Belly bumps & babes: what is a doula? By Kathleen Borrelli/Record Staff February 20, 2020

You were inside meThis spring, the Greene County Library has been offering a series for new or expectant parents of doula-led discussions centering on late pregnancy, birth and postpartum expectations. Led by Cynthia Fargo of Honeybee Doula Services LLC (based in Ruckersville), the remaining sessions will be held on March 7 and April 4 at the library in Stanardsville.
What exactly is a doula? A doula is someone who usually doesn’t have training as an obstetric doctor but does having training to offer guidance and support to pregnant women during labor.
Throughout history, women typically gave birth in familiar surroundings amid family members, friends or a midwife when possible.
“For the last few decades in the United States, it has become customary for women to give birth in hospitals, cared for by strangers,” Fargo notes on her site. “Since modern obstetrical care relies heavily on technology, and can be complex and confusing, parents are once again turning for help to kindly women with experience in helping women give birth.”
When Fargo had her own daughters, she found herself surrounded by women who helped her through the experience.
“I had people around, they could be coming around the house and we’d be talking, I’d be throwing a load of laundry on the table and everybody would just fold,” she said. She said she worries that many families today don’t share that same level of support.
That’s where Honeybee Doula Services comes in.
“There’s been a lot of work done with the elderly and people with dementia and Alzheimer’s especially, because they may not remember the man who’s standing here beside them, but they remember giving birth to their son, and they can tell you that story,” Fargo said. “So, if something particularly beautiful or particularly traumatic happened during a birth, you’re going to remember that until you’re old. You take it with you; it’s yours; you take it with you either way. Why not change that and make it a good story?”
Recent studies have shown that doulas decrease the overall cesarean rate by 28%, the length of labor by 25%, the request for pain medication by 9%, the need for forceps by 40%, and overall negative childbirth experiences by 34%, in addition to helping fathers participate with confidence, increasing success in breast-feeding and providing greater maternal satisfaction. More information on these studies is available at
Fargo believes that sometimes all a woman needs is to know that what she’s going through is normal and that she’s not alone. Doulas offer a wide range of services, from birth doula services to antepartum or postpartum services, childbirth education and sibling support.
As a birth doula, Fargo meets with moms and partners several times leading up to the anticipated delivery date to build a connection and rapport with her clients. They practice comfort techniques and open conversations about expectations and fears to help build self-confidence. She is then “on call” for two weeks before and two weeks after the estimated due date and can be called or texted at any time during that period. When labor starts, she typically comes to the home to help with the move to the hospital and stays with the couple to provide support until they have given birth.
When asked how she got into this line of work, Fargo cites her own experiences as a mom and grandma.
“The mystery and the beauty in nature and our spirits are never closer than it is in birth,” she said. “It all comes together—the emotion, the spirit, new life, that first breath; I’ve got goosebumps all over me. It all comes together right there, and that should be honored and beautiful and it’s the mom’s. When a doctor comes in and says ‘I delivered that baby,’ it really ticks me off, because I saw the momma pushing. She worked for it and she should get the credit. Maybe that’s just me.”
After being blown away by the process during her first daughter’s birth, Fargo went back to her own childbirth teacher in Boston, a registered nurse and certified Lamaze instructor with the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA). Fargo began assisting in classes and reading everything she could on the subject and was soon serving on the board of directors for the Boston Association for Childbirth Education (
When she moved to Charlottesville in 2010, her new home was right across the street from the Pregnancy Center, and Fargo found herself taking counselor training classes and launching the center’s first-ever childbirth education classes in 2017. It was there that she realized that being a doula could become a career.
“Being a doula was a thing; an occupation,” she said. “They called it by a name and they pay you for it. It was a very different model than I had come along with … I have three daughters; I am a woman … look at the world. Women need this. We need to hold each other up.”
In addition to her International Birth Doula training with DONA (Doulas of North America), Fargo currently serves with the Thomas Jefferson Area Board of Health on its Improving Pregnancy Outcomes (IPO) work group.
“I think a lot of the things that influence us, the media mostly and the medical world, [show us] that we’re incapable,” she said. “Being capable in birth helps people to know that they’re capable as parents. When you know you’re capable as a mom; if you’re smart enough and powerful enough to push a baby out and catch it and put it up on your chest and breast-feed it, well you know what? You can figure out Johnny’s sneeze. It just gives you an empowerment that I think is supposed to be there. There’s a confidence born of it, to see that the systems work.”
Fargo has a wealth of stories, from the dad who fainted at the birth of his first child and had to be laid out on a couch to the dad who thought he wanted nothing to do with the birth and would be in the other room working during the labor, but then had to take over once mom needed surgery immediately following delivery.
“I watched that man go from ‘I don’t want to see down that end’ to becoming a dad,” Fargo said. “He was beautiful. He took that little baby girl and he held her and after a while he said, ‘I want to move now how do I do that?’ And I helped him and I showed him. The nurse and I were there with him and it was a little bit dark and she opened her eyes and she looked at him and he talked to her and she stopped fussing and she locked onto him. She already knew him; she knew his voice.
“It was beautiful; I got to see that. Why do I do this? There it is. I see parents born I don’t just see babies born,” she added.
The March 7 session at the library will focus on setting goals and making them a reality, talking about the cascade of interventions and how to work towards a safe, healthy, satisfying, empowering birth, and making sure your team is all on the same page. On April 4, Fargo will discuss planning for postpartum, taking stock of resources before you need them, setting up your team and who will you back you up so you can be ‘down’. Each session covers specific topics from 9:30-10:30 a.m. with open discussion for the attending parents from 10:30-11:30 a.m. To learn more, visit or
The library is at 222 Main St. in Stanardsville.

To see original article run in the Greene County Record/Daily Progress-use the following link:


Why Not Home? The Surprising Birth Choices of Doctors and Nurses

Regardless of your thoughts about birthing at home, this is a great film to give a truly informed prospective. There are SO many facets around birth; so many decisions that are yours to make. This film gives some really thoughtful consideration, through the eyes of several women, about the choices before them. Watching is like walking with them as they sift through the information available and then observing the scene as they live out all the factors that influence their decisions.


A Postpartum Herb Bath for Pampering a New Mom

The postpartum herb bath has become a treasured tradition not only because it is a special way to pamper a new mom—although it does; and not only because it offers warmth and comfort after the hard work of giving birth—although it does that too.

The herbs used to create these bath teas are selected because they are an effective yet gentle way to help soothe tender perineal tissue, heal tears and episiotomies (yes, you CAN take herb baths if you’ve had stitches!), reduce inflammation, and even shrink hemorrhoids after a vaginal birth.

IMG_2125A bath can be taken within just a few hours of a vaginal birth if there are no signs of infection and mom is healthy. A fresh bath can be taken once or twice daily for three to five days following the birth.

Preparing the herbal bath is as easy as making a very large cup of tea! Add 4 quarts of water to a large pot, bring to a boil, remove from heat and drop in the herbal “tea bag”. Let this steep for an hour, or longer for a more concentrated infusion. The muslin bags I use each hold 1 cup of the herbal blend. Let this healing solution cool down, then use 2-3 cups in your bath for a relaxing and renewing soak in the tub.

IMG_2121As nice as a long hot bath might sound, you may not always have the time or energy to go that route. Or perhaps you simply don’t have a tub! No problem! Try a “sitz bath” instead. A sitz bath is a basin that fits perfectly into your toilet seat and lets you get a soothing soak of the important (and bruised) parts after a vaginal birth without having to immerse your whole body.

This solution is also great to use as a perineal rinse. Just fill a plastic squeeze bottle– use warm or at room temperature on your perineal area as you urinate to reduce stinging and inflammation.

This soothing solution can also be used as a compress, (either warm or cold) by soaking a wash cloth and applying to the perineum as needed to help reduce tenderness and swelling.

IMG_2120You can use your herbal infusion to dampen sanitary pads for use as a compress, or make “Padcicles”, which are also convenient and healing. These can be dampened using your peri-bottle and put into the refrigerator or even the freezer for later use. (Some people put them in a bowl in the freezer so as they freeze, they take on the correct “curve”, more or less.)

Most women find herbal baths soothing and a very practical help in recovery after a vaginal birth. So be sure to assemble enough herbs or purchase enough herb bath bags for at least 1-2 baths/day for 5 days, plus some extra for use in a peri-rinse (squeeze bottle).

Note: Sorry – immersion in a bath is not appropriate after a Cesarean – but foot soaks with any relaxing herbs is an absolutely delicious way to relax and treat yourself to something special!)

Herbs used in Postpartum Herb Baths

IMG_2123Comfrey Leaf

Comfrey, also called boneset, bruisewort, and radix consolidate, is a perennial plant that grows up to three feet high. It has bell-shaped flowers that are pink or white. The root and aerial parts are all rich in anti-inflammatory chemicals. The leave and flowers are harvested in the summer and the roots are harvested in the fall.

Comfrey, in oil or ointment form, is useful in treating skin conditions. Acne, psoriasis, and boils are all improved by comfrey. It also reduces scar tissue during healing. It has also been used to treat respiratory problems of pleurisy and bronchial inflammation. Research shows that some Comfrey Leaf and Root components are useful in cell repair and have anti-inflammatory effects.

Red Raspberry Leaf

Cultivation of this herb began in ancient Rome and Greece, the latter of which were possibly inspired by the discovery of the flavorful berries on the sacred Mount Ida in Crete by Hermes and fellow Olympian deities. Popularity of the plant grew and spread, by the 15th century, the fruit of the plant was commonly used to yield dye for use in portrait painting and in illustrating manuscripts.

The leaf is used fresh or dried to prepare tea, served hot or cold. The herb may also be tinctured. The National Plant Data Center of the US Department of Agriculture reports that raspberry leaves were used to treat diarrhea and to aid in childbirth. Raspberry leaf tea is thought to help menstrual cramps. The leaves have also been used as a gargle to treat tonsillitis and mouth inflammations, or as a poultice or irrigation for sores, minor wounds, burns and varicose vein ulcers.

Uva Ursi

Uva ursi is an evergreen shrub in the heather family also known as upland cranberry, barberry, bear’s grape, and bearberry. The latter common names refer to the berries being a preferred snack for bears. While the fruits of the plant provide food for wildlife, the leaves, harvested in autumn, have historically been used to counter infection and inflammation.

Lavender Flowers

Of all the simples in the botanical kingdom, few hold such a place of reverence in the gardens and hearts of herbal enthusiasts as lavender. This is a relaxing floral scent and was an important ingredient used in ancient Roman baths. It not only promotes restfulness, soothing stress and anxiety, but can be mood balancing. It has antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties. It eases aching muscles, reduces inflammation, helping to heal wounds quickly and preventing infection.

Plantain Leaf

Plantain leaf is native to Europe and parts of Asia, but was said to have been introduced to North America when the settlers came from Europe. Its scientific name is Plantago Major, and it likely grows in your yard. Many of its active constituents show antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, as well as being anti-inflammatory and antitoxic. Its natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties make it great for speeding recover of wounds, and for itching or pain associated with skin problems.


Among the Native people of Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, the yarrow stalk was pounded into a pulp to be applied to bruises, sprains, and swelling. An external tincture or poultice will often help with hemorrhoids, rashes and broken skin. Yarrow has wonderful antibacterial and antifungal compounds. Applied topically, it is helpful with skin itching, rash or other issues.


Calendula is an herb that’s native to the Mediterranean region. For centuries it’s been used for healing. The Egyptians were some of the first people to use calendula, but it was also used during the Civil War battlefield in the United States. In modern times, calendula is used primarily for the skin. Calendula is very effective with chapped or cracked skin, inflammation and can provide a welcome cooling relief. This herb is known for its amazing anti-inflammatory properties.

Witch Hazel

Also called hamamelis distillate (from its Latin name hamamelis virginiana), this plant-based substance has been used for centuries both medicinally and in skincare and beauty products. It is a chiefly an external remedy applied to the skin. While many herbs come from far away, the witch hazel tree is native to North America. The Native Americans used witch hazel for various skin problems. This ancient herb used for hemorrhoid relief and treatment is known for its anti-inflammatory and astringent properties.

Epsom Salt

Not really “salt” like you might use at dinner, Epsom salt is actually “magnesium sulfate”. Although I’ve recently heard its efficacy disputed, for many years it has been the “go to” for sore and tired muscles.

The wisdom goes something like this; magnesium being absorbed through the skin as you soak in the bath helps relax skeletal muscles by flushing lactic acid buildup which may occur during physical exertion. Magnesium plays a role in the absorption of vitamins and it also helps regulate muscle and nerve function. All these effects significantly influence muscle soreness and stiffness. Take a bath, then decide.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.