How IVF Works - What Happens Backstage in a Fertility Lab

Have you ever wondered how the magic happens in the lab when using IVF to get pregnant? Chicagoland Doulas hosts embryologist and lab manager in the first of a three-part series: How IVF Works: A break down of embryology, what it entails, and the science behind making babies.

Day-to-Day of a Postpartum Doula

Not quite sure what a Postpartum Doula does on a daily basis? Or how the occupation is different from a nanny? Insight below from Chicagoland Doulas owner Anne Iverson.

Really, Postpartum Doula duties are dependent on the family and how old their children are. With a brand new infant, the biggest necessity is knowing what they, as parents, should be doing. Oh, and also sleep. Sleep is SO important!

Day-to-day_Postpartum Doula.png

Really, “what parents need to be doing” is more about priority and routine than anything else. Parents have great instincts - they know exactly what to do! A Postpartum Doula is there to help them understand that they are already experts in their baby. A doula helps parents ease into the routine and schedule that works best.

Your Partner in Childcare

Questions do arise, like why does my baby have acne weeks after birth? This is common, due to hormonal changes from womb to birth. These issues can cause much anxiety, warranting non-stop googling and unnecessary treks to the doctor’s office. A Postpartum Doula is a wealth of knowledge, there to answer and assess these worries.

“A lot of parents have anxiety because there's so much info out in the world. Not to mention all of the people wanting to give you advice,” Anne says. “Parents have a sense of ‘I need to be doing this a certain way.’” A Postpartum Doula weens clients away from that thought process, asserting that everything doesn't have to be a certain way, but you can definitely make a plan that works for your family. The biggest lesson tolearn is that you are not in charge, the baby is!


General duties of a Postpartum Doula may include:

  • Watching the baby while parents get their adult life together

  • Helping to organize and clean the home while baby has quiet time

  • Make homebase more liveable

  • Talk with clients“Not having an adult to talk to during the day can drive you mad,” Anne says. “All of a sudden your life is about babies and that’s all you have to talk about.”

  • Look for any signs of postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression

  • Refer help on these issues and others that may be beyond their qualification

  • Help the non-birthing parent develop a strong relationship with the kid

  • Help parents achieve goals they have set for themselves

  • Sleep train the infant, which happens at 6-or-7 months. More on this in a later blog post!

To sum it up, Chicagoland Doulas owner Anne says “a typical daily goal as a Postpartum Doula is to take care of the child if the parents need a break, but also have dinner on the table on the table for the parents to enjoy.”

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Placenta 101: FAQ About Placenta Encapsulation

A natural boost for energy, breast milk production, and healing

Thousands of mothers have their placenta encapsulated after giving birth. Consuming the placenta encourages re-balancing of hormones, stimulates milk production for breastfeeding, and assists in regulating moods in the first months after their baby is born. 

We're sure you have many questions! Below is a list of frequent inquiries to help you make an informed decision about placenta encapsulation. All answers prepared by Chicagoland Doulas owner Anne Iverson!

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FAQs about Placenta Encapsulation

Why should I encapsulate my placenta?

No human-made or organic supplement is on par with your placenta when it comes to helping your body transition after having a baby. When professionally encapsulated, your placenta is conveniently handy in the form of capsules (just like the herbal vitamins at the store), and it has a formula specifically beneficial to you. It is full of nutrients that can be absorbed gently during the first months of your postpartum period. Some of these nutrients are:

  • Vitamin B6 – aids in making antibodies
  • Vitamin E – for healing damaged cells
  • Oxytocin hormone – essential for facilitating birth and breastfeeding
  • Stem cells and growth factors
  • Corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) – responsible for decreasing stress levels
  • Cytokines – fibroblasts that trigger cell metabolism, healing, and replacement of
  • damaged cells and tissue

What kind of capsule do you use?

  • We use capsules that are 100% vegan-certified, wheat and gluten-free, kosher, and halal. We also use gluten-free grain spirit to make tinctures.

How long do I take the capsules?

  • You can take the capsules as long as you feel you need them. Placing them in the refrigerator (or freezer for longer periods) will keep them fresh (and away from curious pets and children). Your specialist can also make a tincture for you that you can use for much longer than your capsules might last.

How long does encapsulation take?

  • Encapsulation is a two-day process, and takes approximately 2 hours the first day and two hours the second day. The first day it is prepared and begins the process of dehydration. The second day it is placed into capsules and you and your postpartum placenta specialist will discuss consumption recommendations.

How many capsules should I expect from my placenta?

  • Placentas come in all sizes, so the amount of capsules is different for every person. Your placenta will provide you with the amount your body needs. Typically the amount of capsules a placenta produces is about 100-250.

Is placenta encapsulation sanitary?

  • Yes. All supplies and surfaces are cleaned with an EPA-approved disinfectant and our specialist is specifically trained to work with blood-borne pathogens involved with placenta contact. We perform the entire process in your home, so that you may be sure that the process is safe, transparent, and free from outside contamination.

Does research show increased breast milk supply though placenta ingestions??

  • Studies have shown from 1954 to the present that there are benefits to placenta consumption. They suggest that consuming your placenta can increase milk production, decrease stress levels, strengthen maternal bonding, and increase overall energy. The increasing popularity of encapsulation is expanding this field of research. Recent CDC recommendations and warnings have been based on a separate and very different process than what we use at Chicagoland Doulas, and we take special safety precautions that avoid those risks. 

Will my hospital release my placenta when I am discharged?

  • Each hospital policy is different, and in most cases there are some papers to fill out. Chicago hospitals are getting on board, and you should contact your birth place before your labor to make arrangements for release. It is a good idea to designate someone in your family (other than the birthing parent) to be in charge of transporting the placenta to your home. If the placenta is sent to the lab for study in the case of a birth complication, it will not be released.

How do I store my placenta after birth? 

  • Placentas are typically placed by hospital staff in a plastic bag inside a plastic container, and an additional plastic bag may be placed around the container itself. (If the placenta needs to leave the room at any point, make sure it is labeled well and that the staff knows not to add any chemicals to it and to refrigerate it). As soon as possible--absolutely within 3-4 hours-- put this container in a cooler with ice so that it can remain cool until you are able to refrigerate it at home (within 10 hours). Encapsulation should ideally occur within 1-3 days, but if that is not possible, place the placenta in the freezer. The placenta should not remain in the fridge for more than 3-4 days.

How long can my placenta stay frozen? 

  • Your placenta can stay frozen for up to a year and still have benefits for you. However, we believe encapsulating the placenta “sooner the better” aids in postpartum transition most effectively.

Have a question we didn't cover? Feel free to reach out personally via email or social media!

Instagram: @chicagolanddoulas | Facebook: Chicagoland Doulas | Pinterest: ChiDoulas | 712-540-5917

Precious Cargo: Keeping Baby Safe in Summer Heat

Summer is the most magical time of year, and can also be the most dangerous. Sun burns, sun rashes, sun fever - for bringing us so much joy, the sun can sure be a jerk. Here are some ways to ensure your tiny treasures don’t get burnt, literally or figuratively, by mr. sunshine.

Keep the Babes Safe From Sun

Slather that little toosh in high factor sunscreen! Chicagoland Doulas supports some great, clean brands of ray defenders made specifically for babies:

Acure Organics Baby Sunscreen  (Photo: Thrive Market)

Acure Organics Baby Sunscreen (Photo: Thrive Market)

Apply lotion more liberally if your baby is in and out of the water! When not in the water, make sure your baby is completely covered. Talking about body, arms, and legs with clothing, sun hat on head. We like these adorable sun hats:

Keep 'Em Comfy & Cool

Playing in a kiddie pool is a good way of keeping babies cool during a summer day. Keep the pool in the shade during hot weather and, of course, watched the little ones carefully at all times.

A cool bath before bed is great for keeping babies cool through the night. Keep blinds or curtains closed in the nursery during the day. Use a fan to circulate the air in the room. Be careful not to point the fan directly at the baby!

Swimways Float Activity Center  (Photo:  Swimways )

Swimways Float Activity Center (Photo: Swimways)

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Like adults, babies need to drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. For babies, hydration means to eight pale wet diapers a day. Plan for extra dipeys on super hot days (waterproof for pool days)!

If you’re breastfeeding, you don’t need to double up with water, they just may want to breastfeed more often. If you’re bottle feeding, as well as their usual milk feeds, you should give your baby cooled boiled water throughout the day.

Babyganics Swim pants  (Photo: Target)

Babyganics Swim pants (Photo: Target)

Say "No!" to Heatstroke

Babies are tiny and the sun is h-o-t HOT. Keep the little ones in cool, shady spot on hot days. If they have to be outside, cover their strollers with a damp towel and cover them with cool clothing. As you know, babies are not able to tell you that they are thirsty. Give them lots to drink in this summer weather! If babies begin to become more agitated, this could be a warning sign that they are becoming uncomfortably warm.

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What is the difference between a doula, a nanny, and a babysitter?

How do I know if I need a postpartum doula, a nanny, or a babysitter? We get this question all the time. Let’s break it down.


Think of it this way. The babysitter is there for a short period of time, for a very specific reason - keep the children alive, perhaps feed them a simple meal, and follow the schedule for the time they are there. Babysitters are great for occasional times that parents need to be out of the house without the kids. Who doesn’t love a solid babysitter?


A nanny knows the rhythms of the day and takes care of the kids while the parents take care of other needs, like providing for the family or buying groceries. A nanny’s primary responsibility is childcare, and they may also do daily maintenance tasks so the house isn’t a wreck when parents get home. Generally, nannies spend most of their time with only the kids and are focused on one family’s preferences and habits. A smart person once said that a nanny naturally develops a connection with the children, but often miss out on a deeper connection to the parents, who could use it just as much.

There is also a category called “night nanny” or “night nurse.” There is no credential or training necessary to use these titles, and the sole duty of the night nanny or night nurse is to stay in the room with the baby and soothe or feed them through the night.


  • Support a broad range of families, which allows them to know all the ins and outs of the world of baby stuff. There are a lot of tips, tools, toys, and taboos to filter through, and a doula can give you the low-down on most of these.
  • Set parents up with essential building blocks of baby care: swaddling, feeding, sleep strategies, how to give the baby a bath, how to get as much sleep as possible, and what is in the range of “normal” and when to call the pediatrician or help for parents.
  • Help parents learn to care for a newborn with confidence and are up to date on all AAP and ACOG safety guidelines. Chicagoland Doulas, LLC only has postpartum doulas that are also expertly trained Infant Care Specialists - our clients deserve the best!
  • Help the household run - day or night. Light housework goes a long way, and can ease the “have to” parts of parenting so you can engage in more of the “get to” parts.
  • Care for the baby overnight so that parents can be fully rested by day. If the baby is breastfed, the doula can even bring the baby to the parents to feed, and bring them back to the nursery so sleep is as uninterrupted as possible. Overnight doulas are great at following the family’s plan for consistency with sleep shaping and making good nighttime habits.
  • Are there for emotional support. This one is key. When your whole life changes and you have a new identity as a parent (or your heart is stretching to fit another child into it), it can be overwhelming at times. Having someone there to talk through all these complicated feelings with who would never judge you can make a huge difference. Heck, even having someone there who knows what you went through to bring a life into the world and all the details of recovery is huge. Whether it’s the first couple of weeks or several months after your baby is born, sometimes all you need is to sit and talk with someone on your own couch who gets your family and what you’re going through.
  • Last on this list, but not least, postpartum doulas also make great home cooks! For example, they can get groceries, make dinner for the family, and make a week’s worth of individual freezer meals all while parents work, sleep, or cuddle with the baby. Magic? Yes. Reality? Yes!

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The Great Debate: Squats vs. Kegels

There is not one exercise that is going to be THE exercise that you need to do, it’s about how you carry your body most of the time.  Exercise does not replace movement.
— Mama Aligned

Recently, Kegels versus squats has been a hot topic in the pelvic exercise realm (it's a thing). Some have even declared squatting as the “new Kegel.” Women everywhere are changing their prenatal exercise routine due to this hypotheses. Well, we at Chicagoland Doulas are here to put in our two cents and let you know: it’s actually a mixture of both that works. Your best bet: get a pelvic floor evaluation from an expert in person, and develop a strategy to fit your specific body.

Whether a woman should practice Kegel or squat is not only preference, but it depends on her pelvic floor strength, muscular control, & end goal. Both exercises are part of a movement program in which we use our body to increase its natural functionality. Both are exceptional in different scenarios for different women, and doing both at the same time only increases your benefits!


What is a Kegel?: A Kegel is the act of tightening and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles. The contraction is held for 10 seconds, relaxed for 10 seconds, and repeated four or five times. Hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.

Who needs them? Those who suffer from urinary incontinence, stress or urge related, and those with pelvic floor weakness after childbirth. It can be hard to know if incontinence is due to pelvic floor weakness or tightness - get evaluated before starting Kegels. Doing any repetitive exercise too much will make muscles tighter, not more elastic. Elasticity is key!

When you need them most: After labor or if suffering from urinary incontinence due to some kinds of pelvic floor weakness


What is a Squat? A squat is the repeated motion lowering your lower body with your feet in a wide sumo squat position. Hold this position for 10 seconds and return to standing. Repeat 5 times. This motion activates your pelvic floor and core muscles while strengthening the booty. The most important part of the squat is alignment - untuck your “tail” and aim for vertical positioning of your shins. Try to relax your bottom while you are deep in the squat.

Who needs them?  When pregnant, squats are useful in strengthening muscles for an easier birth. Also useful during some parts of labor!

When you need them most: Before or during early labor. Short on time? Buy a Squatty Potty and do your business while adding beneficial structure to your alignment!

Really, in cases like this, we always suggest doing what is best for you - and please, talk to a physical therapist or pelvic floor expert before engaging in a routine. If you ever have any questions, we’re here to help. We know a lot of great experts, and we’re happy to put you in touch!

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They don't come with a user manual, but...

We at Chicagoland Doulas are big readers! When it comes to literature on pregnancy and parenting, it’s tough to know what is relaying quality information. We created this short list of our current favorites mixed with client suggestions. Curl up with a nice hot cup of joe and enjoy (because it’s so easy right?)!

  1. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne & Lisa M. Ross

  2. The Wonder Weeks: How to Stimulate Your Baby's Mental Development and Help Him Turn His 10 Predictable, Great, Fussy Phases into Magical Leaps Forward by Frans X Pooji

  3. No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegle (A great resource for the older toddler years)

Reading this while balancing babies? We constantly update our social media and blog. Stay in touch!


Instagram: @chicagolanddoulas | Facebook: Chicagoland Doulas | Pinterest: ChiDoulas | 712-540-5917