A doula is a person pregnant women hire to give them guidance and support during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
In recent years, hiring a delivery doula is becoming increasingly common – and for good reason.
Here are some things to consider, along with tips for hiring a doula for your delivery.
Reasons to Hire a Doula
Here are some situations where it makes a lot of sense to hire a doula.
1. You’re Delivering Alone
If you’re without a partner and about to embark on this parenting journey all by yourself, you might want a doula at your side. That’s especially true if you don’t have a mother, sister, or best friend who will be involved and there with you in the delivery room.
Having a baby is difficult physically and emotionally, but it’s even harder when you feel you don’t have the support you need. Everyone needs someone in their corner at a time like that and a doula might be your best bet.
2. She’ll Be Like Your Shadow
You’ll have your team of doctors and nurses circulating in and out of your room while you’re in the hospital, but a doula is there to stay with you. She’s in it for the whole duration and you are her only focus, unlike doctors and nurses who have other patients.
If you want someone to be by your side the whole time who knows how to help you without you having to bark out demands, a doula is a good choice.
3. Your Partner Might Like the Help
Let’s face it. Men sometimes aren’t much use during childbirth, even when they really want to be. They feel helpless, confused, and overwhelmed by what’s happening, and they often don’t know what to do to comfort you or make you feel better.
If you want to show some pity to your out-of-his-element partner, a doula can do that. It takes some of the pressure off of them because the doula can let them know exactly what you need from them. That can bring you two closer during childbirth instead of driving a wedge between you.
4. They Aren’t As Expensive As You Think
Doulas, especially the best ones who have a lot of experience and references can cost a fair amount of money at a time when you’re already probably strapped for cash. You’ll have hospital bills flooding in and all that baby gear and necessities to purchase.
But it is important to remember that working with an experienced Doula should be seen as an investment and not an expense. Doulas have been shown to reduce the risk of birthing complications, cut down on the amount of pain medications required, and improve the overall birthing experience for women. That’s money well spent in my opinion.
5. They Can Give You Reliable Information
While doulas aren’t able to tell you what medical decisions you should make, they can give you the information you’ll need to make an informed decision. If you’re having contractions, they can help describe ways to tell if they are true contractions or the real deal. That kind of information is invaluable to a new mom-to-be.
Doulas are also familiar with the different kinds of procedures and steps that occur during childbirth. They can keep you informed about what is happening and what your doctor or nurse is doing.
6. You Can Ask for What You Need
Some women are too timid during delivery to ask for what they need from their partner, especially if the guy isn’t exactly the greatest at taking orders.
With a doula, women can ask for exactly what they need — if they want someone to work the kinks out of their lower back with a massage or you need someone to convey to the medical staff any problems you’re having, your doula will have your back. It’s like having your best friend in the delivery room — she’ll always have your back no matter what.
Sometimes patients and their family members are intimidated by the healthcare staff and do not feel comfortable in asking all the questions they would like to. A doula can be a bridge to that and can act as the patient’s advocate making sure all the patient’s concerns are tended to.
Editor's Note:Dr. Njoud Jweihan, MD
7. They Give You Post-Partum Help
So you and your partner are on the way home from the hospital after having your baby. Now what? You’re on your own if you don’t have a doula.
That can be scary. Your husband might be terrified and unsure of himself. And you will be extremely sore, full of hormones, and possibly even be nursing a surgical wound.
In short, you may find yourself needing back-up. Your doula can provide that. She can give you an extra set of hands around the house, doing whatever it is you need support with — grabbing you snacks and checking out your breastfeeding latch.
It’s like having a caregiver for you. It may feel a little extravagant at first but enjoy it. You’ve worked hard and you’re entitled to some pampering.
8. Labor Can Be Harder Than You Think
Giving birth has earned a legendary reputation over the years for being one of the most enduring experiences a woman will go through. But some women still underestimate just how tough it will be. Or they think they can handle pain better than other women do.
During labor though, all bets are off. It can be incredibly difficult, especially if labor draws out longer than usual (1).
Doulas can help get you through what might feel like the longest day of your life. Methods they use include aromatherapy, massage, music, and mantras. And that can be more than worth the money you’ll pay for their services.
9. You Want To Use Less Medications
Since studies do show women who use doulas need less pain medication during delivery, if you’re hoping to use as little medication as possible, you might want to hire a doula. Some medications cross the placenta too — I was dangerously close to requesting one of those medications with my first child because the pain was so intense. A doula would have really come in handy at that point.
A doula doesn’t guarantee you won’t need medicine, but it will give you your best bet of reducing the amount you’ll need.
10. You’re Worried About a Cesarean Section
Doulas can help lessen the risk of having a C-section. For some women, that may be enough to warrant hiring one. No one wants to run the risk of having a C-section if they don’t need to.
It is difficult to have a C-section instead of having a vaginal birth because you have to recover from an operation as well as giving birth. That makes things even trickier.
Doulas can also be present during the c-section if you are having local anesthesia for encouragement.
How To Find a Doula
The best way to find a doula is by word of mouth. Check with your friends who are moms or any mom groups you’ve joined.
They’ll be able to tell you if they have worked with a doula they’d recommend. They can also steer you away from doulas they haven’t had a great experience with too.
If you happen to be friends with a nurse who works on a maternity ward, she’ll likely have some names to give you when it comes to good, reliable doulas. She’ll have seen them in action so her advice will be invaluable.
If you don’t know any women who have used doulas, there are other ways to find them. You can search the DONA International database for a certified doula source. They have a membership of over 5,000 doulas.
Some moms have also had success with checking Craigslist to find doulas. But with Craigslist, you need to be careful and check any references thoroughly.
Before you choose the first doula who shows any interest in the job, you need to think about what you want. It can be tempting to fill the position quickly because it’s just one more thing you want to check off your list. With so many balls in the air to juggle, it can feel comforting to line up things so you can move along on your to-do list.
There are a number of things you need to consider before choosing your doula.
- If you like her: This may seem like a strange thing to consider, but your doula is going to see you at your worst and in some compromising positions. You’re already going to be super aggravated and in pain, so it’s best if you don’t hire someone you already feel like throat punching. If you don’t feel an immediate sense that you like the doula you’re talking to, you’ll like her even less in the delivery room.
- Does she feel comforting to you: Your doula is going to catch you at a time when you feel frantic, worried, and writhing in pain. So you want her to have a soothing effect on you. If she feels a little too rigid or high strung while you’re interviewing her, you’ll want to find someone else.
- Do you want someone with a firmer hand: Are you the type of person who wants someone to motivate you with some tough love? If you do, make sure your doula isn’t too much of the earth-mama type that she can’t get firm with you when you need it.
- Who your partner will be comfortable with: While ultimately, the decision about who to hire as your doula should belong to you, your partner will probably want to have some say. You should consider their feelings too. But only to a point — after all it’s your body and your responsibility to bring that life into this world so you need all the support you can.
- The fee she charges: While money should never be the determining factor, it’s a reality most of us have to deal with. We don’t often have deep pockets, especially when we’re expecting because there are so many other places we must spend money. So your doula’s fee is a big consideration for you.
- Any special talents the doula may have: If you want someone who can really help your back spasms because she’s good with a massage technique, you might want to consider asking your doula candidates if they have any special talents.
- References: Even if you love a potential doula’s personality, you should still check on her references. You should never trust her word alone or any certification she has. What you really need to know is the satisfaction level of those who have worked with her in the past.
- Would you be comfortable with a male doula: Although there aren’t many in the profession, male doulas do exist. Whether you’d be comfortable with someone who can’t really understand how you’ll feel during childbirth is a matter of personal preference.
- Do you have any challenges in your pregnancy you want her to have experience with: If you are having multiples, you are obviously going to want someone who can give you peace of mind about how you’re doing in the delivery room (2). You’ll also want someone who can give you breastfeeding tips when you have two babies to feed.
What Questions to Ask a Doula
Here is a list of questions you may want to consider asking your doula.
- What is your background and experience?
- How much do you charge?
- How many clients do you take a month?
- Will you be available at all times, or do you use a back-up doula?
- Is it possible for me to meet your back-up?
- What ways can I contact you — through text, calling, or emails?
- If you have an emergency and can’t come to the birth, will you refund my money?
- Will you see me before birth or will the delivery room be our first get-together?
- Are you comfortable with home births in case I go that route?
- Will you be available for the postpartum period?
- Have you been in any deliveries that have had complications?
- Do you have much experience with C-sections?
- Can I call you anytime — day or night?
- Will you be able to help me with breastfeeding form and issues?
- Do you have a specific philosophy?
- What do you think your best quality as a doula is?
- How many births have you attended?
The Big Day
- Will you be in the delivery room until I’m holding my baby?
- What if my labor lasts 24 hours or longer — will you stay?
- Will you work with my partner to address any concerns they have?
- How do you help clients with their pain management?
- Will you be comforting or try to take charge of the situation during delivery?
- What do you typically do to offer support to a mom during childbirth?
- Have you attended home births?