What does a doula do?
A birth doula provides emotional, physical, and informational support through pregnancy, childbirth, and the immediate postpartum period. First and foremost, I will provide encouragement to help you feel confident in yourself and your body in those final days before labor begins and, of course, continuously throughout your birth. I also provide physical support, including massage, counterpressure, and a back to lean on. And third, I provide informational support by answering questions, reassuring you (and partner!) that everything is normal, and helping you find enough info to make informed decisions about your care.
How does your doula partnership work?
Why do I need a doula?
Why repeat it when it’s been said so clearly? From DONA:
“Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences.
“DONA International doulas are educated and experienced in childbirth and the postpartum period. We are prepared to provide physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth. We offer a loving touch, positioning and comfort measures that make childbearing women and families feel nurtured and cared for.
“Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth
- tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
- reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
- reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals
“Research shows parents who receive support can:
- Feel more secure and cared for
- Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
- Have greater success with breastfeeding
- Have greater self-confidence
- Have less postpartum depression
- Have lower incidence of abuse”
Source: DONA’s “Why Use a Doula?”
What kind of training do you have to do to become a doula?
The process to becoming a certified doula takes time and a lot of reading! In a nutshell, I had to attend a childbirth education course (as a doula – not as a parent), take a breastfeeding course, and attend a 16-hour doula training. I also had to read an extensive list of books (and now have quite the lending library available to my clients!) After my training, I had to attend a minimum of 3 births that met some defined requirements (some doulas attend 20 births before having 3 that meet them!), taking extensive notes and receiving positive feedback from my clients, attending nurses, and attending doctors/midwives. And finally, I had to write a few essays to round out my packet. Although not all doulas opt to certify, I believe the process really helped me define my role as a doula, gain knowledge, and shows my dedication to the position.
You are also welcome to visit DONA International’s website at www.dona.org for more info.
In order to maintain certification, doulas must continue to educate themselves with various trainings related to pregnancy, birth, and/or breastfeeding. I have opted to take a variety of additional trainings, so I can provide the best support possible to my clients.
Aren't doulas only for moms who want an ||all natural|| birth?
No! A doula will help you reach whatever goals you have set for yourself – even if it is to reach 5cm before having an epidural placed. Even with medication, you will need to change positions to help facilitate your baby’s descent, and you may need other physical support such as massage. With meds come common side effects and therefore questions – a doula will help you find the answers to those questions and reassure you when you’re unsure about what’s happening.
A doula will also help moms who want an unmedicated birth tremendously, although her role may be slightly different – more physical support, for example. However, ALL women will benefit from having a doula – studies have shown faster labors, fewer interventions, and fewer complications with a doula present!
I'm having a planned cesarean - why do I need a doula?
A planned cesarean is scheduled, but it is by no means an “easy” birth. There are a lot of emotions surrounding cesareans, and having a doula there to help you plan the “best” cesarean possible can be a real gift.
Your doula may or may not be permitted into the actual surgery (depending on your partner’s presence and hospital policy), but she will be there just before, encouraging you and answering any questions that you or your partner may have while they prep you. She will make sure you understand all of your options – and that the options that are important to you are brought up to the birth team. She will also be waiting for when you come out with your baby, and she will assist you in getting comfortable, breastfeeding, and (again) answering the plethora of questions you may suddenly have!
I have had a belly birth myself, so I understand the uncertainty that can accompany an expected cesarean birth. It may be necessary, but it is also slightly terrifying! As a doula, I work hard to help you feel at peace, so you can have the best birth possible.
Do I need a doula if I've taken a childbirth class?
A childbirth class is very important for helping you to build confidence and knowledge. Having a doula in addition to that is almost a safety net in this regard. If you forget something you learned, she remembers! She will help you to recall the various tools that you went over in class, so you can choose what you’d like to use.
Of course, this is only informational support that we’re talking about here. A doula provides so much more than that – you’ll never know how much you’ll value the emotional and physical support that you’ll receive until you’re in labor with your doula! She also helps your partner remember all of the tips you learned in class, so he can enjoy the birth experience without worrying about what he might be forgetting to do.
My husband is afraid that having a doula will keep him from being part of this experience. Is this true?
Absolutely not! A doula could never replace your husband and father of your child – he has an unwavering love for you & his child, and he has a history with you that no doula could ever match.
A doula is there to support the mother AND the father! She will only play as large a role as your family needs – sometimes that means being very hands-on, and sometimes she will simply give direction if and when its needed. She will give dad a break when he needs it and reassurance when he sees his wife in the throes of labor. A doula wants to help your husband be a part of this experience – never replace him!
To read the position paper by DONA about Dads & Doulas, click here.
Is my healthcare provider (midwife, obstetrician) okay with doulas?
I have not had any negative experiences with the healthcare providers of my clients in the past. However, if you are concerned, I always recommend talking to them about it. ACOG has stated that all women should have a doula, so it’s important to note that a care provider who does not support doulas may also not support evidence-based care.
When should I hire a doula?
I recommend hiring a doula once you’ve entered your second trimester to ensure that you are able to find the perfect doula for you (since spots typically become more scarce as you get closer to your estimated due date)! However, I am happy to become your doula at any point during your pregnancy, as long as I have a spot available.
When should I call you during labor?
You should call me as soon as you suspect that you’re in labor, although you may not be ready for me to join you. This gives me time to get ready and line up childcare, so when you want me to join you, I am able to get there as quickly as possible. I would always prefer a “false alarm” to an “I needed you 10 minutes ago” call!
When/where will you join me?
I will join you as soon as you are ready for me to come. Typically, I come to your home and help you labor there for as long as you’d like, although I’m also happy to meet you at your birthing location. Once I’ve joined you, I will remain with you until your baby is born!
Do we need to pay the entire fee up front?
When you sign the contract for my services, a non-refundable retainer fee is due immediately, as well as a check post-dated with your 38 week mark for the remainder of the fee. However, the post-dated check will not be deposited until your baby is born. (If a check cannot be provided, then the remainder of the fee is due in full at 38 weeks.)
I am happy to work with expecting parents who need a payment plan, so if you have any special circumstances, please just ask!
Will my insurance pay for doula services?
Some insurance plans have paid for doula services in the past, but there’s no guarantee. I do have a doula provider number and am happy to provide an invoice for you to file requesting reimbursement, as well as write a letter if requested.
Frequently, insurance companies will reimburse you if you have a flex spending account, so it’s at least tax-free! You can also ask your care provider to write you a prescription for a doula, and that may help with reimbursement.