This is a very common question I get asked whenever I introduce myself at a workshop or someone just finished reading my card or website. The running joke in my family is I had to pick some of the more ‘obscure career paths’ available just to be different. However, in all seriousness becoming a Doula as well as a Naturopathic Doctor was like fitting together two puzzle pieces when I had no idea that there was a possibility of finding that missing puzzle piece.
So what is a Doula anyway? I asked my classmate one Monday when I was still in Naturopathic college. She was telling us about the amazing weekend course she'd just finished. Well it comes from the Greek, meaning a woman who serves. The term ‘Doula’ was used to describe the role of the woman or women who attended births. In some cultures, women would give birth either by themselves or with the support of other women, and those who did have attendants, tended to have better outcomes. I was fascinated! I had only known about midwives as the 'alternative' to doctor attended births in hospitals. I didn't know there were other birth professionals out there, or that it was something I might consider doing. I had considered midwifery as a career prior to choosing Naturopathic Medicine, but once that choice was made I didn't think I could meld the birth world with Naturopathic Medicine in such a complementary and harmonious way.
Once I started my own journey into becoming a doula I realized that today, the term doula is a bit more recognized and is becoming more and more common place every day. A doula is now recognized as a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and after birth, as well as some of the postpartum period. The primary role being as a: support and resource for health and birth care. They do not constitute a replacement for a midwife or other healthcare practitioner, but are a complimentary form of healthcare for the mother and baby. What really intrigued me was the amount of research that showed how much of a benefit having a doula present provided to mom and baby. Studies have actually shown that when doulas attend births, labours are shorter, have fewer complications (like c-sections), babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily (Hodnett et al., 2011).
Even though our primary concern is for mother and by extension the Mom and baby dyad, we’re also there to help the rest of the family too. Don't worry Dad, we didn't forget about you. Hodnett et al., (2011) shows that parents who receive support can:
Having someone else present during pregnancy and birth who can help you navigate all the vast amounts of information and work with you to advocate for you and with you only increases your chances of having the best possible birth experience. My clients who work with me also get the benefit of my Naturopathic knowledge and skills. Being a Naturopathic Doctor and Doula allows me to offer so much more complete care to the families I work with, and they often elect to continue care with me as a family after the baby is born. The birth location that can impact whether I am able to utilize all my tools, but no matter the circumstances, the end goal stays the same: for Mom and baby (and family) to have the most positive start to their lives together.
Have questions about doulas or whether having a doula involved in your birth is right for you? Feel free to contact me by email or by phone. I also still have a few spots left for the summer on my calendar if you’re still looking for a Doula to join your birth team.
Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C, Weston J. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD003766. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub3.
On average, 10-12 pounds are lost immediately after delivery and another 5 pounds is lost a week after. The rest of the weight that is normally gained during pregnancy will gradually fall off over the post-partum months. However, the issue is when women gain a little (or a lot of) extra weight—I’ve seen women gain upwards of 60 lbs, which is well beyond the expected gain!
Getting back on track is possible to do in a way that is not too stressful for you or for your baby. In general, a safe weight-loss goal beginning 6 weeks after birth is to lose 1 pound per week, which should generally be achievable with a good diet and moderate exercise.
Things to consider when striving for healthy weight loss:
· Breastfeeding is a helpful tool because your body’s fat stores will be used for making breast milk. So not only do you get all important bonding time with baby through breastfeeding, but those calories are being used to nourish him/her.
· Good nutrition is important for continued reproductive health, adequate breast milk production for those breastfeeding, emotional wellness, regaining strength and energy, and so many other things.
· Many cultures feed the mother nourishing foods to rebuild her blood and impart strength and energy. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, cold foods are avoided and warm, simple soups and stews are prepared that contain grains such as rice and barley, small amounts of meat, and root vegetables. Chicken and eggs are also commonly given foods.
· Nutrient dense foods are best, like a yogurt smoothie with fresh fruits or vegetables gives you protein, minerals and vitamins.
· Protein: needs aren’t increased from pregnancy to lactation, in fact they may be slightly less. Nevertheless, be sure to eat high-quality protein foods, including beans, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds, and lean meat.
· Carbohydrates: complex carbohydrates found in whole grains are best, such as: whole wheat, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, barley, oats, and quinoa, among others.
· Vitamins and minerals: several servings of fruits and vegetables daily, along with nuts and seeds, whole grains and some dairy products should provide ample nutrients for you and baby. Although whole food nutrients are best, if you’re really busy and just cannot eat as well, a supplement like a good multivitamin can be helpful.
· Fats: Healthy fats are important for maintaining breast milk and for your baby’s growing brain. Nuts and seeds, avocados, fish, and olive oil all contain healthy fats. If you use a fish oil product, using one that is higher in DHA while your baby is under 2 years is beneficial because they need more DHA than EPA for brain growth and development. Flaxseed oil (1-2 tbsp daily) and evening primrose oil (1500-2000 mg daily) can also be used as supplemental sources of essential fatty acids. Butter can be eaten in moderation, and always choose butter over margarine.
· Water: not only will drinking plenty of water help with breast milk supply, it also prevents fatigue, depression and constipation. Ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day is recommended while breastfeeding. Keeping water in easy to reach places and packing a water bottle in the diaper bag can be helpful ways to remind you to get your water intake.
Note about dieting/ severe caloric restriction: the postpartum period is not the time to be worrying excessively about counting calories and losing large amounts of weight. The safest and easiest way to lose the extra pregnancy weight is to establish a healthy diet that maximizes nutrients and minimizes empty carbs, unnecessary fats and sugars (eg. chips, pastries, desserts.)
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
· We all are guilty of comparing ourselves to other women. However, worrying that you aren’t losing your weight after birth as fast as the woman next door is not going to be helpful. Stress causes the release of stress hormones like cortisol, and too much cortisol will hinder any weight loss efforts you might try.
Seek Professional Help
· The best time to talk to your ND, midwife, or OB/GYN is before birth. Your regular check up is a time to check in on your weight gain to make sure it’s within the recommended range. You can still talk to your health care provider after baby is born about your weight loss goals. Everyone is unique and has different rates of metabolism. They will be able to let you know if you have gained more weight than recommended during pregnancy and help monitor you as you work towards healthy weight loss.
Ask for Help
· Feeling overwhelmed trying to care for a new baby and yourself? Don’t be afraid to ask for support. Ask your Mom if she can help you make a few freezer meals that you can thaw and heat up on another day. Ask a friend if they’ll watch the baby while you make some healthy snacks. You don’t have to do everything on your own.
Note: Specific treatment suggestions are best discussed with your Naturopathic Doctor as each person is unique!
Romm, A. (2002) Natural Health after Birth. Healing Arts Press.
Pitchford. P. (2002) Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. (3rd Ed.) North Atlantic Books.
I am a Naturopathic Doctor and Doula providing care in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. I have a passion for helping people with their health issues and improving the birth experience for Moms, and their babies. I also have a life long love affair with soccer, curling, and the alto saxophone.