If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, there’s likely a lot you’re thinking about when you look ahead to bringing a baby home. Things like hospitals, insurance, out-of-pocket costs, and all the support from family and friends you will need as you enter this new stage of your life. Many women often overlook – or forget about – their emotional needs during the stressful process of bringing their little one into the world. That’s where doulas come in.
A doula offers the expecting mother emotional and practical support, encouragement, and reassurance. She also advocates for her continuity of care during labor and delivery and helps support her loved ones. Think of them as “project managers” for moms-to-be. And in-demand ones at that! According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, between 2006 and 2012, the number of women using doulas doubled, from 3 to 6 percent.
Should You Hire a Doula?
Many myths regarding doulas make some pregnant women hesitate about taking advantage of this personalized care. However, research shows that expecting mothers gain innumerable benefits from a doula’s continuous support. There’s no denying that doulas make a difference from a decreased amount of time spent in labor to a lower rate of C-sections, pain medications, and epidurals.
But doulas don’t simply reduce the risk of adverse outcomes. Instead, they reframe an experience that’s widely seen as “traumatizing” into a positive one, empowering, and even spectacular — words that aren’t typically used in the same sentence as “giving birth.”
Common Myths About Doulas
Maybe you’ve been thinking about taking advantage of this kind of personalized care but are bogged down by some common misconceptions you may have seen in all your internet browsing (no judgment, we all do it!). Let’s break down some misconceptions and truths about doulas, what they do, and how they can elevate your labor experience.
Expertise and Cost
Two of the biggest misconceptions I often hear surround a doula’s expertise and the price of her services. Understandably, both considerations weigh heavily on most expecting mothers’ minds. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there that can blow things wildly out of proportion.
For example, doulas are often thought to deliver a baby, or the presence of a doula negates the need for a midwife. That is not the case. A good doula will shut down that line of thinking in the snap of a finger. A doula’s role is to provide emotional support for you and your partner so that you can advocate for yourself in the delivery room. But a doula does not have the medical training of a midwife.
In terms of cost, there isn’t a standard cost. Most doulas have pricing that is accessible for many expecting mothers. I’ve seen prices vary as widely as $200 to $5,000. It usually is dependent on training or certification, years of experience, and location. Even some new doulas offer their services for free to gain more experience or help them achieve their certification. That range makes it easy for you to find someone who can give you the support you need at a price you can afford. Some insurance providers do cover doula services. So be sure to check with your insurer.
Knowledge and Benefits
While there is a huge benefit to having a birth doula in the room during childbirth, there is an equal benefit before the baby arrives – the benefit of education. Doulas can coach you through the many things you don’t learn from reading books or taking courses about what to expect during labor and delivery.
Even if you attend a childbirth education class, most courses are very general. That especially goes for in-hospital childbirth classes. They don’t usually discuss other birthing options or consider your personal needs and wants. Doulas have the experience and knowledge on all the varying ways women can labor. They can help you make a personalized and informed birthing plan.
Your doula is there to support your wishes, remind you of the things that are important to you, and encourage you to speak up for yourself. Doulas will also prompt you to remember your previous decisions about stuff like epidurals or cervical checks. But they will also hold space for you to change your mind and advocate for what you feel you need at that moment.
There are also different types of doulas available depending on your needs. Labor and birth doulas guide you and your family through labor and delivery. Breastfeeding doulas are available to help new mothers with any breastfeeding challenges. Postpartum doulas are also available to support you and your family after the baby is born. They can help assist with nighttime feedings, baby blues, cooking, and taking care of the baby to give you and your partner a much-needed break.
Getting Connected and Educated
When it comes to getting connected with a doula, your best bet is through word-of-mouth referrals. Ask your healthcare practitioner if they have any recommendations. Speak with other friends or family members who may have worked with a doula in the past. Additionally, your local birth center or mother’s support group can likely connect you with a doula they trust and have worked with.
You deserve a labor and delivery experience that is not just physically supported by your healthcare team but also emotionally supported. Working with a doula can facilitate just that. They are the ultimate resource for making your labor an empowering experience. And they have the tools and training needed to look out for your emotional wellbeing so you can focus on what matters most – a safe delivery and the birth of your beautiful newborn.