Down the Canal – A New Board Game All About Birth!

Down the Canal – A New Board Game all about Birth!

By Betsy Schwartz

The Birth of an Idea

Since the early 1990’s, when I started as a postpartum doula, I have been active in many birth organizations, and I have trained hundreds of postpartum doulas.  Numerous discussions with colleagues have centered on how and when to share the best available evidence and resources about birth with expectant parents, or even with young women and men before they are pregnant.

In today’s fast-paced society, many couples are choosing not to attend childbirth classes, or they are attending crash courses and searching on Facebook or somewhere else online for answers to their myriad of questions. In doing this, they are not always finding the best, most reliable sources for the information they seek.

Betsy came up with the idea for the game in 2013.

Betsy came up with the idea for the game in 2013.

I created Down the Canal-The Game of Birth to meet the demand for accurate information.  I knew there were plenty of great books and DVDs available, and I thought there may be another way to present the information.

In the early stages of development, there were several things that became clear. This game would be a tool that could provide the evidence, while focusing on the differences between the medical and midwifery models of care. This game would also create connection and fun.

It developed over the course of two years, finally coming to life as a board game with 240 questions on six topics to test your knowledge on pregnancy through the postpartum period of birth. 

Playing Down the Canal

Down the Canal is a board game, so it requires people to sit face to face with others and play and learn together. This creates connection, fun competition and great discussion.  The game encourages the learner to want to know more, and to further explore about birth. The game is a way to easily share reliable information, in a short time frame.

This game is not only for pregnant couples, but also for those thinking about pregnancy or wanting to know more about birth. It can be played in a classroom, a living room, a waiting room, or even at a baby shower. Second time moms and dads can benefit greatly from playing Down the Canal because every birth is different, and there is always something new to learn. In fact, the game is a great way to involve the guys in the learning process. Men love the competition and feel proud when they answer questions correctly!

Play begins in either ovary, proceeds through the fallopian tube, and finally through the multi-colored, heart-shaped umbilical cord. Players pick from the deck that matches the color on the path where their game piece is. The first deck is comprised of conception and pregnancy questions.  

Throughout the game path there are leaky boobs (breastfeeding questions) and brains (tests and procedures questions). These force the player to pick from those decks no matter which part of the path their game piece is on. You may miss a turn due to nausea, or you might move forward when you are pushing.  There are many opportunities to roll again. You can send another player backwards if you land on them. There is even a doula card that can be used for a “free” answer when you’re stumped on a question.

Choosing a care provider is the first most critical decision parents make. The midwifery model of care and the medical model are highlighted on the board.  There are huge differences in these approaches to birth, and I encourage anyone who is about to embark on the pregnancy and birth journey to learn about these approaches to care.  Generally, the midwifery model of care views birth as normal, and the medical model sees birth as an event that needs to be managed.

The B.R.A.I.N.S. model of decision-making is prominently displayed on the board, as well. This encourages people to ask themselves what the benefits and risks are of each test and procedure, and to explore alternatives if available. This model also encourages people to listen to their own gut feelings, determine if the test or procedure is necessary and if it will lead to a satisfactory outcome.

Mission Transformation

The birth journey begins long before labor. When couples are informed of their options, and the benefits and risks of tests and procedures, they are choosing from a place of knowledge.

My ultimate goal in sharing this game is transforming the culture of birth.  It is certainly a monumental task, but I truly believe through education, transformation is possible.

Childbirth educators, doulas, and other birth professionals are in a unique position to influence the course of action couples choose.  The game is one vehicle that could shift commonly held beliefs about birth, which will then translate into different choices.

So far the game is a big hit with childbirth educators, doulas, doula trainers, and, of course, pregnant couples.  When learning is fun it doesn’t feel like learning. And information, especially about a new subject, is better retained when having fun. It is a win-win! 

If you would like more information about me, or the game, please visit my website, www.DownTheCanal.com, and my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/downthecanal. I can be reached at betsy@downthecanal.com.  Information about doula training can be found at www.tenthmonth.com. And online learning opportunities can be found at www.birthelearning.com

Betsy Schwartz is a pioneer and a visionary. She established Tenth Month Doula Services in 1994, the first of its kind in South Florida. Her most recent accomplishment is the creation of Down the Canal – The Game of Birth TM. Betsy continues to pioneer in Citrus County Florida where she is actively involved in community collaboration to improve birth outcomes. She also serves on the board of the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition.  Betsy holds a master’s degree in management of human services and is a certified postpartum doula, and postpartum doula trainer. She is also a Reiki 3 practitioner and a yoga enthusiast.