Ask the Expert recap: The Birth Zone

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We recently welcomed Jasmine Sassack for an Ask the Expert activity. @JasmineTheDoula is owner and founder of The Birth Zone, a boutique doula agency serving the Chicago and Milwaukee areas, who recently interviewed ConceiveAbilities' Clinical Nurse Liaison @Kristina F. on the Birth Zone podcast

Thanks to @JasmineTheDoula and all the members who participated in this activity. Every member who submitted a question in this activity was entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and we're pleased to announce that @larissalien is the winner of this random draw! 

Q: I'm super curious about how you started your doula journey! I read in the bio that you helped your friend, was this before or after you became a doula? I just love that! How does one become a doula? - @larissalien

JS: Hi! Doulas were just becoming a "thing" twenty years ago when I attended my friend's birth. I didn't even know the term until I went home from that delivery and looked up "professional birth coach." I knew what I wanted to do with my life, I just didn't know what it was called!

There are a few things to remember when becoming a doula:

First, most of us are self-employed/business owners. Most of us either take on private clients, or work as independent contractors for an agency. In either case, you only get paid when you have clients, and you have to manage all your own expenses and taxes. The most successful doulas are those who are good entrepreneurs. So don't skip researching and learning about how to build and market a business.

Second, many hospitals now require certification to allow you to attend the birth as an additional support person. However, no one is regulating certification and literally anyone can create a website or post on Facebook that they offer doula certification. I strongly advise going with a reputable company that comes highly recommended. I certified through ProDoula and I've been very happy with the education and support I've received through them.

Finally, my advice is to charge what your time is worth. Many people go into this business because they find birth amazing: and it is! But doula work is hard and draining. It costs money to: become certified, market yourself, hire babysitters, buy gas, etc. It also costs a lot of your time and energy as you can't easily go on vacations while on call. Your sleep is disrupted often not only for births but also middle-of-the-night calls and texts from your clients. You'll often be at a birth for 24+ hours. In order for this to be sustainable, and for the doula profession to grow, it's important to charge a fair living wage for yourself.

Q: What are the top two questions/topics you suggest a patient discuss with their OB/midwife prior to delivery to help with goal setting/expectations? - @Mlmeier

JS: When trying to choose a medical provider for birth I always recommend asking their cesarean rate. If you want a cesarean birth this is your opportunity to ask how the provider feels about performing patient-selected c-sections. If you're hoping to avoid a cesarean it's important to find a provider who has a low rate - that shows you that they're willing to go the distance to achieve a vaginal delivery for their clients.

Next I recommend discussing your birth goals early on with your provider. If you want an unmedicated or low-intervention birth make sure you find out under what circumstances your provider feels inductions become necessary. Do they only induce for medical necessity? Do they prefer to induce everyone at 39 weeks instead of 41 or 42? How do they feel about utilizing or not utilizing epidurals during labor? Will they "allow" eating in labor? Figure out what's important to you and have those discussions early on.

Most important is how your provider makes you feel as a person. Do they take the time to answer your questions? Do they respect your concerns? Do they phrase requests as questions or demands? For example, there is a big difference between "I'm going to do a cervical exam now," and "How would you feel about me doing a cervical exam on you now?"

Q: Never having a doula before, what is the most common way a doula supports during labor? - @Graves_cassidy

JS: Doulas help during your entire pregnancy actually! We provide evidence-based education, answer questions about your personal experiences, and help ease anxiety and fears.

During labor we help you assess when it's time to call your provider or head to the hospital. In early labor we can join you in your home to provide reassurance and comfort. During active labor we help provide physical relief by utilizing pressure-points to release tension in the hips and lower back. We suggest labor positions that might help rotate a mis-aligned baby into a more optimal position for birth. We help you find your voice to ask medical staff questions about the risks and benefits of available interventions, and help you advocate for your wishes.

If you have a partner present we help them feel relaxed and reassured throughout the entire process so that they can focus on supporting you instead of worrying at every single turn of events. Much of what we do is what you'd home a really helpful mom or older sister might do for you, but without the family drama and baggage! We come without any agenda or judgments and encourage you to make the choices that YOU want.

Q: Have you attended any hypnobirths? If so, what are your thoughts on hypnobirthing? - @Keoff

JS: I taught HypnoBirthing classes for several years, and I used it at my own births! I love the principles and tools of HypnoBirthing.

I also think it's important to be educated about a variety of the most common birth scenarios including epidurals, inductions, and cesarean sections. Some HypnoBirthing classes don't teach anything about these common medical interventions, and that lack of education can increase anxiety and even trauma if any of those methods are used.

So if studying HypnoBirthing, I just recommend also taking a more well-rounded class such as the Evidence Based Birth classes.

Q: What is your top piece of advice or top technique that you use the most when helping someone thru delivery ? I have never used a doula :( - @lesliekayw

JS: I have a couple top tips:

  1. Choose your birth location carefully - make sure they support the type of birth you want on a regular basis. Hospital policies dictate a lot of the experience.
  2. Don't be afraid to advocate for what you want! Take the time to ask lots of questions, and don't be afraid to ask for more time to consider your options before committing to anything.
  3. Bring a TENS unit to the birth - that can really help get you through some intense contractions! They aren't all that expensive to purchase via amazon.
  4. Use a shower or bath in labor - we call it the "midwife's epidural."

Good luck!!!