Author: Neri Life-Choma

I am the founder of Birth Coach Method and am celebrating 20 years of leadership in the field of childbirth support. Throughout my career, I have been honored to provide doula support and teach childbirth ed. classes to hundreds of expectant couples, as well as to direct two birth resource centers. I am also a doula leader in my community in the South Bay area of Silicon Valley in California.

Fresh from the Oven: Sharing from our Pregnancy and Birth Coaching Course

It is Exciting!

It’s exciting to lead the first group of birth professionals who joined the Birth Coach Method’s first coaching course. We have participants from all around the globe: The Netherlands, Israel, and the US (East and West Coast). We all come together on consecutive Tuesdays for eight weeks using the Zoom platform. It is a group mentoring session in which I get to expand on the topic of the current lesson studied prior to the meeting. In addition to highlighting important concepts, we all brainstorm scenarios and engage in powerful coaching exercises.

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Beating information overload with coaching strategies

Being overwhelmed by the overload of information is a state of consciousness that many expectant couples struggle with. It disempowers and damages their ability to make mindful decisions and perform well. Beating it requires a shift in our practice rather than providing more information. You can help your birth clients beat this overwhelm by coaching them.

In my practice, I often encounter the overwhelm that my clients
experience being overloaded with information. Seriously, it feels like it enters the room when they do. How often are you being called to resolve this overwhelm as a childbirth educator or a doula? There are conflicting opinions and expectant parents don’t know what advice to take or what to believe while all along trying to do the right thing; they want to find what is best for the mother and the baby. The overload of information creates ‘noise’ that interrupts our internal conversations with ourselves. Feeling overwhelmed is not only disempowering, but it’s also exhausting.

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The Birth Plan from a Coaching Perspective

It’s a strategy, not the end goal!  

When birth workers, such as doulas and childbirth educators, first envisioned the birth plan in the eighties, the main idea was to help expectant parents prepare for the physical and emotional aspects of the birth process, explore how they want various situations handled during their actual birth, and provide a tool for parents to communicate with each other, their care provider, and the hospital staff prior to the birth (Simkin, 2007; Simkin & Reinke, 1980). As sometimes happens, the mean comes to be associated with the goal, and as such, expectant couples and some birth workers, associate writing the birth plan with achieving it. This association may evoke some unexpected outcomes: 

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Coaching towards a Successful VBAC

While the coaching strategies are valuable in supporting and leading every expectant woman who would like to give birth healthily and experience high levels of satisfaction, they are even more crucial when supporting and leading a mother who wishes for a VBAC because of the additional elements or challenges she faces.

What are those challenges she faces?

Environmental challenges

The external constraints this expectant woman needs to react to and overcome are much bigger than a woman who did not undergo a cesarean. Medical providers aren’t supportive of her VBAC decision, and even when she finds a caregiver that will agree to a TOLAC (Trial of Labor After Cesarean), Agreeing to a VBAC doesn’t mean Supporting it. The difference is being manifested by the medical imposition and restrictions that aren’t supportive of her vision for her birth.

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Five Best Coaching Strategies for Childbirth’s Moments of Crisis

The process of childbirth presents birthing women with some recognized moments of emotional crisis, as well as some unexpected ones, related to the unfolding of the birth. My experience has been that the known and expected emotional crises occur during transitions or changes occurring throughout the process. It is common knowledge that the transition from one phase of birth to another triggers an emotional reaction. For example, the transition from the early phase of labor to active labor is symptomized by the emotional change in which excitement and self-confidence give way to fear, despair, or self-doubt. Birthing mothers express these new emotions in a variety of ways: If they are talkative, they might express them by sharing their thoughts, such as: “Do you think it’s time to head the hospital”? Or “Do you think all these contractions are doing anything”?, “Do you think I’m progressing?” and “How much more painful will this be”? 

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The #MeToo Movement, Birth Activism, and the Future of Childbirth Support

 

 

Those who follow my blog and webinars know that I often question and challenge the current approaches accepted by many birth support figures. For example, I have been continuously stating in blog posts and webinars that contrary to the accepted notion,evidence-based studies do not empower women to own their childbirth experience because women base their decisions on a set of predetermined beliefs rather than the evidence. (If this idea sounds familiar to you, it’s only because you recognize it from the introduction to Henci Goer’s book “The Thinking-Woman Guide for a Better Birth”, in which she applies this decision-making process to OBGYNs). I also repeatedly urge birth support professionals to avoid the term ‘Natural Birth’, along with the idealization of the un-medicated childbirth over the choice to receive medical assistance for coping with labor. Perhaps this can explain my fascination with the debate among feminists around the #MeToo movement, and the tension around its possible outcomes.

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How I Grew My Doula Practice When No One Yet Heard about Doulas

I am not an expert in marketing. To be honest, as an introvert, I am very challenged in this field. However, as a pioneer doula in my homeland, I had no choice but to spread the concept of a doula and endlessly share the doula benefit statistics. But that was in the old days (LOL). Nowadays, ‘doula’ is a dictionary term, and all you need to do is put yourself out there as a doula. I sat down and gathered a few ideas that served me well over the years.

  1. Storytelling: Since there is no need for you to promote the profession of a doula, I feel that you’d better avoid the “doula benefits statistics” talk. Instead, try to connect with your listeners on a personal level and build rapport.

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How Doulas Can Align the Vision, Beliefs and Actions of Expectant Moms (or How to Close the Gaps? )

Doulas often feel that they are accountable for their client’s positive and healthy birth experience. While this is somehow true, it certainly does not dismiss the couple’s efforts to achieve their desired birth experience. The presence of a doula at the birth should not by itself be perceived as a guarantee to a healthy and active childbirth. When couples choose not to engage in other types of labor support and preparation activities such as pregnancy physical activity, prenatal yoga, or childbirth education classes, there is a high chance that the doula will be the only one accountable for their positive birth experience. In this case, both parties risk a complicated relationship which might involve disappointment and lead to a non-satisfying birth experience.

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Your Client Chose A Hospital-Based Birth: Now What?

Whether you are a childbirth educator or a birth doula, you know that most expectant couples you’ll teach and support plan a hospital-based birth. The statistic is that out-of-hospital births are less than 5% of all births. I trust you to be deeply invested in your clients’ well being as they prepare for their nearing birth, and that’s why I am going to teach you how to lead them with respect to their choice of birthplace. I intend to show you how to do these two things:  

  1. Recognize your client’s context around the place in which she chose to give birth.
  2. Lead her in a way that doesn’t evoke internal conflict and resistance between her choices.

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Distinguishing Truth from Myth and Fears from Reality about Labor Pain

As I was looking for more studies about the drastic increase in birthing mothers who get an epidural for childbirth, I found the following research, published by Stanford medicine, titled: Study shows women prefer less-intense pain at the cost of prolonged labor. Here is what the researchers did: ”For the study, Carvalho and his colleagues gave a seven-item questionnaire to expectant mothers who had arrived at the hospital to have labor induced but were not yet having painful contractions. The questionnaire pitted hypothetical pain level, on a scale of zero to 10, against hours of labor. The women took the survey a second time within 24 hours of giving birth. A sample question asked, “Would you rather have pain intensity at two out of 10 for nine hours or six out of 10 for three hours?” Both pre- and post-labor, women on average preferred less intense pain over a longer duration, according to results published in the British Journal of Anesthesia.”I find this study to be somewhat disturbing but revealing at the same time. It is even useful from a coaching perspective. The questions the researchers asked were misleading. Women were asked to weigh their options and choose between coping with labor pain or having a prolonged birth as a potential implication of getting an epidural. But – –  are these the real options they weigh? Is prolonged labor the risk associated with taking an epidural in childbirth, or is it a side effect that might lead to many other potential risks?

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