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Getting Ready for Birth: Should You Hire a Doula?

Katlyn Joy |11, November 2014


Everyone wants to have a positive and healthy birth experience. For an increasing number of women, one way to attempt such an experience is to hire a doula. A doula, according to the certifying body DONA, is a "trained and experienced professional who provides continuous and physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period."

While there's not a large body of research available, some studies have indicated that women who have doulas during birth are less likely to need to have a cesarean section, have shorter labors, and have fewer complications and use less pain medications.

What a Doula Handles During Birth

Prior to birth, the mother to be and her doula will discuss the birth plan and offer suggestions based on her experience and training. This is key, since the doula will be the liaison between mother and other medical personnel.

A doula will stay with the mother throughout the birth, providing physical comfort, emotional support and help communicate the mother's wishes to the staff, as well as explain the staff's questions or needs to the mother.

She may give the mother advice on trying a different position for labor, or give a foot massage to prevent cramping, or help her breathe through difficult contractions, for instance.

A doula is knowledgeable about the normal phases and possible hiccups in the birth process and can provide a calming influence to the mother and her partner.

What a Doula Handles Post-Partum

If you hire a postpartum doula, you can expect help with beginning breastfeeding, newborn care, and aftercare for mom. She may even help with baby care, light housekeeping, or meals. This can be a real lifesaver particularly for women without family members nearby to help.

What to Look for in a Doula

A doula should be certified, either through DONA International or CAPPA or Childbirth and Post Partum Professional Association.

She should be experienced. Ask how many births she has attended, and if she can provide references.

She should be a good match with you in personality. If she reminds you of your Aunt Alice, who gets on your nerves, forget it, even if she's the most qualified. You need someone who can provide a sense of tranquility on this most special day.

A doula should understand your hopes and fears for your birth, to facilitate the birth you desire. Of course, hiring a doula is no guarantee of rainbows and happiness, but she should share your ideas and ideals.

A doula should be in good standing in the medical community. If you ask around and get stories of conflict with this doctor, nurse or that hospital, beware. You don't want a doula who gets confrontational with medical staff and will therefore, create a tense birth situation for you. She should understand she is there to attend to your needs, but not to influence the medical situation or make medical decisions for you.

Your doula should be available without question when you expect to deliver, or within a couple weeks either way. You don't want to rely on someone being there, and have them out of town for their best friend's wedding.

Along the same lines, ask how soon in your labor she'll arrive. Will she join you at the hospital, or will she be at your side in early labor at home?

She should be affordable. Ask about all the costs and what they cover. Have a written contract to protect everyone's interests, and prevent misunderstandings. Get clarification on how many meetings you'll have prior to birth, and following birth. What happens if you give birth in the car on the way to the hospital? Will you need to pay a portion upfront?

Your spouse or partner should like her, too. It is important that your partner can feel comfortable with the doula being part of the birth. You absolutely do not want to push Daddy out of the scene! Ask how she includes your partner in the process, and supports your partner during the birth, and after it.

Finally, the doula you choose should be a recommendation by others. Ask your doctor, friends, and hospital maternity staff for names of people they have worked with and respect.

Related Articles

Is a Home Birth for You?

How Much Does it Cost to Give Birth in the US?

Water Birth: The Risks and Benefits

Safety of Vaginal Birth After Cesarean

Birth Centers for Labor & Delivery


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