A doula is trained to assist another woman during childbirth. There are two types of doulas: 1) birth doula and 2) postpartum doula. The birth doula's purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birth experience. A postpartum doula is to help the family after the baby has been born - with sleep, breastfeeding, household chores, local support outreach, and whatever is generally needed.
A birth doula is not intended or recommended to replace the mother's partner but is rather a part of the support team offering emotional, physical and educational support before, during and after labor. Whether this is the mother's first, second or third+ birth, every birth is different and decisions and questions that arise are unique. A doula will help navigate the information and provide evidence-based information to allow the mother to make the best choices for her and her baby.
When should I hire a doula?
Typically, a doula is hired a few months before the due-date however any time after 20 weeks is typical. If the mother is struggling to find a doctor or midwife, a doula can help. Because finding a doula right for the family requires a few interviews, it is never too early to start your process.
How do I choose a doula?
Choosing the right doula is more heart than head, so it is best to interview a couple of doulas to find the right fit. How will you know? You should feel comfortable, not judged, supported, and overall like the person.
What should I expect from a doula?
Once you've selected a doula, she will typically meet with you at your home for an initial assessment. During this discussion, you'll be asked about your health history, any previous births and the birth stories of those births, and generally get to know your vision of your birth and answer any questions you might already have. Afterwards, a doula is available by phone as the pregnancy progresses. The doula will set up at least two additional home visits. These visits will entail: creating the birth plan, helping you develop questions for your primary caregiver, and translating and providing resources to any situations that may arise during pregnancy (breach, induction, test results, etc). It is not uncommon for a doula to practice relaxation techniques or yoga with the client during these visits. The visits are unique to each client and align with what the client believes and needs. Once labor begins, the doula will be in constant contact and close proximity to the mother. She will help you determine when it is time to call your midwife or head to the hospital. During labor, the doula will hold the space for the mother and will be involved very little if the client is progressing positively on her own or involved greatly should the client need the support. The doula can provide comfort with pain reducing positions, massage and breathing techniques. Studies show that women have fewer medical interventions and perceive their birth experiences in a more positive light when supported by a doula. Because the doula is there to also support the partner, it is not uncommon for the mother to have a more positive experience and outlook on the relationship with their partner during and after the birth. After the birth, the doula will stay if the mother wishes, but typically will leave once the mother has a successful latch or bottle latch with the baby. Once the family is home, the doula will typically make at least one home visit to check on mother and baby. If the family needs ongoing support, the doula will provide additional services as a postpartum doula or if she isn't trained in this area - will make a recommendation.
A postpartum doula is like a mother's helper. She is knowledgeable on breastfeeding, has tricks for helping a baby sleep or calm, can relieve the mother to care for herself by caring for the baby or siblings, can prepare meals or clean up the house, advise on community support or recommend other professionals known in the community.
Do I really need a doula?
Whether you've read all the books or none at all, this is your first or third+ birth, or feel you're partner or family will be enough support, a doula is recommended for every birth. Let the partner and family love and support you and let the doula carry the space of watching after you and being your advocate when needed.
What if I'm facing a cesarian or plan on being induced?
Even more reason to have a doula. A doula is there to support the mother, regardless of the birth experience or choice.
Can I afford a doula?
The cost of a doula depends on the locality of where you live. The cost typically ranges from $400-$2000. There are many doulas that will provide services on a sliding scale, for trade, for free, or on a payment plan. Don't let cost deter you from hiring a doula. Doulas are incredibly passionate about providing advocacy for all mothers.
Where to start? The initial consultation is free. Schedule a skype, Facebook messenger, Facetime or in-person discussion. Nothing is more important that your birth, your way.