Birth Doulas

Maximizing the Power of your Breath in Labor

By Meredith Ashton Cohen

I approached my first birth excited and engaged in the process and largely “muscled” my way through labor. I said to myself, “I am doing this!” and while my body progressed naturally (without intervention), I forced it along with gumption and energy to “make it happen.” My breathing was a series of pants and forceful exhales, I marched my feet through my contractions or forcefully swished my hips in the bathtub relying on rhythm to ease the intensity. My movement during labor came from my doula training and experience thus far, I knew how to “do birth” in my mind, but I failed to simply tune in to my body and respond accordingly. 

Meredith in labor with her 1st child.

As my second pregnancy progressed I picked up Marie Mongan’s Hypnobirthing book for the first time. I came to the breathing techniques chapter and read this passage, “…when your uterus surges, it rises. Slow breathing helps you to work in concert with that upward movement of the uterus as you breathe your abdomen up to the highest possible height–like filling an inner balloon. This maximizes the wave of vertical muscles, causing them to work more efficiently in drawing up the lower circular muscles, and thinning and opening the cervix. The assist that this gives to both sets of muscles shortens the length of the surge, as well as the length of labor.” (124)

Meredith laboring with her 2nd child.

Could I really create a shorter, easier labor/delivery by simply breathing? The scientific piece of aligning with my uterine muscles for maximum efficiency combined with the possibility of a shorter, easier birth intrigued me and I decided to put it to the test. For my second  birth the only thing I was going to do was breathe. I wasn’t going to waste any energy “doing birth” or “making it happen,” I was going to match my breathing with my contractions the best I could and surrender all else. Surrender every muscle and simply support my uterus to do its thing. 

The proof is in the pudding. I did in fact create a shorter, easier birth the second time around with a baby who was two pounds heavier. My second labor was five hours total (11 hours shorter than my first) and pushing went from 2.5 hours to ten minutes! I came away from my second birth experience with questions and curiosity about why the process worked so well. It was these questions that propelled me a little further into the anatomy of the uterus and science of labor. 

Below are two illustrations of the uterine muscle fiber patterns. As you can see, the myometrium, the muscular layer of the uterus, has three variations of muscle fibers; longitudinal, figure-eight, and circular.

During contractions, the muscle fibers at the top of the uterus (fundus) get shorter and thicker, while the muscle fibers at the bottom of the uterus lengthen and move up. This all corresponds with the baby moving down towards the birth canal. YouTube: Mini Lesson 002: The Uterus in Action illustrates this well. 

Since “Oxygen is the most important fuel for the working muscles in the uterus.” Hypnobirthing 123, the best way to support the uterus is to inhale as it contracts and take in as much breath as possible, as slow as possible–oxygenating muscle fibers and baby, followed up with a slow exhale. The way to do this and maximize lung capacity is through abdominal breathing. Abdominal breathing has many names: slow breathing, belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, Ujjayi/Yoga breathing, etc. The concept is the same, using the diaphragm to inhale and expand the belly and allowing the belly to shrink with the exhale, it is slow and controlled. This method of breathing fills the belly rather than causing the shoulders to move up and down. When breathing makes the shoulders move, it is shallow breathing that uses only the upper lobes of the lungs while abdominal breathing maximizes all five lobes of the lungs.

During labor, researchers suggest that breathing for pain relief works by interrupting the transmission of pain signals by providing something positive to focus on. It may also release endorphins, and help the laboring person reframe their thinking about labor to be positive, productive, and manageable.

Like most things from Mother Nature, one gift has multiple remedies. Breathing is no different. In addition to transforming how we engage in delivering our babies, Rebecca Dekker of Evidence Based Birth reports in her article Breathing for Pain Relief during Labor, “Electroencephalography (EEG) studies on this type of abdominal breathing have found that even just a few minutes of using this type of breathing alters your brainwaves in a positive way, increases your relaxation response, decreases your stress hormones, decreases your blood pressure, and increases your oxygen levels.”

Inside the birth community we talk about the importance of breath and breathing through labor, but I want to emphasize that when we use it to support the uterus, we transform it from a nice thought in to a powerful tool for faster, easier labors. And we are in the business of supporting faster, easier labors. 


Evidence Based Birth, Breathing for Pain Relief during Labor

Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation

Clinical Anatomy and Physiology of Female Reproductive System. Assessment and health promotion. 

Layers of myometrium showing the three layers of smooth muscle fiber

YouTube: Woman Explains Contractions with a Balloon

YouTube: Mini Lesson 002: The Uterus in Action

Take a Deep Breath

Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan

About Meredith:

Meredith Ashton Cohen CD(DONA), is a birth doula who specializes in supporting unmedicated births using Hypnobirthing techniques to create efficient and positive outcomes. She is passionate about educating and “holding space” for each birthing person, baby, and birth partner to find connection during the pregnancy/birth process for a faster, easier, more comfortable birthing experience.

Birth Doulas

Tips for Better Doula Etiquette

By: Meagan Heaton, Co-Owner of The VBAC Link, CD(DONA), AD(MCU)

Doula etiquette, what does it mean and how does it look?  Here are four ways you as a doula can help create a positive space within the birth team as well as build lasting relationships with hospital and birth center staff. As doulas it is important that we do not step outside of our scope of practice. We love the families we serve and we want to help them in a professional way, so let’s dive in on some doula etiquette.

Remember the doula scope and values. 

What is the scope of a doula?  As a doula we are here to provide physical, emotional, and educational support. We do not provide medical advice or perform medical tasks such as cervical exams or checking fetal heart tones, etc. Doulas are welcome to share supportive community resources and provide evidence based information to their clients to research further. 

Make friends not enemies. 

Partner supporting laboring mother.

Although doulas have been around for quite some time there will still be times where one of us walks into a birthing room with our laboring client and a staff member is standoffish. This could be because the staff member has had a bad experience in the past with another doula and may not be a fan of doulas in general. This is why doula etiquette is so important to practice. Say hello, introduce yourself to the staff , let the staff know who you are and that you appreciate them. Be friendly with the staff, get to know them respectfully, and assure them that you are there to assist your client to the best of your ability, just like they are. Your client has hired you to be part of their birth team, the last thing they need in labor is tension between members of the team. 

Possible questions to ask the staff: 

  • How long have you been in this field? 
  • What made you want to become a nurse or a doctor
  • What is your favorite thing about being an L&D nurse?
  • Ask about the equipment, how to read a monitor or what they are looking for etc. (even if you may know.)

I have personally experienced a positive energy shift with a nurse or provider who is not super friendly with doulas once I start asking questions about them. 

NOTE: Please be mindful of the laboring/birthing person, small chat could affect them. 

Remember whom you are there for. 

From the moment we are hired by a client our intention is to serve them the best possible way we can. Generally, we want to make sure we do everything to help the client leave their birth feeling satisfied and positive about their experience. One challenge we may face is working with hospital or birth center staff who tell our client to do something that is not in line with their birth wishes. It can be hard knowing our client’s desires and not feeling like we can defend them or speak up. Remember, as a doula it is not our role to speak for our clients, however we can offer love and support by giving our client relevant information to help them and their partner make the best educated decision. Sometimes this means letting the hospital or birth center staff say everything they are going to say before speaking to our client. REMEMBER, doulas DO NOT give medical advice but only provide evidence based information to help our clients understand how to use their “B.R.A.I.N.” (Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition, do Nothing.) Talking through this acronym is a great way to help our clients know what options they have. 

Megan Heaton supporting a client.

Realize the way we handle ourselves leaves a lasting impression on how the hospital or birth center staff views doulas as a whole.

No pressure right?! Remember that we are professionals and that we have been hired as a member of our client’s birth team. Be respectful, mindful, and do everything you can to make a positive impression with the staff. Say thank you, praise them for their support, as mentioned above, make friends with them. Ask before we get things in the room and never touch the medical staff equipment. After the birth, help in any way you can but also allow the staff to do their job. For example, I offer support in helping my client and baby with their first latch for breastfeeding if it is desired. I have worked with a few nurses who this is their favorite thing to do, so I kindly allow them to work with my client at this point. Be sensitive to the members of the team and make room for them to share their expertise in serving your client, praise them and build them up. If you work with a nurse who particularly enjoys assisting clients with the first latch, let them take the lead, ask them for tips to improve your practice (even if you didn’t like how they handled things.) If someone delivered particularly great service make it a point to write a review card, or get the nurse case manager’s information and write a follow up email to thank the staff member(s) for their excellent support and care for your client. These small but easy things go a long way and really help hospital and birth center facilities to be more doula friendly. 

In closing I want to remind you that you are an amazing doula. Your clients are lucky to have you, it’s doulas like you who are changing birth journeys for the better. Keep up the amazing work. Get to know your community and birthing locations. Look, dress, and act the part and remember that your doula etiquette reflects the way the hospital and birth center staff view the doula profession and paves the way for the next doula that walks through the door. 

Meagan Heaton, Co-Owner of The VBAC Link, CD(DONA), AD(MCU)

About the Author:

Meagan is co-owner of the VBAC Link. She has supported over 100 women during their pregnancy and birth. A VBA2C mom, her drive is to help women like herself feel educated, supported, and empowered during their birthing time.

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World Doula Week

By Dezarae Weyburn

Lindsay Dougal, doula, offers laboring mother support.
(Photo by: Mandy Hawkes)

The term “doula” is a relatively new one. Although the Greeks used the term “doula” to mean a female slave, or handmaid, it wasn’t until 1969 that the term was first applied to birth work.

In the half-century that followed, doulas went from completely unknown to a household name. With the formation of DONA in 1992, Ricki Lake’s documentary, “The Business of Being Born” in 2008, and the Facebook series, “Romper’s Doula Diaries“, people were exposed to a new part of the birthing world.  There are now hundreds of doula certifying bodies and organizations. In addition to birth support there are antenatal/prenatal, postpartum, bereavement, abortion, adoption/surrogacy, and even death/end of life doulas.

Raquel Alfaro, postpartum doula, cares for baby while parents rest and recover after cesarean birth.

Although doulas provide strictly non-medical support, science backs their efficacy. Studies show consistently better birth outcomes with doulas than without including shorter labors, less reported pain, fewer interventions and a higher rate of satisfaction with the birth experience. While serving prenatally or in the postpartum period, doulas are perfectly positioned to notice and provide resources for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders such as postpartum depression and anxiety.

Doulas help bridge the gap by providing a unique support to their clients. Here’s what some local parents had to say about their experience working with a doula:

“For me I felt like a doula was a big support for the role of my spouse. As a woman you read and study a lot about labor and delivery, but I feel like my husband just wasn’t prepared. So having a doula out there to help him and help him to feel part of the labor and delivery was awesome. I also think an acting voice for when you are in full labor was super helpful along with the different types of calming and soothing techniques”. (Thompson)

“I don’t know how we did it last time. I really don’t think we could have done it without a doula. Why doesn’t everyone get a doula?” (Orton)

“Having a doula at my birth gave me the fortitude to push through all the opposition I felt. The thoughts that frequently come up of, ‘I can’t do this’ were negated immediately by the female companionship of an amazing supportive doula.” (VBAC mom, Nance)

“Having a doula brought a needed calm and supportive presence into my labor. Her attention to detail was spot-on and she came prepared with ideas and tools that eased my labor and made the experience one to remember.” (Zitto)

The Utah Doula Association (UDA) has over 150 members consisting of doulas and local community partners. The non-profit strives to provide a community of support, opportunity, and education to both doulas and families seeking a doula. Happy World Doula Week to its members and all doulas who are changing the world one family at a time!

UDA Annual Conference
(Photo by: Nathan Caulford)

Need a doula? Find one now.

Learn more about the role of a doula here: What is a doula?

About Dezerae:

Dezerae found her interest in birth while pregnant with her oldest. She attended her first birth as a doula in 2013. In addition to being a birth doula, Dezarae is also a trained bereavement doula helping parents during miscarriage and stillbirths. In 2015, she took a breastfeeding training through the World Health Organization and found a second passion in supporting parents in their chosen feeding method.  Dezarae loves cheering for parents, especially when they feel like they can’t do it, and is honored to witness the birth of mothers, fathers, grandparents, and babies!

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ThrowBack Thursday

By: Andrea Lythgoe, BS, LCCE

Bill Clinton began his first term as president, Sleepless in Seattle was packing the movie theaters, Whitney Houston crooned that she would Always Love You, and Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears & Christina Aguilera were all Mouseketeers. It was 1993.

The Utah Association of Childbirth Companions, founded by Kristi Ridd the year before, began publishing a newsletter. Some things that were happening in this group that would eventually become to be the Utah Doula Association:

Donna Peterson and Jan Black were congratulated on becoming the first Certified Childbirth Companions by the organization. Other members were encouraged to take the certification exam in October.

An article encouraged members to sign up for a pager service so they could lead active lives while on call. The association had arranged for discounts on paging service as well.  

The semi annual membership meeting would be held at a pavilion at Sugarhouse Park, and members were to bring their own dinner and come prepared to learn more about second stage. At that meeting, the 1994 board was elected, with Alisa Dudley as president, 6 area reps, a newsletter editor, and a DONA representative. Annual membership cost $25 and included membership in Doulas of North America (DONA)

Members were invited to use their personal computers and modem to join “Birth” – the first world-wide computerized forum about childbearing. The instructions to access the forum:

“To connect with BIRTH for the first time, call channel 1 in Cambridge, Massachusetts at (phone number) You will be asked online to give your name and select a password. Then you’ll see a menu. Type J-BIRTH, then leave a message. The next time you phone, you’ll receive a response online with the telephone number of a board in your area.”

Members were invited to join in the local ICEA conference. It was held on a Saturday afternoon, with Holly Richardson and Kristi Ridd speaking and a panel of care providers and parents. Cost was $5.

Can you imagine trying to do doula work without a cell phone? How would you go about marketing and connecting with potential clients without a web site, social media, texting or email? Or connecting with other doulas to find backup and community without the internet?

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Better Together: A Message From the New UDA Board President and Vice President

Karina Robinson, UDA President CAD(MCU), CHD, AAHCC, PES

Hi everyone! I’m Karina and I’m excited to serve as the UDA President this year alongside the brilliant Bonnie Baker!

Our theme for this year is “Better Together”. We want to create unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation. We believe we are better together than we are separate and that many hands make light work. We hope that we can help new doulas connect and find their tribe to lift them up to success and that seasoned doulas will allow us all to glean from them to better our skill-sets and to form good relationships with providers.

Our goal for the UDA this year is to support our sisters with whom we have been working side by side and strengthen our connections to each other and the community where we work.

We want to be a resource for doulas, new or experienced, that if you need support with anything, help is only a request away!

My journey to become a Birth Doula started as I prepared to become pregnant with my first baby. I knew that I wanted to have an unmedicated birth, and I have Type 1 Diabetes which could make it harder to achieve. During my research I realized that many women don’t know their options during childbirth and many don’t even realize they HAVE options. After having my eyes opened to this magical world of birth I could not close them again, nor did I want to. I want to help every birthing woman feel empowered, supported, educated, and excited for the birth of her baby.

I am a Certified Advanced Birth Doula, HypnoDoula, The Bradley Method instructor, Placenta Encapsulation Specialist, Mother’s Blessing Coordinator, Moxibustion Practitioner, and Bengkung Belly Binding Practitioner. When I’m not doing one of those things, I am loving on and caring for my 3 children, binge watching Netflix shows, gaming with my husband, or screen printing shirts.

I look forward to  working together with each of you this year as we build relationships with each other and the care providers and nurses we work with, because we are Better Together. 

Bonnie Baker, UDA Vice President HCHI, HCHD, PES

Hi everyone! I’m Bonnie and I’m excited to serve as the UDA Vice President this year!

I came to love all things birth related through the birth of my children.  I am a mother, wife, yogi, bookworm, and wanna-be world traveler who is working hard to expand my passport. I also remodel houses from time to time and I’ve noticed that construction is like pregnancy, birth, and transition, it’s hard work but the pay off is so worth it! I am also a Birth Doula, Hypnobabies Instructor, Happiest Baby on the Block New Parent Educator, Placenta Encapsulation Specialist, and Bengkung Belly Binding Practitioner.

I love nutrition, cooking, green living, and making new friends. I want the Utah Doula Association to be a place where doulas feel safe to reach out with questions, advice or ideas, to make connections that further their passions, and to provide a space to process the hard things that come with our role in birth. I’m excited to walk alongside Karina, who is organized, driven, and all around good at whatever she does.  Our mission is to take what years past have established and build upon it to continue to make the Utah Doula Association great! We have a strong board and amazing members in this group.

We welcome your advice and suggestions through our feedback form so that your voice counts this year.

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Spirituality and the Doula

Our post this week comes from an interview with Heather Tolley, chaplain and doula. Heather has been an advocate of compassionate healthcare for over four years. She loves helping her doula clients have a positive experience with pregnancy and birth by cultivating confidence and providing individualized support. 

Can you share about your path to doula work?

Heather: I got interested in women’s advocacy work while going to the University of Utah. I stepped into healthcare advocacy at St. Marks as a multi-faith chaplain in 2014, and completed my doula training the following year. I now work as both a chaplain in hospice and a doula.

I think many people are not familiar with the role of a chaplain, can you explain?

A chaplain is an advocate of holistic healthcare, which includes physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. Care of the whole person helps the healing process.

In practice this can look like advocating for a patient or family’s needs/perspective, being a compassionate presence in times of crisis, providing emotional and spiritual counseling, and sometimes facilitating spiritual or religious ritual (prayer, blessing, scripture, mantra, etc).

Of course, doulas have long been aware of the strong connection between mind and body—which is why chaplaincy and doula work have so many similarities.

What does spirituality mean to you?

I personally hold a very broad definition of spirituality.  I think it’s the feeling of connection to something beyond ourselves; for some that may mean a higher power or deity, for others it’s the mystery of love or nature, or a state of mindfulness which wakes them up to the present moment.

I believe everything is spiritual and that we don’t have to do anything to make a moment or experience spiritual. However, some experiences speak more to our souls than others and as humans we find ritual and ceremony to be helpful conduits for creating mindfulness of the sacredness that is always present.

Is approaching spirituality in conversation something that comes naturally for you?

Yes and no.

I have always enjoyed studying many faith perspectives and religions. I love seeing and discussing with others what is sacred through their eyes and what touches their heart. I love matters of the soul.

There is such a spiritual component in birth; the awe it inspires within us, the profound sense that the experience is more than the sum of its parts. I think the sacred profoundness of birth is what draws so many of us to this work, and that’s certainly been the case for me.

So yes, I love talking about all of these things.

But actually approaching the topic initially can be uncomfortable. I grew up in a family where spirituality and religion were rarely discussed, and usually with contention. I think there’s an underlying sense of guardedness in being asked about one’s personal faith in our society in general, and particularly here in Utah. Also, spirituality is an uncommon topic in most professional relationships. All of these factors definitely created a sense of anxiety within me that I’ve had to address because it’s much harder to serve people’s spiritual needs without bringing up the topic.

How do you overcome that initial discomfort and initiate these meaningful conversations?

I’ve found that most people appreciate having a space made within healthcare for the spiritual aspect of themselves, even if they choose not to in engage further discussion; so long as the offer is phrased in a way that creates connection and communicates a lack of agenda.

I’ll often state directly that I don’t have a goal or agenda other than a desire to get to know them better and to serve them from within their own spiritual/religious framework.

Another approach is to frame conversation as an additional dimension of support from a desire to provide holistic care; that I’m seeking to care for them as a whole person and that I recognize for many that means engaging with and holding space for their personal spirituality in addition to physical or emotional needs.

When you share that you are just checking in about something that many people find meaningful, and give clear opportunity to decline, people aren’t likely to be offended.

What are some ways that doulas can incorporate spiritual support into their interactions with clients?

Honoring spirituality can be as simple as mentioning being comfortable with and affirming any spiritual expressions they intuitively feel to express in birth, and that you’re open to discussing what those expressions might look like.

Other ideas include:

  • Including a question about religious affiliation on the intake form and then using the form as tool to invite deeper discussion with open ended questions 
  • Work to not make assumptions. Just because someone doesn’t belong to a religious denomination or even theistic framework of belief, doesn’t mean spirituality isn’t an important part of their life
  • Invite discussion of the broader definition of spirituality; that which connects us to something greater than ourselves. What helps them feel connected to a greater whole? What rituals bring comfort? I’ve had friends and clients who don’t necessarily believe in a higher power but find meaning in the verbal expression of prayer
  • Talk about the sacred nature of birth and affirm the power of her own intuition and insights
  • When discussing resources for various areas of care, communicate availability of spiritual resources for birth
  • Learn about dream theory, to be able to engage discussion about any compelling dreams that have stuck with her, which can bring strong insights as she prepares for birth
  • Become familiar with Mother’s Blessing ceremonies, aspects of which can even be incorporated into a traditional baby shower for a more emotionally and spiritually fulfilling experience
  • Encourage her spiritual self care along with her physical and emotional self care
  • Express gratitude for whatever a client shares about their spirituality to foster feelings of safety and trust

Of course, I pick and choose from these options as appropriate for each client, with the goal to affirm them bringing the best gifts from the spiritual area of their life into their pregnancy and birth.

When does addressing spirituality become a priority?

Definitely with unexpected outcomes, or when a client is stressed or upset. Sometimes I’ll use conversation in prenatal visits around alternate outcomes to also talk about meaningful ritual, or vise versa. It helps to know in advance what a client and their partner would find meaningful or helpful in a challenging situation, so I can advocate for those “comfort” measures that might be forgotten by a client or their partner when under stress. For example, in many cases taking time for a prayer or blessing before c-section can be accommodated by medical staff.

What are some good resources?

Birthing From Within book or education classes, which offer “a holistic approach to childbirth that examines this profound rite-of-passage not as a medical event but as an act of self-discovery.”

The Sacred Living Movement website has a wide array of online trainings including Birth Journey, Sacred Pregnancy, Mother Blessing, and Sacred Postpartum. They also have several books.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may enjoy the book The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth, which is a compilation of essays and birth stories exploring the intersections between birth and the LDS faith.

The book Mother Rising provides a how-to guide for creating a Mother’s Blessing ceremony.

This blog post has ideas for simple additions to a traditional baby shower to foster greater feelings of support and connection for expectant mothers.

The article 10 Practices To Experience Childbirth As A Spiritual Journey provides straightforward tips for spiritual birth preparation.

More About Heather:

Heather has a degree in Psychology from the University of Utah, and advanced training to support those for whom birth may feel more emotionally complex, such as those with a history of trauma, loss, or faith transition, single parents, or intended adoption. She also provides bereavement doula services.
She and her family live in Orem. She loves outdoor adventures, studying rock & roll history, and growing things, but her favorite pastime is laughing.
You can learn more about Heather or reach out to her through any of the following:
Facebook & Instagram @sacredthresholddoula
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Benefits of Prenatal and Postpartum Yoga

By: Destiny S. Olsen BD(DONA), PCD(DONA), RYT, TPYT

The sanskrit word yoga translates to yolk or union. The path of yoga is a path of union, union of breathe to the body, union of the mind to the muscles, union of the body, mind, spirit and ultimately, union of creation.

For those of you starting to think about having a baby, those who are pregnant or just had their little one—this practice of yoga can be quite profound and powerful during this time.

We are currently in a time when “ everyone is doing it.” Perception of yogis are no longer tied into funny outfits, hippies, religious freaks or people who sit in weird position for long periods of time. Silicon Valley business owners, musicians, artists, educators, garbage men, construction workers, students and mothers, to name a few, are all approaching yoga with the new idea of yoga being a part of a new health revolution—a revolution that physical exercise then leads to mental strength and longevity and vise versa.

We are seeing widespread behavioral changes through professional and educational settings that implement yoga—impacting bullying, relationships, coping skills, and even productivity.

We are cultivating through yoga nicer, happier people that aren’t being “yanked” around by their feelings or emotional insecurities because they are more aware and have the skills to manage when they get thrown off kilter.

Through yogic practices you can create a internal telescope where you are able to decipher how you feel, why you feel that way, and access the tools you have to alter or enhance these feelings.

So where did yoga come from? Yoga is a science of complete self realization that was channeled, intuited, and practiced by people who dedicated their lives to dissolving borders and boundaries within themselves. They then codified these practices into a system that could be understood, imbedded and applied by people from every walk of life. One of these systems developed is called the 8 fold path.

This 8 fold path is neither linear or circular—rather an ebb and flow between one or many of them all at the same time. They are,

Yama: Self of integrity or ethical standards within yourself  and others

  • Non violence “I value all things and all people the same as myself”
  • Non harm “Do no harm to myself or others whether it be thought or action”
  • Truthfulness “I am trustworthy in my dealings with myself and others”
  • Honesty  “I am honest with myself and others”
  • Non coveting “I have everything I need”
  • Self honoring “I value myself and others through holding acceptable boundaries”

Niyama: Practices that relate to our inner world

  • Cleanliness “I take care of my body through healthy food and habits”
  • Contentment “I am exactly where I need to be”
  • Self Discipline “I can have discipline to accomplish my goals”
  • Study of Oneself “I can self reflect on myself and my purpose”
  • Surrender “This karmic path will lead me where I need to go, I release control”

Asana: translated as postures. This is the fundamental face of yoga and for some lineages the medium through which the union takes place. However asanas only become yoga if it then leads to a spiritual union—not just flexibility and strength. Through the practice of postures we develop the habit of self discipline, self reflection and the ability to concentrate.

Pranayama: translated as breathe control, expansion. This limb is to not only gain control over our respiratory systems but to create a connection between breath, mind and emotion. Knowing how to master your breathe and using it to your benefit can only improve your experience through everyday life. This practice of breathe can aide with: control over emotional health and wellbeing, release of emotion and muscular tension creating more ease, better sleep, digestion and blood circulation. This is also a recurring focus through labor and birth “breathing your baby down”.

Pratyahara: translated as sensory transcendence. This is where we shift off the external world and stimuli-directing our attention internally. This practice is to take a step back to look at ourselves, learning how to become observant. As you become a parent less and less time is navigated to self reflection. Put down the distractions (i.e. phones, computers, tv) to tune into what truly matters to you.

Dharana (der-yana): concentration of the mind, aka meditation. This component of yoga is to focus your mind on one point regardless of internal or external focus. This act of driven concentration is to slow down our process of thinking as a whole.

Examples:Drishti points, birthing alters, are external. Drawing eyes upward and closed, envisioning baby in belly is internal.

Dayana(die-yana): Uninterrupted flow of concentration. Instead of having to focus you are now, just aware. Your mind quieted and complete stillness sets in. You move through life moment to moment.

Samadhi: This is ultimate peace. You connect to all living thing and transcend. This isn’t something that can be bought, rather practiced and earned.

So why and how is yoga useful during pregnancy? You’re changing a lot on many facets during this time, including these ways listed below:

Anatomical/Body Changes:

  • Blood Pressure Alterations
  • Internal Organ Displacement
  • Increase of Mucus Production
  • Increase Blood Volume
  • Weight Gain and Distribution throughout your Body

Emotional/Mental Changes:

  • Hormonal Changes
  • Social Responsibilities of Being a Parent
  • “Pregnancy Brain”

Research performed by the Mayo Clinic suggest that yoga is safe and has many benefits to moms and their babies such as:

  • Improves Sleep
  • Reduces Stress and Anxiety
  • Increases Strength, Flexibility, and Endurance for muscles that are needed for childbirth
  • Decreases: lower back pain, nausea, body discomfort, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and shortness of breath
  • Decreases the risk of: preterm labor, pregnancy induced hypertension and intrauterine restriction
  • Creates a community by bonding with other pregnant moms
  • Prepares you for other life changes of becoming a new parent or adding a family member

Gained skills for the Postpartum Period and Child Raising Years:

  • Creates a more mindful existence in your body, mind and soul
  • Aides in gaining tools for stress management
  • Builds a better sense of self-identity and personal power
  • Develops better habits for self discipline and concentration
  • In depth coping skills
  • Deeper bond between baby, partner, family and friends

This information is intended for a paying client or student. Please do not copy, share or distribute unless given approval and permission by SHAUNTEA, LLC.

About Destiny:

Destiny S. Olsen is the proud owner of SHAUNTEA, a company focused on individual health and wellness. She has taught somatics since 2005 through yoga, dance and meditation. As a DONA certified Birth & Postpartum Doula she believes developing mental and physical health is essential to creating well-balanced children, happier adults and a well balanced lifestyle.

Destiny is currently taking on birth doula clients for the 2019 year. Check out her social media pages and the fliers below for more opportunities to learn more about yourself, your changing body and parenthood.

Phone: 801-361-9785
Instagram: @shaunteahealthandwellness, @destinysolsen


Birth Doulas Diversity Parents postpartum Postpartum Doulas Pregnancy

When Baby Dies—A Guide for Doulas

By Lindsay Dougal, CD(BAI), RYT

A sometimes hard truth to swallow is the fact that death is a part of life. Even harder to acknowledge is the truth that babies are among those who die. In the United States, 1 in every100 pregnancies end in stillbirth (fetal death after 20 weeks gestation)—roughly 24,000 babies every year.1 Another 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage (fetal death before 20 weeks gestation). And an additional 23,000 infants die each year before their first birthdays.2

These numbers are scary. These numbers also mean that there is a great likelihood each of us will encounter loss in our work as doulas and birth professionals. Because we are scared or feel ill-equipped, we may inadvertently silence those experiencing loss. It’s understandable. Pregnancy and birth is an exciting time in the life of a family. From the minute those two lines appear, we are new. We have hopes and dreams for the future of our children and our families. We tend to keep things light and happy, as we don’t want to consider the possibility of not bringing baby home—of losing that future with that child. For the great majority of families, baby is born healthy and makes that beautiful trip home. But for many families, loss is the reality. Silencing these outcomes brings stigma and limits opportunity for support.

So, what can we—as birth workers—do to support families experiencing loss? As both a bereaved mother and birth and bereavement doula, let me offer up seven practical tips for supporting families experiencing loss:

  1. First and foremost, hold space for the expression of grief: Feelings associated with grief may not be shared if the person does not feel safe and supported. Let the family know you are willing to just be with them. Words may be spoken, they may not be. It’s important to be okay with either of these expressions, and not expect a certain reaction. Simply having a calming presence in the room means so much to a family.
  2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable: I’ll be the first to admit death is uncomfortable. Many of us aren’t exposed to death until much later in life, and don’t know what to say or how to interact with those who have lost. Remember, you will be uncomfortable for a few hours; the grieving parents will live with some level of discomfort for the rest of their lives. Don’t shy away from offering love, validation, and support.

  3. Labor and birth support: Physical and emotional support during the birthing process is so important. Try to make the birthing experience as “normal” as possible by offering encouragement. As appropriate, remind the birthing person of their birth preferences and help them understand which parts of the birth plan can still be fulfilled. If imagery, visualizations, and affirmations are used, make sure they have a positive tone and reflect the situation appropriately.

  4. Encourage parents and family to bond with baby: Memories made in those few precious hours or days will need to last a lifetime. Encourage parents to hold baby, and to allow other family members to meet and bond with baby. Maybe they were looking forward to reading a certain story or singing certain songs to their baby. They can still do these things. Offer to take photos of the new family. Facilitate the creation of keepsakes (hair clippings, hand/footprints, molds of hands/feet, etc.). They may not want to see them right away, but there will come a day when they do. The hospital may have resources to help with some of this, so check with staff to see what is and isn’t available.

  5. Use baby’s name, and congratulate parents on the birth of their baby: Bringing a baby earthside is hard work and deserving of congratulations and commendation, no matter the outcome. It may feel counterintuitive to congratulate, but remember that this baby is a beloved member of the family. You may say something like, “Arthur is a perfect, beautiful boy. He is so loved.”

  6. Attend memorial service and/or celebration of life: If the family invites you to attend the celebration of their baby, go. You are one of a handful of people who met and beheld their child. That—in and of itself—means so much. Having you at the service adds another level of love and support. Consider taking a card or letter sharing your beautiful memories of the day baby was born.

  7. Connect the family to resources: Educate yourself on the services for bereaved families in your community—grief support groups, postpartum depression groups, counseling services, children’s grief support providers, bereavement specialists, etc. Families may not be receptive to this information right away. Respect that space and be prepared for when they are ready.

The death of a baby is a profound loss, and it is important we recognize the need for families to mourn their babies. The loss of a baby is the loss of a person and a future. Every person grieves differently. As we learn more about the experience of loss and work on our own feelings and emotions surrounding death, we become better able to provide meaningful support during birth in any trimester and in any outcome. 




1. “Facts about Stillbirth.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Aug. 2018. Web. 23 Oct. 2018.


2. “Infant Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 Mr. 2017. Web. 07 Apr. 2017. <>.

Birth Doulas Postpartum Doulas

The UDA’s New Program to Fulfill Its Mission

By: Angie Rosier, UDA President

As the doula profession grows and more doulas are trained, the public becomes increasingly aware of what doulas are and what they do. The position of a doula is now often recognized as an important and integral part of a birth team. Through the professional services offered by many outstanding doulas, obstetricians, registered nurses, and midwives alike often refer their patients to doulas they have enjoyed working with. This is great news for those of us who work as doulas. The local price of a doula has also increased in recent years. While the rate for doula services varies widely by state and region, prices have continued to climb. In Utah we have seen as much as a 75% increase in doula fees in the past 15 years. This is also great news for doulas. Many doulas enjoy earning a decent wage while doing work they are passionate about.

What does this do, however, for women and families who cannot afford doula services? Currently doula services are viewed as a luxury item in our medical system. Insurance does not cover doula fees (a topic for another day), and many families who could benefit from the services of a doula are unable to afford paying a few hundred extra dollars at a time when additional expenses are already expected. Many doulas offer discounted services when situations of need arise. That’s the beauty of owning your own business—being able to listen to your doula heart and give back to the community. Many doulas feel drawn to certain populations such as teens, incarcerated women, single mothers, or refugees. While there is currently little to no financial benefit to serving these populations, this is very possibly where doula services can be most valuable.

The Utah Doula Association has continued to grow over a period of over 25 years—has striven to be fiscally responsible—and has been able to build up some funds beyond operating costs. Membership dues, conference fees, community partners, and our doula retreat are some of the main ways the organization had been able to grow financially. The board is always looking for additional ways to raise money so that, as a group, we can fulfill the mission of the UDA, which includes community awareness, continuing education, marketing for its members, and supporting at-risk, low-income, and under-served families.

We are excited to announce the Utah Doula Association’s new program for serving underprivileged women and their families while offering pay to doulas for their services. From funds raised through donations, memberships, community partner memberships, the retreat, and conference we have the funds to pay our doulas to help these underprivileged women have support through their pregnancy and labor. This year, the UDA board has discussed and approved paying $599 for 5 individual birth clients. We are piloting this program and hope to grow it next year. We are working with a local provider to seek women in need of services and we are open to assessing other situations in the community. Eligibility requirement for doulas serving in this program is that she has been a UDA member in good standing for at least two years. Fees will be paid through the treasurer of the UDA.

The client in need will be matched up with a qualified doula who is available around her estimated due date, has expertise surrounding the mother’s pregnancy situation whether it be high-risk, multiples, teen mom, etc., and has been a UDA member for at least two years.

We are happy to send anyone who needs doula support an application to see if they qualify. Situations will be reviewed by the president and president-elect and the board will be notified of each of the five paid births available this year.

The board has also approved funds this year to pay for postpartum doula services for a woman in need. We are so excited to be able to help fill this gap in care in our community and look forward to growing this program and be able to adequately reach out to those who need a doula.

About Angie:

Angie Rosier

Angie Rosier has been a doula since 2003 and has attended over 1,000 births.  She lives in Salt Lake with her husband and 5 children and is the current president of the Utah Doula Association and owner at

Birth Doulas Uncategorized

Mother’s Day: A Beautiful Celebration of Women and Birth

By Angie Rosier

May holds Mother’s Day. It could be called Women’s Day as we celebrate the power of all women.  Doulas are lucky people among women. They have the unique opportunity of glancing into the soul of a woman.  A woman’s soul, which contains her whole heart and her entire power, is a rare thing to behold. Doulas get to see it in every client.

It’s not often when the whole soul is required to perform a task, but childbirth is one of those tasks. It is transformative.  It will require treading in unknown territory, it will require a strength and a knowing that lies deep in the bodies of women. It is an event that can bond women of all ages and cultures to one another as if they were sisters.

Although birth is occurring hundreds of thousands of times each day the world over, it is something individual women get to experience relatively few times. Doulas, however, are able to witness this power countless times. Birth is a treasured event that will leave its print on the life of both the woman and her baby for the rest of their time.  It is a shaping and forming event. Doulas facilitate a powerful shape and hopeful form that will endure. Sometimes when the opposite is a result, even more of the soul might bare itself as she dives into a place where she swims and seems to drown in feeling.

The capacity of the human soul for experience is infinite.  The capacity of the human heart for love and triumph or for love and sorrow know no bounds.  After having witnessed the souls of countless women during their most powerful yet vulnerable times, a doula cannot help but be affected by the power of women.  She can dip her ladle of learning into each soul and choose a precious lesson until seeing any woman’s face at the grocery store may remind her of a woman she once loved and served.  A doula can weave all the strongest parts of women in their most powerful hour into her own heart and soul. Doulas are lucky people indeed.

So, as we encounter women, let us celebrate her and revere her in her power this month of May, which holds Mother’s Day, Women’s Day.


About Angie

Angie Rosier has been a doula since 2003 and has attended over 1,000 births.  She lives in Salt Lake with her husband and 5 children and is the current president of the Utah Doula Association and owner at