Are you considering hiring a doula? Hiring a doula was one of the best decisions I made during my pregnancy.
When people hear that I had a 100% natural childbirth and was in labor for 45 hours, I usually get a reaction along the lines of “Oh my God! I don’t know HOW you did that!”
And honestly… I’m still not totally sure how I did it either. One thing I do know with absolute certainty is this: I couldn’t have done it without my doula.
If you are pregnant you are probably searching for information how to make your labor and delivery go as smoothly as possible. You might have heard the word “doula” at a doctor’s appointment or from a friend, or possibly you read about doulas and birth coaches in a pregnancy book.
When I became pregnant with Baby A, the term doula was pretty foreign to me. The one thing I knew is that I really wanted a natural, medication-free childbirth (and to avoid an unnecessary c-section), and so I started doing as much research as possible about what could help me achieve that. One of the recommendations that kept coming up during my search was to hire a doula!
I cannot stop raving about the incredible impact hiring a doula made on my pregnancy and delivery, and fully believe that doulas and labor coaches should be a part of every mom-to-be’s birth plan.
I’m going to help break things down so you fully understand what a doula does, why you might find one beneficial during your pregnancy and delivery, and also the benefits of having a doula be part of your birth.
And just so you know: each of the photos shared in this post are actually me and my amazing doulas from Baby A’s birth.
Note: Some links may be affiliate links. That means I may make a commission if you use my links to purchase, at no extra added cost to you! I only recommend products that I personally love and believe in. Full disclaimer here.
What is A Doula?
First off, let’s start with what a doula is!
A doula is someone who has had training as a labor coach and helps assist during labor and delivery. Doulas really offer you a wide variety of support tailored to what you personally need and want for your pregnancy and delivery. They have a huge amount of knowledge of what is going on with your body during pregnancy, give you emotional support throughout pregnancy, and coach you through labor and delivery!
What Is The Difference Between A Midwife and Doula?
I was totally guilty of thinking that a midwife and doula were one in the same, but they are actually two pretty different birth professionals.
A midwife is a trained medical professional who has gone through clinical training and received certification. The midwives who attended my birth were actually nurses who then received extra training to become nurse midwives. Think of midwives as the more holistic version of a traditional OBGYN. Midwives can offer prenatal care and well woman care (like your yearly checkup). If you chose to have midwives as part of your care team, they are the ones who assist with or fully deliver your baby.
A doula is with you as soon as you hire them, which includes being super available for support during your pregnancy. She’s there to answer questions, help you prepare, prepping you for what to expect once your baby is here, helps you create a birth plan and more.
Doulas are trained in the process of pregnancy and childbirth and while they may not have medical training, they can offer you a variety of beneficial support. Doulas also come with a wealth of knowledge for managing pain during delivery, handling transitions and labor positions, and assisting with getting baby in optimal position for delivery in the weeks leading up to the end of your pregnancy.
In a nutshell: A midwife can assist or fully deliver your baby (just like an OBGYN) while a doula takes care of you during your pregnancy and labor process, but her focus is on you, not the baby.
What Are Some of the Benefits of Hiring a Doula?
Once Hired, Your Doula is Super Accessible
Doulas are highly trained and specialize in pregnancy and delivery, so their knowledge is outstanding.
They really do mean it when they say they are there for you anytime day or night leading up to your delivery. You can ask them questions about changes in your body, things you are concerned with, symptoms, reactions, or anything related to pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum care and the postpartum body, and also anything related to a newborn baby.
My doula encouraged both me and my partner to text her any time during our pregnancy with questions, and let us know after delivery that she was still just as available! There were a dozen times in that first month after bringing Baby A home that one of us would reach out to her.
(Don’t miss the The #1 Postpartum Recovery Item You Haven’t Heard Of)
Doulas Help With Birth Plan Creation
When the due date gets closer, your doula is available to sit down with you and help you craft a birth plan. This is a great perk, because if you are a first-time parent you might not know all the options you have available to you. An experienced doula will be able to help guide you through the ins and outs of not only how YOU want your birth to go and what’s important to you, but also the options available at the hospital or birth center you have chosen to deliver at.
Same thing goes with those wanting a home birth: an experienced doula will be able to help you craft a home birth plan that covers not only everything you want at home, but what it might look like if you want or need to be transffered to the hospital.
Doulas Know How to Make Pregnancy as Gentle as Possible
During your pregnancy, a doula can offer options to help make pregnancy easier for you. If you are struggling with getting enough water intake, they will give you a list of easy solutions to help you hydrate. They’ll help you find solutions to symptoms and test results whether you need more iron, protein in your diet, experience morning sickness, aren’t sure how to keep an exercise routine, or even what types of exercise are allowed. They have knowledge to assist with body pain and sleep challenges. A doula is your go-to-gal for all your questions!
She’s Your First Phone Call When You Begin Labor
Knowing when in your labor to head to the hospital can be tricky and confusing. Labor progresses so differently for different women, but that’s where your doula’s experience comes in handy.
We called my doula as soon as I went into labor, and kept her in the loop as it progressed. Once my contractions started getting much more intense we actually Facetimed her so that she could see and hear what I was experiencing! My doula was instrumental on making sure we didn’t head to the birth center too early, allowing us to labor at home for as long as possible.
During Labor, Your Doula is Your Rock
We hired a doula for one major reason: to help make my labor as smooth and complication-free as possible. In my mind this included keeping me focused, calm, helping alleviate pain in natural ways, and her immense knowledge on birth positioning and natural childbirth.
Labor and delivery is a grueling experience for women, and if you have someone on your birth team that can help you through it who has an incredible amount of knowledge, you are helping make your birth experience as successful as possible.
During labor, doulas help you with breathing technique, can provide massage and counter-pressure techniques to help alleviate your pain level, encourage and breathe belief into you, help your partner support you, be your advocate to your medical team (if needed), and so many more wonderful benefits.
Think of your doula as the ultimate birth professional, whose number one goal is keeping you safe while still helping to ensure you have the birth experience you want.
For me, after more than 24 hours in labor with Baby A, I still wasn’t progressing. Our birth team realized that Baby A was in an odd position, and my doula was able to help shift him into a much better one from the outside of my belly! This photo is her actually performing that technique, known as rebozo sifting.
She knew exactly what to do in that situation. Without her experience and knowledge, I might have ended up being transferred. I am so thankful that we had her on our team!
One-On-One Support System
During pregnancy you’ll have a million questions and concerns. Nothing compares to the one-on-one support you’ll receive from your doula. Now I’m not saying that your OB or midwife won’t do their best to help ease your mind, but they also have a full roster of other patients who need them. Their time is limited.
Doulas only accept a small handful of births per month, making them much more accessible. Additionally, during your labor there may be other women in labor at the same time, and again your OB or midwife might be attending these births as well. Their time will be split. Your doula, on the other hand, is YOUR birth partner, and will be there every step of the way as you labor and deliver.
Having a doula by your side throughout pregnancy and during labor and delivery can be an incredible asset.
Studies Show Using a Doula Makes Labor & Delivery Easier
Time and time again, you’ll hear how having a doula allows you to have a more relaxed and enjoyable pregnancy and delivery. Studies have found that when doulas attend births, labors are shorter with fewer complications, decreasing the need for oxytocin, forceps or vacuum extractor deliveries, pain medication or epidurals, and cesarean deliveries. Babies are healthier and breastfeed more easily. The growing acceptance of doulas in maternity care is due to the increased recognition of their key contribution to the improved physical outcome and emotional well-being of mother and infant.
Partners Also Benefit From Doulas
A doula isn’t there to replace your partner’s role in labor and delivery. Your partner can still be as involved as they want, and the right doula will offer support to them too, giving your partner suggestions on how they can help. They might show your partner a special massage technique, how to help support your body as you labor, or even make them go take a break so they can better care for the you and that new little one later.
Leading up to your labor and delivery, your doula is also just as accessible to your partner, which for many dads really helps.
Is A Doula Right For You?
Hiring a doula might be right for you if you desire an all-natural birth without pain medication, are attempting a VBAC, or simply want to avoid complications and an unnecessary caesarian section.
It’s important to know that most insurance plans do not cover doula services, so this is an out of pocket expense. Depending on where you live and the experience level of the doula you choose, prices can range from around $700 to over $2,000.
I’ve found that having to pay out of pocket is the biggest reason people choose not to hire a doula. I will share with you that the extra expense of doula services was actually really challenging for us, but our doula was very willing to work with us on a payment plan.
We chose to think of this additional expense as one of the best things we could invest our money in to help ensure that I had a smooth delivery, and that Baby A was born complication-free.
Whether or not you choose to hire a doula, I also strongly recommend you sign up for childbirth classes. There are SO many options depending on what you are looking for, and many hospital offer free classes for mamas delivering there! These classes provide a ton of knowledge for both you and your partner about what to expect during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and with a newborn.
Where to Find A Doula In Your Area
So where do you find a doula? Start by talking to your friends and family. Ask your doctor or midwife for recommendations. I actually posted in a Facebook group asking for referrals!
Reach out and set up an in-person interview with possibilities you feel strongly about. I highly stress the in-person aspect, and not Skype, as this person will be with you during your pregnancy and delivery and you want to be sure you feel comfortable with them!
It might take some time to find the right doula for you, so be patient during your search.
I hope this helps give you an idea of what a doula is and how they can help you during your pregnancy, labor and delivery! I am so thankful that we learned about doulas and chose to add one to our birth team with Baby A.