Gold Coast Doulas Team

Response to Article About Illinois Doula That Suppored an Unassisted Homebirth

There has been a lot of talk in the birth community lately about the recent case of the doula who pled guilty after attending an unassisted homebirth where the baby died. Our team is saddened for the family and for the doula community as a whole. Birth doulas do not take on a medical role, period. We offer emotional, physical, and informational support. Nothing more, nothing less.

Gold Coast Doulas works hard to maintain firm boundaries with clients. We never attend unassisted births. If we are supporting a homebirth before a midwife makes it, or are at the client’s home before heading to the hospital, our clients know we will not “catch the baby”. Our clients are informed at the prenatal that we will call 9-1-1 and will follow instructions. We don’t even try to read the monitor at the hospital. We aren’t trained to do that. 

We carry professional liability insurance for the agency and we stay within our scope of practice.  We are not trained to deliver babies or to offer medical advice to the birthing parent. We are your support team not a nurse, doctor, or midwife. We have so much respect for medical providers and the work they do; we would never assume we are able to diagnose or take on a medical role. We love working as a team with other care providers during labor and delivery.  

The doula who was convicted in this case presented herself as a certified birth doula and a certified Bradley Method instructor. She does not hold either of those certifications. You can trust that our certified doulas maintain their certifications including CPR and AED. We are always focused on continuing education and growing our skills as birth doulas.  We wear name tags with our credentials on them during births and meetings so medical professionals know who we are. Our pre-certified doulas have two years to complete certification requirements or they need to leave our team. Professionalism matters to us and it matters to our clients.    

Most doula trainings range from two to four days in length and take up to 2 years to complete. Doulas have readings, essays, an exam, and client and medical provider evaluations as part of their certification requirements. Many birth doulas also take a full breastfeeding class and a childbirth class. Not all doulas who practice in the community choose to certify or have even attended a formal training. At Gold Coast Doulas we know training and certification matter and allow us to better support our clients with experience and professionalism.

What we will promise our clients is that we will be honest and trustworthy. We will always work within our scope of practice. We will refer medical questions to medical providers. Gold Coast Doulas will support you without judgment through your pregnancy, birth, and immediately postpartum. You can count on us to do the right thing because it matters and so do you.  


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Postpartum Wellness

Podcast Episode #61: Postpartum Wellness

Dr. Erica of Root Functional Medicine gives moms some tips about staying healthy through pregnancy and into the postpartum period.  We also talk about her upcoming Postpartum Wellness class on March 7.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

This podcast episode is sponsored by LifeFuel, providing healthy meal delivery in West Michigan. We love partnering with LifeFuel! 

Alyssa:  Hello!  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today I’m talking to Dr. Erica Armstrong of Root Functional Medicine.  Hello, Dr. Erica!  Welcome.

Dr. Erica:  Hello, thank you for having me!

Alyssa:  My business partner, Kristin, has been talking to you, but I want to know a little bit about Root Functional Medicine, and then we will talk about an event that we’re going to have together here in our space.  So tell me a little bit about what you do.

Dr. Erica:  So I am a functional medicine doctor.  My background was in family medicine for several years before I went through functional medicine training, and Kelsey, our dietician, and I created a specialty practice in functional medicine, the first of its kind in West Michigan, and we partner up to help patients really get to the root cause of why they’re not feeling well.  That’s kind of the basis of functional medicine; we look at people in a holistic sense and try to solve problems at the root, and a lot of the time, we do need to make nutritional changes, and so it just made perfect sense to partner up with a dietician to do that.

Alyssa:  So explain to me what a functional medicine doctor does versus a regular medical doctor.  How would you, in very simple terms, explain what functional medicine is?

Dr. Erica:  Sure, I would say there’s not a simple explanation other than it’s a different model of healthcare entirely.  Functional medicine isn’t the symptom, one diagnosis, one treatment, the typical path that gets rushed through.  It really is stepping back, looking at the entire picture since birth and even before birth of a patient because they’re not just a snapshot in time.  We look at their genetics.  We look at their microbiome.  We look at their nutrition and lifestyle and really plot everything on something called a functional medicine matrix, and we try to balance the imbalances.  And then we look at lab testing that’s simply not available in traditional labs to see how the body is actually functioning, and with that information, we can be much more preventative and not only help people stay away from disease but actually help them feel well.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I think of it as — you know how you go to a doctor within one medical system, and then you go to another one, and you’re answering the same questions all the time, but nobody seems to be talking together.  And functional medicine is like having all those specialties together talking to one another, so the heart specialist isn’t just looking at your heart.  The heart specialist should also be asking about nutrition and diet.  You know, it’s not just all these segmented pieces.

Dr. Erica:  Yeah, that’s absolutely right.  In traditional healthcare, we tend to silo things, but yes, if you have a heart issue, it doesn’t stop there.  There are other things that we need to look at, so it’s really putting the big picture together.

Alyssa:  So you and Kelsey — she does the dietician part of it?  We should have her on sometime, too, because I love talking about diet and sleep since I do sleep consults and food, especially for little ones.  Do you see children, as well?

Dr. Erica:  We do, yeah.  We can see all ages, and I do a lot of nutrition, too.  Just in functional medicine training, a vast majority of that is nutrition, but Kelsey does help a lot with specific diets and troubleshooting, and she has a lot of nutrition knowledge that she shares with patients, too.

Alyssa:  Let’s talk about this event and tell people what it is that you do to help pregnant women and what they can look forward to if they come to this event.

Dr. Erica:  Yeah, so even before pregnancy, really optimizing wellness and things like just trying to make sure they’re eating balanced, healthy meals is important, and then things to look out for in the postpartum period where we’re often sleep deprived and have higher cortisol levels and how to navigate and troubleshoot those areas, how to plan ahead for that.

Alyssa:  So this event we’re having is on March 7th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM and it’s going to be here in our office in the Kingsley Building.  Seating is limited because our office can only hold so many people.  It’s $35.00 per person, and we’re going to create a link and post it on Facebook and put it on our website.  Are we calling it How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Postpartum Period?

Dr. Erica:  Yes!

Alyssa:  So we’re going to talk about good foods during pregnancy, what to watch out for, sleep deprivation and cortisol, like you just mentioned, tips for dealing with that, and then how to evaluate adrenals and thyroid, which I know is a common question for a lot of women, pregnant or not.

Dr. Erica:  Yes, we end up seeing a lot of thyroid disease coming after pregnancy, for a variety of reasons.  So how to test for that and assess it from a functional standpoint.

Alyssa:  And then we have — and you might need to help me with this; talk about some adaptogens in food?  What is that?

Dr. Erica:  So adaptogens just means that it helps your body adapt to situations, so certain things like mushrooms or ashwagandha, those are called adaptogens.  So if people are having a lot of high cortisol levels, actually eating that food helps because food can talk to your genes and tell your genes to turn on or off and produce more or less cortisol.  That’s a very scientific answer, sorry!

Alyssa:  No, I get it!  And then the last thing I have on here, “some supportive things to do such as basic ideas that can be forgotten during the postpartum period.”  What do you mean by that?

Dr. Erica:  So even just remembering to continue your prenatal vitamins.  Things can get so out of routine with a newborn baby that you forget to do simple things that can help you feel well.  We end up seeing a lot of nutritional deficiencies just after giving birth, especially vitamin D.  There’s a lot of vitamin D deficiency in general in West Michigan, but if you’re breastfeeding, you’re at more risk for that.  And then magnesium deficiency, which many of us are deficient in.  So just those two simple vitamins, we can test those levels, and people end up feeling a lot better when we replace those.

Alyssa:  So who would you say should come to this event?  Women who are pregnant, trying to conceive, postpartum, all of the above?

Dr. Erica:  I think all of the above, for sure, because we’re going to talk about a lot of general health tips, as well, as focusing on the postpartum period.

Alyssa:  Okay!  So again the event is called How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Postpartum Period, but even if you’re pregnant, I always tell people to plan ahead.  So it’s good to learn this stuff so that you’re not in the  midst of all this chaos with a newborn at home, and going, oh, shoot.  If you know this stuff, you can plan ahead.  And again, that’s going to be on March 7th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM, so if you’re interested, you can go to our contact form and let us know you’re interested in the event.  I would still like to know a little bit more about your practice.  Where are you located?

Dr. Erica:  We’re located in downtown Grand Rapids, and we mainly see people in person, but we can also see people virtually throughout the state of Michigan via telemedicine, and some people will drive in for the first visit and then follow up virtually, as well.  We have different packages on our website.  You can either work with Kelsey in nutrition package or with me in functional medicine or with both of us in what we call the Get to the Root package in where we work together for at least three months and really help get to the root cause of feeling better.

Alyssa:  I love that you can do it virtually, especially for postpartum moms!

Dr. Erica:  Yes, it makes a lot of sense not to have to lug the baby in!

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s the last thing you want to do!  You’re in your yoga pants; you don’t want to have to drive downtown and probably run in to somebody that you know with no makeup on and all that stuff.  It’s just a lot easier, especially if you have a newborn and toddlers at home to not have to leave.

Dr. Erica:  Yeah, and we can attach all the food plans and wellness plans right to the patient portal.

Alyssa:  That’s really convenient!  Well, if anyone is interested in getting ahold of you, what’s the easiest way?

Dr. Erica:  There’s a contact form right on our website.  And we’d be happy to answer your questions.  We’re also on Instagram and Facebook as Root Functional Medicine, and we post most of our updates there.

Alyssa:  And we’ll share the Facebook event, as well.  Again, it’s How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Postpartum Period and it will be on March 7th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM here at the Gold Coast Doulas office.  Well, thank you, Dr. Erica!  Thanks for joining us!

Dr. Erica:  Thank you!

Alyssa:  And tell Kelsey we’ll have her on sometime, too.

Dr. Erica:  Sounds good!


Podcast Episode #61: Postpartum Wellness Read More »


How ZENBands Became a Part of Pregnancy  

Gold Coast Doulas is pleased to announce a guest blog by Dr. Erin Stair on her headbands that are perfect for listening to HypnoBirthing scripts or childbirth playlists. I use them for listening to podcasts like “Ask the Doulas” with Gold Coast Doulas on Soundcloud and Itunes.

Erin is the creator of ZENBands, ZENTones, author of Manic Kingdom, and the founder of She writes all of the blogs at blooming wellness and interviews all of the guests, with the hopes of building an intersection between science and wellness. She is a graduate of West Point, where she was recruited to play soccer, and after the Army, went on to medical school, earned her medical degree, and then received the Global Health Leadership scholarship from New York University, which she used to earn her Masters of Public Health. She has a keen interest in population-level interventions for stress, depression, obesity, anxiety, and disease reduction in general, and for the last several years, has served as the chief of research for an international digital health company. She lives in New York City and is always working on her next book.  

I’ve always been very interested in noninvasive, natural anxiety-reducing techniques and how effective they are during stressful times. My interest led me into the world of sound therapy, particularly binaural beats, or what some call phantom beats. Many people listen to binaural beats to help reduce stress, anxiety, induce sleep and boost mood. The scientific body of evidence for binaural beats isn’t robust, but there is no shortage of anecdotal evidence, and I’m betting this will be a hotbed for future research. After talking to a few scientists and sound engineers, I began designing my own binaural arrangements ( ZENTones) including arranging different frequencies of sounds with sequences of tones. I held several focus groups during which volunteers, mainly veterans with PTSD, listened to the arrangements of sounds to see if various ones improved sleep quality, reduced anxiety or boosted mood. Many folks listened while lying down and a recurring theme in feedback sessions was that their headphones or earbuds were uncomfortable. Their ears hurt after lying down, and the headphones/earbuds were painful or too heavy. Their feedback was my inspiration for creating the ZENBand.

I wanted to create something simple, lightweight, eco-friendly, and portable that would help make listening to the ZENTones more comfortable. I also wanted to include tenets of color therapy in our design, since color significantly impacts mood. Hence, the ZENBand , a headband and speakers combo, was born. We use cotton for the bands for two reasons: Cotton is lightweight, and unlike many artificially-designed cooling fabrics, polyester and fleece, cotton does not contain microplastics. There are flat, lightweight, custom-made pillow speakers inside the band that can be removed and easily plug into phones, laptops or MP3 players. They truly feel like cushions for the ears. We also get them made in a variety of colors, so folks can find one that suits their mood. The speakers are purposely not noise-canceling, as we want people to be able to hear others around them, especially since a lot of folks wear them at night. You still want the ability to hear noises, alarms, kids crying or dogs barking. Furthermore, ZENBands can also act as eye masks to help keep out ambient light and reduce anxiety. Light can aggravate anxiety and stress.  Based on feedback, the next version coming out this Spring will be a little wider, to make it easier to pull the ZENBand over the eyes and optimize the relaxation response.

While most of our customers used the ZENTones and ZENBand for anxiety, travel, or sleep, one time I received a message from a woman who was pregnant and close to giving birth. She asked if I could expedite shipping, because she planned on wearing the ZENBand for hypnosis during labor. I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, but after receiving several more orders with a similar request, I started researching relaxation techniques for pregnant women. They included deep breathing exercises, pregnancy cards, prenatal yoga, positive affirmations, guided meditations and hypnosis. I even talked to Ob/Gyn doctors and midwives who mentioned noticing reduced anxiety and fear levels in women in labor who used one of the aforementioned anxiety reducing technique during pregnancy.

That was a few years back and now we get orders from pregnant women all over the world. We work with a lot of birth professionals and birth centers. Women have sent us photos of them in labor, wearing their ZENBands, and it’s pretty awesome. We love being part of the birth process, even if it’s just a tiny part in making women more comfortable. A lot of women write us and tell us that they love that the ZENBand allows them to listen to their relaxation scripts or birthing music while also keeping their hair and sweat out of their eyes. I should note that the ZENBand is not Bluetooth, as we feel more comfortable with reducing EMF exposure so close to one’s head, and we want to make sure that people always have access to their sounds/affirmations when they need them most. Bluetooth doesn’t always work well in every location, including hospital rooms. Also, phones can be a big distraction when it comes to relaxing. Phones can be a huge source of anxiety and listening sessions can be interrupted with incoming calls or the impulse to jump on Social Media or check your messages. To help eliminate those impulses, reduce anxiety and enhance relaxation, we recommend using the ZENBand with an old-fashioned Mp-3 player. It can be pleasantly refreshing and a much needed break from our phones.

To check out ZENBands and ZENTones, please visit us at  As a token of our appreciation, please use code ZEN for a first-time customer discount.

Erin Stair, MD, MPH, founder of

*Note: Gold Coast was not compensated for promoting this product. It is one we personally use and recommend.  


How ZENBands Became a Part of Pregnancy   Read More »

Pregnancy and Depression

Podcast Episode #60: A Naturopath’s Perspective on Pregnancy and Depression

Doctor Janna Hibler, ND talks to Alyssa and Kristin about how a naturopathic doctor treats pregnant and postpartum women, body and mind.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello, welcome to Ask the Doulas podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and I am here with Kristin, my business partner today, and Janna Hibler.  She’s a naturopathic doctor and clinical nutritionist.  Hello, Janna!

Janna:  Hi, how’s it going, guys?

Alyssa:  So Kristin and I met you at a little gathering of the minds at Grand Rapids Natural Health Recently.  We kind of hit it off, and then you and I got coffee, and we hit it off even further.  We got to chatting forever, so we were like, let’s just pause this and record our conversation!  And today, first, I want to know a little bit more about what you do, but when the two of us were talking, we spoke quite a bit about postpartum depression, and I want to talk about what happens leading up to that, even before you get pregnant, but then during pregnancy, too.  What does that look like?  What do depression and anxiety look like?  How do we nip that in the bud?

Janna:  Yeah, definitely!  So it’s really important for all of us mamas and future mamas to know that how we are before we get pregnant and give birth is a good indicator of how our health might look like after we give birth.  Things you mentioned such as anxiety or depression tend to get more severe after we give birth just because of the extreme stress and sleep deprivation that we are under, having a newborn.  I like to emphasize to my patients that this is nothing to feel bad about.  It’s just when you don’t sleep, you don’t release the same neurotransmitters and have the same brain chemistry with certain levels of uppers and feel-good hormones.  So it’s kind of…

Alyssa:  I’m obviously a big proponent of sleep for babies and parents.  So what would you tell a parent who says I’m not even pregnant yet; I’m thinking about getting pregnant.  How does a person even know if they have depression or anxiety?  And what do you do about it?  Let’s say that I’m kind of a depressed person or I get anxious about things at work or with my friends or my family.  What do you recommend?  And then let’s say I came to see you as a naturopathic doctor.

Janna:  So again, I like to really emphasize that you are normal and this is a normal part of being a female.  If we’re talking evolutionarily speaking, we were made to be out in nature, and so when we’re put in the city, even if we’re out half an hour from Grand Rapids downtown, there’s a lot of lights.  There’s a lot of noises.  There’s a lot of things going on that cause an overresponse, and that can lead to anxiety and depression.  So some symptoms might be feeling nervous in certain situations or some OCD tendencies, or a lower mood display and laughing less or getting less excited about certain things in life.  These can be very mild, but if you look at them over the course of the day, if you have a lot of little things, they do add up.  So when you walk into a naturopathic doctor’s office, something I really love and take to heart is that we have our medical concentration, but we also have a lot of education with psychology and knowing how the brain works.  So I would ask you a bunch of questions; the normal medical questions you get, but in addition, we’re going to ask about your sleep cycles, your exercise, your diet regimen.  All these play a part in our mental health, and my end goal is for everybody to feel their best all the time.  In order to find out how people are feeling, I like to run a series of either urinary or blood tests.  This can give us an indication of brain chemistry, hormone levels, cortisol, in addition to the normal things like checking sugar and red blood cells.  I really like to hone in on these specialty tests because by checking our brain chemistry, I can find exactly what neurotransmitters might be high or low, and we can treat appropriately.

Alyssa:  So when you talk about neurotransmitters, what does that mean?  What are you looking at and what does that mean to you?

Janna:  So our neurotransmitters; there’s the common ones we’ve all heard of like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, even histamine.  There is a whole slew of uppers and downers, and basically, we take the brain chemistry analysis tests so we can see if some of them are off.  Some people that have allergies have high histamine levels.  That’s an upper, so when we have allergies, those people actually tend to have anxiety, as well.  And so we can actually nip the anxiety in the bud by treating the allergies and reducing histamine levels.  So it’s really a cool science.

Alyssa:  And the cortisol and serotonin and melatonin, all those things you can actually check with blood and urine?

Janna:  Exactly, yeah.

Kristin:  And a lot of women have issues with their thyroid; is that part of the testing, that you can check thyroid levels?

Janna:  Absolutely.  I like to refer to it as our hormone triangle where we have our thyroid as the king, our sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and then we have our cortisol.  All three of those categories play a huge role in our hormone development and picture that we have, so we do a lot of intensive testing to find out where those levels are at.

Alyssa:  And what would you do if I came in and my cortisol levels were sky-high and you noticed something with my thyroid?  What would you tell me to do?

Janna:  So depending on your lab results, the thyroid could be treated in two ways.  One, sometimes we do give conventional medications, and then another way to treat, depending on your levels, is with herbs.  We can give a series of botanical herbs to actually bring your levels back to normal, as well as certain nutrients.  There’s a number of co-factors that actually feed our thyroid hormone to turn from its inactive to active form, and without them, we will not function.  So that’s things like vitamin D and iron and vitamin C; very common nutrients that we take for granted, but they play a vital role in our thyroid health.

Alyssa:  So how long do you test that out before you put them on a drug?

Janna:  Typically, I like to give a patient three to six months to see if we can fix it with nutrients and herbs.  Again, it comes back to what the patient wants.  If a patient wants results this month, then we might take a more aggressive treatment plan.  But if they’re willing to do it completely naturally, then three to six months.

Alyssa:  So let’s say I get it under control; I’m pregnant, and I still notice now that I still have some anxiety or depression.  What do you do during pregnancy?

Janna:  I really like to encourage diet and exercise and sleep.  Those are our biggest best friends to really help out.  Different lifestyle factors can have a huge effect on our mood and behavior.  So let’s start with maybe some foods.  We could eat a diet rich in dopamine, so we could do things like chocolate.  I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate?  We all love it, but do we know it’s high in magnesium and it’s high in zinc?  Those are vital co-factors to run our brain chemistry.  We can also have blueberries or nuts and seeds, which are high in vitamin B6 and 9 and all these B vitamins to help also with our mood.  We could do some grass-fed or fermented foods, which help with our gastrointestinal health, which again, I’m sure you guys have all heard of the gut being the second brain.  And then sulfur; sulfur-rich foods like onions and garlic that actually help with detox, so if we are having some things get backed up, we can help get them out.  So we really try to approach it from a multifactorial view hitting all points.  How’s our diet?  How’s our exercise?  How’s our sleep?  How’s our stress?  And a lot of what I get into with patients, too, is how is your relationship at home?  Do you feel supported?  Do you feel loved?  Do you feel heard by your partner?  By your business partners, your coworkers?  These are all part of our needs that play a role in our mental health when we’re pregnant and when we’re not pregnant.

Alyssa:  I was going to say those are things that should be carried over throughout, right?

Janna:  Yeah, yeah!

Alyssa:  Meanwhile, exercising and getting enough sleep.

Janna:  Totally, and pregnancy just kind of is that opportunity where we find our weaknesses in our body, and it’s actually a great opportunity to increase our health for the rest of our life and find out things we wouldn’t know about it unless we were pregnant.

Alyssa:  Oftentimes, I feel like that is the point in a woman’s brain and body where we finally start to understand and care about what’s happening to our body, and because we’re growing another human, then we’re like, oh, I better start taking care of myself so that I can take care of this baby.

Janna: Yeah, and I think that has a lot to do with what happens after we give birth and why a lot of moms struggle.  I mean, I want to say that loud on this podcast right now that mom life is hard.  It is a struggle, and I know we all try to put on a face that we’re doing well and everything’s perfect at home, but mom life is hard, and that’s maybe another podcast sometime, but that’s a conversation I’d love to get started because it is hard, and to that extent, why we have a hard time after birth is a lot of the time – and I’m sure you guys see this all the time, being in the house with moms – that the moms forget about themselves.  They put all of their energy, all of their love, into their baby, and I was guilty of it, too.  I mean, I have a two-year-old, and I definitely did it.  I’m still guilty of it some days because we love that human so, so much.  But I think it’s really important for our mental health and as mothers to put the energy back into ourselves and remember that we really can’t pour from an empty cup, and we have to be healthy and strong ourselves in order to make strong and healthy babies.

Alyssa:  So what do you recommend to a mom who’s suffering from depression?  You know, maybe they had a beautiful pregnancy, easy labor and delivery, and then they’re like, oh, my God; this is way harder than I thought, and then sink into a depression that they’ve never experienced before.  How do you get them out that?

Janna:  And so many moms do!  There are so, so many out there that come in, and they’re like, not even my husband knows how sad I am; not even my best friend knows how sad I am, and that’s where I really encourage everyone to just start reaching out.  I don’t want you to be ashamed; I don’t want you to feel guilty, because it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.  You’re an excellent mom because you care so, so much, and asking for that help and taking that first step, making people aware that this is something I do need help with, and receiving that love.  From a medical standpoint, too, we’ll go in and I’ll help adjust hormones and your brain chemistry with either herbs or conventional treatments or nutrient levels to help your body, but I think so much of it also comes from a mental and emotional spot of feeling supported and loved by your people around you.

Alyssa:  So is naturopathic medicine, in general, more of a functional approach versus the medical approach or kind of a combination?

Janna:  Exactly, yeah, and functional medicine is so great.  That is the bridge between conventional medicine and natural medicine because we all agree on it, you know.  We see a lab level, and it’s important to attend to it when it’s on its lower level.  Traditionally-minded thinking, we only would treat something like vitamin D if it was set low because that’s the level that can cause rickets and true mobility issues, but what about everybody that has low-normal, that they’re in that functional, funky range?  That’s at a stage that can cause depression, that you can get autoimmune diseases.  So as a naturopathic doctor, I really work on treating it then and now so we can prevent getting those diseases because they may not pop up in five or even ten years, but they will happen if they’re not treated.

Kristin:  Even in pregnancy, there’s evidence that preeclampsia with the lack of vitamin D, that can be a factor in developing preeclampsia.

Janna:  Exactly, and that’s how it can be that simple sometimes where moms come in and, hey, they just want to run a nutrient panel just to find out what are their baseline nutrients, and then that way when breastfeeding comes into play, especially for extended breastfeeding – I’ve been breastfeeding for two and a half years, so that’s something I’ve been keeping a constant eye on, what are my nutrient levels, because we don’t want to cause other problems from just being depleted.  So yeah, that’s a great point.

Alyssa:  Depleted is a good word to describe mothers postpartum, I think.  Most of us at some point just feel depleted, whether it’s mentally, physically, whether it’s just breastfeeding.  That alone can make you feel depleted; this baby is literally sucking the life out of me!

Janna:  Because you’re giving everything!

Kristin:  I tandem nursed, so I really felt depleted when I was nursing two!

Alyssa:  It’s like this weird tug of war between “I love doing this” and “I hate doing this so much.”  I remember getting so over it when I was done, and then a month later I missed it.  I was like, oh, my God; I’m not breastfeeding anymore!  But I was so ready to throw those pump accessories in the trash and celebrate, but it’s just a weird…

Janna:  It is!  And every mom is different, so we like to celebrate moms at each level, whether they want to breastfeed for three months or six months or a year.  We all have our breaking point, and we want to prevent us from getting to that point.  Mama matters, too!

Kristin:  For sure!

Alyssa:  Well, thank you so much for joining us, and if people want to find you to come visit you or just ask you questions or follow you on Instagram, where do they find you?

Janna:  Absolutely!  So I’m currently accepting patients at Grand Rapids Natural Health, and I’m also on social media as holisticmommyandmedoc, and you can reach out there anytime.  My name is Janna Hibler on Facebook, and feel free to message me anytime.  I like to get to know my mamas.  Since I just moved from Vermont, I’m looking to build up my network of mamas because we are a tribe and we all need to stick with each other, so whether it’s personally or professionally, I do want to link up with you!

Alyssa:  Thank you so much!

Kristin:  Thanks, Janna!  We appreciate it!


Podcast Episode #60: A Naturopath’s Perspective on Pregnancy and Depression Read More »


Healthy Prenatal Strategies for Pregnant Women

During pregnancy, the best health strategies are often those that can be incorporated into one’s everyday life. As a woman’s size increases and her mobility decreases, the ability to engage in physical activity gradually diminishes, which places a greater emphasis on other health habits that can help her maintain a healthy pregnancy weight and engage in effective self-care on a daily basis. Prenatal care depends to a great extent on many of those same health concerns that impact anyone, notably getting plenty of restful sleep, following a healthy diet, getting the right amount of physical exercise, and observing self-care practices every day of your pregnancy.

Your Microbiome

Your microbiome is the sum of all the genetic material inside and on the human body. The bacteria in one’s microbiome helps digest food, regulates the immune system, produces vitamins such as B and B12, and is essential for nutrition and immunity to disease.

Eating Right

Getting the right foods is one of the easiest, most straightforward ways of caring for your health and that of your unborn child. In general, eating foods from the five essential food groups is advisable, including a variety of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, though unpasteurized cheeses (i.e. feta and bleu as well as Mexican-style cheeses) and certain fish — particularly those high in methylmercury — should be carefully avoided. Additionally, ensure that you get 400 micrograms of folic acid a day.


In general, pregnant women can continue engaging in normal forms of physical exercise during pregnancy, though it’s important to consult a healthcare provider if you have any doubts regarding the safety of a particular exercise. Regular exercise is a good way to help you sleep soundly, feel better, and keep your body in good shape so you’re able to get back into shape quickly after giving birth. Exercise can help you maintain a healthy pregnancy weight; gaining too much (which can cause gestational high blood pressure and other problems) or too little can lead to problems for you and your baby. In general, the amount of allowable pregnancy weight gain depends on your body mass index and your pre-pregnancy weight.

Substances to Avoid

It is by now well-known that nicotine intake and alcohol consumption can lead to birth defects and should be avoided during pregnancy. Studies have shown that smoking tobacco or marijuana and taking illegal drugs can as much as triple the risk of fetal death after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Avoid doing house cleaning with cleaning substances that could prove to be toxic, and don’t handle pesticides and anything containing heavy metals.


During pregnancy, women often suffer from iron-deficiency anemia, which has a bearing on problems such as low birth weight and pre-term birth. In some cases, a B12 supplement can help guard against such problems.

Observing careful health practices when you’re pregnant is about much more than watching one’s weight and maintaining your health. It’s all about ensuring that you give birth to a healthy baby on time and with a safe and healthy birth weight.

Jennifer McGregor is the co-creator of Public Health Library – a forum for sharing reputable health and medical information.

Image courtesy of

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Amber Brandt Coziness Consultant

Podcast Episode #38: Amber’s HypnoBirthing Story

We love hearing birth stories, especially from our clients.  Listen as Amber tells us her birth story and how HypnoBirthing helped both her and her husband through 23 hours of labor.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.  You can sign up for our HypnoBirthing classes here


Alyssa:  Hello!  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner and postpartum doula.  I also am a gentle sleep consultant, and I teach our newborn survival class.  We are here with Amber again.   We talked to her before; she’s The Coziness Consultant, but she’s also a past client.  She took our HypnoBirthing series with her husband, Kyle, and I wanted to ask you a little bit about your journey through HypnoBirthing and then how that relayed into your birth.

Amber:  So I became familiar with HypnoBirthing through, specifically, a friend who had a horrible experience with her first birth.  She didn’t do any preparation.  She kind of just went into it thinking everything would work smoothly and she would do what the doctor said, and she had a very traumatic experience.  So when she got pregnant with her second baby, she decided she was going to educate herself and prepare.  So she went through HypnoBirthing and just sang the praises of HypnoBirthing, so then we decided to do that because I felt really strongly that I wanted to go into it educated.  I didn’t want to feel like I was unprepared.  And I didn’t just want to focus only on breathing.  I knew that I was determined to have as natural a birth as I could, and I wanted some skills and some tools.  So that’s how we ended up coming to HypnoBirthing, and the experience for us, honestly, at the end of the day, was the difference between making it through the birth unmedicated and following the birth plan that we really wanted.  I wasn’t so married to my birth plan.  I knew if some extenuating circumstance happened and I ended up with a C-section, that was going to be okay, too, but my goal – what I could control was to be as prepared as possible, and HypnoBirthing really allowed us that opportunity.

Alyssa:  For somebody who’s never heard of HypnoBirthing or maybe has but doesn’t understand it, what would your elevator speech be to a new parent thinking about HypnoBirthing?

Amber:  So it’s much less New-Agey than it sounds.  It’s basically just kind of an approach to having a framework to understand that your body is designed to give birth, and so when you go through HypnoBirthing, you learn how each of the muscles are working; how each surge, they call them, or contraction, is actually progressing you toward having a baby.  And then it’s tools and techniques designed to help you get in line with that, to understand what your body is trying to do and try to get out of the way and allow your body to do that thing.  In HypnoBirthing, they talk about this cycle that you feel discomfort and so you’re fearful, and then you’re fearful so your body tightens up, and then you feel more discomfort, and you can’t get out of it.  So HypnoBirthing gives you the opportunity to get out of that cycle, to be able to think through what is happening in your body and breathe and relax.  They give you some really practical ways to do that, to work with your body instead of fighting it.

Alyssa:  So tell me, what did that class look like for you and Kyle together, since couples take this class together?

Amber:  So we showed up weekly; sat down together, and our instructor talked about – well, she always showed a video of someone actually delivering through HypnoBirth, and they were all very different.  Their reactions were all very different, but all inspiring.  And then we would learn about the body, learn about the stages of labor, and each week kind of built on the last.  But we were also given these techniques of how to practice.  So every week we learned a different style of relaxation, a different way to – something to visualize or whatever.  So as a couple, I would notice, like, okay, so this week, I didn’t really resonate with that, but then the following week, there would be something that I would be sitting there and realize, like, oh, I’m holding a lot of tension in my face.  Every time I go to take a deep breath or do the things she says, I realize I’m holding my shoulders up by my ears.  And so it really created an awareness for me of my own body and my own tendency towards holding tension.  And so then I could turn to Kyle and say, “Okay, when we’re in labor, these are the things I know about myself.  I need you to remind me.  If you see me furling my brow, I need you to mention that – gently.  Really kindly.  If you see my shoulders, that I’m holding my shoulders, please bring my attention to that.”  And so then when it came to the actual delivery, it was one contraction at a time, just taking one at a time, and him being aware of those things we had talked about.

Alyssa:  And what would he do?

Amber:  So that first – you know, if you’ve ever had a baby, if you’ve ever been in labor, you know that contraction is coming, and it’s like amping up, and then it kind of hits that initial intensity.  And he would just be talking right in my ear: “Amber, okay, relax.  Let your breath out.  You need to breathe.  You’re holding your breath.”  And it’s like talking me through that initial peak of each one so that then I could get my head back in the game and relax my body through the remainder of the surge.  My water broke, and my daughter was born 23 hours later, so we had a LOT of practice going through those surges together

Alyssa:  So tell me how HypnoBirthing – you said it was kind of the make-it-or-break-it.  It was such a long labor and all that practice.  Did you want to give up?  Why didn’t you give up?

Amber:  I think I’m pretty stubborn, so I was really determined.  And I also knew we were giving birth in the low intervention suites at Butterworth, so I knew if I decided that I wanted meds, I had to move to a different room.  I knew going into it that there was some pressure on me to stick to this, and I really wanted to anyway.  But I think the difference for HypnoBirthing for me was leading up to it – one of the things that you learn in HypnoBirthing is that they give you scripts and you get some audio clips that are basically different things that you can listen to, to relax to.  They’re kind of like guided medications.  So I created my own and had it recorded, and I listened to it every night leading up to my birth so that I got used to and in the habit of relaxing, first in my head, then in my shoulders…

Alyssa:  You came up with the scripts that worked for you?

Amber:  Yes, and then I practiced to it.  So we listened to it every night, and he would always fall asleep during it.  I never would; I would listen all the way to the end, of course.  But so then when it was go time, we had it there, and a lot of the hours that passed, I spent listening to that and relaxing to that because I had practiced to it.  And so then when it was game time, it was like I could pull it out and just work through it.  And there were certain parts I would listen to over and over because I had written it in a certain way knowing that I hold tension in my face; I hold tension in my shoulders.  So for us, it was a combination of me listening to the audio that I had practiced to, the two of us listening to it, and then also him reminding me, using the things we knew.  And even when I got to transition – and that was the one time I shed a tear.  I just let the tear fall, and I was like, I don’t think I can do this.  And Kyle said, “This is what we learned.  We know when you start to say, ‘I don’t think I can do this, I’m giving up, I can’t do anymore’ – this is when we’re almost to the end.”  And so having someone there that knew, that had heard all the same things I had, had heard it in a different way, and was able to access that when I couldn’t, was the difference for me.  I really don’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t been there and if we didn’t have the tools.

Alyssa:  It sounds like he was a much more involved part of the process because of the HypnoBirthing classes.

Amber:  He was, and he took it seriously.  I think for some guys, scenarios like that are really uncomfortable, but he just saw the entire things as a team event, that we were doing this together, and he was just as much as part of it as I was.  And so it was really cool because we were alone – I was in the tub laboring when I had to push, and it’s one of my favorite memories because it was hilarious.  It was like, “Oh, I think I need to PUSH!”  And he was like, “Okay, I’m going to go find someone to help us!”  But then I’m pushing, and they transitioned me to the bed, and we hadn’t discussed it, but the midwife said, “Okay, Kyle, you jump up and put your back against the headboard.”  So he had his back against the headboard and his legs out in front of him, and then I sat in front of him and leaned against him.  And it was such a payoff to deliver that way after laboring that entire way together.

Alyssa:  Which you couldn’t have done in another room?

Amber:  No.  And it was so beautiful because we didn’t talk about that.  That was kind of a gift that – I’m sure they do that with a lot of moms, but that was a surprise to me, and it was just a really sweet thing.  But even then, as I’m pushing and as I’m laboring, in that last, intense couple of hours, he’s right there in my ear – you know, literally.  His face is right there, and it was just all the difference in the world to have the support and have the reminding because yeah, it’s hard to keep your head about you when it’s all happening.  You need a teammate to help you remember and to feed you those solutions and help and options to get your brain out of the intensity of what’s happening.  So it made all the difference for us.

Alyssa:  Awesome.  We should get Kyle in here sometime to talk about it.

Amber:  Yeah, his side of the story is that – the part when I had to push, he always says, “I just had to go find an adult.  We needed an adult in that room.”

Alyssa:  Well, thanks for sharing.  It’s a lovely story.  I love hearing HypnoBirthing birth stories.

Amber:  It was great.

Alyssa:  If you have any questions about HypnoBirthing, email us:  You can always find us online, on Facebook, and on Instagram.  Thanks, Amber.

Amber:  Thank you.

Podcast Episode #38: Amber’s HypnoBirthing Story Read More »

Real Food for Pregnancy

5 Research-Backed Strategies to Reduce Your Risk of Preeclampsia

If you’ve done any reading on preeclampsia, we’re probably in agreement that it’s a diagnosis that no woman wants to get. Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that affects up to 10% of expecting mamas. It involves high protein levels in the urine and swelling (edema) in addition to high blood pressure. Ultimately, these symptoms can affect blood flow and nutrient transfer to your baby and risk of other complications, including preterm birth.

There’s been extensive research into the origins of high blood pressure and preeclampsia and researchers still don’t have perfectly clear answers on how to prevent or treat it. There is more than one cause of high blood pressure and not all cases can be prevented or managed with lifestyle choices, however there are some evidence based lifestyle choices that can help. This article will review 5 research-backed strategies to reduce your risk of preeclampsia.

1) Consume adequate salt & electrolytes 

Contrary to conventional advice, reducing your salt intake often does not lower blood pressure and it also does not reduce the risk of preeclampsia. Advice to lower your salt intake is outdated and unfounded advice. A Cochrane review, which is a highly respected source for evidence-based advice, concluded that advice to lower salt intake in pregnancy should no longer be recommended. Salt is vital to many functions in your body and is even more important in pregnancy when electrolyte needs increase (salt is an electrolyte).

As early as 1958, in a study of over 2,000 women, researchers noted lower levels of preeclampsia in women who consumed higher levels of salt. In addition, they observed a reduction in blood pressure and edema (swelling) in women when additional salt was added to their diets. In light of this information, these researchers advised women with signs of preeclampsia to “measure out each morning four heaped teaspoonfuls of table salt and to see that by night they had taken all of it.” This resulted in “spontaneous recovery” from preeclampsia (called toxemia in this era) for the majority of the women. They noted that “The extra dose of salt had to be taken up to the time of delivery; otherwise the symptoms of toxemia recurred,” which suggests that salt was indeed playing a crucial role in treating their condition.

Recent studies have replicated this finding, noting that higher salt intake during pregnancy lowers blood pressure and lessens the severity of preeclampsia. In addition, a 2014 study concluded that “Extra salt in the diet seems to be essential for the health of a pregnant woman, her fetus, placental development, and appropriate function.”

In short, make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids and liberally salting your foods.

2) Eat a lower-carb, low-glycemic diet.

If salt doesn’t raise your blood pressure, what does? It turns out that excessive intake of carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates and added sugar, is a primary driver of increased blood pressure. In one study of over 33,000 pregnant women, those who consumed the most added sugars were the most likely to develop preeclampsia. In addition, research has shown that a lower carbohydrate diet tends to reduce the severity of high blood pressure.

If you want to lower your chances of developing preeclampsia, it’s wise to be proactive about your food choices and switch to a lower-carb, low-glycemic diet. A low-carb, nutrient-dense diet during pregnancy supports better blood sugar regulation and ensures the optimal development of your baby. This does not mean all carbohydrates need to be eliminated from your diet, just that their intake should be carefully balanced with other foods (such as foods high in protein & fats as well as plenty of vegetables) to minimize spikes in blood sugar. It’s also wise to choose the most nutrient dense carbohydrates (those found in whole foods) while avoiding processed, refined carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates that have been “refined” are those that have been processed heavily, most often to remove fiber and/or be turned into flour or starch. For example, whole wheat can be refined into white flour and whole corn can be refined into corn starch.

Refined carbohydrates to limit:

White flour products (e.g., pasta, bread, tortillas, pancakes, crackers, cereals, granola, etc.)
Sugar (added or naturally occurring)
Sweet drinks (including soda and juice)

3) Consume adequate amounts of protein, especially glycine-rich sources of protein.

Protein intake is especially important when it comes to maintaining normal blood pressure. Your entire cardiovascular system is under a tremendous amount of stress during pregnancy, as it has to cope with higher levels of fluids, hormonal shifts, and expanding blood vessels.

Protein-rich foods supply the raw materials to help your body meet these demands, so it’s no surprise that low protein intake is a risk factor for developing preeclampsia. One amino acid, called glycine, can be especially helpful for regulating blood pressure. Glycine needs increase dramatically during pregnancy. One of the functions of glycine is in the production of elastin, a structural protein that allows your blood vessels to expand and contract.

Glycine is also protective against oxidative stress, a hallmark of preeclampsia, and glycine has been shown to reduce blood pressure and blood sugar in studies.  Women with preeclampsia excrete less glycine in their urine, suggesting increased demands for glycine and/or depleted maternal stores.  The best sources of glycine are the connective tissues, skin, and bones of animal foods, like you consume when you eat bone broth, slow-cooked meat (like pot roast and stews), chicken with the skin, pork cracklings (fried pork skin), and collagen or gelatin powder.

4) Consider supplementing with magnesium.

Magnesium deficiency is quite common. In fact, according to recent estimates, 48% of Americans consume inadequate magnesium from food. Magnesium deficiency is even more common during pregnancy, and research has found that magnesium depletion, especially in the presence of calcium excess, can predispose women to vascular complications of pregnancy (such as preeclampsia). Women with gestational diabetes are also commonly deficient in magnesium—and gestational diabetes is linked to a higher risk for developing preeclampsia.

Your best food sources of magnesium are seaweed, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, cashews, chia seeds, avocados, unsweetened cocoa powder (or dark chocolate), bone broth, and green herbs including chives, cilantro, parsley, mint, dill, sage, and basil. You can also absorb a significant amount of magnesium through your skin by taking Epsom salt baths or foot soaks (Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate).

5) Ensure you consume enough choline.

Finally, choline is another nutrient that may protect against preeclampsia. It appears that choline plays a role in placental function and may enhance the transfer of nutrients to your baby, a process that’s disrupted in preeclampsia.

In both animal and human studies, supplementation with choline reduces placental inflammation and helps prevents preeclampsia. For example, supplementing pregnant women with high amounts of choline in the second and third trimester (930 mg, which is roughly double the current recommended intake) has been shown to improve vascular function of the placenta and “mitigate some of the pathological antecedents of preeclampsia.” Theoretically, this makes a lot of sense. The placenta shares a lot of similar functions to the liver and choline is particularly protective to liver function.

Consumption of foods that provide high amounts of choline, namely egg yolks and liver, also supply a variety of micronutrients that are anti-inflammatory. If you’re not already doing so, incorporate these two nutrient-dense foods into your diet.


I want to reiterate that although you can do “all the right things” to reduce your chances of complications, sometimes they are out of your control. This advice may stack the deck in your favor, however there is no 100% proven way to avoid any or all complications. If your blood pressure does go up during pregnancy or you get a diagnosis for preeclampsia, its wise to work with an experience medical provider to determine the underlying cause and get you appropriate treatment, which may include lifestyle changes and/or medication.

In her latest book – Real Food for Pregnancy – Lily Nichols takes prenatal nutrition advice out of the dark ages and provides an easy-to-follow guide for making the best food and lifestyle choices during pregnancy.

In Real Food for Pregnancy, you’ll get clear answers on what to eat and why, with research to back up every recommendation. Lily Nichols has taken a long and hard look at the science and lays out the evidence—930 citations and counting—on the benefits of real food, why certain foods are essential (and others are detrimental), and countless lifestyle tweaks you can make to have a smooth, healthy pregnancy.

The short version of what is covered in the book:

• In Real Food for Pregnancy Lily Nichol’s debunks a LOT of prenatal nutrition myths. Most prenatal nutrition advice is either outdated or not evidenced-based. Misconceptions of conventional prenatal nutrition: macronutrients, salt, “foods to avoid,” fish, etc.

• Foods to emphasize, lab tests, supplements

• Testing for gestational diabetes—pros/cons of all the methods

• Nutritional management of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, nausea, heartburn & more

• Mindfulness, stress management, exercise, avoidance of toxins

• Traditional postpartum care, impact of nutrients on breast milk quality, etc.

There has never been a more comprehensive and well-referenced resource on prenatal nutrition. With Real Food for Pregnancy as your guide, you can be confident that your food and lifestyle choices support a smooth, healthy pregnancy.


Check out our BECOMING A Mother course! It’s a self-paced, online series to help reduce fear and gain confidence in pregnancy, birth, and early parenting. With recorded video lessons, monthly live chats, and a supportive FaceBook community – it’s everything we wish we would have known before we had our babies! We’d love to see you there!

Kristin & Alyssa

What Readers are Saying: 

“I’m so thrilled to read Real Food for Pregnancy. I absolutely love Lily’s work. Her evidence-based approach to nutrition is not only relevant during pregnancy, but for the rest of your life! I think every birth professional (midwife, doula, etc.) should have a copy in their lending library for clients.” —Rebecca Dekker, PhD, RN, Founder of Evidence Based Birth®

“As a midwife, this book will be on my must-read list for every pregnant person I know.” —Tracy Donegan, Midwife & Founder of GentleBirth

“Real Food for Pregnancy should be considered essential reading for any woman who is currently pregnant or planning conception in the near future.” —Amit Bhavsar, MD, Board certified Obstetrician-Gynecologist 

“Lily Nichols has written a must-read for any woman or health professional interested in prenatal nutrition. During my first pregnancy I felt like I spent hours upon hours trying to research all of the information that is summed up beautifully in Real Food for Pregnancy. Lily questions conventional wisdom and offers new and practical, science-based recommendations to support optimal health for both mom and baby. I hope this book will inspire change in current prenatal nutrition guidelines.” —Shannon Weston, MPH, RD, LD, CDE, Houston, TX

“As a practicing CNM (midwife) for almost 30 years, I am thrilled to have found Lily’s writing and expertise. Real Food for Pregnancy is one that we’ll keep in stock at our clinic and will teach from during our early pregnancy classes. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the vitamins and minerals and how to get them from food. In my experience, too many people believe that prenatal vitamins will solve all of their problems or will guarantee the health of the baby.” —Cheryl Heitkamp, APRN, CNM, President of Willow Midwives in Minneapolis, MN

About the Author:

Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition and exercise. Drawing from the current scientific literature and the wisdom of traditional cultures, her work is known for being research-focused, thorough, and sensible. Her bestselling book, Real Food for Gestational Diabetes (and online course of the same name), presents a revolutionary nutrient-dense, lower carb diet for managing gestational diabetes. Her unique approach has not only helped tens of thousands of women manage their gestational diabetes (most without the need for blood sugar-lowering medication), but has also influenced nutrition policies internationally.

Lily’s second book, Real Food for Pregnancy, is an evidence-based look at the gap between conventional prenatal nutrition guidelines and what’s optimal for mother and baby. With over 930 citations, this is the most comprehensive text on prenatal nutrition to date.

Lily is also creator of the popular blog,, which explores a variety of topics related to real food, mindful eating, and pregnancy nutrition.

To learn more, go to


Gold Coast Doulas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to


5 Research-Backed Strategies to Reduce Your Risk of Preeclampsia Read More »

rise wellness chiropractic

Podcast Episode #31: Rise Wellness Chiropractic

Dr. Annie and Dr. Rachel of Rise Wellness Chiropractic in Grand Rapids talk about their approach to helping mothers and babies, as well as how and why they decided to start their own practice.  You can listen to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.


Hello, and welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner and post-partum doula at Gold Coast.  Today, I’m so excited to be talking to Dr. Annie and Dr. Rachel of Rise Wellness.  Hello, ladies.  I want of hear about your new business venture together, Rise Wellness.  We knew you when you worked for a different chiropractor’s office, and what made you both kind of venture out on this alone?

Well, we worked together, so when you work for another chiropractor, you’re kind of under their whole umbrella of their philosophy, their vision, which works for a while until you get to a point when you’re like, this isn’t my philosophy and vision, and there’s other ways I want to help people.  And so we talked about it, and we’re like, let’s open our own.


And we talked to you.  You were like, I got a great space for you.

Yeah, I did.  We’re neighbors.  We’re both in East Town now.

Yeah, it definitely helped facilitate that once Dr. Rachel went on maternity leave to have her twins.  We kind of changed our whole philosophy and our focus to wanting to work more with pregnant moms and babies, too, and we realized that was a huge subset of the population that wasn’t receiving the care that we felt like they needed.  So that’s where we wanted to focus.

Now, most people would get pregnant, and especially pregnant with twins, and not say, “Hey, let’s quit my job and start my own business right when I have these twins.”

It just seemed right.

But you did, and how did that work?  I mean, I know you said timing-wise, it worked because you went on maternity leave and then –

Yeah, I just never went back.

Like, you’re done.

Yeah, it worked out well for that.  I mean, I’m lucky I had Dr. Annie as a partner because she honestly did a lot of it.  And I’m lucky I have a husband that has an MBA and knows how to set up a business and has an accountant.  It really wasn’t that difficult, and it worked out for, like, how am I going to be a mom still but still work and do what I love doing.  And when you work for someone, I really didn’t have the option of working my own hours.  So it just made sense; I’m going to go do my own thing now.

Yeah, that was a big driver for us.

Yeah, that was a big driver.  Okay, I can work the hours I want to work, but I can still stay at home with the girls when I want to be home with them.

And you are my chiropractor, so I’m in your office quite a bit.  And I loved that you have a dresser filled with diapers.  And it’s not just because you have a lot of babies in there, but tell me what you said, Dr. Annie, when I was like, oh, why do you have all these diapers?

Oh, accidental blow-outs.  So after babies get adjusted, their nervous systems are working better, and so their digestion sometimes kicks on right after an adjustment.  And we just want to be prepared and have a space for moms so they don’t have to rush home or rush to the bathroom or anything.  It’s like we can just be available right there and make it easy.  We have a diaper genie, so you don’t have to worry about it stinking up the office or anything.

Yeah, it’s a very baby-friendly space.

Yeah, we want to be accessible and available for everyone who wants to come in, especially moms with kids and stuff.  We know that can sometimes be hectic and messy, and we want to make it as safe an environment for them as possible.

Yeah, I brought my five-year-old in with me last time, and she of course loved the coloring books and the dolls.

Oh, did she come in?

She did, yeah.  She missed you.  I’ll have to bring her in again.

I had my girls in on Saturday, and of course they pooped while we were there.

Which is another nice thing about owning your own space, right?  You owning your business; if you need to bring your daughters in, who’s going to yell at you?

Annie, I guess.  No, just joking.

I would never yell about having them in there!

Tell me about the different approach.  So you were NUCCA chiropractors before, and now you’re doing something completely different.  Can you tell me about what you’re doing now?

Yeah, so we’re definitely focused more on pediatrics and pregnancy care.  We still see everybody, but that’s where we definitely wanted to focus, and we’re both doing additional training in that.  Before we were at an upper cervical practice, which is the top bones of the spine, so we were focused on that.  And we just had a little different philosophy.  We felt like the whole spine was just as important, so we wanted to take what we had learned from the practice that we were at and still say, okay, this is really important, but we’re also going to focus on other areas of the spine and see where changes need to be made there, as well.  So now we’re scanning and checking everything and making sure that everything is lined up and working the way it’s supposed to.

Yeah, with kids and moms and stuff, kids definitely – it’s important to pay attention to the upper cervical area because a lot of things can happen there from birth trauma, but there’s also a lot of things that show up in other areas of the spine, too, especially in kids as they’re starting to pull themselves up and falling down on their butts.  The sacrum is going to be a big one that we’re going to be checking, too, especially if there’s any digestive issues or things like that.

Plus with NUCCA, it was very structural-based.  Like, what’s the structure of the spine.  It’s here; we want it here.  And you had to x-ray.  And obviously you’re not going to be x-raying pregnant women, and with children, you don’t really want to x-ray as often, either.  So there just had to be a different approach, and we use a different exam and we checked the functionality of the nervous system to really look at how is your body functioning?  Not just, well, are you in pain; are your legs level?  It’s like, is your nervous system functioning at its optimum?

Right.  I mean, structure is great.  Posture is great.  A lot of chiropractors use that, but we definitely wanted to take more of a functional approach and say, like, okay, we can actually look at how your nervous system is functioning, how your body’s adapting, how your body’s developing and growing, and saying, we can make that better?  And that to us is more important than is your posture perfect or is your head sitting right on top of your shoulders.  That’s really important too, but if we can actually dive into the nervous system and see how your body’s functioning and adapting, that seems way more powerful and way more –

That’s what changes lives.  It’s not like, oh, my head is –

Yeah, exactly.  At least I look good with my good posture, but is your body functioning right?

So tell people about the scans.  I had never seen anything quite like that, and when you did that to me – do you do that to kids too, the same thing?

Yeah, so that’s relatively new in chiropractic, those scans are.  And it’s really cool.  So we look at thermography, which is the temperature of the back, so we run it along the spine and see what the temperature differences are.

And to let people know, it’s like a tiny little handheld thing with rollers, right?  Is it rollers that I felt, up and down my spine?

Yeah, and then the EMG, which is electromyography.  That’s measuring the energy that the muscles are using to hold you up, so it’s measuring the electricity there.  And that one is just like sensors that go along your spine, as well, at different levels.  And then we do HRV, which is heartrate variability, so kind of similar to measuring your heartrate with a fitness monitor; this is looking at variations in that heartrate.  That’s been used in medical research and literature as a longevity outcome measure, too, so it really shows us how your body’s functioning and how it’s adapting and how your overall health and well-being is.

I’m going to live forever.

You are!  Yours is the best we’ve seen!  It’s better than Dr. Annie’s.

Well, I just – you know, we just opened a practice!

Yeah, it was a really interesting process.  I guess I didn’t really know what I was getting into when you did it, but it was really cool to see the different levels.

Yeah, and the cool thing is when we do those scans, it’s not putting anything into the body.  It’s just measuring what your body’s already doing, so there isn’t any radiation or anything like that.  And that was something that we really liked about doing this approach, more so than taking x-rays.

A pregnant mom can do it.  What about a baby?

Yeah, babies – I mean, it’s difficult, but you can.  It’s just my girls are so squirmy.  So they’re a little more –

Yeah, so thermography’s the easiest thing to do on an infant or on a child.  EMG is a little harder because they have to hold still because, again, you’re measuring what the muscles are doing.  And then for the HRV, instead of putting their hand on the reader, there’s an ear clip that we can use.  So sometimes they don’t like that either, but we just get as much information as we can so we can make the best clinical decisions.

Well, we’re so excited to have you next to us.  It just makes so much sense.

It’s a match made in heaven, right?

Yeah, we’re excited, too.

We know; we happen to know pregnant women.  You can help them.  So what would you like people to know about your practice?

I’m Webster-certified now, and I’ve gone through all of the modules for the full pediatric certification.  I’m just working through my exam right now, so by the end of the summer, I will be fully specialized in pediatrics and pregnancy care, too.  I think there’s maybe two others in Kent County or something like that, so that’s –

Not many.

Yeah, within the city of Grand Rapids, I’ll be the only one, which is just – I think it’s awesome, and I’m excited that I get to specialize in that and work with pregnant moms and kids because it’s so much fun to see those changes in their development and stuff.

Yeah, and kids love it.  Once they start getting adjusted, they know it makes them feel good.  They can tell, and they love it.

And pregnant women, too.

I wouldn’t have made it through my pregnancy.  Guaranteed, I would not have made it through if not –

As long as you did.   I mean, you did amazing.  You went, what, 38?

Almost 39 weeks, yeah.

Almost 39 weeks!  And then gave birth to two eight-and-a-half pound babies!  You did a really good job!

Yeah, and I worked out until about the end there.

And what pregnant mom doesn’t want an easier pregnancy and a quicker, easier labor?

Right.  Well, and I know from my daughter’s perspective, she doesn’t like the cracking kind of chiropractic.  That scares little kids, so yours is very gentle.

It scares a lot of adults too, yeah.  So we use a really kind of unique adjusting tool.  I don’t think a lot of people around here use it.  It’s called an activator.  We have a couple other adjusting tools that we use, but they’re so easy and it’s just really easy for the body to take.  And it’s, again, no twisting.

Yeah, really gentle; really specific.

So if you had to tell a parent who’s never had chiropractic care, if you had to tell them one thing, either about their bodies or their kids’, what do you think people are missing out on?

Optimal health.

Optimal health, yeah.  I mean, that you really – what is that saying?  You live your life through your nervous system.  I mean, your nervous system controls everything.  Everyone thinks chiropractors and they think bones; they think cracking; they think neck pain; they think back pain.  Those are a small piece of it, and the results you get from chiropractic care, like you feel better, but really, we’re dealing with the nervous system, and the nervous system controls everything; everything that goes on in our body.

Yeah, well, and it’s sensation for everything, too, so everything that we perceive in our environment, the way kids – they have tactile exercises and stuff like that for kids, so they want tactile toys and they want a lot of colors.  All of that sensation is helping their neurodevelopment, so that’s every sensation that you have, every emotion that you have, every experience that you have, is all run through your nervous system, and then your body takes that information and decides what to do with it, and then that’s your response to it, too.  So really your entire life experience is run through your nervous system.

And so what chiropractic really does is we remove any interference that might be from the outside world to how you’re interpreting –

In that communicating system.

So we remove it through adjusting the spine and so you really can just live optimally, then.  Your body can function optimally.

In the very, very most basic form, like, our brains run our body, right?


And that’s the center for the nervous system?


It’s where all the nerves come down, and if like you said, everything from a traumatic childbirth to some neck injury from walking and falling on their bums, to 18-year-olds – you know, like how many times did I fall snowboarding?  Who know what I did to my body, right?  All those little tweaks adjust how your nerves —

How your brain’s communicating with your body.   But not just that, but also toxins that we take in or being really stressed out.  That’s also going to show up in your nervous system, so not just trauma.  We call it the three Ts in chiropractic: toxins, trauma, and thoughts, yeah, are causes of subluxation, and so that’s what chiropractors specialize in is removing that interference and restoring that normal communication in the body.

Very well put. 

You can tell we’re pretty passionate about what we do!

Well, you guys should come check out their space.  So they are just a couple doors down from us in the Kingsley Building.  We’re in East Town.  The offices are on the second floor.  You guys are in Suite 201.  Would somebody – if they just wanted to drop in and say hi?  Because you’re there —

Yeah, please.  They can come check out the giraffe table, yeah.

Please stop in.

We’ve got LaCroix and bottled water, coffee.  Come hang out.

And then if they don’t want to stop in, tell people how to find you.

So our website is  We’re also on Facebook and Instagram at Rise Wellness Chiro, or you can call us.  Or phone number is 616-258-8480.  Otherwise, wave to us on the street.  I usually walk to work, so you’ve probably seen me in my Rise and Shine shirt.

We wear our shirts all the time.

I’ll get a picture of you in your shirts.  Awesome.  Well, thank you both for being here.  I love what you’re doing.

Thank you for having us.

Thank you, yeah.

And as always, you can find us on our website,, and we are also on Facebook and Instagram.  You can listen to our podcasts on SoundCloud and iTunes.  Thanks.  Remember, these moments are golden.

Podcast Episode #31: Rise Wellness Chiropractic Read More »

HypnoBirthing Baby

HypnoBirthing – Brianna & Ben’s Story

A huge thank-you to our HypnoBirthing student for taking the time to share her beautiful birth story with us! We hope you love this as much as we do!

My husband Ben and I decided to take a HypnoBirthing class because we had a goal to have a natural birth and because we didn’t think the hospital class would teach us much other than how to be a good patient. I was also very interested because I wanted Ben to be involved and to have more knowledge about birth. After one class we knew we had made the right choice! We really enjoyed meeting with everyone and being in an environment where birth was talked about so highly instead of with fear and anxiety. After that first class I had no anxiety about birth. I was genuinely excited about my baby’s birthday and knew my body was made for this. We learned so much about how a woman’s body is made to birth, and how to breathe calmly before and during birthing. We learned how to make informed decisions and how to ask the doctors the right questions. We felt so prepared.

My entire pregnancy was very healthy. Baby’s heartbeat was good. I was measuring on track. My blood pressure was great (it got even better after we learned calm breathing!) and my weight gain was normal. I had no complaints except some hip pain from sleeping on my side. I knew first-time babies usually come late and my due date came and went and induction was discussed when I was 41.5 weeks. Because I knew how to talk to my doctor, I felt comfortable with the process and they agreed to allow me to labor as naturally as possible once they started the induction process.

Once at the hospital, we discussed our birth preferences with our nurse who was incredibly supportive of all our wishes. Before they gave me the pill to dilate, my cervix was still closed at 1:00 AM. I believe that the calm breathing techniques and relaxation soundtracks were able to help me stay loose and limp and my cervix dilated with the pills and my labor started without pitocin! They told me this is very rare – probably 1 in 500 first-time moms are able to go into labor without pitocin for an induction. The process they said could take up to 3 days but it looked like we would be having our baby before the 24 hour mark!

As the surges grew more intense, Ben was able to suggest new positions and read relaxation scripts to me. He was just as knowledgeable about birth as I was and that was so wonderful. By the time I was feeling the urge to push, the doctor noticed my baby was “sunny side up” and initially tried to turn our baby manually. I asked if instead I could change positions and they agreed and baby flipped! It’s amazing how my body and baby worked together. Very soon after that, at 7:49 PM, our baby boy was born! Our doctors and nurses all remembered our birth preferences and I was able to pull my baby up to my chest without any medical instruments touching him first. Nurses didn’t rub him off and lights were kept dim. The doctor waited for Ben’s ok to clamp the cord after it stopped pulsing and our son was able to breastfeed right away with a great latch. It was such a beautiful moment! We enjoyed over an hour of skin to skin and then Ben held him skin to skin as well. When they weighed him I was so surprised to find he was 9 lbs 2 ounces! I birthed him without any pain medication, minimal tearing, and I have recovered quickly!

I’ve thought a lot about how HypnoBirthing helped me in my pregnancy, labor, and delivery. The truth is that it made a huge difference in every stage. Before the class I thought I knew everything about pregnancy and birth, but it turns out there was so much more to learn. And we went into every stage with enough knowledge to talk openly and easily with our doctors. We knew what our birth preferences were and why we wanted things a certain way. We knew how to stand up to protect our baby, and we were given so many tools to stay calm, relaxed, loose, and limp. Without this class I know I would have requested pain medication and I know I would have been much more upset about a scheduled induction. But because I was able to make my own informed decisions, I have no regrets about our birth. I’d do it all over again!


HypnoBirthing – Brianna & Ben’s Story Read More »

Hiring a doula

Podcast Episode #22: How to get Dad on board with Hiring a Doula

On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa talks with Amber and Ashton about getting your husband or partner on board with hiring a doula.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud.


Alyssa:  Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner and postpartum doula, and today we are talking to Ashton and Amber, and little Parker is here as well, so we may hear him talking, too.  Hi, you two.  Thanks for joining us.

Ashton:  Hello.

Amber:  Hi.

Alyssa:  We have you both here today because some clients do have a little pushback when Dad kind of says, why would we have a doula in this sacred space, this birth space?  So can you two tell us how that story started for you and what it looked like, your journey into actually hiring a doula?

Amber:  Yeah, definitely.  I think for me, I have always been very attracted to the idea of having a natural birth, ever since I can remember, really.  I’m a hair stylist, and I have a lot of clients who have had babies, and actually, a lot of them have had natural births, and it’s always such an emotional thing to listen to their story and the experience that they have.  And I really do think it’s something that you very much need to prepare for and set yourself up for success with, not just something that you want to do, but something that you are fully comfortable with for the most part and having people in your court to cheer you along.  So I always knew what a doula was and a little bit of what kind of role they played, and that was always the common denominator in all of the births that I heard about was that they did have a coach there, a doula there, and so for me, it was kind of a no-brainer.  It was just something that once I found out I was pregnant, I was like, well, we need to start looking into doulas.  And so I had brought that up to Ashton one day and was just telling him, you know, we’ve got to hire a doula.  And I think it kind of caught him off-guard a little bit, and he wasn’t exactly sure what it was or why we would need one.  It was something I knew that I wanted, but I wasn’t so prepared to explain to him what kind of role they actually did play in the delivery room.

Alyssa:  How did that conversation look?  How did you start that conversation with Ashton, and, Ashton, what were your initial thoughts when she said doula?  You’re like, doula what?

Amber:  Yeah, I think I just went in assuming that he was going to be on board with it, and yeah, of course we’re going to have a doula.  So I was already kind of researching ones in the area and brought it up to him, and I just remember a little bit of a – well, why?  And that took me off guard a little bit because – I don’t know, but why I assumed he knew what one was and that it would be really helpful to us.  In that moment, I wasn’t sure, either, how to explain to him what one was, so I kind of remember there being a moment of, well, we’ll go back to the drawing board for a minute; I’ll do my research and kind of come up with some possibilities of ones to talk about.  It just didn’t go as smoothly as I thought, and I guess I kind of felt bad, too, that I didn’t explain better what a doula was, and I think – and obviously you can talk more about this, but I feel as though he thought it just wasn’t necessary, and yeah, the why, like why would we need that?

Ashton:  Yeah, I think the conversation when you brought up the idea of having a doula – I didn’t know what a doula was; had never really heard the term before.  I think maybe we’d seen some episodes of The Mindy Project and that was kind of my first exposure to a doula.  So yeah, at first, the idea – you know, at this point, we’re a few months along with the pregnancy, and obviously the shock has hit us.  It’s still kind of surreal; we’re not sure what to expect.  And the thought of – up to this point, it’s the two of us, you know, the team effort that’s going to get through the delivery, and I guess I kind of had that anticipation going into it that it would just be the two of us.  I was thinking that yeah, we can do this; we’ll do our homework, and we’ll learn the techniques that will help you deal with the pain and everything and how I can help you cope with that.  And the idea of bringing someone else in, as you described it, somebody to help you through the birthing process: at first, yeah, I felt a bit taken aback, almost that I wasn’t going to be good enough; like, what, am I not good enough?  Am I not able to support you through the birthing process?   So I felt a little shafted at first, and it probably wasn’t until I did some research and we picked up the book The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin, which is really an in-depth guide to what doulas are and a good resource for fathers and expecting mothers and probably other doulas and birth companions.  So it wasn’t until I started reading that and learning about the doula’s role; you know, it’s not that they’re coming and just supporting you, but they’re really supporting me as well, and I didn’t really understand that initially.  I didn’t think that I would need support through the process, but the fact is, we ran into all sort of obstacles and unknowns, and having this doula, somebody who’s been through dozens if not hundreds, even, of births with different people – having that kind of experience in our court really helped to ease a lot of concern.  Overall, looking back on it, we would absolutely do it again, even though we ended up having not a natural birth but a Cesarean birth.  It was maybe even more beneficial because it was such an emotional roller coaster.  We were set up to have a natural birth but we ended up needed a Cesarean because he was breech, and that emotional deviation was – yeah, the doulas really helped us process that as well.  So yeah, it was tough to process at first, but I definitely would recommend it.

Alyssa:  How long did it take you to get there, from the day Amber said, “I want to a doula” and he was like, what the heck, so this now, of him saying, okay, sure, I’ll read this book?

Amber:  You know, for Ashton, I think that he needs a lot of information around something before he’s on board, and I’m totally the opposite.  Like, I put all my eggs in the basket, and I just go full-forward without – and I’m like, I’ll figure it all out later.  Well, he’s very opposite, and so I had picked up The Birth Partner book for him because I do think that he just really needed to understand the whole picture and the role that a doula does play, and he didn’t know that.  So how I am going to get him on board for something if I just say, well, they’re just a coach in the delivery room?  It is so much more than that.  And so I think that just having the information is so powerful with that because everybody has pushback to stuff that they don’t understand.  That’s just kind of human nature, right?  So I think, yeah, the more information that he received – and reading that book, too, I think that he felt so much more empowered about birth and being a good birth partner for me, the role that he would be in, and knowing that a doula is just making him stronger throughout it and making me stronger.  It’s also just having somebody to always go to with questions, no matter what it is.  For me, I feel like our doulas, Ashley and Kristin, showed up in such a different way than I had originally expected.  You know, you bring them on to help you in the delivery room, and that unfortunately wasn’t the case for us, but the support that we received going up to that was just incredible.  You know, texting them with random little things.  I mean, it was my first pregnancy.  I would have a question about something or I would have a sensation and be like, is this normal?  And I always had somebody that I could go to with just the shooting of a text, no matter what time of day it was.  And that was really, really awesome for us, but especially for me, just knowing that things were normal, and I didn’t have to worry about stuff.  And we went through the hypnobirthing as well, so we just received so much by bringing Gold Coast on.  We had interviewed a couple doulas, and you guys were one of them, and we just felt like it was such a good match.  We did the hypnobirthing and just received so much information around labor.  I had no idea what your body even does during labor, and I think that bringing a doula on and just getting so comfortable and confident around what labor is, how it goes down, the differences, the changes that your body goes through – I think understanding that alone made me feel so much more comfortable in my pregnant body and potentially going into a natural birth.  That was what we had planned for, and it didn’t happen, but regardless, I felt like I had so many tools in my belt, and I just understood a lot more that I wouldn’t have received if I hadn’t hired a doula because then we probably wouldn’t have done the hypnobirthing or any of the other classes that we did, as well.  So think that it’s just kind of a –  you know, once you bring a doula on, there’s so much information that you can get from it that can potentially set you up for a successful birth.

Alyssa:  So we’ll have you on again to talk about how planning for a natural delivery and ending up with a Cesarean.  Ashton, I actually wanted to ask you one more question before we wrap up here.  So for the guys, for the dads out there who don’t read – like, my husband would have never read a book, had I asked him to.  If you had to tell them a couple things to say, okay, this is why you need to hire a doula; what would you say?

Ashton:  You know, I think it’s a tough question to distill it down.  Everybody’s going to have a different perspective on it.  I could tell pretty early on when Amber approached me with the idea of bringing a doula on board that it’s something that would make her feel more confident in the delivery of our first child, and at the end of the day, I think that’s ultimately why I wanted to support it.  I wanted to learn more about it because especially with the stress and the difficulty and the emotional roller coaster that goes on with having your first child, all the unknowns, all the fear – you know, at the end of the day, if having a doula is going to make you more comfortable, then that’s probably not something I want to oppose.

Alyssa:  How did the doula support you?  You had said that it wasn’t just for the laboring mother but for you as well.

Ashton:  Yeah.  Well, it was mostly educational, so we did participate in the hypnobirthing class, and I think learning so much about the birthing process through that also helped me understand the role of a doula, but also the role of myself in the delivery process.

Amber:  You felt very empowered after the hypnobirthing, right?

Ashton:  Yeah.  It took a lot of the fear and the unknown and made it more accessible because I knew or I had at least some ideas of what we were getting into.  But again, I think the emotions and the fears are probably some of the hardest parts around having our first child, at least for us, and having the doulas with us to answer both of our questions, being there at the delivery, helping us with our first latch once Parker was born – I think just having that reassurance and that additional resource and expertise just made us more confident going into it, which was certainly worth the cost.

Amber:  Yeah, I feel like we really had an incredible relationship with Ashley and Kristin, and it happened quickly.  And like I had already said, just always having somebody to reach out to.  I had so many little questions along the road, and it’s not like you can call your midwife or OB every single time you have a question, and going to the internet when you’re pregnant is just –

Alyssa:  Stay away from Google!

Amber:  You stay away from it.  So there was just always somebody that we could reach out to, and that alone was worth it.  And just the relationship that we both created with them, I think especially through the hypnobirthing, we both felt very empowered.  But they really empowered Ashton to be a good birth partner through labor, and doing the breathing techniques together, having him be my coach through that stuff.  While our doula taught it, I think that she really put a lot into his court in a good way.

Ashton:  Yeah, it was like a having a – Ashley in this case was a birthing coach for me and a birthing coach for Amber, but she definitely made me a more competent and confident partner going into the delivery room and through the last stages of pregnancy.  So yeah, ultimately, it made us both more at ease and more relaxed in the pregnancy in general, and that’s a hard thing to put a price on.

Alyssa:  Well, thank you for sharing.  We’ll have you back again, and we will talk about how your actual last few weeks of pregnancy went and how your doula supported you in that role.  Let us know what you thought about this episode.  If you have any questions, you can always find us:  You can email us there or find us at, Facebook, and Instagram.  Thanks.

Podcast Episode #22: How to get Dad on board with Hiring a Doula Read More »

breastfeeding class

Podcast Episode #12: Fertility Struggles

In this podcast episode, we talk with Lisa about her struggles with fertility and about the birth of her son, Ethan, who was conceived via IVF.  This podcast is available to listen to on iTunes and Soundcloud. 

Alyssa: Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas!  I am Alyssa, co-owner of Gold Coast and post-partum doula.  Today, we are talking to Lisa, who is a past client of ours.  She was actually a post-partum client of mine.  Hello, Lisa.

Lisa: Hi.

Alyssa: So we’ve talked a lot in the time that we’ve worked together, and you have kind of an interesting story about your fertility journey and how – you know, I think I thought the same thing.  You get off birth control, and you think you’re going to get pregnant right away, and when it doesn’t happen, our brains just go straight to worry.  So tell me – start from the beginning.  You got off the Pill, and then what?

Lisa:  Yeah.  So it was the second marriage for both my husband and I, and I was 35.  We went off the Pill, and I literally thought that same month, it would just be, boom.  You know, we’re pregnant.  And it didn’t happen.  And I think he was 37 at the time.  We were trying for seven or eight months, and nothing was happening, and we just didn’t – we were confused, like what could possibly be going wrong here?  And so I went to my ob-gyn, and she said, you know, you should just get the initial fertility screens done to see if everything is working for both you and him.

Alyssa: So you got screened, or you both got screened?

Lisa:  We both got screened.

Alyssa: And what does that entail?  For you and him?

Lisa:  Well, for my husband, he needed a sperm sample.  And then they look at things like morphology of the sperm and – like, you can have all different things happen with your sperm.  You can have two-headed sperm.  The tails of your sperm can be too long or too short or whatever.  I think the typical morphology is that four percent of the sperm is good.  That’s kind of the average.  But I think his was either one or two percent, so he was less than half of what a highly fertile man would be considered.  And for me, it involved a bunch of blood tests that test your hormone levels at the different parts of your cycle, and then also some x-rays.  I can’t remember – I think it was called an HCG where they pump ink through your uterus and your fallopian tubes to make sure that there’s nothing plugged, that basically the sperm can come up and the eggs can come down so there’s nothing blocking.  And so we did that, and I was kind of considered more of advanced maternal age, and then my husband was, as it turns out, not super highly fertile at that point.  And then we had a couple of miscarriages after that.  Two, but they were really early, so I wouldn’t even have been pregnant quite a month.  And then we thought, well, what’s going on with that?  Then I had some other health issues going, and one of my health providers suggested I go get some more tests that were autoimmune-related, because it turns out, if you have a bunch of autoimmune things going on, that can lead to early term miscarriages.  And then I tested positive for all of this autoimmune stuff, which led into a bunch of autoimmune suppressing therapies and two rounds of IVF.  The first round, we didn’t get any viable eggs, and the second round, we got one.  And I was just beside myself.  We had 28 eggs, and out of all those 28, we only had one viable one.  And my hopes were not high because of all this autoimmune stuff that was going on, and we just had one egg.  We did a frozen embryo transfer because we did get the chromosomal testing done, which is how we knew if the eggs were viable or not, and then with the one egg, we got pregnant.  But all said and done, it was a two-and-a-half-year process for us.  And then we ended up having our son when I was 39.

Alyssa: Wow.

Lisa:  Yeah, yeah.

Alyssa: I did not know that Ethan was IVF.

Lisa:  He was, yeah.  And then during the whole pregnancy, I was highly monitored because of all the autoimmune stuff going on, and that was just –

Alyssa: So what do you mean by autoimmune therapies and stuff you had to do?

Lisa:  Well, I had infusions every other week.  I was on steroids to keep my immune system down the whole time.  And a bunch of other smattering of things; drugs that I can’t really even pronounce at this point.  It just basically calms a woman’s immune system down enough to not reject a fetus, and so then you’re highly monitored; you’re getting blood tests all the time to see where your inflammation and stuff like that is, and so we did that.  And then it turns out I had placenta previa, which is where the placenta is covering the cervix, and so then I went on bedrest for five weeks in the hospital in the antepartum unit.  I was bleeding all the time, and then we had the fourth big bleeding incident, and they didn’t think it would stop.  So we went into an emergency C-section, and then he was born five weeks early.

Alyssa: Oh, my gosh.

Lisa:  Yeah.  It was a lot.

Alyssa: So how was your pregnancy up until the five-week bedrest point?

Lisa:  I had to take short-term disability from work because I was – I only know this because I had to do this for insurance, but I was doing 30 to 40 hours of medical care a week to do all the autoimmune stuff, and that lasted through week 20.  And so I had this kind of honeymoon period between week 20, which is when your body starts calming down as it’s getting through the second trimester.  So from an autoimmune perspective, if you get through to the second trimester, or into the second trimester, then you’re pretty much considered in the clear.

Alyssa: Your body is saying, “Okay, I get it.  You’re staying.  I’m not going to try to get you out anymore.”

Lisa:  Yeah.  And from a NICU perspective, if you get to – I think it’s week 23 or 24.  I can’t remember which of those two, but with all the technology that we have today, it’s pretty much considered that they can help along a 24-week old.  So once you get there, at least even if something should happen, then you can –

Alyssa: That would be tough.  That would be a lot of NICU time, a 24-week old baby.  So did Ethan have any NICU time at five weeks early?

Lisa:  He did.  We were in the NICU for eight days, and that was enough.

Alyssa: That’s not bad.   I’m glad you didn’t say five weeks.

Lisa:  No, we thought we were going to be in there for five weeks because they basically set your expectations that whatever would bring them to full term is typically considered what your NICU stay would be.

Alyssa: So even though he was born five weeks early, he was pretty healthy.  Was he big?

Lisa:  He was big.  He was 5 pounds, 9 ounces, at 35 weeks and a day, so that was good.  He just had some issues with keeping warm and then keeping his blood sugars up.  And then I didn’t – I was one of the lucky ones.  I didn’t really ever have any challenges with breastfeeding, and so that went really well, and I was just so grateful for that because there was so much that had been a challenge, you know, leading up to that.

Alyssa: Yeah, that on top would have sent you over the edge!

Lisa:  I think I just would have melted at that point.

Alyssa: Yeah.  So do you have any advice for parents who, like you, get off the Pill, think it’s going to happen right away, and now two and a half years later and two IVF treatments later – how do you deal with that?  How do you and your partner deal with that together?

Lisa:  Oh, that’s a hard one.

Alyssa: I mean, it’s probably very individual, right?  Based on personalities and how you handle stress and how you handle stress together, but do you think there’s one universal piece of advice?  Is it be patient?  Is it –

Lisa:  I would say if you’re older, and I would say maybe the 35 age range and plus, if things aren’t happening right away, I would just say, just go get the stuff tested.  Don’t wait a year or whatever.  Just go get stuff tested out because those years, from even 35 to 36 and from 36 to 37, those really start counting for the quality of your fertility.  Not that you couldn’t ever make a child; it’s the quality of the –

Alyssa: It’s going to get harder every year.

Lisa:  For the woman, it’s the quality of the eggs.  It gets harder every year.  And I think the other thing that, looking back, I would suggest for anybody who is doing fertility treatments, try to do one thing a day that is just for you that makes you feel cared for because during our fertility, and then pregnancy, and then delivery, I think that my husband and I – we were just out of juice by the time our son got here, and that’s when you really need it.  Right?  That’s when you have a baby then, in your arms who isn’t sleeping, and you just need help, and so I think if I just would have, I don’t know, maybe slept more –  I mean, that sounds ridiculous, but –

Alyssa: Like take a nap?

Lisa:  Take a nap!  Like, take a nap when you’re pregnant, you know?  Just try to nurture yourself in whatever way possible that is meaningful for you.  And I am not saying, like, go buy a new wardrobe.  I am literally saying, if you really like to read, go spend an hour a day and read.  Indulge yourself and rejuvenate yourself a little bit because you’re going to need it.

Alyssa: And you don’t have to read about fertility or read about baby stuff.  Read something that you enjoy.

Lisa:  Find the absolute best providers that you can, and ask good questions, and then trust.  Because otherwise, it’s just –

Alyssa: You can constantly question, right?  Everything and everybody because we can Google it.

Lisa:  Yes!  That’s another thing.  Don’t Google!  Limit yourself to five minutes of Googling a day or something, but don’t do that, yeah.  That’s a rabbit hole.

Alyssa: Well, next time we talk to you, Lisa, I think we’re going to get into your post-partum journey and how you got here; how you ended up here in good old Grand Rapids.  All right, thank you for sharing.

Podcast Episode #12: Fertility Struggles Read More »

Ashley Forton Doula

Podcast Episode #6: Dispelling The Goddess Myth

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa and Ashley talk about The Goddess Myth and how it affects your birthing experience.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes. 

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula, and today we have Ashley Forton with us.

Ashley:           Good morning.

Alyssa:            She is also a birth doula and postpartum doula.  We both just recently read a Time Magazine article called The Goddess Myth, and it raised a lot of questions.  Ashley, what was your first – well, why don’t you give us a synopsis of this article?

Ashley:           Yeah, so the article kind of starts out talking about this “goddess myth” and how there’s this rise in natural birth, and how a lot of women are trying to achieve this image of being a goddess and having this perfect natural birth, and that they’re kind of blaming that on a lot of women feeling failure or feeling regret or feeling like they couldn’t live up to this perfect image that we’ve created.  And it kind of stood out to me that, that’s still possible.  If you want to have this beautiful, natural birth, bodies are capable of that, but it also brings up a lot of points that that’s not best for everybody.  And so I found it really interesting some of the things that they brought up about different women’s experiences and where their emotions went if it didn’t go according to that perfect plan they had in their head.

Alyssa:            Yeah, I’ve kind of thought that – you know, there’s all this knowledge at our fingertips.  You get pregnant, and you can just know so much.  And then you have this goddess myth, where you didn’t birth good enough if you didn’t do it naturally.  I’m glad that there’s an awareness about this and that women are asking questions and knowing that it’s a possibility to birth this way, but on the flip side, there’s so much feelings of guilt and shame and regret if you say, “This is the only way I can have my baby,” and then it doesn’t happen that way.  And then there’s all this mom-shaming of “Well, I did it naturally.”  Or, “Oh, you had an epidural?”  Or, “Oh, you’re not breastfeeding?”  There’s so many good things happening within the community and within the medical field with natural births, and I think it’s beautiful and amazing, but a Caesarean birth is also a birth.  If you had an epidural, it’s still a birth.

Ashley:           Absolutely.  And I think a lot of that – I don’t think the goddess myth or this desire for natural birth is the problem.  I think that part of it is us as moms, as women, who come into this new journey of parenthood; we try to compare.  I think comparison is the root of all this evil because what happens is when I compare my birth to yours, we’re not comparing apples to apples.  You bring a completely different emotional history; a completely different physical experience.  You have different genetics.  Our bodies are not identical.  So there’s no way for me to say what I think is best for me is also best for you because I don’t know the ins and outs of your life and your emotions and your physical experience and your relationship with your partner.  And all of that plays into birth, so when we have a baby, no matter how we have it, and we go sit down with our friends and we say, “Here’s how I had my baby,” we start to compare.  We start to say, “Well, this is how I did it.”  “This is how I did it.”  And none of those are greater or less than the other.  We all need to take a step back and go, “Do you feel good about that?  Do you regret anything about your birth?”

Alyssa:            Did you do what was best for you?

Ashley:           Yeah, and that’s a lot of why I became a doula because in the beginning, when I first got pregnant with my daughter, I thought natural birth was the only way and this is best for everyone.  And I started talking to my friends and talking to women who had different experiences, and going, oh my gosh.  My experience has nothing to do with your experience, and I can’t say what’s best for you.  And I wanted to start changing my own mentality to looking at it as, if you look back at your birth story and feel like you made great decisions and you love your birth, regardless of what those intricacies of that birth were, that’s what matters.  Because women carry their birth story with them forever, and you start motherhood with birth.  You start with pregnancy and your experiences that lead up to birth, and if you have regrets and you feel like a failure, that’s going to follow you the rest of your life.  But if you feel like you have made the best decision for you; not comparing it to anyone else, just the best decision for you in that moment: you can’t regret that.  You can’t look back and say someone else should have done it differently.  You made the best decision for you, and then you feel like you just conquered the world because you got – even if it was curveballs, you did the best for you throughout the whole thing.  And so you start off motherhood with this confidence rather than comparison and failure and feeling less than another mom.

Alyssa:            Yeah, it’s so important, because starting off that way just leads to continued problems, emotionally, physically.  And then the comparison starts, when, you know, “How is your baby sleeping?”  “Is your son potty-trained yet?”  It’s a non-stop battle.  You’re constantly comparing.  And you know what, stop.

Ashley:           Right, because every kid is different.  So I mean, having two kids myself, I can tell you there are so many differences just between my two children, who genetically – they share my genetics!  There should be something in common.  But so comparing to my friend, it’s like your kid’s way more different than my kid, so again, we should quit comparing.  We shouldn’t be comparing to each other, our kids to each other.  Yes, there’s a lot in common, but we need to start finding our own joys and successes on our own, not trying to get our success from being better than someone else.

Alyssa:            Right.  There was something else in this article, too, so after the article, looking at the magazine here, there was another little side article called The Well-Intentioned, Misinformed, Oversharing Pregnancy Experts.  And one line that I highlighted says, “When you’re pregnant in public, you learn quickly that everyone’s an expert.”  And this gal was talking about how she liked to enjoy her coffee still while she was pregnant, and the barista, this 20-something guy, would give her this look, and say, “Are you allowed to have this?”  And she’s like, it’s one shot of espresso in my coffee!  And everyone becomes this expert, and I think deep down, they’re well-intentioned statements.

Ashley:           Right.  They think they’re looking out for your health and safety, somehow.

Alyssa:            Yeah, but again, it becomes another form of mom-shaming.

Ashley:           Absolutely.  We talk about that a lot in hypnobirthing, where I tell my moms not to compare to others, like I already talked about, but I also tell them, when someone gives you advice, take it with a grain of salt because they do mean well.  When your mother-in-law says to you, “Oh, well, I did it this way,” she thinks that’s the best way, and she wants to help you.  It doesn’t necessarily come across that way, and you can kind of take it or leave it, but know that you get to make those decisions that are best for you.  If a cup of coffee is what you need, and you’ve cleared that with your ob., if you feel good about it, drink that coffee, girl!  You don’t need your barista’s opinion.  They’re not your ob.  They’re not your healthcare provider.  So yeah, it’s like, take everything with a grain of salt.  Know that it comes from a good place.  Instead of just getting super pissed off right away, which is easy to do, just know that, okay, they probably mean well, and you can still go do whatever the heck you want.

Alyssa:            So I think bottom line, we as mothers have to learn to build each other up and encourage each other and talk about our birth stories together because talking about it is imperative, but sometimes we don’t want to talk about it with our friends or neighbors or family because we know we’re going to be shamed.  So if we knew that we had a judgment-free person just to talk this birth story out with, it would be so beneficial for mothers and encouraging, and I think, bottom line, we just need to support each other.

Ashley:           Absolutely, and recognize that everybody is going to do things a little bit differently, and that’s okay.  And so recognizing that in others and in yourself, it takes practice to not initially come to a judgment.  It’s hard to look at something and not compare.  So it’s easier said than done for me to say, “Let’s quit comparing,” but I think we really do need to focus on that, and when a friend comes to you and opens up and says “Hey, there’s this thing that happened in my birth, and I do feel like a failure, or it didn’t go as planned,” give them the space to talk through that without reinforcing the judgment they’re already feeling.  Just be there for them and let them talk it out.  And if a friend comes to you loving their birth story and they did it completely different than you did, celebrate that joy with them instead of saying, “Well, I did it differently.”  Just let them share that joy with you.

Alyssa:            Yeah, I agree.  All right, if anyone has any questions, comments, anything about this episode or ideas for future episodes, email us at and remember, these moments are golden.  Thanks, Ashley.

Ashley:           You’re welcome.  Have a great day.

Podcast Episode #6: Dispelling The Goddess Myth Read More »

Postpartum Doula

Podcast Episode #2: Having Kids Later in Life – Kristin’s Birth Journey

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Kristin shares about her birth experiences and how she started the journey to become a birth doula.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes.


Alyssa:            Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula, and today we’re talking to Kristin, the co-owner and birth doula.

Kristin:           Yeah, birth and postpartum.

Alyssa:            She interviewed me last episode about my journey throughout pregnancy and what made me want to become a doula, and today we’re going to talk about her journey and what made her want to become a birth and postpartum doula.

Kristin:           Yeah, so I had kids later in life, so I got myself into that high-risk category by age.  I was 36 with my first pregnancy and had my daughter at 37.  And I had a really great pregnancy, despite a high-stress job in political fundraising, and my nurse midwife kept saying throughout the pregnancy that I was having the perfect pregnancy and there were no worries.  My health was great.  My diet was great.  And I planned myself the perfect, natural birth.  I took Lamaze classes; my husband and I practiced; I watched all the documentaries; read all the books.  I like to plan my way through life in general, and I thought that everything would just be the way I wanted it to be.  And at 37 weeks, I got diagnosed with preeclampsia.  My blood pressure was rising; that was the first of the signs.  And so I got put on modified bedrest, which was super stressful for someone who felt like I had to do a million things before baby arrived: getting all of the things ready, the car seat installed, and running all the errands and finishing up work and all of that.  And so I had to really take it easy, and every midwife appointment was beyond stressful because you get the blood pressure check.  And so I was nervous about that.

Alyssa:            Which made your blood pressure go up.

Kristin:           It made it worse.  So they kept watching me, and every week, there were more and more signs.  So I got put on full bedrest, which was really frustrating.  I was lucky enough to live above – for those of you that live in Grand Rapids, we had just moved back from Lansing, and I was living above The Electric Cheetah, and we had this place that was very modern, very open, the first tenants.  And all of a sudden, we get married and pregnant, and there wasn’t a whole lot of room for a baby and not the ideal place to be pregnant.  But the staff at The Electric Cheetah became like neighbors since we didn’t really have neighbors on Wealthy Street, and so they would bring up food to me when my husband was at work.  They’d serve it to me on their fine china.  He would call in different meals for me, and they would bring it up to my place.

Alyssa:            So nice!

Kristin:           Yeah, it was amazing.  So that’s how I handled bedrest.  I certainly could have used an antepartum doula for bedrest.  I didn’t know what one was back then.  My daughter’s almost seven, and so that wasn’t something that people really knew of.

Alyssa:            Yeah, most of our postpartum doulas do bedrest, too.

Kristin:           Yes, and our birth doulas do some of that as well with birth planning and some of the different aspects related to getting ready for birth.  So yeah, I didn’t have a bedrest doula or anything like that.

Alyssa:            I’m wondering, for those who don’t know much about preeclampsia, besides high blood pressure, why do you have be on bedrest?  And for someone who may be worried about it or someone who may have it?

Kristin:           Yeah, essentially, they don’t want you to be too active so the blood pressure keeps rising.

Alyssa:            And what causes it?

Kristin:           I’m not going to get into all of the different medical things, and women have it for different reasons, but of course, if they’re worried about a stroke, the providers are watching to make sure that mom doesn’t have a stroke.  They’re worried about baby as well as the mother.  Some women develop headaches.  I did not.  Some women develop swelling in their ankles.  I didn’t really develop that, but by the time I was on full bedrest, I had protein in my urine, which they worry about kidneys and different organs going.  So I was starting to have trouble with my kidneys, and I got an induction.  So I ended my bedrest with an induction in a hospital.  I remember being overwhelmed.  I didn’t have doulas; again, I didn’t really know what a doula was with my first.  So I called my Lamaze instructor; like, how do we do this?  I still don’t want any interventions.  Still working with the midwives.  And it was very scary because I felt like I was alone in my room with my husband, and inductions can be long and boring, and you don’t really feel a whole lot.  I had my membranes swept the day before and went in and had Cervidil, which can be taken out if there are any reactions with the baby.  So mine was inserted, and my daughter didn’t react that well, so I didn’t have it in as long as they’d intended.  And things ended up going quickly, but I had a lot of back labor, and again, I was alone.  I didn’t want my husband to touch me because he couldn’t provide enough pressure.  I felt like I wanted him to just, like, punch my back.  Nothing was firm enough.  And he didn’t know what to do; he was just in over his head, completely overwhelmed, kept referencing manuals.  We had to make all these decisions as far as interventions and what’s the best thing to do, because my daughter had decelerations in her heart beat, and they were worried about her, and there was the threat of a cesarean.  But I was very fortunate in my journey, other than back labor, which is an experience in itself.  I didn’t have any major interventions; I never had Pitocin.  I wasn’t on magnesium for my preeclampsia.  I did not have an epidural.  I was able to move around the room, and a nurse came in, who certainly had some doula qualities about her, and helped me move my baby, and we did hands and knees on a birthing ball on the bed, and all of a sudden, she turned, and I was able to push her out.  I could feel her turn, and all of a sudden, it was like, I feel like I’m pooping.  And Patrick’s like, you’re really not.

Alyssa:            That’s exactly how I knew.

Kristin:           And I said, “Can you just check, because I think I’m pooping!”  And my daughter was born four pushes later, and it was a crazy experience, an overwhelming experience, and I remember – we’ll get into some of my journey with my daughter after she was born in another episode, but I remember going into my midwife at the six-week checkup, and she was talking to me about family planning and what to do, and because I was 37 and had preeclampsia.  There were big decisions that needed to be made if we wanted to expand our family with another baby.  We had my stepdaughter and then my daughter, and we wanted to have a third child.  And so my midwife recommended that we give it some time for me to heal, but that I should probably start trying when she was about a year.  And so I got pregnant pretty easily and quickly, just like the first time.  I was very fortunate in that, but I was worried about getting preeclampsia the second time.  There was a lot of chance that I would have that recurrence, so I was watched throughout the entire pregnancy.  And so I hired doulas before I even told anyone else.  They were the first call I made, and I wanted that support through pregnancy even more so than at the birth.  I felt like if I could go through what I did without any sort of interventions the first time with preeclampsia and back labor, then I could rack out the birth, but the pregnancy scared me.  Preeclampsia, getting that again, scared me.  And so they supported me through the pregnancy; gave me a lot of resources.  I listened to my midwives, did a lot of swimming, kept the stress down.  I wasn’t working in politics like I was before.  I was doing consulting.  And I talked to lactation consultants because I was nursing my daughter through my pregnancy, and so –

Alyssa:            So that’s not a failsafe planning method.

Kristin:           No, it’s not.

Alyssa:            There are a lot of people who think it is.

Kristin:           No, it’s not failsafe.  So yeah, there were a lot of things that I felt like having doula support really helped me with during that pregnancy, and I had an amazing intervention-free birth, and my son was huge, but he had no issues.  He wasn’t in the NICU like my daughter.  I never had any elevated blood pressure; no headaches, no signs of anything.  But I was on that high watch, especially because I was getting closer to 40 by that time.  I had my son at 39, so I was definitely in that advanced maternal age category by then, so it was a journey.  So I started becoming more and more curious about doula support, but I don’t like blood.  And I don’t really like hospitals.  I didn’t; I do now.  I didn’t like hospitals.  I remember any time my dad had a procedure in a hospital, I was always just overwhelmed by it.  I didn’t like to visit friends in the hospital who had babies.  I didn’t want to be a patient myself.  I had never had anything, no surgeries, nothing done in the hospital.  And so for me to be a doula, where most doulas do the majority of their work in the hospital, didn’t really make sense, but I was still fascinated by birth and everything to do with it.  So after having my daughter I got really active in breastfeeding groups and brought a national nonprofit to Grand Rapids.  We had a big rally and speakers, and that was phenomenal.  And that started me getting to know other birth workers, and I kept in touch with my doulas, and I started teaching Sacred Pregnancy classes after my son was born because that book really helped me, again, to avoid preeclampsia with the mental and spiritual aspect of birth and really also to be intentional about my pregnancy, because with your first pregnancy, you can connect with that baby, and there’s so many special moments between you and your husband or partner.  But when you had a toddler running around or other children, it’s hard to connect to your baby.  So Sacred Pregnancy gave me that outlet in journaling and meditation and affirmations.  It did so much for me that I decided to become one of the first instructors in the US and went to a training with my whole family when my son was four months.  So I had signed up for everything during my pregnancy, and I started – I had promoted my classes, because I’m an overachiever like you, before I even went to the training, and so I had a class set up two weeks after I got back, and ran the first class for my training class, and I had this amazing experience in Virginia with Anni Daulter, who’s one of my dear friends and the author and creator of the Sacred Pregnancy book and the Sacred Living movement, and that started my journey.  I started teaching classes, and my students wanted me to be their doula.  I’m like, “No, I can’t be your doula.”  They’re like, “Yeah, you can.  Just be at my birth.  You know, we’ve spent all this time; you’ve been great.”  And so I started teaching my classes under a doula collectives umbrella and decided that I was getting enough inquiries that I might try it out.  Sacred Pregnancy started a doula training program, so again, I took my whole family to Florida this time so I could nurse my babies and go through this training program.  It was four days, very intense, and a lot of journeying for me in some of my fears that I had surrounding being a doula, especially with blood.  Like, it was pretty wild.  We wrote our fears on each other’s body parts, the other doulas, and mine was blood.  Everybody’s joking because they’re like, “There’s no way you can be a doula.  That’s all you see is bodily fluids.  There’s going to be fluid everywhere.”

Alyssa:            So how did you do it?  How did you get past that?

Kristin:           I feel like I just set the intention that I could do it.

Alyssa:            That there’s a purpose behind this.

Kristin:           And it’s not a big deal, and there was so much more to being a birth worker.  So my first birth, I feel like it was a sign, but my client had a lot of blood loss and hemorrhaging and so on, and I didn’t pass out.  So I was like, I can do this!

Alyssa:            Test completed.

Kristin:           This is a big test, and I rocked it.  And I have so many husbands or partners that have that fear, and I’m like, “I’ve been there, and I’m actually a doula.”  I never really liked to be around blood.  I would cut myself and freak out.  But it’s different because, yeah, it’s not a cut.  It’s not an injury.  It’s a natural, normal process.  So I became a birth doula and started doing some postpartum ceremonies through Sacred Pregnancy.  I had gone to another four-day training, this time in Georgia, and it was all about mother roasting and doing closing ceremonies and belly binding and herbal teas and herbalism, which I didn’t get into all that much, but I really loved the ceremonial aspects of the postpartum traditions and studying Malaysian culture.  But I kept focusing more on my love of birth and helping mothers through pregnancy and their transitions, especially specializing in high-risk moms because that was my background, as well as moms who were seeking a natural birth.  It was a year-plus into my birth journey before I supported a client with an epidural, and the first epidural client I had, I was like, this is amazing.  We had fun, music was going, like, wow.  This is totally different than anything else I had experienced because I was supporting very high-risk clients who were maybe even on bedrest their entire pregnancy; had medical conditions; they were getting cesareans that were scheduled and they wanted me to support them through that.  Or clients who were either having a homebirth or seeking an unmedicated birth.  And some had Pitocin and didn’t choose an epidural.  There were all of these factors, but I didn’t have an epidural for a year, and I was taking a couple clients a month, so that was a wild experience.  Now I have everything, but when I started out, it was kind of one or the other.  High-risk, or someone seeking an unmedicated birth, and a lot of my clients were my students in class, which I was able to have this amazing bond with them for eight weeks with women connecting with each other.  So yeah, I just fell in love with it, but I feel like the postpartum end of things is so needed, as well.  It’s not just the pregnancy; it’s after, and women feeling like they don’t have a village and that they’re alone.  And I, certainly, with two-under-two was overwhelmed and needed support, and it was hard to go places with two.  The store was a challenge and going to the pediatrician’s office if my husband couldn’t help in the winter, because I had babies during – well, a Halloween baby, and a mid-January.  So that’s not always that easy.  So I could have had a doula come along with me to the store or the pediatrician or whatever, bundling two young kids.  So I just love supporting everything to do with the journey to be a parent and to expanding the family and I feel like – you know, women in traditional cultures, they have this village to rely on; they have a sisterhood, and here, especially with people being so transient, we don’t necessarily have our families.  People oftentimes isolate you if you once you have a kid, it’s like, okay, I’m going to give you some time to just deal with your baby.  But really, we need help, and doulas do things that are different than what friends do or what parents do or other family members.  We’ll do whatever we can, but we’re not just focused on the baby; we’re focused on the mother and her emotional needs as well as the father and his needs, which can be very different in the processing of becoming a parent for the first time, or the second or third time.  So we focus on the family unit as a whole which is so unique and so needed, in my opinion.

Alyssa:            You can email us at  Check us out at our website,, and find us on Instagram and Facebook.  We hope to hear from you.

Podcast Episode #2: Having Kids Later in Life – Kristin’s Birth Journey Read More »

Spectrum Health Natural Birthing Suite

Make Your Hospital Room Feel Like Home

Today’s blog comes from one of our past birth doulas, Courtney Garvelink. Her experience with birth clients, as well as being a licensed massage therapist and previous HypnoBirthing instructor, makes her an expert on comfort measures in the delivery room. See what she has to say about making your hospital birth feel more like home.

If you are preparing for a birth, you are getting your body and your mind ready for what may be the most important and wonderful experience of your life to this point. There are so many options and decisions to make leading up to the birth itself, one of which is where you will deliver; home, birth center, or hospital? Maybe, for you, it’s not a choice. Your finances or insurance may limit you to one option, usually a hospital. And some families just feel more at ease in a hospital. If you are among the many who will be welcoming your new babe in a hospital setting, there are still ways create a warm and comfortable atmosphere that reminds you of home during your stay.

I believe the environment you are birthing in can greatly impact your laboring time. Before we look at what you can do to make your hospital stay feel homier, let’s understand why that would matter. Your surroundings and birth environment can have a real impact on how you cope and progress during labor.  The way we feel and our perception of comfort during labor directly effects our hormones during birth. We are not much different than animals, in that when they give birth they find a dark, secluded space where they feel safe. This allows the hormones needed for birth to kick in and flow well, shutting down the fight or flight response that happens when we feel unsafe or uncomfortable. During labor, we want our body to produce all the oxytocin it can, keeping adrenaline at bay. Hospital rooms are often bright and cold, with visible equipment you may or may not need. They can lack the welcoming feeling you get when you arrive home, ready to relax. Here are several ways you can make your hospital labor room feel more home-like.

Dim the Lights
Giving birth is about as primal as you can get, so take a note from our animal friends. Hospital room lighting is adjustable, and it’s your room, so adjust away. You can ask the nurses to keep the lights dimmed down, they usually have no issue with it. If they need to brighten the room so they can see what they are doing, they will usually turn them back down for you when they leave.

Room Temp
There will almost always be a thermostat in each room. When you get there, adjust the temperature to what you would normally have it set to at home or maybe just a touch cooler. It’s normal for women to run a little warmer during labor. You are probably working harder than you ever will during your birthing time.

Turn on Some Candles
LED candles are great for setting up a relaxing atmosphere. Please don’t bring wax candles to burn, this is a fire hazard. If you like to burn candles at home for the aroma, my next tip can help with that.

Essential Oils
There are several essential oils that are safe during pregnancy and labor that can be beneficial for boosting your energy, easing discomfort and muscle fatigue, and creating a calm aroma in the room. You can mix some water with your favorite essential oil and mist the room or linens you’ll be using. Check before using a diffuser in the room, as some staff may have sensitivity to certain aromas or the hospital may not allow them. You can also dilute the oil and apply to the skin directly. Be sure to get good quality oils or find an aromatherapist who can help you decide which oils are best.

Bring Your Own Pillow/Favorite Throw Blanket
When you are ready for relaxation or sleep at home and you lay your head on your pillow, you are conditioned to relax and sleep. This will be comforting at the hospital when you’re laboring. Use your pillow as a cue to relax as you move through different positions.

Play Some Tunes
Create a playlist of your favorite music, whether it’s calm or upbeat. Music can help reduce stress and the perception of pain during labor. Start working on that playlist while you are in birth preparations by finding what genres or artists are soothing/relaxing to you. Listen to those tracks or stations throughout your pregnancy; it’ll be familiar during labor and help promote relaxation.

Bring Your Own Gown
Lets be real, no one likes wearing the standard hospital gown. They are dull and unflattering. They remind you every time you look down that you are in a hospital. Bring your own button-down gown or an oversized button-down shirt. The buttons will help give easier access for breastfeeding and skin-to-skin. You can also find cute birthing gowns online.

Pictures From Home
Do you have a favorite picture from home that makes you happy or brings with it a feeling of calm? Bring it to the hospital! Maybe not your large canvas print, but something you can pack in your hospital bag. Having a piece of home can be comforting and calming during your stay in the hospital room.

The Best of Both Worlds
Did you know Spectrum Health now has two natural birthing suites at Butterworth (pictured above)? If you are low-risk, it’s a wonderful option. The rooms have a queen sized bed, lamps for softer lighting, birthing balls, and a Jacuzzi tub. And they didn’t forget about Dad; the rooms also have a recliner, flat-screen television, free Wi-Fi, and a pullout sofa. You cannot bring oil diffusers or wax candles, but overall they feel much more home-like than most hospital rooms.

Hire a Doula
Okay this sounds great, but how will you remember all this when the time actually comes? A birth doula can be your best resource. Let them meet you at the hospital and get the room ready for you. Let your birth doula take care of creating a home-like environment as well as pain management techniques and encouragement along the way.

To learn more about Courtney and ask her questions about birth doula support, you can fill out a contact form on our website or join her at an upcoming “What is a Doula?” event at EcoBuns in Holland. 


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Back to Health Chiropractic Zeeland MI

Chiropractic Prenatal Care

Yes, you read that right! If you just raised an eyebrow with a bit of confusion, you are not alone. Most people think Chiropractic care is mostly for neck pain, back pain, and maybe headaches. For most of my patients, that’s true. However, after we resolve their pain, some amazing things start happening. Some people notice they move better, sleep better, breathe better, have less digestive issues, feel less stress, feel more focused, etc. Response to care is different for every individual, but most people find the benefits of chiropractic care beyond pain relief and into the realm of optimal function.

The reason is because Chiropractic works with the nervous system, the master control system of the body. Your brain tells every part of your body, every organ, tissue, and cell, how to function. The brain sends its messages via nerves, which run through the spine and out to the different parts of the body. When a joint in the spine is misaligned, it not only compromises the mobility of the joint and the ligaments and muscles that attach, but also the nerve that exits that part of the spine. This is called a subluxation. Subluxations are caused by the physical stress of our daily lives, be it sitting at a desk most of the day, performing athletic events, or even picking up and playing with your kiddos!

Anyone who has experienced pregnancy can attest to the physical stress and changes that their body undergoes. Growing a baby is hard work! Your body is constantly changing and adapting to create this beautiful life. For example, your body increases a hormone called Relaxin. Relaxin functions to increase things like heart function and blood flow, but also to relax the ligaments of the pelvis so the bones of the pelvis are more moveable for baby to grow and for baby to be delivered. One of the joints most commonly affected is the pubic symphysis, or pubic bone. As a result, many mothers feel discomfort in their pubic bone, not knowing this could be alleviated. Other common physical grievances of pregnancy such as sciatica and back pain can also be helped by Chiropractic care.

But what if I told you Chiropractic care throughout pregnancy has also been known to have outcomes such as easier, faster labors? A recent study by Heidi Haavik* found a correlation between chiropractic adjustments and responsiveness of the pelvic floor muscles. These are the muscles that attach to the pelvis and help you to open up the birth canal and push baby out. The women who received pelvic adjustments had stronger pelvic floor muscles. Without subluxations in the pelvis, the joints of the pelvis move freely and nerves can properly stimulate muscles to function properly.

Most women who are familiar with the benefits of Chiropractic care, or have been recommended by their OB or Midwife, seek care for the optimal position of the fetus for birth. Oftentimes, women come to the Chiropractor when their baby is in a breech position in hopes that Chiropractic care can help baby get into an optimal position and allow for a vaginal birth. The Chiropractic technique used to adjust pregnant women is called the Webster Technique. The technique was founded by Dr. Larry Webster in 1976 after watching his daughter suffer through a long and difficult labor where the baby was breech. Since that time, Chiropractors have been successfully helping change the outcomes of breech positioned babies. The idea is that by removing any misalignment in the pelvis, there is proper nerve stimulation to the uterus and pelvic muscles and ligaments, allowing the baby to assume the best position for birth and the body to have the optimal movement to birth. More information about the Webster Technique, its efficacy, and how to find a Webster trained Chiropractor can be found on the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association’s (ICPA) website,

So what can you expect when you go to a Chiropractor that is trained to care for the expectant mother? First of all, you can expect a Doctor who is ready to listen to you and help support and care for you on your journey to motherhood. We want your pregnancy and labor to be a positive and healthy experience for you and baby. Ideally, we promote wellness care and prevention so we hope to have you under care before you are pregnant and throughout your pregnancy. However, we are open to helping you whenever your journey brings you to us. The adjustment is safe and gentle, and best of all our tables accommodate for you to lie on your belly! Moms often report this opportunity as the best part of their day. In our office at Back to Health Chiropractic, you can almost always expect to see expectant Moms, babies, and little ones getting adjusted every time you come in. We look forward to meeting you and your newest addition!

In good health,
Dr. Demetra

*Effect of Spinal Manipulation on Pelvic Floor Functional Changes in Pregnant and Nonpregnant Women: A Preliminary Study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 39.5 (2016): 339-47. Heidi Haavik

Dr. Deme graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and moved to Dallas, Texas where she taught Physical Education and Health and coached Basketball, Volleyball, and Cross Country. While competing at the Ironman Triathlon 70.3 World Championships, Dr. Deme discovered the many benefits of Chiropractic in her personal performance. The improved health results along with her passion for natural health, led her to Parker University to study Chiropractic. Dr. Deme is Webster Certified to treat prenatal patients and is currently pursuing a specialty in Pregnancy and Pediatrics with the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. Dr. Deme and her husband Chris are excited for their son, Alexi, to grow up in West Michigan.


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Angel Schoof Birth Doula

Meet our new birth doula, Angel!

1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I have been a stay at home mom for the past (almost) four years. Before that I worked as a medical assistant in a few different areas, end of life care and a neurosurgeons office.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?
I was so inspired to become a doula by the amazing support I had with my two births. I was so greatly moved and spent the last four years saying I wish I could do that. And one day it hit me -Why not? Timing and opportunity aligned and I feel so fortunate to see my wildest dream coming to fruition.

3) Tell us about your family?
My husband Erik and I have been married almost five years. We moved to Rockford from Fort Myers, Florida two years ago. We have really been loving West Michigan, especially the weather! Our son Benjamin will be four in September and our daughter Hazel just turned one in February.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 
What’s a vacation? Ha! Kidding of course! We usually spend our vacation time in Fort Myers. We have lots of family there to visit and it’s always good to escape during the long stretch of winter!

5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I am a lover of so many different kinds of music from old to new. I love Bob Dylan and Neil Young and the Backstreet Boys (please don’t judge my inner fan girl) and John Mayer! And don’t even get me started on Bob Seger.

6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
My favorite thing to tell a new mom, which was also told to me when I had my first is you’re the mom and you know best. Listen to your instincts, trust yourself and your judgement. You know your baby better than anyone else.

7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
My doula superpower would be my passion. I want every woman to have the birth she desires. My wish is to support women in every angle of birth. Physically, mentally, emotionally… I want to give well-rounded support and will dedicate myself entirely in order to achieve this with my clients.

8) What is your favorite food?
I love food with big flavors – Mexican, Indian, and Thai, but I’m going to be really honest here and tell you, I love a turkey sandwich. If you and I were at a restaurant together 9 times out of 10, I’m getting the turkey sandwich!

9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
How amazing is Lake Michigan? Salt free, shark free, jelly fish free! I grew up going to the beaches in South Haven, and I still have a soft spot in my heart for the pier there and sitting on the black river having a  bite to eat. Since we’ve moved back to Michigan we ventured out to Kirk Park in West Olive and I was blown away. Such a beautiful park and the water was so clear! Looking forward to more visits along the coast!

10) What are you reading now?
Right now I am reading Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth And Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block. It’s pretty eye opening. Just questioning whether we are over-using medical technology to manage births at the expense of mothers and new babies.

11) Who are your role models?
My role models are the two women who were vital in helping me achieve the births I wanted so desperately for my own kiddos. My doula Jaci Seiben (out of Fort Myers) was amazing. Her energy was so calming and reassuring. She was exactly the person I’d prayed to have at my side during the birth of my son. For the birth of my daughter, my midwife Shannon Pawson blew me away. She was the definition of care. She was so knowledgeable, and empowered me to make informed decisions. We spoke about everything pertaining to birth before I was even in labor, so all she had to do was come, be a quiet presence and support me and my plan for birth. Both of these women have touched my heart and they are truly who I wish to model myself after.


Meet our new birth doula, Angel! Read More »

Healthy Fats

Healthy Fats for a Nourished Body & Baby

We are happy to have Sam Kalawart, Certified Health Coach, as a guest blogger today! Check out what she has to say about healthy fats.

Pregnancy is a beautiful and exciting time in a woman’s life. During these 9 months, your body is working in over drive to ensure your unborn baby is developing as it should, which means a nutrient-dense and balanced diet has never been more important. Simplifying nutrition, meal planning, and reducing stress are a big part of making this incredible journey a little easier on mommy and baby. Getting these skills down pat can help you naturally balance your hormones, stabilize cravings, glow from the inside out, and most importantly grow a healthy baby.

Today I’m talking about fat. Not just any fat, but fats sourced from a wide variety of plants that will make you look and feel fabulous!

We’ve all been told to fear fats because of the increased risk for raised cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The truth is that without fat our hormones, and in turn our health, can fall into disarray. Understanding fats is especially vital for expecting mommas to ensure they are receiving the adequate building blocks during pregnancy. Fat becomes even more important postpartum as your body works to re-balance hormones and keep your milk supply prevalent. It’s time for some clarity so you can implement healthy fats into your diet with ease.


Trans fats have almost no nutritional quality and are generally used to increase the shelf life of products. Unfortunately, it wreaks havoc on your health and has been proven to raise your LDL also knows as “bad cholesterol” and lowers your HDL or “good cholesterol”. Though regulations to reduce or completely remove trans fats have grown in popularity globally, trans fats are still prevalent in the U.S. food supply today. Partially-Hydronated vegetable oils and saturated animal fats pose the same risks and impair circulation in the body, which is why I always emphasize that my clients read nutrition labels to understand the ingredients in their food. Watch out for the following vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, canola.

I get asked about nuts a lot and the only nut that I recommend my clients limit is peanuts, including peanut butter. This is because of the high cases of a mold known as Aflatoxin, which is formed during peanut production. Aflatoxin has a carcinogen and has been shown to cause liver cancer in rats. The added oils and sugars found in most peanut butters also lead to an increase of inflammation in the body. If cravings get the better of you then opt for the organic, raw peanut butter, or better yet make your own in a food processor with organic/raw peanuts.


Fat sources I recommend are a balance of poly-saturated and mono-saturated fats found in a variety of plants. My favorite sources are avocado, coconut butter, raw nuts and raw nut butters, seeds such as hemp/chia/flax, and olives are also an excellent choice. Increasing your omega-3’s during pregnancy is also very important, just be sure you are getting them from clean sources. Because fish can contain high mercury levels, I recommend sticking to natural sources of omega-3’s found in hemp seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and algae. I use a DHA/EPA supplement made from algae that is a potent form of omega 3’s and is readily absorbed by the body.


Each meal should contain a portion of healthy fats but it can be very easy to overdo it, even with plant sources of fat. A great example of this would be snacking on nuts. A few handfuls of raw cashews can easily exceed 600 calories, so stay mindful of your consumption and focus on balancing your meals with greens, plant protein, and starches such as sweet potato, quinoa or wild rice. As a general guideline, keep your daily portions to 1 tablespoon of coconut/olive oil for cooking, a small handful of raw nuts/seeds for snacking, and ½ avocado per day added to salads. I don’t believe in tracking macros meticulously but tracking for the first few days as you get into the swing of things can be very helpful for some. Keeping daily fat intake around 20-30% is ideal, but everyone’s needs are different so tune into your body’s own intuition.

To incorporate some plant based fat into your meals try my Classic Guacamole recipe below! I enjoy this recipe dipped with my favorite veggies, garnished on salads and of course top off my tacos with it!

Classic Guacamole

Start by picking 2-3 ripe avocados. They are ripe when slightly soft to the touch and dimple easily. When you cut into them they should be a light green. Brown spots mean it is going bad and yellow mean it’s not quite ready yet!

In a small mixing bowl, scoop out the inside of the avocados and discard the seed. I then use a potato masher to get them to the consistency I’m looking for. Some people like their guac completely smooth but I like to leave some chunkiness in there for texture.

Chop the following and stir into mashed avocados: 

-1 shallot
-2 cloves of garlic
-1/2 cup red onion
-Handful of fresh cilantro
-1 serrano pepper
-1 tomatillo
-Juice of 1 lime

Add the following spices: 

-Dash of cumin
-1 tsp of Himalayan sea salt (add more to taste)
-1 tsp of cracked black pepper

Stir and enjoy with your favorite chips/tacos/salad!

Sam Kalawart, CHC

In my health coaching practice, I guide my clients to effortless weight loss and a boost in energy without yo-yo diets or deprivation. Through my one-on-one customized sessions, we work to find what works for your body for sustainable results using whole foods, mindfulness and a whole lot of self-love!

Utilizing the psychology of habit change I help you follow through in a way that you never have before. This is an invitation to get curious about how healthy you can be, to become a stand for transformation.

Click here to learn more about Sam’s services and schedule your FREE Self-Discovery Consultation!

Source Information:
Normal Suggested Amount of Fat and Protein for Women, SF GATE, 18 Mar. 2016. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
“Berkeley Wellness.” Aflatoxin in Peanuts, University of Berkeley. Accessed 1 Apr. 2016.
Mann, Dennis. Trans Fats: The Science and the Risks, WebMD. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.


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breastfeeding class

Why Take a Breastfeeding Class?

Why Take a Breastfeeding Class?

We are pleased to present a guest blog by Shira Johnson, IBCLC . 

Breastfeeding is natural, right? Well, yes… But it doesn’t always come naturally!

Just like parents educate themselves about pregnancy and birth, it’s valuable to have basic knowledge about breastfeeding before baby arrives (we don’t read up on childbirth while in labor, after all). Breastfeeding is a relationship, a complex dance between mom and baby, and many factors influence how each pair works together. Even if mom knows just what to do, it might not come as easily for baby (or vice versa!). Getting off to a good start begins at birth, and in the hours and days following. Having resources and realistic expectations can help.

Facts about Breastfeeding Education

  • Parents who receive prenatal breastfeeding education have more successful breastfeeding outcomes
  • Fears about breastfeeding? Have you heard horror stories from well-meaning friends or family members? Are you worried you’ll have to restrict your diet, worried about making enough milk, or about breastfeeding in public? You’re not alone! These unknowns and concerns are common, and they undoubtedly influence our expectations! It’s no fun to head into something feeling nervous or skeptical. Having a basic understanding and being prepared with tools and resources can set the stage for success.
  • Many parents who start off breastfeeding don’t meet their own breastfeeding goals. Many stop breastfeeding before 6 months, despite health guidelines (by the American Association of Pediatrics, as well as the World Health Institute) to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, and provide breastmilk for a minimum of 1 to 2 years. Yet in 2016, only 22% of babies were exclusively breastfed for 6 months, and only 50% were still received any breastmilk at 6 months. Most parents start off breastfeeding, but many stop before these suggested guidelines.
  • The most commonly-reported reasons for early weaning (such as concerns about milk supply/production, pain associated with breastfeeding, and going back to work) are typically addressed in a breastfeeding class, preparing parents with information and resources to successfully troubleshoot these most common challenges and obstacles.
  • What’s so great about breastmilk, anyway? Most of us have heard “breast is best” and similar hype about the magical health benefits of breastmilk. Well, there’s a reason for this. New research continues to come out every year about amazing discoveries around the functions and content of breastmilk. While formula might be nutritionally complete (and is an invaluable tool, when needed), the nutrients in it are not as bioavailable (not as easy for the body to access or utilize). Also, formula does not have the amazing protective and immune functions that breastmilk has. Breastfed babies are less likely to be obese or have diabetes later in life, and breastfeeding reduces risk of cancer not just for baby but also for mom! Breastfed babies tend to get sick less often, and recover from illness more quickly than their formula-fed peers. The majority of parents who sign up for a breastfeeding class are often already planning to breastfeed, but if you’re on the fence about breastfeeding, or are concerned about whether it is worth the effort, these cool facts might inspire you. A breastfeeding class can help you weigh your baby-feeding options. There is certainly no shame in feeding your baby in any way you choose to. But having more information can help this choice be an easier one to make.


If you are a parent who plans to breastfeed or just wants more information, if you’re curious about how it all works, how to do it, whether or not it’s “for you”, how to return to work as a breastfeeding mom, or if you have any concerns, fears or simple curiosity and a desire to learn more, then a breastfeeding class is for you!


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12 Things To Do When You Are Overdue

It can be a struggle to get through the in-between time. Here are some things that West Michigan women can do in the final days of pregnancy. Please note–I did not contact businesses listed below in advance of this post.  Here are 12 Things To Do When You Are Overdue:
1) Grab a smoothie or a fresh juice from SIP Organic Juice Bar  and catch up with a friend. There will never be enough time for adult talk after the baby comes.
2) Go for a swim in East Grand Rapids at the Wealthy Elementary. The water is warm and you can float and get a bit of exercise. There is even a lift to lower you in the pool if you need it.
3) Go for a walk at the Frederik Meijer Gardens. Take some time to relax and literally smell the roses.


4) Pick up a journal at Schuler Books and Music in Grand Rapids. You can grab lunch in the cafe and reflect on your pregnancy

5) Get an adjustment at Thrive  or Back To Health Chiropractic.
6) Enjoy a pedicure at Vasaio Life Spa so your feet look great during the birth. They use Zoya natural nail polish so you can avoid chemicals.
7) Attend a free La Leche League meeting to be around other mothers and hear about their breastfeeding journeys.
8) Get a massage somewhere that allows you to lay on your belly. Salus has massage tables with cutouts for the belly
9)  Pop in for a prenatal yoga session at On The Path Yoga or Armentality.
10)  Enjoy date night even if it is just watching a movie at home and eating takeout from Righteous Cuisine.
11) Head out to Lake Michigan to watch the waves and visualize them as surges during your labor.12) Get some treats at Ryke’s in Muskegon!What did you do during your final days of pregnancy?

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Riding the Waves

Gold Coast Doulas is excited to feature a guest blog from Lauren Rauseo. Lauren is mom to Dylan, Liv and Fiona. She works part-time as a graphic designer is working to become a postpartum doula as well. Her favorite things are coffee, manicures, wine, yoga, and family dance parties in her living room. Now that she’s done birthing her own brood, she has moved on to sharing her enthusiasm for natural birth with others through her book, Natural Birth for the Mainstream Mama: A practical guide to achieving a drug-free birth in a hospital setting. You can follow Lauren at

Last summer my family went to the beach on vacation. As I jumped the small waves with my 6-year-old, he held onto me with a surprisingly tight Kung Fu grip. This was the first summer he wasn’t completely terrified of the ocean, so despite him being nervous about waves that were only up to our ankles, we had made great progress.

Holding his little hand, I remembered being a small child myself, about his age, when my dad took me into the ocean. He carried me out beyond the breaking point, where the water was calm and manageable, and I could ride the waves like a smooth and steady roller coaster.

After a few minutes, I was ready to return to the sand and I began to swim toward the shore. I approached the location of safety, where I’d be past the massive arches of water and be able to easily walk the last few feet of wet sand to the beach blanket where my mother sat reading her book. Just then, a wave came crashing down on me. Startled but not yet defeated, I got my balance and stood up just in time for the next big wave to knock me down again. I became stuck in this cycle of attempting to fight a force much bigger than my small body, only to be repeatedly overcome by it.

Eventually, my dad saw me in distress and came to what I’ll loosely call “my rescue”: he picked me up around my waist and urgently threw me toward the shore. I rolled through the next big crash under the salty water while loads of sand traveled under my bathing suit. I made it to the warmth of my mom wrapping me up in a towel physically intact, but not emotionally unscathed.

What I didn’t know that summer was that in order to rival an opponent like the ocean, I needed to work with the force, not against it.

The waves in birth.

When you’re in the throes of active labor, your contractions work a lot like those waves at the beach. When they’re strong, they come with power and intensity, and they can easily knock you down. When each one is over, you barely have time to brush yourself off, take a deep breath, and prepare yourself for the next one before that one consumes you, too. Live through this cycle for a couple of hours, and you will likely feel tired, overwhelmed, and ready to give up. You may long for someone to rescue you, like my dad saved me when he propelled my body ashore.

But you may not realize the same piece of information I was missing on my childhood vacation. When you’re dealing with a force as intense as a baby moving out of your body, you need to work with the waves, not against them.

What does this mean exactly in birth? Stop fighting your body. You can’t just wish these waves away. You must work with them. Move with them. Change positions. Breathe deeply. Make noise. Moaning noises. Deep moaning noises. Watch yourself in a mirror. Change positions again. Walk around. Lean into the sensation. Have a snack. Have a laugh. Have someone rub your back or put pressure on your hips. Let go of your fears. Let go of your expectations. Let go of the tension in your body. Just let go. Look deeply into your partner’s eyes. Look deeply inside yourself to find your inner strength. Look ahead to your future, holding your beautiful baby. Believe in yourself. Ride each wave with confidence. YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS. You can do THIS. You only have to ride one wave at a time.

We can all get through anything if we take it just one hard thing at a time.

My son and I stayed in the kiddie end of the ocean that whole week last July. But I gifted him with important information I had not been so lucky to get. “If you ever find yourself up against a big wave, just face it head on, and dive right into it,” I told him.

As with birth and most other hard things in life, it is the only way to come out the other side.


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Is Your Pregnancy Missing Craniosacral Therapy

Gold Coast Doulas asked Kelly Marie O’Brien Pahman to guest blog on the topic of craniosacral therapy. Kelly opened St. Brigid’s Holistic Labor Care in 2009 where she works as a Holistic Doula and in 2014 she added St. Brigid’s Craniosacral Center in order to support clients and their families with Craniosacral therapy. She has enjoyed working on everything from chronic pain , head trauma to the childbearing year. She lives in Grand Rapids MI with her brilliant and kind husband and their 4 year old son.

kelly blog

Several years ago I was pregnant with my son, I was also a doula and had come into a string of exceptionally long labors. I had five births in a row that took days. I found my skills were limited… we had “saved” them from c-sections but this left me shaken. Of the 40 or so births I had attended at the time this felt significant and lead to a turning point in my practice. I went into maternity leave ready to research and find a way to shorten long labors. In my research I found tons on optimal fetal positioning and chiropractic but was specifically drawn to craniosacral therapy. I was eager to learn a gentle and effective method of bodywork that powerfully impacted the childbearing year and beyond. It was then that I began to pursue training with the upledger institute and began seeing the valuable impact it had on the health of women in conception, pregnancy, birth and beyond.

Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a gentle, effective and relaxing therapy. CST is a modality that uses light touch to aid in tissue release and enable the body to come into balance, allowing women and their babies to experience a healthier and more comfortable pregnancy. A session is very much like a massage session but much more gentle and you are fully clothed. Kate McKinnon gives a wonderful description in her video, (Go ahead give it a gander)!

I was excited to incorporate this new tool in my practice. One client in particular, Heather, was on her third pregnancy and suffered pretty severe pubic pain. As a doula pubic pain was always a mystery and in my extensive toolbox I came up at a loss. You can imagine how thrilled I was when after one session I received this text from Heather:

“Still feeling amazing today after the CST! Still standing straight, no issues with hips or pubic bone. My mom even commented that I looked taller and was standing the best she has seen in a long time. I even feel more mentally and emotionally balanced.”

I also noticed shorter labors and other birth workers began sending me their clients in hopes that their breech babies would turn (and they did!).

So how does it work?

During pregnancy CST can bring relief to a myriad of issues for several reasons!

Because of its ability to help your body release tensions and imbalances it invites your body to be in alignment which enables optimal fetal positioning and can alleviate painful pregnancy complications such as migraines, severe pubic pain, low back pain and sciatic pain.

Craniosacral therapy also balances the anatomic nervous system (the part of us that regulates our very basic functions) which causes it to be exceptionally beneficial for anyone dealing with stress, high blood pressure, liver or kidney concerns, nausea or fatigue in pregnancy. I have worked on moms with HELLP syndrome and they have found significant relief. One mother mentioned she didn’t recognize how stressed she was until she became so calm and she likened it to a ‘yoga massage’. All this from a short 20 minute session! My personal experience has been that CST can help stabilize levels in HELLP and prolong the pregnancy to a healthier and more viable place for both the mother and the baby.

Labor and delivery

– What I personally notice in my clients who have received CST is a change in labor pattern, contractions seem to be shorter yet more effective. It is also noted (in Upledger’s handout concerning pregnancy and cst) that while shorter labors are a common benefit of CST it isn’t necessarily the goal. It may be made clear to both the mother and the therapist that a cesarean delivery may be what’s best in that circumstance.

Receiving Care

While it would be ideal to receive treatment throughout your entire pregnancy, many women find exceptional benefit from even one treatment finding a great provider and discussing your goals will help you discern what frequency of visits you desire. You can find a care provider near you by checking out the Upledger website. It would be ideal to find someone who specializes and has training in supporting families during the childbearing year, the level of training a practitioner has received is listed on the Upledger site. If you find someone who offers craniosacral therapy in your area be sure to ask them how they received their training and what their experience is, skillset can vary greatly between providers so make sure you find a credible one who is right for you!

There are virtually no negative side effects and because the therapy is so gentle, the session so enjoyable, and the benefits are so great there is no reason not to set up an appointment today.


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