Anchorage Doula Shanna Switzer Birth Services

Pain relieving techniques for an easier birth

As a birth witness, supporter, and educator, I’m often asked about the most helpful tools for laboring women – which comfort techniques are best?  What about breathing?  Positions? 

I was graciously given some photos from a couple of births I supported as a doula recently, and thought I would compile those along with some others into one blog post, and a photo “series” on comfort measures on instagram and facebook.

Follow along for details about the labor support tools and comfort measures for labor that I use most often in my doula work, and model and suggest to workshop and class attendees:

 

Birth Location

You might not consider this a comfort “technique”, per se, but think about it for a minute and you’ll see what I mean.  Birthing women desire privacy, safety, and support.  When she thinks about where she wants to give birth, what option makes her feel most safe?  Most American women choose hospital birth, but does she know she has options?  Home Birth and Birth Centers offer a more cozy, relaxed atmosphere, and smaller, more intimate staff experience.  When we think about comfort, choosing a birth space is an important – if not the most important -component of birth planning.

I would love to discuss the options available to you in southcentral Alaska.  Contact me any time if you’re curious and would like to chat!

 

Freedom to move

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

Laboring strongly and peacefully in a queen sized bed at a birth center, her partner close, me applying counter pressure and verbal reassurance.

  • Dim, soft lighting
  • Known by her midwife
  • She is in control
  • Her music was playing softly throughout her labor

 

birth ball/Peanut Ball

anchorage doula shanna switzer alaska birth doula

Rocking and swaying her hips, gently bouncing between contractions. Partner close, me applying counter pressure, hip squeezes and verbal affirmation.

  • Movement helps baby descend
  • Sitting on a birth ball can ease back labor
  • Being upright puts laboring mama in a position of power
  • See peanut ball being used below – peanut balls can also be used in a variety of ways to ease discomfort

 

Warm Water

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes Placenta

anchorage doula shanna switzer alaska birth services

Often referred to as “nature’s epidural”, the tub or shower is a wonderful place to labor.  In the top photo, mama is listening to music and laboring with her husband while sitting in a labor tub.  In the bottom photo, I am spraying warm water on laboring mama’s back while she sways on her hands and knees in the shower.

  • Water is soothing and naturally relaxes the body
  • Being in the shower can help labor progress more quickly
  • Sinking into a tub can give a laboring mama a reprieve and ease contraction intensity

 

Body Balancing

anchorage doula shanna switzer alaska birth services

Spinning Babies Body Balancing Techniques like the side lying release shown above can help relax laboring mama, and make space in her body for the baby to get in a good position for birth.

  • Many body balancing techniques feel relaxing and soothing to laboring women.
  • We don’t move the baby, we make space for the baby to move.
  • Work with someone trained in body balancing techniques for best results

 

Hip Squeeze

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

Hip squeezes – a hallmark doula “move”! 

  • Feel SO good
  • Make room for the baby to move through the pelvis
  • Help “ground” laboring mama with touch
  • Ease back labor and hip pain during and between contractions

 

Rebozo

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

Rebozo Sifting (how many sweet bellies and babies has my rebozo sifted? Dozens.) 

  • Can be used to help “jiggle” a baby into a better position for birth
  • Make room for the baby to move through the pelvis
  • Lifts the weight of the baby off of mama’s back, and can relieve pressure and back pain for laboring mama

 

Anchorage Alaska Doula Services

Rebozo tied on to provide lift and support for this second-time mama’s belly, peanut ball between her back and the wall so that she could move up and down with counter pressure on her back.  Husband supporting her in front.

 

Essential Oils/Aromatheraphy

Anchorage Alaska Doula Services

Aromatherapy.  Laboring mama was smelling her favorite essential oil, wanting it held close so that she could breathe it in deeply during contractions.

  • Many studies show aromatherapy is useful for pain and nausea relief
  • As a doula, I don’t generally apply or diffuse essential oils unless a client asks, but am happy to support their use for my clients who wish to use them.

 

Supporting Client/Partner connection

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

Acupressure while mama and partner are close and connected

  • Neck, shoulder, back, hip, foot, and hand massage to relieve tension
  • Mama stays connected emotionally and physically to her partner
  • As a doula, I work to enhance laboring mama’s connection to her partner, never to take their place.
  • Modeling verbal and physical support boosts partners confidence 

 

Pushing Positions

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes Placenta

Using a Birthing Stool to push, partner supported

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes Placenta

Using a Squat Bar to push, partner supported

  • Assisting women to find the positions that they find most comfortable and effective for the pushing phase of labor
  • Offering a mirror or reminding laboring women that they can touch their body and baby to feel progress
  • Supporting women in bed, on a birthing stool, in a tub or shower, or using a rebozo or squat bar

 Pain Medications

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes Placenta

Comfort Measures for labor


Some of Doula Shanna’s favorite ways to comfort and support laboring women and their partners

 

 

“Just as a woman’s heart knows how and when to pump, her lungs to inhale, and her hand to pull back from fire, so she knows when and how to give birth.”

Virginia Di Orio

 

 

anchorage doula shanna alaska birth services

Nitrous Oxide is an option in two local Anchorage-area hospitals and one birth center.  Ask me for more details

  • Narcotic, Epidural, and Nitrous Oxide
  • Widely used and generally regarded as safe
  • A tool that can be useful in certain situations
  • Narcotic and Epidural are not available in birth centers or at home

Pharmaceutical pain medication is an option in hospital births.  As a doula, I support all birthing choices, and trust you to know what you need for your best birth.  I work with my clients to use all of the comfort measures and tools available to her, and sometimes an epidural or narcotic pain medication is exactly what she and her baby need.  If a non-medicated birth is her goal, I will support her in using all of the other methods first, to be certain her change of plan is what she prefers.

 

In Summary

Every birth and every laboring woman is different.  Some comfort measures that I use often can’t be depicted in photos – like verbal affirmation, meditation,  visualization, music, and  prayer, and I didn’t touch on less-used methods that are useful in certain situations, like a TENS unit or sterile water injections… 

My philosophy as an educator and doula is that you have many, many tools and options available as you prepare for your baby’s birth.  Take a comprehensive childbirth class or private birth prep session to learn more about those tools and make sure you have them available when you need them.  Or, hire a doula and be supported by a birth expert who specializes in knowing and using just the right comfort technique at just the right time!

My best wishes for your best birth,

Shanna XO

alaska birth doula services shanna switzer

***Many thanks to Nurturing Birth Photography & Blueberry Hill Photography for some of the images in this post.

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.  

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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

Postpartum Prep: A PRACTICAL LIST OF ESSENTIALS FOR YOUR TENDER POST-BABY BODY

As you prepare for baby and carefully consider all that your new little one will need, don’t neglect to prepare for self-care! Consider gathering some of the following postpartum prep items to have on hand for your comfort and relief after your baby is born.

Vaginal Birth:

1. Peri Bottle

You will likely be given a peri bottle if you give birth in a hospital or with midwives in either a birth center or at home.  Filling this bottle with warm water and squirting it on your perineum while you urinate can help encourage urination and take the sting out of urine on sore tissues.  Once your bladder is empty, fill the bottle with warm water and squirt again to clean the area, and then gently pat dry.  Plan to have a peri bottle in each bathroom and bring one in your baby bag if you’ll be away from home in the early days after your baby is born.

peri-bottle

2. Sitz Bath

A sitz bath is a small plastic tub that fits into your toilet rim and you can use it as a mini bath for your bottom.  This also keeps the area clean, can encourage urination, and help with healing.  Many women find sitz baths offer much relief and comfort for sore tissues.  Your hospital may have one or you can find them at any pharmacy.  Dermaplast is an over the counter cooling, numbing spray that can ease the irritation and discomfort of a sore perineum or stitches.  Ask your caregiver for their recommendations if you still feel sore after trying these.

Vaginal or Cesarean Birth:

3. Witch Hazel or Tucks pads, Padsicles

Witch Hazel is an astringent, useful for helping to shrink hemorrhoids and soothe sore bottoms.  You can gently apply witch hazel on a cotton ball, or buy ready-made wipes or pads, like Tucks.  You can also apply witch hazel to maxi pads and freeze them to make icy cold “padsicles”.  Many women find these very soothing for swollen and sore parts.

tucks

4. Doughnut pillow

Some women experience tailbone (coccydynia) or pelvic floor pain after pregnancy and birth.  A doughnut shaped pillow can help to relieve this discomfort.  Most pharmacies have pillows, or you can try a DIY  with a pool noodle formed into a ring with duct tape.

5. Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is preferred by most caregivers for pain relief, afterbirth cramping, inflammation and soreness.  800 mg every 8 hours is the typical prescription, but check with your caregiver for their recommendation if it doesn’t seem to be working well enough for you.

6. Colace (stool softener)

To ease those first few postpartum bowel movements, you may want to consider a stool softener, no matter how you delivered your baby.  Pain medications can make your bowels more sluggish, and Colace can be taken as needed to help keep things gently moving.  It does not cause intestinal cramping, is generally well tolerated, and is available over the counter.

7. Maxi Pads 

You’ll want extra-long or overnight with wings.  Initial postpartum bleeding can be very heavy, at least for the first few days.  Bleeding, called Lochia, is normal for several weeks following the birth of your baby.  It will be very heavy and red at first, tapering off to brown and then more yellowish.  During this time, you’ll need to use pads rather than tampons or cups, and not introduce anything into the vagina until the bleeding has ended.

8. Mesh (granny) panties or Depends, a belly binder

If you give birth in the hospital, you will be given mesh panties after your baby is born.  They are snug and high waisted, which many women like because they tend to hold your loose belly in.  You can tuck a pad or ice pack inside.  Some women like to wear Depends disposable undergarments for the first few days of heavy bleeding, again with a maxi pad, ice pack, or padsicle tucked in.

After your baby is born, it takes some time for your abdominal muscles to return to normal and your belly and back muscles will feel a bit loose.  Some women like the way an abdominal binder or Bengkung belly binding helps them to feel more held together as they regain core strength.

depends

9. Nursing pads –Disposable or reusable

When you nurse your baby, you will experience a release of milk from your breasts called a “let down.” Sometimes when you nurse from one side, the other breast will leak, and when you hear your baby cry, you may also leak milk.  Nursing pads tucked into your bra will catch the leakage and keep you from needing to change your shirt multiple times a day. (Though that will probably still happen, babies can be so messy!) You might also like to buy a couple of nursing tank tops.  These usually have a shelf bra and snap down sides for ease when nursing, they are comfortable and stretch for engorgement, and you can tuck nursing pads inside.   If you don’t plan to breastfeed, you will still need pads for a little while and you may want to buy a head of cabbage, as the leaves tucked into your bra will help with engorgement.

10. Nipple Cream

Sometimes your nursing baby will cause your nipples to become sore.  A cream like Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter, or a lanolin based ointment like Lansinoh can soothe and protect sore nipples.

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Finally, you’ll need support.  Have you made a list of friends or family you can call?  Have you connected with our local postpartum or baby groups?  Do you have your doula’s number in your phone?

Experienced parents, what would you add to the list?  

XO,

Shanna