At Oula, it’s no secret that we love doulas. Yes, even our name is a nod to the large gap in patient care that doulas fill today: they not only serve as powerful advocates for patient preferences, the data shows they help reduce unnecessary c-section and other intervention rates throughout the course of labor. A doula provides continuous emotional and physical support, from when your labor begins at-home until you’re back at home with your baby. While OBs and midwives make medical decisions and deliver your baby, doulas serve as a coach, advocate, and resource.
We asked Jennifer Mayer, doula, mother of 2, and founder of Baby Caravan, to share the top reasons people hire doulas.
When you first think about hiring a doula, first consider if you’re primarily looking for support during labor (a “birth doula”), or during postpartum (a “postpartum doula”). Both can help support in-person and virtually but have some key differences.
Birth doulas are hired privately to serve as a coach, to guide and support a pregnant person through pregnancy, labor, birth, and the immediate postpartum period. During pregnancy, birth doulas are available for support, coaching, and tips, and also to help prepare your preferences for birth. They are on-call 24 hours a day around your due date, so they are ready whenever labor begins. They can then come to your home, and if you’re birthing in a hospital or birth center, they will stay with you until an hour or two after the baby is born. providing physical support through the labor process. Many have particular expertise in pain coping techniques, including comforting touch and massage, breathing and meditation, and acupressure.
Postpartum doulas work with families in their home or virtually following birth and are primarily educators. Postpartum doulas teach families everything they’d like to learn about caring for their new baby. They may also prepare nourishing food, run errands, organize baby items, help with laundry or do light tidying up around the home. Families can hire postpartum doulas for daytime support, where the focus is generally on education, emotional support, lactation support, and help around the house. Some doulas also provide overnight services, caring for babies through the night so parents can get some much needed rest.
Here are nine reasons why you might consider working with a doula:
- A doula is your guide and advocate: For many parents, navigating the healthcare and hospital system is new for them. It can be comforting to have a professional on your side who’s supported families through the process many times before. Doulas can also be an advocate for you, and help communicate with medical staff so your concerns are heard, and any questions you have are answered.
- A doula is a support person there just for you: The nurses and doctors or midwives who will be working with you during your labor will come and go. They’ll likely have other patients at the same time. Your doula is working just for you, dedicated to listening to you, and will be that constant presence throughout your labor.
- A doula is a Google filter: As wonderful as it is living through the age of information, it can be pretty overwhelming, and scary during pregnancy. Your doula can help you sort through the unending information about pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood out there and guide you toward evidence based sources to help lower information induced anxiety.
- A doula is great with the logistics and practical tasks of birth: It can be stressful figuring out what to do on the day of the birth. Many parents have questions like, when is it time to go to the hospital? Or how do I know it’s really labor? What should I bring to the hospital? A doula is a great navigator and guide for you and your partner to help answer questions and make a day of birth plan together.
- A doula can help improve birth outcomes: Researchers have found that overall, when people have a doula during labor and birth who provide continuous support they experience a 39% decrease in the risk of a Cesarean Section, 15% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal delivery, and 10% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief. (from Bohren et al. (2017) published an updated Cochrane review on the use of continuous support for women during childbirth, via Evidence Based Birth)
- A doula provides physical support, such as comforting touch, laboring positions, counter pressure, and more: Labor and birth is a physical event. Having a trained professional there just for you can make all the difference in the world. Someone who knows how to put hand pressure on your hips just right, someone who knows the best pressure points to use during labor, and someone who can guide you through different positions or movements to bring some comfort during labor.
- A doula provides encouragement and emotional support: Pregnancy and new parenthood can be a lot to navigate. By working with a doula you have someone in your corner who isn’t a friend or family member, or medical provider. They’re there just for you.
- A doula provides evidence-based resources and crucial information so you can make informed choices along the way: Pregnancy and new parenthood can be an overwhelming time for parents, as there are so many decisions to be made along the way. We find that decision fatigue can start to creep in. Working with a doula can help streamline your decision making by providing you with evidence based resources to guide you along the way.
- A doula supports spouses and partners: Often times partners want to be solid support people during labor and new parenthood, but aren’t really sure how they can be most helpful. Doulas are a coach and guide for partners too, and can provide guidance in real time.
Importantly, doulas are available for a wide range of budgets, and many are willing to bill on a sliding scale. That’s because doulas believe fundamentally that everyone should be able to afford a doula, and get the dedicated support and care they need.