Finding the Right Doula For You
While childbirth can be the most empowering experience a woman goes through, the unknowns during pregnancy and delivery can be daunting. Particularly for first-time mothers, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the information, questions and opinions that seem to present themselves over nine months and beyond.
Enter a doula. As a trained labor support professional, a doula acts as emotional and physical support for women during labor and childbirth. While many people may be present during a birth, the doula's primary responsibility is to the person giving birth and no one else. Women (and their partners) all over the world rely on doulas to assist them during pregnancy, labor, childbirth and postpartum—and have done so for centuries.
During the labor process, a doula will:
- Suggest positions for comfort
- Provide counter pressure when needed
- Assist with breathing techniques
- Provide a calm, positive environment
- Provide partner emotional support
- Advocate for the best care possible for their client
- Serve as a communication liaison between women and their providers
A doula can provide physical and emotional support and needed information to women as they embark on the journey of motherhood. Their purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience. Although research on the effectiveness of doulas is limited, the benefits of hiring a doula during childbirth can include a decreased length in labor, fewer incidences of C-sections, less use of pain meds during labor and an increase in positive childbirth experiences.
The job doesn't stop once the baby is born. Doulas also tend to the mother in the postpartum phase, from breastfeeding support to ensuring she receives the rest, fluids and nutrition her body needs for a healthy recovery. Postpartum can be a roller coaster in itself, with 1 in 7 women experiencing postpartum depression (PPD) in the weeks or months following childbirth. A doula is trained to keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of PPD.
How to find your perfect doula
Every pregnant woman has different needs, and these should be considered when researching to find a doula. It's extremely important to feel comfortable with the person you decide to hire to assist you during birth. Here are some tips on finding the perfect doula for your needs:
- Ask friends or family for a referral if they had a positive experience
- Ask your midwife or OBGYN for recommendations
- Check with your hospitals as many offer doula services or referrals
- Research websites such as DONA International for local searches of doulas near you
Before meeting with a doula, decide what's most important to you during your child's birth. What qualifications or offerings will bring you comfort and peace of mind? These may include a doula's current and past training, certification status, experience and how many births they've assisted with. It's also important to note their availability around the time of your due date to ensure they can be present with you. According to Lamaze.org, it's most important to understand a doula's personality and their approach to birth. Questions you could ask include:
- Why did you become a doula?
- What is your philosophy on how women give birth?
- How will you include my partner or support person throughout labor and delivery?
- Will you support me and my choices, regardless of whether I end up following my birth plan or not?
In addition to personality matching, you want to be fully informed about a doula's experience and fees. Consider asking the following questions:
- Tell me about your training and education. How do you stay up to date with both?
- How long have you been practicing? How many births have you attended?
- What is your full fee? What are the costs involved in working with you?
- Do you have a backup arrangement in case you can't make it? Can I meet that person?
Choosing a doula is a deeply personal decision, and it really comes down to what feels right to you. It needs to be someone you feel comfortable with and trust to be your biggest advocate in the delivery room. All women deserve to feel empowered, supported and capable during childbirth. Having a doula present for labor and delivery has helped women all over the world have beautiful, memorable experiences. If this sounds like the route you want to take, do your research and find the right fit for you.