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As I prepared to bring our first child into the world, I dreamed of having a successful, drug-free, natural childbirth. However, my fear was not having the guts to achieve it once the show got started. So, when a friend asked, “Should you hire a labor doula?” I was intrigued.
I’d never heard of a labor doula and had no clue this service was a “thing.” I began researching labor support services and was delighted to see how much hiring a doula can offer.
That said, however, I decided not to do it.
From money to a neverending pre-baby checklist, adding one more item to my to-do list felt impossible and overwhelming. Plus, I figured I knew what to expect, given the vast number of childbirth books and labor videos I’d checked throughout my pregnancy.
My friends, I was wrong.
Here’s the thing about labor and delivery (whether medicated or not) – there is no amount of prep work you can do that will fully prepare you for the process. You won’t know how it feels or goes until you’re in the thick of it.
My inexperience and fear got the best of me, and I ended up BEGGING for an epidural. And here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with any type of pain management during childbirth. Each mom needs to do what feels right to her.
I was just disappointed because I had a goal in place and felt like I’d failed and didn’t have the birth experience I’d longed for.
I couldn’t help but wonder, had I hired a labor doula would I have had the advocate I needed to achieve a natural delivery?
Hiring a childbirth doula is a great way to receive physical and emotional support during labor and delivery, but you need to ask yourself if they are right for you.
Below you’ll find tons of great information to help you determine whether having a doula on your side is a good decision for your birth experience.
What is a Labor Doula?
In addition to providing childbirth education to pregnant mamas, a labor doula is an emotional and physical support person during labor and delivery.
Most doulas receive professional certification through organizations like DONA International.
The concept of doula assistance during birth has existed for generations. This goes back to a time when most of us would’ve given birth at home without proper medical care. Instead, we likely would have used labor coaches to guide us through the experience.
In the 1970s and 80s, however, the modern-day doula began to show up on the birth scene to fill in for labor assistance. Compared to decades and centuries past, our friends and family didn’t have the knowledge to help coach us during childbirth. Doulas could be hired to fulfill that role.
Are Doulas and Midwives the Same?
No, doulas and midwives are not the same.
While labor doulas receive training to help guide us through the prenatal phase and serve us during our labor and delivery, they are not allowed to deliver babies.
Midwives, on the other hand, provide services that align with the prenatal care you might receive from a traditional obstetrician.
What Services Will a Doula Provide During Childbirth?
So, why should you hire a labor doula if they can’t deliver your baby?
While they’re not necessarily trained in the hands-on aspect of delivery, there are still plenty of things that a doula can do to help improve your childbirth experience.
Before you even reach the hospital or birthing center, your doula can help prepare you for labor. Not only do they offer education on various pain management techniques, but they can also assist with writing a birth plan, creating a hospital bag for mom checklist, and helping you overcome fears about labor and delivery.
Once it’s go time, your doula will provide emotional support and encouragement when the going gets tough. They will also guide you and your birth partner through various comfort measures to ease your pain. These can include massage, suggesting different positions for labor and delivery, and other pain relief recommendations.
Are Doulas Still Helpful if You Want an Epidural?
There is a stigma that hiring a doula is only helpful to mamas who want a drug-free labor and delivery.
Here’s the thing, though–pain relief and support from a doula are only part of the process.
There’s nothing wrong with hiring a doula to help keep you encouraged and comfortable during the process, regardless of whether you decide to have an epidural or not. Read below for the benefits all birthing moms can expect from a birth doula.
Understanding the Benefits of Hiring a Birth Doula
The entire point of hiring labor doula services is for the benefits their support can bring. But what about more specific advantages?
Other than telling you to calm down when you decide you want to beat up your partner mid-contraction and massaging your back for pain, are there any other advantages to employing a labor doula for your birth?
It’s no surprise the answer is yes. Here are just a few:
1. Decreased Risk of Low Birth Weight
Did you know that mamas who work with doulas are four times less likely to have a baby with a low birth weight? Hiring a doula involves hopefully avoiding unnecessary medical interventions, such as scheduled c-sections and inductions. Since many of these things can lead to low birth weight, this is a great reason to consider hiring a doula.
2. Lower C-Section and Birth Complication Risks
Labor doulas are not there to interfere with necessary and emergency medical care. What they can offer, however, is the support you need to feel confident about your labor and to advocate for yourself during what can be a scary time.
Thanks to their continuous support throughout labor, there is often a smaller chance of complications during delivery.
3. Breastfeeding Initiation
As if labor and delivery weren’t hard enough, as soon as our babies join us on the outside, doctors and nurses will push us to breastfeed, whether we know how to do so or not.
With a labor doula by your side, however, you will have an incredible resource to help jumpstart your nursing experience; if it’s something you want to do, that is.
Studies show that moms who use a doula have a significantly higher chance of breastfeeding initiation than those who don’t.
Are There Any Cons to Having a Labor Doula at Your Birth?
As you mull over the question, “Should I hire a labor doula?” you’ll undoubtedly want to weigh the cons alongside the pros. While there are certainly more positives than negatives, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind while making your decision.
1. Labor Doulas Can Be Expensive
There is a vast range regarding the cost of childbirth doulas. Depending on your area, however, doulas usually charge a fee of anywhere from $800 to 2,500.
2. Your Partner Might Feel Left Out
When working with a doula you love, you might find yourself leaning on them more and more during your prenatal care and labor process.
While this isn’t always a bad thing, it could make your birth partner a little jealous.
Childbirth is a special moment for partners. By including another person, your spouse might feel they have less of a role.
If you’re worried this could be a factor; you could always look into a childbirth class to do together to ensure they feel involved.
The most important thing you can do to make sure your partner feels included is to interview labor doulas together and find one who is committed to including you both in the process.
3. Not All Doulas Have the Experience You Need
Doula support undoubtedly benefits a mom’s experience and birth outcomes–at least when you’re working with a good one.
Not all types of doulas have the knowledge and training you deserve. You could end up with someone who isn’t capable of helping you the way you need. You should always interview candidates and ask about their doula experience.
You should also look for a doula with proper certifications. Various organizations, such as DONA, offer labor doula training programs. If a candidate successfully completes the coursework, which includes classes on childbirth education, lactation, and more, they will receive a certificate of completion.
Do All Hospitals Allow Childbirth Doulas?
While hospitals don’t necessarily have rules against using a doula, you should ask your specific facility for their policies on visitors during labor. Some only allow one additional person to be in the room due to COVID-19 guidelines and other restrictions.
When Should You Start Researching Labor Doulas in Your Area?
If you decide to hire a labor doula for your childbirth, there’s never a wrong time to start the research process. That said, many soon-to-be parents start looking around 20 weeks.
However, hiring doulas is often a last-minute decision for individuals and couples. Many people plan on doing things on their own and decide at the very end that they want coaching for labor and delivery.
Some might also receive doula services as a baby shower gift, which usually happens towards the end of pregnancy.
There’s a good chance you can find someone to work with, even if you start looking right before you’re due.
Do Labor Doulas Provide Postpartum Care, Too?
Some labor doulas offer both prenatal and postpartum care, but some stop services after labor. This is where postpartum doulas come in.
Postpartum doulas can provide emotional support, breastfeeding guidance, home care, and more in the first weeks and months of your postpartum period.
There’s No “Right” Answer When it Comes to Using a Birth Doula
There are no two ways about it; I wish I had hired a labor doula during my first childbirth experience.
But that’s me.
While there are benefits to doula services, having another person in the room isn’t for everyone. You may feel more comfortable relying on your partner alone and taking some classes to prepare you for your birthing experience.
Either way, choosing what’s right for you and your family is the most important thing.
Whether you use a doula or not, as long as you make a decision you feel confident in, you can rest assured you’re doing the right thing.
So, what’s your answer to “Should you hire a labor doula?” Are doula services something you’d like to have during labor and delivery?
Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.