Even with the guidance of a midwife or OB/GYN, you may feel as though you could benefit from a little additional support during your pregnancy. Maternity bras and Spanx aside – we’re talking about your emotional needs during this important and special time. Research has shown that the presence of a doula can decrease the length of labor and the use of medications in labor, as well as episiotomy and Caesarean section rates.
The word doula itself is of Greek origin, meaning “a woman who serves.” A labor doula provides hands-on, continuous support throughout labor and delivery and sometimes postpartum as well. This can be especially helpful, for example, for women who live far away from family or close friends. Also, due to the way our care system is set up, many obstetricians and some midwives cannot be with a woman throughout her labor. The care provider usually shows up to catch the baby at the end, but may not be available for consistent reassurance and support.
The job description for a doula can involve a range of duties:
- Helping with a wide range of coping techniques from massage to positions to breathing
- Giving guidance to a partner so he or she can be supportive in the best possible ways
- Offering calm and consistent reassurance throughout
- Communicating with a health care provider and hospital staff
- Assisting in beginning breastfeeding
- Providing information about infant nutrition and feeding
Doula Do’s and Don’ts
- Do check with your hospital about how many people are allowed with you during labor. If you plan to have your partner or family members present, there may not be room for your doula.
- Don’t think that giving birth in a hospital is your only option. Many doulas can be found at birthing centers, which are usually staffed by midwives and are meant to create a more comfortable, home-like environment for your birth.
- Don’t assume a doula will be expensive. Some hospitals have volunteer doulas on call that can be present during labor. These women can be excellent assistance for low-income mothers with less access to birth resources and information.
- Do your research if you choose to hire a private doula. The price of a doula can range from a few hundred dollars up to a thousand dollars or more, with prices tending to be higher in large cities. Call a few doulas in your area to inquire about their rates.
- Don’t hire a doula without asking questions! It’s important that you have a good idea of your doula’s certifications, training and overall experience.
The Doula Interview
Like with any professional situation, it’s a good idea to interview a number of doulas before settling on one. Here are some questions you can ask a potential doula:
- How much training have you had? Are you certified? By which organization? There isn’t one standard doula certification, but Doulas of North America (DONA) is a popular and reputable organization for training and certification.
- Have you had a baby yourself? What childbirth method did you use?
- What is your philosophy regarding birth and supporting women and their partners during labor?
- What is your fee, and what does it include? Do you have a refund policy?
- If we have questions before the birth, may we call and discuss it with you?
- Do you plan on meeting before the birth to discuss plans for labor and the role you will play during this time?
- Do you work with other doulas so that they can come into labor in the event that you aren’t available? Would we be able to meet some of them?
Sometimes it just comes down to compatibility. Take note of how knowledgeable your candidates are. Are they as excited? Kind? Are they good listeners? Go with your gut – if you’re not feeling one doula, move on and look for one that fits best with your needs and goals.