Before becoming a mom, I had no idea what a doula was. But, as a first-time mom, I was not sure what to expect from labor and delivery. Classes can only get you so far. When you are in the heat of the moment, it is hard to focus on the different techniques you learned. The idea of interventions also terrified me because I had friends that ended up in emergency C-sections after being induced. I was pretty overwhelmed. And I wanted someone who could help me figure all of it out.
I knew nothing about doulas before I decided to give birth at a birth center. My midwife recommended that I work with one to help have additional support. The midwife would not be in the room the entire time, and she told me that I might want someone else experienced with labor progression. It would also give my husband some relief to have additional help.
Based on her recommendation, I began the journey to find the right doula for us. The idea of having additional support was comforting. I wanted to make sure that I found the right person for both my husband and me. Coming from no experience with this, I had to do a lot of research. Choosing a doula is a profoundly personal experience, but there are things you can do to figure out if someone is right for you and your family.
Tips for Choosing a Doula
According to DONA International, births with a doula can positively affect outcomes. This research shows that women who use a birth doula are less likely to need Pitocin, are less likely to use pain medication, are less likely to have a C-Section, and are more likely to rate their birth experience positively. I experienced many benefits firsthand by working with a doula.
Benefits of Having a Doula
One of the most significant benefits of having a doula is extra emotional support. Labor and delivery are exhausting. It was great to have another person there to help me through labor. Even the simple act of holding my hand during a contraction was comforting and helped me get through the pain.
Backup for husband
My labor was over 40 hours. This is a long time for someone to help you through labor. My husband needed breaks, so it was great to have someone else available to sit with me and help me through my contractions. She also had a backup that came to help when she had to run home for a bit. I did not blame her for that since my labor was so long.
She stayed with the baby and my husband while I was stitched back up after delivery. This support was great for him because my surgery ended up taking much longer than they initially thought. Having someone there with him helped him while he waited for me to come back.
Expertise in labor progression
While the classes I took to prepare for labor were beneficial, it is impossible to know what you are in for before experiencing it. My doula gave me suggestions and helped me understand where in the progression I was as I went along. She knew when to encourage me to change positions, and her insight was invaluable.
Someone to be your advocate
Even though I intended to deliver in a birth center, I ended up transferring to a hospital. My doula went with us and stayed through the rest of my labor. She was able to give me advice and help me work through what was happening. She supported me in my decisions, and having her there helped a lot.
Some doulas offer postpartum support as well. Even though I did not take up this additional service, my doula still came to check on me at home and provided breastfeeding advice when I was having difficulty. Postpartum doulas may also offer additional support such as emotional support, listening, encouragement, newborn support, practical support around the house, and support for other family members.
How to Choose a Doula
Ask friends and family
The best way to get a doula is to ask around to the people you know. These firsthand accounts will give you some ideas of where to start. You also know that your friends and family will tell you both the good and the bad.
Do your research
Beyond asking for recommendations, check out additional local doulas. A great website to do that is DoulaMatch.net. Once you have a complete list, check out each of their websites. Pick those who are of the most interest to you.
Meet with a few options
There is only so much you can learn about a doula on her website. Meeting in person or through video chat will help you gauge whether your doula will be a fit. A lot of it comes down to a gut feeling and rates.
For one of the doulas I met with, she charged more per hour when it got over a certain amount of time. This fee made me uneasy, and I am glad I did not choose her because I would have had to pay her a lot with being in labor for over 40 hours. She also did not have that much experience. The doula that I did pick had a flat rate, which made me a lot more comfortable. I also just liked her better. She was personable, and I found it easy to talk to her.
Write out questions for your meeting
There are certain things that you should know about your doula before you decide to work with her. Prepare a list of interview questions before you meet. Find out about her background, training, certification status, how many births she’s attended, services, fees, backup, and logistics.
The support and expertise that a doula offers are great things to have when you go through labor and delivery. It comes down to the doula’s training and how well you get along. She is a great person to lean on and help you no matter what your birth experience ends up being.