Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Benefits of Doulas

Matt and I hired a doula to support us during the birth of our child. Regardless of what kind of births families choose for themselves (we're having a homebirth, for those of you who are new to this blog), I definitely recommend finding and hiring a doula.

Our midwife actually requires us to hire a doula, but I'm so glad we're adding another person to our support team. Her sole job is to support Matt and me throughout our pregnancy and labor. I didn't realize she would be a resource for us throughout our pregnancy, so I wish we would have made contact with her even sooner (I'll have to remember that if we have a second child...).

Even just the process of interviewing doulas was educational. Here are the questions we asked:
  • How long have you been a doula? Why did you become one?
  • What are your favorite aspects?
  • Do you attend all kinds of births? What are your favorites? Why?
  • What is a homebirth like? Will you talk us through the sequence of events?
  • What kind of decisions will we have to make during birth?
  • What should we be doing to prepare for our birth and the arrival of our child?
  • What kinds of differences do you see between births that go better than others?
  • What are your strengths? Areas for growth?

One of the doulas we interviewed gave us the idea that Matt and I should each make two lists. One list should be "10 Things I Do to Take Care of Myself" and the other should be "10 Things I Need My Partner to Do to Take Care of Me." The idea is that we post these lists and reference them often!

When I asked her how someone like me (an obsessive left-brain planner) can learn to let go and be soft and open throughout the birthing experience, she said that it's a decision I have to make over and over through every contraction. That idea really resonated with me.

The doula we decided to go with wants me to call her at least after every prenatal appointment to keep her updated about how things are going. I'm looking forward to having another experienced person to turn to as a resource!

For people who are giving birth in a hospital, I think doulas can be wonderful advocates for helping you achieve the kind of birth you hope for. They can also be a good resource for helping you uncover what kind of birth you want to have.

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Sara said...

Hopefully this will resonate further.
in response to:
When I asked her how someone like me (an obsessive left-brain planner) can learn to let go and be soft and open throughout the birthing experience, she said that it's a decision I have to make over and over through every contraction. That idea really resonated with me.

I would invite you to consider that it is actually a choice that you have to make over and over again each moment of life. I am a firm believer that we birth as we live. One thing I admire in your birth prep is that you are thinking about different scenarios that may happen and thinking through how you may handle them. It is good to prepare for the surprises because that is the one constant for birth, it is always a surprise. When things in your life don't go according to plan, how do you respond to it? Many times through out the day, ask yourself, "how am I being soft in this moment?" and answer yourself with an action. This practice will help you tremendously in labor.
Another great idea during pregnancy is to do activities that take you out of your left brain for practice- drawing with chalk pastels (the book birthing from within has great art prompts if you need inspiration), practicing yoga with intense awareness of the breath and of the body, dancing, etc.
I personally believe that God has the ultimate control over the outcome, so Trusting that He will give the tools needed to move through the pain is awesome. My third birth put this into practice and I had an amazing experience.
This comment is based on my experience as a certified doula, prenatal yoga instructor, birth educator, and mother of three children born naturally (1 birth center birth and two homebirths)

Annie said...

I'm so glad you found a great doula to trust and turn to. I wish I would have hired one for my first birth! Having a female empowering you during birth is crucial I think, even if your hubby is there.

This may be indiscreet but how much does a doula cost? I have no clue at all...

E said...

Could you write about the difference between a doula and a midwife? It sounds like there is some overlap in their roles.

V. Wetlaufer said...


If Sara doesn't mind, I will answer your question since I am a doula in Salt Lake City.

A doula doesn't do anything medical. We don't deliver the baby or do vaginal exams or anything like that. Some people call doulas emotional midwives, some call us birth partners (though we don't usurp the place of the spouse or partner ever). Doulas help a woman achieve the birth she wants and ease the stress and pain of contractions through position changes, counter pressure, massage. We hold the space for a woman to feel safe to labor.

Midwives do the checkups and appointments like an OB would and they deliver the baby. Of course midwives provide emotional support as well, but usually your doula is with you longer than your OB or midwife. At my last birth, I was with the couple for five hours as the woman labored at home before we went to the hospital, and I was with her the whole time at the hospital and for two hours afterward, while the nurse came in and out.

I could go on and on about doulas, but I won't take over the comment thread.

If you want to know more about doulas, you can check out my website

And Sara--yay for a doula! I hope she is a great help to you and Matt!

Annalisa said...

I just hired a doula last night (I'm only 10 weeks but heard they fill up certain times of year). I like my OB's office and the hospital they deliver at. However, it is a bigger practice and I know we will get bounced around. Since the office leans more towards technology than listening to the body, I wanted someone who would be our constant (since the doc is likely to change) and someone who can walk us through choices and not feel pressure to do what the doc says. Plus, I love my husband but he's a terrible massager and can sometimes loose focus so for me, I feel better having someone who will be attentive to me and my needs.
Aside from being a certified doula, lots of doulas have different backgrounds and I think it is important to know their credentials. Our doula is an RN, massage therapist, and post-partem educator/lactation consultant.
To give an idea of costs, doulas range between $300-$600 but they can be claimed on your FSA (which is like a 30% discount).

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ V.: Thank you so much for chiming in! I was actually going to ask you to write a guest post about the benefits of doulas, but I didn't have time to ask you before I needed an idea for a post!

@ Annie: Our doula charges $900. She is one of the most experienced doulas in Houston (and my midwife highly recommended her), so we don't mind paying a little more. And please ALWAYS feel free to ask ANY question!

@ Sara: Thank you so much for your insights! It feels so good to read the comments and feel like I'm getting advice from friends.

Jen said...

We are also using a doula for our hospital birth. The cost for her services (in a medium-large Midwestern city) is $550, and she is also a licensed massage therapist and lactation consultant. As for a doula being covered by a medical flexible spending account, check with your account provider. For me it's only covered if the doula provides actual medical services, so sort of a grey area.

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