Why Your Doula Should Be Your Google

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Topic: Why Your Doula Should Be Your Google
RC: Hello everyone. This is Liz Harvey coming to you from our studios in New York City where we are dedicated to bringing you cutting edge interviews from many of the leading industry professionals across the US. In today’s episode, we are speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler. Stephanie is a German educated midwife, a US educated doula, an acupuncturist and a certified lactation counselor. She is known as the New York doula. Stephanie has delivered over 1,200 babies and has experience with twins, triplets, breach babies and water births. She also works with newborn parents in their post-partum stage and holds classes and seminars for moms and dads to be. With a wealth of experience and knowledge in her field, Stephanie Heintzeler is widely considered to be one of the top doulas in the country. She is also a contributing member of our national network of industry professionals.
Today we are going to talk about a very important topic: Why Your Doula Should Be Your Google. Hi Stephanie. How are you today?
Stephanie Heintzeler: I’m good. Thank you.
RC: Thanks so much for joining us.

Stephanie Heintzeler: Thanks for having me.

RC: Okay, we know what Google is. But not everyone is familiar with what a doula is. Please explain again for us what a doula is and what it takes to become a doula.

Stephanie Heintzeler: A doula is a non-medical birth coach. Doula comes from the Greek and translated it means a woman who serves another woman. Doulas help expecting women to find the hospital, the right birth team, doctor or midwife. Doulas teach childbirth classes, breast feeding classes and newborn classes. Doulas do home visits, unlike your OB who would not visit you at home. Often times they have lactation counseling certification but they mainly do birth support.

Having a doula lowers the c-section rate by forty percent. It lowers the need of pain medication by sixty percent. With that being said, it is not that a doula wants the mother to have a natural birth, but the doula wants the mother to have the birth that she wants. We create a birth plan together and make sure that the mother gets what she wants. The doula also makes the connection between obstetrician and midwife to explain medical terms and the pros and cons of intervention. Really she is the person who knows the parents best.

In the end, we do not know which doctor is going to be at the birth. To become a doula, it is very different. Most of the time doulas do a four day or one week training but then they need another few months to attend a few births and train, do online training themselves in order to get certified.

RC: Can a doula answer almost any pregnancy related question?

Stephanie Heintzeler: Not really. A doula can answer any non-medical questions. For me, I have done the midwifery so I know all the medical questions and I certainly know the answers to that but I am not a midwife here. Depending on whether the mom asks me a medical or non-medical question, I refer to the doctor or midwife. Also, because they are the ones who take care of the medical stuff so they should know if the mom has cramps for example. That is not something I would answer because I am not the medical person for her and it should certainly be something that concerns the doctor or midwife.

Of course, we can say what is normal in terms of early labor, what is normal in terms of if the mother has cramping and depending on where she feels it. I say call your doctor. Usually the doctor says come in or do not come in or call me when it is happening again. Then we discuss what she can do so she feels better about it.

If she has problems breastfeeding then we discuss what she can do in terms of how to latch the baby on correctly or how to help the baby gain weight. Many moms have problems, un-medical problems like they have back pain and the doctor checked on that several times and everything is okay. The pregnancy is going well.

This would be something where I would refer and help her to figure out what can help with the back pain. There is a lot of things I know that can help from acupuncture and certain kinds of yoga and certain classes like MELT. Many people have not heard about it. MELT is like amazing. It is a very simple exercise that you can do at home or even take a class in order to alleviate back pain.

Some have sleep problems. Some have heartburn so we go over the nutrition. What kind of nutrition, what are you eating right now and what can help with that. We work hand-in-hand with the doctor. Doctors and midwives do the medical stuff and everything else is handled by the doula. Most of the time the moms ask, “What should I buy? What do I need for the baby?”

I usually send out emails and make sure moms know what they should purchase. They need to organize their belongings because some strollers take two months to deliver. You do not want to buy a stroller at thirty-six weeks. You want to buy that at thirty weeks. Some moms do not know that they need a car seat in order to go back home from the hospital. Things like that. That is what the doula does. She is like a pregnancy, birth and postpartum coach. Really, really looking at the whole picture.

RC: When is it a bad idea to use Google to get answers to your pregnancy questions?

Stephanie Heintzeler: To be honest it is always a bad idea. Because it is something I usually tell my moms, “Just call me.” Text me, call me and then depending on what you feel, call your OB or I will answer if it is something that is not medical. When you Google back pain and pregnancy and then it says, yes, usually it is tension but it could be contractions and you could have a premature birth.

If you Goggle spotty bleeding at thirty-eight weeks and you just had a vaginal exam or you just had sex, it could be normal that you are bleeding. Then online it says your placenta is detaching. It can be very scary and most moms they call and say, “Oh I Googled and it did say I could go into labor with this.” They Google first and then they call the obstetrician or me and it is like, seriously, why would you put such amount of stress on yourself?

I get it. It is important of course to say all the things that could happen online but Google does not know that the mom just had a vaginal exam yesterday and this might be the reason why she is bleeding a little bit. It is important to lower your stress. Not over inform yourself. I even have clients who I tell not to take a childbirth class. Do not do it. You have me. I’m here. Call me when you have contractions.

Of course, we discuss everything before we do in a private class at home but we do not want to go over all the maybes because for some moms and some partners it is too stressful for them. Then they really think their water broke just because we spoke about it being a sign of labor and a day later they think their water broke.

Parents are so receptive to pregnancy related things and they read something and of course they have it. Especially in pregnancy, it is better to know, that is why you have a doula, that is why you have the obstetrician and midwife. To use them instead of Googling around.

RC: What are some reasons that pregnant women want to hire a doula?

Stephanie Heintzeler: The reason is usually they want to feel safe. They really want to feel taken care of. Often times I hear, and it is actually quite nice, that I kind of ‘fill in’ all these empty spots they were having. Some hire me at five months. Sometimes I am available if moms hire me four months before the due date. Otherwise one of my other doulas are available and they are like, “Oh my God, all these questions that I had, I had no idea my doula could answer those.”

It is all these little questions that do not really go to the obstetrician and to the midwife but this is what the doula would answer. They just want to have someone who they can email and text and call everyday if they want to. They want to know who is going to be at the birth because often times we do not know which doctor will show up in the end.

Maybe they want a natural birth and they want their doula for that. Of course, that could help. With a doula, the epidural is fifty-percent but it is ninety-percent in New York otherwise. It is not even the goal for the doula to have a natural birth but we want the mom to really have a good birth experience and sometimes that is having an epidural, but having an epidural a little later and not super early. Being able to coach through a few contractions so the mother is in active labor is important. That way we know of the c-section risk.

Then the doula stays in the room the whole time so at the birth we can easily catch little things. Anxiety that suddenly arises, exhaustion, maybe the contraction changes and the mom does not know how to breath and the partner just fell asleep. Moms really want to have guidance through a pregnancy, birth and of course postpartum.

RC: What is the biggest impact a doula can have on a woman’s pregnancy?

Stephanie Heintzeler: The biggest impact is to have a good pregnancy and a good birth and postpartum time. It is really all in the numbers if you look at postpartum depression, c-section rate, pain medications, overall experience and successful breast feeding. Even the relationship is better when you have a doula because doulas know what questions come up. It is like there is someone next to you kind of holding your hand the whole time.

Moms feel generally better. They feel safer. They feel confident. Usually after a prenatal visit, which we do maybe four to six weeks before the due date, they will get a sheet. We call it the hot sheet. This hot sheet gets all the information like when to call, what are signs of labor, what the partner should watch out for and what is labor and what is not. This is an amazing sheet that parents love and they put it on their fridge.

They get this and they are like, “Okay, I get it.” They are like, “Oh, now I get the difference between early labor and active labor. Now I know when to call.” Even what to expect. Many parents are freaked out because they think they might have a 24-hour birth or they might have a two-hour birth. That is very scary too. They just know what to expect and also how to handle it quickly. That puts them at ease. That is really it. That is really what makes it all so much better.

RC: Great. Well thank you so much Stephanie. We know you are extremely busy so I just want to thank you for all of your time and help today.

Stephanie Heintzeler: Thanks for having me.

RC: For our listeners across the country, if you are interested in speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler, please visit www.thenewyorkdoula.com or call 917-399-2031 to schedule an appointment. On behalf of our entire team, we want to thank you for listening and we look forward to bringing you more top quality content from our country’s leading industry professionals.

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