A growing number of moms are turning to professional support women called doulas to get the birth experience they want. What is a doula? What do they do? Well, a doula’s duty is to be your head cheerleader during delivery. Unlike ob-gyns or midwives, doulas do not have medical training; instead they’re there to support you emotionally.
What kind of support do they provide? Before your due date, your doula will educate you about the process of labor and delivery, with the goal of making it less scary and more comfortable, so you’re empowered to take a more active role. If you’re hoping for a natural birth (without an epidural or other pain medication), a doula might be your best bet. That’s because a doula can offer a variety of nonmedical pain-management techniques, including massage, reflexology, aromatherapy, music, and mantras; she will try different combinations to find the right solution for you.
Having a doula in the delivery room is increasingly common, but is it right for you? Here are some things to consider.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Doula?
A doula offers continuous support during the entire length of labor and beyond. Since doctors or midwives may change shifts, yours may be present only during the final stages of birth. On the other hand, your doula should have already met with you once or twice before labor, will stay with you during the entire labor and delivery process, and will often make one or two postlabor follow-up visits, particularly to check on breast-feeding.
How Does the Doula Process Work?
A doula meets with you during your pregnancy to discuss a birth plan, including whether you want a drug-free birth and what pain-management techniques would work best for you. Most women interview several different doulas to make sure it’s a good fit for personality, philosophies, and availability around the estimated delivery day. Then during the delivery, a doula is there constantly to help you manage pain and ease stress.
Is a Doula Right for You?
Your personality and birth plan may settle whether a doula is right for you. If you want a cheerleader in the delivery room or a specific type of birth—say, all natural, without any type of medical intervention if at all possible—then a doula is a good option to be your advocate. However, if you’re not comfortable with someone outside the family cheering you on every step of the way, and you have a great relationship with your ob-gyn and are confident in her choices thus far, you probably don’t need a doula. (Remember, a doula is focused on you, not the baby.)
How Can I Find a Doula?
The best way to find a doula is through word-of-mouth referrals. Additionally, sites like dona.org and cappa.net list certified doulas by location. It’s good to interview at least three. Then the decision will probably come down to listening to your gut and picking the person with whom you have the most chemistry. A doula will be with you during the most intimate experience of your life, so it’s important to feel a strong emotional connection.
How Can I Pay for a Doula?
Most insurance plans do not cover doula fees because doulas do not provide medical care. However, doula services may be paid for using money from a flexible spending account (FSA), depending on the guidelines for your particular plan.