Published on 17th May 2018

Seven years ago, friends, doulas, and entrepreneurs Tara Brooke and Gina Giordano co-founded Doula Trainings International (DTI) with the goal of offering a model for doula training that was appealing, inclusive and accessible. 

We went to them for some expert advice on what families need to think about before birth and where to find help for some of motherhoods biggest taboos.

The taboos of pregnancy and birth

Despite birth being the single common denominator among every single human on the planet (we're all born, and many of us give birth), topics surrounding pregnancy, birth and the especially neglected postpartum period are silenced, stigmatized and swept under the rug of societal taboos.

How bizarre is this? Think of the gravity of that silence and stigma on the emotional well-being of a woman going through such a transitional time in her life. Imagine the perceived isolation of someone discovering that their pelvic floor muscles are affected during birth, or that nipples can chafe from breastfeeding, or that postpartum depression can manifest in the most unspeakable thoughts.

This isolation is caused by society's one-size-fits-all representation of pregnancy and birth - a carefree, smiling pregnant woman with a perfect round belly, a goddess giving effortless birth to a healthy baby, a new mom who fits right into motherhood. The focus centers around the newborn while the woman feels forgotten in her newfound responsibility, caught up in the chaos of nurturing another with little time to nurture herself.

What is a doula?

Doulas support people through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period helping with education, advocacy and emotional support for the ups and downs that come with bringing new lives into the world. That's not all though. Doulas are also the ones that bear witness to how uninformed most of us are about just how stigmatized this time is for many of us. Taboo subjects like sex, orgasms, blood, pregnancy, birth, our pelvic floors, lactation and so on.

Tara and Gina's top 4 things to think about when you are newly pregnant:Consider who you want to be present at your birth

1. Consider who you want to be present at your birth

You might find that your trusted Obstetrician/Gynecologist who you see for yearly paps may not be the person you end up wanting at your birth. This comes as a big surprise for lots of us. Often, the personality and philosophy of your OB/GYN may be perfect for those paps but for birth-- not so much. Take some time to think about what kind of birth you are wanting and ask lots of questions to see if they fit your birth preferences. Or better yet, see how they do answering questions about birth in general at your appointments. If you get the side eye or feel rushed through those questions that's a big clue that the relationship may no longer be working. Trust us, you will have tons of questions as your pregnancy progresses and you'll want someone who can have a conversation about options. Plus, midwives and some family practice doctors are an option so checking out the different models of care available to you during your pregnancy deserves consideration.

2. Get intimate with your pelvic floor

It isn't JUST about Kegels. Understanding the ins and outs (pun intended) of your pelvic floor will support you during pregnancy, help you during birth and also aid in the best recovery possible. Befriend a pelvic floor specialist or physical therapist that focuses on pelvic floor health. Tools like Elvie Trainer can also be really helpful when you have trouble visualising the pelvic floor or finding the motivation to follow a pelvic floor training program at home.

3. Figure out what lowers your stress levels in pre-pregnancy life and make it a habit

What chills you out? We know that stress does not support a healthy pregnancy. So anything you can do to lower your stress is a plus. Massage? Meditation? Long walks? A nap? Whatever chills you out on the reg, should now be scheduled in.

4. Surround yourself with support

Think about what support will be helpful before, during and after giving birth. If you have a partner, who will support them? This magical transitional time is also quite intense! Hiring a doula can be a game changer. A doula will be there to advocate and help you find the resources you need so that you may make the best decisions for you and your family.

We (Tara and Gina) have cultivated a community with a feminist forward brand, providing online doula trainings with a global reach and IRL doula trainings across the US, a childbirth educator training program, and a lactation specialist program (coming soon!). This approach is proving to break through layers of isolation to let people know they're not alone in their experiences.

With a birth conference on the horizon this summer in Austin, Texas, we are gathering birth workers, artists, tech innovators, and makers committed to reproductive and birth justice to reflect and collaborate on one guiding question: What were you born into?

Dr Jessica Shepherd is an is an OB/GYN, women's health expert and also the founder of Her Viewpoint, an online women's health forum that focuses on addressing taboo topics in a comfortable setting. Dr Shepherd will be joining a panel at Born Into This, to talk about her medical work, the supporting role of Elvie Trainer and Her View Point.

Born Into This will serve as a springboard for conversation and action on themes central to growing a movement for societal change, from decolonizing birthwork to social media branding and entrepreneurship.

Because the truth is, we're not going through these experiences in isolation from one another. Once we realize this and recognize the power of our collective truths, we're a force to be reckoned with.

If you enjoyed this post let us know on social media by tagging @elvie, and @doulatraingsint. Or if you're ready to invest in your self-care get your hands on an Elvie Trainer, our award-winning Kegel trainer.