What Is A Doula And Should You Hire One For Your Baby'S Birth?
Have you been planning out every last detail of your birth, from filming your birth to labor positions to managing labor pain? Here’s one more thing you may want to consider: whether you want to hire a doula, a trained labor companion. A growing number of moms are looking to reduce medical intervention during birth — and while many hospitals and doctors are letting the process happen naturally (instead of inducing labor or using other medical means to make the process go faster), a doula is extra insurance that you get the birth experience you want. Here’s why you may want to consider working with a doula and how to hire one.
What does a doula do?
A doula’s duty is to provide a continuous source of comfort, encouragement and support (both emotional and physical) during labor. Unlike an OB/GYN or midwife, a doula does not have medical training — she's there to serve as a soothing voice of experience, help with relaxation techniques and breathing exercises, offer advice on labor positions and more. A doula may also act as a mediator and an advocate who's there to run interference with hospital personnel, as well as translate medical terms and explain procedures.
Before your due date, your doula will educate you about the process of labor and delivery, with the goal of making it less scary and more comfortable so you’re empowered to take a more active role in your birth. A doula can offer a treasure trove of non-medical pain-management techniques including massage, reflexology, aromatherapy, music and mantras; he or she will try different combinations to find the right solution for you.
One thing a doula doesn't do: relegate your partner to third-wheel status. A good doula will never push a co-parent aside, and will simply enhance your coach's support — and even help him or her relax, which in turn will help you relax.
What training do doulas have?
Doulas don't need to be certified, but many are. The largest and best-known certification program is provided by DONA International. DONA-approved workshops provide a minimum of 16 hours of instruction time, with an emphasis on practical hands-on techniques, the history of birth, benefits of doula support and the significance of doula support for families.
What are the benefits of having a doula?
A doula offers support during the entire length of labor and beyond (doctors or midwives may change shifts, and some may only be present during the final stages of birth). Doulas, however, typically meet with you before the birth, will stay with you during the entire labor and delivery process, and will often make one or two post-labor follow-up visits to check on your breastfeeding progress and make sure baby is latching on correctly.
Studies have shown that doulas can help cut back on time spent in labor, reduce a mom’s anxiety, lower the rate lower the rate of medical interventions (including C-sections) and improve mother-baby bonding post-birth. Their assistance has even been shown to improve your odds of breastfeeding success, since many doulas are also lactation consultants.
A doula may be especially helpful for a mom-to-be who's on her own, either by choice or because her partner can't be present (for reasons such as military deployment).
How does the doula process work?
Doulas usually meet with moms-to-be around your seventh month to discuss a birth plan — including whether you want a drug-free birth and what pain management techniques would work best for you. It’s best to start looking around month four or five, so you have enough time to interview candidates and make sure your choice is available during your estimated delivery day.
During delivery, a doula will be there to help you manage pain, ease stress and comfort you when you need it most. Many OB/GYNs are comfortable working with doulas in the delivery room because they realize the important tasks they perform: Roles are clearly spelled out, with the doula offering moral support for mom, and the OB/GYN acting as the medical professional in charge of delivering baby. It’s always good to give your OB/GYN a head’s up that you’ll have a doula present at birth. If your OB/GYN doesn’t seem in favor of a doula, ask why. Make sure you and your OB/GYN are on the same page in terms of support for you and your baby.
Is a doula for me?
Your personality will ultimately decide if a doula is right for you. If you’re hoping for a “natural” birth (without an epidural or other pain medication), a doula might be your best bet. And if you have your heart set on a specific birth plan, a doula can be a good option because she’ll be your advocate if you're having a hard time fighting for yourself. However, if you’re not the personality that wants someone cheering you on every step of the way — and you have a great relationship with your OB/GYN and are confident in her choices thus far — you may not want or need a doula. Remember, a doula is for you, not your baby.
How much does a doula cost?
The cost of a doula varies by region, but it can range from $800 to $2,500, with the average cost around $1,200. Some doulas charge by the hour, while others have a flat fee. Their services include a prenatal visit, labor and delivery, and a post-delivery follow-up. While having a doula may be an out-of-pocket expense for you, some insurance companies will cover some or all of the cost depending on your plan. Call your insurance company's benefits department to get details. You may have to pay the doula first, get a detailed receipt and then submit a claim for reimbursement.
How can I find a doula?
The best way to find a doula is through word of mouth referrals. Additionally, sites like dona.org and cappa.net list certified doulas by location. It’s good to interview at least three. Remember to listen to your gut and pick the person you have chemistry with: A doula will be with you during the most intimate experience in your life, so it’s important to feel a strong emotional connection with her.
What about a postpartum doula?