I sat down with my friend and fellow birth worker, Bethany Bagnell, to talk about how women can benefit from hiring a doula. Bethany is a social worker, certified Bradley Method Instructor/ Doula, DONA International trained, and Certified Car Seat Technician. She is the co-owner of Riverbank Willow Birth Services where they offer birth, postpartum, and bereavement doulas; childbirth education; and placenta encapsulation.
What is a doula?
BB: A doula is a non-medical support person, chosen by the pregnant woman to provide physical and emotional support during pregnancy and labor who is an expert in the childbirth process. There is a misconception in our country that doulas are for homebirth, unmedicated mothers – which is strongly inaccurate. The role of a doula is to help the mother achieve the birth SHE desires, whatever that is. If that means medication, then the doula supports her achieving that birth. I honestly believe that woman who receive medication can benefit more than a woman who is attempting a natural childbirth. Labor is, in my opinion, 50 percent mental and 50 percent physical. If a mother is planning for an epidural labor, she will still have to experience a period of contractions without pain relief due to the fact that hospital staff know the sooner you get an epidural the higher the risk of cesarean, so moms are encouraged to try to hold out for as long as they can without it. There is also the possibility that the epidural could fail and in my experience in those labors it is VERY tough for the laboring mom to cope. Imagine going into this situation expecting to feel no pain and no other plan to manage such a tough situation and plan A fails – that can be quite traumatic. This can happen even for a mother who has given birth easily with an epidural in previous pregnancies, you just never know. Every birth, baby, and pregnancy are completely different.
With my prenatal hyposis clients, I often say that the opposite of stress is options. I think a doula is a wonderful resource for increasing your options.
BB: A doula is also aware of a mother’s choices. Many times mom’s plan is for an unmedicated birth and for whatever reason, the plan changes – many moms feel defeated in this moment and feel they need to consent to every intervention thereafter because they already gave into the first one they didn’t plan on doing. A doula empowers the mother to still take control of her experience and that the other priorities on her birth plan can still be achieved.
As a multiple time c-section mom, I strongly believe that c-section moms can also benefit from a doula. In fact, maybe they need a doula even more!
BB: A big issue in my opinion in this Northern VA area is the limit on the number of people who can be in the operating room during a c-section. In all area hospitals the limit is one. So many times during a c-section the doula is not present in the room because the father/partner is the one that the mom chooses to be in the OR. However, sometimes there isn’t a partner, or maybe the partner is at a risk of passing out. However, just because there isn’t a physical space in the OR for a doula, that doesn’t mean a mother who has a c-section cannot benefit from hiring a doula. The beginning of a doula’s role is to support and help prepare the mother prenatally. She can help process any fears, develop a birth plan, try to avoid a c-section if it is a malposition issue, etc. A doula would also inform the mother of her choices and things to potentially ask for during her c-section to make it a fulfilling and empowering birth experience. During the day of, whether it is planned or emergency, a doula would stay and wait until the surgery is over, help the mother with getting situated or with breastfeeding for the first time. I have done anything from help move all the bags to the new room to help a mom hand express colostrum into a syringe for her baby going to the NICU while the dad stayed with the baby. The role of a doula is flexible but because of having the experience that we do, we think of things we know that can be helpful for mom and baby to bond, or help mom recover faster in situations that may not be ideal like a cesareans or baby taking the trip to the NICU. There is also the support that comes postpartum.
What do you do to support the family postpartum?
BB: My work never ends at a birth, I always do a postpartum follow up visit, and check in periodically on the days in between to support my clients with community referrals, or helpful tips for the transition to bringing a newborn home. I also am trained in breastfeeding, so I can help identify troubles with latches and make appropriate referrals if needed.
You're kind enough to send me referrals. How do you think prenatal hypnosis can help women?
BB: I always say, the more tools a mom has in labor the better off she will be. You become a completely different person in labor and your instincts take over so just because you thought smooth jazz and positive affirmations would be relaxing, you may find that it is the opposite! Prenatal hypnosis, similar to childbirth education prepares the mother mentally prenatally and can bring comfort during the process of labor. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to birth, it can be terrifying when you don’t understand what is happening to your body or don’t feel in control. And when we feel out of control, we panic, and our breathing increases which leads to danger to mom and baby and also increased stress hormones being released. Prenatal hypnosis can help mom process fears that she may have before labor even begins to be able to let go and let the labor happen. The mind is half the battle in labor, and we can actually freak ourselves out of labor. Adrenaline cancels out oxytocin which is the hormone that makes labor happen. So if a mom goes into labor fearful, that can inhibit her progress. And then having the skill to utilize hypnosis effectively in labor can bring mom a great source of comfort to relax and not feel so out of control in the process. I always recommend my clients seek out your services, especially the ones who have a history of a traumatic birth or have great fear about particular possibilities in labor.
Sometimes, pregnancy can be a long planned for, hoped for, and anticipated event. You are finally pregnant and thrilled to be so. Other times, pregnancy can be unexpected, indeed, even unwanted.
Whether it’s your first child, your second, or even your fourth, where you are at that time in your life can impact your mindset during your pregnancy. Perhaps you are on cloud nine. Perhaps you are little concerned about what another child will do to your current family structure, or even to your career.
All these feelings have a right to be. Hypnosis is a wonderful tool not only for comfort during childbirth but for decreasing stress, reducing fears and anxieties, and focusing on your future with a positive outlook.
No matter how many babies you’ve had, you spend your pregnancy bombarded by other people’s opinions. The name you like for your child is one they can’t stand. Their sister had a c-section and it was horrible. Home birth? Isn’t that dangerous? Isn’t that what hospitals are for?
It can be a stressful time, where people often share their own horror stories. Hypnotherapy can be a time of comfort, relaxation, and peace, a place where you can vent out any thoughts, feelings, and ideas that are no longer beneficial for you.
Not only can you visualize and focus on your ideal birth plan, but you can also have fun imagining what your birth would be like if it could be any way you could create it. Within the imagination, you can picture giving birth in the comfort of beautiful waters, surrounded by mermaids and dolphins singing your little one into the world.
Your birth partner can participate in this process. Together you can learn about hypnosis and practice at home. Not only is practicing a wonderful bonding experience, but it creates more oxytocin, the “love hormone.” Oxytocin helps lessen anxiety and brings more serotonin and dopamine into the body naturally. Now your body is naturally primed to be flooded with the positive chemicals that will help you be more relaxed during labor.
Hypnotherapy can be beneficial for all members of the family during the pregnancy and postpartum. After baby is born, hypnotherapy can help mom to get as much sleep as possible, eat healthily, and keep her stress levels down. Happy, relaxed mamas lead to happy, relaxed babies.
Expecting? Congratulations! Check out this page for more information on hypnotherapy for labor and childbirth and some birth resources.
Bruxism is a condition in which you grind, gnash, or clench your teeth. Clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth can be a way of your body trying to relieve stress. Although stress and anxiety are often a cause of bruxism, it can also be caused by an abnormal bite. Many people seek treatment with their dentist to alleviate symptoms of bruxism. However, most experts agree that bruxism is an unconscious habit.
Hypnotherapy is ideal for dealing with the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is everything that’s separate from your conscious awareness. When you first learned to drive, you didn’t know how to do it. You had to think about every little step, from how to turn the car on, to how much pressure to apply to the break, to how to make a turn properly. But once you learned how to drive, and after lots of practice, this behavior became part of your unconscious behavior - something you do without thinking. You now drive easily, likely with your mind on hundreds of things other than the operation of the car.
In a hypnotherapy session, you are allowing yourself to get into a very relaxed state. From this state of deep relaxation, you are able to access your unconscious mind to begin building new habits of relaxation. Many people are under the impression that you are fully asleep, but in fact your mind is very alert during a hypnotherapy session. You are physically relaxed, emotional calm, and mentally alert and open to positive suggestions towards wellbeing, or positive changes that you’d like to bring into your life.
From this positive state, you can learn techniques for managing your stress and having a more positive mindset. You’ll also likely find that you sleep more deeply throughout the night. This stress management techniques are ideal for helping you to relieve stress naturally instead of venting frustration out through your teeth and jaw.
There are numerous studies to support that hypnosis helps not only to decrease teeth grinding and the associate pain, but that it has long lasting effects of many years.
The benefits you’ll receive from incorporating hypnosis into your plan for dealing with bruxism can reach into many other avenues of your life. Relaxation techniques and stress management skills can also help you sleep better, have healthier relationships, and find more satisfaction in your career.
If you’re experiencing chronic stress, you may be experiencing irritability, anxiety, depression, or insomnia. Stress produces physical and emotional symptoms. Over time, chronic stress can cause a weakened immune system, weight gain, and heart disease.
There are many methods to help you reduce stress. Here’s just a few ideas:
Regular massage therapy is widely used to manage anxiety and chronic stress. Massage decreases cortisol levels and increases activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body and the mind respond better during times of stress.
There are numerous studies that suggest hypnotherapy is highly effective for anxiety and stress, particularly for anxiety associated with exams, test anxiety, or performance anxiety. A 2006 study out of Yale University School of Medicine found that hypnosis significantly alleviates preoperative anxiety. Some people are more familiar with relaxation techniques such as therapeutic imagery or progressive relaxation. Guided therapeutic imagery helps create relaxing images in the mind that help bring a more peaceful, balanced state. This is also highly effective for enhancing your coping skills, making dealing with high tension situations easier.
Floatation Therapy, sometimes called REST (Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy), involves limiting external stimuli while floating in skin-temperature, magnesium rich water. Floatation therapy is considered to be highly beneficial for stress reduction as well as stress-related conditions, such as chronic tension headaches.
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)
EFT Tapping is a technique based on the same energy meridians used in acupuncture - but without the needles! EFT uses tapping with your fingertips while speaking about the issue. EFT is extremely effective, easy to learn, and yields rapid results. It’s particularly effective for post traumatic stress disorder.
Unlike a traditional sauna, infrared saunas provide dry, gentle heat. They provide a wonderful opportunity for focusing on your breathing and quieting your mind. Regular use of the sauna can help lower cortisol in your body.
Reiki is an energy healing modality which has gained in popularity as a complementary therapy. People seek reiki out as a non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical method of complementary medicine. Many people find reiki effective for reducing anxiety, as well as mild depression and stress.
Stress can affect your body, mind, and emotions. Finding the right stress management tool for you is critical to maintaining your mental, emotional, and physical health.
Did you know that filtered tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide (the stuff in your car’s exhaust), hydrocyanic acid (used in execution chambers), ammonia (the primary ingredient for disinfecting toilet bowls), and formaldehyde (better known as the stuff Undertakers use to embalm dead bodies)?
And these are just some of the chemicals in the filter of cigarettes.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, and smoking is a key risk factor.
When you stop smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Your risk of coronary heart disease cuts in half after just one year and drops to that of a non-smoker after 15 years. In fact, just 24 hours after your last cigarette your chance of heart attack decreases. And all these benefits are lost if just one cigarette is smoked.
Smoking cessation is one of the main reasons people seek hypnotherapy. Often people want to quit, but for the wrong reasons. They might be motivated by their spouse or their doctor to quit smoking. A good hypnotherapist will ask if you are both ready and willing to quit smoking. If you’re not quite ready yet, hypnotherapy can be very effective for helping you to increase your motivation. Then when you are ready to quit smoking, hypnotherapy can help you with creating new healthy habits.
During a hypnotherapy session, you’ll discuss your goals with quitting smoking and your motivation for doing so. Your hypnotherapist will then help guide you into a very relaxed state. From this relaxed state of being, it is easier to access your subconscious mind in order to build new automatic behaviors. You can create new habits that help disrupt reaching for a cigarette on auto-pilot.
Hypnosis is an easy, comfortable, efficient, painless, and enjoyable way to kick the habit of smoking. Many people are able to quit “cold turkey” on their own. For those who aren’t, hypnotherapy can help uncover the roadblocks preventing you from success.
In a previous post, I discussed how I enjoy doing new year's reflections with my kids. I think this is an excellent went to get your children to being to have a sense of mindfulness and appreciation.
There's lots of opportunities for reflecting on the past year and setting new goals - it doesn't have to be on January 1. The end of the school year is a great time for school aged kids to do this type of reflection.
Here's an example of a year in review template (fun for grown-ups, too!)
Any day is a great day to set new goals, but at the end of the year the whole world seems to be focusing on bringing healthy new habits into their lives.
On January 1, spend some time focusing on all the good things that happened in the previous year. If you’re not already in this habit, try looking through your calendar, the camera roll on your phone, or your social media posts. Chances are, you have some red letter days to reflect on.
Reflecting on your year can help you decide what you want to create more of in your life. Maybe you’d like to spend more family time, or more time working on your hobbies.
It’s easy to find evidence that people don’t stick to their new year’s resolutions. There could be lots of reasons for this. Maybe the goal wasn’t achievable, or maybe you’ve tried and failed so many times that you begin the process already defeated.
To combat this, try focusing on a bigger picture. Rather than small goals like “lose weight” you can focus on a long-term goal such as “live a healthy life” and then chunk it down into manageable pieces:
Live Healthy Life
Journaling and celebrating your victories is an important component of positive reinforcement. I love doing my New Year’s visualizing and planning with my family. My kids all have different goals depending on their ages. My husband and I have goals for our family, our relationship, and we support each other in our personal goals (last year, we both lost 20 lbs). My sister is a great accountability partner because we enjoy sharing Pinterest boards or Goodreads challenges. Creating your best year with a buddy makes planning more enjoyable and builds accountability.
A great technique is to pick your theme for the year. Maybe it’s “The Year of Yes” or “The Year of Less,” but choosing a word to encompass your year (last year my family dubbed it “Our Year For Success) can help you keep your goals at the forefront of your mind - without the stress and pressures of a laundry list of new year’s resolutions.
I love making vision boards! I made my first vision board on New Year's Eve 1999. My sister and I had made a solemn vow to ring in the year 2000 together, regardless of anything going on in our lives, and we kept our promise. Many aspects of my vision board came to fruition and I've loved creating vision boards ever since.
I use a Passion Planner, so each month I reflect on the previous month and reassess my goals for the next month. I love working with affirmations every day, both in self hypnosis and in my journal.
I consider the New Year a time to reflect on everything that went on in the previous year as well as a time to visualize all good things for the year ahead. Creating a vision board is a fun and effective way to bring you closer to your dreams. But rather than bog yourself down with resolutions, why not lift yourself up with affirmations?
Without further ado: here are my top 10 inspirational quotes.
I love this quote! You can always, always, start on a new adventure. Some of us find our passion later in life. And that's okay!
A study conducted by Stanford in January 2018 showed that positive attitude can impact learning and academic achievement in children. So there's no harm in trying to have a positive attitude in all situations.
So many of us struggle with perfectionism, or use perfectionism as our excuse not to accomplish our goals. But since perfectionism is not attainable, it's not a worthy goal. Why not strive to do all things with love - a much more noble cause.
I love this quote so much, I put it on my brochures.
Positive psychology is NOT about "fake it till you make it" or pretending you are happy when you're not. Positive psychology is about learning tools to help you deal with challenges and enhance well-being.
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time, by my favorite poet. Sometimes it's hard to step into our true self. We might be breaking rules of our family or breaking out of the box of people's perceptions. It takes courage to be yourself.
This is an excellent affirmation to share with your children and teens.
Don't quit your day dream.
The only person you have control over is yourself. We can't rely on other people to change to make our lives happier or easier. Find that joy within yourself!
Is there something you're not happy with? Maybe it's your weight, your health, your job, or a relationship. Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool that can help you to reach your goals and increase your happiness. Contact me for a free phone consultation to see if hypnotherapy is a good fit for you.
When the new year begins, many people begin to think of the positive changes they’d like to create in their lives. But after that initial rush of enthusiasm dies down, we often find ourselves repeating our same unhealthy habits.
Did you know that your conscious mind -- your logic, reason, will power, judgement, and decision making -- is only about 10-12% of your mind? Some studies even state that our subconscious mind - the part responsible for your automatic behaviors, make up as much as 95% of our mind.
When you have goals you're trying to achieve or healthy habits that you'd like to establish, your subconscious behaviors are the ones that prevent you from making positive changes as quickly or permanently as you'd like.
This can seem unfair, but in fact your subconscious mind is always trying to protect you. For example, if your mom gave you a chocolate chip cookie whenever you skinned your knee, you have a positive association with chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate chip cookies make you feel better. This is not a bad thing! But, when your current goal is to lose 15 pounds, a chocolate chip cookie still makes you feel good, but isn’t fuelling your body in a healthy way for your current goals.
That’s where hypnotherapy comes in. Hypnotherapy helps build new subconscious behaviors. When you’re using hypnotherapy, you’re giving the subconscious mind a new belief system. We really don’t need chocolate chip cookies to help us feel good any more.
This is what makes hypnotherapy such a powerful tool for achieving your goals, reducing pain, improving sleep, and so much more. You’re getting your subconscious mind on board with your conscious goals.
There are countless things hypnotherapy can help with. Just a few new year’s goals that hypnotherapy is perfect for include:
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love this time of year, a quiet time for reflection before the holiday rush. At this time of year it's easier than most to turn your thoughts to gratitude.
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin root gratia, meaning grace, graciousness, or gratefulness.
In a (1998) Gallop survey of American teens and adults, over 90% of respondents indicated that expressing gratitude helped them to feel “extremely happy” or “somewhat happy.”
Beginning a gratitude practice can be a powerful tool towards increasing happiness and wellness.
A 2003 study compared participants who kept a weekly list of things they were grateful for to a group who kept a list of irritating or neutral things. The research showed that “a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.”
I'm hosting a 21 day gratitude challenge to help guide you into creating a gratitude practice. Head over to my Instagram or Facebook starting Saturday, November 10th if you'd like to play along!