Birthing a child is one of the most intense experiences a human can have. You will always remember who helped you birth your beautiful baby, which is why some women hire doulas.
Having someone continuously support you during labour and delivery can change how you experience childbirth.
I’ve hired two doulas; one for a planned c-section and one for an attempted VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) that ended with an emergency c-section. And if I could do it all over again, I’d still have a doula at both births.
I hired doulas because I knew I needed support for just me. The doctors, midwives and nurses monitored my vitals and my baby’s, but they didn’t monitor the rest of me—my doulas did. They were solely there to support me and my emotional state. My doulas remained calm during the chaos. Medical staff came and went, but my doulas stayed and helped.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that every birthing woman have a doula, because they know that birth is hard and women deserve all the support they can get.
The word ‘doula’ means “woman who serves” in ancient Greek. There are two types of doulas: a birth doula who supports you during labour and delivery, and a postpartum doula who supports you anytime after your baby is born.
The average cost of hiring a birth doula is $600-1000, which usually includes two prenatal visits, labour and delivery, and one postpartum visit. You typically pay 50% of the cost when you sign the contract with your doula, and the other 50% one to two months before your estimated due date. Your doula is available to you, 24/7 a couple weeks before your due date. They also have back-up doulas who can sub in for them in case they are sick or have an emergency.
The average cost of a postpartum doula is $25-$40 an hour. Some women hire postpartum doulas during the day to help with chores and children, while others hire doulas overnight to care for the new baby so they can sleep.
A postpartum doula can help with breastfeeding, directly care for your baby (think: bottle feeding, rocking, holding baby, etc.) or help you around the house by making meals, playing with your other kids, tidying the house, etc.
A birth doula provides emotional and physical support for women during labour with hands-on help like counter-pressure and labour positions, breathing techniques, praise and encouragement, etc. Doulas can also help the woman’s partner/support person by showing them how to help the woman.
The beauty of hiring a doula is that the doula’s care will be tailored to your specific needs.
For the birth of my first child, my doula provided a lot of emotional support over the phone and via text while I was pregnant. She kept me calm and held my hand in the operating room during my c-section, and even taught me how to breastfeed after the baby was born.
For my second child, my doula did everything from putting peppermint oil on my pillowcase when I felt like throwing up, to rubbing my back, stroking my hair, and speaking words of encouragement over me when I felt like giving up. She even helped me brush my teeth when I was bed-bound after my epidural and helped me get dressed after I had my baby.
An OB/GYN or midwife ensures the physical health and safety of you and the baby during your pregnancy, labour and delivery. They care for you and your baby medically. But they aren’t looking after you emotionally. And, midwives and OB/GYNs don’t stay with you the entire time you are labouring.
Doulas provide continuous, personalized emotional and physical support to labouring moms during their labour and delivery. While doulas are not licensed medical professionals, they are trained through a certified organization and may have their own experience birthing and caring for children. They do not make medical decisions for you, instead, they help you think through the decisions you want to make.
Whatever your birth plan looks like, and however many kids you have (whether this is your first or your fifth child), a doula can help you have a positive, supportive birth experience.
A 2017 study of over 15,000 women from across the world, showed that women who hire doulas are: more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth and a shorter labour, less likely to have negative feelings about their childbirth experience, and less likely to need a c-section.
Interview as many doulas as you want until you find the right one. You’ll want someone you trust and easily connect with, and someone with who you feel comfortable being 100% honest.
Before you begin researching doulas in your area, make a list of what qualities that are important to you before interviewing a doula, and what certifications and/or life experiences you think she should have.
For me, I knew I wanted a doula with at least 5 years of experience, certified by DONA International, who was laid back and calm, had her own children, and had supported women going for VBACs.
If you’re interested in hiring a doula near you, check out DONA International’s website for qualifications and a search tool.