Dec 062015

cocomonkeyI always tell the families in my childbirth classes that labor is just like a hard day’s work. But, I also like to remind them that they have done a hard day’s work before and they surely can do it again when their labor starts and they get ready to meet their baby.

In order to be ready for labor and birth, it helps to be as rested as possible before everything starts. Once things get rolling, staying nourished and well hydrated is extremely helpful for being able to power through with all the energy and stamina needed to do the hard work ahead.

In childbirth class, we brainstorm lots of nourishing treats that the birthing person can eat that pack just the right punch of protein and carbohydrates. Some time ago, a family (Ben and Emily Delahunty) suggested the “Coco Monkey” smoothie as their planned “go to” labor food and shared the recipe. The other families all excitedly made plans to try it too.

As the babies started arriving and the families started sharing their birth stories with me and the class, I could see the “Coco Monkey” smoothie mentioned a lot! The laboring people loved it. I wasn’t surprised- it sounded both tasty and healthy. Since that original family shared their “secret” recipe with me, I have passed it on to the other families I have taught. It has been a big hit time and time again.

As you get ready to birth your baby – why don’t you consider having the ingredients on hand to make your own “Coco Monkey” smoothie? Let me know how you like it and if you find it helpful during your labor and birth. Do you have any favorite labor foods that you are hoping to try?  I would love to hear from you.

Apr 302015

I was asked to write this post by the International Cesarean Awareness Network for Cesarean and VBAC families as part of April 2015 Cesarean Awareness Month.  It originally appeared here.

While April is recognized as Cesarean Awareness Month in both the United States and many other countries, quality consumer information about how to prevent cesareans (both primary {first} cesareans and subsequent ones) along with information about having a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC) is valuable to families all year long.

Many families scour the internet looking for practical information and best practices, as well as inspirational stories that help them to feel less isolated and alone when they are recovering from a cesarean or planning another birth.

Here are my favorite websites to share with families who have experienced a cesarean or are planning a VBAC. I like these websites because they are easy to read and contain many articles relevant to cesarean and VBAC families. The first seven are great resources for evidenced based information and best practices on the topics of cesareans and VBACs. The last three are simply great inspirational websites where you can find stories of strong people birthing their babies. Everyone needs to celebrate the strength and courage that is demonstrated by birthing families.

best vbac cesarean info online

Evidence Based Birth, while only a couple of years old, has quickly proven to be a valuable resource time and time again. Rebecca L. Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN is the author and she has the wonderful ability to evaluate reams and reams of research and boil it down to important information that consumers can use. Many of her articles are available as a PDF to print and bring with you to a doctor or midwife appointment.  Some of my favorite posts that I think are particularly useful to the VBAC family include big babies, rupture of membranes, and due dates.

Jen Kamel is well known nationally for both her website and her class. Her slogan – “Don’t Freak. Know the Facts.” She maintains a comprehensive list of posts that explain the research on many of the obstacles that face VBAC families – information on different types of incision repair, VBAC after more than one cesarean, induction for VBAC parents and my favorite among many – “Want a VBAC? Ask Your Care Provider These Questions.

Well Rounded Mama

Well Rounded Mama, at first glance, seems like a website for plus or larger sized people, but honestly it is a fantastic website for any person who is having a baby, particularly after a cesarean. Pam Vireday does extensive research and her blog posts often cover issues that face many of us as we try and navigate our care after a cesarean. Her motto is “Because mothers and children come in all shapes and sizes. And because people of all sizes deserve compassionate, gentle, helpful care.”  “The Fat Vagina Theory – Soft Tissue Dystocia” is one of my favorite posts, but I look forward to every post that Pam publishes. Pregnancy & Childbirth

This expansive website is written by Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, author of many pregnancy and childbirth books and current president of Lamaze International. Robin’s blog posts are short and easy to read and full of relevant links where you can get more follow up information. They are always accurate and based on current evidence and chock full of resources and suggestions. I like to search on the topics of VBAC or cesarean to find posts of interest, but really, I enjoy reading everything Robin writes.

Spinning Babies

Gail Tully is the author and creator of and I just love her site. As a midwife, Gail has a unique perspective and I appreciate the breadth of information that packs her site. Since some cesareans are a result of a malpositioned baby, the information found here can help families to progress a labor that may be not moving along due to baby’s position. Additionally, for those facing a cesarean for a breech baby, Gail’s techniques may help to get that baby to turn head down. Lots of pictures and a new look make this site easy to use and refer to, even in labor when ideas and suggestions are especially needed. If you had a cesarean for a malpositioned baby, you will for sure want to be familiar with the information on Spinning Babies as you get ready to birth again.

Midwife Thinking

This blog comes from “down under” and is filled with great information on many topics that apply to cesarean and VBAC families. Midwife Rachel Reed takes on some of the myths that get perpetuated on birth and breaks them down in posts that are well researched and full of current information. Be sure to check out “Amniotic Fluid Volume: Too Much, Too Little or Who Knows?” and “VBAC: Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill” and “In Celebration of the OP Baby,” as well as many others that she has written. I encourage you to check out Rachel’s website and read more of her work.

Giving Birth With Confidence – A Woman’s Guide to VBAC

This consumer friendly website for all pregnant families has a very well written guide for VBAC’ing women, based on the 2010 VBAC Consensus Statement held by the National Institutes of Health. Over 10 different well-written resources make up this comprehensive guide to help people understand the research, make informed decisions and navigate the obstacles that they may face when they are planning to VBAC.

Black Women VBAC

This blog is full of stories of people of color who have had successful VBACs and is a great place for all people who are interested in inspirational birth stories to check out. People of color experience cesareans at a rate that is disproportionate to white people and the impact is significant. Read about the courage and strength that these families demonstrated and get inspired yourself. VBAC Birth Stories

A comprehensive collection of a wide variety of VBAC stories submitted by readers of

Plus Size Pregnancy Birth Stories

Collated by the same person who writes “Well Rounded Mama” (see above), this is an extensive collection of VBAC, VBAMC and Cesarean stories that will be sure to provide tons of inspiration and encouragement to families who have experienced a cesarean or are planning to birth after a cesarean. While the site is a wee bit dated, it is an extremely comprehensive collection.

These are some of my favorite websites for consumers to learn more about cesareans, VBACs, the VBAC climate, and what the current research says about both cesarean and VBAC birth. Families today need to be informed and prepared to navigate the choices and options available to them as they prepare to welcome a baby, in hopes of avoiding an unneeded cesarean and birthing after a previous cesarean.

What are your favorite websites, blogs and research sources for finding information on the topics of cesareans and VBACs? Share them with our readers in the comments section as we celebrate Cesarean Awareness Month.


 childbirth education  Comments Off on Click Your Way to the Best Info: finding quality VBAC and Cesarean info online
Mar 262015

I had the pleasure of being asked to speak with Adriana Lozada, business owner on the topic of doulas for her weekly podcast.  The purpose of Adriana’s weekly podcasts -“talking to maternity pros to inform your intuition.” I was nervous at first but the time flew by and Adriana was super easy to chat with.  Take a listen and see what you think.  This would be a great interview to share with anyone who wants to learn more about what a doula does and how they support the whole family at a birth!

Screenshot 2015-03-26 08.49.20

You can listen to the interview from Adriana’s website here or download it from iTunes.

 birth, doula  Comments Off on Birthful Podcast – Sharon Muza Talks About Doulas
Mar 232015

This post was written by me for Giving Birth with Confidence – the Lamaze International blog for parents and originally appeared there on March 18, 2015.

A birth doula is a trained professional who supports birthing parents and their families during their labor and birth. There is a lot of research about the benefits of having a doula at a birth – including greater overall satisfaction with the birth experience, less interventions, lower cesarean section rates and more. But there may be a perception among the general public (and journalists who write about doulas for consumer articles) that birth doulas are only helpful if a person is planning an unmedicated birth. This simply is not true. Doulas are for all families, regardless of their birthing intentions.

An Epidural Birth

 © J. Wasikowski, provided by Birthtastic

© J. Wasikowski, provided by Birthtastic

If you are planning on getting an epidural during your labor, you can benefit from having a doula. The doula can help you to cope with labor pain before you are admitted to the hospital. The doula can help you advance your labor as far as possible before you decide to get an epidural. The doula can help you with comfort techniques while you are waiting for the anesthesiologist. The doula can assist you in continuing to promote your labor progress after you have received some pain relief and if, on the outside chance the epidural is not working effectively for you, the doula can help you to handle the pain using non-pharmacological pain coping techniques. Doulas help people who are birthing with an epidural.

A Planned Cesarean Birth

A doula can help you if you are having a planned cesarean birth. A doula can help you prenatally by assisting you in preparing a birth plan for your cesarean birth. They can help you to understand what you can expect during the procedure. A doula can come with you to the hospital and support you as you wait for your surgery to happen, and be waiting for you when you come out of the operating room with your new baby. In some hospitals, the doula can even go into the operating room with you and your partner and offer professional support during the procedure, including keeping you calm and helping you to connect with your baby while still in the OR. The doula can assist you with breastfeeding back in your room and offer information and suggestions for the best recovery possible once you are home. Doulas help people planning a cesarean birth.


© Serena O’Dwyer


An Unmedicated Birth

If you are planning an unmedicated birth, a doula can help you practice comfort and coping techniques in advance of your labor so you are prepared. They can support you during your labor, helping you to feel comfortable and reduce painful sensations with massage, position changes and coping skills. A doula can help you gather information about your choices as your labor unfolds and remind you of your birth plan. A doula can encourage you and normalize what you are experiencing. Doulas help people planning unmedicated births.

When Plans Change

Every person goes into their labor with their own individual plans for how they would like to labor and birth. Every person wants to have a safe and healthy birth and a healthy baby. Labor and birth sometimes unfold in different ways than a parent expected. A doula can help a person’s voice and wishes be heard. A doula can help when plans change. A doula can support their client in understanding all their options, accept when things need to deviate from their original intentions and feel confident when making choices as things come up unexpectedly. A doula is in your corner even when things don’t go as planned, offering unconditional support and unbiased information. A planned vaginal birth can become a cesarean. A hoped-for unmedicated birth might shift to one with an epidural. A wish for spontaneous labor may become an induction. Birth plans often change, but the support of your doula is a guaranteed constant.

Every Birth Deserves a Doula

 With every article written by mainstream journalists about the increasing popularity of birth doulas and their attendance at births, the whole point of the doula is often missed. The public is left with the impression that doulas are only for unmedicated births. The truth is, all families can benefit from having a doula at their birth. The experience of an unmedicated birth, an epidural labor or even a planned cesarean can all be improved when a doula is part of the birth team. Consider having the support of a doula at your upcoming birth, regardless of what you are planning. If you are looking for a doula in the Seattle area, please contact me. Learn tips for finding a great doula, and search for a doula in your area at or


Jan 232015

(Note:  This article was written by me for my colleague’s business blog – Heart | Soul | Business and appeared there on January 21. 2015.  Check out Jessica English’s site)

back of my consumer business card

back of my consumer business card

People arrive at birth work after traveling many different paths. You might have been the person who always knew you wanted to be a doula or childbirth educator and now you are fulfilling your lifelong goal. Maybe you have come to this work after a completely unrelated career (or several, for that matter). Perhaps you had your own child(ren) and felt called to work with other expectant families afterward. Regardless of how you got here, you are committed to being a successful childbirth professional and having a sustainable, ethical and profitable birth business. You have invested time, money and resources into both your training and building your business and you very much want to succeed.

Whether you currently wear just one hat or whether you already offer several products or services, diversification is an important strategy that can help you grow your business. Here are some tips to consider as you make the decision to wear many hats and diversify your offerings to families in your communities. Following these suggestions can help you to establish your birth business as one known for offering exceptional professionalism and quality services.

  1. Choose to train and certify with the gold standard organizations in each area of your business

I believe that certification is a valuable part of being a birth professional. Being certified demonstrates to your clients, your peers and your community of health care providers that you have successfully met the minimum requirements from an established program and that you adhere to a documented scope of practice and code of ethics. As a doula or childbirth educator certified by one of these gold-standard organizations, colleagues and HCPs can appreciate your credentials and feel comfortable in making referrals to your business. You are adding value to your business by training with, certifying (and maintaining certification) with the top professional organizations in your fields.

  1. Select an appropriate business name

If your business is going to offer (or may offer in the future) many different services, consider choosing a business name that gives you room to grow and encompasses all the services you may provide. Consider, for example, “Magnolia Birth Services” as opposed to “Magnolia Doula Services” just in case you decide to grow and add other options for your clients. Having a broader business name doesn’t keep you limited as your business offerings expand. While currently you may only offer doula services, in the future, you want to leave yourself plenty of options, and the goodwill you are building now with your business name should continue to serve you as you expand.

  1. Showcase all your services in one place with a fantastic website

Every business should have a website as the virtual home for potential customers to land and find out more about you and your services. It has never been easier and more affordable to have an Internet presence than it is today. Consider purchasing your domain name and leaving the “Wordpress” or “Weebly” out, right from the start. It presents a much more professional image and makes you more likely to rank higher in various search engines when consumers are looking for a birth professional in your area.

When your website contains information on all your products and services and is presented professionally, consumers will be able to browse all your offerings and consider using you for more than one service. Having an accurate and attractive web presence lets them know that you are a professional ready to provide professional services.

  1. Bundle your services for consumer discounts

If you provide more than one service, you might benefit from offering discounts when your customers purchase more than one service from you. It is always easier to continue to meet your current client’s needs than it is to find a completely new client. Does your doula client also need childbirth classes? Are you a licensed massage therapist who works with pregnant and postpartum women? A birth doula that also offers postpartum services? Provide an incentive to your current customers when they purchase more than one service from you. Create attractive packages that clearly demonstrate the benefits and economy from working with you for many of their pregnancy, birth and postpartum needs. This is a win-win situation for both of you and it can prove very profitable.

  1. Have reliable back up for all the branches of your business

One of the potential disadvantages to offering many different services is that at times you may struggle to meet the needs of your varied customers. For example, you may encapsulate placentas and find that a placenta needs to be completed at the same time that you are attending a very long labor. Alternately, you might have a childbirth class to teach and a client in labor at the same time. Clearly you cannot be in two places at once. Having reliable back up you can trust, who can cover for the variety of services you offer, can take a load of stress off your mind when you are struggling to meet all of your commitments. You might consider bringing in a back up childbirth educator, or subcontracting an encapsulation while you are attending a client in labor. You may choose to inform your doula clients that you might, at times, need to ask a back up doula to come in while you teach a class.

back of my birth pro card

back of my birth pro card

There may be a colleague in your community who has all the same skills you do, or you may make arrangements with a selection of people. If you offer the same services in return to them, you’ll both be assured of back up when needed. Operating your business knowing that you have qualified back up for all your services creates additional value for your customers because it assures them that, with your contingency plan in place, their needs will be met seamlessly and professionally.

  1. Build positive relationships with your competition

There may be other professionals in your community who offer the same or similar services as you. You might be tempted to view these men and women as your competition and not reach out to build a relationship with them. I believe that this would be a mistake. I think it is important to connect with and support professionals whom you respect who offer similar or compatible services. Building connections with other business professionals creates opportunities for collaboration and referrals. Once you get to know them and the services they offer, you can confidently refer to them when your doula calendar is booked or your childbirth classes are full. Making referrals to other businesses creates a positive experience for the people who you are unable to serve. They will remember that and think of you in the future, even if you are not working with them. Additionally, those that you refer to are more likely to return the favor, providing you with additional customers when they are unable to accommodate them themselves.

  1. Be comfortable with the ebb and flow of your practice

There will be times throughout the year when one of the services you offer is more in demand than the others. This focus may change as your customers change. Alternately, you may find that at different times, you prefer doing one type of work (teaching classes for example) over another (doula services). It is normal for your preferences to change over time. Be comfortable with the cycle and allow yourself to put more attention where you feel most satisfied, but continue to build and maintain the other branches, as long as they are profitable and in demand. (This is also where you might consider founding a doula group or agency, so that others can fill in those areas where you feel less called to work.) Keeping up with the credentials and continuing education for all your skills will pay off in the long run and allow you to have many options for building your business and creating more income.

Think big and reap the rewards

As you become more involved in building and growing your birth business, you may find that you are wearing many hats – doula, childbirth educator, birth tub rentals, encapsulator and more. It is truly wonderful when you are able to do the work you love, be compensated fairly, and offer services that are appreciated by new families in your community. Continue to acquire new skills and training. Doing so will allow you to add value to your business and position yourself as an expert in your community, professionally meeting the needs of expectant families and finding deep contentment in our important field.

Jan 202015
© Sharon Muza

© Sharon Muza

(This was written by me in April 2014 and originally posted on Bloom Birth Professionals blog.)

April is Cesarean Awareness Month, an event meant to direct the American public’s attention to the United States’ horrendous cesarean rate. 32.7% of all birthing women gave birth by cesarean in 2013. A cesarean delivery can be a life-saving procedure when used appropriately, but it takes one’s breath away when you consider that one third of all women birthing underwent major abdominal surgery in order to birth their babies.

Professionals that work with women during the childbearing year can be a great resource for women, pointing them to evidence based information, support groups and organizations that offer non-biased information to help women lower their risk of cesarean surgery, receive support after a cesarean and work towards a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC) for subsequent births if appropriate.

Here are my top suggestions for websites and resources every birth professional needs to have on their short list to share with clients when it comes to cesarean awareness.

  1. International Cesarean Awareness Network – an international organization with almost 200 volunteer led chapters, (most in the USA) offering peer to peer support for cesarean recovery and VBAC information by way of a website, e-newsletters, webinars, online forums, Facebook groups and monthly meetings in the community.
  2. – Led by birth advocate Jen Kamel, this website is big on research and helps consumers and professionals alike understand the evidence and risks and benefits of both repeat cesareans and vaginal birth after cesarean, including vaginal birth after multiple cesareans.
  3. Lamaze International’s “Push for Your Baby” – is a great resource for families to learn about the Six Healthy Care Practices, what evidence based care looks like and how to work with your health care provider to advocate for a safe and healthy birth.
  4. Spinning Babies – Midwife Gail Tully really knows her stuff when it comes to helping babies navigate the pelvis during labor and birth. Many cesareans are conducted for “failure to progress” or “cephalopelvic disproportion” when really it is a case of a malpositioned baby who needed to be in a different position. This website is a wealth of information on what women can do to help their babies into the ideal position to be born, prenatally and during labor. It includes valuable information about helping a breech baby turn vertex. This is important, because finding a health care provider who will support vaginal breech birth is like finding a needle in a haystack.
  5. Childbirth Connection – This website is a virtual goldmine of evidence based information about cesareans and VBACs including a valuable guide “What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know about Cesareans.” There are questions to ask a care provider and includes information on informed consent and informed refusal.
  6. is a great website run by Jill Arnold for those who love the numbers. Find out the cesarean rates of hospitals in your area. All the states are represented and families can use the information when searching out a provider and choosing a facility. Jill’s resource page on this site is full of useful information as well.
  7. Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean –  The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists along with the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine recently published a groundbreaking document aimed at reducing the first cesarean. While fairly heavy reading, there is so much good information in this committee opinion that I believe every birth professional should at least take a peek. You may be pleasantly surprised.

As a birth professional, you can be a great resource for all your clients, helping them to prevent their first cesarean, providing support if they do birth by cesarean and assisting them on the journey to VBAC by pointing them to these valuable resources. You can make every day “Cesarean Awareness Day” for the families you work with, doing your part to help the pendulum to swing in the other direction, resulting in a reduction in our national cesarean rates and improving outcomes for mothers and babies. What are your favorite resources on the topic of cesareans and VBACs? Share with us in the comments below.