Interview with Sydney doula (birth companion) Amanda Bernstein

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Meet our featured beauty with brains Amanda Bernstein. She is a Doula, Ka Huna massage therapist and Pilates instructor based in Sydney, Australia. She helps to support and empower women and couples on their journey to meet their baby. She’s also a mum of two, and it’s her personal experience that has driven her down this path to help other women.

As the owner of Essential Me and Pilates With Purpose, we asked Amanda some questions.

1. What is a Doula?

The word “Doula” is a Greek word that means “woman’s servant”. A Doula is a trained and experienced support person, and does not replace a midwife or a doctor. Doulas can attend your birth at a private or public hospital, and even at your home. A Doula “mothers the mother” and provides continuity of care with physical and emotional support during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. I offer this service to you from a uniquely holistic perspective, incorporating my extensive Doula, Ka Huna and Pilates training and expertise.

2. How will you as a Doula help a mother to be?

As your Doula, I’ll be here to support you by providing information around your birthing choices and discussing your concerns, queries and fears. During your birth I’m there for you, to help with massage, position suggestions, breathing and sounding techniques, aromatherapy, homeopathy, photography and more – ultimately being there so you and your partner both feel continuously cared for and supported. After the birth we debrief your birth and I help further with tips and demonstrations for settling and wrapping your baby, suggestions for breast or bottle feeding, and can even cook you a meal or fold a load of laundry. You may just need me to simply hold your baby so you can shower!

3. How do you most often support women during labour?

Often, having a woman present throughout the labour can make a huge difference. As a Doula, my clients have already built a relationship with me and the continuity of care travels through their pregnancy, labour and postnatal period. Often in a hospital setting, there are changing shifts of midwives and obstetricians so the simple continuous presence can really allow the birthing women to feel rested, safe and reassured that she’s not alone and that all is well. I offer massage, acupressure point techniques, words of encouragement and affirmation, aromatherapy and homeopathy – amongst other things. I also support the woman’s partner (if she has one) and give suggestions on things they can do to help, just to keep them involved and included in the birth experience.

4. Which labour coping techniques do you think tend to be the most helpful?

As with anything in life, if you want to succeed then you have to prepare for it. Coping in labour in my opinion means doing the work first. So not just attending your hospital’s antenatal classes, but doing more like a hypnobirthing or SheBirths course and practising the meditations and breathing at home. To me, the key to a successful labour is the preparation before the day itself. Trusting in your body’s ability to birth a baby and knowing deep down that your body and baby know what to do. Surrounding yourself with people that believe in you is key too. And I believe having a Doula is super important.

5. What is your take on the use of pain medication in labour and why?

Pain medication is available to women to use in labour if they want to. When I support a women at her birth, I’m there for her and support her choices unconditionally. Many women who choose a doula either do not want medication, or only want it if they really feel they need it at the time, and so I have a bag of tricks in my tool kit to try to help women avoid pain relief if that’s what they choose. Things like a better position, hot water, meditation and breathing can make a big difference. Fear in my opinion, is one of the biggest causes of pain, along with other potentially unnecessary interventions – like an induction without a medical need. There are different types of pain medication, from gas to morphine to epidurals – all carry risks for both mother and baby, and this is something we discuss during our meetings in pregnancy.

6. What is Ka Huna massage and why do you offer this?

Ka Huna is a Hawaiian style of bodywork that is deeply relaxing on an emotional, physical and spiritual level. We use long flowing strokes from head to toe and back again, over and under the body. It’s the underbody work in particular that makes this massage so unique. For those open to a bigger experience, I offer deeper work, where I use my intuition to find places in the body that hold onto emotional trauma that has manifested itself physically. Not everyone is open to this kind of work though as it can be very confronting and open raw emotion. I do offer Lomi Lomi style and Pregnancy massage too, and also work with a male therapist as some people prefer to receive from one gender practitioner over another.
I didn’t study Ka Huna to become a massage therapist. Going on this journey requires a lot of personal development. If for example I’ve had a bad day and I’m frustrated, then this is what my client on the table will feel. However, if I can clear these negative emotions and give from my heart and a place of love, then not only can I give a great massage, but it puts me in a fantastic emotional head space too. It allows me to renew my energy and I truly get so much out of giving. Plus, seeing people walk out feeling lighter, knowing things have shifted for them is a bonus for me too. Being able to offer my pregnant doula clients Ka Huna is very special.

7. And you are a Pilates instructor too?

Yes I specialise in pregnancy and post natal recovery, offering a mobile service to your home or office, focusing on functional exercises that reduce the risk of injury in everyday life. I love helping new mothers in their home, learn how to apply Pilates exercises back into activities like nursing their baby, unstacking the dishwasher or lifting a heavy pram into their car.

8. If one of our readers is pregnant, has a question or wants to refer a friend, how can we reach you?

I’d love to support them. Please check out my websites http://www.EssentialMe.com.au and http://www.PilatesWithPurpose.com.au and get in touch through there. Thanks so much for choosing to interview me – it’s an honour to help support other local small businesses.

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