What is a Birth Doula?
Doula, from the Greek word δούλη means female servant. A Doula is a nonmedical person who assists a pregnant person before, during, or after childbirth, as well as their partner and/or family by providing information, physical assistance, and emotional support. The provision of continuous support during labour by doulas (as well as nurses, family, or friends) is associated with improved maternal and fetal health & a variety of other benefits.
What a Doula does:
What Doulas do NOT do:
Research shows that having a Birth Doula present at your birth:
- 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin
- 28% decrease in the risk of C-section
- 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
- 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
- 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
- 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience- Reduces the use of medical interventions such as forceps, vacuum extraction, episiotomy, etc.
- Facilitates breastfeeding initiation and continuation
- Reduces the instance of postpartum mood disorders
- Increases new parents confidence in the care of their newborn
New research published in August 2014 by the American Journal of Managed Care found that having a Doula’s support during childbirth was linked to an almost 60% reduction in the likelihood of giving birth by caesarean section. This figure rises to 80% for non-medically indicated caesarean sections.
"If a Doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it." - John H. Kennell, MD
So if we're so great & worth it....how come some people don't hire one?
There are many people out there who are pregnant & have considered, but decided against having a doula attend their birth. When asked why these are the most common answers:
- They simply don't know what a Doula does.
- They believe we replace their partner, which is really NOT true. We work with you AND your support system. We help them help you.
- They're not recommended by their doctor. Seriously, if you're planning a peaceful and/or vaginal birth & your medical provider strongly urges you NOT to hire a Doula....run. Run as fast & as far as you can. That's a major red flag in my book.
- They have a Midwife already. While some Midwives can make great Doulas (& some even started out as one) that does not mean that we, Doulas, & Midwives are the same thing. We are not.
- They don't plan on having a Home/Birth Center/Natural/Vaginal birth. Doulas are invaluable in ANY birth setting & situation. Some of my most memorable births have been hospitals births & Cesareans. I, personally, don't know what I would've done without my Doula during the birth of my second child (planned natural hospital birth turned emergency cesarean).
- All Doulas are hippies/earth mothers/science geeks. Just as there are many different types of people, there are as many different types of Doulas. I'm amazed at how often people looked at me & exclaimed they were surprised I was a Doula...just because I wasn't dirty, had dreads, wasn't covered in tattoos, didn't smell of marijuana, & I wasn't a witch doctor. I kid you not, all of that was told to me at one point or another. Sure, there are some Doulas like that. But most aren't. trust me when I say there's a Doula out there for everyone.
- They worry they can't afford one. Yes, we understand sometimes money is tight. That's why most of us work on sliding scales & flexible payment plans. Some, such as myself, also work on bartering services/goods. But it's also very important to understand WHY we charge we do. Here's a great breakdown of why I charged what I do.
Hiring the right Doula
You've read all the research & have now decided to hire a Doula. Awesome! But where do you start? TThere are many ways to find local ones:
Once you find a few go ahead & set up a free consultation/interview with each one. Remember, it's very important to find the "right one".
Questions to Ask a Potential Doula:
Other great articles & evidence on Doulas: