Choosing the Best Birth Team

Your birth team is everything

Take the "Baby Ready" Quiz in this blog post to see how ready you are for your birth.

 

The people that are around you during your pregnancy and your labor, as well as in postpartum will have an incredibly strong impact on your physical and psychological well being. Who you choose matters.

 

So, let’s break it down to all the people to  be considered for your birth team, how to find them and what benefit they bring to your well-being in the short and long term.


Your Partner

Whether it’s your romantic partner, your best friend, your mother, your sister...this person is the person that is present during the majority of your pregnancy and will be there during your labor. This is your co-parent. The person that will do this new life with you.

 

Communication with your partner is important. Open, honest, raw communication is key. The kind of communication where you talk about what you want, what you need, discuss each other’s role in this process. 

You should both have regular discussions about birth wishes, desires and how you plan to parent your baby. These are discussions best had now, rather than waiting until the baby is born.

In addition, you should discuss your birth wishes plan together, as well as ways that your partner will advocate for you.  


Your OBGYN or Midwife

Are you choosing an OBGYN or a Midwife? To make this decision, I recommend that you create a checklist of how you view your pregnancy, how you’d like your appointments to be like, the kind of experience and education that you feel most secure in, and whether or not your pregnancy is a low-risk, normal pregnancy or a high-risk pregnancy. 

For the majority of high-risk pregnancies, it’s best to see an OBGYN since the training for medical conditions and emergencies is more specialized. As well, they will be able to handle these conditions themselves. 

However, for most low-risk pregnancies, you have the option of both. Some states are not as birth friendly as others (Illinois, Nebraska, and Alabama and more) despite the fact that giving birth with a midwife (whether at home or at a hospital) is not considered an irresponsible decision for a low-risk pregnancy


What’s the difference between an OBGYN and a Midwife?

To start with, an OBGYN has more years as well as different training in medical education compared to a Midwife. An OBGYN attends four years of medical school, plus four years of residency. 

A Certified Nurse Midwife first becomes a nurse, and then completes a graduate program in Midwifery. A Certified Midwife must also complete a master’s program, but does not need to have a nursing background. And a Certified Professional Midwife must complete training in a Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC) accredited program where she may have the option of an associate's degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctoral degree. Most graduates obtain an associate’s degree. 

All of the above are trained to provide care during pregnancy and birthing in a low-risk pregnancy, with OBGYNs having the speciality of caring during a high-risk pregnancy as well. 

doula

The care you receive depends greatly on the care provider you choose.

In general, a midwife will offer more emotional support than an OBGYN, and therefore, during appointments, the midwife will spend more time addressing the pregnant woman’s concerns and questions. While there are OBGYN’s that do the same, they are not the norm. During the labor, the midwife will be more present than the OBGYN, who generally arrives when the pregnant woman is close to pushing stage. Again, this also depends on who you choose as an OBGYN.

Whether your pregnancy is seen as an emergency waiting to happen versus a natural part of the life cycle will not depend on whether you’ve chosen an OBGYN or a Midwife, but on the specific individual(s) you’ve chosen.

How to Know You've Chosen Well

A good OBGYN or Midwife is one that respects the mother's birth wishes and desires for the birth. Dr. Kenneth James, a board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist who leads the practice at Laguna Beach OBGYN and Midwifery Services and has over 25 years of experience, believes all pregnant women should feel heard and respected by their physician.

Dr. James' suggestion for what to look for in a physician is "Confidence, communication and competence. Women should feel that their physician respects their autonomy, understands their risks factors (if any), and helps make the environment safe, supportive and positive. Labor and delivery is an experience not a medical procedure.  Happy positive people surrounding the laboring woman makes the experience more enjoyable, promotes an emotional better environment and has a higher success rate."

 

essential oils


How to Find an OBGYN or Midwife

  • Ask your friends and family if they used a OBGYN or Midwife and if so, ask about their recommendations.
  • Contact your local childbirth educators. If they are like me, they have a list of OBGYN or Midwives they know and recommend.
  • Contact your local birth professionals organization for recommendations.

Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few choices, which are in your insurance network (unless you’re paying out of pocket), you’ll want to meet at least two of your options. You’ll want to interview them based on the discussions you’ve had with your partner about birth wishes and your own comfort level before making your decision.

Your Doula

A doula is a person that offers physical and emotional support to the birthing mother. She’s not part of your medical team, nor does being a doula equate to medical care giving. However, doulas are trained in coping techniques and communication skills that enable her to support the birthing mother during labor. 

Doula

Research shows that mothers that utilize a doula have better birth outcomes. 

In one study published by Lamaze International's Journal of Perinatal Education, mothers who had a doula were:

  • Four times less likely to have a low birth weight (LBW) baby
  • Two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or their baby

Another study showed that mothers that used a doula had slightly shorter labor. 

 

 

 

A doula does not replace your partner.

Often times, partners question if a doula will replace the partner’s role. The answer is that it’s quite the opposite of replacing. In fact the doula enhances the partner’s role by also offering emotional support to the partner, providing resources and allowing the partner breaks when birth becomes overwhelming (as it does for most partners of all genders, since birth is a very vulnerable time). 

In the years of prenatal and postpartum teaching, I have never had a partner come back and say “I wished I had not used a doula.” In fact, what I’ve had is partners come back and say, “Please tell everyone that they should use a doula!”

A doula helps the birthing mother find her voice during labor. She helps her feel safe and secure and she has the ability to sense when the mother needs more or less of her. 


How to Find a Doula

  • Ask your friends and family if they used a doula and if so, ask out their recommendations.
  • Contact your local childbirth educators. If they are like me, they have a list of doulas they know and recommend.
  • Contact your local birth professionals organization for recommendations.
  • Check Yelp for doula reviews and contact the highly rated doulas.

Once you’ve created a list of doula recommendations, call each one to ask for their experience level, style of support they provide, pricing and availability, as well as any other question that is important to you. I also recommend that you meet in person the ones that you’re most interested in hiring. 

Many doulas take 1-2 births a month, so you’ll want to search for a doula at the beginning of your second trimester, though do not let the stage of your pregnancy stop you from seeking a doula.


Your Postpartum Doula

A birth doula is present during your labor. A postpartum doula however is there after the baby is born. The role of a postpartum doula is to “mother the mother.”

 

 

A postpartum doula nurtures the mother in many ways, including:

  • Providing feeding information and education
  • Teaching soothing techniques to the mother 
  • Teaching mother how to do diaper changes and newborn bath
  • Offering much needed emotional support to the mother
  • Preparing nurturing meals for the mother
  • Light housekeeping such as folding baby’s clothing or arranging the mother’s room for comfort and relaxation 
  • Running errands and grocery shopping 
  • Holding baby while parents get much needed rest

The benefits of having a postpartum doula are backed by studies.

 

When mothers have a postpartum doula, they reduce their chances of postpartum depression and anxiety. They experience an increase of oxytocin, increase of relaxation, increase of confidence and self-esteem.

 


There are also postpartum doulas with additional training that can greatly enhance the benefits to the mother, such as specialized training in maternal mental health, lactation support, Reiki and other energy modalities, aromatherapy, herbalism and more. Personally, this is the way I practice as a Wholistic Postpartum Doula.

 

To find a doula that has additional trainings, you can also ask for recommendations at your local alternative and complementary care organizations and businesses in your community.

 

How to Find a Postpartum Doula

When seeking a postpartum doula, you’ll follow the same steps as you would for seeking a birth doula. 

  • Ask your friends and family if they used a postpartum doula and if so, ask if they have any recommendations.
  • Contact your local childbirth educators. If they are like me, they have a list of postpartum doulas they know and recommend.
  • Contact your local birth professionals organization for recommendations.
  • Visit Yelp for doula reviews and contact the highly rated doulas.
  • If you're seeking a birth doula, ask her if she also provides postpartum doula services.  

Once you’ve created a list of postpartum doula recommendations, call each one to ask for their experience level, style of support they provide, pricing and availability, as well as any other question that is important to you. I also recommend that you meet in person the ones that you’re most interested in hiring. Since postpartum doulas can also get booked for the months you need her, you will want to book her services in your second or early third trimester.

 

What to Do with What You've Learned

Now that you know how to create your best birth team, take some time to see what is working for you with your current team and what you need to change. You've got this.

 

Kindly,
Giselle Baumet
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Disclaimer: I use a hand-selected number of affiliates to contribute towards continuing to offer free resources to mothers and pregnant people. There's no cost to you when you click on any of the affiliate links.

 



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