ix months ago, I got married and moved to Rochester, New York. Soon after, my husband and I became friends with a couple that holds weekly get-togethers in their home. We share a meal, jam out, have long talks. Fellowship. One of the people I met there was Crystal Jackel, and at first sight, I knew she was an interesting and strong woman…and pregnant. (Seven months to be exact.) Like a beam of light, she entered the house where we were gathered, her gorgeous dreadlocks pulled back in an elegant up-do, in the crook of her arm a dish of cooked kale, and coming out from behind her flowing skirt, her entourage of three little girls, bursting with energy. After our meal, the men meandered away to tune their guitars in the living room, and I found myself staying at the table, intrigued by this positively radiant woman passing along wisdom to our host (also a soon-to-be mother of her fourth child). I listened intently to their opinions of the local dairy, various essential oils and their uses, and prenatal massage techniques. As a newlywed and woman who has, at least for now, no desire to be a mother, I found I had a lot to learn from these women. And this knowledge they were imparting was all so…womanly. Female-centric. Nurturing. I was mesmerized.
Later back at home, I saw Crystal had friended me on Facebook. So, naturally, I scanned her page, looking to “get to know” her better. Suddenly, I exclaimed to my husband (for he, too, was reading his smartphone in bed) that Crystal was not only a full-time momma, but also a musician (who had recently released her first CD), world traveler, salon owner, and a doula! My curiosity, again, was piqued. I mean…what’s…a doula? I got to digging, starting with her blog. Here, I’ll share the results of that dig as well as impart what I have learned from the source herself.
For those like me who have never even heard the word…What is a doula?
A doula, to me, is a birth coach who comes in to help the birth mother. She is in an emotional and physical support role for [the birth mother] in labor and birth. But, we’re non-medical, so not to be confused with anyone in the medical field. We are only there for physical and emotional support. …It’s mothering the mother. Your equal. It’s about empowering women, which is a very feminist standpoint. The whole thing that motivates doulas is the empowering women portion of what we do.
So, not a midwife?
No, no. It’s very different from a midwife. In fact, if we were to give medical advice, we would be superseding the DONA International certification guidelines. It’s considered outside of our expertise and, quite honestly, we become liable if we give medical advice.
That probably comes in handy if you were a doula in a hospital setting.
It does come in handy because we explain to every woman in advance — and she signs a paper before we begin — that they understand that, so that they’re not looking to us for answers when it’s crunch time. We’re also big on empowering the woman to have a voice and so we do not speak on their behalf. A lot of it has to do with making the woman feel confident in her own body and confident in who she is as a woman and as a mother who can birth. It’s important that, as a doula, we’re not just spoonfeeding to the mother what she should be doing. Even more so in the hospital setting because many times there is the physician who is involved — or a midwife — and we as doulas have to be able to honor the physician and the midwife, even if we don’t agree with their decision. So our job is to prepare the woman, before she gets into that situation — to feel like she has a voice.
How exactly do you do that? Is that where the “birth plan” comes in?
That’s a part of it. A lot of women don’t know how to write a birth plan, so we go through all the variables of birth and labor, and all the things that could possibly happen. We talk about their ideal birth, and what it would look like if certain things got shaken in what they think is ideal. So I lay out a bunch of index cards of everything that they would like during their birth. Then, later on, I talk about what it would look like if it were to be the opposite of what they chose. We talk about that, and we talk through the options. A lot of times, when women are in labor, the doctor will say, “I think you should do this.” Well, a lot of women don’t know their options, you know? If an OB comes in and says, “The heart rate is dropping. I think we should do oxygen.” In that moment, a lot of times women wouldn’t know that there is any other option besides what her OB is presenting.
As a doula, we can talk about the variables. “If this were to happen…if they suggest oxygen…this is what you could do.” A lot of times, it’s just a matter of telling the woman, “If there’s anything you’re uncomfortable with during the birth and labor, ask for five minutes to talk to your partner or spouse. Talk about what decision you feel comfortable in.” So, it’s really just about birth prep. Allowing the woman to get to know her body. It’s amazing to me how little we do know about our bodies. It really is, and that’s why fear is a big factor in labor and birth. Now there are scientific studies on how fear disrupts the labor process. So, it very important than women are not fearful during labor and birth. Really, the doula is there so that she can come in and bring that kind of confidence the woman needs.
(Pauses to go check on her newborn)
I think one of my biggest revelations from reading your blog was you say giving birth can be joyful. I guess eliminating fear is a part of the process. So, can giving birth be a joyful and nearly painless process? Whenever I think about it, I can only think “Oooyyy…!” That’s the only emotion that comes to mind. (both laughing)
I do believe birth can be painless. There’s a book called…and it’s not for everyone…it’s called Supernatural Childbirth, and it talks about a pain-free birth. It’s talking about how “the curse” has been eliminated through the power of Christ, so we can be pain-free in the process of birth. But, at the same rate, not every client I have is a believer. So, with that, I use some of the same tools, but I don’t “stick Jesus on it.”
When you eliminate fear, childbirth can be a joyful process, in all realms. You’re producing oxytocin, which is the love hormone. It is a drug. It’s a serious drug. It makes you happy when you shouldn’t be happy. Birth is immensely intense, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be painful. I teach often that we shouldn’t suffer through birth and labor. If we are suffering, then we need to refocus because I do believe that labor was meant to be enjoyed. Especially birth. It’s at our highest level of oxytocin.
And it’s not just the love you have toward your baby, but also your partner. It’s an intimate moment. You’re completely vulnerable. Completely exposed. The people in the room…it really matters who you have in the room. I believe it can be one of the most intimate moments we would ever go through in life. More intimate than even our wedding day, when we first see our spouse, and we’re in that intimate place, because you’re bringing everyone there into the world of birth and labor. Mothers have a very unique role when it comes to labor and birth.
Also, the moment when you get to hold your baby for the first time. It’s…(pauses) an ecstatic joy. It’s hard to put into words because you’re in this intense laboring, usually for hours, and if you’re in-tune to your body, you can give yourself over to the laboring process, rather than fighting it. What it comes down to for a lot of women is learning how to be rescued, really, from the fight or flight mentality.
That’s because when our bodies are experiencing pain, we want to flee, or we want to fight it. But you can’t run away from it! Once you’re pregnant, you’re pregnant. And once the labor starts, there’s no running away from it, so most often what happens is women try to fight it. The more we try to fight a contraction, honestly…the more pain it brings. A lot of times what women do is, well, we tense up. You can see it in their faces, how they’re cringing their eyebrows. You can see it in the way they raise their shoulders. So my role is always to get them to relax and to “think low” and actually visualize the baby moving downward, into the cervix and to help her get
(Skype cuts out because her iPad died)
So we were talking about visualizing the baby coming down…Does that tend to help? Simply telling them (like yoga) to be aware, mentally. That mind-body connection?
Right. It’s really important in birth. To be a doula, you have to believe in visualization because that’s a big part of birth coaching. Teaching the birth mother how to visualize. The more she’s capable of using her mind and connecting it to what’s going on with her body, the better her labor is going to be. Every woman is different. For instance, for me, when I had a contraction, I actually would say the word “low.” I was picturing the head moving down. And you always want to keep it “low.” Even keep your voice low because, the minute that a woman goes into her higher voice, she panics. So I also listen for what tone of voice and facial expressions they’re using. With my doula, I asked her, if she saw my eyebrows cringing, to put her finger there (lightly places her middle finger between her eyebrows) because that will help me to remember to relax my face. And it needed to be soft because, during my contractions, I didn’t like to be touched very much. So she would just do that softly, and it would remind me to keep open. Then, when I was able to focus in on what my contraction was doing, and that every one was a step closer to seeing my baby, it brought joy.
But when I experience the contraction, and I felt that it was painful, and I wanted to fight it, it was as if I couldn’t progress. A lot of women will labor longer if they fight their contractions. This is usually when I recommend an epidural because some women have a harder time tapping into listening to their bodies and giving themselves over to the contraction. Usually that’s a last resort because the women who typically want a doula are looking to go as natural as possible. The only time I’ve seen women not capable of not giving themselves over to the contractions is when there is fear involved. Fear is the major inhibitor in birth and labor.
Would you say, from your experience, that there tends to be more fear in first-time mothers or a mother who has had a bad experience (e.g. – a tear)? Or maybe there are different types of fear?
There’s definitely fear for first-time mothers. Fear of the unknown. Yet fear tends to be harder to deal with with someone who has had a traumatic birth and then they’re birthing again.
A good half of my clients have come to me because of traumatic experiences during birth, and so they’re wanting to feel empowered, and sometimes they want their partner to be more involved, and they don’t know how to. So, a doula can also help the partner. Make them feel more equipped. Sometimes the man might not feel — or woman! — equipped in the laboring room. They feel like, “She’s in pain, and I’m just standing here. I don’t know how to help.” I say, first of all, it’s best if you go in there feeling unoffended. The woman who is in labor is the hero. She’s the star of the show, and so whatever she wants, goes. And it’s really just helping the partner get on board with what she needs.
Also, letting them [the partner] know that they have a voice because their voice is just as important as the mother’s voice. There have been a lot of couples I’ve spoken to who have said, “They told my wife ____ while she was in labor, but I didn’t feel like I could say different.” So I get to help them, also. Feel empowered. Together. And I love it! Honestly, it’s so beautiful with a couple who has had a traumatic birth. We’re meeting and having the prenatal visits before she goes into labor, and just seeing the change… “Wow! Why didn’t anybody tell us?!” A lot of times I’ll leave those meetings and I’ll be like, “This is why I’m doing this.” It feels so good. So gratifying.
Do you find that, with these couples, the woman giving birth is more often turning to you (the doula) or her partner?
Actually, I think most often it’s how much the partner wants to be involved. I had one couple (it was their first baby), and the husband wanted to help a lot. In fact, he didn’t want a doula. He thought that the doula would replace him. So we talked through that, that a doula never replaces the partner. Like, if a partner wants to be involved, we’re there to help them. So he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to help her as much, and I said, “You can be involved as much or as little as your want.” And because I knew he wanted to be involved, I would help him during the labor. I’d say, “You might want to try this,” rather than me getting in there and saying, “Let me try this.” I would show him pressure points. If he was massaging her, and it was too hard, I’d say, “Why don’t you try this?” and show him how to do it. A lot of women can’t take vigorous massage while they’re in labor, and a lot of husbands just want to (makes frantic circling motions with hands) and get deep because that’s what they like, but for the mother, it can be too much. So, I show them how to go slow.
But, then, if they don’t want to be involved, or if they’re tired, I can come in, and I can help them. With this first time mom, she was in labor for, I think, 26 hours (I cover my face and moan)…yeah…it was amazing, though. No epidural. No interventions. It was because she had the right support system. The doctor was so amazed with [the mother’s] labor and birth, she wrote me a doctor’s recommendation.
Wow. You covered my “big” questions up front (both laugh), so let’s get some basic questions in. I’m not sure if this is something you learned when you got certified, but can you say something about the history of doulas? The origin? How nowadays it’s gotten to be popular again? Anything, really, about it’s history.
If you look back at artifacts, old sculptures, Renaissance art, you will see women highly involved in labor and birth. We (the doulas in training) got to see a lot of that when we were learning. Just to show us that women were always empowering one another in labor and birth, even if they weren’t necessarily called a “doula” then. It was just the art of birth and labor, you know? A lot of times, they’d have birth circles where there would be several women present. I think there are some religions that involved the different generations of women, too.
That was another question…are doulas always women?
Yes! It’s a good question, though, because we (the local doula cooperative) do have one male doula but…it contradicts, a lot of times, what you’re going for because…only women really understand women.
Are there doulas who aren’t mothers? If so, then how can they talk someone through the process if they haven’t gone through childbirth themselves? Does book knowledge carry that far?
It is a little bit more difficult. We had women in my class who had not had babies, but they’re just passionate. They’re feminists, you know? They want to see women be able to make choices, to feel empowered. They want women to know their options. And they love the process of life.
There were a couple of students looking to go to midwifery school, but wanted to do doula first so they could see the nurturing aspect of birth and not just the medical aspect. And, quite honestly, because we do so much practice on one another, they do learn.
Part of it is just being a woman. Nurturing looks different in all of us. You may not see yourself as the nurturing type, but it just manifests differently. You like to teach. You like to cook. Your love language is you like to provide a service to people. It just looks different. And so, yes, women who haven’t had babies do make awesome doulas. It just might take them a little bit longer to get accustomed to how to best serve [the birth mother] because you do, obviously, learn a lot through experiencing birth.
What are the services a doula would say they offer (prenatal, childbirth, postpartum)? The “package,” if you could call it that.
Well, a birth doula and a postpartum doula are two different things. If you hire a birth doula, she’s not really going to be involved much postpartum, and a postpartum doula is only going to be involved during the after birth.
A birth doula usually offers two prenatal visits. Each is an hour to two hours long. (Mine are always two hours or more because you get talking…if they have questions…) Usually at their home. Some occasions you might meet them out, but it’s better if it’s a more intimate setting.
Your first prenatal visit is talking about if they’ve already had births, what they were like… Getting to know the person you’re serving. Learning what’s their ideal birth, and answering questions about birth itself. Talking about their options. Then you present to them a birth plan template. I usually offer all of my clients at our first meeting a birth plan template which gives them all their options of what they should consider during birth so they don’t have to try to figure it all out in their head.
Then later, at the second meeting, we talk about every single thing they put down. That’s when I usually lay out their ideal birth and talk about what could happen if it doesn’t necessarily go they way that they’d planned, so that they can prepare emotionally for those things. The most traumatic things that happen during birth is when you feel forced into a place that you’re not comfortable with and you don’t have any ability to change that. If the woman goes in there, knowing beforehand what she wants to happen and what could happen, it makes her feel a whole lot more comfortable and keep fear out of the door. That’s what I go for: Making sure the woman feels like she’s ready. That’s birth coaching. It’s centered around teaching a woman on how to labor and how birth.
When it comes to laboring, the doula likes to get there before active labor, so she can be there the entire time the woman is in active labor. If the woman does want me there earlier, during pre-labor, or she thinks she’s in labor, then I will go and keep an eye on the person. But usually, active labor is when the doula shows up, which is usually when [the birth mother] is at least 4 centimeters if it’s her first, or if it’s their second, and it’s fast…then we get there really fast! (laughs) We get there as soon as they call, just in case. Sometimes we’re there before the midwife or OB because we want to be there through the whole process.
During the process of labor, we offer everything that you can think of that wouldn’t be medical. We offer atmosphere, helping make the environment that would make her comfortable to birth in. We’ll get any supplies ready that would make her more comfortable, whether it’s the birth tub, or getting a tub ready in the hospital, massaging her back…anything we can recommend to make her more comfortable. We run errands. Sometimes she doesn’t need you right away, but her and her partner want coffee…it doesn’t matter! She’s the star of the show. Whatever she needs is what we give.
Usually, every birth doula stays 1-2 hours after the baby is born to help with the first stages of nursing and breastfeeding, especially if she’s a new mom. She’ll need some help. Every woman is really different. If a woman is larger breasted, it can be a much harder process for nursing, so it’s important that we offer breastfeeding support. What’s the best way to position the baby so they’re latching correctly? We make sure she comfortable enough to hold the baby. You know, if there’s been a Cesarean, a woman is not capable of holding the baby right away. It’s becoming better known, though, to keep the baby with you, so a lot of women now are wanting to keep their baby in their room and not necessarily send them to nursery, so a doula could be there just to hold the baby the hour that the anesthesia is wearing off. I’ve even had some doula friends who actually helped moms that have had Cesareans help the baby latch onto the mother, even though she can’t hold the baby. So a doula usually stays 1-2 hours afterward just to make sure the mother is comfortable and has everything she needs.
A postpartum doula helps with breastfeeding as well, but more the ongoing issues that could happen…not the initial issues that you might have like latching. Sometimes a woman might have engorged breasts where the baby’s not latching. Sometimes they may have thrush. The baby may have suckling issues. The woman may get blisters on their breasts because, you know, you’re not used to nursing…
(laughs) My mom called it the vacuum. She says it’s like putting a vacuum on something very tender…many times a day…
It is! It’s not even sometimes a latching issue, but just the fact that you have somebody suckling for countless hours…so it can be painful. But having a postpartum doula come and encourage her helps.
The doula is also available to help the woman heal correctly. Makes sure she’s not overdoing it. She can clean [the mother’s] house. If you have other children, she can care for them. She can make dinner…she can make breakfast, lunch, and dinner!… if you want a doula for the first 48 hours. I recommend a postpartum doula for home birthing moms because they don’t have the normal 48 hours where a nurse is checking on you in a hospital. That’s my biggest con with the home birth. (There are lots of pros!) (laughs) But the one con is the after birth…making sure that the woman is not left alone. That’s where a postpartum doula can be beneficial because she will do whatever is needed.
Also, postpartum depression. Most women don’t like talking to their partners about their depression, postpartum, because it’s highly emotional. Quite honestly, most men don’t understand it, so it’s awesome when you can have a girlfriend or a doula that you can talk to about the emotions. Especially for first-time moms.
They charge differently. Usually a birth doula is, as a whole, anywhere from $400-600 for the package, where a postpartum doula charges by the hour. A lot of them have a minimum of 8 hours. I don’t have a minimum, but I know a lot of people who started that because it’s not worth their while. It’s usually around $25 an hour. They come over, but they won’t spend the night unless the woman needs it. So, the doula might come over 8 hours during that 48 hour period.
To me, the postpartum doula sounds like what the mothers in my family do. If I were to have a baby, my mom would be on the next plane, and she would plan to stay here a week or so. I know not all families can do that, time-wise or money-wise, or even have that type of relationship where the birth mother would want their family member(s) there, but that is how it was with my mother’s mother, and I’m sure, if the times comes, for me. My grandmother cooked, she cleaned…it was all about my mom being able to recoup. I can see, though, how having a doula would be beneficial for that birth mother who couldn’t or wouldn’t have their mother present after giving birth.
Yeah, I had a postpartum doula, and it was because my mother couldn’t be here. You’re right. I didn’t need a postpartum doula with my first and second, but my mother hasn’t come up for the last two births, and that’s because she’s still young and works and is out of town (Michigan). With my third child (and first home birth), I learned it wasn’t fun, not having someone there afterward, so this time around, I made sure I had people that were going to be here. Brandon [her husband] took off from work…I had a postpartum doula…I needed to have a support person who was here.
A lot of times postpartum doulas do end up serving women who don’t have any support. A lot of times it ends up being single moms. And there are times that we offer our services for free. We call them “gratis births.”
Yeah, I saw on your blog that “every woman who wants a doula gets one.” How does that work?
It’s a DONA International certification belief that, any woman that wants a doula should get one. No woman should be in labor and birth without the support she needs. [DONA] is so big on believing that women need to be empowered through this that they encourage every doula to do at least do one free birth a year, if not more. Most doulas I know end up doing four…one every quarter. That’s why we have the co-op in Rochester, so we can take for one another people who are looking for gratis births because you can get overwhelmed very easily by how many people want a doula for free. There are lots of women out there who want a doula but can’t afford one, or single mothers with no support.
I did a gratis birth a few months ago, right before my baby was born. It was a single mother. Her boyfriend ended up being in prison, so she was all by herself. It was her second baby, and there was a lot of fear involved. She ended up getting an epidural because there was so much fear involved, but I was able to be there for her and coach her and tell her she wasn’t alone. Tell her that she’s doing a good job. Just to have somebody there to tell you, “You’re doing amazing!” can make all the difference, so that birth is a joyful experience and not a traumatic one.
I hadn’t even heard of a doula before, so how do these women know about this service?
It’s really about education. It’s about getting the information out, and doulas are working hard to do that. We’re trying to become able to be paid by insurance. Kinda like how chiropractic care started… At one time, chiropractors were seen as a whack doctor…massage therapy. People didn’t really see them as doctors. But now, people recognize them and that what they’re doing makes a difference. The education that’s gone into chiropractic care…well, people have just gotten the information out. So now, when a person goes to a chiropractor, most insurances will cover it. Doulas are kinda the same way.
And to answer what you were asking earlier, about the history of doulas, the word “doula” and what we’re doing is relatively new because, in the last 50 years, [labor and birth] has been seen as a medical procedure. But since we were created, it was never a medical procedure. It was a natural thing, you know? Childbirth was something we were created to know how to do. Home birthing was normal! But over time, we started to have doctors that specialized in birth, and it became more of a medical procedure than something women would do at home. Women were put you to sleep in the 1950s, and they wouldn’t even know.
They’d wake up with a baby in their arms.
Yes, essentially. A lot of women couldn’t hold their babies because they would be too groggy. So these women would birth all alone. Their husbands were not allowed in the room. And it was this very sterile environment. They would cover the women’s legs with draperies, and all the OBs were men…
It was like a theater. A birthing theater.
Yeah. And there were no women OBs at that time. There were nurses… Actually, I remember interviewing (for one of my classes, we had to interview someone who had birthed +30 years ago), and she doesn’t even remember her labor and birth! So we’ve come quite a ways. I think what we’re recognizing is…we’re going back to our roots. That’s what a doula is helping us do. They’re realizing that women labor shorter and better when they have the right support.
Now, you seem to prefer a home birth. Your first two children were born in the hospital, but the last two have been at home. When you meet with your mothers, do you tell them this? Do you recommend a home birth?
You know, most of the women when I meet with at the first prenatal home visit already know where they’ll be birthing. They already have a midwife or an OB, so I work with them. I don’t ever make a suggestion unless they’re asking. That can be hard as a doula, but it can also be freeing. It’s not my birth. It’s their birth, so I feel like my role can be as significant in the hospital as it can be at home. And, quite honestly, I think doulas are needed more in the hospital.
You mentioned “serving” earlier. I’ve seen two or three definitions (from the Greek) for doula. They say “slave,” “servant”… How would you translate the word “doula”?
Not slave. I think we go more with “servant.” We are there to serve.
“Doula” isn’t even a feminine word. In the Greek sense, anybody can be called a doula. It’s a very simple “to serve,” but we’ve taken it on as a name. I’m not even quite sure who originally did that…I guess it would be a good research project to see who did. But it makes sense. The ultimate service could be mothering because a mother gives so much. And so when I hear “doula,” the first thing that comes to my mind is “mother.”
I think we’ve covered most of my questions except a few, more personal questions. Like, what made you want to become a doula?
Well, first I think my love for motherhood, but then also…all four of my birth were very different, and I feel like, if I had known then what I knew now (that’s kinda a cliche answer), I would’ve enjoyed my births a lot more. I would have enjoyed my children differently, as well, because so much of your labor and birth experience goes into how you bond with your baby.
And I just saw how powerful it is when you believe in yourself. How powerful it is when fear is not involved in birth, and when you feel freedom in birth. Just tasting that made me think, “How can I help women learn what I’ve learned, but not have to go through the trauma of it first?”
So that’s when I decided. I looked into midwifery at first, but it was so much schooling, and I just felt like I was losing the heart of what I was looking at. It wasn’t until I had a girlfriend who told me about being a doula, and asked me, “Have you ever considered being a doula?”
I also have a love for birth. I don’t think you can go into [being a doula] without that. I have a love for the whole birthing process. I’m not grossed out by it. I’m not grossed out by bodily fluid or anything like that, so I said, “I want to be involved in labor and birth.” There was this pull towards it. And my girlfriend told me how it’s birth coaching, so that’s when my ears perked. I decided that’s what I wanted to do.
What did the certification entail?
It’s a vocational school certificate. There are a couple of companies: CAPPA and DONA International. I decided to go with DONA because they seem to be a little more world-renowned. I wanted to be able to travel internationally as a doula, eventually, so I wanted to pick a place that I knew was well-known. They require so many hours of school (not semesters, like you’d do college). I can’t remember exactly how many hours of schooling it is. On top of that, you have to have 12 hours of volunteer birth, with at least 3 birth mothers. That’s usually really easy to do because most people birth a lot longer than that. So, you have to have at least 3 volunteers who let you be there doula through their labor and birth, and the prenatal visits and everything. You also have five books you have to read, like textbooks. It’s a lot of reading. You write papers on all of your books. By the way, the #1 book for women giving birth is Ina May’s “Guide to Childbirth”. It’s the perfect book for any doula or any woman who will be entering child labor and birth.
Is that something you can find at the library?
Yes! It’s very popular! I bought mine at Barnes & Noble. Ina May is actually a famous midwife. She lived in a commune where she serviced thousands of mothers.
Okay, last question. I saved the shock ‘n awe one…
I know where you’re going with this…
PLACENTA ENCAPSULATION?! I had to go there. I saw the YouTube videos on your blog, and at first, I thought, “Oh, this is so nasty!” but then I was like, “…this is kinda interesting.” I mean, I think most people only have heard about Tom Cruise or January Jones. When I saw that service on your blog, I was sitting in the bed with John, and shouted, “JOHN! What is this?”
(laughing) We don’t learn that when becoming a doula, no. That’s a separate certification. As a doula, I’m offering placenta encapsulation which I, technically, am going through certification right now for. You can offer it without certification, but I’m getting it just so people know that I’m abiding by OSHA regulations and guidelines. So people know that I’m being sanitary. That I’ve been trained. So they feel better about what I do.
I assume because you provide this service, you’ve also done this yourself. What are the benefits of ingesting your placenta?
Well, the biggest benefit of taking your placenta are the hormone levels of oxytocin and [prostaglandin]. Both help reduce stress and help you bond with baby.
#1 is postpartum blues. Most women who struggle with postpartum blues, with depression, have used the placenta encapsulation as a means of helping that without being medicated. It’s a natural way of helping you recoup without feeling like you have to turn to medication, so it’s mostly very “earthy” mothers who are into placentophagy. Actually, most mammals that give birth consume the placenta! Because of these hormone levels, it makes your uterus contract, so that helps you not hemorrhage. In the hospital, they’ll give you a shot to help your uterus contract and shorten, to help you stop bleeding. Well, the placenta does the same thing. Breastfeeding does the same thing.
There are also lots of vitamins in the placenta. Iron. Your iron levels are low because it’s like you’re menstruating. You’re bleeding for usually 2-6 weeks, sometimes up to 8 weeks if it’s your first baby. Heavy bleeding. So, you can feel really tired, depleted, but placenta is really high in iron. Also, in vitamin B6. It also helps speed up your metabolism, so you can begin the healing process. It has stem cells. So, all around, it can help you heal better. It also helps milk supply.
You can also freeze it. Some people use half after childbirth and then can use the other half when they’re going through menopause. I mean, it has oxytocin. Sometimes I joke around with a client, like “You want more of that oxytocin, don’t you?”
I encapsulated my placenta with my last two births, but didn’t with my first two, so I’ve seen the difference, with and without it. This last time, when I took the dosages about six days after my childbirth, I felt energetic, more emotionally stable, happy…so now, my husband has this joke for when I’m blue: “Maybe you need to take your placenta pills.” (laughs)
Your husband’s a nurse. Does he and the rest of the “science community” see this as a medically proven thing or just a home remedy?
It’s definitely seen as a home remedy right now. …I wondered if you were going to ask about the placenta thing because doulas are an up-and-coming thing, but this is still a very new idea.
I’ve read articles of a Christian woman said consuming placenta is cannibalism. I’ve read both sides of the coin, just so that I know how to better prepare myself as someone who’s offering this as a service. From what I’ve found, the benefits of consuming the placenta far outweigh the cons. I believe in it. I experienced a difference, consuming it myself, so because of that, I feel like women should have access to that service. Some doulas don’t recommend it. It just depends on your belief system.
It was actually my husband who said, “You need to go get certified because you’re good at this and you believe in it.” At first, I was like, “I don’t know if I can do that with other people’s stuff.” (both laugh) You know what I mean? It’s kinda weird. But he said, “You love people enough to do it.” And that’s what it comes down to. You see it does help, and women need that. If there’s a way to not suffer through postpartum depression, we should provide that!
[divider]End of Interview[/divider]
I continued asking Crystal questions about placentophagy until we finally decided to call it a night. I encourage the reader to continue their own exploration via Crystal’s blog and check out the linked YouTube videos and articles.