More and more couples are opting to hire professional labor support for their births... a Birth Doula. A Doula is an independent professional who works for the expectant couple and provides support during pregnancy, is with the couple throughout the entire labor process and provides postpartum follow-up to ensure a smooth transition to parenthood.
Some of the services that a Doula may offer are:
- Educate the couple about birth (though she is not a substitution for a childbirth preparation course)
- Help the couple create a birth plan
- Help the couple understand what is happening during the birth and provide emotional support
- Offer suggestions for positions that may help the mother during the labor and birth
- Use massage, aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, counter pressure or other techniques to provide comfort to the mother
- Remind the couple of the benefits and risks of procedures, medication and technology that may be used during the birth
- Help with the first breastfeeding
- Take photos of the labor, birth and newborn/family
- Maintain contact following the birth and provide resources, support or referrals
What a Doula does not do:
- Medical care, tests or procedures
- Vaginal exams or assessing labor progress
- Make decisions for the laboring woman
- Intervene in medical decisions
Ask your friends, neighbors and co-workers if they used a Doula or could recommend someone. Search the Internet for local Doula groups. Often Doulas will host "Meet the Doulas" night to give parents a chance to meet several Doula and ask questions. Ask your care provider if they have any Doulas they recommend. Ask for recommendations from local message boards or groups.
Once you have some potential names, make appointments with several doulas for a free informational interview (which should be standard). Use the DONA guide "Questions to ask a Doula" for help during your interview.
The Doula you hire should be someone who both you and your partner are comfortable being with for long periods of time. She should answer your questions clearly and honestly and make you feel respected. She should be available for two weeks before and two weeks after your due date.
When you have decided to hire someone, it is a good idea to have a signed contract with her. The contract should specify the total fee and the timing of payments. She will usually require a deposit in advance with the balance due near the due date or after the birth. Make sure that you agree with all of the provisions in the contract. If there is anything that you want to alter, request to make these changes before signing the contract.
Make sure you know when and how to contact your Doula if you think you are in labor. Have her phone numbers, your care providers phone numbers and the birth center/hospital phone numbers saved in your phone, listed on the refrigerator and/or in your wallet. This way you and your partner will always be able to get in touch with someone quickly.
Don't hesitate to ask your Doula for recommendations and referrals for other pregnancy, birth and postpartum services. She should have a wealth of information that could help you in many ways. There are also Antenatal/Antepartum and Postpartum Doulas. Antepartum Doulas assist women going through a high-risk or difficult pregnancy. Postpartum Doulas assist new families in the days and weeks after birth.
Most couples who use a Doula rave about the help they received and feel the Doula provided a valuable service during one of the most special times of their lives.