When I first started working as a doula I took everything
to births, then realized there are some items I rarely use. With some
women I use almost everything; with others I never open the bag and
just use my hands, heart and head! Here is a list of some of the items
I carry in my birth bag and what I use them for:
- A draw sheet, large towel, or baby blanket for tug-o-war during pushing.
- Two sets of tennis balls in two white tube socks--a good old standby
item I have used for years and the one thing I probably will never attend
a birth without. They are great for counter-pressure for back labor.
I use two clean tube socks for each mom. Roll them up and down the woman's
lower back. They are also good to wedge between the mom's back and car
seat for the trip to the hospital or birth center.
- Rice pack--each mom gets her own. Use either a fingertip towel or
a white cotton tube sock filled with three cups of uncooked rice and
tie it in a knot. Put in the microwave for three minutes.
- Cold wrap--has straps and Velcro so it straps around mom and she can
get up and walk.
- Ziploc-type bags--for ice and when the ice wrap defrosts.
- Oils--for massage. Olive oil works well.
- Battery-operated hand-held fan and extra batteries.
- Two pairs of white cotton tube socks--just in case mom's feet are
cold and her socks get dirty.
- Assortment of wooden massagers and rollers--must be washed with disinfectant
after each birth.
- Personal care items--toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, tampons, pads,
clean underwear (for those long births), washcloth for freshening up,
deodorant, change of clothing.
- Ponytail holders, in case mom forgets.
- Three or four audiotapes of soft music or relaxation tapes.
- Emergency kit for homebirths.
- Sterile gloves, sterile bulb syringe.
- Two books: Mother Massage by Elaine Stillerman and The Nurturing Touch
at Birth by Paulina (Polly Perez).
- Labor ball and cover plus extra plugs just in case.
- Food for me!
I keep everything contained in Ziploc bags so it stays clean. I use
a large canvas bag to carry it all and use luggage wheels to haul it
- Crystal Sada, "A Doula's Birth Bag," The
Birthkit Issue 25
Editor's note: Doulas, tell E-News about a favorite item
or two you keep in your supplies kit.
The philosophical objection to a doula providing clinical
care is that when a labor support person "crosses the line"
and checks heart tones, blood pressure or cervical dilation, she takes
on a different role to the woman and a different level of responsibility
for the birth. By not providing clinical care, we leave the medical
and clinical responsibility with the client and her care provider, and
are better able to focus on the emotional needs of the client. This
is a two-edged sword. It is freeing not to take responsibility for the
life of the baby and the mother, and allows us to stay with the woman,
talking to her, explaining to her, if problems do arise. On the other
hand, my clients go to the hospital a couple hours sooner than they
might if I were doing vaginal checks. It is a two-edged sword professionally
as well. On the one hand, caregivers are less threatened by my presence
when they learn that I'm leaving the clinical duties to them. On the
other hand, my opinion weighs less with them, I believe, than if I had
the weight of several years of formal training behind me.
- Jennifer Rosenberg, ICCE, CD (DONA), "From Doulas to Monitrices:
Differing Philosophies of Labor Support," in Paths
to Becoming a Midwife, a Midwifery Today Book
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E-News asked readers, If a birthing woman has good midwifery
care, why might she also benefit from having a doula attend her birth?
A doula's role can be very different in the hospital versus
homebirth environment. In the hospital there is a much greater need
for advocacy and education. I will usually start with the couple in
their home and transition to the hospital when labor has progressed.
In my area the midwives may not arrive until pushing, much like many
physicians, though sometimes they may come sooner depending on their
schedule, who else is in labor, etc. So the doula's role is clear in
terms of support during those hours before pushing.
In a homebirth situation, I work with a midwife as her assistant. Usually
my doula role is an extension of the job I am already doing. Recently,
one of our homebirth clients hired me to doula for her in addition to
doing my assistant role. In that situation, I was at the labor for many
hours before the midwife arrived, keeping her apprised of the progress
over the phone (she was at another birth). When pushing came, my role
again changed to more midwifery assisting. We had all talked about this
during her pregnancy to clarify everything since this was a bit different
No matter what, the midwife is responsible for her "clinical"
care. If she is busy with a clinical matter, how can she also, at the
same time, be dealing with an emotional issue, a physical support need,
etc.? Four hands, two hearts, two brains, all working as a team to support
a woman on her journey to motherhood--doulas and midwives can be a great
team. It need not be a turf war.
- Pam Martin, MS, CD (DONA), CM, apprentice midwife
It depends on what you mean by good midwifery care. A midwife
can give excellent prenatal care but not always good labor support.
As with the birth of my first son in 1996, my midwifery team was excellent
in the care aspect yet very lacking in labor support. They were a hospital
practice and they were very busy during my labor/birth and were unable
to be with me at all times, and my husband was like a deer caught in
headlights. This is where a doula comes in. She is there for the woman,
and only that woman, for the duration of her labor and birth.
Doulas may not be needed in all situations. An example is my second
birth this year. I had a birth center birth and I felt that it was a
little crowded and I was overly cared for (if there is such a thing).
But even with "good"(?) midwifery care a woman may need more
than that during her labor. Here in NYC's big hospitals it's hard to
get "true" midwifery care with midwives being pulled every
which way in L&D.
- Charisse Lawson, doula/nursing student/aspiring CNM
Although midwives provide far more labour support than the
average GP, I believe a woman can always benefit from the specific care
a doula provides. As doulas, our primary (and only) responsibility is
the emotional well-being of the mother. This care naturally spills over
to the father.
I have attended several births with midwives, both home and hospital,
and have never felt as though I am "in the way" or that there
is "too much" labour support. I had a client who was planning
a home waterbirth and had hired me to attend as her doula. When she
learned there would be two midwives, she felt there would be too many
people around and too much support and so chose to go without the doula.
It turned out that although she was surrounded by many supporters (husband,
mother, friend and midwives), she felt there wasn't the specific one-on-one
support she had desired. Her family members were unsure about what they
"should" be doing and her midwives, although supportive, were
busy with other tasks a lot of the time. She regrets that she did not
have a doula with her.
I think it depends a lot on the mother and on the doula. An experienced
doula will know when her presence is desired and when it's best to back
off a little. It is the guarantee of this kind of support that can make
all of the difference to the mom.
- Julie Keon CD
Even if a woman has excellent midwifery care she can still
benefit from a doula. It's important to feel very supported emotionally
as well as physically during labor and birth. The doula can help support
a leg, hold a hand, cheer the mother on, apply counter-pressure, wipe
her face with a cool cloth, etc. During the actual delivery, the midwife
will be busy at the perineum delivering the baby. The midwife is also
not always free to stay with the mom from early labor all the way through,
depending on her schedule. I had an excellent midwife at my homebirth,
but still appreciated the support of my doula.
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What effects, positive or negative, have you seen as a direct or indirect result of mom vomiting in labor?
To share your thoughts and experience, go to Midwifery Today's Forums.
Question of the Week
I have a client who had urinary retention between her ninth
and 12th week with her first pregnancy. She is pregnant again and she
recently, again during her ninth week, developed urinary retention. She
has been treated by catheterization both times. She is fearful that she
will develop a UTI as she did the first time. The urologists have no idea
why this happens to her. Has anyone else had clients with urinary retention?
Does anyone have a theory as to why it occurs in some women? Are there
any prevention measures?
- Cindy Schierlinger
Send your responses to:
Question of the Week Responses
Q: Are midwives' clients experiencing any
medical problems from refusing the vitamin K shot and eye prophylaxis
(assuming, of course, they tested negative for chlamydia and gonorrhea)?
A: We had a homebirth in New Zealand where happily, eye drops
are not mandatory for newborns. My 13-month-old baby's eyes are quite
healthy and normal. My baby has had no eye infections that I am aware
of. If she did, I would squirt breastmilk into the eye. The opthalmologist
said my baby does not have a true strabismus problem (only pseudo-strabismus
due to the low nasal bridge and skin folds, which are quite normal), and
she has the normal amount of farsightedness in each eye for a baby her
We declined to give her the Vitamin K shot, and she has had no problems.
- Anna C.
A: I have had two homebirths. With the first I accepted the vitamin
K shot. During the second pregnancy, I drank alfalfa tea during the last
trimester and refused the shot. I can see no effects of refusing the shot
in my 20-month-old.
Coming E-News Themes
1.INTACT MEMBRANES: What are the fetal benefits to labor with intact
membranes? Do you have any documentation to share with E-News readers?
2. PROM: A 1996 study at the University of Toronto randomly assigned
5,041 women with premature rupture of membranes (PROM) to either have
their labors induced or to wait for up to four days for labor to start
spontaneously. In both groups, about 3 percent of babies developed infection,
and about 10 percent were delivered by cesarean section. The study concluded
that physicians should present this research to patients, who should choose
the option they prefer. Comments?
Send your responses to:
Know a strong woman? Helping empower one? If you haven't already done
so, please forward this issue of Midwifery Today E-News to one or two
of your friends or business associates. Thanks so much!
Question of the Quarter: Midwifery Today Magazine
Issue No. 57 (Theme: Cesarean Prevention/VBAC)
How do you prevent cesareans?
Deadline: Dec. 15, 2000
Send your response to:
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. If you go to http://health.yahoo.com
and click on the pink ribbon, Yahoo will donate $1.00 to the Susan
G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
More on birth rituals:
Religious Jewish women swallow a pearl when they are 4-5 cm dilated as
a blessing for easy and quick labor. When the baby is born its hands are
washed three times with a blessing as an omen for good luck.
- Zinger Orna, midwife
Editor's note: Continue to send birth customs from your country and culture
and we will include them as a mini-column in E-News.
In response to the obstetrician's concern about lengthy second stage
First, I would like to say that second stage is not necessarily any more
dangerous than any other stage of labor, which most of us midwives consider
to be a normal, healthy function. Second, women are not machines that
are dangerously defective and at any moment would kill or hurt their babies
or themselves. Third, we are there to provide information (risk/benefits)
to the woman and her family so she can decide for herself what is the
course of action or inaction that she feels is appropriate. We are not
in control of women and their births. We are guardians/lifeguards. We
give them the facts (without emotional manipulation) and they decide.
Fourth, from the accounts of these stories of long second stage [Issue
2:41 & 42], we can get the picture that long is not necessarily bad.
These births had great outcomes. Fifth, cesarean section is 10 times more
dangerous than vaginal delivery. It is not the answer to everything. Women
come to us so that they may avoid this most-often-than-not unnecessarily
performed surgery. Sixth, if the baby sounds good and the mother is in
great health and spirit, why would we not let her continue?
We do take a woman to the hospital and transfer her into your expert hands
when dangerous situations arise. I believe we just have a fundamental
difference on what it is that constitutes an emergency or is dangerous.
Many of us have transported for placental abruption, prolapsed cord, fetal
heart rate decelerations or variable decelerations, prolonged second stage,
etc. We take our commitment to keep birth safe seriously, especially in
a homebirth setting.
I have great faith in a woman's intuitive sense of wellness.
- Michelle Bartlett, CPM
Dianat may have been taught and may still believe that prolonged second
stage is harmful but there is no evidence that this is so. There is ample
evidence that second stage need not be rushed. The following are just
four abstracts of studies that found that prolonged second stage is not
harmful to the baby or the mother. Both midwives and OBs need to be professional
enough to change practices which are useless or harmful. There is no justification
for arbitrary limits on second stage.
- Angela Cross
1: Moon JM, Smith CV, Rayburn WF. (1990). Perinatal outcome after a prolonged
second stage of labor. J Reprod Med, Mar;35(3):229-31.
2. Saunders NS, Paterson CM, Wadsworth J. (1992). Perinatal outcome after
a prolonged second stage of labor. Br J Obstet Gynaecol, May;99(5):381-5.
3. Paterson CM, Saunders NS, Wadsworth J. (1992). The characteristics
of the second stage of labour in 25,069 singleton deliveries in the North
West Thames Health Region, 1988. Br J Obstet Gynaecol, May;99(5):377-80.
4. Menticoglou SM, Manning F, Harman C, Morrison I. (1995). Perinatal
outcome in relation to second-stage duration. Am J Obstet Gynecol, Sep;173(3
I am always filled with confusion when I hear a wonderful birth story
about a midwife-assisted birth at home (such as the one where the second
stage continued so long, the midwife went home and returned days later
to catch the baby) in one of the recent issues, and then a reply by an
OB (in this last issue) that expressed the doctor's surprise at the length
of the second stage and dismay that the midwife would "let it be"
so long without recommending an OB referral and c-section due to the dangers
of unmanaged labor. Obviously the midwife in this case did not see anything
wrong with "letting it be" and saw no danger (or she surely
would have referred), and the OB in a similar situation (presented with
a mom with failure to progress in the second stage) would have surely
gone on with a c-section, believing there to be imminent danger.
It is hard to understand the varying beliefs about medical care. Both
are surely founded in training and experience--why such different conclusions?
As an aspiring midwife (now a practicing doula), I worry about what training
I will seek and receive, how will I know a particular obstetrical fact
is a fact and not dogma? How will I know, when there are varying beliefs?
- Tiffany Collins
Measuring motherbaby's well-being by the clock is a very narrow and arbitrary
definition. If you have never seen a second stage that took more than
the short ones you described (10-30 minutes in multipara & 20-60 minutes
in nullipara) I would venture that it is because you have never seen birth
outside of an institution that dictated these protocols and/or attended
by a caregiver who had been educated as to their limitations.
You speak about complications yet none of the anecdotes shared with E-News
were reporting any problems. You mention that "nowadays there are
many technical methods to understand the situation and position of a fetus
in his mother's womb." What are you recommending besides FHTs, mother's
vital signs and urine check? Perhaps you are not anticipating that the
mother is eating and drinking and offered a quiet environment in which
to rest between her labor contractions? Perhaps you are envisoning something
akin to a labor induction or conduction and are not able to imagine that
this woman has contractions occurring every 5-10 minutes rather than the
"hurry up and birth already" type of labor that is provoked
in a hospital.
I have attended more than 500 births and frankly find the ones that conform
to your standards to be the exception rather than the rule. They are a
welcome surprise when I am very tired and thinking of my bed (!) but they
are motherbaby initiated and not tinkered with by this midwife.
As for your words, "How dare midwives let it be and why don't they
refer the pregnant mother for cesarean," I would like to counter
with the question, "How dare caregivers decide anything FOR their
motherbabies rather than make decisions in dialog WITH them?" Any
woman who has had a multi-hour second stage with me is fully informed
that the cesarean exists as an alternative. Her decision to birth with
my group is often based on her desire to avoid just such an occurrence
(our rate is 6%).
In reply to Jackie's reflexology question [Issue 2:42], there is a wonderful
book called "Maternity Reflexology" by Elsa Reid and Suzanne
Enzer that can be ordered from ACE graphics in Australia (they are on the Internet). As you use reflexology in your practice, your experience
and intuition will make you very aware when to use it and when not to.
The book is very specific about indications and contraindications, pressure
points, etc. I'm sure relaxation, lymphatic drainage and gentle touch
is fine to use at any stage of pregnancy but we practitioners must be
alert and aware at all times. Suzanne has also just released an excellent
new workbook for midwives.
Reflexolgy can be used for induction of labour, to reduce swollen feet,
constipation, backache, headache and nausea, and can be used in the preconception,
antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal period.
- Gloria Whyte
To answer your question regarding GBS urine cultures [Issue 2:43]: Our
hospital protocol is to test every patient for GBS around 35-37 weeks
with vaginal to rectal swab. Also, if women have their urine sent for
C&S due to complaints indicating UTI or a routine screen done due
to rule out UTI in the presence of preterm contractions, and GBS grows
on those cultures, our providers (midwives, family practice docs or OB
docs) treat with oral antibiotics at that time, and then with IV antibiotics
during labor, even though it was a urine culture. If a woman has it in
her urine, she may very well carry it intravaginally or externally, and
they want to provide the best protection to these kiddos during labor
by giving them antibiotic coverage if the patient ever has +GBS. We even
treat if a woman is negative this pregnancy, but was positive during previous
My hospital is planning to purchase new furniture for our OB unit. We
are interested in having mother or family beds with a baby bed which will
attach and detach to the bed, allowing mom and baby to have their own
space when desired and still remain in touching distance. As this will
be used in a hospital setting, it will have to be durable, easily washable,
and on wheels.
I have information regarding the arm's reach bedside cosleeper. This does
not meet our requirements. If anyone knows of a hospital or birthing center
that has a family bed or attachable crib, please respond. Thanks so much.
Reply to: email@example.com
I have to find out more about birth rituals of Jehovah's Witnesses. I
know they refuse blood transfusions, but are there other particular things
that are typical for their religion?
- An De Vleeschauwer
A friend is looking for information about a consequence of her brutal
OB attended, forceps delivered birth. One of the results of the birth
is that her vagina gapes open, allowing air in--which is then passed out
as flatus. The gap is large enough that my friend can no longer go swimming
because her vagina fills with water and makes her very uncomfortable.
The physician she saw said nothing could be done because it is due to
overstretched muscles and she will just have to live with it. I had read
about this somewhere and now can't find the reference. Has anybody heard
of this condition and if so, do you have any suggestions to help her?
I would like to thank those who responded to my "supportive presidential
candidate" question [Issue 2:43]. You were incredibly helpful!
Greetings from Fortaleza, Brazil! As you may know, in Brazil, a country
where midwifery does not exist as an established profession, the cesarian
section rate in most private hospitals is as high as 90%, whilst poor
women give birth in degrading conditions in the world's most crowded hospitals.
What you may not know is that in the same country, a number of initiatives
have been created since the 1980s that attempt to recover human values
in childbirth, a movement known as the "humanization of childbirth."
On November 2, 3 and 4 midwives and others interested in maternity care
from all over the world will gather at the International Conference on the Humanization of Childbirth to promote humanized childbirth.
Contact the Conference Secretariat at +55 85 246 4302/246 0232, by fax
at: +55 85 246 2697, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
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