Monday, January 7, 2013

A Doula's Guide to Preparing For Birth

Today we have a guest blogger, Leslee Boldman, writing her personal recommendations on how to prepare for childbirth. It applies to any birth setting, and I think you will find it especially helpful if it is your first birth. Leslee is a doula in Tallahassee, FL and you can learn more about her and her practice at Bold Birth Doula Services. Thanks Leslee!

Five Things that Should Be on Every Pregnant Woman’s To-Do List

There are a lot of things that go on the to-do list while you’re pregnant. Between the time you find out you're pregnant and the time you give birth, things slowly get crossed off the list one by one.  Here are five important things every pregnant woman should have on their to-do list in preparation for birth:

Read Books on Pregnancy and Childbirth
As with every other topic worth talking about, there are a million books on pregnancy and childbirth. If you’re looking for a book to read during pregnancy to follow with your baby’s growth, check out Simkin's "Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn" or Kitzinger’s “The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth.”  Three of my favorite books that together give a nice round view of childbirth options are Goer’s "Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth," Gaskin’s "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth," and Harper’s "Gentle Birth Choices." Another book that I regularly refer to is “The Birth Partner;” it’s a good read for both you and your partner (and anyone else you’d like to be there when your baby is born) -- pack this one in your hospital bag as a quick reference.  

Sign up for Classes
There are so many types of classes available these days, look around until you find something that suits your envisioned birth.  This is an ideal time to solicit advice from friends and family who’ve had the birth experience you’re looking for.  Ask them about the classes they took (and care providers they used) to see what helped them prepare for the birth they wanted.  For instance, if you are interested in having a natural childbirth, talk with friends who had a natural childbirth to see what classes they took and what doctors/midwives they felt supported by during their birth experience.  If you will be breastfeeding, take a breastfeeding course to give yourself a good foundation.

Build a Support Team
A key to a successful, positive birth experience is to surround yourself with a great support team.  Make sure that everyone who will be there when your baby is born is on the same page as you and will fully support you every step of the way.  If you are worried about a particular relative, talk to them beforehand to let them know exactly how to best help you as part of your birth team.  Hiring a doula is a great idea, and I’m not just saying this because I am a birth doula -- I believe in the power of doula support so much that I knew I needed one on my birth team, too. A doula who has been trained in providing emotional and physical support can be invaluable to a laboring woman and her loved ones.  A common concern is that a doula would take the role of main support person but this isn’t true.  A doula is there for you and your support system during labor, standing alongside your partner and whoever else you’ve chosen to have with you during the big event.  

Write a Birth Plan
There are as many ways to write a birth plan as there are mamas-to-be.  I tend to think of birth plans in a different way from the ones you commonly find online.  I prefer to think of a birth plan as a preparation tool for the mama-to-be and her support team as opposed to a strict set of rules for your care providers to follow while you’re in labor.  As you work on your birth plan, you gather knowledge about all types of experiences with the goal of writing down information for your support team about the specific type of birth you hope to have.  It would benefit both you and your support team to also address how you would like to handle unexpected situations that may arise.  By doing this ahead of time, you will be better equipped to make decisions if you encounter an unforeseen obstacle while you are in labor.  

Pack the Hospital Bag
I received two great pieces of advice about packing for the hospital that I like to share with mamas-to-be that are planning for a hospital birth.  First, bring your own pillows as the hospital never seems to have enough to go around.  Think about how many pillows you need to stay comfortable during the last few weeks of your pregnancy and plan for the hospital to only provide two of that number.  Second, pack two separate hospital bags: one for labor and birth that comes in with you when you arrive at the hospital, and a second that can stay in the car until you settle in after your baby arrives that contains everything you need for the hospital stay.  

Enjoy this time before your baby arrives.  Spoiler alert: parenthood is awesome!

BIO: Leslee Boldman is a DONA certified doula, Co-President of the Tallahassee Doula Co-Op, and owner of Bold Birth Doula Services ( She has been a birth doula since 2005, serving women and their families through the birth process. Her favorite part of being a doula is witnessing the birth of a new family. She and her husband, Dan, started a family of their own in July 2010 with birth of their daughter Sarah, assisted in labor by fellow doula Lindsey Morrow. 

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