Have you ever wondered why women hire doulas and whether this type of support person is someone you need on your birth team? Doulas are birth professionals who can fill specific roles in both the hospital and home birthing environments. While a doctor, nurse, and midwife is focused mainly on the health of your baby and you, a doula is focused on helping you through the birthing process itself.
Watch a video on what a doula does The Essential Ingredient: Doula
A doula’s help in the hospital environment can make a huge difference in the outcome of the birth for both mama and baby. If you have taken the time to write a birth plan because there are things that are critically important to you, it will be well worth your money to hire a doula. She will be the best tool in your bag for helping your birth plan materialize as closely as possible.
Doulas in the Hospital
In the hospital, a doula functions as labor support, addressing your physical needs during labor. But her main role is as your advocate. An experienced doula will have seen many birth outcomes. She will be accustomed to working with hospital professionals in a friendly and non-challenging way; yet, she will be assertive enough to stand up for your non-negotiables for you when you are scared, in pain, and out of your comfort zone.
A good doula is worth her weight in gold when she helps you avoid a cesarean by keeping you calm and informed and helping you feel in control so that your labor goes more smoothly. She is equally valuable when she looks at you squarely and says, “Yes, this c-section is going to be necessary,” because later you can rest assured that you did everything you could do to avoid it.
Doulas at Home
A doula’s role changes a bit during a home birth, where she does not have to function as your advocate unless the home birth ends in a hospital transfer. In these cases, a doula might be able to stay with you at the hospital if your midwife cannot. She will then become the only birth professional you have seen throughout the entire labor. Not only can she be a huge comfort as the one consistent, friendly face that has been there all along, but she can also provide invaluable information to the medical staff at the hospital.
Usually, however, a home birth doula focuses on helping the mama through her labor pains without the medication available in the hospital. She might suggest pain management techniques you didn’t think of on your own, remind you to breathe, give you drinks or food when appropriate, and – perhaps most importantly – help you to not become overwhelmed by fear.
How to Hire a Doula
An expectant mama will usually begin to see a doula in the middle of her pregnancy so that she has time to develop a positive relationship with her. It is essential that you feel you can trust your doula on every level if she is to be a help to you during childbirth.
You can find doulas in several ways. Online, there are directories that allow you to search by zip code or city, such as the DONA International database and the Find a Doula service. You can also do a search on La Leche League International to find a local chapter in your area. Your local La Leche League leader would likely have a few names she could share with you. Or, if you enjoy social media, you can try putting the word out among your Facebook friends, since a word-of-mouth reference is usually the best kind.
The rates that doulas charge vary, particularly by location. In our area, most charge $200 – $300 total. If you want to give yourself the best possible chance for a smooth childbirth – at home or hospital – this will be a few hundred dollars well spent.
Julie Stockman lives in Farmland, Indiana where she homeschools her children with her husband, Jeff. She spends her days baking, gardening, keeping chickens, listening to the nature around them, practicing gratitude and faithfulness, and stealing minutes to write about it all.
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