August 29, 2012

Value of a Doula

by Tiffany Hare

When people ask me what I do, I always respond by saying, “I’m a doula and a childbirth educator.” And then I wait. I wait for the look of uncertainty to fill the face of the person who asked me the question, or for them to say, “What’s a doula?” The word is still a very unfamiliar one in some parts of the country, and even though I live in a large suburban area outside of Philadelphia, many of the people I come into contact with outside of the birth-world have never heard of a doula.

And that makes me a bit sad.

I think back to a time when women were surrounded by other women during their labors and their  births; a time when by the time a woman had reached childbearing age, she would have seen birth happen so many times that she was well-prepared for it herself.
But we don’t live in that time. We live in a time in which birth is unknown and frightening to many women. It is during this time that we need doulas.
We need doulas to help us get the information that we need so that we are empowered to make the right decisions for ourselves and for our babies. Doulas can help us make decisions by providing us with information and guidance. Doulas help us through our labors and our births by offering constant companionship .

The value of having a birth doula cannot be underestimated. As anyone who has given birth can tell you, giving birth is one of the most life-alerting events that one can experience. Birth is an intimate event. It is an event that does not come with a do-over button. And while we can never predict an outcome, especially in an event as unpredictable as birth, we can take steps in order to achieve the birth experience that we dream of.  Doulas are one step you can take in order to get the birth that you hope for.

Since the beginning of human history, birth took place in the home, with family present, and with a midwife who was experienced in normal birth. Girls and women witnessed birth and experienced it long before they gave birth to their own children. Today, in a culture in which birth typically takes place outside of the home, most women have no experience with childbirth until they give birth themselves. It is a new and foreign experience for most of us.

On average, the length of time a woman who giving birth for the first time spends in labor is about eighteen hours. During most of that time, she and her partner are left to blaze this unexplored trail on their own. It can sometimes be a scary experience that is full of unknowns.

However, studies have shown that having a doula present at your birth can greatly increase your chance of having a birth outcome that you feel good about. Doulas can help to increase positive birth outcomes and decrease the use of medications such as Pitocin and epidural anesthesia. Doulas can decrease the total length of labor by about 25% and decrease the incidence of cesarean delivery by about 50%. Overall, doulas can help you avoid unnecessary interventions and they can help you get off to a better start with your baby and increase your chances of having a successful breastfeeding relationship.

A doula is present during the entire labor and her knowledge and experience can help the mother find confidence and security throughout her birthing experience. When a woman feels safe, confident and secure, oxytocin (“the love hormone”) flows freely and facilitates the progression of her labor. Feeling safe reduces the presence of adrenaline, the hormone responsible for fight or flight syndrome, which can slow or stall a labor. When a woman is supported by a doula, she feels that she has better control of her birthing experience, can make decisions with confidence, and is free to trust what her body is telling her. 

Birth is an event that is not forgotten. The experience stays with us throughout our lives. In birth, as in life, there are no guarantees, but having a doula present at your birth can help get one step closer to realizing the birth that you hope for. 

August 17, 2012

BirthWorks 5K Fun Run!

BirthWorks International will be hosting its first fundraiser, the BirthWorks International 5K Fun Run at Freedom Park in Medford, NJ.   The walk will be preceded by a free yoga class and registration.  After the walk, the rest of the day will include fun activities for the family, a mini pelvic bodywork class, vendors and much more!

The run will take place at Freedom Park in Medford, NJ on September 8, 2012.  The park is located at 86 Union St. in Medford, New Jersey.   The event will occur between 9am and 3pm.  There will be a free yoga session at 9am, taught by Tricia Heiser of the Yoga Sanctuary of Medford followed by the 5K Fun Run/Walk at 10am.  Cathy Daub, the president and founder of BirthWorks International, will teach a free pelvic bodywork class for expecting mothers at 12pm.  Furthermore, the event will hold various children’s races and activities.  Prizes will be rewarded to all winners.

BirthWorks International embodies the philosophy of developing a woman’s self-confidence, trust and faith in her innate ability to give birth.  BirthWorks seeks working relationships with other childbirth related organizations, striving together to help birthing families make more informed and safe choices for birth.  It is our mission to train childbirth educators and doulas that in turn provide evidence-based, current information to birthing families through a unique experiential approach that is based on human values.  All proceeds from this event will fund programs that help educate and empower women and families around the world about safe birth practices and natural birth options.
    Being an international organization, we are aware that many of our friends and colleagues are unable to attend this event on September 8th; however that should not discourage anyone from helping us raise the funds necessary to provide these programs and research to birthing families and enhance their knowledge and experience during this special and important time in their lives.  Please join us as a virtual walker.  By registering online at, you can support BirthWorks and its philosophy by asking for sponsorship and donations from family, friends or co-workers.  Thank you and good luck!  

August 3, 2012

Silence In Labor

by Mali Schwartz  

Why is it so important to create a quiet, peaceful atmosphere during labor?   And how can women take charge of creating a peaceful environment no matter where they choose to give birth? 

The Leboyer Method, established by Dr. Frederic Leboyer in the 1970s was proven to minimize the trauma and stress experienced by a baby at birth.  This method of delivery advocated giving birth in a quiet room that had low or dim lighting.   Not pulling on the baby’s head; placing the baby on the mother’s stomach; not cutting the baby's umbilical cord until it has stopped pulsating, and placing your baby in a warm bath shortly after birth were other ways to ensure a less stressful birth. 

This method has had some influence in delivery rooms where noise levels are minimized to make the atmosphere more peaceful for mothers.  According to an article found on the website (, “many midwives and doctors are willing to incorporate some, if not all, of the facets of the Leboyer method into the birth experience.”

Dr. Michel Odent, another birth pioneer who has conducted extensive research on how womb ecology can impact human development, has proven how important the quieting of the neocortex is during birth.  BirthWorks International provides a link on their website where anyone can access Odent’s primal health research.

According to Odent, the neo-cortex is the center for what we commonly consider our intellect.  It is the part that allows us to be logical and also creates our sense of inhibition, giving us our civility and our modesty.  When we are being stimulated intellectually or feel we are being watched, the neocortex is active.  This is not conducive to laboring women, who like mammals need no distractions while in labor.  They naturally focus inward and shut out the outside world.  Dark, warm, quiet surroundings are critical for her to maintain this space of consciousness safely and have the best possible labor and birth experience/outcome.

Engaging the birthing woman in discussion is not a good idea.  Other triggers that should be avoided are watching television, bright lights, feeling cold, and feeling observed.  Even music with certain beats, tempos and lyrics may cause– without the woman’s total awareness– a stimulation of the neocortex.   Although a woman might not even be aware when her neocortex is being stimulated, it’s vital that this part of the brain be at rest so that primitive brain structures can more easily release the necessary hormones such as endorphins, serotonin, acetylcholine, and vasopressin which help relieve stress and pain.

Have you ever heard someone say “I feel like I was on another planet,” while she was giving birth?  This means that the activity of her neocortex was reduced.  This reduction of the activity of the neocortex is an essential aspect of birth physiology.   Even the slightest attention can keep her from the true meditative nothingness of the primal consciousness her birthing body seeks.

What can we do to reach this state of meditative nothingness?   A book “Frequency: The Power of Personal Vibration,” helps us to understand how to intentionally work with energy to transform our lives.   Author Penny Peirce makes a leap that science has not yet made – namely that the energy frequencies of matter have matching consciousness frequencies.  In describing the four categories of brain waves from fastest to slowest -  beta, alpha, theta and delta, it is interesting to note that the fastest brain waves correspond with lower frequency waves, while the slowest brain waves correlate with higher frequency - expanded awareness. 

According to Peirce we can influence our personal vibrations, although our personal vibrations are also affected by vibrations in the world, other people’s vibrations, and our environment.   Peirce believes that we all have the power to determine how we want to feel and when we choose to attune to the frequency of our soul, a new perception based on our souls expansive, loving wisdom opens to us.

The Leboyer method, Dr. Michel Odent’s neo-cortex research and author Penny Peirce understanding of personal vibrations can empower us with the knowledge of how important silence is during labor.  With knowledge comes wisdom – the wisdom to create a peaceful, loving atmosphere in which to welcome a new life into this world.