Why Your Birth Plan Should Include a Doula

(Photo: iStock)

If you’re pregnant, you might be asking yourself, “Do I need a doula?”

Or, you might be asking yourself, “Um, what the heck is a doula?”

Regardless of which question you’re asking, we’re here with answers for both.

What is a doula?

A doula (pronounced “doo-lah”) is a professional trained in childbirth that provides emotional, physical and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor or has recently given birth. Her purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birth experience.

What exactly does a doula do?

Starting several months before your due date, your doula starts helping to create your birth plan while addressing any questions, fears or concerns you have. It’s important to note that doulas don’t provide medical care, although they are educated in many medical aspect of labor and delivery.

When it’s go time, doulas are constantly close to you as you deliver and will help supply pain-relief techniques, breathing tips, massage and relaxation techniques as well as labor positions.

Post-delivery, a doula will be there to help you navigate the sometimes-choppy waters of the breastfeeding process and show you ways to bond with your baby.

What are the benefits of a doula?

Whether you’re aiming for an un-medicated birth or you’ve already decided you’re getting an epidural, a doula can be beneficial no matter what type of birth you’re planning.

Much research has been done surrounding the advantage of having a doula with you during the labor and delivery experience. The most resounding find? Constant support.

And with that constant support comes a decreased use of pain medication, according to studies. One scientific review involving six studies of more than 2,000 women found that with the continuous support of a trained doula, epidural use decreased by a whopping 60%.

Furthermore, the number of C-sections dropped by 50%, forceps use decreased by 40% and the average length of labor decreased by 25%.

Doctors say the reasoning behind these stats is that anxiety can slow or even stop contractions, so a doula’s experience and knowledge can offset that nervousness.

Another finding from that same review showed the postpartum advantages were just as beneficial, with doula-supported moms having more breastfeeding success and suffering less from postpartum depression. Some postpartum doulas even step in to help with cleaning, cooking meals for the family or just filing in when the new mama needs a break.

How much does it cost to hire a doula?

Doula's costs vary from level of experience, geographic location and extent of services. Parents Magazine reported that in most cities, the average cost of a doula is $500. While larger metropolis' such as New York and Los Angeles are upwards of $3,500 for doula services. 

Doula's-in-training are sometimes willing to volunteer their services in order to gain more experience. As they apprentice and earn their certification, doula's must complete a required number of hours and offering their services free of charge to reach those hours.

How do I choose a doula?

So maybe you’ve decided you’re hooked on the doula plan. What now?

The American Pregnancy Association offers some great advice when it comes to choosing the right doula for you. Obviously you need to pick someone with who you feel most comfortable, but here are a handful of questions they suggest you ask your potential doula before making a decision:

  • What training have you had?
  • What services do you provide?
  • What are your fees?
  • Are you available for my due date?
  • What made you decide to become a doula?
  • What is your philosophy regarding childbirth?
  • Would you be available to meet with me before the birth to discuss my birth plan?

What happens if for some reason you are not available at the time I give birth? 

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Celebs love doulas, too!

Although most celebrities prefer to fly under the radar when it comes to something as personal as childbirth, many stars have spoken out about the help they’ve received from doulas.

 A-listers like Nicole Kidman, Kelly Ripa, January Jones, Molly Sims and fashion guru Rebecca Minkoff have all publicly acknowledged their use of doulas and the benefits they reaped from it.

Celebrity doula to the stars, Latham Thomas, is the founder of the popular website Mama Glow and has coached high-profile clients like Stacy Eisner, founer of Alice + Olivia and Victoria’s Secret model Doutzen Kroes.

“The goal is for women to experience a healthy, balanced and fabulous pregnancy,” Thomas says. “It can be very sexy and empowering if you embrace the changes to your body. I gave Doutzen nutritional advice throughout her pregnancy, and she did not put on much weight at all and it came off very easily after the delivery.”

If there is any chance a doula can help us look like Doutzen post-baby, SIGN. US. UP.