To Doula or not to Doula?! We struggled with this question for quite some time. So long in fact, that when we decided we should hire one, they were booked solid! Thankfully a spot opened up with our first pick (phew). Thank you, Universe!
What’s a Doula? If you haven’t heard this term before, think of a doula as a birthing coach. They will do anything humanly possible to help you achieve the birth plan you have envisioned. They will advocate for you (but not make decisions for you), treat your pain with pressure point massage, endulge your senses with essential oils and aromatherapy, walk you through contractions, encourage different push positions, the list goes on. And they will do this wherever and whenever you need them. Sounds nice, right?! It was. I LOVED my doulas (we worked with a team, rather than just one doula). Giving birth was such a great experience for us, due largely in part to our lovely doulas.
Here are 4 tips to consider:
1. Cost. Doulas have a tough job, and it usually includes time leading up to, during and after your labor. They literally work around the clock. Understandably, they come at a high price. The range is probably $1000-2500, depending on where you live. If you are able to spare the cost, they are so nice to have. But if you are incredibly stretched with your budget, they probably aren’t a NEED to have. Your baby is coming out, one way or another!
There are two sides to this coin, thoough. Some women claim that they would have had to have an emergency cesarean if not for their doula suggesting a magic pushing position. Other women have to have an emergency cesarean and there’s nothing a doula could have done to change that. I know of a woman who went through the latter scenario and felt like she paid $1k for a delivery photographer, because it was all the doula could really do. We paid for doulas knowing and being okay with either scenario. I think most of the time, a doula will be a tremendous help in many ways, and I’m sure they could speak to this better than I can! So your best bet is to chat with a few in your area to weigh the pros and cons with them.
2. Your Birthing Plan. Are you walking in and getting an epidural right away? Then a doula might not be best for you because there isn’t a lot of coaching to be done. Wanting to go an au natural route? Highly recommend a doula for you, especially if this is your first birth.
Consider this: I wanted to get as far along as I could before getting an epidural, or maybe not get one at all. Sounds crazy to many of you, I know. I get it. Before I was pregnant, I was certain I would get an epidural right away! But once I started looking into possible complications, especially the fact that an epidural can slow down labor and result in an emergency cesarean, I wanted to get everything so far in motion that there’d be no slowing labor down. Our doulas were so incredibly helpful in helping me accomplish this goal! I did end up getting an epidural at around 7cm and it actually helped my labor progress beautifully at that point.
Side note, my hospital only offered “walking” epidurals, which basically means you can still feel the pressure (not pain) of contractions. You can’t actually walk around. I’m a big fan of this approach because it allowed me to work and push with contractions, so pushing only took about 20 minutes.
3. LOVE Her/Them. This is so important! Make sure you click well and choose someone that you would love to be around all the time. Their presence should calm you and they should have the abiliity to motivate you. I approached this by thinking of previous athletic trainers. Would I want to punch her in the face when I was struggling to take another step and she was yelling, “push harder!” “don’t give up!!!” Some people just have a way of becoming more annoying the more you are stressed or struggling, right?! 😉
My doulas came as a team of three and I was able to spend time with all of them leading up to pregnancy. We practiced pain management together. I LOVED all of them, still do! Their presence just calmed me and made me feel in control – leading up to and during labor.
4. Hire Early. Once you figure out that you do want a doula, start calling them asap. Definitely first trimester. Many cities host a “meet the doulas” event which would be a great time-saver for you to attend!
Hiring our doulas was the right move for us and I reached all of my birth goals, thanks to them! I had a really stress-free pregnancy and labor, largely due to their constant support. They managed my expecations and calmed my nerves before, during and after birth. We mostly labored in the comfort of our home, with frequent phone check-ins with our doulas. When we arrived at the hospital they were there with us every minute, calming, motivating, reassuring. The reality is, nurses are too busy to be able to spend much time with y0u and your doctor basically shows up to catch the baby. So having a constant support system allowed me to relax as much as possible and not place unwarranted expectations or pressure on my husband. I delivered a healthy baby with no complications and didn’t scream like a psycho at my husband like you see in the movies. We look back on the day and are so thankful for how special it was. They stopped by a couple of weeks after birth to check on us, which was so priceless considering how overwhelming things are in the beginning. Win win win win 🙂
You should call up a few doulas and chat with them — that will be the easiest way to know what’s best for you. I’d love to hear what you decide and why!