When you are pregnant, doulas are a wonderful resource for the millions of things you need to know to keep yourself and your baby healthy. Catherine Switzer is the owner of Baby Beets, and she’s also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Labor & Postpartum Doula, as well as Yoga Instructor! We’ve been hearing a lot of talk about doulas lately and we wanted to know how a doula can help during pregnancy.
We chatted with Catherine about all things doula-related, plus tips on how to find one that’s the perfect fit for you and some prenatal yoga poses you can do at home!
WEHL: Tell us a little about yourself and why you became interested in holistic wellness.
CS: I struggled with my weight through adolescence and early adulthood, going through some tragic events, then lost my mom at the age of 21. I was hindered with depression, emotional eating and extreme low self esteem, until I was brave enough to find strength, a healthy mind and address my relationship with food.
After years of embodying a healthier lifestyle I decided to combine my love for helping others with my passion for healthy living.
WEHL: What is your philosophy on wellness?
CS: Combining a healthy relationship with positive lifestyle choices can help foster a lifelong commitment to your personal health goals.
WEHL: Why did you decide to become a doula?
CS: When I was in school for nutrition, I already knew that I wanted to focus on families, fertility and pregnancy. It was a natural choice to move into the doula world, being able to extend more support to parents. Due to losing my mom at such a young age, I have always feared the idea of having a baby without her. I recognize the need for extra support during the most intimate time in a family’s life.
WEHL: What is a doula?
CS: Doula care is best explained as emotional and physical support. Through my trainings and certification, I developed a great understanding of birth, bonding and unconditional/non-judgmental support. Allowing me to facilitate a trusting relationship with clients in order to help them. Offering expert knowledge of pregnancy, labor, birth and infant care.
WEHL: What are the benefits of having a doula?
CS: A Labor Doula can help you prepare for a baby with informational support on what to expect, provide emotional support during labor for both parents, hands on comfort measures and expert knowledge on infant care.
Postpartum support looks different for every individual client. Shifts can be daytime, evening or overnights. A Postpartum Doula is there to help answer questions, be there to listen, perform light house duties, take care of the infant while parents can take care of themselves.
WEHL: What does a doula do at a birth?
CS: A Labor Doula will arrive when labor support is needed. They can provide hands on comfort measure to help decrease stress during labor, to help ease labor discomfort. They can help the partner know what to do by showing them the hands on support. Help keep both parents informed on what is happening and remind them of their wishes. Most importantly a Doula is there for YOU, they have no agenda but to provide non-judgmental support of safe choices.
WEHL: How many times do you meet before the birth?
CS: I have an initial meeting with a client before hire. After contract has been signed I meet 2 more times, usually around 36-38 weeks. Both lasting approximately 1 hour, this is where we talk further about what questions they need answered, what to expect and the process for face to face support once labor begins and plans for postpartum care.
WEHL: What are some ways that a doula can support a mom after the birth?
CS: Moms need so much support after a birth, even if they say they are ok/fine/don’t need anything. I could go on for days about the importance of stepping up to help a new mom. If you hire a Labor Doula, they generally come by for a visit on day 3 or 4. It’s a good day to have some emotional support, due to the fact that hormones are in flux, milk is coming in and the euphoria and bliss is slightly hindered because fatigue has hit. I am personally there for my labor clients via email or phone if they need, as well as if they want to have me come on for some postpartum hours.
WEHL: What are some tips for moms looking to find the perfect doula for them?
CS: I think the number one thing that you are looking for is someone that is willing to support all kinds of births, support your choices without judgment and have the safety of yourself and baby as number one. Finding someone that you completely jive with on every level is an added bonus.
WEHL: What’s the one thing you wish moms knew before giving birth the first time?
CS: Not to over plan. Many moms who write a birth plan are adamant of sticking to a rigid idea of what they want for labor. Often they can leave a birth confused, resentful, disappointed and lacking confidence. It is always a good idea to go into any big event in life with an open mind, educate yourself on what could happen, but don’t get lost in all the what ifs. Some things in life we cannot control; the safe arrival of the little one is what is most important.
WEHL: You also teach prenatal yoga. How is that different from traditional yoga?
CS: Prenatal yoga is an inclusive practice that builds a community with its students, connecting with themselves, their changing bodies and each other. Poses are modified to help create more space and core breath is a big focus, in order to help strengthen the most inner part of our core.
WEHL: What are some of the benefits of prenatal yoga?
CS: Connecting with the body, as it changes and accommodates the shared space of a little one. Building strength, increase blood circulation, reduce stress, calming the mind, with hopes of bringing those tools into the labor room for a more manageable birth.
WEHL: What are some yoga poses moms can do at home while pregnant?
CS: Working on core breath is my number one, squatting, moving hips in large, wide circles. Remember to take wider stances to help with balance and to make room for belly while in folds.
WEHL: What are some yoga poses or workout exercises moms shouldn’t do while pregnant?
CS: Any poses that are chest/heart opening; for example, Camel, Wheel. It is advised to be careful in these positions due to the possibility of Diastasis Recti (ab separation). Also I think it is important to remember not to do anything that is uncomfortable; it’s your body so listen to it.
WEHL: When is it typically safe for moms to start exercising again after birth?
CS: Always consult your primary healthcare provider, OBGYN or Midwife before starting any physical activity after birth. This checkup appointment generally happens at 6 weeks postpartum.
I also recommend seeing a Physiotherapist that specializes in Pelvic Floor health. Although this isn’t a requirement, there are many things that may be considered “normal” (for example, leaky bladder) but does not have to be. Pelvic floor health is often overlooked; this is also why practicing core breath is so beneficial.
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