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goings on in the world of pregnancy and the time thereafter

What is a Doula?

10 Questions with Doula Jennifer Mossholder, certified doula and owner of Before, During & After Doula Services, LLC.


1. What is a doula?

A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and informational support to the woman who is expecting, in labor or has recently given birth. The doula’s role is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience.

2. Have they increased in popularity lately?

Our popularity has increased since the 1990’s. Many of the reasons can be attributed to families taking more of an interest in their healthcare and educating themselves about choices in birth.

3. What services are offered?

The range of services every doula offers and provides are wide-ranging. Some doulas are strictly “labor and birth doulas” and some only perform postpartum work. There are even doulas who specialize in antepartum (pre-birth) care!

4. What are the costs associated with a doula?

Doulas typically ask for either a deposit for a due date or a retainer fee to work against if they are performing pre or post birth work. Doulas also spend many hours with clients. They are also typically women who have had children, some of them are still young children. Costs doulas build into a contract may reflect travel expenses (gas, tolls, etc.) or childcare or other related expenses to keep their practices running. (Anything from business cards to training!) Doulas also spend many hours with clients. This is one of the main reasons why families work with doulas; the continuity of care.

5. At what point in your pregnancy should you look for a doula?

Some doulas have specific preferences for scheduling purposes and for the ability to build a solid relationship with the family. Birth is a very intimate and emotional experience. You may have a better outcome if you and your doula have worked together for a couple of months versus calling a doula the week before you are “due”. This is not to say you cannot call a doula close to your birth, it is just recommended for relationship building, and the ability to get on a doula’s calendar, that you try to call no later than your fifth or sixth month.

6. What certifications should a doula have?

Most doulas go through certification programs. There are several agencies for doulas to choose from and the type of programming (antepartum, labor and birth and postpartum). Does a doula need to be certified to be a doula? No. Is it a good idea that your doula is or was certified at some point? Yes. Some doulas do go through the rigorous certification programs but once the certification lapses, they chose not to recertify. If your doula keeps up with current medical trends and is working on a steady basis, this is more than enough than a recertification process.

7. What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?

A midwife (in most states) is either an RN (nurse) who becomes a CNM (certified nurse midwife) via college education. CNMs are permitted to deliver (or “catch”) your baby in a birthing center or at a hospital.

A midwife could also be a CPM (certified practical midwife); these midwives all go through rigorous training and apprenticeship but are generally restricted to homebirths.

There are also DEM (direct entry midwives) who are midwives who typically are doulas who have attended a significant number of births. This type of midwife has very little regulation and are only “recognized” in a handful of states.

A doula can be layperson or a nurse or a midwife, but when they are working or hired with the intent of being there for doula support, they do NOT deliver or catch babies.

Doulas provide mental, physical and emotional support. They are restricted by their certifying agencies and sometimes by personal codes, as to how much they do. Most doula contracts state they do not perform ANY medical tasks; such as pulse taking, temperature checks, cervical dilation checks, blood pressure monitoring.

8. What happens at a hospital when you have a doula?

Many families use hospitals for birth. This is generally why families hire a doula. Some families are not comfortable birthing at home or at a birth center, but they do want to have as a non-interventionalist labor and birth as possible. Giving birth at a hospital but having a doula is a good choice. There, doulas will guide you through hospital protocols and procedures, provide education and guidance, and help you achieve a non-medicated labor and birth. Some moms do get medication or epidurals even with doula support. A good doula will respect your decision and is still able to offer support during the pushing phase and your first breastfeeding session.

9. Why would a woman choose to have a doula?

Not only should a woman choose to have a doula, the family should choose too! It is a team effort to support mom while she is in labor. Doula and dad or partner can trade off massage, acupressure, hand holding, brow mopping and the like. A long labor can be draining on the dad or partner too and having a support person, like a doula, can be invaluable. Not only do doulas share the physical and emotional workload of a birth, they support the family as a whole; explaining procedures the hospital is suggesting, listing options the family may want to consider, “translating doctor-ese” and being a strong advocate for what the family wants.

10. What additional services do doulas offer?

Doulas can offer childbirth education classes, belly casting, expectant/new family support circles, Blessingways, help writing birth wish lists/birth plans – almost any pregnancy related concern a doula can meet or direct to appropriate and trusted resources.

Jennifer Mossholder founded and runs Before, During & After Doula Service, LLC in the Philadelphia Suburbs. She has been in business since 2003. Jennifer specializes in Small Group and Private Childbirth Instruction, Birth Plan Preparation, Labor and Birth Doula Services and Postpartum Care. She has personally experienced fertility treatments, both natural and medicated, multiple births and postpartum depression. Her memberships include: Associate Member of PALM; Pennsylvania Association of Licensed Midwives.

February 15, 2010 Posted by | Bellybuttonboutique, karla trotman, pregnancy | , | 5 Comments

10 Questions About Belly Casting with Doula Jennifer Mossholder

1.  Why do women get belly casts done during pregnancy?

A lot of women chose belly casting to preserve a moment in time that won’t be repeated again.  Even if they were to get a cast done of another pregnancy, the cast they chose to get on that day at that hour represents a moment frozen in time.  It is really a beautiful reminder, post-pregnancy, to look at.

2.  How did you get into belly casting?

A doula I worked with was very artistic and used to handle all the belly casting.  She passed away and I felt the need to carry on the art.  It is great to have an arts and crafts project to work on for myself, but I love to work with the shapes and curves.  It is almost sacred to work on these casts for “my moms”.

3.  What area(s) of the body are typically cast?

That is entirely up to the client.  People have had just their bellies done – some have had from their shoulder to their thigh done.  The bigger the cast, the more challenging the work for me.  I am always up for a challenge!  It is important for the mom to realize some areas (like wrapping around shoulders and thighs) are more difficult and delicate and may not “work” in the final process.

4.   What exactly is the process?

I sit down with each mom prior to casting, ask what they envision and work with their budget.  After I have a good idea of what they want we proceed with the actual casting.  I ask that they use Vaseline to cover all the parts of their body I am going to cast so it comes off easily in the end.  If they want the cast to dip on the lower belly or thigh areas I really recommend shaving those areas as some hair may get pulled off.  When applying the Vaseline, I tell them to pay special attention to their navel and nipples.

5.   Is the process uncomfortable?

It is messy but not uncomfortable.  I used medical grade gauze with the plaster already in it so it is much stronger than the kits you can buy on line.

6.   How long does it take?

I work very quickly since the plaster dries in about 10 to 15 minutes and starts to separate from the skin.  I precut all the strips of plastered gauze.  The better the mom holds still and the better prepared I am makes for a faster casting process.  The clean up is the long part.

7.   What chemicals or materials are used on the body?

Aside from Vaseline or another petroleum based topical and the plaster nothing else is used.  If the mom has concerns about the dust from the dry gauze being inhaled she can wear a surgical mask, but this option has never been utilized by my clients.

8.   What should one look for when trying to find someone to cast their belly?

Someone with experience.  Ask a lot of questions!  Ask if the artist about pricing so you are not surprised about hidden costs.  Be sure to ask if you are just getting an impression or if the person casting you is going to reinforce the plaster and deliver the cast back to you at a later date.  Thoroughly discuss design options and ideas, but in the end realize this is a fun process.  You can always decorate the cast yourself.  There are several images on the internet to get insipred by!

9.    What do you do with the cast once its complete?

Many clients hang the cast in the nursery (I advise against hanging it over the crib or changing table; some casts are very heavy due to size and may injure your baby if it falls off the wall.)  Some moms like to decorate the cast themselves with the new baby’s footprints or have a decoupage project.  The possibilities are endless.  The only limit is your imagination.

10.  Is there a process for preservation?

I seal all the casts with clear gesso but like a cast you would get if you broke an arm (before the fiberglass casts) they do have a shelf life.  Once you are done displaying the cast, I would recommend wrapping the cast in acid free paper and storing it in an air tight container (box or bag).  The basement or attic are bad choices unless they are finished portions of your home.  Extreme temperatures and humidity increases the risks of degradation.

Jennifer Mossholder has been a certified doula since 2003 and has extensive hospital and birth center experience.  She has encountered every situation from natural midwife births to OR Cesarean birth.  An Associate Member of PALM; Pennsylvania Association of Licensed Midwives, a Member of the American Pregnancy Association, Chapter Co-Leader of ICAN of Southeastern Pennsylvania and she serves on the Steering Committee at the Bryn Mawr Birth Center.  She is also a frequent contributor to CAPPA Quarterly and The Expectant Mothers’ Guide.

Jenn just celebrated her 100th birth in December 2009!  http://www.DOULAMOM.com

February 6, 2010 Posted by | Bellybuttonboutique, karla trotman, pregnancy, Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Why I Loved My Doula

I wanted to schedule a c-section because pushing a baby out of my body scared me to death.  We have all seen the movies where the woman is on the table dripping with sweat.  She is screaming and wants to give up.  Then finally she makes one last desperate push and the baby is delivered.  The woman collapses in exhaustion and lifts her tearful head to catch a glance at her new baby…NOT ME!  The thought of choosing my child’s birth date was appealing to me.   A c-section just seemed…neater…cleaner.  My husband was against it.  After weeks of discussion and researching I came across and article on doulas.  Basically, a doula is someone who helps the mother throughout her pregnancy, delivery and postpartum.  I LOVED the idea of a “pregnancy concierge” as I called it and said to my husband, if you want me to push I’m going to need a doula.

I went to google and found a couple of people in my area.  I sent some emails and decided that I would meet with two people.  One woman was a mother to six children.  She was very earthy and homeopathic.  She didn’t believe in drugs (epidurals) and I knew right then and there that we could not have a good relationship.  I didn’t even want to meet face to face.  The next woman came over to my house and met with me and my husband.  Her name was Ursela.  Its not often that you meet someone and feel instantly comfortable with them.

I had many issues with my first pregnancy:  gestational diabetes, pre-term labor, bed rest (in the hospital), couldn’t sleep, couldn’t get comfortable.  Forget taking a class AT the hospital.  By the time I got home from work I barely got the key out of the door before falling asleep.  Luckily, Ursela was available to answer questions (at all hours of the day or night), give advice and hold private classes for me.

The day that the baby was born Ursela was in the hospital herself.  She sent her backup Denise who was AWESOME!  Denise was waiting at the hospital fully uniformed with name and title “DOULA”, so that the staff knew that she was MY advocate.  When I was having contractions and got sick of my family members talking, Denise picked up on it and asked everyone to keep there voices down.  When I needed ice, she was there.  When I freaked out after hearing a woman scream a blood curdling plea to God, she explained that the woman was breathing AGAINST the pain and calmed me down.  When the epidural was ready for insertion it was Denise who I leaned on and was coached by.  When my baby’s heart started decelerating it was my husband who accompanied me into the O.R. for my emergency c-section.  But Denise was waiting for me in the recovery room and she stayed with me until the baby’s first feeding.

At home, I was still not getting that whole breastfeeding thing.  I called Ursela and she did a lactation consultation and rented a hospital grade pump to me.  She continued to call and check up on me.  To this day we are friends.  Having a doula was the best decision that I made and I suggest it to all of my pregnant friends.  I knew that I would have questions that google couldn’t answer for me or that I would forget before my next doctor’s appointment.  I knew that nurses would be in and out of the labor room.  I knew that my mother would be sitting in the corner doing a Sudoku puzzle while I was laboring.  So I trusted my gut.  And I am glad that I did.

September 29, 2009 Posted by | c-section, complications, pregnancy | , , , , | 1 Comment

Pregnancy isn’t comfortable

I have a three and a one year old.  They are the joys of my life, but their entry into my world was not cool.  Nausea, stretching of the skin (ouch), gestational diabetes, bed rest, gaining tons of weight, inability to sleep, hot flashes…it was not pretty.  In my mind, I was going to be super cute with a baby bump and long wonderful hair and great skin.  My reality, I tipped the scale at 198 lbs, my hair was out of control and I sweated all of the time!  When I went online to find products that would make my life comfortable, I found next to nothing, so I suffered.  Eventually, I went on to hire a doula.  She made my life a thousand times better.  She was like a pregnancy concierge!  I called her often and she pointed me all the right directions.

Second pregnancy I harnessed the information that I had and did more independent research.  I didn’t want all of my knowledge to go to waste.  I knew that other women were suffering as I did,  so I started:  http://www.bellybuttonboutique.com.  We sell products of comfort and relief to pre and postnatal women.  Nine months is a long time to be uncomfortable!

July 9, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment