Do You Need a Doula?
Continuous labor support lowers your chance of a c-section by 39%. That's a massive reduction in risk. Support also reduces anxiety, the risk of interventions, and shortens labor by 40 minutes. We believe that every mom should have continuous labor support!
We regularly get asked this: If I plan on having my partner support me during labor, do I need a doula? Does my partner count as continuous labor support? The short answer is: there are benefits to being supported in labor, period. But, doulas bring a larger reduction in risks due to their training and knowledge. One study showed significant benefits from having BOTH a partner and doula.
So, if you can afford a doula, then yes! Get one. If you cannot afford one or you would prefer a more intimate environment with just your partner, then we highly recommend you and your partner take a birth class together so that he isn't a deer in headlights once labor begins.
Our Birth Class for Couples is specifically designed to educate both mom AND dad about labor. We teach support techniques that will help your partner know exactly what to do to help you feel calm and at peace during labor. Click here to learn more!
If you are interested in hiring a doula, read on to learn more!
The Benefits of a Doula
So why are doulas so effective at lowering the risk of interventions? To analyze this, we need to skim over some basic biology, first.
During labor, the brain reverts to a more primitive state - many moms describe losing their sense of time, becoming more inward-focused, and having a hard time talking. The body naturally releases oxytocin as a way to ensure labor progresses. Oxytocin both increases contractions as well as ensures maternal-infant bonding after birth. (Click here to deep dive more into this).
Stress has a major negative impact on oxytocin production during labor. If you've ever had a baby in a hospital before, you know how stressful hospitals can be. Bright lights. Lots of questions. Lots of poking & prodding. Many moms report that their labor stalls once they get to the hospital. Why? Because stress inhibits oxytocin production which in turn, results in a labor stall.
Doulas have been found to reduce stress in moms! How? By having a relationship with mom (all the good feels increase oxytocin), advocating ("let's turn down the lights & talk quietly"), and being a living & breathing pain reliever. Doulas know exactly where to squeeze your hips or give counter pressure on your back. I've been told by many clients that I just have the right touch. No offense, dads, but I know what feels good!
What About Labor & Delivery Nurses?
We love L&D nurses, but they are not all the same. Some are wonderful. Some are not so wonderful. The issue is that you can't choose who you are assigned to, so it's a bit of a gamble. You may get an L&D nurse that's trained in Spinning Babies and is very respectful of your birth plan, or you may get a nurse that doesn't respect your informed consent and keeps pestering you about getting an epidural.
The other issue is that most L&D nurses are overworked. They simply do not have the time to spend hours at your side, supporting you. They have to chart, watch EFM monitors and run back and forth between patients. It's not their fault, but it's the truth.
What If I Plan to Get an Epidural?
We recently got a message from a mom who was told that if she wants an epidural, hiring a doula is pointless. I wholeheartedly disagree!
In fact, doulas can help you get into positions that encourage your baby to move down, depending on where she is in your pelvis. Doulas can also be there to educate you on the pros and cons of interventions. Doulas won't make decisions for you, but they can help you talk through it.
I was at a birth recently with a mom that got an epidural, and she was struggling to push her baby past her pubic bone. The nurse and I put our heads together and put mom in all sorts of positions to help her baby descend. Teamwork makes the dream work!
Finding the Right Doula
It's really important that you hire a doula that fits your vibe. If you're more "go with the flow," you'll want a doula that matches your desires. If you had a traumatic first birth and want a doula that will speak up and advocate for you, you'll want to hire a doula that's bold and knowledgeable.
Don't feel shy about interviewing multiple doulas. Go to your meetings with all your questions written out, but also look out for how you feel with the doula. Do you feel a connection? Do you feel comfortable? Your feelings are important in this decision.
What Do Doulas Do?
I am going to describe what I do as a doula (every doula is different). In general, doulas will meet with couples 1-2 times before the birth to discuss the birth plan and answer questions. I make myself available by phone, too.
At around 38 weeks, I am "on-call" for my client's birth. I will have a backup doula if I have to miss the birth for any reason. Once early labor begins, I am available for consultation but I usually don't join couples until mom is in active labor. I provide emotional and physical support and help couples make decisions. I can grab food, get things from the car - I am there for whatever my clients need! I stay for the entire birth and 1-2 hours afterward.
I conduct a postpartum visit 1-2 weeks after the birth to answer any questions and provide support in whatever way I can.
The Bottom Line
There are no risks and only benefits to hiring a doula. If you have the means, it's a worthwhile investment.