As you plan and prepare for your natural birth, the idea of hiring a birth doula may have crossed your mind. Or maybe you’ve heard the word doula but don’t really even know what one does. Let’s discuss the benefits and potential drawbacks of hiring a birth doula.
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What is a birth doula?
First off, let’s discuss what a birth doula is. A doula is a trained labor assistant. She provides emotional and physical support for both mom and her partner during childbirth. Typically, your doula will join you during labor at whatever point you call and ask her to come. This is usually sometime during active labor. A birth doula may provide therapeutic touch, emotional comfort, offer advice about positions, and suggest a variety of comfort techniques. Some doulas may even photograph or film your birth for you.
Benefits of hiring a birth doula:
Safer, More Satisfying Births
Studies have found that women who receive continuous, one-on-one support during labor and delivery are (1,2):
- More likely to have a vaginal birth that starts without intervention
- Less likely to use pain medication in labor
- More satisfied with their births
- Have shorter labors
- Less likely to have a cesarean
The benefits of birth doulas are so compelling that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has jumped on the doula bandwagon. They suggest that doulas are a powerful and “underutilized resource.” They go so far as to say that doulas are “one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes” (1).
Deep Knowledge of Birth
Birth doulas have been through the birth process more times than even a mom of many, and may have tips and tricks that you wouldn’t have know. Or she may be able to read mom’s posture, vocalizing, etc. and be able to suggest what tool or coping skill she might want to try in the moment. A doula can help mom and her partner communicate with the birth team, and advocate for mom’s wishes.
Another benefit is that a doula may be familiar with the hospital where you’re delivering, and with the doctors, midwives, and nurses. It can be comforting and helpful for a member of your birth team to have a relationship with the medical staff.
Support for Partners
Doulas can play a valuable role in supporting your partner, too. Some partners feel overwhelmed with the idea of being the sole support for mom during a potentially long labor. Others are uncomfortable with the birth process, and want an experienced team member in the room. In steps the birth doula!
A doula will not take the place of your partner during childbirth. Rather, she’ll help your partner know what to do to connect with you during labor. She’ll lend an extra hand and help to maintain a calm, peaceful birth environment.
Potential drawbacks of hiring a birth doula:
At a time when expenses are piling high, some couples struggle to find the extra cash to hire a birth doula. Depending on the city, birth doulas can range in price from $500 – $1500+. This cost typically includes prenatal visits, continuous labor support, and postpartum visits. It also compensates your doula for being on-call 24/7 around your due date.
Unfortunately, most insurance companies don’t cover doula services. So, couples typically have to foot the bill on their own. For some couples, the cost of a birth doula is simply more than they can afford.
Birth is an intimate experience, to say the least. Not only will you expose your body during labor, but emotions are often raw and very close to the surface. Inviting a stranger to participate in your birth may feel uncomfortable–like an intrusion of your privacy.
In my experience, it’s often mom’s partner who is more concerned with privacy than mom herself. If you do decide to hire a birth doula, be sure to include your partner in the process. Encourage your partner to be present as you interview doulas. Try to ensure that both you AND your partner feel comfortable with your final choice.
When your goal is a natural childbirth, it’s helpful to have a variety of resources at your disposal. A birth doula can help you implement the tools you learned in your natural birthing class. And ultimately, a doula can be a powerful ally to promote a positive birth experience for you and your partner.
Kopa Birth’s online birthing classes allow you to prepare for a natural hospital birth from the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class and start preparing for your natural birth!
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2014, March). ACOG/SMFM Obstetric Care Consensus: Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
- Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD003766. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub5.