10 TIPS FOR Your Best Birth

Pregnancy and birth are so full of questions.  As a doula and childbirth educator, I love to help my clients find answers and determine what is best for them and their babies.  I enjoy helping them work through the pros and cons of any particular choice or circumstance, and go through what the evidence and research shows so that they can make fully informed decisions.

I often hear things like, “What do you think about Dr. So-and-so?”  “Which hospital is the best?” “Will I be allowed to eat/drink/shower/stay home/wear my own clothes?”

In my Gentle Birth workshops and childbirth classes I go over these 10 Tips for your best birth experience:

Anchorage birth doula Alaska childbirth class placenta encapsulation

1. Focus on what can go right! 

We are inundated with scary stories about pregnancy and childbirth in the media, where birth is almost always depicted as an emergency.  Sometimes our friends or family members seem to think our pregnancies are a good time to tell us their horror stories, or that of their best friend’s cousin, or delight in sharing some scary thing they “heard.”  Pregnancy is such a mystery, growing this little person we may get a rare glimpse of via sonogram, or hear their little heartbeat on occasion, feel their kicks and bumps… but otherwise we must choose to trust that all is well and growing accordingly.

We do have some power over our thoughts – we can reframe them and focus on what is going right, right now, and what can go right in the future.  We can look to the evidence that the vast majority of babies are born healthy, to healthy mothers.

Anchorage birth doula Alaska childbirth class placenta encapsulation

2. Choose your birth space carefully

You have a choice in where you give birth.  In Anchorage and Mat-Su, we have several hospitals,  multiple birth centers with midwives that offer birth center, home birth, and hospital delivery, and several home birth midwives.  You have options!  Your birth space and your caregiver is one of the most important choices you can make regarding your pregnancy and your birth.  Choose  wisely!

Anchorage birth doula Alaska childbirth class placenta encapsulation

3. Move your body

Keeping your body moving is so beneficial for a healthy pregnancy and birth!  I love prenatal yoga, walking, and swimming.  For the most part, you can and should continue to do your usual activities and listen to your body for modifications as your baby grows and your balance changes.  I also suggest considering visiting a Chiropractor trained in the Webster Technique Trained to check for and maintain proper spinal and pelvic alignment.

4. Take an independent birth class

I know I’m biased, but I can’t stress the benefits of educating yourself about the childbirth process, comfort techniques and coping skills!  Just like choosing your birth space, finding the right class for you and your partner is important.  There are so many options!  Online, in person, private, group, Hypnobabies, Hypnobirthing, Lamaze, Bradley, GentleBirth!  Reach out to the instructor, ask questions, and determine what class seems like it would be most appropriate for you.

Or, take a couple of different classes, and benefit from the varying styles and bits of wisdom you’ll gather from several methods and philosophies.

5. Hire a doula

Again, biased!  But I have evidence to back me up! 

Doulas are proven to lower stress during pregnancy, shorten labor length, lower pharmaceutical pain medication use, decrease use of Pitocin and forceps, lower rates of cesarean birth, and increase women’s satisfaction with their birth experiences. (Journal of        Perinatal Education, Winter 2013. PMC3647727)

Anchorage birth doula Alaska childbirth class placenta encapsulation

6. Avoid “Negative Nellies”

It’s perfectly okay to stop someone who has begun to relate a scary childbirth experience or story, or scorn your choice of caregiver or birth space.  I like to encourage my clients to say, “That doesn’t sound like something I want to hear right now. I’m focusing on the positive.” And simply change the subject.  Having a ready list of things to talk about instead can come in handy – like something you’ve picked out for the baby’s nursery, or a new restaurant you want to try, or the weather… anything! 

If you have someone in your life that simply won’t let up, it’s okay to avoid engaging them in conversation about your pregnancy or birth choices.  Just like a mama bear protects her cubs,  you can protect your mental and emotional health and protect your baby from negative influence in your mind and heart.

Anchorage birth doula Alaska childbirth class placenta encapsulation

7. Prepare your partner

Does your partner feel ready?  Perhaps a class just for them would help?  Would they like to go  to consults for potential pediatricians?  Are there books or movies that might be reassuring? Can   your doula or childbirth educator offer tips on any of these, or support for breastfeeding, swaddling, baby wearing, diapering? 

 

 

8. Write your birth preferences

I like to give my clients planning a hospital birth a one-page bullet-point template for writing up their own birth preferences.  I find that the staff in labor and delivery are generally receptive to reading and honoring these.  Calling it birth preferences rather than a “plan” allows space for things to change if need be as labor progresses.

9. Labor in water

Water is nature’s pain relief! Use the warm, soothing spray of a shower on your back or belly, or submerge in a bathtub.  Contractions are sometimes called “waves”, and working through the waves of labor in water is a soothing and relaxing way to experience birth.

Anchorage birth doula Alaska childbirth class placenta encapsulation

10. Build your labor toolkit

Recipe for filling your labor toolkit with the tools you’ll need for the hard work of labor:

  • Select the right caregiver and birth space.
  • Seek education for you and your partner.
  • Think and talk through your preferences for your birth.
  • Hire a caring, attentive support person to provide all of the physical, emotional, and informational support you might need during the big day.

Combine and mix well with your open heart and mind.

Now relax and prepare to experience your best, most positive birth!

XO,
Shanna

 

WORLD DOULA WEEK

 

It’s World Doula Week! Every year, from March 22nd-28th, doulas around the world celebrate the passion and privilege we have to serve women and their families during their pregnancies and postpartum, and the special, intimate experience it is to support and hold space for them as they bring their beautiful babies into the world.  Take some time this week to call, text, or meet up with and hug your favorite doula in person!

 

I thought #worlddoulaweek would be a great time to share a little more about my path to birth work, *and* encourage you to check out Moss and Myrrh Photography, owned by my sweet and talented friend, Ashton.  Need some feel-good vibes?  Just go skim through her blog, full of the beauty and love of birth, babies, and motherhood.  

IMG_6723

 

A few months ago, Ashton shared with me that she’d done a poll asking her local followers and friends to share their favorite caregivers for birth and baby related services.  I was humbled and shocked that she’d had my name mentioned more than once, and super touched when she asked if she could ask me some questions for a feature on her blog.  Much of my doula journey is there in the link, PLUS I’m in love with these pictures she caught of me and my youngest, Sebastian, click and go see!

Did you have an awesome doula that you want to tell the world about?  Shout it out in the comments, and let’s spread some doula love! #doulasbenefiteveryone

XO,

Shanna

Anchorage Alaska Doula Services

DOULAS AND PARTNERS, A WINNING COMBINATION

During my initial consultations with pregnant women, I always ask how their partner is feeling about the idea of including a doula on their birth team. Sometimes, partners are more than happy to welcome the support a doula can provide. But more often than not, I get a “welllll… they’re a little nervous about it…” or some form of “they just want to know how to help me, but seem worried about being replaced…”

Listen, guys. I get it. You might be feeling a little hurt if your wife or partner wants to hire a doula for your baby’s birth. What can a doula offer her that you can’t? Will she take your place or get in the way? What exactly does a doula do, anyway?

Let me reassure you that doulas can greatly benefit not only the woman you love, but YOU, as well.

A Doula is a person who is trained to assist a woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born. Doulas support laboring women and their partners emotionally, physically, and with any information they might need to make informed decisions as labor progresses. Doulas do not provide medical care. A Doula is generally independently contracted by and works directly for the laboring person and her partner, with the role and goal of supporting, encouraging, and remaining with the laboring person throughout her birth.

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna

1. Doulas understand the jargon and speak the language of birth. Dilation? Effacement? Station? Hep lock? Anterior, posterior, cervical lip? Um… What? Your doula knows, and she’s like a medical interpreter, clarifying the terminology from your providers and sharing it with you in a way that is easy to make sense of. She will make sure you understand what is happening, every step of the way. You don’t have to remember all those details from childbirth class, your doula will refresh your memory and clarify anything confusing.

2. She will spot you so that you can take a break. Labor can take time. Nurses and doctors come and go. Doulas don’t leave. She will be there so that you can go to the bathroom, take a short nap, have a real meal. She’ll be sure to send you for breaks so that you’ll be energetic and focused when your partner needs you most.

3. Doulas know the right questions to ask. They will remind you about your plan and encourage you to take time to consider your options. Your doula will provide information to help you make appropriate decisions and facilitate communication between your partner, her medical care providers, and you. She will reassure you to remember your voice. Doulas are skilled at offering different alternatives for any given situation. Labor is unpredictable, but she will always be ready with suggestions to try, pros and cons of any proposed change in plan, etc. Since doulas work for you, they are an unbiased source of knowledge and resource whose only goal is the well-being and healthy outcome of the birth. They are your advocate, friend, and a steady stream of emotional and informational support.

4. Doulas know how to comfort laboring women, and a doula will make you look GOOD. During her labor, you will likely see your partner in a way you’ve never seen her before. Doulas excel at giving dads the tools and tips they need to help comfort and soothe their partners. Your doula will model the calm, quiet, peaceful demeanor your laboring partner needs to see. When she forgets the breathing exercises you learned in childbirth class, your doula will remind you how to breathe with her. When her back or hips ache, your doula knows how to guide your hands to give her relief. When she says she can’t do it any more, your doula will be right there with you, reassuring you both and encouraging her that she IS doing it. Your tender touch and reassuring words will be the ones your partner always remembers. Your doula will be an ever-present encourager, supplying you both with suggestions and support.

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

“Studies show that when doulas are present at birth, women have shorter labors, fewer medical interventions, fewer cesareans and healthier babies. Recent evidence also suggests that when a doula provides labor support, women are more satisfied with their experience and the mother-infant interaction is enhanced as long as two months after the birth. With doula support, fathers tend to stay more involved with their partner rather than pull away in times of stress. The father’s presence and loving support in childbirth is comforting and reassuring. The love he shares with the mother and his child, his needs to nurture and protect his family are priceless gifts that only he can provide. With her partner and a doula at birth a mother can have the best of both worlds: her partner’s loving care and attention and the doula’s expertise and guidance in childbirth.” –www.dona.org

Partners are often able to participate in labor and birth more fully with a doula present. Much of the fear and worry about the safety of his or her unborn child and partner are removed when a doula is present because she can provide informational support about the labor as it progresses, and her calming influence allows the partner to give the love and support needed, in a way that is most effective and comforting. The presence of a doula complements a partner’s role and strengthens it, allowing him or her to more fully experience the joy and wonder of welcoming their baby into the world.

Doulas and partners are a winning combination. Supported birthing person, empowered partner. Birth. Do it with a doula.

XO,

Shanna

Anchorage Alaska Birth Services

DO YOU KNOW THE DOULA?

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes PlacentaHi and welcome! 

I’m Shanna.  It rhymes with Hannah, not Donna… and nope, not Shannon.  My sweet mom saddled me with a name that’s a pain to explain. Anyway, enough of that.  I’m so glad you’re here!  Whether you’re pregnant and considering a birth doula, interested in postpartum doula support, or looking for information on becoming a doula yourself, I’d love to meet with you and encourage you on your journey. Let me tell you a little bit about me and why I’m a doula, and why I love being Alaska Birth Doula, and owner and operator of Anchorage Alaska Birth Services.  

First and foremost:

I absolutely love supporting women through pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum.  It is my passion; breath and life to me.  It makes my soul sing, and I still can’t believe I get paid to do this amazing work. 

It is an honor.  A privilege. A blessing.  

  1.  I was inspired to become a doula when I was pregnant with my second child, in 2006.   I had read the “birth bible”, Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and recognized through the beautiful stories that the support of someone who knows and is comfortable with the natural progression of labor during birth is priceless.  The soothing words they would speak, and the physical support through massage and touch were obviously so beneficial to the laboring women.  I knew I wanted to experience that.  
  2.  My first doula baby was born in 2009. I had dipped my toes into birth work, inquiring with a doula friend about her experience, and I was asked if I’d like to shadow another doula as she supported a laboring mother with her first birth.  While I had experienced 3 births of my own at that point, I’d never witnessed someone else giving birth in person, and to be truly with a woman, breathing with her, speaking words of encouragement and peace to her, bawling along with her when her wet and wailing baby girl was placed on her chest… I was never the same.  I had to do this work.  I was made to do this work!
  3.  My own four births shaped me as a woman and as a mother. Birth matters.  The way we are made to feel when we experience birth matters.  It is important that a laboring woman be given the information she needs to be in control of the many decisions to be made during her birth.  We may not remember every detail of each birth, but we will always remember the way we felt; whether we were supported, listened to, trusted, and empowered.  
  4. I believe in birth. ALL birth. Natural birth.  Medicated birth.  Vaginal birth.  Cesarean birth.  Hospital birth.  Birth Centers. Home birth.  I believe women are uniquely, intricately, wonderfully designed to give birth, and I also believe in a woman’s right to decide she wants to birth with augmentation or medication.  I will provide information; benefits, risks, advantages, and disadvantages. Ultimately, I believe in supporting women energetically, emotionally, physically, and with the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their babies.
  5. I love being woken up to attend a laboring woman.  Yep.  I’m on call most of the time.  That means no wine with dinner (or just a sip!) Having my cell phone on at all times and never being without it.  Making sure camping spots are within an hour’s drive of my client’s birth space, and that I have phone service! (Oh, Alaska…) Having my doula bag packed and with me.  I get a thrill every time I get a call that starts out “I think I might be in labor…”
  6.  Last but not least, I love coffee with lots of cream and sugar.  And chocolate, especially when it’s surrounding or coupled with peanut butter.  And wine — my favorite way to celebrate a birth, right before I take a nice long nap!

I am a doula.  It’s not just what I do.  It’s who I am, and exactly what I was made to be.

XO,

Shanna

Anchorage Doula Shanna Alaska Birth Services