For many of you this is your first birth and you’re looking into all your options, or you may have stumbled here because your first birth didn’t go as you expected and you’re seeking different options for the second time around. There are many reasons for looking into a doula, and understanding the facts and doula benefits they can bring is the first step in understanding if you should hire one or not.
If you’re on the fence, or don’t even know what the heck a doula is or why you should get one, you’re in the right place. We’ll talk about what a doula is and dispel any myths you might have heard. That said, let’s dive right in!
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First off, what the heck is a doula?
In short, a doula is a birth coach and support person who helps you through labor.
From Dona.org a doula is “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.”
Doulas are advocates who work to help advocate for your birth goals, and help you through any difficult choices you might need to make during labor. My husband and I basically viewed our doula as a “birth expert” we could rely on to have more knowledge about the process than we did. Of course, you doctor also has hundreds of birth experiences, but in most cases they only show up to catch the baby at the end.
For most of your labor you’ll be laboring with your nurses. The doctor will come to check on you, but will only be called if an intervention is necessary.
What are the main doula benefits during birth?
If you’re looking for a natural birth, there are tons of doula benefits to help you through your birth.
They can help alter your positioning if labor has stalled. They can help with pain management techniques. Additionally, they assist your partner in assisting you. They’ll help explain your choices if it looks like an intervention is necessary.
They also know what a natural birth looks like. If this is your first birth, your partner might not know if something is wrong or if you’re just in pain.
For us, the main benefit was emotional support.
My doula did help try new positions and worked with me to breathe. Ultimately, I decided to get staadol pretty soon after I was admitted to my birth room and got an epidural a couple of hours later. She helped ease our anxiety through the process and helped out as we went through the phases.
Specifically when I began to push, my daughter’s heart rate dropped significantly multiple times. I was on oxygen and didn’t end up needing a c-section, but it was pretty scary and we were very glad she was there to talk us through what was happening.
Show me the data behind doula benefits
According to the Dona website, there is research that shows women who have a doula are less likely to need interventions. They’re:
- Less likely to need pitocin
- Less likely to have a cesarian birth
- Also less likely to use medication
- More likely to rate their childbirth experience positively
Since all of those things were important to me (other than meds, I’m all about those) – I was pretty stoked to see I could stack the deck in my favor for the other outcomes by using a doula.
Key myths about doulas
They only do home births or natural births.
This isn’t true. They want you to have the best birth possible FOR YOU. If that’s in a hospital, great. If you want drugs – fine. Although you’ll have to ask each one individually, their main goal is to help you have the birth of your choice.
They will take the place of your birth partner.
Absolutely false. Most times the doula actually enables more connectivity with your partner. One of the main doula benefits is that they can go get the nurse, or ice chips, or remind you of the questions you wanted to ask. This means your partner can focus solely on you.
If you opt for an epidural you have no use for a doula.
As I mentioned above, I had an epidural and a doula, and found great use for both 🙂 Although the role of a doula alters when you’re getting an epidural, they can still greatly support you through the birth process. Even if you choose a medicated birth.
Things to think about before hiring a doula
Doulas aren’t cheap, nor should they be. These people block off their lives for you and are essentially available at your beck and call when you go into labor. Many first time moms have labor that can last over 24 hours. If you work out the hourly rate – it’s really not that much.
That said, they still aren’t free or cheap. If you’re really strapped for cash and hiring a doula is going to put you in debt, don’t do it. There are medical professionals in the hospital that won’t cost you hours of your life agonizing over debt repayment. I’d also take a hard look at your finances to ensure you’re set for success with a new baby.
Related: How to financially plan for baby
Related: How to afford a long maternity leave
A great option some Doulas offer are gift cards or opportunities to “gift” services from friends and family. This is something great to ask for at your baby shower. In many cases you can also use HSA or FSA health plan funds.
If you already know you’re going to have a scheduled c-section, I wouldn’t hire a doula. They can help you plan and with the process of a c-section. However, we found the biggest benefit of a doula was during the actual labor. Since they aren’t doctors, they wouldn’t be assisting during the cesarian.
You might want to hire one for postpartum support as you won’t be able to move around a lot at first, but I’d save some money on the labor fees.
Medical Intervention Tolerance
This is a totally personal preference on how comfortable you are with medical interventions. If you aren’t concerned about Pitocin use, or you’re 100% getting an epidural the second you step into the hospital, or you’re not worried about needing a c-section – I don’t know how useful a doula would be.
Although they can still help, (again, personal opinion only) I found the benefit of a doula was to help avoid these kinds of interventions. Or to help talk you through the options if you’re asked to get one against your will.
Should I hire a doula?
That’s something that’s only up to you and your partner. In my first labor I committed to going as long as I could without an epidural. I definitely hadn’t ruled out the option at all. I knew I’d be at risk if I did have an epidural placed, and my husband and I didn’t want to stagnate labor if at all possible.
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Our doula experience
We were first time parents, slightly terrified of what could happen during labor. I knew I really didn’t want a c-section recovery. We took the plunge and decided to hire a doula even though we didn’t have a strong preference for an all natural birth.
I can still say it was totally worth the money as first time parents. I did end up getting an epidural, but got all the way to 7 c.m. dilated before needing the intervention. After the epidural my labor didn’t slow down at all, and I was pushing an hour later.
While I know our doula helped us in the delivery room, where I felt she truly excelled was with postpartum care. She did lactation support in the hospital, and we hired her for lactation consults the first couple of weeks postpartum.
She also did postpartum hours with me, which greatly helped my sanity as a new mom. I turned into a human waterworks exhibit about four days postpartum, and our doula was so supportive during this emotional time. If this is an option for you I’d definitely look into postpartum packages, especially if you don’t have family nearby.
Key benefits and reasons to hire a doula
I want a natural birth.
If you want to try for a natural birth I’d definitely recommend hiring a doula. One of the key doula benefits is that they’re used to natural birthing situations. When the going gets tough, they’ll help you with techniques and remind you of your goals.
Depending on your partner, he or she might just cave and ask for pain medication when they see you struggling.
Doulas are also skilled in helping labor progress and will discuss options with you if you’re stalled and are getting recommendations of intervention. If you already know you are 100% committed to an unmedicated birth, I’d start interviewing doulas today.
I’m high risk.
If you already know you’re in for a high risk delivery, but still want to stay intervention free if possible, a doula might be a good option. One of the doula benefits in a high risk situation is that they’ll help you understand your choices every step of the way. They may provide additional context if an intervention does become necessary. They also have tips and tricks from lots of experience to help you get labor moving if you stall, requiring fewer interventions.
No one will know if a doula is right for you outside of you and your significant other. However, there are many benefits to hiring a doula that most first-time moms aren’t aware of. Knowing all of your options and having the facts will hopefully help you make your decision on whether you want a doula at your birth.
Prepping for labor isn’t all you need to do to plan for baby’s arrival. Find out how to prep your house and life for a new baby, outside the registry!
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