By Eleanor Ruffes

Strong. Confident. Maternal. Calm. Secure. Peaceful. Optimistic.

These are the words that come to mind when you interact with Kelly Googe, a longtime Mandarin resident and accomplished childbirth educator, lactation consultant and birth doula.

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Googe has been a childbirth educator for more than 20 years, a full-time doula and lactation consultant for 12, and is a former biology teacher. But her wisdom extends beyond knowledge — drawing from intuition and experience. Googe has attended hundreds and hundreds of childbirths.

First thing’s first: What is a birth doula? The word doula means “woman servant.” A doula is a woman who advocates for, educates and supports women during pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period. Studies show that women who receive continuous support are more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to have any pain medication, epidurals, negative feelings about childbirth, vacuum or forceps-assisted births and C-sections. In addition, their labors are shorter by about 40 minutes and their babies are less likely to have low Apgar scores at birth.

To clear up any misconceptions, a doula is not a midwife or labor and delivery nurse. A doula is an experienced, privately hired birth attendant. Through prenatal visits, discussion and education, a doula builds a relationship with her client and learns about her birth preferences. During labor and delivery, a doula works alongside medical staff and family members to help the client achieve her ideal birth.

“We are not part of the medical staff of the hospital or birth center. We don’t perform medical examinations or provide medical care,” Googe said.

A doula provides physical support during the prenatal and labor phases. Some examples include the use of the Rebozo method, which is a natural method that utilizes a long scarf to ideally position a baby for delivery. Massage and physical positioning are also important aspects of doula support.

Emotionally, doulas augment the mother’s birth team.

“The husband or partner knows the laboring woman in ways that I will never know, but I know things about labor that they don’t know. So together we comprise her birth team. A doula is never a replacement for someone close to the mother,” said Googe.

In the hospital, a doula helps her client interpret medical information so she can make a well-informed decision. Since there is no shift change, a doula stays with a client through it all. With a doula at her side, the laboring mother can focus on having her baby instead of procedural nuances.

For a healthy pregnancy and labor, Googe advises pregnant mothers to “eat healthy foods and stay active. Regular exercise is paramount. Always listen to your body, too. Activities like regular walking, yoga and swimming, for example, are ideal. For labor, no matter what, your recovery is dependent on how healthy you were during your labor.”

Aside from regular exercise, Googe recommends consistent chiropractic care, massage and acupuncture by professionals certified in prenatal technique. Of course, always check with your doctor or midwife to ensure the safety of these measures for your particular situation.

During labor, Googe recommends mothers stay hydrated while at home, eat to toleration, be calm, rest when able and keep moving during the active part of labor.

Googe says Mandarin is a fantastic place to be a pregnant woman. Gorgeous parks and walkable neighborhoods abound. The area has excellent local physicians and local hospital, Baptist Medical Center South. Mandarin is also home to excellent prenatal chiropractic and massage providers.

Googe belongs to a co-op called North Florida Doulas. a group of birth professionals who provide education, fitness and comfort measures for pre- and post-natal mothers. Available services include yoga, birth ball fitness, childbirth education, breastfeeding education, placenta encapsulation, Hypnobirthing, Hypnobabies and more. Visit North Florida Doulas on Facebook or Kelly Googe’s website, to learn more.  


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Photo courtesy Kelly Googe

Kelly Googe


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