It is so interesting to hear many of the same things throughout my years of being a doula and more so lately. I was reading a post earlier today which sparked me to write a post about this topic. I’m going to touch on a few things that I’ve learned from clients, potential clients, and people in general to hopefully alleviate some apprehension that goes along with these common misconceptions of doulas.
1. A doula will take control of my birth: I’d like to talk first about partner apprehension because there is a common misconception that doulas might take control of the birth. We want the partner to feel confident in their role, however, it is they choose. There are several different ways in which dads can support their partner. Some dads want to be the main support person and are afraid that a doula will take over. I can see why they may feel this way, but let me assure you that this is not the way of a good doula. Some dads want to be present in a loving manner, holding mom’s hand, stroking her hair, just being there for her to love and dote on her but don’t necessarily want to be the main support person. Another type of dad might just want to be fully present at the birth by watching his wife/partner go through the labor and birth and have her be fully supported by a doula. Another dad may want to offer support to his comfort level and look to the doula for all other support and ideas. In this way, dads get to be involved as little or as much as possible. Now let me tell you that there is nothing more rewarding for me as a doula to see a partner working hand in hand with the mother to get through the labor and birth of their child! When I come across these couples it is my job to do the same amount of birth prep meetings and also to be present at the labor and birth offering up suggestions on ways he/she can help their partner through position changes, massage, encouraging words, etc., letting them both know that everything is going just the way it should, that they are doing an amazing job, validate feelings and/or emotions, offer the partner a break to get a bite to eat or take a rest if he would like, etc., and, again, being that one person in the room who is going to believe in you and your body’s ability to give birth. Often times, partners are so relieved when the doula walks through the door! The stress of knowing how to help their partner is taken off of them and placed on the doula allowing them to be more relaxed, confident and excited for the birth. A great article from DONA regarding Dads and Doulas can be found here: http://www.dona.org/PDF/DadsandDoulas.pdf If your ideal birth happens to change, a doula can be there to help you both grieve the experience you were hoping for and help you through what is coming next. However, it may look, it will still be your birth, and it is our goal is to help you find ways to move forward and still love your birth.
2. My doula might judge me for my choices: An educated doula would never tell you how you should give birth. A doula who does birth work for the right reasons would also never judge a woman for deciding to have an epidural, a medicated/surgical birth or any intervention for that matter. Doulas understand that we are all different and we all have different levels of pain tolerance. For some women, having an epidural is what is going to help her have the ideal birth, and that is totally okay. A great doula would still help you through all the things surrounding birth, educating you on things you may not have thought of. A big part of birth is information. The more you know, the better your birth will be. I remember going into my first birth not having a clue as to what was going to happen and being a bit apprehensive about the whole process. A doula is going to help you understand the birth process and hopefully alleviate your concerns. In the end, there are many decisions that you and your partner need to make surrounding your birth, and your doula should not judge any decisions you make. After all, this is not her birth. It is yours.
3. I don’t want another stranger in the room: Once hired, most doulas get together with you before your birth. It can vary from one to three, and sometimes even more visits, all dependent on the family’s need. It is during these visits, that we are establishing a relationship so that we aren’t the stranger in the room. In fact, we get to know you on more of a personal level to offer physical, informational and emotional support tailored to your personality. Every woman, every partner, every birth is so different! It certainly isn’t a one-size fits all, nor is a single doula a one-size fits all. We all have a different personalities so choosing a doula to fit you and your partner’s personalities is so important. After all, she will be the ‘one’ person that will be with you and your partner throughout the entire process. She will be the one constant in the room which many families find comforting.
4. Doulas offer medical advice: A doula is not trained to take care of you medically. She may understand the process of birth quite well and be able to tell you when it’s time to go to the hospital or if labor is still too early where it would be best managed at home, but a doula should not offer medical advice. A doula does not check blood pressure, does not do internal cervical exams, does not check fetal heart tones, etc. Her job is to support you physically, emotionally and informationally. Anything outside of that is against most doulas scope of practice.
5. Doctors and nurses don’t like doulas. This is a huge misconception. The acceptance of doulas is growing rapidly in maternity care due to their significant contribution to the improved physical outcomes and emotional well being of mothers and infants. Doctors, nurses and midwives have been very accommodating and are happy to have our assistance at the births of their patients. We may all have different roles, but we work together as a team towards the common goal of a safe, healthy, and fulfilling birth.
6. Doulas cost a lot of money: A common question/concern that I run into quite often is cost. It can be a huge factor for so many, and I totally get it. It can be a big investment for many families! There are many important events in our lives, but few rise above the birth of a child. This is simply one of life’s most beautiful and memorable moments, and every family should be supported in a way to help them achieve their best birth experience possible, however it is that you and your partner define it. There are several events in life that we invest in…our first new car, a college education, first home, etc. While all of these events are monumental, only few are as meaningful and memorable as our wedding day and the birth of a child, yet few people invest in the latter. Giving birth is one of life’s most memorable moments, don’t let cost be a factor in whether or not you decide to hire a doula for your birth. It doesn’t matter if its a medicated birth, a natural birth or a surgical birth. This is ‘your’ birth, and we want you to have the best birth experience possible. Supporting families, for many doulas, myself included is, not only an extreme passion to help families have a wonderful birth, but it is also a business and their only source of income. As for myself, I have been supporting families for 12 years, the last six years have been dedicated to doing birth/doula work, and my fee does reflect that. Here is an article from a specific doula 4 years ago and is a ‘general’ break down of fees just to give a broad overview and may or may not include services of the doulas in our area. http://easthoustondoula.com/breakdown-doula-fees/ And a little video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFW3ZvUNFuk&feature=youtu.be Some doulas offer postpartum services, lactation counseling, TENS unit, bereavement services, birth photography, etc. Some of these services are included in the fee and some are additional costs. Something to take into consideration when hiring a doula and looking at her fee is her years of experience, number of births attended, how well she’s perceived by the hospital staff, whether or not she has another job/other commitments around your due date, etc. If cost is a factor in your hindrance to hire a doula, please know that most doulas are willing to work with you. Most doulas are very flexible, some even offer payment plans.
A doula may not be for every family but for every family who wants one, I hope that you are able to find the perfect fit. It is our goal to work with you and your partner, together with your medical provider, to create the perfect birth team. I’ll leave you with what John H. Kennell, MD, once said “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” Wishing you a healthy, safe, beautiful birth! Thanks for reading.