This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Northwest Area Childbirth Educators Forum’ conference “Childbirth Education-more important than ever” hosted by renowned childbirth educator, doula and author Penny Simkin.  The day was centered on bringing childbirth education back as a meaningful and empowering form of birth preparation.  Penny is a remarkable speaker and motivator–passionate and fiery, while simultaneously understanding, compassionate and knowledgeable of the spectrum of birth processes and needs.

Penny Simkin demonstrating aspects of birth physiology

I thought I would share some of my personal highlights from the conference, especially as they relate to labor doula support.

The first is so straight forward, and intrinsically a part of our labor support practice, but I loved the simplicity with which Penny stated this fact: “If a woman has rhythm, she is coping”.  And when she has a hard time finding her rhythm, we as support partners help mothers get back on top of their labor, specifically by assisting her find ways to relax, focus and breathe.

Penny and a lucky volunteer practicing the “Slow dance”

The additional highlights came at the end of the conference as we discussed and practiced comfort measures and techniques to help labor along.  Some examples are using “the lunge” at any time that labor stalls during active labor, and the more adventurous “dangle” for a baby that just “won’t come out”.  (The dangle allows the pelvic outlet to open by decreasing pressure from the legs and also allows the mother’s body to lengthen to assist with the baby’s decent).  Of course, she also acknowledged that it requires a mother and birthing staff that are willing to try this more unusual technique :).

Demonstrating “the Lunge”

There were so many other encouraging and insightful discussions on the content of childbirth classes and support for mothers during and after their labors.  It was a wonderful way to spend the day–thank you Penny!