I remember sitting in my first prenatal yoga class almost six years ago. My instructor (who I still highly respect as a member of the birth community) was a gentle, yet firm, mother of four, and Birth Doula. She was a wealth of information and had an educated and calming answer for any pregnancy or birth related concern that we, as her students, might have as gestating women. I was in awe of her. Being the information hoarder that I am, I went home and devoured all I could find about Doulas and their role in the birthing process.
Even still, I concluded that I did not need a Doula. I was certain, in fact. You see, I had a partner and a coach, and he was going to be all I needed. We attended the classes. I read all the books, and now I was attending multiple yoga classes a week with a doula from whom I could continue to learn. In my mind, we were golden. Doulas were for people who didn’t have the partnership we did, right?
Let’s fast forward to hour 15 of my labor. Past the point of the excitement that we were finally going to meet our baby girl. Beyond multiple trips to triage to be told I still wasn’t progressing. And far past the point that we could have ever imagined, we would still be slow dancing our way through the hospital halls – to the point when my “coach” looked at me (genuinely defeated) and confided that he was “exhausted.” EXHAUSTED?! He was exhausted?! I was exhausted (and also severely dehydrated). But mostly, my spirit was broken. You see, labor is a wild ride, ladies; it’s physical, and emotional, and largely unpredictable.
What I experienced (a long, and arduous labor) as a first-time mother was completely normal. But a funny thing can happen when you’re lost in the depths of labor land – it’s like you’ve never attended the classes or read the books (at least for us, anyway). Enter the Doula. She is your person, your partner’s person, and your baby’s person. And, you deserve to have her in your corner. She won’t replace your partner; quite the opposite is true. She can offer her expertise and coach them to coach you better, and when they are tired (in the event of a prolonged labor) provide them a reprieve. She is there to advocate for you when the words aren’t available to you (which will happen), and she is worth her weight in gold.
Are you sold yet? Stick with me, Mamas, and check out the short FAQs list below to get the necessary details you need to about this compassionate and dedicated group of women.
Q. What exactly does a Doula do?
A. What don’t Doulas do? Seriously, if you are a pregnant woman or a new mother and you can think of need – there is a Doula for that. Most commonly, women will hire a Birth Doula to offer emotional and physical, labor and delivery support. However, there are Postpartum Doulas, Bereavement Doulas, High-Risk Pregnancy Doulas (Antepartum Doula), Adoption Doulas, and even Abortion Doulas. They undergo training and certification in their area of expertise in efforts to make life a little easier. And what woman doesn’t want that?
Q. What are the benefits of a Doula?
A. Since most women hire Birth Doulas, we will focus on the advantages of this type of doula for the sake of this post. The creme de la creme of research studies, Cochrane Review, has reviewed and considered the positive outcomes of Doula support in their study, “Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth.” And many other studies have found that having the support of a Doula during labor and delivery lower the cesarean rate by 50%. Additionally, having such support can decrease the length of labor, to the tune of 25%, and reduce the use of oxytocin by 40%. And EVEN lower the request for epidurals by 60%! So, to answer your question, the benefits are ENORMOUS.
Q. I want an epidural, can a Doula still help me?
A. I get it, there are many of you reading this who want that epidural. You got it, Mama. Just keep in mind that early epidurals potentially cause to higher c-section rates, so you might consider laboring for a little bit before getting your magic clicker in hand. During this time having a Doula will drastically increase your pain coping ability. Even after you have your epidural in place, Doulas can still aid and helping to prevent further intervention. Even in the event of a planned epidural Doulas are very beneficial to have on board.
Q. Does health insurance cover Doula care?
A. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear-cut answer for you on this one. Currently, there is no defined reimbursement program for Doula care. However, some insurance companies will cover some or all of your Doula expenses if you file a claim. Your best bet is to reach out to your particular insurance company to inquire about their policies. If your insurance company does not cover labor support services, the fees typically range from $400-$2500 depending on the type/length of care, and the Doulas experience (including additional credentials such as massage therapy, lactation support, water birth or rebozo certifications, etc.).
Keep in mind, however, that if you end up having an unplanned epidural, cesarean, or other intervention you will incur costly delivery expenses. The upside of all this financial talk is, if you’re willing to be open minded you can score a Doula for FREE…
Q. How do I find a Doula?
A. One of the easiest ways to get in touch with a Doula you might like is by asking around. Ask your OB or Midwife if they have any women they can recommend. Or check with friends – the benefit here is that if a friend of yours got along well with a particular Doula, you probably will as well. As for that free Doula I was mentioning above, consider going with a volunteer Doula. These are women who have completed their training but aren’t officially certified until they attend a particular number of births on their own. They are competent to offer care but may lack some of the bells and whistles of seasoned Doula with many credentials. Don’t rule these women out; everyone starts somewhere! Lastly, you can check a listing resource such as doulamatch.net; you can view profiles and reviews on Doulas in your area and get in touch with them for an interview.
[quote style=”boxed”]”If a woman doesn’t look like a goddess in labor, then someone isn’t treating her right” – Ina May Gaskin (Midwife)[/quote]
The birth of a child is also the birth of a mother. It’s a transformative experience and we, as mothers, deserve to be mothered through one of the most vulnerable experiences we will ever go through. However you choose to birth your baby, I promise, you will never regret having someone by your side to wipe your brow, massage your back, and remind you of the rockstar you are, over and over again, until your work is done and your journey begins.