Doulas are not yet mainstream – with only 7% of mother using them there are a lot of misconceptions and confusion surrounding them.
Why would you hire a complete stranger to be with you during birth?
Why not just rely on your husband?
Plus, I’m not a first-time mom anymore – why would I still need someone else since I’ve done this before?
Doulas are not midwives who make medical decisions, (and they’re definitely not a replacement for using a doctor or midwife), but they’re also not the equivalent of a random friend cheerleading you during birth. They are trained and dedicated professionals with an extensive knowledge of the physiology and psychology of birth who exclusively support mothers during labor.
The value of a doula is not just anecdotal, either. Their fees are frequently covered by insurance providers because of the statistical evidence showing the benefits of their work – shorter labors, far fewer c-sections, less interventions, a reduction in the use of pitocin and epidurals, and better APGAR scores for babies.
Here is why I hire a doula, even though I’m not a first time mom.
(There are other types of doulas like postpartum and bereavement doulas, however I’m only discussing birth doulas in this post.)
Help Him Help Me
Ethan insists on hiring a doula – he knows they are not a replacement for him, but a great resource for him to better support me.
Doulas give him ideas of a place to rub or give counter pressure on me during a contraction.
When emotions are running high, our doulas have reassured and encouraged him that we’re doing a great job.
With my long labors (thus far ranging from 25 to 56 hours), Ethan has been able to take a break after being up a whole night with me, reassured that I’m not alone while he takes a recharge nap to be able to support me again.
If we were in a birth situation with important decisions to be made, especially a transfer to hospital situation, a doula would help walk him through a potentially overwhelming situation and explain everything.
Our doulas have remembered so many little things during birth like offering me a sip of water or a bite of food to give me a boost of energy, or heating up more water for the birthing tub.
During our home births, our doulas have taken care of all of the communication with the midwives for us. Texting them updates, answering their questions, telling them it was time to come, and unlocking the door for them whenever they arrived meant all Ethan and I needed to focus on was my labor.
I’ve Got an Idea!
Doulas always seem to have an idea of something new – an essential oil blend to smell, a tennis ball roller on your back, getting outside for a walk, a different position, moving to another room or getting out of the bed, trying a shower or the tub, turning on some music, rebozo sifting, an uplifting birth affirmation or quote, words of encouragement and empathy… This stuff is so easy to recall while relaxing in a rocking chair typing, but when I’m in the throes of labor with contractions coming again and again – my brain turns off and I get “stuck”.
Doulas are these rays of sunshine that swoop in and help gently suggest something new. Often times its just what you need mentally or physically.
Advocates are Important
We’ve been blessed to have two amazing home births thus far, with a midwife team that we agreed with 100% on everything, but had we come up to issues with a midwife, or been in the hospital and receiving pressure for some sort of intervention, a doula would be there to help understand the pros and cons of all kinds of decisions we could make during birth and support us in those choices throughout birth.
(I would absolutely recommend a doula for a first-time mom in the hospital. Intervention rates are much higher there than home and birth center births.)
With You The Whole Time
Your midwife or doctor, in most cases, isn’t just sitting around with you until you push a baby out. (And you may be the type of person that just wants to hole up alone until it’s time, and thats okay, too!)
During our home births, it was nice to know we had someone with us after things had become really intense, but before I was close enough for my midwives to be there beyond occasional vital sign checks.
We’re going to be at a birth center this time around, and while I’m not entirely sure how things will pan out there, I love knowing that we’ll have someone with us for the long haul, assuming our midwife will only be in periodically.
Before and After Birth Matter, Too!
A birth doula isn’t just there for you during active birth. They check in as your pregnancy progresses to stay informed on any changes or medical issues that have arisen, they help you find information you need, and they answer questions you may have.
Immediately after birth they can help with breastfeeding if necessary, grab food for mom and dad, or anything else you’re needing for an hour or two, letting you just relax and focus on your new miracle.
They usually have a final meeting with you a week or two postpartum to go over their notes from your birth, to help you process anything difficult that happened which you may be struggling with, and to answer any questions you have about how things went.
Been There, Done That
Some doulas are not mothers themselves, and that’s totally fine, but so far my doulas have been fellow moms. I feel like there is a really beautiful kinship there in someone helping you through who has been there, too.
I had horrible nausea during Zelie’s labor, and Crystal recalled to me as we chatted between contractions how she had experienced the same thing with her daughter’s birth a couple years prior. She’d been there, and you could just feel the empathy from her as I labored.
How much does a doula cost? – It varies based on location and experience, but the averages are usually $500 – $1000. Check with your insurance or health share, as they may very well cover all or most of a doula’s fees.
Remember that while that may sound like a lot, the work of a doula is not just a one time thing. They are checking in, answering your questions, spending much of your labor with you, often remaining for a couple hours after baby is born to help establish breastfeeding if necessary, and living on call during your birth month, perhaps taking separate cars from their family for outings to be ready to come to you at any time. It adds up to much less per hour than you’d think!
How do you find a doula? – I would always start with recommendations from friends or a midwife that you know shares your views on birth. DONA and Doula Match are great places to start, too! If you have any local “crunchy” groups like La Leche League, Babywearing International, or something similar, you’ll likely find great doula recommendations there.
What should you ask a doula in an interview – Mama Natural has a great list found here.
The most important thing with a doula, in my opinion, is personal connection. Of course you want to make sure they are a good practical fit with those interview questions, but someone could be perfect on paper with tons of experience and you still not jive with their personality.
Meet with two or three doulas, and see who you enjoy spending time around the most, and who makes you feel the most comfortable and secure with them as support for you.
What if I’m on the fence about needing a doula? – I’ll say this, I’d rather have spent a few hundred dollars and decided after a great birth that I didn’t need a doula next time, then to go into birth and be overwhelmed by everything and wish I’d had an advocate and special support for me and my spouse, only for it to be too late and things possibly have a more difficult outcome (like the increase in c-sections and interventions.)
If you’re on the fence I’d suggest at least meeting with a couple doulas, share with them openly and honestly about your concerns or doubts, and go from there.