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How To Pick A Doula

 

I wrote this advice about a year ago for friends in California who were having their first baby. It seems kind of perfect for a blog post! My friends had a lovely baby girl by the way :)

So, if you’ve already decided you want a doula, here’s my tips for finding a great one and having a positive experience with her.

 

1) You really like her and think you can trust her.
This is my #1 tip! She’s not your shrink or your doctor, but she helps you make decisions, stay strong, she gives you information etc. So sometimes a doula sort of feels like those things. Plus, you’re going to be hanging out naked in front of her, so you really need to like her and feel comfortable around her. The doula you have the best rapport with isn’t necessarily the one who’s the most expensive/done the most births. Sometimes a newer, less expensive doula is the person you feel most secure with.

2) She does a lot of prenatal education.
I think this is one of the most important things, because your average dr/midwife appointment is short! There’s a lot to talk about in pregnancy, and you want to feel like you get to see her at least 2 times after you hire her, and feel like you can call her/email her anytime. If this part goes well, then the actual birth support is usually a lot better.

3) Experience.
Experience counts! A doula who has experience with the hospital you’re birthing at, with many different kinds of births, and with many different kinds of people. That’s a doula who has a lot of knowledge and tricks up her sleeve. Sometimes the best thing about a doula is that they know how to navigate the hospital system! This is where a new doula just isn’t always as good as an experienced doula, but note that my #1 answer is still my #1! Liking her trumps experience.

4) Her philosophy is yours.
If you’re open to having an epidural, and you bring it up and your doula tells you, “oh, You don’t need one!”, then you might want to consider finding a doula who is a little more moderate! You don’t want to feel like your doula is disappointed in you during the birth. However, if you really really want to avoid all interventions if at all possible, then you want to hear from your doula that she has successfully helped many clients do that, and that she can help you during pregnancy and labor to set up that scenario. Some people are really adamant in their desire to have an intervention-free birth, and that’s great, and your doula should give you lots of homework in that case, because it takes preparation these days!

5) Read her contract and review it with her.
Doulas don’t make a lot of money, and usually they are worth every penny they are charging. The nature of on call work is very demanding, and a lot of planning goes into her being on call for you. Most of them have written contracts for a reason. When you enter into an agreement with anyone, it’s really important to be clear on the business end of things. Then you can get on to the important business of letting go so that you can give birth!

Maybe my next post should be about all the reasons you SHOULD consider a doula! But for now, I hope this helps you navigate through and find the doula who is right for you!

 

doulapic

Wrist Sensitivity in Pregnancy

 

The wrist is a fragile joint for anyone, but it comes under particular stress in the childbearing year.

A lot of people tend to call any wrist sensitivity “Carpal Tunnel”, but that’s not always accurate.   There are over 20 kinds of soft tissue overuse injuries that can affect the shoulders down to the fingers, many of which are felt in the wrist.  Carpal Tunnel Syndrome refers to the specific instance when the median nerve is pinched as it runs through the wrist (ie carpal) tunnel.   Someone can have wrist pain but not have a pinched median nerve.  In pregnant women, the ‘bracelet’ of the wrist bones feels especially sensitive because: the joint becomes unstable due to relaxin hormone; the increased blood flow from pregnancy is difficult to pass through a narrow joint; fluids pool in extremities, which causes swelling, causes even more narrowing of the passage.  Wrist sensitivity in pregnancy tends to resolve itself when you take these issues away.   In general, the main “cure” for it is finishing up pregnancy!   However, there are many things you can do to lessen the discomfort.

In my prenatal practice, we spend a lot of time on all fours, bearing weight on the hands with the wrists flexed.   In every class, I offer ways to modify the practice so that a woman doesn’t have to spend any time weight bearing on a sensitive wrist.   Options include: making fists and putting knuckles down on the floor with straight wrists; splaying the fingers out like tent poles to bear weight ; or coming down on the forearms.   Most women with sensitive wrists will cycle through all of those options in a class.  It’s so important to keep practicing yoga, because even though you may have to modify in the above ways, the benefits of yoga outweigh that inconvenience.

The basic hands and knees position

 

Modifying down on the forearms

As I mentioned above, swelling is one of the causes of wrist pain.  Minimizing swelling everywhere in the body will help the wrists.  Putting your legs up will help your wrists, as will any mild inversion (we do several in prenatal yoga).  Drinking lots of water and eating water-rich foods (fruits and veggies), which helps reduce swelling, will also help the wrists.

Legs up the wall is safe for most pregnant women and a great help for the circulatory system.

Finally, keeping your circulatory system going will help improve the wrists’ sensitivity.   Yoga is one of the best ways to improve your circulation.  The asanas we practice in prenatal yoga stretch tight chests and shoulders.  As our breasts change size in pregnancy, we tend to hunch and compress our thoracic outlet.  Often, general discomfort in the forearms or wrists is greatly improved once we work out some of the knots in the shoulders and chest, because restriction of blood flow was starting all the way up there. Getting blood and prana (life force) to flow through the whole body, but especially the upper body, is the best healer for injury.

Opening the chest keeps the prana flowing!

And don’t forget about the postpartum period!  Though the causes of the wrist sensitivity in pregnancy might subside, now we have a whole new set of circumstances that can cause wrist pain.   Women are operating on less sleep, are feeding babies in hunched positions for long periods of time, and are picking up babies often with really bent wrists (think baby sleeping in a bassinet next to mom and reaching over to pick up baby by contorting wrists).   All these things put the wrists at continued risk for injury.

There are several non-yoga treatments possible to help sore wrists.   Wearing a splint at night for sleeping or during the day when you’re resting (not when working)  will keep your wrist in a neutral position.  Acupuncture and massage are great.   Vitamin B6 might be good for keeping the nerves healthy.   Ask your practitioner about what they recommend!

Teacher Training Pictorial

 

I’m excited to be teaching a Prenatal Yoga teacher training November 5-8!  If you’re a yoga teacher interested in teaching spectacular prenatal classes, I highly recommend taking a specialized training.  It makes such a difference in the quality of classes you can offer all your pregnant students.

At my last teacher training, we were lucky enough to have Erica Magliaro take pictures for us.  Here are some highlights:

Not all the trainees are parents, and you don’t have to have given birth to be a good prenatal teacher.   I taught prenatal yoga for 8 years before I became a mama!  I taught the training while pregnant!

 

The teachers got several opportunities to observe me teaching pregnant students, and to actively teach prenatal classes.

Teachers who take this training come from all over the US and Canada.  Some are brand new teachers and some have several years of experience.  Some are professionals in the field of maternity/childbirth, while others are interested to learn more.

Because everyone who takes the training is required to have completed a basic yoga teacher training, we are able to work together, in a sacred circle, and learn from each other.  We’ve got an alter in the center of our circle honoring our families and our yoga traditions.

In the training, we do lots of hands-on experiential learning.  We keep the training small so that everyone gets personal attention.

We learn how to turn up the heat in classes, and we learn how to help pregnant women relax deeply.

 

Best of all, we try to enjoy learning.   This past group was lots of fun!   If you’re interested in signing up, or learning more about the teacher training, check out my website or email me on the contact page.

Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training in 2011!


I’m still getting a page up on my website about the Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training, so until then, I thought I’d blog about it!


Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training with Barrett Lauck Reinhorn

Saturday March 5 – Tuesday March 8, 2011 in Cambridge, MA.

Exact hours each day will be posted in a few months, but the training is the bulk of each day and some evenings.

The training is designed for yogis who have completed a 200-hr. or greater teacher training, and/or are teaching regularly.    The training covers:


–          Important principles of hatha yoga, particularly as they relate in the childbearing year

–          Key information on the physical, mental and emotional journey of pregnancy

–          Therapeutic applications of the asanas for all the common conditions of pregnancy

–          Observation of Barrett teaching class

–          Practice teaching prenatal yoga

–          Important support services you offer beyond the mat for pregnant women

–          Comprehensive manual with plenty of time and space for notes and discussion

–          Podcasts of prenatal sequences to listen to before, during and after the training

–          Required reading before the start of the training

–          Certificate upon completion for 40 hours of training


The training is $750, with an early registration price of $675 if paid in full by February 5, 2011.   Interested trainees must register no later than one week before the training in order to be sent the reading list, to be completed before the training starts (about 2-3 hours worth of reading).

If you know anyone interested, please send them this information.

If you have other questions, please email me.

Namaste!

Barrett


Some Postive Changes in Hospital Births


First and foremost, I’m a yoga teacher.  I teach all adults, and I specialize in prenatal and postnatal yoga.  But in my previous life, I did a lot of activism, in public health and human/civil rights.  My passion for the last decade has been working with moms in the childbearing year, and of course, a huge focus of our work is on laboring and birth.  So, I like to share positive news and trends in the pregnancy/birth world!

One of the reasons I think yoga is so important during pregnancy is that it helps you *trust* how healthy you are.  When you know from deep within that you are healthy and that your baby is healthy, then you can advocate for yourself if needed.   As valuable as hospitals and their well-trained staff are, navigating a hospital birth is often a minefield of interventions and restrictive policies, many of which can be unnecessary.   Two recent articles highlight some positive changes happening, in large part because families are advocating for them!!

First, hospitals are finally starting to lift the ban on drinking and eating in labor!   Can you imagine working hard for 14 hours (average length of labor for first time mom) and not eating or drinking?   That’s crazy!  So for years, informed mamas have snuck in snacks to their labor rooms, because they know they need fuel to make it through labor.   Now, hopefully, families can feel free to openly nourish their laboring women in the hospital.

If you’re pregnant, advocate for yourself ahead of time by letting your care provider know that you reserve the right to eat or drink (if you want) during your time in the hospital.

Second, we have a long road ahead of us, but a recent article in a medical journal is finally recognizing that routine induction of moms in their due time leads to a huge increase in the incidence of Cesarean section.   It’s so important to avoid medical induction if there is not a medical reason, and yet, half the moms in my class struggle to push back against eager doctors (and midwives!) who want to induce.

If you are a mama seeking to avoid CSection, talk to your provider early in your pregnancy about their induction rates.   Ask your provider if they routinely induce, and when.   I recommend if they routinely induce at 41 weeks that you seek another provider, and let the original provider know the reason why!   As a consumer, you have a great deal of power to change the way medical providers practice, especially when the science backs you up.

And of course, through it all, practicing yoga regularly with give you the motivation, determination and COURAGE to grow your baby, birth your baby, and parent your baby the best way you can.

Namaste!!

Barrett

Pregnant Parsva Konasana

Yoga Journal’s Boston Conference

Way back in April, as part of my bachelorette weekend, I did part of the Yoga Journal Boston conference.   I don’t think I had been to a yoga conference since 1999 – they’re huge and very consumerist-oriented, so sometimes they are a turn-off to me.   I lose the yoga in all the hubbub!

But this was actually really great for me.   I needed a weekend of intensive yoga – no teaching, just doing my own thing.  It was wonderful to take care of my hamstring and shoulder, and go at my own pace.   There was a sense of less ego and performance for me in this conference than I probably had 10 years ago at my last conference.   Injury and experience both will humble you, I guess!

I saw some teachers I’d studied with before and to whom I wanted to make a little pilgrimage.  David Swenson, Shiva Rea, and Beryl Bender Birch were all great, and it was nice to be in their energy again. Each one is so different!  It’s good to study with lots of people.

New for me was Desiree Rumbaugh, an Anusara teacher.   I have always liked Anusara, but just haven’t pursued training because I like a lot of other styles too.  I’d never studied with Desiree and I’m so glad I did!   She’s got a lot of energy, and she teaches well.   She reminds me of my teacher Amba with her infectious laugh and joie de vivre.  I did a handstanding workshop, and though I’m very proficient in handstands, I learned a little of the Anusara approach, which is definitely different than any other approach I’ve learned or intuited on my own.   I’m considering another workshop with Desiree later in the summer, because this short intro was not enough!

I also had an introduction to Julie Gudmestad, who had written the Anatomy column in Yoga Journal for forever!   She’s a physical therapist and yoga teacher, and I did a course with her on the rotator cuff.   It was great because my rotator cuff has been getting aggravated easily in the last few months.   She had some really helpful information, and in general, the conference helped me zone in a bit more on some of the things I am doing in my teaching that are probably contributing to the problem.

So, do I recommend conferences?   Yes!  But sparingly.  A conference once every 5 years or so is plenty for me.  If you’re interested in studying yoga more intensively, a conference is a good way to shop around for potential teachers, and could even be a good way to explore one topic with many teachers.   For example, if you wanted to work on arm balances, you could do a conference and pick sessions that help you learn a bit more about arm balances (word to the wise though – these conferences are tiring, so make sure you don’t injure yourself overdoing it!).

Once you have teachers you love, seek them out and learn from them.   Most teachers who inspire you will be a deep well of information and transformation, good to learn from several times over many years.   I think there’s beauty in going deep with one teacher or tradition, and while a conference doesn’t give you that, it’s a valuable sampling.

Now get on the mat!

Barrett

Wearing Your Baby

Continuing on my exhaustive week of all things mom and yoga related, I just taught my new moms yoga class today.   In class, there was a new mom whose baby is 10 weeks old. She lives in the neighborhood, and told me she doesn’t own a car or a stroller!   She and her partner have planned to buy a stroller this spring, but she can’t bring herself to do it yet.   The thought of storing the monstrosity in a city apartment is part of it.   And she says, she likes wearing her baby and finds it more comfortable and convenient. 

And then I read this article from the NYTimes two days ago, all about “babywearing” instead of strollering.   Very interesting!   Moms and Dads, what do you prefer?

Love and light,

Barrett

Mama Resources

For years, I’ve sent expectant moms a prenatal resource list and new moms a postpartum resource list.  Both are chock full of local people (doctors, doulas, acupuncturists, classes, etc.) and items (DVDs, music, etc.) that are helpful in pregnancy and postpartum.  I’m now putting them online!!  Click here for my favorite prenatal resources  in the Boston area.   Click here for my postpartum resources list in the Boston area, and please note that this is a work in progress.   Email me if you have other suggestions.   

I realize that wherever you are in the world, it’s so important to find a community that can give you these kinds of resources.   I’m always learning from moms in my classes about new resources.   It got me thinking –

How do you find your community?  

1)     Go to movement class – preferably yoga!!   When you’re pregnant, it’s so helpful not only to move and breathe in pregnancy, but also to meet moms.  This goes for the postpartum period as well.   After my Friday afternoon new moms yoga class, participants go across the street to the local café to keep on talking.   I know many pregnant and new moms make walking/hiking dates, and even have girls’ nights out, baby-free!  

2)     When you’re pregnant, go to the new moms groups, like LaLecheLeague.  Going before you have your baby helps you scope out the best  resources ahead of time, while you still have time! 

3)     Consider taking  childbirth education classes earlier.  The trend these days is to take CBE classes all in one weekend later in the 3rd trimester.   I recommend taking a 6 week series between your 2nd-3rd trimester (like 24-30 weeks).   You’ll interact more in a longer series, and you’ll have more opportunity to act on helpful information you receive (caregivers, test options, etc.)

4)      Keep hanging out with your non-parent friends.   Keeping this all in context is so important!!  In the first months postpartum, it’s difficult to talk about anything else besides babies.   Having some good friends around who have been with you through pregnancy will be invaluable in this time.   They’ll listen to you, but they’ll also help you with some non-baby conversation and stimulation!

5)     Get online.   There are a lot of virtual communities as well that can be a good source of support and information.  Nothing replaces real human connection, of course, but this can be a good adjunct.

I hope this helps moms in my local area, but also around the world.   Please pass along!

Love and light,

Barrett 

Nasya and Neti

So, many people know about the wonders of the Neti pot – Oprah’s talked about it, and I’ve blogged about it, so it’s pretty much out there now :)

What’s not so well known is Nasya, and it’s been hugely helpful to me in this very dry start to winter.  Nasya are oil drops that you put in your nose whenever you’re feeling dry. If, like me, you wake up every morning, and your face feels like the Sahara, and you need to drink about 5 glasses of water before you feel like you’re not all dried up from the inside, then Nasya may help.   My nose has been totally dried out, which then leads to an overproduction of mucus throughout the morning, and some really gross nose blowing (when your sinuses and nasal passages get dried out, sometimes the mucus is bloody when you blow your nose.  Yep, too much information, I know).  

You can put any plain oil you’d like in your nose, and it will help with the dryness.  I recommend olive oil or sesame oil.   In Ayurveda  and yoga, however, Nasya is not just used for these medicinal purposes.   Nasya oil has some essential oils infused in it, including the famous Ayurvedic herb Brahmi, as well as Eucalyptus, and the combination together is said to promote awareness and concentration.    

I’m all for more awareness, so I’ve got a yoga tincture from Banyan Botanicals sitting on my desk.  It’s a nice morning ritual along with my several glasses of water.   I’ve found a good combo for me is using the Neti pot a once per week to help ward off flu and colds, and daily Nasya to keep the nasal passages happy.  I recently heard Dr. Oz recommend coating the inside of your nose with Vaseline before flying to eliminate germs coming in through the nose.  I have no idea if it works, but I’ll give it a try next time. 

Finally, I also have a great humidifier that I sleep with at night which has made life a lot better.   I kind of enjoy the white noise of the humidifier, and of course, not feeling like a prune every morning has been a definite bonus.

 Stay well oiled and not dried out this winter time!!  I’d love to write more on Ayurveda (and learn more myself) – anyone else interested in this over the winter?  Let me know!

Barrett

Somerville becomes a Fit City

Just ran across this article about how promoting walking and biking in Somerville has helped kids and adults alike get more fit in the last several years.   I was a proud Somervillain for almost 8 years, and still work there every week, so this makes me happy.  

The article also talks about fresh and local produce being more accessible to kids in school and to residents through farm shares. 

It reminds me of this article earlier in the week, about a doctor who eats only organical food for 3 years.  He’s coming out with a new book on “green” living during pregnancy.   Should be interesting!

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