9 Essential Ingredients for a Natural Birth - Labor Doula

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9 Essential Ingredients for a Natural Birth
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Labor Doula

The word doula [“doo-lah”] comes from a Greek word meaning “woman servant,” but in the modern context refers to women who provide nonmedical support to childbearing women. Doulas attend births in all birth facilities. The doula acts as liaison between parents and practitioners during the birth, and supports the couple through a natural, satisfying, non-invasive childbirth experience.

A labor doula has more than 40 hours of specialized training to support pregnant women before and during labor. Most doulas will meet with the couple two or three times before the due date, during which she will review their birthing options. She will be on call 24/7, starting two weeks before the due date, and she will often visit the couple’s home after the birth to support the mother’s breastfeeding. When labor is underway, she provides emotional and physical comfort measures, including breathing and relaxation techniques and finding the optimal positions for labor and birth. Although she cannot interfere with any medical practice, she can provide parents with information to make informed choices and can facilitate communication with healthcare providers so that the birthing mother is always aware and in control as her labor progresses.

Studies have shown that using a doula tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications, less need for pain relief or interventions, greater success with breastfeeding and a lower incidence of postpartum depression. To find a doula in your area, go to

Alice McNulty, R.N. •


During pregnancy, one of the most noticeable physical changes is the new distribution of weight. The breasts enlarge, uterus grows and hips expand, while the lumbar curve of the spine exaggerates. Without the proper support and movement, these postural changes can cause labor and delivery to be much more stressful than need be.

To create the healthiest pregnancy possible, it is best to integrate massage, stretching and movement into each day. Movement, in the form of a gentle walk, is very important to ensure that the baby settles into the correct position for birth and you remain limber and loose for a stress-free delivery. Prenatal massage can come in various forms, ranging from a traditional Swedish massage to light massage work that could include other modalities. While preparing for the second and third trimester, the Mercier technique (a deep-tissue type of massage) can help to prepare a woman’s pelvic muscles for birth. Many massage therapists are trained not only to do massage but various other modalities as well. It is best to seek out a therapist who is certified in Mercier or Bodywork for the Childbearing Year.

Jennifer Mercier, Ph.D. •

Homebirth Midwife

A midwife provides holistic care to pregnant women with a personalized, loving touch. She spends at least one hour at each prenatal appointment to find out who you are, what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking and what’s important to you. A homebirth midwife wants you to have the safest, most beautiful, empowering and peaceful birth possible—right in your home, where you and your baby can birth calmly in a setting that is familiar and comfortable for you.

A homebirth midwife knows that the moment a woman walks out her front door to head to the hospital, she has unknowingly decided upon her first unnecessary intervention. For millions of years, women have been having babies without tools, tubes, tests, chemicals, machines, drugs and doctors. All your ancestors had babies; other mammals continue to birth without interference. You can, too.

Midwives can obtain midwifery certification through a variety of different paths, and their philosophies can very greatly. Because some midwives practice more like med-wives, it is important to ensure that the person you choose is in keeping with your own beliefs. As she advises you, take note of whether she is coming from a place of trust rather than fear. Listen to her language, her advice and her warnings. Does she have a deep appreciation and respect for natural birth? Is she successful at supporting women without interventions, without inducing labor and without unnecessary tests? Make sure she speaks with you about good nutrition and helps you to make choices in your life that will support a wonderful pregnancy and help ensure a good birth and a healthy baby.

Each baby gets only one chance at being born. This is why your relationship with your midwife should be based on deep care and mutual respect. That’s when you know you’ve found the midwife that you and your baby deserve.

Nancy Wainer, CPM, HBCE, CC •

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal yoga offers a wide range of benefits for both you and your baby. Many women find their way to this beautiful dance of breath and movement when they discover they’ve been blessed with the opportunity and responsibility to birth a new life.

The physical change that takes place over the course of your pregnancy is both miraculous and humbling. Through the focus on alignment and breath, yoga can help relieve many of the mild discomforts of pregnancy, including back, hip and joint pain, swelling, nausea, breathing difficulties, fatigue and insomnia. In addition, yoga improves posture, stability, flexibility, strength, endurance and relaxation. This creates more space for your baby as you find yourself increasingly relaxed. As a result, your developing baby not only receives more oxygen but also finds himself in a cozy, safe, and nurturing environment in which he can thrive.

But the physical benefits are only one reason to practice. The emotional and spiritual benefits are just as compelling. When you practice yoga, you learn to surrender to and fully embrace your pregnancy and birth with a sense of equanimity, joy and inner strength. Most important, you learn to tune into your wisdom deep within—the mother’s wisdom that teaches you to trust your body, your heart and, above all, the connection between you and your baby.

Nina Antolino Jagetic, RYT, BE, MBA


From the moment you learn you are pregnant, prenatal pilates will help you achieve the strength, energy and endurance to guide you through pregnancy, birth and motherhood.

Pilates is an exercise method that focuses on building strength and flexibility, as well as sharpening the mind/body connection. Key pilates principles, including breathing, concentration, whole body movement, alignment and relaxation, help facilitate a more comfortable pregnancy and delivery by making you feel strong, calm, and more in tune with your body and your baby. By activating and strengthening your core, the deep muscles that stabilize your pelvis and lower back, your everyday movements will become easier and more balanced.

Pilates is an extremely individualized form of exercise, especially during pregnancy. Movements are simple, and modifications are made throughout pregnancy to accommodate changing energy levels, a growing belly and varying levels of stability around the pelvis and spine. Exercises that focus on the arms and upper back help prepare the mother for long stretches of holding and nursing infants. Proper spine alignment and pelvic stability will cut down on common aches and pains felt as a result of loosening ligaments around your joints. Stretching and release work help to alleviate tension in the body and foster relaxation.

Prenatal pilates is a wonderful way to prepare your body and your mind for this exciting time in your life. You will be treating yourself and your baby to a truly rewarding experience with benefits that will last a lifetime.

Rachel Prior

Pathways Issue 24 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #24.

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