What is a doula?
The primary role of a doula is to provide: physical support, emotional support, partner support and evidence-based information/advocacy. More specifically, the doula understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor. With this, they assist the woman in creating their plan for birth and carrying it out. When labor starts, a doula is a continuous support person, staying with the woman throughout labor. And finally, a doula provides this support with an objective viewpoint, remaining supportive without bias.
What does a doula NOT do?
A doula does not do clinical tasks (vaginal exams, fetal heart monitoring, blood pressure checks, etc) or give medical advice. A doula should also remain neutral to your preferences, not pressuring you to make certain choices. The doula will not speak to the medical staff on your behalf, but will advise you to be your own advocate. A doula also provides continuous labor support so they will not change shifts (although they may call in a back-up for a longer birth).
I took a Childbirth Education class. Why do I need a doula too?
In a childbirth education class, you learn a lot of information. But it’s A LOT of information! Having a doula is like having a childbirth class in your back pocket. She’s there to remind you of what you learned and what to do next, ensuring you put your childbirth education into practice.
What are the benefits of having a doula?
A 2012 Cochrane review found laboring mothers experienced the following with the presence of a doula:
Reduced use of pitocin
Decreased rate of interventions during labor
Less need for pain medication and less requests for epidural
Higher satisfaction with birth outcomes
Much lower c-section rate
Higher chance of a spontaneous vaginal birth
Will a doula replace my partner?
Absolutely not! In fact, having a doula often enhances the partner’s role in the birth support team. A doula can take care of chores on the periphery (getting water for the mom, loading bags in the car, getting snacks, etc) so the partner can focus solely on supporting the birthing woman. A doula can also guide the partner in how to best comfort the woman, if some direction is needed.
Do you support clients that get an epidural?
Yes. An epidural in birth is a great tool when used correctly. You will need support in the time leading up to an epidural. A doula can help you manage the contractions until that time comes. Also, once an epidural is in place the woman still needs support; there are position changes that are beneficial, she will need guidance in the pushing phase with an epidural, and postpartum support is still needed.
When should I hire a doula?
The short answer is: any time! I’ve had moms contact me in the sixth week of pregnancy and in the 38th week of pregnancy. The optimal time to contact a doula is about halfway through pregnancy. This gives ample time to research doulas in the area, set up and conduct interviews, and make a decision without pressure. It also allows for time to schedule your prenatal visits before you are in your 37th week. Finally, many doulas are booked 2-3 months out, so you may have a greater selection of doulas if you hire early.
What if I need a cesarean birth?
A doula is still beneficial in a cesarean birth. Often times, the “footprint” of support still looks the same. We will have a prenatal discussion on what to expect. I’ll meet you at the hospital at your appointment time. I’ll support you with relaxation techniques, massage, words of affirmation, etc. I also support the partner in letting them know what to expect and some tips on how they can help the birthing woman. After the birth, the mom sometimes needs some time to recover from the procedure. I stay until she’s ready to breastfeed (if desired) and I am present until she is fully recovered and settled into postpartum.
When will you arrive to support my labor?
I’ll arrive whenever you need me. This looks different for every birth. Often times, it’s when the mom can no longer continue her day through contractions. She may be at a point where she needs to stop what she’s doing, focus on her breath, and can’t answer questions during contractions. However, some moms need me sooner and others meet me at the hospital.
How do I choose a doula that’s best for me?
Many doulas have similar background and training. Some do have more experience, have attended a wider variety of births, or have an area in which they specialize. Most importantly, however, is that the doula is someone you are comfortable with. This person will be present during an intimate, vulnerable time in your life. It is not always best to choose the most experienced/educated doula, but the one who makes you feel most at ease.
I’m having a homebirth. Do I still need a doula?
Absolutely. Your doula will often arrive before the midwife, supporting you until the midwife arrives later in active labor. Additionally, the midwife’s main focus is the physiological aspect of labor; the doula concentrates mostly on the mother’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
How much does a doula cost?
You’ll find doulas who provide services from $200-$2000. The cost depends mostly on the doula’s experience, training, other services offered, and area which they serve. I encourage you to hold interviews with a wide variety of doulas and discuss payment options at that time.