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Doulas for Dummies

A few reasons you might want to book your doula before entering the labor ward.

Doulas for Dummies
©Jada Shapiro, Birth Day Presence

The day your baby is born will likely be the best day of your life...eventually. But first comes labor. To help get you closer to the sweet cry of your new baby, a doula can provide extra emotional and physical support before, during and after labor. Jada Shapiro, founder of boober and Birth Day Presence, gives Well Rounded the rundown on birth doula services and makes the case for adding one extra VIP to the delivery room.

Well Rounded: Why would someone choose to use a doula during the birthing experience?

Jada Shapiro: A doula provides extra emotional and physical support to the laboring woman and her partner. Studies show that if a woman is birthing with an OB, she can expect to see her doctor about 5 percent of the time and she may see her nurse about 25 percent of the time. So, couples are left alone for much of the birth experience. A doula is the only childbirth professional who stays continuously with the mother throughout her entire labor.

Doulas also free up a partner to have his/her own emotional experience and to just be there for the mom. Finally, studies show that doula care leads to a reduction in unnecessary cesarean births, reductions in postpartum depression, reductions in request for pain medications, and an increase in maternal satisfaction with the birth experience.

WR: What services does a doula provide, from the most minimal relationship to the most in-depth offering?

JS: Doulas provide pain relief techniques, massage, emotional and physical support, informational support, reassurance, and more to help the mother and her partner through the birth experience. Once a doula is hired, she is on-call 24-7 by phone and email from 36 weeks until birth. Usually, she comes to the mother's home at about 36 weeks for a prenatal meeting with the parent(s)-to-be about how she can best support them through the birth. She will join the family during labor when the mother requests her presence, and stay until about 1-2 hours after the birth, helping with breastfeeding and getting the family settled.

WR: How does a doula complement the birth, rather than compete or conflict?

JS: If you hire a doula who is following the correct standards and codes for doula practice according to DONA International (the organization which certifies our affiliated doulas), then she will not be competing or conflicting with your midwife or doctor in any way. A doula is non-clinical, and there to support the mother emotionally, physically and informationally. The doula complements the medical staff by providing the calm state and reassurance a women needs during labor. Many of the care providers we work with recommend a doula because it makes their job easier, and over the past decade, we have seen some of the formerly doula-resistant doctors begin to accept our role in labor.

WR: What are some of the most important characteristics for a person to determine when choosing the right doula for their birth?

JS: Chemistry between the mother and the doula is critical. Do you feel a good, strong connection? Can you imagine that person there with you during one of the most intimate times of your life? Does she make you feel safe and secure? Choosing a doula is partially about listening to your gut instincts, and partially about practical things like your budget, doula experience and personality type.

WR: Are doulas just a luxury for ladies who lunch? Are there affordable options?

JS: We believe that all pregnant women and families who want a doula should be able to work with one. Birth Day Presence provides a wide range of doulas, with fees starting at $300 for doulas-in-training. All doulas affiliated with Birth Day Presence take our incredible doula training, and some trainees just out of our program will volunteer their services to families in need. Insurance is starting to cover doula care as well.

WR: There's a common perception that only "crunchy" gals use doulas. Does hiring a doula mean you have to have a home birth or can't have an epidural?

JS: Absolutely not!! Our clients run the gamut from granola to glitz, and we are there to support women through whatever type of birth they want to have. Most births in New York City take place in the hospital, and most women have epidurals. But even if you are planning to have an epidural, you still have to be in labor before you can get one, or the anesthesiologist may be unavailable for 1-2 hours. What if the epidural doesn't totally work for you? These are all cases where having a doula could be critical.

Think of a doula as an extra helper. Even with pain medication in play, there will still be a lot of hard work ahead for you, from pushing the baby out, to managing any potential medical side effects, and helping once the baby comes out. And for those women who hope to avoid pain medication, a doula is so helpful in providing non-pharmacological pain-management techniques and encouragement.

Photography by ©Jada Shapiro, Birth Day Presence

http://www.birthdaypresence.net

In This Article

    Ara Katz/Seed

    We spoke to Ara Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed, who shared her journey to (and through) motherhood—and gave us the lowdown on how probiotics can benefit mamas and children alike.

    Chances are, you're aware that probiotics can help us digest the food we eat, keep inflammation at bay, synthesize essential vitamins and more. But here's the thing: When it comes to probiotics, there's a lot of misinformation… and because of that, it's hard to know what's actually a probiotic and which is the right one for you.

    That's why we chatted with Ara Katz, who is a mama to son Pax and the co-founder of Seed, a company disrupting the probiotics industry. The entrepreneur told us about her motherhood journey, what led her to start her company and what she wants other parents to know about probiotics.

    Q. What was life like for you before you became a mama?

    I was bi-coastal after co-founding a mobile tech company in New York City with a partner in LA. My life was, for as long as I can remember, consumed by creating and work. I was fairly nomadic, loved to travel, spent many hours reading and practicing yoga, being with friends [and] waking up at the crack of dawn. [I] was fairly sure I would never marry or have children. And then something shifted.

    Q. What were some pivotal moments that defined your journey to motherhood?

    Ha, that makes it sound like motherhood is a destination when at this very moment, more than ever, it evolves daily. I lost my mom when I was 17 and spent most of my life believing I didn't want to be a mother. I had a lot of wiring about its limitations and constraints—I'm sure relics of grief and the fear of loss.

    My journey started with a physiological wanting to be pregnant and have a baby. There was a kind of visceral sense that my body wanted to know what that was like and a strange curiosity that, at least for that period of time, usurped my ambivalence about motherhood.

    Then I had a miscarriage—a beautiful inflection point in my story. I resigned from my company, chose a coast, committed to be more committed to my (then) boyfriend, now husband, and tried again. I got pregnant shortly after that and found pregnancy to be a profound journey within, a reshaping of my life and the tiniest glimpse of how motherhood would unfold.

    In the 55 months since giving birth (and I like to use months because I have learned in the moments that I am most frustrated as a mom that he has only been on this planet for less than 14 fiscal quarters), I have realized and surrendered to a definition of motherhood that is a process. One of cultivating, creating, recreating, shapeshifting, learning, feeling, healing, hurting and experiencing the most potent form of presence I have ever experienced—and an aching, expansive love I didn't know possible—not just for my son, but for all living things.

    Q. How did motherhood change your approach to your career?

    Becoming a mother is certainly a persistent lens on all of my choices, but it was really my miscarriage that recalibrated my path. My pregnancy rekindled my love of biology and health and led me to my co-founder and the microbiome. My breastfeeding experience incepted our first product focus, and the newfound accountability for a human inspired our brand.

    Q. What inspired you to co-found Seed?

    I met my co-founder, Raja, during my pregnancy with Pax. [I] was immediately awestruck by his ability to both deeply understand science and to methodically break down a product, dietary question or piece of advice in a way that's educational (you actually learn something about your body), actionable (you understand what to do with the information) and foundational (you can build on that knowledge in the future to continue to make better choices).

    As we spent more time, our combined passion for microbes, their potential impact on both human health and the environment, and how to set up a child for a healthy life became increasingly clear. And through birth, seeding (the process by which we get our foundational microbes and the inspiration for the name of our company) Pax and my struggles with breastfeeding, my entrepreneurial spirit was lit to build something with Raja. His deep experience in translating science to product, and mine in consumer, community-building and translating through storytelling, culminated in a shared vision to set a new standard in health through bacteria.

    Q. Probiotics have been trending in recent years, but they're nothing new—can you talk a bit about the importance of probiotics?

    Interest in gut health and probiotics increases month by month. However, despite the quickly growing number of "probiotic" supplements, foods and beverages out there, there's still a lot of consumer confusion—particularly around what they are, how they work and why we should take them. Probiotics have been studied extensively across various life stages, body sites and for many benefits. Digestion is an obvious and immediate one (and the primary reason most people currently take probiotics). But other strains have also been studied for skin health, heart health and gut health (including gut immune function and gut barrier integrity). But this doesn't mean that any and all probiotics can do these things—this is the importance of 'strain specificity.' In other words, ensuring that the specific strains in your probiotic have been studied for the benefit you desire is critical.

    Seed Daily Synbiotic

    Seed

    Seed's Daily Synbiotic is a 24-strain probiotic + prebiotic formulated for whole-body benefits, including gut, skin and heart health.


    Q. How do probiotics play a role in your life?

    I mean, I take them, I develop them and I work with some of the leading scientists from around the world advancing the field—so they play a big role. As for my personal health, I take our Daily Synbiotic daily and my son also takes specific strains for gastrointestinal health and gut immune function. Beyond that, it's the re-orientation around my microbiome that guides many of my choices: how important fiber is, specific compounds like polyphenols found in berries, green tea and other foods, avoiding the use of NSAIDS like ibuprofen and antibiotics when not needed, exercise, sleep and time in nature [are] all aspects of our daily life that impact our microbiome and our health.

    Q. What are some misconceptions about probiotics that you would like to set straight?

    There's one main myth on from which all the other stem: that probiotics aren't considered a serious science. On the contrary, it's a field of inquiry that demands incredible rigor and extensive research. And when anything and everything from chocolate to ice cream to fermented food and kombucha to mattresses can call itself "probiotic" due to underregulation in the category, that grossly undermines the science and their potential.

    The term 'probiotic' has a globally-accepted scientific definition that was actually co-authored by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Gregor Reid ,for the United Nations/World Health Organization.

    At Seed, we work to reclaim the term for science, through the development of next-generation probiotics that include clinically validated strains and undergo the most rigorous safety, purity and efficacy testing procedures. Because why would you invite billions of unknown microbes into your body without asking "what's in here, is it the correct dosage that was studied, and has that strain in that amount been studied in human clinical trials to do something beneficial for my body"?

    Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what product you plan to launch next?

    We are developing a pipeline of consumer probiotics to target specific ecosystems of the body and life stages, including a synbiotic for children. Our next product will reflect a unique breakthrough in the field of pediatric probiotics, which we are excited to announce soon.

    This article was sponsored by Seed. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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