What it Means to Be a Massage Doula - by admin@mcb on May 01 2018

What it Means to Be a Massage Doula

A doula has a special relationship with an expecting mother. Having a familiarity with massage can help make that bond even stronger. ©iStockphoto.com/monkeybusinessimages
A doula has a special relationship with an expecting mother. Having a familiarity with massage can help make that bond even stronger. ©iStockphoto.com/monkeybusinessimages

A massage doula is a certified massage therapist trained to provide support during the birthing process. The three-pronged definition of a doula is one who provides: 1) emotional support, 2) physical comfort, and 3) information. The doula is there specifically to meet the mother’s needs. A birthing women benefits from a doula by receiving focused care that  primary medical providers may be unable to provide.

Doulas have a unique opportunity to serve women during childbirth. Many times the mother depends on her doula more than the doctors and nurses in the room for support and advice. This is where a background in massage therapy is beneficial for doulas. As a massage therapist you understand the benefits of relaxation and can help a mother feel calm and focused during the birth. This is especially enhanced if you have been working with her by providing prenatal massage therapy for several months leading up to labor.

Becoming a Certified Massage Doula

Our team at the Institute of Somatic Therapy has developed a certified massage doula program. This online three-part course trains massage therapists to perform prenatal massage, doula labor support, and postpartum massage. The doula portion of the course teaches many topics. It focuses on how to provide physical comfort, explain the medical benefits of a doula, and. provide pre-labor and labor coaching. You will learn a variety of laboring positions and their purposes and benefits, and how to support your client through potential labor complications.

At the Institute of Somatic Therapy we also offer a variety of additional online massage therapy courses for all of your continuing education goals. Visit us online today to learn more.

C-Section / Autism Linked - by admin@mcb on October 23 2017

C-Section / Autism Linked

C-Section Autism Linked

Recent medical studies in Sweden, including one that studied over 2.5 million births, suggested that children born by Cesarean section were 21 percent more likely than children born vaginally to be diagnosed with autism.

Doctors who promote natural deliveries are expressing concern of long term effects on humans from our current rate of C-Section births. One doctor who has been vocal on this is Dr. Michael Odent, who is well known for decades of encouraging natural labors and uninterrupted contact between the baby and mother until after the first breastfeeding.

Dr. Odent believes that rising autism rates may also be increased from inducing labor with synthetic oxytocin, such as Pitocin. Other interventions such as anesthesia drugs (epidurals), and elevated stress responses could also play a role.
Other medical care providers have suggested that correlation does not equal causation. In other words, just because there is a higher rate of autism among babies born by C-Section, it is not necessarily the C-Section that created that result. Pediatrician Paul Wang notes that it is entirely possible that a fetus with developmental issues may in some way play a role in a higher need for a C-Section. If the baby has low muscle tone, it might impact his or her ability to move into proper position during labor, making surgical intervention more likely to be needed.

No one disputes that C-sections are a blessing for individuals whose lives can be saved by them, but Dr. Odent believes firmly that deviations from nature’s ways has a price, and increased prevalence of autism may be part of that price.

Reducing C-Sections with a Doula

Whatever the cause, or whether or not autism is related to C-Section, if there are proven methods of reducing the need for C-Section, Pitocin, epidurals, or other interventions during labor, those methods should be used as a first resort. And there is such a method – the presence of a labor support provider (doula) with the birthing mother.

Last fall, Cochrane, a global independent network of researchers, performed a meta-analysis of doula studies. They complied 26 studies that provided data from 17 countries, involving more than 15,000 women. Their analysis confirmed what massage doulas already know, that there is a 60 percent reduction in women’s odds of having a C-section, and 80 percent lower odds of having a nonmedically indicated C-section when women have a doula. Here is a summary of their analysis:

Continuous support during labour may improve outcomes for women and infants, including increased spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter duration of labour, and decreased caesarean birth, instrumental vaginal birth, use of any analgesia, use of regional analgesia, low five-minute Apgar score and negative feelings about childbirth experiences. We found no evidence of harms of continuous labour support. Subgroup analyses should be interpreted with caution, and considered as exploratory and hypothesis-generating, but evidence suggests continuous support with certain provider characteristics, in settings where epidural analgesia was not routinely available, in settings where women were not permitted to have companions of their choosing in labour, and in middle-income country settings, may have a favourable impact on outcomes such as caesarean birth. Future research on continuous support during labour could focus on longer-term outcomes (breastfeeding, mother-infant interactions, postpartum depression, self-esteem, difficulty mothering) and include more woman-centred outcomes in low-income settings.

Becoming a Massage Doula

If you are a massage therapist who would like to be part of helping women achieve healthier labors, you should become a massage doula. The Institute of Somatic Therapy has been offering doula certification training since 1999. To learn more, visit Institute of Somatic Therapy Massage Doula Certification Package or visit our sister website: www.massagedoula.com

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Sources for this post:

Photo courtesy of www.pixabay.com


A Day in the Life of a Massage Doula - by admin@mcb on April 25 2017

A Day in the Life of a Massage Doula

Ring…Ring. Yawn. Shake off the sleep. Ring…Ring. “My phone! Mary (pseudonym) must be having her baby. Time to kick into action as a massage doula. What time is it?” 4:15 a.m. Good, I think, I’ve gotten most of a full night’s sleep. I jump out of bed, throw some cold water on my face, brush my teeth, put on the carefully laid out clothes that have been waiting for just this moment, and off to the hospital I go. Such starts my favorite kind of day as a massage doula.

Make no mistake, getting up at 4:15 is not high on my list of things to do, but there is something calming and quieting about the wee morning hours when I know within a few hours, I will be witnessing the miracle of birth.

My interest in prenatal massage began early in my massage career. I earned my initial massage certification in 1991, and in early 1993, I became certified as a prenatal massage therapist. I immediately dove in, started working on pregnant women, and started attending labors, although at that time, I had only learned four strategies in my labor support repertoire, one of which I quickly abandoned because everyone told me to stop because it hurt.

Within in a few years, I started hearing about doulas. I had no idea what they were doing that I was not, but I thought if I only learned one new thing, it would be worth it. I got certified with Doulas of North America, and also took advanced doula training from Penny Simkin. It was after this training that I coined the term “massage doula” to refer to a certified prenatal massage therapist who is also certified as a massage doula support person.

Armed with a wide range of new techniques, I assisted over eighty births before retiring my private practice a few years ago to focus on teaching and to take on the role of Director of Education with the Institute of Somatic Therapy. With all of those births, my moms averaged under five hours of labor, only two needed C-Sections, and the vast majority birthed entirely drug free. My star client had three babies, with the total labor time from all three births only 4.5 hours (2.5 hours the first baby, 1.5 hours the second, and only 30 minutes the third).

As a doula, I could share many stories, some funny, some harrowing. I know that I will treasure my doula years forever. Not having any children of my own, I feel lucky to have been able to have so many through the experiences with my clients. I have said many times how grateful I was to have been able to watch miracles happen for a living.

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Judith Koch is the Director of Education at the Institute of Somatic Therapy, an online continuing education provider. To earn your massage doula certification, click here.

Benefits of a Doula - by admin@mcb on July 12 2016

Benefits of a Doula

Benefits of a Doula During Labor

The benefits of a doula are significant, and they are well established by scientific medical research. The most publicized statistics tend to deal with the labor itself – reduction of cesarean section by 50%, shorten length of labor by 25%, reduction of oxytocin (pitocin) use by 40%, reduction in pain medication by 30%, and reductions in epidurals by 60%. (Source: Marshall H. Klaus, M.D.; John H. Kennell, M.D.; Phyllis H. Klaus, M.Ed., C.S.W.)

Benefits of a Doula On Marriage and Relationships

But one lesser known benefit of a doula is the impact it can have on the relationship between the birthing mother and her partner.  W.L. Wolman wrote a Master’s thesis for the University of Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa) in 1991, titled Social Support During Childbirth: Psychological and Physiological Outcomes.  In this study, Wolman reported on women (some of whom had doulas, and some who did not) who were asked to rate the satisfaction with their partners both before the pregnancy, during the pregnancy, and after the baby was born.

Among women who did not have a doula, 63% reported satisfaction before the pregnancy, compared to 65% for the women who did have a doula. Both groups reported very similar numbers.

During the pregnancy, it dropped, but both were still very similar. The non-doula group reported a 48% satisfaction with their partner during the pregnancy, compared to 49% for the women who did have a doula.

But there was a highly significant difference in how both groups of women rated their satisfaction with their partners after the baby was born. The non-doula group stayed near the lower satisfaction rate of their pregnancy – 49%. The doula group, however, reported an astonishing 85% satisfaction rate with their partner after their births. Not only did they recover the drop that occurred during the pregnancy, but also gained an additional 20% over the pre-pregnancy rating.

When asked if the relationship was better after the birth, only 30% of the women in the non-doula group felt that it was, while 71% of the women in the doula group felt that their marriage/relationship was better after the birth.

While the study did not specify any reasoning for this, it has been suggested that some of the reasons might be that the women felt appreciative for the extra support. By hiring a doula, the partner demonstrated concern and love, as well as an acknowledgement of the enormity of the woman’s efforts during the pregnancy and labor. They may also have been less likely to place blame on the partner for any negative outcomes knowing that everything possible was done to make the birth as easy as possible.

Becoming a Massage Doula

If you are a massage therapist who wants to become trained as a doula, the Institute of Somatic Therapy offers a doula certification program, available here.

Finding a Massage Doula

If you are looking for a doula to support you or your partner during childbirth, the Institute of Somatic Therapy has a database of graduates where you can search for prenatal massage therapists, massage doulas, and infant massage instructors, available here.

Compare Massage Doula With a Regular Doula - by admin@mcb on May 11 2016

Compare Massage Doula With a Regular Doula

How do you compare massage doula with a doula (a “regular” non-massage doula)?

A doula is a person, who is trained to provide physical comfort, emotional support, and information to a woman during the childbirthing process. A massage doula is a massage therapist who is also trained as a doula. With a background in massage therapy, a massage doula has more skills to serve her prenatal and birthing clients.

Most massage doulas are certified in prenatal massage, and possibly even infant massage. The services they can bring to a woman during her pregnancy, labor, and postpartum periods include more services than a non-massage therapist doula can bring.

Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massage therapy provides many benefits. Not only can it be a drug free method of reliving the aches and pains of pregnancy, it can also help a woman be better prepared for labor. Massage can help loosen tightness so the woman goes into labor with her body as free from tension as possible. During massage, proprioception (body awareness) is developed. This increased body awareness is helpful during contractions, to enable the woman to better relax muscles not involved in the birthing process, which helps to preserve strength and reduce unnecessary tension. Additionally, the massage doula and client develop an unspoken communication during the prenatal massages that will be beneficial in labor. The therapist will recognize abnormal muscle tension in the client, and can use that knowledge to target areas that need it the most during labor.

Doula Support

During labor, a massage doula will have much more expertise in helping to relieve muscle tension that invariably arises during contractions. Between the anatomical and muscular knowledge and experience with many bodywork modalities, a massage doula will have an advantage over a regular doula in bringing relaxation to the client. Additionally, like any doula, a massage doula is trained in topics such as positions and techniques to alleviate back labor, common complications and interventions with labor, and breathing and relaxation techniques for labor.


The massage doula will be able to perform postpartum massage designed to help the body return to its non-pregnant posture and balance. If also trained in infant massage, the massage doula will be able to teach the new parents how to massage their babies.

So the answer to our initial question, how do you compare massage doula with a regular doula?  A doula is a great idea. A massage doula is an even better one.

How to become a massage doula

Massage therapists can become certified in prenatal massage, doula support, and infant massage with online continuing education classes offered by the Institute of Somatic Therapy. Institute of Somatic Therapy (Judith Koch) is approved by the NCBTMB as a continuing education approved provider #280672-00. Our courses are also valid for Florida, Georgia, New York, AMTA, ABMP, and most states.

Illustration: “Business Concept, Businessman Compares Big Idea To Small Idea. Illustration” by aechan, courtesy of freedigitialphoto.net.

The Role of a Doula - by admin@mcb on March 30 2016

The Role of a Doula

The Role of a Doula

I had someone ask me today about the role of a doula, and how a doula helps women have shorter, easier labors. The answer can be found in the three part definition of a doula. A doula is someone who provides physical comfort, emotional support, and information to a woman during her labor and childbirth.

The physical comfort role of a doula comes through a variety of techniques. These include massage therapy, positions and techniques to help back labor, and different laboring positions that can help bring contraction relief.

The emotional support provided by a doula is conveyed through a loving touch, a caring look, verbal encouragement, and being non-judgmental listener.

The information role of a doula will come from her doula training, from experience gained at prior births, and through resources such as Penny Simkin’s book The Birth Partner.

Long Term Satisfaction With Labor

Penny Simkin did a study a number of years back that assessed what was most important for a woman to have a long-term satisfaction with her birth experience. She had questionnaires from women she had taught in childbirth education classes back in the 1970’s. Approximately 20 years later, Penny contacted these women to interview them about birth experience. She was looking to see what long-term impacts the birthing process had for them.

While you might think what leads to long term satisfaction is a short labor, or a relatively easy labor, but that was not the case. In fact, there was no correlation between length or pain of labor with long term satisfaction. She found that the most important things were a sense of being supported and cared for, positive memories (including shared laughter) with the caregivers, and a sense of having been in control.

The factors that lead to satisfaction long term dovetail with the three aspects of doula work described above. The sense of accomplishment comes from a doula providing emotional support. The sense of control comes from the doula providing the mother with information about her options and alternatives, and helping her to adhere to her birth plan if circumstances allow. The sense of having been cared for comes from the physical support and hands-on aspect of a doula’s role.

Becoming a Doula

If you would like to help women have a satisfying labor and birth experience, get started with massage doula training today. The Institute of Somatic Therapy offers training in prenatal massage and doula support. Click here to see the courses available in this massage specialty.

NOTE: Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net “Newborn” by arztsamui.

Blind Doula Works for The Less Fortunate - by admin@mcb on November 11 2015

Blind Doula Works for The Less Fortunate

Blind Doula Works for The Less Fortunate

By Ray McAllister, LMT, CPMT, CMD

When we think of a doula we often think of someone assisting a woman well-off enough to afford the fees. While labor pains aren’t necessarily any easier for wealthy people to bear, there is a place and great reward for pro bono doula work for the less fortunate.

As a male blind doula student, I found no women in my local church group interested in having me assist in their births. So, I reached out to a local homeless shelter. Not only would the women there be less parochial in thinking, but they would have fewer resources and less family support. (Hence, surviving in a homeless shelter.) Within a six-week time span, I had assisted in the three required births.

During these births, I found myself in some very unique situations. In one case, some rather crass male family members wanted to watch the foot ball game during the birth. I had to gently counsel a boyfriend who told his laboring girlfriend to “shut up.” One boyfriend wasn’t even there at all at the birth. There were moments when I was the only person sitting with one of the women. In some cases, the women were so broken of spirit due to their down-trodden lives that they just, emotionally, would break down and cry through pain that female family members said seemed really light. Then, when a hospital midwife’s shift would end, another midwife would take over, whether or not the patient liked that idea.

Recently I received a call from the homeless shelter concerning a woman who had been having contractions five minutes apart for the last hour and whose birth partner couldn’t be with her. After I finally convinced the shelter to get her to the hospital, she consented to my being her doula. She was in so much trauma and so far along that they couldn’t start an IV, let alone an epidural, so I had to help her through an unwilling, unmedicated birth. She was throwing out nurses she didn’t like, but she accepted me, even though she’d never met me before. She was very thankful for my presence and sacral counterpressure. Perhaps in this instance, me being a blind doula was helpful. It likely makes my being a male less threatening.

There are many things I learned from these experiences concerning doula work for the homeless and destitute. Firstly, it is a great way to work toward the three required births for certification. Dental schools often have students practice on people who can’t afford to pay full price. Student doulas can do the same, not receiving money, but receiving experience. Secondly, there’s the feeling of truly making a difference for someone who needs it and who cannot otherwise repay. Whoever comes and goes, the doula is the one constant with the woman. No one should have to give birth alone. I truly believe that we need more doulas willing to work with the less fortunate. If every doula took on one pro bono case per year, think of the many lives that would be touched.

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With the help of Ray McAllister, LMT, CPMT, CMD, the Institute of Somatic Therapy now offers Braille files for blind doula and blind prenatal massage therapy students. To see our prenatal and doula courses, please click here.