Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Self Care for Midwives, Doulas, and other Birth Attendants

Photo Credit

I often feel as if I go through a mini postpartum after I attend a birth.   The first couple of days I'm on that natural birth high.  The mom's pheromones are known to affect the dad, turning him into a softer, more sensitive partner, but why not the other people attending her labor?  I find myself generally a more gentle and appreciative mother and wife in the first few days after a birth, not to mention weepy!  And then, either the sleep deprivation sets in, or my hormones come back to their senses, and I can turn into a cranky, overtired woman, almost postpartum myself!

This past year though, I have found a few things that help me reset my clock and nurture myself post-birth. After all midwives, doulas, and anyone else attending a labor and birth, give their all.  It is almost impossible to be with a woman in birth, and be only half present.  We are so giving, that at times we lose sight of our own comfort and needs. I  have found the following things to be simple, yet effective in helping me care for myself so that I can keep on caring for others.

1.  YOGA 

Sometimes I forget to breathe at a birth, or feel my feet on the ground.   I do find most births grounding in nature, but at times we midwives hold our breaths,  and then forget to exhale.  We often get into funky positions and stay there for a long time.  It is usually late at night by the time we get around to suturing, and we find ourselves tired, and in a hunched over position for another hour or so.  Let's face it, this is when stir ups would be useful!  And then of course, we have to gaze and adore the bundle of cuteness curled up next to its mother, that's the best payment!  All of these positions entail a hunched over posture.

I have found restorative chest openers an antidote to this predicament.  Supta bada konasana, or reclined angle pose is my absolute go to after I get home, even if it's 4 am. Take a bolster, sit at it's edge, and place the soles of your feet together in bada konasana.  Lean back over the bolster so that your chest is forced open.  Feel the breath move all the way up into your collarbones.  Feel them smile at you! 

The photo above is also a great pose to open your chest, and relieve tight shoulders. It can easily be done after that tough suturing job! I also like to just do savasana on the floor for a few breaths. Feeling myself on the floor helps me to slow down and reenter my body, and come back to the present.  What a gift yoga is! 


It turns out that arnica is not only useful for mothers after childbirth, but for midwives too!  Arnica, a homeopathic remedy, is great for easing soreness and exhaustion in birth attendants.  It is also useful for jet lag, something we could use to describe the feelings after a night or two sans sleep.  I put it in my water bottle at the birth, and take it for a day or two, refilling it when I refill my water.  It has really helped me to reset my clock and to feel not so achy the next day.  It will often give me a second wind if I need to stay up for the day, this is why it's used for jet lag.  I have found this aspect of arnice helps immensely as well.  Naturally, I am a night owl (didn't I pick the right profession?!), so if I let myself, one birth could through me into months of late nights, but since I am not in college any longer, this lifestyle is not conducive to my life now. Arnica helps me stay away from this pitfall and maintain somewhat normal hours...for a midwife!


Birth is beautiful, amazing, a miracle, and any other superlative you want to attach to it. It is all of those things and more.  I am grateful beyond words for the opportunity to witness this act of creation.  But, I am also a midwife, and do believe part of my role as a midwife, is to guard the parameters of safety for mother and babe. This is a huge responsibility.  At times I  find it can make me tense and over vigilant.     That's when I reach for my Rescue Remedy,  a flower essence known to calm panic, relieve stress, and be useful in emergency situations.  Rescue Remedy, sometimes called Five Flower Essence is very calming and gentle.

I hope these tips are useful to you midwives, doulas, dads, sisters, friends, or anyone who is blessed to attend a birth.  If you have anything you do after births to help your recovery, please share.  All too often we neglect our own health  in order to serve others, but this won't take us very far. May we all take care of ourselves so that we can keep on helping the mothers and babies of the earth!


  1. Love this post! You are so right we need to take care of ourselves as well. Currently, I have all this- minus the yoga. I really need to get back into shape. Inshallah!

  2. Thank you! I'm so glad to hear you use the Arnica and Rescue Remedy. They are essential. Add the yoga and you'll be feeling great. Nice to hear from you!!