Reviewed by Cathy Daub, BirthWorks
Having a doula while you’re pregnant is a personal choice. Doulas are birth coaches and pregnancy experts. They are also considered to be part of the mother’s emotional support team. Doulas are not doctors or midwives, but they can be part of the birthing team, and can help a woman understand her options at all times.
Doulas are trained professionals who can encourage deep breathing and relaxation and offer support for mothers and partners. A doula is usually a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational care to the mother before, during, and just after childbirth.
Women who choose to have a doula at their side during birth often have shorter hospitals stays, breastfeed more easily, and have fewer admissions to special care nurseries. Doulas practice three different ways. You can hire one privately, they can work for a hospital, or they can work as a volunteer in a local community or hospital program. Doulas do not make decisions for their clients, nor do they intervene in a client’s clinical care. A doula’s duty is to provide emotional and informational support while abiding by her client’s wishes.
Benefits of Having a Doula While You’re Pregnant
There are numerous benefits to having a doula while you are pregnant. Doulas are available to answer just about all of your questions about pregnancy. They also offer:
- Emotional support
- Physical support
- Suggestions for ways to relieve discomfort, pain, and other symptoms
- Help with postpartum depression
- Facilitation of communication between laboring woman, their partners, and clinical care providers
Statistically, doulas are also said to:
- Shorten the duration of labor by 25%
- Reduce the use of oxytocin by 40%
- Reduce the use of pain medication by 30%
- Reduce requests for an epidural by 60%
Your partner may also find a doula beneficial. Often, a pregnant woman’s partners may feel threatened by the doula, afraid that she will replace him during the labor and delivery process, but that is far from the truth. Doulas are also trained to help the partners of expectant mothers deal with pregnancy, labor, and birth. Doulas can provide tips and hints to partners, helping the partner to participate in the coaching process.
A doula can also help an expectant mother’s partner understand what she is going through physically, emotionally, and mentally. Partners who have a doula to rely on may feel less pressured to remember everything, which usually reduces stress for everyone. For example, the partner may not remember every detail of the steps they learned in birthing class, but the doula can remind them as they go.
What a Doula Can Help You With
Doulas are trained in many aspects of pregnancy, and can also provide additional services, such as help with:
- Birth plans
- Postpartum support
- Belly casting
- Birth photography
It is important to stress that birthing couples should be encouraged to attend childbirth classes during pregnancy. It is the doula’s role to supplement some of this information, but not take the place of the classes.
Services Doulas Provide
The services a doula provides may vary in price, depending on the location of the doula and how often they meet with the expectant mother. A typical doula service package will look like this:
- Complimentary consultations throughout the pregnancy
- One to two prenatal visits
- Continuous support throughout labor and delivery
- One to two postpartum visits
- Provision of a back up doula
- Documentation of the experience
Of course, this is just a basic package, and the doula you choose may offer more or less for a specific price. Prices and services are based on the doula or the company the doula works for. Prices can range from $100 to $350 for one group class, and up to $1,500 for private classes with you, your partner, and the doula. You may be able to get visits at a discounted price if you take the classes as well. It’s important to check out several different doula service providers before choosing one.
To learn more, please check out our Guide to Hiring a Doula.