In recent years, there’s been a growing wave of women discovering the amazing impact a birth doula can have on labor and delivery. But if you don’t know what a doula is or does, let’s start with the basics. A doula is a trained professional, hired to support and assist a woman’s birth in a variety of ways. She is knowledgeable about birth, can help with comfort measures and labor positions, calming techniques like visualization, and even help your partner know how to best support you during delivery. There’s a lot of evidence to support to positive impacts of having a doula at your birth, like quality pain management, lower rates of interventions and better birth outcomes overall. But how do you know if one is right for you?
Here’s a simple questionnaire to help you decide if a doula is right for your individual birth plan.
1) Who do I want present at my birth? Deciding who you want at your birth is no small decision. You should carefully choose the people who will be there to assist you and witness your baby being born. That’s because your composure and focus can be affected by negative sources of energy in the birthing room. You only want to surround yourself with people who you feel will contribute to you having a positive experience. A doula, someone who is trained specifically to support birth, can make a wonderful addition. Especially because they know how to help you focus, remain calm, and manage your pain. In fact, doulas are incredible forms of pain management. But your comfort level is above all, the most important thing. Should you have a doula at your birth, you should carefully choose a person you believe can help you feel the most comforted and supported.
2) What are some aspects of my labor that are important to me? If feeling in control, calm, and present during your baby’s birth are important to you, you should absolutely consider hiring a doula. We know moms are tough. But often times, when the going gets tough during delivery, it doesn’t hurt to have an extra person there to help talk, massage, and get you through the most challenging parts of delivery. It can be frightening to give birth without proper support. And depending on where you are delivery, sometimes moms-to-be end up having to stand up for themselves during delivery (say, if your birthing team isn’t paying attention to your wants, needs, or informed consent). A doula can help advocate for you during birth so you don’t have to do two (very difficult) jobs at once.
3) I want my partner to be my primary support person. How will a doula impact his/her role? A lot of women opt not to have a doula simply because they want their partner to be their primary support. It makes sense- your partner is someone you’re most comfortable with. But even though our partners have the best of intentions, they often don’t know what do with themselves during delivery. How would they? They aren’t trained in labor support. Many of them have never seen a baby being born before. Not only can a doula help your partner know how to help, they can actually get your partner more involved in the birth, not less.
4) Can I afford to hire a doula? Obviously, a doula comes with a price tag. Most doulas charge between $500 to $1000, or maybe more, depending on your location. However, a doula should be looked at as an investment that can help you to have a positive birth experience and could end up saving you money later on. Supported birth often means less intervention and quicker recovery times for mom. So, if those things are of high priority, perhaps a doula is worth the extra cash. Some women would prefer support after the baby, and in that case, may hire a postpartum doula, who comes to help you around the house once the baby is born. Think about what is in your budget and what’s most important for your specific needs. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for contributions in lieu of baby gifts! Labor or postpartum support make wonderful presents. Also, check to see if your state offers any programs you make qualify for for families who can’t afford doula services.
While undoubtedly, doula-supported birth may not be right for every mother to be, most moms who have used one claim, their birth wouldn’t have been quite the same without one there. Having more support is seldom a bad thing and during delivery, we need all the support we can get. For more information on birth doulas, talk to local moms who have used one, ask around in birth communities, and visit DONA International to find a doula near you.