Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Childbirth and the Labor Doula

By Joy Haviland
for Expecting Miracles Newsletter
May 2007

Michelle Schnaars is a Labor Doula. What is a Labor Doula? She is a woman who assists women during labor and childbirth. Schnaars has been a Labor Doula for four years. She is certified as a Labor Doula and as a Childbirth Educator through Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA).

Schnaars says, “I love working with families and helping them create positive birth experiences.” Labor doulas are able to help women and their significant others prepare for childbirth, and they are able to stay with the mom throughout her labor and birth, providing continuous support.” Schnaars usually stays with the mom for an hour after the birth and helps with breastfeeding.

As a labor doula Schnaars gives non-medical assistance to women, providing emotional and physical support throughout the birth process. Schnaars says, “I provide verbal encouragement, and suggestions for comfortable laboring positions, and make sure the mom’s needs are met.” Which includes making sure she has enough water and ice chips, pillows, bed linens, and towels. Schnaars also provides massage for comfort, and can remind mom to relax physically if she gets tense. She builds a rapport with the mothers and their partners, and helps expectant fathers navigate the journey through labor. Schnaars meets with her clients at least twice during prenatal visits to help prepare the couple for birth and to see how she can support the mom and her partner.

Schnaars explains, “Childbirth experiences vary from woman to woman and many women are planning VBAC’s”. [editors note: VBAC is an acronym for Vaginal Birth after a Cesarean]. Schnaars has worked with fifteen women during labor and birth, including successful VBAC’s. She says, “I love being a labor doula. I can’t think of anything else I would prefer doing.” After having her first child in 2000 Schnaars decided that “Every woman deserved the chance to have a good experience like mine”. However the opportunity to become a labor doula presented three years later. First Schnaars trained and certified as a Childbirth Educator in 2003, in 2004 as a Labor Doula, and in 2005 she trained and certified and teaches the Happiest Baby on the Block. Schnaars explains, “Parents are often inexperienced with newborns. Knowing how to shush, swaddle, and sooth their newborn helps to increase their confidence as new parents. And it increases the bond between parents and their child”. She is also a volunteer with Operation Special Delivery (OSD). OSD provides free labor doula services to wives of Military, National Guard and Reservists. The program was founded after the events of September 11, 2001 and is directed by MaryBeth Nance. Schnaars says, “It gives a husband peace of mind to know a qualified individual is with his wife when he cannot be with her.”

Schnaars is active in her community providing childbirth education, labor doula services, breastfeeding support, postpartum doula services, and the Happiest Baby on the Block instruction.

Michelle can be reached at doulamichelle@comcast.net
CAPPA: www.cappa.net
Operation Special Delivery (OSD): www.operationspecialdelivery.com
The Happiest Baby on the Block: www.thehappiestbaby.com

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