Tools in Your Tool Box

If you were going to build a house and only had a saw, you would be in bad shape. Thus the reason why a childbirth method that puts all your pain coping skills in one basket may not serve you well. Our recommendation is to have a lot of tools in your tool box. In our comprehensive childbirth classes it will not be unusual to leave with three dozen or so ideas for helping manage pain in pregnancy, labor and birth. I would want the construction team building my house to have a lot of tools. We want you to as well.


But are too many tools dangerous? I was at a labor recently where the mom in labor had a tribe of friends. They wanted to assist her so badly they were offering her things she did not seem to need at times. She loved the support and hands on, but we prefer to use a tool when it is actually needed and called for. The best advice my first childbirth educator, when I was pregnant decades ago told me after teaching me a ton of tools, was to not use them until they were needed. Otherwise by using them randomly and without real purpose, they can lose their effectiveness. They can also mislead the mom into thinking they will not work later if she did not find them effective early on.

And how about the doula’s tool box? Sometimes I use very few things in my birth bag. I almost always use lotion, my rebozo, some peppermint essential oil and of course my hands. But I have a lot of things in my bag that rarely get pulled out to be used. I have heard it said that if you have a full toolbox as a birth professional you are tempted to use things that are not needed. What does this mean? For instance if someone has been trained in fetal monitoring but you are using a skilled birth professional, your doula should not be using this skill unless she is an assistant to a midwife. And things like neonatal resuscitation skills, vaginal exams, and other medical procedures are not within the scope of a doula. But skills like acupressure, reflexology, essential oils, massage therapy, aromatherapy and similar skills could come in handy and if she is properly trained could be very resourceful.

And how about your care provider’s tool box? If you need a great surgeon, you want him or her to have excellent surgical skills. But if you want a non interventive birth, have you considered asking your provider how they plan to help you achieve that? Tools like patience and belief in birth are essential. If 95% of their moms end up with an epidural, why do you expect they will not recommend that to you? If 40% of their moms end up with an induction, do you think you can dodge that bullet? If breaking your water is their go to tool for getting your laboring moving, perhaps you should ask a few more questions about the risk to that procedure. If they are asking you what you desire instead of sharing their agenda for how your birth should go, they may indeed have the right tools for you. But if their cesarean rate is the local average of over 35%, you may want to change providers.

So pack your tool box full of pain coping skills and hire a doula who has the correct tools packed for the skills that are within her scope.