I had doulas for both of my births and I loved them! Looking back, I wouldn’t give up having a doula even if you paid me.
This helped especially during my long, marathon first labor.
If it hadn’t been for my doula during that labor, and if I had been in the hospital where different options for pain are available, I may have given up and probably would have ended up with a c-section.
For both births, the doulas helped me cope with the intensity of contractions through various techniques such as changing positions, massage, and verbal affirmations.
*disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and the info in this post is my own opinion and advice based on my own experience. You’ll want to check with your doctor or midwife if you have questions.
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Having been through two births with a doula, I can’t imagine not having a doula during labor. And, there are three reasons why I think every woman needs a doula during labor.
But first, in case you’re not familiar with doulas, let’s talk about who they are.
What is a doula?
The word doula is derived from a Greek word meaning “servant-woman.” And, doulas do just that—serve you during labor. From massages to encouragement, positioning and breathing coaching to pain-reducing techniques—doulas have hearts to serve and help empower laboring women.
Doulas are there to help make your birth just that—yours. When a doula walks into the room, she immediately picks up on the atmosphere of labor and adjusts her techniques to help the laboring momma by giving her everything that she needs to have a smooth and comfortable birth.
A doula is not a medical professional but may have been trained in techniques for childbirth like different positions, breathing and relaxation exercises, and comfort measures for the mother.
A doula is basically a birth coach. While every doula has a different style, they all have the same goal—to make you feel like a goddess during birth. And, help your birth be as smooth as possible.
Why use a doula?
Studies have shown that having a doula at your birth can have many benefits including:
- Shortened length of labor
- Reduced risk of c-section
- Reduced need for pain medicine
- Reduced need for intervention during labor
- Improved emotional and mental health of the laboring mother.
- Breastfeeding support
- Answering questions throughout pregnancy, labor, and postpartum
Doulas are also excellent at fielding questions from well-intending family members. Or, helping with difficult family relationships. They will kick your mother out of the room for you as respectfully (or harshly) as needed!
Because many doulas are also certified lactation consultants, they can also offer breastfeeding support like helping your baby get a good latch and preventing engorgement, plugged ducts, and mastitis. Some doulas also offer postpartum support like cooking or cleaning around the house.
Thinking back to my labors with doulas, there are three reasons I believe that every woman needs to hire a doula for her birth.
1) They know what works
Whether it’s from training, intuition, or experience with countless laboring women, doulas have so many tips and tricks up their sleeve for reducing pain in labor, helping labor progress, and calming a stressed out momma.
There were so many times in both labors that my doulas knew exactly what would work to help me in my time of need.
During contractions, one doula knew exactly which pressure points to massage. And, I would say that it completely eliminated any discomfort from the contraction! She would somehow press on my lower back and my knee and it immediately felt so heavenly.
When I started pushing during my second labor, my doula put a cold washcloth on my face in between contractions and I cannot describe how amazing this felt.
If you’re considering hiring a doula, you can do it for this reason alone. You may think you learned enough tips during your birth class. But, it all flies out the window in labor.
Trust me. Having a doula there to remind you what works or step in and give suggestions can be a lifesaver during labor.
2) They’re great at encouraging
In my first labor, I remember reaching a point where I didn’t know if I could go on. I was exhausted. We had been up all night and I saw no end in sight.
I didn’t realize how close I was to meeting my baby.
But, my doula did.
As I slumped next to the bed, she reassuringly said:
“Draw from your source of power.”
I remember thinking “what the heck is that supposed to mean?” But looking back, it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.
After she said that, I was able to say a quick prayer which gave me the strength to keep going.
Doulas have a way of sayings exactly what you need to hear at the moment that you need it.
3) They help your partner help you
You may be thinking, “I don’t need a doula because my husband will coach me.”
But, there may be times when you put both your husband and a doula to work. And, doulas can help coach your husband in how best to help you.
There were times in my labors where my doula was rubbing my cramping calves while at the same time my husband was rubbing my back and letting me squeeze his hand.
During my first birth, my husband was so exhausted because of my long labor that he had to take a nap while I tried dancing the baby out. So, my doula danced with me instead (that and my husband doesn’t like to dance).
Let’s face it, your husband may have gone through birth classes with you. He may have read the Bradley Birth Books. But, sometimes guys just don’t know what to do when they look at their wives going through intense contractions all to give them a child.
Because a doula is more emotionally detached, she can sometimes better think of what would help the laboring mother cope.
Related: 5 Secrets to Avoid Pain in Labor
What to look for in a doula
When looking for the right doula, you want to make sure that your personalities mesh. Let’s face it, you are going to be naked giving birth in front of them. So, you’ll want someone you’re completely comfortable with.
I used different doulas for my two births and both were absolutely amazing. I am so thankful that I got to know them both during pregnancies so that I was comfortable around them during my labors.
The doula at my first birth was so good at verbally coaching me through labor. It was like she always knew exactly what to say and when to say it. She also jumped right in when we had a dance party to help me dilate!
At my second labor, I had a different doula who was also good at encouraging me. But, she was more hands-on with techniques such as massage and using pressure points to help with the intensity of contractions. It worked out wonderfully because my labor was more like a spa rather than a dance party which was good because that doula didn’t like dancing.
Think about what you’re wanting in a doula during labor. Do you want hands-on? Do you want verbal coaching and encouragement? Do you want someone who has a lot of tricks for different positions and breathing techniques? Or, do you just want a friend to talk to during labor?
If you know what you want specifically, then you can know what questions to ask in an interview and also who would be a good fit for you as a doula.
Hiring a doula
Once you decide on a doula, you’ll want to meet with your doula before your due date to talk about your desires for birth. This will help everyone be on the same page when the time comes.
Don’t wait too late to look for a doula. I recommend starting your search in the second or even in the first trimester. You don’t want to find the perfect doula late in pregnancy only to find out that she’s not available around your due date.
Start by doing a search for doulas in your area. You can search online or ask local Mom groups for their recommendations.
Then, you can see if those doulas have websites. Often their sites will answer most of your questions and help you know if they would be a good fit before you even interview them.
Next, set up some interviews. Be sure and write down your questions before meeting with them so that you don’t forget it all during the interview like I tend to do.
Not sure what to ask a doula during an interview? Here is a list of questions to get you started.
Questions to ask when interviewing doulas
- Do you have a backup doula in case something happens and you can’t make it?
- How many labors have you assisted?
- Are you certified?
- If so, where did you get your certification?
- What would you say your personality/presence is like during labor?
- When will you come help me during labor?
- What pregnancy and postpartum support (if any) do you offer?
- Do you help with home births/birth centers/hospital births? (Sometimes doulas can be restricted in some circumstances. For instance, birth centers may already have a doula on staff).
How much does a doula cost?
If you give birth at a birth center, sometimes a doula is included in the price. Of course, if that doula is not a good fit for you, you can hire your own instead.
Professional, trained doulas can cost anywhere from $600-$1000 or more depending on what’s included in the cost.
I personally spent close to $700 for one of my doulas. The other one worked at the birth center so we didn’t have any additional cost.
Some doulas are also trained birth photographers. So, you can include that in your birth package which may cost more.
What do you get for your money?
Often, doulas will have a protocol in their payment plan for how many times they meet with you before and after birth. You can see if they have a website that details their services included in their pricing.
If you think a doula may be too inexpensive, don’t be afraid to ask if they would be willing to set up a payment plan or let you pay on a sliding scale based on your income.
I don’t believe that doulas can take health insurance (because they are not medical professionals). But, for the many benefits, I believe doulas are definitely worth the cost.
While there may be some women who have a valid reason why they don’t want a doula (I can’t think of one), I highly suggest that every woman at least consider hiring a doula for labor.
You can always kick a doula out of our birth space if it isn’t working out (and I’m sure she would understand!). But, you don’t want to find yourself in the full swing of labor wishing you had found a doula.
Did you have a doula at your birth? Tell us about your experience!