For ’09 Triton Central graduate Lauren Crum, pregnancy and childbirth is “fascinating.”
The Indiana University biology major found her passion in Women’s Health after trying other things that didn’t work.
“I started to look into areas I felt called to and the doula certification program was one where I could be in the delivery room and I didn’t have to do another four years of schooling to be in there, and I built on that from there,” Crum said.
A doula is a woman trained to give guidance and support to a pregnant woman during labor and after her baby is born.
Crum started Guided Connections a year and a half ago.
“I did my Integrative Health Practitioner certification, so really helping women and people in general heal from the root cause,” she said. “From there, I started building this company around those concepts of wanting to help women from preconception to postpartum.”
To Crum, what’s fascinating about pregnancy and childbirth is the rise in Caesarean section and infertility rates.
“It really blew my mind taking a look at how much all the chemicals in our food we’re eating and the stress levels are impacting our bodies, and that’s not really being discussed mainstream,” she said. “I wanted to give people an opportunity to take a different route to see if they can have the outcomes they are looking for.”
Guided Connections offers a fertility program, a prenatal program and a labor and postpartum program.
Crum’s fertility program focuses on rebalancing hormones and resetting the nervous system.
“We focus more on what they’re eating, physically what they’re doing with exercise, and getting the body back in balance to conceive and carry,” Crum said. “With typical fertility treatments, even if you can conceive, it’s not guaranteed you’re going to carry that pregnancy. There’s a 30 percent chance that it works, and that’s a lot of money to shell out time and time again. Somewhere, there is something that is off, and I wanted to provide a different area that looks at route causes of infertility rather than treating the symptoms.”
Once a client is pregnant, Crum offers two prenatal visits where they discuss a birth plan.
“We talk about their fears, their concerns, what type of deliveries they are looking for, whether that’s medicated, unmedicated, home birth, hospital birth, whatever their preferences are, and then we work through a birth plan that really outlines what their choices are,” Crum said.
Crum said over the last few years women have realized that they have the right make decisions when it comes to their health and bodies, and they don’t always have to listen to what medical professionals are pushing. Guided Connections supports women advocating for themselves by educating them on what their birth choices are.
“We cover everything from if you have to have an IV when you get in there, to when medications to progress labor become necessary, and what your choices are and what the questions are that you can ask to navigate it from a place of power rather than a place of fear,” Crum said.
These prenatal visits also focus on exercises that help the body prepare for labor and delivery. The exercises focus on opening up the pelvis and relaxing muscles so labor goes smoother.
During labor, Guided Connections provides emotional and physical support.
“We play a completely different role than the nurses and doctors,” Crum said. “My goal is to work with the women’s body to help the labor progress. We hear a lot of times there was a stall in the labor, and it’s not progressing so doctors will start looking at C-sections and different drugs to keep the labor going. Those have a time and place, of course, but there are so many other positions and different techniques that we [doulas] are trained to do to help labor keep moving and prevent major interventions.”
A rise in Caesareans
A Caesarean section or C-section is a major surgery that has a long recovery time. Typically, medical professionals and doulas want to avoid C-sections because it is a major surgery, but over the last few years there has been a rise in the number of these procedures.
Crum thinks this happens because people involved in the process of giving birth make fear-based decisions.
When a baby is in distress, their heart monitor will reflect “D cells” or decelerations in heart rate.
A baby’s heart rate is going to fluctuate throughout the birth process, Crum said, so sometimes a sudden decision is made at the first sight of D cells, resulting in a C-section or an influx in medication that may not really be necessary.
“Even the CDC is saying the C-section rates are too high, so if the rates are too high then what are we doing to avoid those situations?” Crum said. A 2020 CDC report showed that about one out of every three deliveries at the time (31.7 percent) are by C-section.
“And then from a timing standpoint, labor takes a while,” Crum said, “But we are not in a society that appreciates the unfolding of things naturally, so that’s when we start seeing Pitocin … being pushed on a lot of mothers , which manually forces the uterus to start contracting.”
Pitocin is a synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin.
Crum said this medication actually ramps up the pain of labor because the uterus starts contracting before the brain realizes it’s in labor.
“When your brain kicks in to being in labor, it can double up on it, and all the stress from those drugs can affect the baby’s heart rate, which can put the baby in distress, and lead to Caesarean,” she said.
This fear-based mindset prevents a lot of women from giving birth naturally, Crum said.
“Everything is based around fear and what can go wrong versus what could go right,” she said.
“It seems to me like when a woman gets pregnant, she has to wait to announce it because there’s a chance that she could lose the baby so the fear already starts the minute conception happens,” she said. “Then, they’ve heard all these horror stories about labor, how painful it is, and how they can’t do it natural. All my clients have been told by their family and friends they can’t do it natural.”
But women can give birth naturally. They were doing it for thousands of years before hospitals existed. And for Crum, the majority of her client’s birth plans have gone according to plan.
After the baby is born, Guided Connections follows up by examining the lactation process and “unpacking the birth.” This usually occurs within the week after the baby is born at the new mother’s home.
“We experience the biggest hormone drop ever after pregnancy, so we make sure [new moms] feel supported in that,” Crum said. “And also we unpack the birth too. That’s not something that always gets talked about — walking through what happened and how they felt about it and working through the emotional aspect of bringing a life into this world.”
What Crum charges for her services as a doula include the prenatal visits, her support for the duration of the labor, and the postpartum visits.
More information about Guided Connections and Crum’s fertility and childbirth services are available on the company’s website, www.theguidedconnections.com.
“Doulas are for everyone,” Crum said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s your first child, second child, or third, we still play a role no matter what number child it is.”