plan, but I agreed knowing everyone’s goal was to deliver a healthy baby. As his head emerged and the OBGYN quickly freed him from the umbilical cord around his neck, he launched himself earth-side and to this day has not stopped moving and wiggling.
It’s crazy to think that at 8 pm on Sunday night we walked into the hospital with a space in our hearts we had no idea even existed and by 8:30 am on Monday morning our hearts were overflowing with love and connection with someone we had only just met. Childbirth was unknown, exciting, and challenging. The experience was so very empowering and the outcome was undeniably life-changing. My piece of advice for expecting moms is to go into labor and delivery prepared, supported and believing in yourself knowing that your body was made to do this!
Written by Dr. Nicole Bringer, DPT
Owner of Mamas & Misses Physical Therapy
Maternity clothes✓ Registry✓ Hospital tour✓ Doula✓ Photographer✓
What could you possibly be forgetting? What about getting YOURSELF prepared?
Likely from the moment you found out you were pregnant you have been focused on the tiny human growing inside of you. While prenatal vitamins, nursery preparations, and choosing the perfect name are all very important parts of preparing for the birth of your baby, so is preparing YOUR body to birth this baby!
Hopefully in the midst of your nesting you have decided to create a birth plan. As you consider what positions you want to labor and deliver in and what interventions you feel comfortable with during your birth experience, I would challenge you to consider what you are doing to achieve those goals. Hiring a doula and recruiting a rockstar support person is a great place to start, BUT there is more!
Research has shown that the percentage of first time moms that experience perineal tearing during delivery is somewhere between 80-90%. Research also shows that 66% of women that deliver their babies in sidelying have NO perineal trauma and 61% of women that deliver on hands and knees have the same TRAUMA-FREE experience. (Simarro 2017, Walker 2012, Soong 2005, Shorten 2002) Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best when it comes to your perineum, what would it look like to practice different delivery positions with your partner BEFORE you go into labor? What about the evidence that says perineal massage 1-2x per week starting at week 35 can DECREASE your risk for tearing and episiotomies? Have you been taught how to perform this technique and are you taking the time to do it? (Seehusen & Raleigh, 2014) With my first son, I totally missed the boat on perineal massage. I ended up with a nasty episiotomy. You better believe I’ll be making perineal massage a priority this time around!
Our bodies become a temporary home for our babies during pregnancy. Our mama bear instincts have already kicked in, and we want to make sure we are creating a healthy and happy environment for our babies to grow within. Exercise and intentional movement is a great way to foster this type of environment for our little ones. Did you know that exercise helps prevent or manage gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and preeclampsia? Exercise also helps us sleep better, reduce our stress levels, and minimize back pain. If your pregnancy is non-complicated and you do not have activity restrictions, you should be exercising! The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend exercising at a moderate intensity 3-5x per week. Sometimes we become paralyzed when we’re not sure where to start and what’s safe. Trainers, instructors, and Physical Therapists with certifications and experience working with women during pregnancy are great resources for mamas hoping to create safe exercise habits.
Let’s not forget about investing in our pregnant bodies to make life easier for ourselves in the postpartum. During your pregnancy your belly is doubling or even tripling in size. As we gain 25+ pounds, we expect our pelvic floor to step up to the challenge and make sure we don’t pee our pants when we sneeze at the grocery store. There are two studies that give us good reason to keep our pelvic floors strong during pregnancy. The research found that women experienced less urinary incontinence at 35 weeks gestation, 6 weeks postpartum and 6 months postpartum when they did pelvic floor exercises DURING their pregnancy compared to women that DID NOT do pelvic floor exercises. (Boyle et al., 2012, Price et al., 2010) Sidenote: sometimes the phrase “pelvic floor exercises” is confusing. Does that mean kegels? Yes and no. Clear as mud I know! Kegels are pelvic floor exercise where we lift and squeeze our pelvic floor muscles, but it’s also important for our pelvic floors to have the ability to relax and lengthen. Sometimes women experience pelvic pain and incontinence because of overactive pelvic floors (need help relaxing) and sometimes it’s because they have underactive pelvic floors (need more strengthening). Even if you have excellent pelvic floor strength and no concerns about incontinence, it’s still helpful to create a mind-body connection with your pelvic floor. During labor and delivery the goal is to relax and open your pelvic floor while pushing so that your pelvic floor remains healthy even after childbirth. Bonus points if you practice your breathing and pelvic floor relaxation while pregnant in the positions you hope to deliver your baby in.
I’ve been a mom in your shoes, running around with my To-Do list trying to check off all the boxes before my baby arrived. As you prioritize your list and consider your baby budget, remember that your body IS this baby’s home. The way that you prepare your body WILL make a difference on the day that your baby decides to make its grand entrance. Exercise, pelvic floor awareness, perineal massage, and labor positions are all important pieces of the pregnancy puzzle. It’s tempting to become intimidated or overwhelmed at this point because you’re just not sure where to start. Start by consulting a Women’s Health Physical Therapist. Now that you know what your goals are, you have some great questions to ask them! Physical Therapists should be another member of your prenatal team, and we want to help you make your planned Birth Story a reality.
My practice is Mamas & Misses, LLC and we offer In-Home Physical Therapy sessions for women local to West Michigan as well as phone or video consults for those who live further away. One of our missions is to provide knowledge to mamas that will empower you during your pregnancy and postpartum experience; therefore, we have lots of FREE info on our YouTube channel as well as our Instagram account @mamasandmisses_pt.
Dr. Nicole Bringer, DPT
Owner of Mamas & Misses LLC
Phone: (616) 466-4889
Boyle, R., Hay‐Smith, E. J., Cody, J. D., & Mørkved, S. (2012). Pelvic floor muscle training for prevention and treatment of urinary and faecal incontinence in antenatal and postnatal women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 10, CD007471. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007471.pub2
Price, N., Dawood, R., & Jackson, S. R. (2010). Pelvic floor exercise for urinary incontinence: A systematic literature review. Maturitas, 67(4), 309-315. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.08.004
Seehusen, D. A., & Raleigh, M. (2014). Antenatal perineal massage to prevent birth trauma. American Family Physician, 89(5), 335-336.
Shorten A, Donsante J, Shorten B. Birth Position, Accoucher, and Perineal Outcomes: Informing Women about Choices for Vaginal Birth. Birth. 2002;29(1):18-27.
Simarro M, Espinosa JA, Salinas C, Ricardo O, Salavadores P, Walker C, Schneider J. A prospective randomized trial of postural changes vs passive supine lying during the second stage of labor under epidural anesthesia. Med. Sci. 2017, 5, 5. doi:10.3390/medsci5010005
Soong B, Barnes M. Maternal position at midwife-attended birth and perineal trauma: is there an association? Birth. 2005;32(3):164-169.
Walker, C., Rodríguez, T., Herranz, A. et al. Int Urogynecol J (2012) 23: 1249. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-012-1675-5
Today we talk with Elsa, a therapist at Mindful Counseling in Grand Rapids, Michigan who specializes in perinatal mood disorders. Learn what postpartum anxiety and depression look like, how they are different, and signs to look out for. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Elsa Lockman from Mindful Counseling. She’s here to talk to us a bit about postpartum anxiety. Elsa specializes in the following areas: perinatal mood disorders, which includes postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, grief and loss, eating disorders, and body image issues. She also works with clients dealing with relationship problems, coping with medical illness, trauma and abuse, women’s issues and self-esteem, and mood disorders and anxiety. So obviously, you’re a natural fit working with clients who struggle with everything from eating disorders to anxiety and depression, transitions in their relationships, and expanding their family or having their first child. So today, Elsa, let’s focus a bit on the difference between postpartum depression and anxiety and what women can do if they’re interested in seeking treatment and getting help.
Elsa: Yes, postpartum depression and anxiety can go together. Sometimes women will struggle with anxiety with depression. Sometimes it is separate. Postpartum anxiety and depression can look very different. People classically think of postpartum depression as mothers who don’t connect with their babies, moms who are checked out and can’t get out of bed all day. That’s actually not always the case. Often, women with depression are exhausted and often can’t stop crying. They can’t look, maybe, on the positive side or think rationally. As far as the anxiety, it can come out more in not feeling necessarily down but feeling like you can’t relax; feeling that something bad is going to happen at any time. Having thoughts of something happening to your baby; scary thoughts. Sometimes even flashes of images of very violent things happening or the baby falling, and moms often feel guilty for those, actually, and don’t tell anybody, but they’re actually really important to talk about.
Kristin: I had a friend who was afraid of driving in her car or anyone driving her baby. There can be a lot of, like you said, those intrusive thoughts.
Elsa: Yes, and it’s obsessive sometimes and you can’t get it out of your head. So rationally, you can say, I’m not going to drop the baby going down the stairs. I have the baby in my hands. But it keeps going; it gets hooked, the idea or the image, and then they’ll struggle with almost a loop where it just can’t get out of your head. Or anxiety can present sometimes in something around sickness. No germs. Thinking that my baby is going to get sick; I can’t take her out to the store, and I can’t take her to this house. And how far that goes; I mean, some of these are common sense, and you want to take care of your child, but then how far does it goes? Does it prevent you from doing things that you want to do, or do others notice that maybe this is being a little unreasonable? It seems to be causing you even more anxiety to be thinking some of these things. Another part is that sometimes anxiety can come out as anger. Feeling just angry and irritable; feeling tense. That can come out, obviously, with partners, and they can notice it. Being different, a marked change from before for women. Those are some of the symptoms that come that people can notice with anxiety. Another one would be sleeping; when moms can’t sleep when the baby is actually sleeping. That’s another sign of postpartum anxiety for people to watch out for.
Kristin: Sure. That makes sense. I know even with postpartum doulas in the house, some women still struggle with fully sleeping even though their child is being care for by someone else. And sleep is so essential. There are so many studies on how, if you’re not getting enough sleep, it can lead to mood disorders and anxiety and so on.
Elsa: Yeah, it just leaves women very vulnerable, and now it’s become so normalized that part of the postpartum world is just not getting sleep. And I think it’s also expected that women are also just supposed to go on with their lives and do all the normal things that they’re supposed to do even when they’re running on little to no sleep, and this goes on for weeks or months.
Kristin: Yes! So what resources would you suggest if they’re looking for help? Obviously, we can talk about how to reach out to you!
Elsa: For sure! You can definitely contact Mindful Counseling GR. You can contact Pine Rest. They actually have a mother baby unit, so they actually have therapists that have specialized training, like I do, to work with women postpartum.
Kristin: And now Pine Rest even has the ER when you can —
Elsa: Oh, the urgent care center?
Kristin: Yes, the urgent care center. They can go in at night and not have to go the hospital.
Elsa: yeah, they can go to the urgent care center and get assessed and get attention or treatment a lot quicker. OB offices have a list of therapists who are trained and specialize with postpartum or perinatal mood disorders, which includes anxiety and depression in pregnancy and postpartum. So there’s a list that you can ask for from your OB, as well.
Kristin: Great! How do they directly reach out to you? Are you accepting new patients, Elsa?
Elsa: Yes, I am! You can reach out to me by contacting me through our website.
Kristin: Perfect! Thank you for coming on today!
Dr. Annie and Dr. Rachel talk to Alyssa about Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD), how to prevent it, how to treat it, and things every pregnant and postpartum woman should be doing! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Hello. Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa, and I’m talking with Dr. Rachel and Dr. Annie again of Rise Wellness Chiropractic. How are you?
So I got asked by a client about symphysis pubis dysfunction, and I’m not even exactly sure what that is, but you knew. Right when I told you, you knew. So can you tell me?
So SPD — sometimes people think of sensory processing disorder, which is with older kids, but in relation to pregnancy, it’s symphysis pubis dysfunction.
And what the heck does that mean?
It’s a mouthful! So basically, where your two pelvic bones meet in the front is called your symphysis pubis, so that’s where the two bones meet together. There’s cartilage in between there, and that area widens for birth. So usually late second to third trimester, we’ll see some women will start having pain. That can be related to the relaxin that’s in their system that’s helping the ligaments loosen and helping that area separate, but what we usually find is it’s more due to pelvic imbalances. Usually one side of the pelvis is higher than the other or something like that or it’s rubbing in a weird way. That’s usually what causes that symphysis pubis dysfunction.
So it’s strictly for pregnancy?
And are there any ways to not get it? Avoid it? Treat it?
Yeah, just because if it’s caused from a misalignment —
Exactly. Yeah, if it’s caused from pelvis imbalances, then that is directly a chiropractic issue. It’s biomechanical. That’s something that we can address through adjustments. And then we also have stretches that you can do, and there’s also a Serola belt which is like an SI belt. It goes around your sacroiliac joints, and it’s just a low belt. It doesn’t really do anything in terms of — it’s not like a belly band or something that you would wear to support the baby, but it does help to support the SI joints and keep everything together. Really, it’s hypermobility in that joint that’s causing that pain.
It’s too mobile?
It’s too mobile. Yeah, so we usually see it with not first-time pregnant moms but usually second or third, especially if they’ve had some kind of fall or something like that while pregnant. They can injure their pelvis, and that’s usually what brings those things up. I actually had a patient a couple weeks who came to us for SPD, and under care, she was doing great. All her pain went away. But she had fallen during her first pregnancy, and then during her second pregnancy, she started having all this pain and stuff come on.
So falling during pregnancy; it’s not just like a random fall at any time in your life that could affect this?
It could be. Pregnancy is really good at exacerbating existing issues or past issues. Like if you’ve had any pelvic imbalances in your past and then you’re pregnant, just that relaxin is going to kind of flare things up. Typically, what we see is pain with putting weight on one leg. Climbing stairs is when your pelvis is moving the most, so that’s usually when a lot of the pain is flared up.
Walking; something that you don’t have to do very often.
But sitting is not good for it either. It’s one of those things that nothing is good for it.
Laying hurts; turning while you’re laying. Like that’s not already hard when you’re in the third trimester!
Does it actually cause any more pain or discomfort during labor and delivery?
It can. It depends on really, like, what the pelvis — because if you think of the pelvic bowl, if there’s imbalances in the pelvis, it’s not just affecting the bones. It’s also affecting your pelvic floor muscles. It’s affecting all of your stabilizer muscles. So it can potentially affect how things go during labor. I don’t know if it creates more pain, necessarily, or if it would be, but any pelvic imbalance is going to effect, probably, the efficiency of your labor.
Plus, it doesn’t necessarily clear up after.
That was my next question.
Yeah, it’s not like you deliver the baby and then it’s gone.
Because you still have that imbalance?
So then what do you do for that? Just keep getting adjusted?
Well, it should clear. If you’re getting adjusted, it should help clear it up while pregnant. So I guess what we’re saying is, you should get checked if it’s happening.
I mean, it’s definitely like you have to retrain that pelvic imbalance somehow, and you do that through chiropractic adjustments or through exercises, through physical therapy, sutff like that.
Yeah. PT floor rehab, yeah.
Probably a combination of both, right?
Right. If you do it all, then you probably have best outcomes.
Yeah, I don’t think we understand how important the pelvic floor is, and all we’ve learned is Kegels. That’s not necessarily even a good thing to think. When I saw a physical therapist for pelvic floor issues specifically, I was, like, that makes so much sense! Even just the way we breathe; I didn’t know that my diaphragm was part of — what would that be? The top? The diaphragm is the top of your pelvic floor?
Yeah. It’s the top of your —
Like the space? I guess I can’t say top of the floor. Your pelvic floor is the floor.
Your intrabdominal space. So it’s like the lid, and then your pelvic floor is the bottom. But it’s a big airtight balloon, pretty much, so when you breathe, it affects everything. But pelvic floor is an issue that we don’t talk about, really, with women in birth, but it’s a huge thing. Every woman who pushes out a baby has pelvic floor issues. Every woman who has a C-section has pelvic floor issues because those are attached to your abdominals, too. So, really, every woman should be getting some kind of rehab on pelvic floor after birth. That’s my soapbox!
I’m in these group exercise classes, and every woman is, like, oh, jumping jacks. I’m going to pee my pants! I had one friend who was, like, I was working out and I didn’t know if it was sweat or I had peed my pants! Yeah. I get it!
Well, pelvic floor and core strength, too, are both things that get overlooked with women after pregnancy, and then we see women with back pain later, and it’s because their core is so weak. So, really, we’re just promoting physical therapy pelvic floor rehab. It’s what needs to be done.
And chiropractic care. Retraining all that neurology is important.
I think even just learning about it! I’ve done yoga classes forever, and they will say, like, during this pose, tighten your pelvic floor. I’m, like, what the hell are they talking about? What? How do I do that? But now after learning that even breathing is different and the feeling of — I hate saying Kegel because it’s not even what it is, but I guess that is the feeling of what you would do to stop your pee, but doing that during certain exercises is a whole different feeling, but I think now that I’m conscious of it, I’m, like, oh, that makes sense. Oh, I can do that here. Okay. It’s gotten a lot better, but I still can’t do jumping jacks.
See? The jumping jacks! I don’t do them either. They’re like, do jumping jacks to warm up, and I’m like… No.
I do the ones where I just put my hands up. I just kick my leg out. I’m fine with it!
It’s what everyone’s doing! They call those jumping jills.
Is there anything else pregnant or postpartum women need to know about symphysis pubis dysfunction?
It’s not something that you need to suffer through. There’s a lot of chiropractic studies where it helps in a lot of case studies, but also, biomechanically, it makes sense. You don’t have to feel like you can’t walk up the stairs or sit or that you have to be in a lot of pain when you’re trying to sleep. Find out you’re pregnant and get under care. That’s really what we tell people.
Tell people where to find you!
Well, as always, thanks! We’ll have you on again soon!
Today we speak with Katie and Becky from Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids about what it means to be a designated Baby-Friendly hospital. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, co-owner, and I’ve got Alyssa here. And we’ve got special guests joining us today from Spectrum talking about the Baby-Friendly initiative. So welcome, ladies! Introduce yourselves and tell us about your background!
Becky: My name is Becky Crawford, and I’m a nurse manager at Spectrum. My background is in postpartum and labor and delivery nursing.
Katie: And I’m Katie. I’m the project specialist for women and infants at Spectrum Health. My background: I am an RN, and my background is high risk OB and postpartum nursing.
Kristin: Fantastic! Thanks for joining us! Tell us about what baby friendly means and why it’s such an intense process to go through certification. Fill us in!
Katie: The Baby-Friendly hospital initiative was actually created back in the early 90s, and it’s an international organization to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding practices. Spectrum Health Butterworth was designated Baby-Friendly initially in October of 2014, and we just went through the redesignation process and were redesignated at the end of May of this year. There are ten steps for Baby-Friendly that each support breastfeeding practices, and we can talk through some of those steps, as well. You have to be proficient in all of those ten steps to receive the designation, so you really have to show breastfeeding excellence, and it’s a really strict and rigorous process to go through.
Becky: I think overall, the way I describe it to patients is that we’ve created a culture that’s supportive of breastfeeding and of moms that want to breastfeed. So it’s not that we force anyone to breastfeed. Our goal is just to educate moms, support them, and help them be successful if that’s the option they choose.
Katie: Absolutely. As nursing professionals, part of our responsibility it to make sure that best practice and current research reaches our patients and that they’re educated on all of those best practices. Breastfeeding is best practice, but it’s also about informed choice and supporting our patients with whatever choice they make. While Baby-Friendly is primarily about breastfeeding and supporting breastfeeding, there is a formula feeding option there, and we support patients in that option, as well. It should never be about pressure. It should just be about education and informed choice.
Kristin: That is a question that I get from doula clients. If they choose, whether for medical necessity or personal choice, to formula-feed, how they can navigate the system with Baby-Friendly hospitals.
Alyssa: That’s what I was going to ask, too. Do you think that designation scares a mom who knows she doesn’t want to breastfeed? Does she think shes going to come into this hospital and you’re going to try to force it? What does that look like for a mom who doesn’t want to?
Becky: We do hear that feedback from moms that haven’t delivered with us, that they’re just nervous. Having to talk about breastfeeding, even, can be an uncomfortable conversation if they know that’s not the choice they want to make. So our approach with our staff is to educate the patient on all the options, let them choose, and then support. So it should be a one-time conversation. We’re going to talk through all your feeding options. These are the great benefits of breastfeeding. If you choose not to do it, okay. Then let’s talk about formula feeding, and we’ll focus our education there. So making sure they know their options, they understand the benefits, and then support.
Katie: And, you know, nurses educate on a lot of topics, right? It’s not just about breastfeeding. But the other topics we educate on, it’s the same sort of informed choice, right? Breastfeeding is such a personal decision. It’s such an emotionally charged topic. I think that while we need to educate our patients on breastfeeding and why it’s great, we also need to acknowledge the fact that it is a really personal choice, and it’s okay if you choose not to, as long as we’ve given you all of the information.
Kristin: And so your labor and delivery nurses, your postpartum nurses — everyone is specially trained to support the initial latch and continued breastfeeding through their stay?
Kristin: And that’s something that we always stress as doulas is that you have support from your nurses as well as the board-certified lactation consultants who do rounds in the postpartum time.
Katie: Actually, one of the ten steps is staff education. All of our nurses receive 20 hours of dedicated breastfeeding education. Of that, 15 hours are classroom education and then 5 of those is clinical, practical breastfeeding education hours. Every one of our nurses; it’s built into orientation for any women’s nurse, so everyone from labor and delivery to postpartum gets this education. There’s also a requirement for providers, so nurse midwives as well as physicians, to receive additional breastfeeding education, as well. Per Baby-Friendly, they’re required to receive three hours of breastfeeding education.
Becky: We also have a team of lactation consultants that offer further help for any mom that’s struggling, but I’m also bringing in more peer counselors, too, just to round on every patient and offer every mom some support, ever with those first few times they’re latching, just so they can hear that they’re doing a great job. It’s really just to address the breastfeeding concerns of all moms, not just the moms that are struggling, just to really walk them through it.
Katie: And we do have quite a few nurses that are certified breastfeeding counselors, so they have received additional education as well as the education that they received for Baby-Friendly.
Kristin: How are you able to support moms with babies that go to the NICU initially with their breastfeeding goals?
Becky: Well, actually, we get them pumping right away. If your goal is to breastfeed, we like to have them pump within two hours of delivery to start establishing that supply. Our nurses will come in and do education, and the lactation consultants will see them, also, and just talk about the importance of pumping to build up that supply. They’re also going to skin to skin. There are some lactation consultants that are dedicated just to the NICU and these moms, so there’s a lot of support there, too.
Katie: The providers in the NICU are very, very supportive of breastfeeding, and they encourage and educate moms on the importance of breastfeeding, as well, so there’s good collaboration between our OB teams and our NICU teams regarding supporting those moms in breastfeeding and being successful.
Kristin: That’s what my clients tell me, that they get a lot of support, even over at Helen DeVoss, as well as in their rooms with lactation. As far as other elements of the Baby-Friendly designation, what else encompasses those ten standards?
Becky: There’s a lot. We start right at delivery, with the golden hour after delivery. We place baby skin to skin immediately after delivery, and we avoid all unnecessary care for that first hour. Any exams or assessments would all be done while the baby is skin to skin on mom. We try to give them that time to bond and establish that first feeding.
Kristin: And if the mom can’t do skin to skin, I have dads ask me all the time about the benefits of them doing skin to skin with baby. So that’s something that’s encouraged, as well?
Becky: Absolutely. We’ve had lots of dads do skin to skin. We like to bring them in on the process whenever possible.
Kristin: That’s fantastic. And then delayed cord clamping is now a standard policy?
Becky: Yes. And we also room-in, so babies stay with their moms 24 hours a day unless mom requests otherwise. But that’s what we try to encourage and do all procedures at the bedside to keep the family together 24 hours a day.
Katie: I think that rooming in is another hot topic when you’re talking about Baby-Friendly and breastfeeding, and the literature does tell us that rooming in does help moms to be more successful breastfeeding. I think that it’s important that patients understand that we’re going to allow you to keep your baby with you. We’re going to be able to take care of mom and baby together. You’re going to learn your baby’s feeding cues. You’re going to learn all those little nuances. We’re going to help you learn that in the couple of days that you have with us. There is space where if you wanted your baby to go to a nursery, we could do that. We’re supportive of that, as well, but again, we are going to educate, and then we’re going to honor choice.
Kristin: And then there’s delayed bathing and other procedures beyond that?
Alyssa: What’s the thought behind all the delayed cord clamping, delayed bathing? Why? What are the benefits?
Katie: The delayed bath is sort of about the transition from being inside mom and then outside and regulating temperature. So we wait at least twelve hours. We like to wait closer to 24 hours to do that first bath. We’re, of course, not going to hand you an ooey gooey baby. We do a little wiping off, but it really does help that baby transition to life outside of mom and regulate. It also allows you to go immediately into skin to skin so the baby can help regulate not just the temperature, but the heart rate and the breathing. And, again, that’s evidence based. In fact, there’s a pediatrician out in Massachusetts who really pioneered the Baby-Friendly initiative in the hospitals out in Massachusetts, and she did a study on delaying the baby bath, as well. That’s the literature we have for it; it’s all about maintaining stability for the baby.
Kristin: That’s awesome, Katie.
Becky: For the delayed cord clamping, that just gives the newborn a little more blood volume, and, actually, it’s better for baby. There’s no reason to cut the cord any sooner, unless the baby is having a respiratory issue and would need resuscitation, so that would be out of the norm. But otherwise, we do wait and delay so the baby can have more blood volume from the placenta.
Alyssa: How long?
Becky: Our standard is a minimum of one minute. I know a lot of moms request —
Alyssa: So this isn’t like it’s for an hour —
Becky: We’re not saying 10 minutes or 20 minutes. Generally, the cord stops pumping within five minutes. So some moms request to please wait until it stops pulsating, and we can do that, too. Generally, we wait about a minute, and that’s probably close to when it stops pulsating. But we’re not talking about an hour or anything like that.
Kristin: Yeah, some of my clients want to see it actually turn gray and stop pulsating before it’s cut.
Alyssa: And I didn’t want to see mine at all.
Becky: I didn’t either, personally!
Alyssa: My husband did accidentally and was like, oh, my God, an organ just fell out of you!
Katie: I love all of that stuff. It’s so fascinating!
Kristin: As far as additional steps that you take to get recertified, tell us about that process and why it’s important.
Katie: You will see in our women’s and infant services department that OB triage is on A level, and then all the way up to the 8th floor in that tower, you’ll see the 10 Steps for Baby-Friendly posted. It’s just showing our support of those ten steps. We have to show that patients receive prenatal education in our clinics regarding breastfeeding. We have to show that all of our staff receive the education. The people that come out to do our survey — the interview staff.
Becky: And patients.
Katie: And patients and providers, so they will go in patient rooms to see that they receive the education about breastfeeding and that they’re being appropriately supported for breastfeeding. So they look at our exclusive breastfeeding rate.
Kristin: And then you have support groups, as well, when mothers go home and need additional support. They can go to free support groups and seek help through their OB or midwives or pediatricians?
Katie: Absolutely. I think a lot of our pediatricians have at least one pediatrician who is an IBCLC, so a lactation consultant, as well. I know that our DeVoss clinic has two pediatricians that are lactation consultants.
Becky: And our pediatrician who is an IBCLC actually oversees the residents, and so she’s the one working with them and training them. It’s kind of keeping that mindset forefront for all of them, too, and helping them learn the Baby-Friendly system.
Katie: So while nursing took this on and rolled it out, there is a lot of support from providers, as well. Of course, our nurse midwives receive, as part of their education, breastfeeding, but our pediatric providers are all very supportive of breastfeeding, as well.
Alyssa: Is there anything that you think is a misconception for this Baby-Friendly Initiative? Is there anything that it isn’t? You told it what it is, but what isn’t it?
Becky: Yes. I think the thing we hear most is that, I’m going to be pressured to breastfeed if I deliver there. And there is nothing further from the truth. Our goal is a culture supportive of breastfeeding, not a culture of pressure. So our goal is to educate, let moms make decisions, and support them. So there’s no pressure. I think the other big misconception is about rooming in. Sometimes you have a mom who, let’s say, has had a C-section and she’s exhausted, and she just needs support for a couple of hours. We will accommodate that. We’re all about supporting moms. So although we do encourage rooming in, and there are a lot of benefits to it, in certain circumstances when it’s not best for the family, we support what is.
Katie: I think that it’s the 80/20 rule. There’s going to be exceptions to every rule, and it’s just important that we support our patients through that. I think that Becky and I have probably both taken care of those moms that have had long labors or C-sections, and they come up to the floor, and they just need rest. You have to take care of yourself.
Becky: They’re crying. The baby’s crying. Everyone’s hit a wall. And it’s like, why don’t I just cuddle your baby for an hour. You take a nap, and then let’s try again. Sometimes just 45 minutes of sleep can change the entire situation.
Katie: I remember after my second one, I got two hours of sleep. Like, two consecutive hours. And it was the best two hours ever!
Alyssa: I’m thinking about my situation. It was fairly quick. Yeah, sure, I was tired, but I did choose one time in the middle of the night to have them take my daughter to the nursery so I could get — it was about two hours. But I felt so amazing. But I wasn’t in this dire circumstance. So today with — this was before the Baby-Friendly. So today, would I have to prove to you that I need the sleep?
Alyssa: It’s just, would you take her for a couple of hours? You’re not going to say, well, you don’t check these boxes, so she won’t go.
Becky: No. I think the goal is when moms come up to the postpartum unit to talk to them about, well, babies room in 24-7, and we keep you together and care for you together. However, if you have a need to send your baby to the nursery, we’ll accommodate that. So our goal is to not educate the mom at 2:00 a.m. who’s exhausted and crying about how she should room in with her baby. That’s not really the time to have that conversation, and it probably wouldn’t be well-received. So we want to educate them when they first come up so that at that point, at 2:00 a.m., if you decide to make that decision, it will be more like, okay. I’ll bring her back for her next feeling.
Alyssa: I didn’t think I wanted to, but now I do.
Becky: And that is common. Okay, I just need a little bit of a nap, and then I can keep going.
Kristin: Yeah, we’ve had clients hire us to help out in their postpartum room when their partner had to go home to tend to another child or had a job to get back to. We’ve loved that role of being in the hospital, as well as later on in the home, to support them and help them get sleep and also learn baby cues and feedings and help support breastfeeding.
Alyssa: Basically, be their postpartum doula in the hospital as well as at home.
Becky: We would welcome that support, definitely! I’m sure our nurses would love to partner with you on that!
Alyssa: For those moms who don’t want to send — maybe they desperately want the sleep, but they don’t feel comfortable sending their baby to the nursery. Your doula sits in the rocking chair and holds your baby.
Becky: What a great option!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s been really kind of life-altering for a few of our clients who are a little bit more on the — you know, a lot of moms just have anxiety, especially first-time moms.
Katie: I think that so much of the focus goes to the baby, but we’re taking care of mom, too, and that needs to be in the forefront, as well. There’s two patients there.
Becky: And be aware of her self-care and her needs in the moment, too, because what I always try to tell my patients is, you need to take care of yourself so you can take care of this baby. And if that means a short nap, then I think we need to do that because it’s going to make you a better mom in the morning when you’ve had a little bit of sleep.
Kristin: Exactly. What other hospitals in the area within the Spectrum brand are Baby-Friendly? We have clients in a 50-mile radius of Grand Rapids, so we work with a lot of your smaller hospitals, as well.
Katie: So Spectrum Health Butterworth just received redesignation, like we talked about. Spectrum Health Zeeland.
Becky: They’re newly designation last September.
Katie: And then Spectrum Health United Memorial up in Greenville. They were designated five years ago, and they’re going through the redesignation process right now.
Alyssa: So is it every five years?
Katie: Yes. And then Spectrum Health Big Rapids is going after designation, as well. We have, as a system, Baby-Friendly requires us to have an infant feeding policy, and we have standardized that infant feeding policy across the system for all of our regional hospitals, as well. So you’re going to see a piece of Baby-Friendly in all Spectrum hospitals. And the reason for that is that it’s evidence based and it’s best practice, so even if they’re not designated Baby-Friendly, these are practices that we should all be doing.
Becky: Right. They’re probably practicing very similar to Baby-Friendly, even if they don’t officially have that designation.
Alyssa: That’s great. Anything else you want to share before we sign off?
Kristin: What resources, if any of our listeners want to learn more about Baby-Friendly or some of the work Spectrum has done — where can they go online to get more information?
Becky: I think just going to the Baby-Friendly website will give you a lot of information about the 10 Steps and about what we’re focused on as a Baby-Friendly hospital. So you can really start just researching Baby-Friendly, and we are following that to a T, so that will tell you how we’re practicing.
Katie: Our provider offices also have education and information about Baby-Friendly, and then —
Becky: Our childbirth education classes.
Katie: Yes, at Spectrum Health Healthier Communities. They have information, as well.
Kristin: So the educators can fill their students in with any questions they have?
Katie: Correct, yes.
Kristin: And then is there anything special with the hospital tours that our clients go on before delivery? Do you incorporate Baby-Friendly or answer questions based on that? I haven’t been on a tour in a while.
Katie: I don’t think that they specifically talk about Baby-Friendly, except that —
Becky: The practices, probably.
Katie: Yeah. They likely don’t highlight the nursery like they used to. Our nursery — we don’t have babies lined up in the nursery like we used to. They’re with their moms, so you can’t go to the maternity floor and look through the window of the nursery. There’s no babies there.
Becky: I do think they talk about some of our practices, about how you room in and we keep babies together. And I think the other thing is maybe some of the practices, like the skin to skin after delivery. Things that might be different than other hospitals, just so they know what to expect; that we would never supplement a baby unless it was medically necessary, and we’re not handing out pacifiers unless somebody requests it. So it might be slightly different than other hospitals that are doing deliveries in the area.
Katie: Our childbirth educators are pretty passionate about breastfeeding and supporting breastfeeding practices, as well as supporting natural birth. They give the whole gamut of the birth experience.
Kristin: Well, thank you for joining us and sharing so much!
For tips on how to make your hospital room feel cozy for birth read Creating A Cozy Hospital Birth Space in First Time Parent Magazine by Kirstin Revere.