During consultations about doula services, some common questions include things like:
- What do you actually *do* at the birth?...
- When do we call you?...
- What is your relationship like with the hospital staff?...
Those are all good questions, and we’ll answer them in a separate blog post. But another common one is “What do you bring with you?” Although there are a couple of things that will be unique to each doula, our team prides itself on having a variety of tools in our toolbox – I mean, doula bag – for conquering labor and birth!
Have you experienced or heard of “back labor”? If you have had it, you know how terrible it can be. Back labor is caused when the baby is in a posterior position and their head is putting pressure on the tailbone. Unlike contractions, the discomfort of back labor doesn’t come and go. It’s constant. And in some cases can be excruciating. This is where a TENS Unit comes into play….A TENS Unit is a small electronic device that runs off a single 9-volt battery with 4 wires that attach to leads that are placed on the lower back, in a square around the area of discomfort. Small electronic pulses are sent through the device and in essence, they “disrupt” the pain signals going up the spine to the brain. While it doesn’t take away all of the discomfort, it can make it manageable enough that your doula can work with you to get into positions that may encourage the baby into a better position within the pelvis and alleviate the issue altogether. The intensity of the current is controlled by the laboring woman, so you can turn it up or down to your liking. All of our doulas are trained in the use of TENS and we carry them with us to all births. As part of our paperwork process, we ask that you obtain consent from your physician or midwife for the use of the TENS, as there are some contraindications to its use.
Smell has a powerful impact to incite a physical and emotional response. Typical fragrances like lavender can be soothing and relaxing, while others like sweet orange and lemongrass can be energizing. Scents help set the stage for the environment and mood you are looking to achieve. Most of our doulas carry a minimum of 5-6 different scents that can be used in a variety of ways including being massaged into pressure points or diffused into the room.
A what? Robozo refers to a type of cloth as well as the technique they are used for. Essentially, it’s a long scarf that can be used to reduce the pressure the baby is causing in a certain area, encourage a better position from baby, alleviate hip and lower back pain, hold the weight of the laboring woman, for counter force during pushing, and many other options. While any cloth can work with these techniques, a slightly stretchy yet sturdy material tends to work best.
The Birth Vision
The Birth Vision, or Birth Plan are all of the preferences the family has identified as important to them during labor, the birth and postpartum period. We always bring record of those plans as well as your basic health history and any notes we’ve taken during our prenatal visits together. We can share them with the birth team if necessary, but most often, we refer to them on the way to the birth and a couple of times during the birth to ensure that everything is on track.
Similar to the olfactory benefits of scents, music or sounds can also help create an auditory environment that supports your vision for your labor. While we encourage all families to prepare some music that they prefer, we also have subscriptions to music services so we can put on some tunes to affect the mood. Sometimes it’s soothing nature sounds to help you relax, sometimes it’s 80’s cardio jams to energize the room and keep your spirits up. It’s not uncommon for a mom to completely escape into the music which improves relaxation, connection to baby, reduces muscle tension and mentally prepares her for the birth. About 5 years ago, I was with a mother who was slightly apprehensive about the pushing phase, causing her to lose focus on her labor. We put on some music that really speaks to her that let her focus her energy and settle her mind. Literally within minutes, she was holding her baby with tears of joy streaming down her face.
A tennis ball or stress ball is a very simple tool that we use in labor. You can squeeze it, roll it on mom’s back, have her roll her feet across it, bounce it to relieve nervous energy…They are such a simple device that can have a soothing or distracting effect. You’ll never catch me without several different stress balls in my bag!
Mints and Gum
If mom’s feeling nauseous or has had an upset stomach, sometimes a mint can help calm her stomach. Likewise, gum can be a pleasant distraction and way to relieve nervous energy.
This one's pretty self explanatory.
We tuck a couple of these in our bags in case mom’s water has broken before we all leave for the hospital or to place in the car on the way to the hospital to avoid messy clean ups later.
Labors can be long – sustenance is key! Simple, easy to eat snacks like almonds, dried fruit, fresh fruit and crackers can usually be found in my bag. I always have extras in case the other individuals supporting mom need some. In a case where the laboring woman is refraining from eating out of choice or by request of her medical providers, I will take a small break to use the restroom and have a quick snack so I can continue to support mom at 100%.
Births can be messy. I learned my lesson several years back when I was sitting on a bed, comforting a laboring woman when her water broke. I was grateful to have had a spare pair of pants in my car….now I have a full change of clothes in my bag!
We like to keep a little pack of personal items in our bags so we can stay fresh and focused during a labor. Some of my favorites include Whisps toothbrushes (small disposable toothbrushes pre-filled with toothpaste), hair ties, a comb/brush, deodorant, contact solution and backup glasses, tissues.
Most times, births go pretty "text book", but sometimes there's a unique scenario that we may not encounter as often. For these situations, we often have some note cards, books or other reference materials that may give us some less-often used techniques to employ during your labor. They can also be a good tool when we seem to have tried *everything* and need some new ideas to help a stalled labor or a stubbornly malpositioned baby.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of what you can expect from our birth bags. They are always evolving, though, as we frequently add new tricks and tools based on new techniques that we've learned or trade secrets our doula friends share with us!