Do I need a doula? Do I need a doula for a hospital birth? What about a homebirth?
These questions will likely pop up in the second and third trimesters as a woman gets closer to her estimated due date. Maybe even sooner! I know I wondered “do I need a doula?” before I was even pregnant.
Do I Need A Doula?
Doulas Only Attend Crunchy Births
Before we get to the nitty gritty about whether or not you need a doula, let’s just clear one thing up. Doulas don’t only attend crunchy births, whatever that even means. lol!
Hiring a doula is not a “crunchy” thing to do just like having a homebirth isn’t necessarily a “crunchy” thing either.
Having effective support during birth has nothing to do with the “crunchiness” of the woman or her birth space. Every woman needs support no matter where she births.
Doulas attend hospital births as well as homebirths, however, most doula attended births are actually in a hospital setting simply because that’s where most women give birth.
… And because it helps to laugh and laugh often, here is a clip of the type of birth doulas rarely, if ever, attend. LOL!
Do I Need A Doula?
Do I need a doula? I think yes and here’s why.
Options for Birth
The first reason you need a doula is because doulas are great at presenting available options and helping decide if it is something you would like to choose.
For example, our local hospital offers telemetry monitoring. Unfortunately, some nurses do not know it is available or are not trained to operate the equipment. As a doula I inform my clients about this option, which they would likely never know about otherwise.
Another example may be that a doula requests a birth ball for you upon admission to a hospital room. Hospitals do not have a birth ball for every room! Not even close. A doula will naturally gather all available resources to allow her client the best options for her birth.
A doula is a wealth of knowledge and naturally brings this knowledge to her clients. The more knowledge a woman has, the more varied her options will be.
Another reason to hire a doula is to help create a birth plan.
Have you tried a quick google search on birth plans? By following the advice of google you’ll likely end up with a three page, single space, double sided birth plan. Which won’t get read. Or even worse, will irritate your nurse.
During pregnancy a doula will work to create a birth plan that makes sense you and your birth and then will help translate it onto paper. A doula will help you create a birth plan that will actually get read.
Childbirth Education Lite
Another great aspect of hiring a doula is that your prenatal meeting(s) will be like a mini childbirth class. Don’t get me wrong, you should absolutely take a real childbirth class, but a doula will be able to fill in any gaps and tailor childbirth education to YOU and YOUR birth.
For example, at a prenatal appointment sometimes I help pack a hospital bag for birth, stick some labor snacks in there, do a quick labor position refresh or even talk about birth fears. Or maybe we go over early labor, active labor and transition and how to cope through it all.
Really, the sky is the limit.
During pregnancy doulas are great at helping women discover their options, create a birth plan, and teach childbirth education which is priceless when it comes to feeling encouraged. All women, no matter how they give birth, need to feel encouraged in order to give birth with confidence.
Even doulas need encouragement, especially in the third trimester (when birth becomes imminent). Doulas aren’t birthing superheros!
Doulas are amazing encouragers that will leave you feeling like you can birth without fear and that you can do this!
Labor at Home
Another reason to hire a doula is so that you will have an experienced professional with you at home while you are in active labor. Not every woman has the opportunity to labor at home, but when it happens it’s amazing to have a doula there too.
The best part about having a doula present while laboring at home is that she will help mom and dad decide when to go to the hospital. Many parents, especially first time parents, sometimes end up at the hospital too early and are sent home. By having a doula, many of these frustrating and time consuming trips will be reduced if not eliminated.
An experienced doula is pretty good at knowing when to stay, how far apart contractions should be before going to the hospital, and best of all, how to avoid having a car baby.
Doulas Remember the Details
Doulas are amazing at remembering all the little details. Remember your wedding coordinator? She was amazing at remembering the details, which made all the difference.
A doula does that too, but instead of for a wedding, it’s the birth of your child. Both are the most important days of your lives!
For example, I help parents remember to sit on a towel on the way to the hospital. Yes, your water can break in the car!
Another small thing I do is to adjust the lighting of the birth space. Bright lights don’t make sense in most birth scenarios and one of my favorite things to do is to dim the lights. Even if mom doesn’t notice, I think it helps relax the entire birth team. Dimmed lighting changes the atmosphere in the room to a more calm, relaxed mood.
A final example of how a doula remembers the details is that we help make sure everybody is eating and drinking, including the dads. In fact, at certain points through out the process I am checking in with dad to see how he’s doing and what his needs are. If I can help him out and make him feel better, he can better help out his woman.
Partner with Dads
And speaking of dads, you need a doula so that dad can be a better birth partner. I think it’s unfair to expect dads to be the sole birth partner – a rockstar doula, amazing husband and first time dad – all rolled into one person. When a doula is hired, pressure comes off dad which allows him to be more fully present for mom. It makes a big difference.
Often I work with dads to support moms together. Together we coordinate the fetching of things (water, snacks, clothing, etc.) to make sure mom is never left alone. You will often see mom “slow dancing” with dad while a doula massages her back or does counter pressure. Or maybe dad and the doula are both holding her body while she is pushing.
When dads work with doulas, an amazing thing happens. The level of support doesn’t just double, I think it multiplies. Doulas and dads create synergy.
Natural Birth Support
If you are planning a natural birth, you should hire a doula. Doulas specialize in providing the level of support needed to make an unmedicated childbirth happen. We know massage, birthing positions, counter pressure, birth tubs (and showers too!), the right words to say (or not say), and how to cope through transition.
Many studies have shown that by hiring a doula you will see
- shorter labors with fewer complications
- a reduction in negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- a reduction in the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
- a reduction in the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals
If you want a natural childbirth, hiring a doula will greatly increase the chances of making your dreams come true.
Medicated Birth Support
However, say you want a medicated birth or that things don’t go the way you hoped, doulas are experts in helping cope with “the next best thing” as these detours come your way.
And let me tell you, there will be at least one detour headed your way! When it comes to birth, its best to expect the unexpected. (I personally learned this lesson at my births, especially my third.)
If drugs or an epidural are what you choose or are your next best thing, you will need a doula to help with education, answering questions, helping know what to expect next and so much more.
Also, even if you are planning on an epidural there will still be a period of pain coping necessary before the epidural is placed. Or maybe things move too quickly and there’s no time for one. Or sometimes an epidural only works part way… or not at all! It’s helpful to have a professional support person no matter what is planned.
Cesarean Birth Support
I have attended my fair share of cesarean births – both planned, unplanned and emergency – and my doula clients were grateful for my presence (especially the dads!). I’ve helped my clients become educated about their options in the OR, encouraged parents to advocate for their choices, and other more practical things like moving personal belongings and communicating with family members. Often times I even get to assist with the initial breastfeeding in the recovery room.
Surgery, whether planned or not, can be a scary thing. It’s amazing to have someone there just for you and your little family. A doula is there for new parents when support is needed no matter how mom gives birth.
Facilitate Communication and Informed Consent
Another reason you should hire a doula is because doulas can facilitate better communication and therefore a better working relationship with doctors, midwives and nurses.
Prenatally, this might look like teaching my doula clients the BRAIN acronym and role playing various birth scenarios with my clients. This teaches parents to advocate for themselves and gather the information needed to make an informed decision.
During labor, this is done on the fly. For example, I was a doula for a VBAC a few years ago. During the pushing process mom was very focused on the task at hand, as she should have been. However, I saw that her birth team was preparing to place an internal fetal monitor to more closely monitor her baby because he was having heart decelerations. I knew that an internal fetal monitor would require breaking her water, and that she prenatally wanted none of these things, so I quickly whispered in her ear what was happening (they weren’t communicating with her) and asked if she had any questions. She immediately opened her eyes, looked around and saw what was happening and said, “no, that’s ok”.
If I hadn’t been there to invite her to the decision making process I promise you she would have not been happy about what happened. It’s imperative that women are respected and included in the decision making process! A doula can help make that happen.
One of the best aspects of a doula is that she doesn’t leave. Shift change will come and go bringing new faces, conversations and ideas but a doula is a constant that does not change.
You’ll never have to wonder what new doula you’ll get at 7 pm when shift change starts. Doula care just doesn’t work like that!
A doula has been part of the entire process. She was the one texting back and forth with mom in the weeks leading up to labor, and answering questions during labor. A doula knows exactly what has been working and definitely what is not. After working with a mom in labor for a period of time, things become fluid and intuitive. Doulas can anticipate a mom’s needs as they happen. Labor support never looked so good as when a doula is around!
*No, doulas are not super humans which means in extreme cases she will find another doula for respite or to takeover. However, this is often a welcome energy boost! A fresh, new and energized doula can bring life to a long, unplanned birth.
Immediate Postpartum Support
Another way to answer the “do I need a doula?” question is to explain how a doula is helpful during the first hours following a birth.
Immediately after birth I am present, but typically in the background doing what needs to be done. Sometimes I’m bringing drinks and food to the new parents, sometimes I’m taking pictures, sometimes I’m facilitating skin-to-skin with mother and baby and sometimes I am helping with the initial breastfeeding.
Our local hospital is moving towards becoming a “baby friendly” hospital which means I do less of this but sometimes I am facilitating the reunion of mom and baby.
Just because the main event has happened, doesn’t mean my job is done. My big focus immediate postpartum is to protect the new family and let bonding take place, whatever that looks like for them.
Do I need a doula? Are you still undecided? Let’s talk about how a doula is helpful during the first few weeks following birth.
Part of my service as a doula includes one postpartum visit to the new family’s home within the first week or two after birth. At this visit we talk and see how things are going which is a big help for new parents. Often a new mom is feeling a lot of new and weird feelings so it’s just nice to be listened to and understood.
During the postpartum visit I can also help with breastfeeding, babywearing and sibling adjustment. I can help mom have some time to take a shower, take out her trash, bring her food and drinks and wash her dishes. I can start laundry, fold laundry and even put it away. Postpartum doulas are amazing!
Another reason to have a doula on your birth team is because they are a unique resource in your particular community. Doulas know all the local resources that can help with childbirth classes, breastfeeding classes, babywearing meetups, breastfeeding support groups, postpartum depression resources, prenatal and postpartum yoga, massage, new mom support groups and so much more.
For example, if you are new to an area and need some information on any of the above topics your best bet is to contact a doula. Google is inferior to a doula’s knowledge and expertise.
Do I Need a Doula?
Do I need a doula? I vote yes.
Your life, your birth and your transition to parenthood will be better all because of a doula. To find a doula in your area visit DoulaMatch.net, do a google search or poll some moms in your area.
TIP: Don’t disqualify new doulas. They can be a wonderful choice!