If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it. – John Kennell, MD, DONA International Founder
What is a doula?
A doula is a lay support person, usually a woman experienced in childbirth herself. Her role is simply to accompany and support the birthing woman and her partner through the process of labor and birth. The word doula comes from the Greek, and its original meaning is “servant.”
What does a doula actually do?
Whatever you would like her to do, whatever would make you feel comfortable during your labor. When you go into labor, your doula will join you when you ask her to, and stay with you as long as you like, usually a few hours after the birth of your baby. She can keep you company, help you communicate with the hospital staff, provide comfort measures like massage, hot/cold compresses, aromatherapy, or physical support. She can make sure your partner is also comfortable, run errands, get you food and drinks, make you both more comfortable. Having a doula at your birth can significantly increase your comfort level and your satisfaction with your birth experience.
Is there scientific evidence for the doula effect?
Why, yes there is. Studies have shown that the presence of a doula significantly reduces c-section rates, intervention rates, shortens the length of labor and increases women’s reported satisfaction with their births. “Continuous Support For Women During Childbirth,” Hodnett ED et al, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007.
What makes the doula different from the midwife or the doctor?
A doula is not a medical care provider. She cannot perform medical exams, diagnose problems, prescribe medications or treatments. She cannot interpret medical test results or make suggestions regarding your health or the health of your baby. These are the responsibilities of your care provider. A doula’s role is simply to be there, and to support you and your partner in what you are going through.
When receiving expert medical advice from a care provider, women can feel pressured into making certain choices. A doula will not pressure you. She will help you gather information, make your own choice, and then support you in that choice.
But I already have a doctor/midwife, and my partner will be with me. Why should I spend money on a doula?
Every woman deserves a doula. By this I mean that every woman should have an experienced female support person at her birth, who will do what the laboring woman asks her to do, who will not judge her, not boss her around, not question her. Someone whose primary responsibility is to make sure the mother and her partner are feeling safe, secure, comfortable and well-informed. A doula cannot replace a medical care provider, that is not part of her competency. But she can provide something that neither your midwife nor your doctor are going to, which is her continuous presence at your labor, and providing physical and emotional comfort measures that fall outside the competency of your midwife and your doctor.
But my partner will be with me. Won’t he feel left out?
A doula supports the laboring woman and her partner, in order to ensure the best possible experience for both of you. She cannot and does not replace the presence of your partner. She is there to serve both your needs. What a doula can provide that a partner may not be able to is her experience with childbirth and her familiarity with the normal birth process that allows her to give suggestions for a better birth experience for both of you.
I’m having a c-section. Can I still have a doula?
Of course! Moms undergoing a c-section can use even more support! Did you know you have options even if you’re having a c-section? That there are different types of anesthesia, that starting labor before a c-section is actually beneficial, that there are ways to improve your breastfeeding success after a c-section? A doula can keep you company, let you know what’s going on, help you and your partner communicate with the staff, and assist you in the post-surgery period with baby care and breastfeeding advice.
I have complications with my pregnancy and may be facing a difficult medical procedure. Can a doula help?
Most definitely. Because the doula’s primary role is emotional and physical support, her presence can be especially comforting during periods of stress and uncertainty. Just knowing that there is someone familiar with birth who is always just a phone call away and will join you and keep you company whenever you need may provide some much needed feelings of security during difficult times.
When should I hire a doula?
That depends entirely on you. Some women feel comfortable hiring a doula shortly before their due dates and having her at their birth. Others start seeing a doula regularly as soon as they discover they are pregnant in order to discuss and work through all their concerns and questions about their pregnancy and birth. For many reasons I would recommend that you start developing a relationship with your doula at least a few months before your due date. Birth is a process that works best when you are feeling safe, secure, comfortable and loved. You will be at your most vulnerable when you are in labor. Would you want strangers, or people you are not entirely comfortable with around you at such a time?
How much does it cost?
In Orange County, certified doulas’ fees range from $600 to $1800. Some doulas who are newly trained and need the experience will often attend births for as little as $300 (or even for free!). Please contact me for my pricing. Because I firmly believe that every woman who wants a doula should have access to one, I do work on a sliding scale depending on my availability, and I will gladly refer those who can’t afford my services to newly trained doulas in the area.