So you’re having a baby? Great! You’ve decided on a doctor or a midwife, you’ve been taking your prenatal vitamins and you may even be starting to think about the birth itself. You’re in the beginning stages of developing a team of people who are going to support you through the birth process.
Regardless of whether you planning on delivering your baby home, at a birthing center or at a hospital, one of these people you might consider having present at your birth to support you is a DOULA.
A DOULA? WHAT IS A DOULA?
In essence, a doula is a fancy word for an old concept. In cultures all over the world, women attend births. Women have assisted other women in giving birth for thousands of years. With the onset of industrialization and the tendency for birth to be a medical procedure, rather than a naturally occurring event, the concept of a birthing assistant has fallen by the wayside. In recent years, the idea of employing women to attend births has come back into favor and thus enters the doula.
A doula (usually a woman) is a person who assists women with the birthing process. A birth doula is “a supportive companion professionally trained to provide physical and emotional support during labor and birth…She provides continuous support, beginning during early or active labor, through birth, and for approximately two hours following the birth. The doula offers help and advice on comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, movement, positioning, and massage. She also assists families with gathering information about the course of labor and their options. Her most critical role is providing continuous emotional reassurance and comfort.”
Some hospitals are even starting to provide doulas to women when they come to the hospital in labor, but this is rare. Woodwinds Hospital, a local hospital in MN, has a volunteer program providing this service called Doulas at Woodwinds.
WHAT DOES A DOULA COST?
Most doulas charge a flat rate for the entire pregnancy and delivery and all services rendered during this time. As I recall, the cost generally ranges from somewhere around $800.00 – $1,500.00. (Just an estimate.)
WHAT DO YOU GET FOR THE COST?
Doulas general provide services for three purposes: (a) prenatal visits, (b) delivery of the baby, and (c) postnatal visits. The doulas are on call during your birth and will be there regardless of the day or the time of day, unless they have informed you otherwise. The frequency and content of the visits may vary from doula to doula so be sure to ask lots of questions when interviewing your doulas.
1. Doulas usually do a few prenatal visits and will help you prepare a birth plan. They will talk to you about what you want during your labor and delivery and go over some of the choices you might have (types of pain relief, cord cutting, membrane stripping, etc.)
2. Doulas come to your house when you start to go into labor regardless of where you plan on giving birth. Their philosophy is geared towards laboring at home for as long as possible. If you go into labor quickly and are delivering at a hospital they will come as soon as you are admitted and will stay with you until the baby comes and for a few hours afterwards. Their rate includes your entire labor even if you labor for 48 hours, God forbid. If you deliver your baby in your home or in a birthing center, they would do the same thing, only in those places instead.
3. They also make one or two visits to your home after the baby has gone home with you. They will assist with breastfeeding, comforting your baby and adjusting to being a mom, if it’s your first time.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF A DOULA DURING THE BIRTH?
The role of the doula is to assist the birthing mother with whatever it is that she needs. She is like a personal assistant. If you want her to clear the room of people, she will do that. If she wants you to get your husband or partner to help out or give a massage, she will do that. Basically she is at your beck and call throughout the labor. She will help you find good positions to labor in and will be very active or play a background role depending on what you want. If your partner is actively involved in the delivery she might provide gentle suggestions on helping you through the labor and delivery. Her main role is to act as your advocate and to see that you are getting your needs met such that the delivery is as comfortable as it possible can be.
If you end up having a Cesarean the doula can also enter the operating room. They usually have a limit on how many extra people can be there so you may have to choose between your birthing partner, if you have one, and the doula.
DO DOULAS HAVE MEDICAL TRAINING?
Doulas are not medically trained in the traditional sense. They do come with tons of knowledge about birth and labor and will provide you with suggestions about when to rest and when to move around and what positions you might try during labor. However, they are trained not to communicate with the medical staff directly regarding your medical condition. They will prompt you to communicate to the medical staff about a wish or desire that you had (such as not wanting the cord cut or skin-to-skin contact, etc.).
HOW DO I GO ABOUT FINDING THE RIGHT DOULA FOR ME?
1. The hospital where you are delivering may have a list of doulas that you can contact. In addition, you can read about them on the web (they may have their own websites) and if they look like someone you are interested in they will meet with you so that you can see if you like them and if you want to hire them.
2. On-line directories such as this one: http://doulanetwork.com/directory/Minnesota/ may be available in your area as well.
3. In Minnesota we have something called the Childbirth Collective and they have a “Meet the Doulas” night. It’s a great thing because you can meet a bunch of doulas all at one time and if you see one you like you can try to get an appointment set up for a meet and greet to see if you want to hire them.
From their website: The Childbirth Collective is a “collective of birth professionals who support women and families during the childbearing year. Perhaps you are looking for a birth doula, midwife, birth photographer, massage therapist or a postpartum doula. The Childbirth Collective is the place to connect with a growing and passionate community that cares about how you birth.”
Regardless of where you find your doula, make sure you interview a few so that you are comfortable with the one you choose. She is going to see you through one of the most challenging and amazing experiences of your life. Liking your doula will only make it a more positive experience.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A DOULA?
From: “What is a Doula?
- Reduces the need for forceps or vacuum extractor by 41%
- Reduces need for Cesarean by 26%
- Decreases medical intervention in labor
- Reduces use of pain medication by 28%
- Reduces dissatisfaction with birth by 33%
- Reduces length of labor
Six weeks after birth, mothers who had doulas were:
- Less anxious and depressed
- Had more confidence with baby
- More satisfied w/ partner
- More likely to be breastfeeding
Homebirth Midwifery Care, Birth and Postpartum Doula Support and Massage Therapy Center http://www.geneabirth.com/
These two women look they provide a wonderful array of services. They provide Midwifery services, Doula services and Birth Massage.
They will also assist in at-home births for VBAC women, also known as the HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean).
The massage service includes a two and a half hour massage during your labor with a certified prenatal massage therapist. Their massage therapist has also been a doula for eleven years and can guide you with the best positions to be in for early and active labor. The service includes meeting with the therapist to discuss the type of massage you would like to use in labor, and picking out the scents/s you would like to use in labor. She will then make an oil using Young Living Oils that you will bring home with you. In labor, the massage therapist will come to your home or visit you at the hospital/birth center for a two and a half hour massage that will help you to enter your labor in a calm and centered place. This massage is specifically tailored to you and your needs. She can come at any point during your labor, but early labor is usually the best.
NOTE: I know that for you around the country this particularly birth center might not be a possibility but perhaps there are other birth centers in your area that offer similar services. It’s good to know that places like this exist.
What is a Doula? (http://www.dona.org/mothers/index.php)
DONA International (http://www.dona.org/)
What is a Doula? (www.transitiontoparenthood.com/ttp/Doula/doulahome.htm)