Don’t Believe the Hype

This article from The Wall Street Journal provides some great historical information that connects meaningfully with my previous post (Home)Birth is Safe.

The author, Nathaniel Johnson notes that,

In 1923, Mary Breckinridge started the Frontier Nursing Service in rural Appalachia….Within a decade, the astonishing impact of that care was apparent. The women the Frontier Nursing Service cared for, who were desperately poor and usually gave birth at home, were 10 times less likely to die in childbirth than the average American at the time. The nation as a whole wouldn’t catch up until the 1950s, after the widespread acceptance of antiseptic and the discovery of antibiotics.

Given that antiseptic practices and the use of antibiotics are available and in use in midwife-attended home births today, it makes sense that, as Sheila Kitzinger has argued, it is not a high level of medicalization that makes birth safer – it is overall health: access to good pre-conception, prenatal and postpartum healthcare, good quality nutrition, access to clean water and access to skilled birth attendants. This has been borne out the world over, regardless of whether women are typically birthing at home or in hospitals. Access to medical interventions for the few women who actually need them is important, which is why midwives are thoroughly trained to detect possible complications before they become problematic and why they only support home births for women who are not at risk. Obstetricians are trained to deal with problems when they arise, but midwives are far more likely to be able to prevent them in the first place. Continue reading

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Education is key! Next prenatal course begins March 5th.

I have another upcoming prenatal series starting at the Centre for Social Innovation, in the Annex, on March 5th. This course will run Tuesday evenings from 6:30-9 pm for six weeks.

If you are expecting a baby between late April and early June, this is the class for you! I cap my courses at six couples, so that my students can get to know one another and start building those new parent networks early. This course will give you and your partner the information and skills you need to cope with labour and birth; self-advocate effectively with your healthcare providers; know how breastfeeding should look and feel; know what to expect of a newborn; and make decisions about parenting that will work for you and your family.

The course is $240 per couple. Discounts are available for doula clients. Email me for more information, or to register.

Topics for the series include (but are not limited to):

-pain management and coping strategies for labour

-the physiology of labour and birth

-positioning for labour and birth

-risks and benefits of common interventions

-breastfeeding

-newborn care, characteristics and abilities

-parenting options

Education is the key to having a birth experience in which you feel confident, calm and in control.

Big News!

I am very pleased and excited to announce that, just today, I was offered a job as a prenatal instructor at Women’s College Hospital here in Toronto! I’ll be teaching an evening class, weekly, likely starting in September.

I’m really psyched about this opportunity. I’m also thrilled that WCH is letting me use my own curriculum, which means that women accessing prenatal education through the hospital will receive the same quality, evidence-based information that I provide to my students when I teach as an independent CBE. Not having to teach to the “typical experience” was really important to me, as I firmly believe that women are capable of and entitled to better than the standard base level of care that most women are receiving today. I am also really jazzed, because unlike every other hospital in Toronto, WCH opens their classes up to all women, not just those who are patients at their own hospital. In other words, if your OB or midwife is at St. Joe’s or Mt. Sinai or Scarborough General or any other hospital in the city, you can still take childbirth education classes at WCH!

I’ll post more once I have more info on the date that my first WCH series will be starting and other relevant stuff. Can’t wait!

Where Have I Been?

Wow, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted! Things have been busy, both personally and professionally and I’ve been neglecting my poor little blog.

In an attempt to remedy that, I thought I’d write a quick update post to let you all know what’s been going on in Doula-la Land…

  • I’m teaching a fabulous prenatal series at the Centre for Social Innovation. Yesterday was class 2 of 6 and I’m already having lots of fun with this group. I’ve got another series coming up in August that is only 1/3rd full so far, so if you’re expecting this fall, drop me a line for more info!
  • I’ve just formed a brand-spankin’ new partnership with Spadina Chiropractic Centre. Drs. Beth Croszman and Eva Chan are experienced chiropractors who are passionate about working with moms prenatally and postpartum, as well as with newborns. Hip pain? Back pain? Colic? These docs’ll sort you out in no time!
  • I’ve got several doula clients in the queue and am looking forward to being back on-call as of mid-June. If you’re looking for birth support for August, September, October and beyond, I still have some availability depending on your EDD. Remember, a preliminary meeting to discuss your options and individual needs carries no obligation!
  • I just recorded my first podcast yesterday! The brilliant and talented Desmond Cole is producing these for me and I’m super excited about the whole thing! I’ll be posting the finished podcast here once it’s ready for your listening pleasure. Hopefully this will become a regular feature on my site.
  • I’ve got a couple of community presentations coming up this month and next that I’ve been preparing for. I’ll be speaking to women in Regent Park (at the Centre for Social Innovation, Regent Park) on June 28th about the benefits of labour support and accessing doulas for reduced cost or for free. I will also be speaking at LAMP Community Health Centre in Etobicoke on July 9th (their July calendar hasn’t been posted yet, but keep your eye on their site for details). These talks will be specifically geared to women who want to learn more about what doulas do and why and who may be facing financial constraints in their ability to pay for labour support. I will also be touching on issues facing women who are uncomfortable with receiving care from male healthcare practitioners for religious or cultural reasons. If you’re interested in attending, drop me a line and I’ll send you more details, or you can get in touch with the powers that be at either of those two organizations for more info (see websites for contact info). Both talks will be free to attend and questions will be most welcome.
  • I’m also excited about a new cross-promotional partnership with Lila Yoga in the Annex. Prepare your body for childbirth and meet other mothers-to-be in a safe space at prenatal yoga, or bring your baby for postnatal yoga to build strength and enjoy freeing movement while connecting with other moms and babies!

That about sums it up for me…good thing too, because I’m officially out of time. Off I run! Hope you are all well and enjoying the Spring!

The Race to the Bottom?

Is anyone else tired of the controversy, the judging and the alleged “mommy wars” that are dominating media coverage of all things birth and baby related lately? Me too! Today I wanted to write about a subject that, while not without differing perspectives, is hopefully a topic that won’t make anyone feel judged or stressed out or guilty and that might help women to make healthy choices that fit their goals, their lifestyles and their parenting styles (whatever those may be).  Continue reading

Summer/Fall Prenatal Classes at the Centre for Social Innovation

If you are expecting a baby in later summer or fall of 2012 and are looking for prenatal education that works for you, you’re in luck! I am offering a full series of Prenatal Classes at the Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) from August 15th to September 19th, 2012. This is a six-week series, Wednesday evenings from 6:30-9:00 pm. People have already started registering for this series – I have, at present, room for four more couples (or singles with a support person). If you are interested in taking my summer course (May 30th to July 4th), there are still a couple of spots available in that series too.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “why would I pay for independent prenatal classes when I can just attend the free ones at the hospital?” This is a great question and there are a number of excellent reasons. Continue reading

Summer Prenatal Classes at the Centre for Social Innovation

If you are expecting a baby in later summer or fall of 2012 and are looking for prenatal education that works for you, you’re in luck! I am offering a full series of Prenatal Classes at the Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) from May 30th to July 4th, 2012. This is a six-week series, Wednesday evenings from 7:00-9:30 pm. This series is already half-full – I have, at present, room for three more couples (or singles with a support person).

Now, you may be asking yourself, “why would I pay for independent prenatal classes when I can just attend the free ones at the hospital?” This is a great question and there are a number of excellent reasons.

1. While the information provided by public health prenatal classes is useful, these courses often omit a large quantity of information that is considered “alternative” or that is not routine at that particular hospital. For example, while my prenatal classes cover labour coping techniques ranging from massage and acupressure, to breathing and vocalizations,to hydrotherapy and heat, to epidurals and other forms of pain medications, a hospital class will generally only cover the epidural with any depth. Even if you plan to have an epidural, there are still many useful options available to you that won’t be explored in a standard hospital course. This is just an example of how hospitals tend to teach to the norm, rather than to what is possible. It’s understandable given the number of people they have to teach, but not exactly desirable if you want your birth experience to be as satisfying and positive as possible.

2. Public health courses tend to be two-day “crash courses”. This may seem ideal – get it all done with in one weekend! – but a course that is drawn out over a number of weeks will give you the chance to really get to know other couples in the class (start building up that new-parent social network now, before the baby arrives) and also opens up the possibilities for asking the questions that matter to you, even if they don’t occur to you until four days after class. You’ll also retain more of the information, as you’ll only need to digest two hours of material at a time, with time to reflect in between each class. I also cap my attendance at twelve people so that there is time for more questions and to facilitate group interaction.

3. Many people report being frightened or discouraged by the content/approach of hospital prenatal classes. It is vital that you understand all of your options and what is happening to your/your partner’s body during labour and birth, but it is not helpful to hear horror stories or to be inundated with negative information. My classes provide clear and detailed, evidence-based information while focusing on the positives – helping you to feel informed and fully prepared, but also excited and optimistic, not afraid.

4. I tailor my courses to the participants in them. Upon registration I’ll send you a questionnaire that asks you about your pregnancy, your current level of knowledge, your interests and your hopes for the course. That way I can focus on areas of particular interest and reduce coverage of topics that people already understand.

Prenatal education is the first step to an empowering birth experience. Feeling like an active, informed decision-maker prior to and during your labour and childbirth is the key to birth satisfaction. Knowledge is essential for confidence and self-advocacy.

The cost for the entire series is $240.00 per couple. If you are interested in hiring a doula and would like to talk to me about the doula services I offer, I also provide package deals for doula clients who enrol in my prenatal classes.

Topics for the series include (but are not limited to):

-pain management and coping strategies for labour

-relationships and sexuality during pregnancy and in the postpartum period

-the physiology of labour and birth

-positioning for labour and birth

-risks and benefits of common interventions

-breastfeeding

-newborn care and characteristics

-nutrition and exercise

This course is ideal for people expecting to give birth between late July and September of 2012. Email me at heather@socialinnovation.ca to register or if you have any questions.