birth options

Doulas & Epidurals

One of the common misconceptions about doulas is that we only support natural, unmedicated birth. And while we absolutely provide valuable physical support for natural births, we also have an incredible amount of expertise and support for those who plan on getting an epidural. 

Have you ever thought about hiring a doula, but hesitated because getting an epidural was a part of your birth plan? Well, on today's blog we'll talk all about how doulas can assist and care for you during your unique (and pain-free!) birth. 

If you're here, you probably already know what a doula does... at least in theory. A doula is a trained birth assistant that is present at your birth to support you and your partner. That is the very foundation of what a doula does: SUPPORT, SUPPORT, SUPPORT. And in such a way that helps empower you and build your confidence. As your doulas, we trust that you are an adult and can make the right decisions for you and your baby - and if that includes pain medication in labor - then we are all for it!  

Your doula meets with you prenatally to get to know you and learn more about your unique birth plan. It is during these meetings that you can explore your options for pain relief in childbirth and learn all about how your doula will be there for you throughout the entire process. If you have questions about the risks or benefits of epidurals as well as questions about the procedure itself, this is a great time to chat about all of that. We also highly recommend taking our Confident Birth childbirth class where we talk a lot about the various options for pain relief in labor: both natural and medicated. 

One of the things we talk about in this class is the WHY... why people choose epidurals in labor. 

It can be difficult to let go and surrender yourself to the physical changes happening in your body during labor. If your body is extremely tight or you aren't fully able to relax during contractions, it can potentially hinder cervical change making your labor longer and more intense. If this is the case an epidural can provide relief from the intensity, allowing your cervix and body to relax and open. For women with longer labors, an epidural can allow them time to rest and build up energy reserves as they approach the pushing stage. Some choose to have epidurals simply because they are fearful of the pain and have no desire to feel the contractions. The reasons are unique to each individual and there are many more than what we've listed here. 

For those that choose to have epidural pain relief, we want you to know that this is a choice we fully support and encourage you to talk to your doula or care provider about the specifics at your place of birth. Every hospital is different. Some hospitals want to ensure you're in active labor before administering an epidural and some won't give it to you after you're dilation reaches a certain point. Some hospitals allow your doula during the procedure, while others request that only your partner remains in the room. Knowing what to fully expect during this process can help put you at ease and make sure you're mentally and emotionally prepared. 

Once your epidural has been administered and you begin to feel the relief it provides, there are many ways your doula can continue to support you. 

Because you now must remain in bed, your doula will assist you in shifting from side to side for comfort and help support your body with pillows so you remain relaxed and are able to rest. It’s important to change position frequently to aid continued relief throughout your labor as well as to assist the baby in navigating the changing diameters of the pelvis. Your doula can utilize a peanut ball to keep the pelvic outlet open for your baby's descent. If your hospital doesn't have peanut balls, we recommend purchasing one as they are one of the best tools to use to prevent cesareans. 

Massage is another wonderful tool. Because your body and brain are no longer consumed with coping with the intensity of your contractions you can more easily move into a deeper state of relaxation. If you aren't sleeping your doula can massage your scalp, hands, hips and low back to keep you relaxed and help you stay present emotionally. She can also utilize other tools such as aromatherapy, guided meditation, and acupressure. We encourage as much rest as possible once you've received your epidural so you are fully energized when it comes time to push. 

Each doula is unique in her approach to supporting you through your epidural and will be by your side to get you through it. For more information about birth doula services, we invite you to schedule a time to chat with us. We'd love to hear about you and match you with a wonderful epidural-friendly doula!

Surviving Prodromal Labor

Start. Stop. Start. Stop.

Contractions come consistently for 4 hours. Then nothing. You fall into a sleepy abyss of nothingness for a few hours before the contractions start up again. And again, they stop.

The next morning you have random and mild contractions. There's no pattern, no consistency, just annoying pain that lasts all day long. Sometime in the mid afternoon you nap and they go away.

Night time falls, the moon rises... they're back. Coming every 3 minutes. Your back and hips ache beyond belief. You're convinced this is it.

You call your doula. She comes to your home to support you but hours later, the contractions slow and eventually stop.

This is prodromal labor. And it is, (pardon my French), a total mind fuck. 

Some people call prodromal "false labor" but the reality is, there's nothing false about it. The contractions are real. What you're feeling is real. The mind games are real. Calling it false labor discounts what the laboring woman is feeling and can make her feel as if her body is broken or unable to dilate. This is simply not the case. 

The biggest challenge with prodromal labor is that while the contractions are real, they typically aren't strong enough or consistent enough to dilate your cervix, thus prolonging your labor and wearing you out in the process... physically, mentally and emotionally.

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So how do you avoid wearing yourself out?

Surviving prodromal labor requires a lot of support, so before you reach the end of your pregnancy, I recommend having a system in place in the event this is a part of your birth journey. 

Call Your Doula

This is why you hired her. She will provide emotional support to help you stay present and encouraged. Her expertise will help you determine if this is prodromal or early labor. She'll be able to give you tips on various positions or comfort measures that can help you stay relaxed. Don't be afraid to call her or ask for help. She is always there for you.

Re-Program Your Brain

So much of the labor game is mental. As you can imagine, days or weeks of start and stop contractions would discourage anyone. Build yourself up and get your mind right with affirmations. Print some out and put them all over your house, in every room. Repeat them out loud to reinforce their meaning and strength. 

Further, reframe your thoughts around prodromal labor by looking at it as a warm up or a rehearsal for the big day. Use this time to practice your breathing, relaxation and comfort measure techniques that you learned in childbirth class. Get your partner involved with some hands-on support to provide physical relief. 

Rest When You Can

Don't hate me. I know rest is what you crave and I know it can be hard to come by with prodromal labor. Find respite in the breaks and sleep when your body allows you to. If you can't sleep, keep the nighttime restful with gentle yoga, warm baths, meditation or something equally relaxing. Can't find a comfortable position? Check out Spinning Babies for supportive positions that encourage relaxation and more optimal positioning of your baby. 

Another option for rest is called "therapeutic rest." If your prodromal labor has prevented you from getting quality sleep for days or weeks, talk to your care provider about this option. Therapeutic rest involves medication such as Ambien or Nubain to relax your body and mind to get you to sleep. Often times therapeutic rest is the catalyst for kick starting your labor. 

Nourish Yourself

It's easy to be distracted by this annoying labor pattern, not to mention the discomfort or exhaustion may limit your appetite. But nutrition is just as important now as it is in active labor. Eat smaller, high protein meals to keep you fuller longer or try hydrating soups that will nourish your tired soul as well as your hard-working body. Stay hydrated with coconut water, fresh juice, electrolyte drinks or tea. 

Dig deeper into self-care and go get a relaxing massage or a pedicure. Not only do these promote relaxation, but certain acupressure points might move labor along. 

Be Gentle With Yourself

Ignore your contractions for a long as you can. Alternate rest and activity. Do normal things for as long as you feel comfortable and when your energy is tapped out, give yourself space to rest. Remember, your body is warming up and working hard, so give yourself grace and compassion. Know that you will not be pregnant forever and that in time this prodromal labor pattern will shift and your baby will come. 

Prodromal labor can be incredibly challenging and disheartening. But with the right frame of mind and the right support, you will get through it. Did you experience prodromal labor? Share about your experience below and tips on what worked!

The Marathon of Birth: Part 1, Early Labor

The beginning of the labor process can bring a range of emotions. Relief, fear, anxiety, excitement, nervousness... all while wondering if you've done everything you can to prepare. Maybe you're the type of person to double check your hospital bag to make sure you have all you need. Or perhaps you get so overwhelmed with the excitement that you exhaust yourself and need a nap. Rest easy, knowing that all of these responses are normal and to be expected.

Decision Making & Using Your BRAIN

You've taken the classes, you've read the books and you have created a birth plan complete with your personal preferences for your baby's birth. But as we all know, things don't always go as planned. And while we are big proponents of doing your research to establish some expectations, we also recognize that birth can be unpredictable. 

Because of this unpredictability, we believe in the importance of being aware of your options as well as your right to informed consent and refusal.

What is informed consent and refusal you ask?

In The Spotlight: Midwife Nancy Pol

What better person to feature during one of the biggest baby boom months of the year than a midwife! A special shout out to all of you who got busy around Christmas & New Years... you've kept the doulas, midwives and doctors on their toes this month!

Have you had the chance to meet Nancy Pol yet? If not, put it on your to-do list, especially if you are expecting or plan to become pregnant soon.

Nancy is a Certified Nurse Midwife (and all around amazing human being) with Beach Cities Midwifery. Beach Cities Midwifery has 3 birth centers to serve the growing families in Southern California: Laguna Hills, Long Beach, & Corona. They provide well-rounded, client-centered care for all women, but especially the pregnant and birthing ones. Nancy is just one of the incredible baby catchers they have on staff. 

We had the honor to chat with Nancy about her work as a midwife, her passion for serving families, and the other things that bring her joy in life.