Ah, the membrane sweep. What is it exactly? Also referred to as a stretch and sweep or membrane stripping. It is a technique that involves gently lifting the amniotic sac away from the cervix and the lower part of the uterus. Your doctor or midwife inserts a gloved finger through the cervical canal and uses a sweeping motion to separate the membrane from the cervix. This intervention releases prostaglandins, which are the chemicals that help soften and open the cervix for labour. Most providers will offer you a sweep in late pregnancy. Remember, it is your choice and it should never be preformed without your explicit consent!
What are the risks and benefits of the sweep?
Why is it good to labour at home as long as possible? So many reasons, early labour can be long, the hospital won't admit you until you are in active labour (sorry....no epidural yet!), you are comfortable, less anxious, you can eat, drink, be in your own bed and personal space.
So what are the things that you can be doing at home so you get to the hospital in active labour?
Having said all this, never hesitate to check with your provider or head into ELAU if you need to. But know that your body and baby are doing their job and if you can labour at home if all is well until active labour, your time on the birth unit will be reduced and your progression might be faster.
The Golden Hour refers to the hour of skin to skin contact with your baby directly after their birth. The IWK will facilitate an hour of skin-to-skin contact with your baby immediately after the birth of the baby, as long as the birther and baby are doing well. This practice is recommended by every major obstetrical body and the WHO, for really important reasons. It is a critical time for the birthing person and the baby.
Really exciting things take place during this hour. Often baby keeps their eyes open and parents get to decide who they resemble! (but seriously, many more important reasons!) There are so many crucial reasons to protect this hour:
* It helps regulate your baby's respiration, heart rate, blood sugar levels and body temperature.
* It promotes attachment and bonding.
* Helps baby adjust to the outside world.
* Reduces Cortisol (stress hormone) in parents and babies.
* Both you and baby release oxytocin, which helps the uterus contract, expelling the placenta and can help reduce postpartum bleeding.
* It boosts your baby's immunity. It exposes babies to their parents bacteria which kick starts the immune system. That good bacteria also create a more diverse microbiome for baby.
* Last but not least, it initiates breastfeeding. Data shows that babies who are brought to the breast in the first hour after birth have a better/longer breastfeeding relationship.
If the birthing person requires medical attention that results in needing to have your partner hold the baby during the golden hour, partners and baby will get great benefits. This helps promote bonding with baby and the partner.
While typically standard practice in non-emergency situations, make sure skin-to-skin is on your birth plan. If you are having a Cesarean make sure that skin-to-skin is facilitated after the birth of your baby, you'll treasure those moments for a lifetime!
Photo Copyright the VBAC Link
This is probably the most asked question from birth clients. I am having cramping, is this labour? I am pooping a lot, is this labour? I think this is bloody show, has labour started? I think I lost my mucous plug (please for the love of the universe, do not Goggle image mucous plug!!), this must be labour. Most of these indicators are great signs that your body is preparing for labour, making the necessary changes for labour, that labour is getting close. But that might mean tomorrow or in 10 days! So my answer is typically.....maybe!
You've waited so long to meet your baby, you are anxious to know for SURE that this indicator is it. And it might be, but it also might not. I am a Doula, not a Midwife or an OB, I don't perform clinical tasks, I cannot check the position, softness or dilation of your cervix. But all these indicators mean that labour is coming, sooner rather than later. But here is what I know for sure. When you are in active labour, you will KNOW it! It will stop you in your tracks. Early labour contractions are annoying, but typically you will able to go with your day, eat, move, talk, etc. Active labour contractions will be different, you will unquestionably know the difference, they will be longer, stronger and closer together. You won't be able to concentration on other things when you have active labour contractions. They will get increasingly more intense, and even more so with transition.
If you first time parents need a goal to focus on, try this...5-1-1. Contractions that are five minutes apart, lasting for at least one minute and have been occurring for at least one hour. This is a good time to call your provider for next steps. Second + pregnant folx should probably head to the hospital or call your Midwife a little before the full hour as these labours tend to move faster.
Trust your body, trust that you will know that this is the real deal, because you and your body will know!
So you've decided to hire a Doula to support your pregnancy, labour and birth,.....might I add, you've made an excellent choice!
While Doulas are becoming more mainstream, as the benefits become more widely solidified and known, there are a surprising number of us. So choosing the right fit for you can be overwhelming. I want to help you make this important decision. Here are my top tips;
I have heard many an expectant folk say, "why do I need a birth plan?" "It makes you sound demanding," or my personal favorite, "I don't need one, I'll be fine!" Birth is better with a plan, or at least with clear wishes or preferences. It's not that medical providers don't care about your wishes, but the reality is, when you get admitted to a hospital, you are now a patient and you will be offered medical choices! Your providers won't know your wishes, unless you do. My advice, write it down.
Having a birth plan, encourages you to think about what your options really are, and you do have options. What if I told you that you don't need to have that icky IV port right away, you can have it later if you choose to have pain medication. Or, that often you can have intermittent fetal monitoring rather than continuous monitoring. That in fact, continuous fetal monitoring increases cesarean rates. Also, pushing does not have to be the ever enjoyable counting to ten, three times per contraction. Yes, some people giving birth will want/need some direction, especially if you've had an epidural. But the fetal ejection reflex is pretty powerful, people in coma's have pushed out babies.
Long story short, a birth plan, allows you to explore what is available to you during your labour and birth, discover the risks and benefits and make informed decisions that will enhance your birth experience. You want your birth memories to be of you making decisions, not having them all made for you.
Do you know about the hormones of labour and how you can help them along for a smoother labour? Well, Doulas do! Childbirth Educators do. So let me share some insider tips. There are a multitude of hormones that play a key role in becoming pregnant, sustaining a pregnancy, birthing your baby and breast/chest feeding. But for labour purposes, let's focus on the heavy hitters, and what you can do keep the wanted ones flowing and keep the unwanted ones at bay until they are needed.
Oxytocin- sometimes called the love hormone, it plays a super key role in labour. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream by the posterior pituitary gland. Oxytocin is what makes your uterus contract during labour. This helps your uterus pull up the cervix to dilate and push your baby down towards the birth canal. So pretty crucial right? So, how can you influence the flow of oxytocin in labour?
What a time to have a baby! As the pandemic and our second wave rages on, expecting parents are awaiting the birth of their babies. Talk about stressful. Well let's talk about keeping life as simple as possible to help new parents keep their sanity.
We often think that babies require soooooo much stuff, and they definitely require plenty, but not as much as we sometimes think. Parents look online at a million websites for what your baby will need, friends and family tell us all about the items that you "must" get. But in reality babies needs are pretty basic, food, shelter, safety and love. In these times when life is super complicated and we are swimming in what feels like time soup, don't make yourself crazy with stuff. As a mother, a Birth and Postpartum Doula, here's the list I give clients as must haves for a newborn:
* Change pad
* Diapers (cloth or disposable)
* Dye and perfume free laundry soap
* 4-5 Muslin blankets (can also double as burp cloths)
* Safe sleep surface (crib/bassinet or Moses basket)
* Safety approved car seat
* Stroller or carrier
* Feeding supplies (pump and bottles for breastfeeding) and (formula/bottles/nipples & brush for formula feeding), breast pads and nipple cream
* Soothers (you might change your mind!)
* Swaddle blanket
* Sleep sack
* Barrier cream for baby's bum, scent free baby mositurizer
* Baby tub and gentle soap/shampoo, baby hair brush
* A higher end thermometer for accurate temperature taking
* A list of all important phone numbers, such as the IWK, Healthcare Provider, Public Health and Breastfeeding support if that's your intended method of feeding.
While this list seems long, it's really pretty basic. Toys, books, bumbo chair, swings, playpen, highchair, play mats etc. All these things you can borrow or purchase as your baby grows. In those early days and weeks your baby just needs to be loved, fed, kept clean, warm and sleep in a safe place. You can add more items as time goes on, but the early goals should be to take care of your needs and your baby's needs. The "stuff" doesn't need to add to the already wild ride of bringing home your baby. Sometimes less is more.
It's Covid days and it's hard to know what to blog about! But life keeps moving, new babies are being born, continuing to create new parents. When parents are preparing for their baby, they tend to focus on what the baby will need (yup, they will need stuff) and what giving birth will be like (please learn in advance, it matters!). But we tend to leave out a crucial aspect of becoming three....Having a Postpartum Plan!!!
Having a postpartum plan is as important as getting the things your baby will need and informing yourself about the birthing process. Becoming parents and bringing home a new baby is a monumental life event/shift and it requires thought and preparation. So what's involved in a postpartum plan you might ask, here are some things to thing about:
If you don't have family or friends to help out with meals after you bring baby home, make as many easy to heat meals that your freezer can hold before giving birth. Stock up on nutritious snacks to have handy, like nuts, make and freeze protein balls in advance. Collect menu's from healthier take out spots to have on hand.
If you can afford it, pay someone to clean your house, even if it's just for the first couple of weeks. This is an amazing shower gift to contribute to. Otherwise clean up in advance and let the chips fall where they may, bonding with your baby and sleeping when you can is way more important than cleaning!
Have phone numbers for Public Health in advance, also if chestfeeding, make sure you have contact information for a Lactation Consultant and other breast/chesteeding resources you can reach out to if having difficulty.
I recommend having contact information for mental health services as well. Postpartum is an epic change, having a plan and being prepared can help smooth out some of those rough edges and allow for more baby bonding time, feeling more in control and less overwhelmed!
As a mother, Doula and Childbirth Educator, I know one thing with certainty when it comes to birthing your baby.....KNOWLEDGE IS POWER and ignorance is definitely not bliss. Many people think, "humans have been having babies forever, it will be fine." Approaching birth with that myopic lens is highly problematic, too many people walk away from their birth experience feeling unheard, disrespected and what's worse, up to 34% of people who give birth experience feelings of trauma. Why am I telling you this, to scare you, absolutely not, I want to tell you how to have a better birth!
Hire a Doula, studies consistently show that Doulas improve birth outcomes and your overall satisfaction with your birth. While Doulas don't guarantee that you won't need a Cesarean for example, they will guarantee that you have all of the information, education, emotional and physical support that you need to birth from a place of confidence and not fear whatever the exit route your baby requires. A Doula is not in everyone's budget, but there are volunteer Birth Doulas if it is a financial stretch.
Take a prenatal education class. Let me repeat...take a class. Here you will learn crucial information about labour, birth, infant care and early parenting. Birth, is generally considered and managed (by the medical system) like an illness rather than a normal life event and a rite of passage. A good Childbirth Educator will teach you all of the insider tips that you need to know to have an informed birth, one where you are clear about your options, preferences and wishes.
Birth is not the time to wing it! Get informed and prepared so when your labour starts you are ready to face the awesomeness of birth from an informed place of clear confidence. That is a path to a better birth!