Should I Have a Doula at My Birth?By Treesa McLean, doula and birth educator

find a doula for childbirth

"A doula supports the image of birth as a normal, natural process."

Doula... a Greek word that means mothering the mother, is the term that describes a woman who provides emotional, educational and physical support to pregnant women and their families during labor and birth.

A doula supports the image of birth as a normal, natural process. She sees a woman as powerful in labor and able to choose for herself the type of birth she would like to experience.

Doulas understand that women need caring support, someone to tell them that what they are feeling is normal, and someone who will accompany them and their family throughout the labor and birth.

She is practical and will suggest coping strategies such as massage, breathwork and acupressure to ease the pain of labor and to shorten its length.

When the unexpected happens, the Doula helps the family gather information to make decisions. She does not make decisions for her clients.

The doula does not take the place of family and friends, she is there to assist and support them, allowing them to experience the birth rather than having to remember the coping strategies.

Doula services often include two prenatal visits, one postpartum visit and assistance during labor. This may include support at home in early labor as well as at the hospital or birth center. Some doulas see their role as a client advocate and will act as a liaison with the hospital staff.

As a family contemplates whether to use a doula, they should consider several questions:

  • What do we want our childbirth experience to include?
  • Do we want someone to accompany us throughout our experience?
  • Do we need the emotional support an experienced Doula can provide?
  • Do we want support at home in early labor?
  • How would the presence of a Doula enhance our experience?

The following are good questions to ask a potential doula:

  • What is your training?
  • What is your experience?
  • How long have you been working with birthing, and new families?
  • What is your experience working with midwives, doctors and nurses?
  • Have you worked with women experiencing breastfeeding problems, postpartum depression?
  • What are your arrangements for backup?
  • Do you have any special circumstances that may make you less available to me and my family?
  • What are your feelings and thoughts about natural childbirth and breastfeeding? (Even if you are planning to experience natural childbirth or know that you want to consider pain medication, the answer to this question can tell you a lot about the Doula you are interviewing.)
  • What are your fees? Do you ask for a deposit? (Fees are often dependent on experience, there is a wide range from $400 to $1500 for Birth Doulas.)
  • Ask about any special circumstances you may have: twins, VBAC, precipitous labor, previous breastfeeding difficulty or other issues.

Each doula has her own style and philosophy and some book several months in advance. It is important to call as early in pregnancy as possible. You may want to ask preliminary questions over the phone and interview 2-4 doulas personally. Most couples interview doulas together because you both should be comfortable with her.

For more information about birth doulas, read The Doula Book by Marshall Klaus, MD or The Doula Advantage