Should You Hire a Doula?

The word “doula” is a Greek word, and refers to a woman who serves another woman. Some doulas prefer to say that the meaning is closer to that of “sister”.

The term as generally used today means a woman who assists another woman with prenatal , labor, or postpartum support. Probably the most often used function is that of labor assistant, as some doulas prefer to be called. Many doulas will provide pre-and post-partum support as well as assisting in the labor and delivery.

The birth of my first child was uncomplicated and both baby and I were healthy, but I was dissatisfied with the experience. So when I became pregnant with my second (and last) child, I knew I wanted a doula.

Some husbands (mine included) are afraid that they will be left out or superfluous when a doula is present. This fear should be discussed with the doula. An empathetic and experienced doula will be adept at making both the laboring mother and the attending father feel as though they are an important part of the birth process.

The doula’s primary functions during labor may be to:
> Provide emotional support
> Help communicate with hospital staff
> Suggest positions during labor and birth to make the mother more comfortable
> Support the partner so he can support and encourage the laboring mother
> Take pictures (if wanted) and provide a written record of the birth
> Help avoid unnecessary complications
> Explain and provide pros/cons of measures suggested by hospital staff

Once you have decided you want a doula, here are some next steps to take.

There are several organizations that may be able to provide you with a list of available doulas in the area. Your obstetrician may know of a doula who has assisted her patients before. You can ask the staff at the hospital you are using if they have worked with a doula and who they might recommend.

The first step to hiring a doula would likely be a phone interview. You may ask a prospective doula questions like: what is your philosophy about labor, interventions, families, breastfeeding, and postpartum? What prenatal support do you offer? Do you offer postpartum services? What happens if you are not available? What is your fee?

Once you are confident with the answers you receive, you need to check references and ask for a personal interview. The personal interview should provide you with a sense of how you, your husband, and the doula mesh as individuals, and if your personal styles will work well together. You will also want to discuss cost and services.

I contacted our local Bradley chapter and asked for referrals. I talked to several people, and was referred to a doula who lived less than two miles from us. Once I talked to her on the phone, my husband and I met with her at our home. We felt very comfortable with the doula we chose, and she agreed to work for us on a very pro-rated cost. She asked that she be updated by phone after each of my doctor’s visits instead of making personal visits.

As it turned out, I agreed to be induced at the hospital because I was experiencing severe sciatica and was unable to walk or care for my 3 year old daughter. The doula met us at the hospital on the scheduled date. I was so grateful we had hired her! She kept me focused, she helped my husband stay involved, she did all the talking with the nurses when I was busy with contractions and even suggested some alternatives to them. I did deliver a healthy baby girl in a short time with no pain medication. Throughout the labor and delivery process, I felt confident and cared for, and that was largely due to the caring expertise of my doula. She also took discreet pictures throughout the process and took notes of key moments during labor and delivery that she gave to us afterwards.

Studies indicate that women who use a doula during delivery have a shorter labor; 50% reduction of cesarean rate ; and 60% fewer requests for epidurals.

And women interviewed 6 weeks post-partum reported that they were less depressed and anxious; had more confidence in themselves as parents; were more confident with the baby; and were more satisfied both with their partner and the overall birth experience.

My doula made several postpartum phone calls and one visit to check on baby and me. This service varies, so ask your doula what she offers for postpartum support .

If you are pregnant and thinking of hiring a doula, I would recommend it!

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