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Common Myths about Doulas

In labor with my second child, with my doula Karen

The first time I heard the word doula I had no idea what it even meant. After more research I was intrigued, and ended up being trained as a doula through a local agency in my area.

During that time, especially being so young, I ran into a lot of myths and rumors about what a doula actually was.  The longer I’ve worked in the birth community the more I’ve learned just how many mainstream forums carry horrible inaccuracies about doulas.

I wanted to write something to kind of set the record straight and let women, especially pregnant women, or women who will some day plan to have a child of their own what is real, and what is a big ol’ myth.

Myth: A doula shows up only for the birth, and leaves immediately after

While I am sure there may be some extremely crappy doulas out there that may practice this way, that is not the routine of a doula. The relationship a doula builds with a mother and her family starts during pregnancy, and expands to labor and postpartum care. When labor begins your doula will accompany you from start to finish, and even in the hours after no matter what setting you have chosen for your birth. After your baby is born you should expect your doula to check in on you a couple times to see how you are adjusting to your new life and roles.

Myth: Doulas have negative opinions on birthing in the hospital

Like above, I am sure there are some doulas out there who may have a negative opinion of hospital birth, the majority do not. In fact most doulas attend births in the hospital. Most doulas have a great amount of respect for the technology we have when it comes to life saving situations. But do not believe routine intervention should be used for low risk births with no complications.

Myth: Doulas are only for crazy hippies

Contrary to popular belief, all doulas are not going to show up with bongos and magical healing crystals she picked up at Spencer Pratt’s bankruptcy tag sale. Most doulas may be into natural healing, or holistic health care, but are not going to be pushy if this is something you do not want to choose for your own birth.

Myth: Doulas take over the role a partner/husband have during labor

This is probably the most common myth I hear. A doula’s role in labor is to not only be of help to the mother and her partner, but to work on enhancing the relationship the couple has with the hospital staff.  She will advocate for the mother and function as a liason between the couple and hospital staff such as residents and nurses. During labor mom, and dad are often too preoccupied to deal with lots of details– this is one reason a doula comes in handy.

As Penny Simkin says:

“While a doula probably knows more than then partner about birth, hospitals and maternity care, the partner knows more about the woman and her personality, likes and dislikes, and needs. Moreover, he or she loves the woman more than anyone else there.”

Myth: Doulas take the place of Midwives or OB/GYN’s

This is another huge myth I constantly hear. Many people mistakenly think that a doula takes the place of a midwife, or medical professional who handles prenatal care and delivery. Or that a doula and  midwife are interchangeable. While some doulas may carry other certifications in the medical field they are not midwives or doctors and should not be treated as such. They are there to provide labor support and guidance, not medical care.

Myth: All doulas are the same

No way!  Some say if you have met one doula, you have met them all. That could not be further from the truth!  Every doula I have met over the years–and due to my line of work in the birth community I’ve met many– are has her own personality, her own style. This is the number one reason why it is so important to interview doulas before birth. Finding the best match for you is key.  Don’t just pick a doula because Mary your best friend highly suggested her. Recommendations are helpful, but getting a sense of you how you communicate with her is also really important.

Myth: Doulas cost too much!

Doulas are not only for the rich, or for those with kick ass health insurance that will cover doula care. Doulas are for all women. In some areas they can range up to about $600 for a birth, but many doulas are willing to work on a sliding scale, or even for free while working on their certification. Many hospitals across the country have programs with doulas on staff that can cost as low as $100 for an entire birth.

Myth: If you have a doula, you cannot have an epidural or pain relief

While women who make the choice to have a doula do not typically wish to have medical pain relief during labor, doulas are not going to judge your choices for what you want during your birth. They are there to support your labor and birth, not dictate what they think you should be doing. Heck, I had a doula with my second birth and after laboring for nearly a day opted for an epidural for some sleep. There is nothing wrong with it as long as you are educated on your choices!

There are so many more myths I could tackle… but I would be here all day long.
What are some of the most common myths you have heard about doulas?

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