The practices of midwifery and doula work can allow women to personalize their own support system when expecting a child, with services designed to ease and enrich the pregnancy and birth experience for the mother, baby, partner and family.
Kayla Bradbury, an employee of Arkansas Family Doulas, offers completely nonmedical help throughout the process — from even before conception to postpartum care. She serves the Ouachita River Valley Region, which includes Hot Springs, through the statewide company.
Doulas are trained in human anatomy and the entire physiology of birth, including potential interventions and how to assist in comfort measures. They also learn about childbirth education, different parenting techniques, lactation, baby-wearing, and infant feeding.
She is able to attend births at either a hospital or home setting, providing a reassuring voice for all involved.
Bradbury said, “Pregnancy and birth is a really vulnerable time, and can be overwhelming,” adding that having a support person from outside a woman’s personal sphere can make a big difference.
Doulas can even provide services to families who are taking part in a surrogate pregnancy or adoption situation.
In the postpartum period, doulas come in as “another layer of care,” helping with errands, holding the baby to give mom a break or sitting with other children.
And with sibling doula services, help can be present for other children in the family to understand the process and not feel left out.
“Having a doula is just an extra way to take care of yourself,” she said,
since many new mothers put themselves at the bottom of the priority ladder.
Bradbury is additionally certified as a bereavement doula, helping during the loss of a child at any stage. Though this is the most difficult part of her job, she said it’s also the most sacred space she holds for a family.
Doulas are on call at all times and work in pairs, so one of two people with whom the mother and family are already familiar will always be available.
Another service Bradbury provides is placental encapsulation, which is a process by which the mother’s placenta is dried and powdered, then placed into capsules for ingestion. This can help with hormone fluctuations, postpartum depression, milk supply and energy levels.
Shea Childs, owner of Natural State Midwife Services, is a certified professional midwife, licensed through the Arkansas Department of Health.
She became particularly interested in midwifery when she utilized that service for the birth of her daughters, now ages 16 and 13, after learning about the advantages of home birth at a lecture.
Throughout the process, the care is more personal, because Childs communicates with a small number of women at a time, and can be reached via email or text. In addition, the avenue of questions and answers is wide open, as she’s able to devote more time to talking during visits.
When the baby is ready to enter the world, labor can happen in a place where a woman feels most safe and quiet, with more comfort aids at hand. In addition, the mother is able to tap into her deep intuition to aid in her baby’s delivery. Although midwives monitor with devices like Doppler, they’re mobile, so mothers aren’t connected to a hospital bed and relegated to a single room, which can ease the strain of the birthing process.
And birthing pools are brought into many homes, which can be used for delivery, or just as a method of relaxation during labor. Childs refers to the pool as a “midwife epidural,” since immersion in the warm water allows muscles to relax.
Postpartum care can be greatly advantaged by having a midwife, too, because the visits are more frequent with mom and the new baby.
Arkansas CPMs attend only low-risk pregnancy and birth situations,
and though midwives are the care providers, mothers are required to see a physician twice during the pregnancy, to safeguard that the pregnancy is indeed low-risk.
As added support, a second midwife attends each birth, which can be especially helpful during longer labors.
Childs said, “I love working with the women. … It’s an honor to be at people’s births,” adding that the profession satisfies her on many levels, including intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. After years in the practice, she’s now had repeat clients, delivering multiple children for the same family.
She serves clients within a two-hour radius of Hot Springs, offering prenatal visits in her home there, or from her Little Rock office.
Both Childs and Bradbury consider it a privilege to be involved with the miracle of birth, and each said the learning process never ends, because every client’s experience is different.
The staff of Arkansas Family Doulas can be reached at 501-492-6644, or by email to hello@arkansasfamilydoulas. com.
More can be learned about the services Childs provides by visiting http:// naturalstatemidwife.com, or by calling her at 501-282-9057.