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Acupuncture in Pregnancy

By Dr. Liz Carlson at commonpoint.care

At the age of 6, I missed an entire birthday party hiding in a basement, willing the family’s St. Bernard to go into labor. As an 8 year old, I recall boldly asking my mother’s coworker to pull down her pants so that I could see her c-section incision. At a high school party, I hung out with the mother, an IVF nurse, trying to squeeze all of my questions about fertility into one night.

When I attended Bowdoin College, I still didn’t recognize my affinity towards fertility + pregnancy, and studied psychology with the intent of becoming a child psychologist. It was my mother’s journey with Parkinson’s disease that introduced me to the world of functional medicine; I went on to study acupuncture + Chinese Medicine and within this practice settled into my niche focused on women’s health. In the earlier part of my career when my clinic wasn’t as busy, I served as a birth doula, a deeply gratifying experience for that 6 year old that never had the chance to help welcome the puppies (the dog wasn’t even pregnant by the way, she was just old with a bunch of fatty tumors).
Today, I am here as a guest of NYC Birth Village Doulas and so happy to have a chance to explain more to you about how we use acupuncture + Chinese medicine to support pregnancy and overall health. I encourage you to get in touch with questions so I can explain more or help you find an experienced practitioner, a short and safe commute from you.

What is acupuncture?

Sometimes, the term acupuncture refers to –– you guessed it –– the physical act of acupuncture: hair-thin needles placed into specific, electrically active points to elicit a variety of responses from your brain and body.

Just as often, the term acupuncture is used to refer to the practice of Chinese medicine as a whole. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complete medical system, functional in its approach. This means that we ask “why?”, and identify the root causes of imbalance. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a holistic medicine that considers your entire system –– mind and body. We like to call it “the original lifestyle medicine.”

Beyond acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine entails herbal medicine, dietary + exercise therapy, moxibustion (heat therapy), cupping and other manual therapies.

Why might I use acupuncture in my pregnancy?

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are really good at filling in for the deficiencies of Western medicine and treating conditions that you wouldn’t necessarily run to your doctor for –– or conditions that your doctor wouldn’t have much of an answer for beyond writing a prescription. As we know, many of the pharmaceuticals we lean on normally often aren’t an option in pregnancy.

To put it simply, acupuncture triggers the body’s innate healing response. Depending on what we are targeting, acupuncture works on the electrical, chemical, and/or physical level.

Acupuncture elicits our body’s feel good hormones, increases circulation and helps our body move into the “rest + digest” (parasympathetic) state where all healing and recovery take place.

Acupuncture is not only extremely safe, but also useful for a variety of pregnancy symptoms such as:

  • digestive discomfort (such as nausea, constipation, heartburn)
  • headaches + sinus pressure
  • anxiety + depression
  • insomnia
  • pain (such as sciatica, round ligament + pubic symphysis dysfunction)

How does acupuncture address a breech presentation?

With any online research, you’ll quickly learn that in order to address a breech presentation, your acupuncturist will burn an herb called mugwort (this process is called moxibustion) at the edge of the pinky toe, specifically at the acupuncture point BL 67. Sounds a bit odd, right? Yes, but it’s simple as to why it might help your baby reposition. The heat at this point may stimulate fetal movement. In my 13 years of experience, I have seen that if the acupuncture + moxibustion alone do not work in time, the treatments help improve the success rate of an external cephalic version (if that’s what your doctor deems as the next step).

Note that if your baby is still breech at the beginning of week 34, we like to start treatment then. Acupuncture + moxibustion tend to be most successful between weeks 34-37.

What else?

Acupuncture can serve as an incredible way to prepare your body (and your mind) for labor. As your body shifts, so do the treatments. We aid the body in increasing the necessary hormones (like oxytocin + prostaglandins), relaxing the pelvic floor and correcting any other imbalances so that when the baby is ready, so are you.

Last but certainly not least, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be an invaluable part of post-labor recovery, helping with:

  • healing of tissues (incision/tearing)
  • promoting lactation
  • improving blood production

recalibrating hormones as the body transitions from pregnancy through labor + delivery

Though it depends on the individual and her health history, mothers should expect to seek treatment for 3-5 weeks in order to see health improvements.

Be in touch! And happy motherhood!

x

Liz (liz@commonpoint.care)

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Introducing our new doula team: Meet Danielle & Tina!

1. What brought you to becoming a doula?

Tina: My sister asked me to attend her first birth in the doula capacity, and without hesitation, I said yes. That experience had me question for the first time what the role of a doula actually is, and how to be an effective doula. It also shed light on the major gap in birth + postpartum care we have in our current society. When I found myself at a doula training in 2018, it hit me that my mission right now is to advocate for birthing people, hold their hand, normalize it all, and with my whole heart!


Tina

Danielle: I didn’t grow up knowing I wanted to do birth work, and never heard the word “doula” until my early twenties. I grew up socialized to value intellectual work over intuitive care work. So I actually tried to do the whole law school thing (only to realize “nope! definitely not meant to be!”) In school I volunteered as a crisis counselor for a community org’s crisis hotline. That work involved providing nonjudgmental, emotional and informational support; it was personal, intuitive and trauma-informed, and I felt far more suited to that than to legal practice. My friend Charlotte, a physician and doula suggested I look into becoming a birth doula. What a revelation: an avenue for intuitive, loving people to be companions and advocates through a profound life transition. After graduating in 2019 I moved back to NYC and immediately registered for birth and postpartum doula training. Whew! Thank goodness.


Danielle

2. How has becoming a doula affected your life?

Danielle: Without a doubt the most empowering decision I’ve made in my adult life to date. I gotta be honest, the absence of a robust infrastructure in the US for a career as a doula is daunting. But trying to squeeze myself into the more familiar path of “lawyer” burnt me out before I’d even left school. Becoming a doula is revitalizing. I’m finally doing work and building community in line with my authentic personality, strengths, and values.

Tina: Becoming a doula has enriched my life in an activating way. Birthwork reflects back to me where the world is lacking. It’s brought me into a space of being a forever student by learning from my clients, other doulas, and midwives who have been doing this way longer than I have, and most importantly; having a greater awareness of the systems we exist in. The number one way becoming a doula has affected my life as a white cis woman is by guiding me towards becoming actively anti-racist, opening my eyes to racial disparities in childbirth, and the general lack of accessibility to healthcare + resources for all marginalized groups of people.

3. What are some of your favorite experiences so far as a doula?

Danielle: Building trust not just with my clients, but with their partners and children has made supporting those births even richer than I anticipated. I’m not at all competitive, but, earning the trust of partners and skeptical toddlers while they watch me physically support my client through labor and birth feels like a massive victory!

Tina: Feeding a blissed-out client soup in their bed while their baby latches for the first time, at a homebirth one month into the covid-19 pandemic.

4. How do you work together as a team?

Danielle: First and foremost, my doula partner @t.i.n.a.r.u.s.s.o RULES. Next, in terms of working as a team, Tina and I are navigating our partnership with a mutual commitment to consistent and honest communication. Every week we check in over Zoom, which is proving to be very grounding. We create and hold space for each other, which allows both of us to be our full selves. Also, Tina laughs at my jokes. And ultimately? That’s the kind of validation I need from a partner in any context.

Tina: With respect to each other’s time, our own time, and our clients’ time. We honor boundaries. We are nonjudgmental. We remain open to change. Our values couldn’t be more aligned, but personality-wise, our differences illuminate each other’s strengths. It’s been quite a partnership so far!

If you’re interested in booking Tina and Danielle (one of our beginner level teams), please go to https://www.nycbirthvillage.com/tina-and-danielle-beginner and book your free consultation.

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When & Why to See a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist

by Dr. Helene Darmanin, PT, DPT, CSCS

As a new parent, I know how hard it is to find time for yourself. Even while pregnant, I already felt like my time was limited, but I forced myself to make time to see a physical therapist (PT) both before and after giving birth, and I’m so glad I did. I relied on my knowledge as a physical therapist with a specialty in pelvic health (and advice from my awesome NYC Birth Village doulas, Sam and Erica!) to know when to go and what to expect. But not everyone has that luxury, so I want to empower you with this knowledge, too.

Physical Therapy? For Pregnancy?

There are two types of physical therapy that are appropriate for pregnant folks and new parents: orthopedic/musculoskeletal and pelvic health. Though these are considered distinct specializations, many pelvic health therapists also practice orthopedic physical therapy and often have more knowledge of issues specific to pregnancy and the postpartum period. An important tidbit to remember: once you give birth, you are always postpartum. This doesn’t mean that you will have the same symptoms six weeks after birth and three years after birth, only that pregnancy and birth have lasting effects on the body and mind. It is never too soon—or too late—to address bothersome and painful symptoms in order to feel your best.

Orthopedic PT

Common orthopedic issues that arise during pregnancy include (but are not limited to):

  • low back pain (almost universal)
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • hip pain
  • sprained ankles
  • pubic symphysis pain (pain in the front, middle of your pelvis)

Many of these issues are caused by changes in posture that pregnant people make as belly and baby grow bigger, and by hormonal changes that affect the laxity of connective tissue, cause fluid retention, and more. Anyone experiencing the above issues would benefit from seeing a PT as soon as possible. Physical therapy can not only help ease discomfort during pregnancy, but also set you up for success after giving birth by preventing recurrence of pain and optimizing your movement and posture to meet the physical demands of parenting.

Dr. Helene Darmanin, PT, DPT, CSCS during one of her pregnancy workouts.

In this situation, therapy looks similar to treating a sports injury: primarily strengthening exercises, education on strategies to decrease your discomfort, and maybe some hands-on treatment. However, there are still things that need to be taken into consideration because you’re pregnant, so make sure you see a PT who has some expertise in pregnancy.

Pelvic Health PT

You may have heard people talk about the pelvic floor, or suggest doing Kegels, but pelvic health is much more complex and nuanced. Kegels are not right for everyone!

The pelvic floor is a diamond-shaped group of muscles that span from sit bone to sit bone and from the pubic bone in the front of the pelvis to the tailbone in the back. The pelvic floor has many important functions like maintaining continence (preventing leakage of urine and feces) and contributing to breathing, orgasms, and core strength. There is a lot of strain on these muscles as they support the weight of a growing fetus, and they need to be able to relax and stretch to give birth vaginally.

A pelvic floor PT can help if you have…

  • pain in your pelvis
  • pain with sex
  • urinary incontinence (leaking urine)
  • low back pain

Or if you want to prepare your pelvic floor for birth through coordination, breathing, and relaxation.

Pelvic floor PT may consist of several different interventions. Some treatments may consist of simple strengthening exercises similar to orthopedic PT to encourage pelvic stability. If necessary, internal treatment may be performed. This consists of the therapist inserting one gloved finger into the vagina to assess the muscles for tension, “knots,” and ability to contract and relax. Internal therapy, like all PT, is only done with your consent and can be stopped at any time. Similarly to orthopedic PT, the sooner that you seek help, the faster these issues will likely resolve.

PT After Baby

In the postpartum period, you may have some of the same issues as when you were pregnant. Physical therapy would look similar, but with different precautions (again, important to see a PT with experience in this area). New issues may arise from breastfeeding, holding your baby, and recovering from birth. Physical therapy can help with anything from wrist or back pain, urinary incontinence, and diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) to scar tissue from vaginal tearing or C-sections.

The timing of postpartum PT is a somewhat contentious issue, so you should speak to your doctor or midwife about when the right time is for you to seek this care. If you are having severe back, neck, shoulder, leg, or pelvic pain, you should see a PT as soon as possible—a good therapist will be able to give you exercises to decrease your pain that are less strenuous than some of the activities that you are already doing as a new parent. For other, less severe issues many doctors will prefer that you wait until your 6-8 week check-up to start physical therapy. It is a difficult period to find time for yourself, but the better you feel, the better you can care for your little one. And you deserve to be as strong and well as possible!

And yes, you can get virtual PT!

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many therapists are providing telehealth visits or virtual PT. All orthopedic and many pelvic floor issues can be treated effectively by video chatting with a therapist. We are experienced in watching and coaching movement with visual and verbal cues, and in empowering our clients with strategies to care for themselves. In fact, most research shows that exercise and knowledge are the two of the only treatments that have profound, long-lasting effects.

Don’t know where to start? Talk to your care team. Doulas, midwives and OBGYNs will likely have trusted recommendations for physical therapists that specialize in care during and after your pregnancy.

Dr. Helene Darmanin, PT, DPT, CSCS is a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health, especially pregnancy and postpartum care, and orthopedic rehabilitation. She is also a group fitness instructor. Helene sees herself as a facilitator, empowering clients on their healing journey with knowledge, body positivity, and agency in their process.

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Racial Justice Is Reproductive Justice

Pictured above, Bruce Mcintyre and his son Elias celebrating their first Father’s Day. Mcintyre’s wife and Elias’s mom Amber Rose Isaac died from preventable complications related to her birth in NYC on April 21, 2020. Source Instagram.

In New York City, Black birthing people are up to 12 times more likely to die from birth-related causes than white birthing people. While the United States spends the most money of any developed nation on healthcare, it also happens to be one of only 13 countries where maternal mortality is on the rise. Birth is not becoming safer for anyone in the U.S., but it is especially dangerous for Black families and babies, who experience the direct effects of medical racism, and if they survive, live to suffer the effects of weathering and intergenerational trauma from existing in a country constantly assaulting their right to life.

As NYC birth workers, our wish is that every birthing person has a supportive birth team and empowered experience. We are waking up to our responsibility to do more, though, to fight the rising maternal mortality rates and racism Black birthing people face within our medical system.

The CDC reports that about 3 out of every 5 pregnancy-related deaths could be prevented. Experts agree those statistics are more likely to effect Black parents, Indigenous parents and other people of color who do not have access to high quality, culturally competent maternal care, and who may already have health issues due to effects of racism, poverty, living in a food desert or a highly polluted part of town (known as social determinants of health).

When Black families do seek health care at the hospital, they’re often exposed to racism at the hands of primarily white physicians. Black people are 13% of the U.S. population, but only 5% of U.S. physicians and 2% of U.S. midwives are Black. Research shows that those Black physicians are more likely to serve medically underserved areas, increase access to health care for Black patients, and even spend more time with Black patients than white physicians do.

To right the wrongs of our healthcare system, we need more Black doctors, midwives, nurses and doulas. At NYC Birth Village, our plan is to pay it forward to financially support Black midwives and doulas while doing our own work to dismantle systemic racism in our society at large, so that Black families can be safe in and out of the hospital.

Consider joining us in donating to both local and nation-wide organizations working to solve the maternal mortality crisis. This is where we will be focusing our fundraising efforts as an agency:

Ancient Song Doula Services, a Brooklyn based organization, aims to improve Black maternal mortality through community advocacy, reproductive/birth justice work and education. Their community based doulas offer free and low-cost doula services to people who may not otherwise be able to afford them.

The National Black Midwives Alliance works to increase the number of Black midwives working in the U.S., advocates for educational pathways for Black student midwives, supports legislation led by Black midwives, and raises money for scholarships for Black student midwives.

And the National Birth Equity Collaborative supports Black maternal and infant health through racial equity trainings, policy advocacy, research, and community engagement.

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The Value of Postpartum Doula Care

A doula’s role is a guide, witness, coach, advocate and interpreter. We envision a world of women that know they are a part of a common humanity. So many mothers spend the early part of their postpartum days in a haze, feeling guilty for having any emotion other than pure joy or feeling deeply in love. This guilt in isolation is the perfect breeding ground for postpartum anxiety or depression.

I know, because becoming a mother completely emptied me. Becoming a parent is not like going to college, getting a driver’s license or signing an apartment lease. It’s not even like getting married. All of those things come with responsibility, a sense of adventure and an opportunity for self-exploration. But parenting is all of those things plus being completely responsible for a small, dynamic, unique, co-dependent human. Which means relearning everything from the perception of the protector of my child.

There was a moment that felt like a breaking point for me. My baby was about 4 months old. I was staying at a friends house, in a village in Africa, and my husband asked me to attend the village community group. I wanted to, and I knew I needed to, but I couldn’t find the words to say, “I don’t know how to get dressed anymore”, in a way that he could understand. I am sure people experience it at different times, and in different ways, but, there is a good chance that after your baby is born your world will seem to explode and you feel lost.

I managed to get dressed, feeling lost. We walked down the road, as I worried about what I was wearing and how to act, and what to do. Once inside a woman in the group walked up to me and took my baby. I thought, ‘he’ll cry, you won’t want to hold him, it won’t last long, he’s a lot to manage’. She smiled at the face I made, reassuring me without being able to speak the same language that it would be okay. As she held him, I struggled with feeling judged that I couldn’t handle my own baby, instead of feeling happy that my hands were free and people were sharing in this role with me.

I have learned that new creation requires breaking up the old creation; new life follows loss of the old life. We consider the newborn the new life, but birth is also the starting point of a new way to live life for the entire family.

As a mom that works with new moms, I know at some point, we all look in the mirror and ask, “What happened to who I was? How do I leave the house or cook or do the laundry now? Why are my relationships with my friends and parents different? What is going on with my marriage? What about my career? Who am I now? Why do things have to change, or why do I have to give up so much?”

As new life disrupts the old life it feels chaotic and disorienting. As with the physical aspect of giving birth, there is transition and discomfort. And it’s not because there is something wrong with you, or me, or all of us. It’s just the process of things becoming undone to make space to learn this new life as a parent.

The statistics show the most common complication with pregnancy, in every demographic, is perinatal mood disorders affecting 1 in 5 parents.

New families need safe places to share these overwhelming or “scary thoughts”, a phrase coined by Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, maternal mental health expert and founder of The Postpartum Stress Center, LLC. The cultural perception of the “joy of parenthood” needs to shift from a moment to moment joy into a bird’s-eye view of loving a child. This concept can be formed as those working with new parents are trained to ask better questions about the transitions surrounding parenthood to encourage parents to prepare or identify their postpartum support, and are not told to “enjoy every minute, because infancy is so short.” Postpartum support can include hiring a Postpartum Doula as a coach, listening ear, baby holder, and household helper. Families can also organize meal, cleaning, and laundry services. Communities can play a role by creating opportunities for parents to authentically connect and share the pangs of growing into the role of a parent. As many new mothers don’t feel comfortable leaving home, facilitating group video calls can be a way to decrease the isolation and shame that can take root and immobilize a new parent.

Research by Kristin Neff, Ph. D, shows practices of self-compassion build our resiliency and high levels of self-reported compassion is an indicator that a person is less likely to experience PTSD after a trauma, and even the best-case scenario of a birth can be traumatic. Shame researcher Brene Brown, LCSW, Ph. D, has taught us that authentic connections where we have a place to belong and tell our stories reduces the detrimental effects of shame.

We all know a parent, and likely are connected to someone that is pregnant or recently had a baby. There are little ways we can reach out in kindness and compassion to rebirth our culture’s representation of the ‘joy of motherhood’, especially in the age of highlighting the best moments on social media. Let’s show up with more food and less pressure to feel happy. Let’s reach out so new parents know we are thinking of them and open the space for dialogue. Let’s tell our own stories of becoming a parent with both the beauty and the grief.

By Jill Businelle, Birth & Postpartum Doula

We are so lucky to have Jill in NYC Birth Village! Read more about Jill here: link

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Client Q&A: Vaginal birth after a cesarean birth (VBAC)

Team picture! Roberta with her daughter and her doula, Sam.

1. How did you decide a VBAC was right for you?

I didn’t expect to have a c-section my first pregnancy, and when that happened I felt more than anything that if I was able to I would attempt to have a VBAC. I did a lot of research to understand both the risks of having a repeat c-section and a VBAC, the benefits of having a VBAC vs. repeat -c-section, and the differences in recovery. In the end I really wanted a VBAC not only to get the experience I had wanted originally with my first, but also the risks of the VBAC seemed to me a bit lower based on my circumstances, and I was also hoping for a better recovery experience since I had a terrible one the first go round.

2. How did working with doulas impact your birthing experience? Would you recommend a doula to someone attempting a VBAC?

I would highly recommend working with a doula for anyone considering a VBAC and in general for anyone going through a pregnancy. From the moment I started working with Jill and Sam they helped me understand things that I could do differently, what questions I should be asking my doctor, and even provided me with information leading up to my delivery and during delivery. Particularly questions I would never had thought to ask my doctor. Going into my delivery—which ended up being an induction and increased my risk for a second c-section—I was very nervous and scared to be honest. A call the night before to go over what would happen, a refresher on the birth plan we had laid out, and when Sam would join me at the hospital, helped to ease my nerves a bit. Having a doula (Sam) in the room with me was tremendously helpful. Partner aside, she helped me with movements and exercises to help me get the baby in the right position, and when I faced a decision she helped me with encouragement and providing me with information I needed. Having a doula’s support definitely helped me to reach my objective of having a VBAC and the birthing experience I hoped for. My birth experience this go round couldn’t have been more perfect and was the experience I had always hoped to have.

Roberta’s doula, Sam, is encouraging her to be upright and mobile during the induction.

3. What would you say to a partner who was nervous about their partner wanting to try for a VBAC?

Educate your partner. I think a lot of times our partner forgets that a c-section is major abdominal surgery and many things can go wrong with them too. I also realized that the birth experience that I felt I had and what my partner felt I had the first go round were very different. So I think laying out the risks and benefits for your partner will be helpful in getting their support, but also being open with them about your feelings on why you want one is helpful. Then talk through the things you can do to ensure a different birthing experience. At the back of our heads we knew there was always the possibility for a repeat c-section if things didn’t work out the way we planned, but we knew we had to try everything first before giving into a repeat c-section. Once my partner understood why I wanted to have a VBAC and the facts around them, he supported me whole heartedly.

4. How would you describe the difference in recovery after your first birth and your second?

The difference in recovery was night and day. This go round, I got to have the hour skin-to-skin I wanted and nursed my baby almost immediately. With my first birth, I didn’t see my baby until 2 hours after delivery as I had to go under general anesthesia as after the baby came out I started to feel all the pain (which I now know should never have happened). My milk came in faster with baby 2 and I didn’t experience the weight problems I had with baby 1. Physically, I experienced different recoveries too. With my c-section, I ended up back at the doctor’s office within a couple days as my incision started to come open. It was difficult to get up and walk around, let alone lift the baby, or do anything on my own. With my VBAC, I experienced all the things that you prepare for with a vaginal delivery (everything you read about online) – there was some pain, but overall I was up and moving around within a couple hours after delivery and didn’t have any problems with infections, lifting the baby on my own, etc.

Roberta holding her daughter skin-to-skin after having her VBAC.

If you’d like to learn more about VBACs, visit these resources:

Huge thanks to Roberta for sharing her experience with the NYC Birth Village community!

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Be Her Village: a new kind of registry focused on mothers

“Be Her Village really came from a place of wanting to bring the spotlight back to the women, back to mothers. “

– Kaitlin McGreyes, founder of Be Her Village

Many people are familiar with baby registries, but what if you could gift new moms with prenatal yoga classes, a postpartum doula, and lactation counseling sessions? As Kaitlin puts it, “The only baby registries that exist are all from big box stores and they’re all centered on items and material things, and nobody is talking about the in-house, hands-on support that women need in pregnancy, during their birth, and in their home afterwards.” Be Her Village is a service-based registry platform that will innovate the way family and friends can support new mothers.

The impetus for this idea came from Kaitlin’s own experience as a mother and birth doula. After each of her three children were born, Kaitlin describes the gaps she felt in support. “I had a beautiful nursery and lots of boxes and perfect baby outfits…I had everything I needed, and yet I still found myself naked and crying and alone and with raw nipples and not really having the support I needed. I couldn’t make breakfast, I couldn’t figure out how to soothe my baby, I couldn’t figure out if I was breastfeeding the right way, and I felt very alone.” Her experience as a birth doula amplified this need to shift the focus and resources back to mothers and parents. She describes seeing her clients being gifted, “$800 strollers…but when it comes to the doulas and the breastfeeding support, and counseling sessions, and the mommy and me classes, and the things that the moms need in order to have a good experience, to even be in the equation of the birth, that money isn’t there.”

Kaitlin founded Be Her Village with the belief that healthy babies start with healthy parents. Through the website, which soft launches later this month, parents will register for the services they need and family and friends will directly gift them with they money to fund those classes, appointments, etc. But there’s another issue. Many parents aren’t aware of the type of support that exists in their communities. In her doula work, Kaitlin recognized that the word-of-mouth way of connecting families to resources wasn’t working. She says, “We want to be a resource for women so when they get pregnant, they can read, search for providers in their area, and they can connect to people who are local to them.” Be Her Village will be a one stop shop for self care and education so parents have a central location to learn about everything from chiropractic care for babies to pelvic floor therapy.

When approaching this project, Kaitlin was mindful about how this website would not only benefit the women who would be utilizing the service, but the services providers and behind-the scenes folks who are majority women. She elaborates, “The other goal is to help businesses and birth related businesses, which are mostly women-owned, to flourish, become mainstream, and get in touch with the market of women that are out there…I’ve tried, though it’s not all exclusively women, but i’ve really tried to have the female voice come through. So the parts where there’s a hands-on output into the website: the design, the coding, and the writing, those are all by women and mothers and, for me, it makes a big difference in the final product.” When you use Be Her Village, you are supporting the women in your lives, the women providing many of these services, and the women who work so hard to bring this service to life.

The passion and care that have gone into this project is tangible, and the world Kaitlin envisions through Be Her Village is one that new parents deserve. She concludes, “It really feels like we’re gonna change the world! And it’s about so much more than gifts…it’s about creating a world where mothers and parents are supported in the way they need to be. For whoever will be reading this, even though there are the feminine pronouns and a lot of emphasis on mothers and “her”, that is mostly just a recognition of the femininity surrounding birth and parenthood and motherhood, but we are inclusive of anyone who is a parent in whatever way they become a parents and we welcome everybody onto our website.”

To register, stay up to date, and learn more please visit: https://www.behervillage.com/

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Calling all doulas: join the team!

Hi doulas!

We are currently looking for beginner and intermediate level doulas to apply to our doula agency. If you are a doula that has between 3-75 births and has experience with/interest in birth, postpartum and lactation support, please apply! We are looking for warm, hands-on, and evidence based doulas interested in growing their businesses as well as getting guidance and mentorship from experienced doulas.

I joined NYC Birth Village almost a year ago, and it has made such a difference in my doula practice. I knew I wanted to expand into working with a partner, but I wasn’t sure where to start in navigating that new type of relationship. Having Narchi and Karla as mentors in this process has been so rewarding. Not only in demonstrating how partnership doula can work, but in honing interview skills, improving communication with clients, and finding balance in this challenging work. They invest in our community of doulas, and in turn, we invest in each other. I look forward to welcoming another person to our group! If you’d like to hear more from our current doulas about working with NYC Birth Village, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Find out more and apply here!

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Natural Ways to Make Childbirth Easier

Everyone knows that childbirth is difficult.

But there are natural options available that may help in making labor more comfortable – and most of them can be done weeks before the contractions start.

Here are a few tips you can follow.

Exercise

There have been many debates about maintaining an exercise routine while you are pregnant. However, a 2017 study by Plataforma SINC showed how moderate exercise during pregnancy is safe and beneficial for both the mother and the baby. Cardiovascular workouts, or exercises that elevates the heart rate, such as running or walking can reduce the risk of excess weight and prepare your muscles for childbirth. Aerobic exercises like yoga can also build stamina, and alleviate aches and pains. Exercise does not have to stop when you are pregnant.

Eat Dates

Research published by PubMed found that women who consume six dates per day for four weeks prior to their estimated due date are more likely to go into spontaneous labor, have a shorter first stage, and higher cervical dilation (or the opening of the uterus) upon admission to hospital. Dates reduce the need for oxytocin, the hormone that induces and intensifies contractions, during pregnancy. They are also rich in fiber, which lessens the chance of constipation and other digestive ailments.

Essential Oils

The use of essential oils like lavender, rose and peppermint is a soothing and effective way to help lessen the pain experienced during and after pregnancy.

Just remember to never massage the oil directly onto your skin. Instead, mix it with a carrier oil or release its fragrance via aromatherapy. It is also beneficial to use them during a massage. Professional masseur Fiona Pippa explains how massages “can reduce stress, alleviate pain and increase a sense of wellbeing,” especially during pregnancy. Aromatherapy on the other hand communicates with the brain’s neurotransmitters for them to stop producing the chemicals that causes pain.

Warm Baths

There is nothing quite like a relaxing, warm bath – even more so for pregnant women. The water takes the baby’s weight off your spine, which will help prevent any back issues. Many hospitals even have built-in bathtubs in their maternal care units. However, Today’s Parent claims that pregnant women should not take a bath that raises their core body temperature to 101-102°F for more than 10 minutes. This is because it could cause a condition called hyperthermia, which causes the body to absorb more heat than it repels. Warm baths in moderation are fine and good way to help take the strain off your body.

Preparing for an easier childbirth should be a priority for mothers, especially since the healthcare industry is facing a shortage of pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs). PNPs account for less than 8% of the 270,000 nurses in the whole of the United States. This reflects a shortage in general across the whole healthcare industry. Maryville University predicts that there will be a shortage of at least 100,000 family practitioners by 2025, which could result in shorter stays in the hospital and fewer hands to assist you during labor.

The more that you can do on your own to prepare for an easier, less painful delivery, the better it will be for both you and the baby.

But do not worry. With careful planning and a healthy lifestyle, you can give yourself the best chance of having a smooth, fast, and less painful delivery.

Exclusively written for NYCBirthVillage.Com

By: Clara Mila

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A doula approved reading list!

There are so many books out there about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and breastfeeding. One of my favorites that I’ve been recommending to clients lately is Labyrinth of Birth by Pam England. Different than a maze, a labyrinth has a single path to the center with only one entrance and no dead ends. This is a helpful metaphor when people feel lost or that they aren’t progressing. The birthing person can trust that they are moving closer to their end goal because there is only one direction to go: forward. England says, “Just when you think you’ve hit a wall in labor, you will turn a corner and the path will lead you in a new direction. The Labyrinth symbol reminds us that we can’t predict or plan the absolute course of life or labor.”

England also talks about expecting the unexpected. A labyrinth may only have one path, but there are an unknown number of twists and turns once you’re in it, and it’s impossible to know how close you are to the center. “Unpredictable, sudden changes in direction in the labyrinth parallel unexpected, unwished-for surprises that are part of every labor and postpartum…From time to time, like most mothers, you will feel “lost” in labor because when you are in labor, you can’t see how far you’ve come, or how close you are to giving birth.”

If you’re looking for a book to help you tackle the emotional parts of your labor and can complement your nuts and bolts birth books, go check out Labyrinth of Birth! Since this book has been so helpful to my clients, I decided to ask my fellow doulas here at NYC Birth Village about their favorite book recommendations and they delivered! As if your pregnancy reading list needed to be longer…

1. Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel

“I think it does a great job of providing both big picture and practical advice for achieving an unmedicated birth in a hospital. It also has one of my favorite outlines for developing birth preferences, including tackling the fear of getting attached or disappointed when things don’t go as “planned”. – Sierra

“I of course read it from the recommendation of Karla and Narchi when I was pregnant with Carter and I always recommend it to my pregnant friends. It really does provide comfort for those who overall feel safe in a hospital but want to achieve a natural birth and be well informed of their options.” – Jamie

2. Like a Mother by Angela Garbes

“I think that this kind of read can be extremely beneficial as someone embarks in the process of pregnancy and motherhood, where the current culture is still full of misconceptions and outdated assumptions. People can approach this life altering time with more self-love, compassion and trust, and less fear, shame and guilt.” – Narchi

3. A Good Birth, A Safe Birth by Diana Korte

“I think this book is really easy to read and understand and helps guide about all of the choices that come along with birth!” – Erica

4. The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin

“It explains every aspect of birth in a very simple way. So while it’s a lot of content, it’s very easy to understand and it’s a great book to go back to to reference certain aspects of interest.” – Jamie

5. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

“What I like about it is not so much the practical tips (though invaluable), but how it gives a nice balance of personal birth stories in a way that the reader can go through in their own way, on their own time and via their own terms (I.e., they can be read out of order, or you can choose to just scroll a few, or read all of them or just a couple at a time…), yet regardless it serves the purpose of showing the variety of unpredictable sets of circumstances that occur and the different ways women view them (often alongside the woman’s initial expectations).” – Kim

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