- What is a Doula?
“Doula” is Greek meaning: “mother’s helper” or “servant”. A Doula is a non-medical birth professional. Doulas provide non-medical emotional and physical support in addition to your doctor or midwife. They are found in hospitals, birthing centers, and homebirths. They work in co-operation with the doctor, nurses, midwife, and the birthing woman’s partner. Doulas do not do physical exams or assess fetal or maternal well-being (in a medical sense). A Doula does provide support, give suggestions, and provide comfort to both parents during the birth of their baby. They also provide education in the prenatal period, during labor and birth, and during the postpartum period. In addition, they give you the alternatives to standard obstetric procedure as well as information about the risks and benefits of such procedure, so that you may make informed decisions.
A Doula is a health care professional who understands the natural process of birth, helping the parents to understand this process and works with them during labor and delivery to create the most positive, healthy and natural experience possible for the family. She provides non-medical continuity of care for birthing women and their partners, and eases the transition from home to hospital or birth center. She facilitates, offers words of encouragement, supports and educates the couple, before, during and after birth.
- What are the benefits of using a Doula?
Studies have shown the following benefits of having a Doula present at birth:
- 45% reduction in c-section rates
- 25% shorter labor
- 60% reduction in epidural requests
- 50% reduction in pitocin use
- 31% reduction in analgesia use
- 34% reduction in forceps or vacuum deliveries
Women who have used a Doula at birth are more satisfied with their births, feel more confident before and after the birth, show a quicker rate of bonding with their newborn, are less likely to have postpartum depression, and more likely to breastfeed.
- What services does a Labor Doula provide?
Birth Doula services include:
- advice during pregnancy
- availability 24/7 before and during labor to answer any questions or concerns
- exercise and physical suggestions to make pregnancy more comfortable
- assistance in finding information in order to help the woman make an informed decision about her birth
- an objective viewpoint
- explanations of medical procedures
- help with preparation of a birth plan and the carrying out of that plan
- facilitation of communication between the laboring woman, her partner, and her care providers
- continuous physical and emotional support throughout the entire labor and birth
- an understanding of the physiology of birth
- massage and other non-pharmacological pain relief measures
- suggestions on position changes during labor and birth
- support for the woman’s partner so that he or she can love and encourage the laboring woman
- helping the woman avoid unnecessary interventions
- help with the initial breastfeeding experience
- a written record of the birth
- recognition of birth as a key life experience that the mother will remember forever.
- Does a Doula interfere with the father’s role in the birth?
The Doula helps the father/woman’s partner feel comfortable and confident by making sure his needs are met (food, drink, occasional back rubs, and reassurance). The Doula encourages the father to participate at his own comfort level. She also shows him what he can do to help. This makes it so the woman and her partner can work more closely together. Some partners prefer to be there only to witness the birth of their child and to share this experience with the woman they love. They may not want to play an active role and do not want to be responsible for the woman’s comfort and emotional security. The Doula can fill in and allow the partner to participate as he wishes, without leaving the woman’s needs unmet. When the partner chooses to be the major source of emotional support, the Doula can supplement his or her efforts by running errands, making suggestions for comfort measures, and offering words of reassurance and comfort. During a long, tiring labor, she can give the partner a break for a brief rest or change of scene. While the Doula probably knows more than the partner about birth, hospitals, and maternity care, the partner knows more about the woman’s personality, likes and dislikes, and needs. Moreover, he loves the woman more than anyone else there. The combined contributions of both partner and Doula, along with a competent, considerate, and caring staff give the woman the best chance of an optimal outcome.
More information on Dads & Doulas
- How does a Doula interact with hospital staff? Won’t my nurse fill this role?
Labor and Delivery nurses are usually providing care and treatment for many patients at a time. This limits the time spent with each individual patient. The nurse’s main responsibility is to monitor the progress of the laboring woman and give that information to the care provider. A Doula will provide you with continuous support throughout your entire labor and help for some time after the birth as you and your partner are adjusting to this miracle called “birth”.
- Do I need a Doula if I’m planning a homebirth and/or am using a midwife?
There are never too many extra hands at a birth. So even with a supportive midwife, you may still benefit from a Doula’s services. Some midwives provide longer care and support of the birthing woman. Ask your midwife how she feels about Doulas.
- What if I am planning on using medication or I have a scheduled cesarean? What is a Doula’s role then?
The role of the Doula here is to give information to the woman and/or couple to help them make the most informed decision on their choices. A Doula should always respect the choice of birth the woman and/couple have chosen. If planning a medicated birth, the Doula is an asset to the birthing team by helping the woman labor comfortably until the medication can be given and/or is necessary to the woman and help in avoiding unnecessary interventions. The Doula is also an asset when the woman is unable to receive medication to achieve a comfortable and enjoyable natural birth experience by offering support and acting as an advocate. As well as avoiding unnecessary interventions.
If you are planning a c-section and or have an emergency c-section, the Doula can provide support and also act as an advocate for the birthing woman and/or couple. You can have the Doula be an advocate of what is called a family-centered cesarean birth:
- Having your partner with you (some facilities will allow you to have more than one person).
- Watching the birth with the use of a mirror, if you wish.
- Playing music.
- Having the baby brought to you immediately.
- Having one of your hands freed to touch the baby.
- Letting your partner carry the baby to the warmer.
- Asking if your partner can cut the cord.
- Taking pictures and video.
- Asking to have more than one person in Recovery with you.
- Nursing the baby in the recovery room if you are breastfeeding .
- Will a Doula force her idea of a perfect birth on me?
The Doula helps with decision-making by asking and answering questions that will ensure that the right information is given to the woman or couple so that they can make an informed decision. She may also suggest alternatives for the couple to consider. She does not, however, make decisions for the couple or force her idea of a perfect birth on the woman and/or couple. Her job is to help make the woman’s idea of the perfect birth come to pass.
- Why should I hire a Doula?
As I mentioned before in the “What is a Doula?” section, having a Doula present improves the outcome for both mother and baby. Here is a newspaper article.
March 1, 1999
WOMEN FIND DOULAS HELPFUL DURING LABOR
WASHINGTON , DC —
Women who had Doulas present during labor had significantly less epidural use and were more likely to rate the birth experience as positive than women who did not, according to a study in the March issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Doulas provide praise, reassurance, comfort, and companionship to women in labor. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Northern California followed 314 randomly selected patients aged 18 years and older between May 1994 and December 1996. Of these patients, 149 had Doulas and 145 did not.
Women were randomly assigned to either the Doula group or the usual-care group. Women assigned to the usual-care group received no special treatment. Telephone interviews were conducted with the women four to six weeks postpartum.
Of the women with Doulas, 54% had an epidural compared to 66% of those in the usual-care group. Regarding their perceptions of the birth experience, a greater percentage of the Doula group had a more positive view: 82% rated the birth experience as positive compared to only 67% of the usual-care group. Nearly 47% felt they coped very well compared to 28%; 58% felt labor had a very positive effect on their feelings as women compared to 44%; and 58% felt labor had a very positive effect on their perception of their bodies’ strength and performance compared to 41%. The study found no significant difference in rates of cesarean, vaginal forceps or vacuum delivery, pitocin use, and postpartum depression. During the follow-up interview, 96% of the women who had Doulas and 66% of those in the usual-care group were interested in having a Doula for their next birth.
- How much does a Doula cost?
Since Doulas are self-employed independent business women, their charges are unique to themselves and the services they provide, and especially the area of the country they live in. Some Doulas charge a flat fee to cover their entire services with your pregnancy and birth. Others charge on a sliding scale, basing it on the hours spent with your care.
I charge a reasonable flat fee with a deposit required at the signing of the contract. Please contact me for my current fee. Payment options may be available.
- Does medical insurance cover Doula services?
Most insurance companies do not cover the cost of Doulas at this time. However, studies are being done in hopes of changing this. The presence of a Doula does save money. Births attended by Doulas could mean a $3500 savings for individual families and therefore reflect a $2 billion annual reduction in national medical care costs.
- Will it be weird to have a stranger at such a private moment as birth?
A Doula will be no stranger by the time of the birth. She will meet with you and your partner late in pregnancy to discuss your birth plan and goals. She will be familiar with your medical history and will know what issues are important to you. She will likely be less if a stranger to you than your doctor or midwife and the many nurses that you may see.
- Will a Doula’s presence invade our privacy during the birth? Can we ask her to leave for a few moments without offending her?
A Doula should not take offense to this request. The role of the Doula is to offer complete support to both woman and/or couple. If your wish is to have the Doula leave for a moment, it is a duty of a Doula to support you by leaving the room.
- What cities/towns do you travel to for a birth?
We travel to Aurora, Montgomery, Oswego, Yorkville, Joliet, Plainfield, Plano, Sandwich, Naperville, Lisle, Lombard, Glen Ellyn, Sugar Grove, Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Downers Grove, North Aurora, Batavia, St. Charles, Geneva, Sycamore, Vill Park, & Hinsdale.
If you don’t see your city or town listed, please contact usfor information.