Shoulda Had a Doula

Getting my epidural, was maybe a little over confidant!

Getting my epidural, was maybe a little over confident!

When I first became interested in natural birth I was pretty opposed to hiring a doula. I shrugged them off as unnecessary or for moms who didn’t have a supportive partner. Gosh I was wrong about hiring a doula! Of course I could not have foreseen what my labor would have in store for me, but I could have better prepared by hiring a doula. Now there are tons of posts on the benefits birth doulas.

And on what doulas do.

source: birthbootcamp.com

source: birthbootcamp.com

Sometimes (lots and lots and lots of times) I hear couples say “I don’t think we need a doula.” If you’ve said this to me, this post is not about you specifically. This happens a lot. Imagine I am a dentist writing about that one time I found a cavity. That’s how often I hear “I don’t need a doula.”

Let’s explore some reasons couples don’t think they need a doula, and why they still do.

“I don’t need a doula, I’m taking a birth class.”
I am so glad you are taking a birth class! It is essential that you and your partner prepare for your natural birth with nutrition, education, and relaxation. When you leave my class you will have everything you need to have an amazing birth… including my recommendation to hire a doula. Yep. That’s part of it! Can you have a positive natural birth without a doula? Sure, but a doula can make the whole experience easier and more enjoyable. Ten hours into labor your excitement may have faded, the details of your birth class may become fuzzy, and you and your partner may feel lost. Your doula’s knowledge will not become fuzzy and she, as an expert in natural birth, will help guide and comfort you. Your class is your map, your doula is your compass. You need both.

And if you think you can skip the class and hire the doula, read this.

“My husband will be my doula.”
Your husband shouldn’t be your doula anymore than he should be your midwife or obstetrician. Your husband should be your husband. He should love and comfort you the way he knows how and with the tools he learned in class. But there are skills he will not have. Do you have any idea what this doula is doing? Does your husband?

Doula Elisa at MontereyDoula.om Photo by JenDanielsPhoto.com

Doula Elisa at MontereyDoula.com
Photo by JenDanielsPhoto.com

Maybe you are thinking “I don’t want a woman I’ve only met a few times doing that.” You may be thinking that now, but when she does that and all of a sudden your contractions are 100% more manageable not only will you be ok with her doing it but you will be begging “do that thing do that thing dothatthing!” at the start of a contraction. Actually… that probably won’t happen, because she will just do it before you even have to ask because she knows exactly what a woman starting a contraction looks like since she does this all. the. time.

Your husband doesn’t know how to do that thing. He doesn’t know how to do a lot of birth things because he doesn’t work with laboring women. This is a doula’s job, she helps laboring moms (and dads!) feel better physically and emotionally. How are you going to say no to that?

Notice in the picture that the doula is working on physically comforting mom while dad is loving and encouraging her. Mom and dad are still deeply connected, the doula supports that connection and does not interfere with it. Without this doula mom may be so uncomfortable that she and her partner would not be able to enjoy these tender moments. And if dad was the one using the rebozo (that’s the fabric the doula is doing that thing with), then who would be in mom’s ear loving her?

“We are having a home birth, my midwife will be my doula.”
Your midwife probably won’t be your doula. A midwife is there to intervene if a complication arises and to monitor you and baby. Your midwife is a wonderfully skilled lifeguard. Her job is not to provide emotional and physical comfort for a woman laboring normally*, it’s to help you birth your baby safely. A home birth couple will still have to labor and still deserves the support of a doula.

*Some midwives work in teams and one midwife, maybe an assistant midwife acts as a doula. Ask. Just because you have two midwives doesn’t mean one will be your doula. 

“It would be weird to have someone other than my husband at the birth.”
Historically women have always comforted women in labor. It is actually weird to not have a woman knowledgeable in natural birth present to comfort mom and provide guidance. Up until birth moved to the hospital and support women were left in the halls, women were comforted by women… and it worked! You know what doesn’t work? Leaving mom and dad in a sterile hospital room alone with no support. Tired and discouraged in a foreign environment, those couples often watch their natural birth slip through their fingers.

A doula will be someone that you will get to know over the last months of your pregnancy. She will not be a stranger, she will be a friend. In contrast, there may be 2-3 nurses and 1-2 doctors that you have never met at your birth… and guess how many of them are going to rub your back? Probably none of them because they have their jobs. Of the many people that will be in the room, make sure one of them is a doula.

“Baby is low, I’ll probably have a really fast labor, we won’t need a doula.”
In class we talk about 5 hour labors and 25 hour labors and I know a lot of couples think they’ll get the 5 hour labor. Well… maybe… but realistically you will fall somewhere in between. I want to see my couples filled with confidence and excitement, but not to the point that they under prepare. In my last class three couples labored for more than 40 hours! Guess how many of them thought they would labor for 40 hours? Dads are you ready to support moms for 40 hours? Have you ever done anything for 40 hours? A doula has, she will help you.

“We can’t afford a doula.”
I compare a birth to a wedding day often. How much time and money did you invest in that one day? When it comes to the birth of a child there seems to be a disconnect between the importance of the event and a willingness to invest financially in it. Couples decide to forego the home birth they desire because the insurance will not cover it, or choose an unsupportive hospital because they will have to pay less out of pocket. Well… how much more important is the birth of your child than your wedding day? I don’t know your finances, but if it meant having the natural birth that I desire and a better Birth Day for mom, dad, and baby, then I would start selling things to make that happen.

My first birth cost over $30,000… double what my natural hospital birth cost. Yes we had insurance, but we still had to pay a percentage. A doula could have saved us a lot of money, and we could have had a better birth!

Some doulas charge using a sliding scale and give military discounts. Some insurance plans cover doulas. This friend had to choose between taking a vacation that year and a doula. She chose a doula and had her first natural birth after 3 medicated ones. You have options, get creative… if this is your first natural birth you really can’t afford to not have a doula.

Will a doula ensure you will have a perfect birth. No. Can you still have an amazing birth without one, absolutely. You still deserve a doula. You may only give birth a few times in your life, these are special days that you will remember forever. I know many couples who have realized that they should have hired a doula, my husband and I are one of them. If you are still hesitant, do a little more research, you don’t have to commit to anything. Check out yelp reviews of local doulas, browse your birth network listings, ask your care provider or childbirth educator for referrals. Interview a few doulas or attend a Meet the Doula event, you might be surprised how quickly you click with one.

Cori Gentry, BBCI

Cori Gentry

I am a certified Birth Boot Camp natural childbirth educator, a childcare provider, a musician's wife and a mother to three boys, Milo, Ash, and Indy. I teach classes in pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding in Salinas and Carmel, California.

You are welcome to connect with me on any social media forum. These are my personal accounts so in addition to lots of birth and breastfeeding posts expect my kids, rabbits, and food to make plenty of appearances. Fair warning.

30 thoughts on “Shoulda Had a Doula

  1. Pingback: Shoulda Hired a Doula: lesson from a Childbirth Educator | Precious Arrows Birthing

  2. Sarah

    How do I find the right doula?? I finally found the right midwife and I totally trust her. She supports me and I need all the support I can get. I want an HBAC. I don’t even want to step foot in a hospital next time…I am super shy and it’s so hard for me to get use to new people. How do I know if picked the right doula.. I hear lots of awesome stories, but I have heard a few bad stories about doulas ditching women who end up at the hospital. Thankfully, I’ve only seen two bad stories. The majority of the stories are great! I don’t plan on getting pregnant any time soon, but I am starting to really think about things… I practice yoga every day and I am working on my mindset.

    Reply
    1. Liz

      Ask your midwife for a recommendation. Check with your local Childbirth Education or Lactation Consultant. Look for a local “Birth Matters” chapter, look up DONA-Doulas of North America.

      Reply
      1. Jodi

        Doulamatch.net is a good resource for finding doulas in your area. And interview several! There’s no saying that you have to hire the first doula you meet. Interview until you find one that you ‘click’ with. You’ll know :)

        Reply
  3. Heather Davis

    Thank you so much for your insights! I am also a childbirth educator and struggle with couples understanding how much doulas can do for them! All women deserve a doula!

    Reply
  4. Laura

    I wish I would’ve hired one. After being at 9.5 cm they had me convinced that I needed an epidural. I will forever mourn the natural birth I wanted and will never have

    Reply
  5. Tina Ziegenfusz

    This is such a fantastic post! I think we doulas really struggle as a group to get across what it is we actually DO that makes the support we offer different to what a partner, mother, sister or friend can provide.

    This post totally nails it and I’ll be sharing far and wide :)

    Reply
  6. Holly

    I am a doula and childbirth educator and while I think your post is well-written and passionate, I am going to be devil’s advocate and say I disagree with the suggestion that all women need a doula. I think it is disempowering to say this, in fact, as to me (and potentially to others) it implies “I am the key to your successful birth”. I know that is not what you’re trying to say, but I think that’s the message it can give out.

    There are many situations in which women may for whatever reason fare better without a doula. I know this because I am one of those women myself, even though I am a doula and of course a huge advocate of the wonderful work a doula does. I do think it is important to spread the message far and wide about the wonderful effect a doula *can* have on your birth, and this post does this beautifully, but I don’t think this should be presented as something everybody needs, in my humble opinion.

    Reply
    1. Cori Gentry Post author

      Thank you for your response Holly. I agree that every couple does not need a doula, or that a birth hangs on whether a doula is present. This was primarily a response to the above statements, often times said by first time couples planning a natural birth who I believe could really use the support.

      And I am not a doula, and I have no plans of ever certifying as one :) This was really a very late night post super bowl rant of a frustrated cbe that went viral :)

      Reply
  7. Anonymous

    While I fully support the work of doulas, this article is overwrought with hyperbole — in my opinion, the same hyperbole that medical professionals sometimes use to convince women to take on unnecessary interventions. This post is filled with absolute statements, e.g. “Your class is your map, your doula is your compass. You NEED both.” Need? Really?
    Do some women benefit from having a doula? Absolutely. Is it vital to have the natural birth experience you want? No. 3 natural births with only the husband as chief coach/comforter/advocate worked for us. It was challenging at times to navigate the system, but we figured it out and felt empowered through the process. Getting a doula was expensive and a luxury in our opinion — for what it’s worth, we had similar sentiments about expensive weddings. So we got informed, worked together on a plan, and implemented it with confidence thanks in large part due to a wonderful childbirth class offered by a trained doula. Feel free to recommend doula services and talk about the benefits (there are many), but let’s avoid scaring expectant mothers into thinking they can’t do this themselves.

    Reply
  8. Michelle Gabriel-Caldwell

    I agree with Holly. As a doula and
    CBE myself I find that some couples put too much faith into having a doula at their birth. I teach the Bradley Method, which as you know focuses on the father as the coach (not the doula. Some couples don’t practice relaxation techniques because they will have a doula. This puts too much pressure on the doula to perform her magic at their birth. There is a fine line between your message of hire a doula to get your best birth and DO ALL you can as a couple to get your best birth while considering a doula as well.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: Why Do I Need A Doula? | Le Petite Doula

  10. Heatheraj

    So what exactly does a doula do?? I’m 4 mo along, but I’ve already been to the regular OB a few times and don’t know if I should just stop seeing him… What do they do that my OB doesn’t? Or..I guess in more plain terms, what’s the difference between a midwife, a doula and an OB? Home births are illegal where I live, but I thought you had to be a licensed Dr, such as an OB, to practice in a hospital?

    Reply
  11. Samantha

    A doula is nothing like an OB and, in most cases, does not work for the hospital, OB, or midwife.

    A doula is a NON-medical support person. She provides information, encouragement, along with physical and emotional support and comfort measures.
    A doula does not perform medical tasks of any kind. She doesn’t do vaginal exams or monitor baby or any other ‘clinical’ tasks.

    Reply
    1. Dana

      heather, a doula works for *you*, the mom/couple to achieve the birth you want. She meets with you before labor to go over your birth preferences; provides telephone support when you have questions/decisions to make (as often happens toward the end of pregnancy, i.e., induction, testing, etc.); provides constant support, often starting in early labor at your home; stays with you through the nursing shift changes at the hospital; helps you focus on any techniques that you learned as you prepared for birth; provides massage/privacy/music, etc., as needed; goes over your birth preferences list with staff as they care for you; gives your partner time to eat/nap/pee/take a time out as necessary; reminds the staff about newborn procedures you want/want to avoid when you are unable to advocate for yourself or your baby; helps you put into context all the events of labor that you can’t recall clearly; (often) meets with you after the birth to help with baby care & breastfeeding. Your OB, if you are lucky, will walk into the birth room as your baby is crowning, yell at you to push, catch the baby, pull out the placenta, stitch up the tear s/he caused with the yelling, walk out & bill your insurance for attending your birth. I am sure doctors have bets going on who spends the least amount of time with mom. They call that efficiency. Doulas don’t care about efficiency; they care about you.

      Reply
  12. Allyssa

    TOTALLY right! My husband and I were too emotionally involved in it and totally forgot about 3/4 of my birth plan and labouring preferences. I ended up in bed for 4 hours straight without thinking to ask to move and pushing on my back. Both the opposite of what I wanted. I caved and asked for an epidural but thankfully it didn’t work out because I’m so proud of what I accomplished!

    This time, I have a potential doula that I’m meeting with tomorrow morning and I’m planning a home waterbirth!

    Reply
  13. Capri

    Newbie questions…can you use a Doula if you have a non-natural birth in the hospital? Also, what is a range of how much a doula costs? Thank you for the information.

    Reply
    1. Dana

      Capri, yes of course you can! In fact, many doulas specialize in moms/couples who know going in that they will need interventions for their/their baby’s health, or prefer to use pain medications, are preparing for a cesarean, etc. A doula can help you make decisions, give you time to talk over pros & cons, suggest alternatives, & reduce stress & fear of the unknown. They can help minimize the “medicalization” of your birth & help you focus on your baby. They are not there to insist on a natural birth, but they will keep your birth more normal in the face of medical procedures.
      The range of fees is very broad; some doula trainees won’t charge anything (gas money, maybe); nurses or midwives who provide some medical monitoring may charge over $1000. In my area (San Diego county, CA), doulas charge $400 – $800 for the whole labor (however long it is), pre- & postnatal meetings, & phone support. Whatever they charge, many are willing to take payments or provide discounts, or even barter services to meet couples half-way. It is money well-spent. Many couples have told me that they wouldn’t do birth any other way.

      Reply
  14. Shawn Bransford

    I enjoyed reading all the above comments! I am a birth doula and have been attending births for 25 years, before I knew what a doula was, and I wanted to weigh in in my small way.
    Labor and childbirth is a very intense experience, an experience bigger than many new moms expect. Having as many tools to have the support you will need when the time comes is very wise. Having a doula’s help can be yet another shield between mom and other interventions which may be offered during birth. I also think an experienced birthing mom may be less in need of a doula, as she knows what to expect and has had practice.
    Doulas are not a guarantee of having the natural birth you want, but we are sure an excellent tool to have!

    Reply
  15. Ashley

    Or you could skip having attendants at all and follow your body and birth like we are designed to, alone like every other mammal.

    Reply
  16. Jen

    When you go swimming at a public pool, there is a bit of a false freedom as there is a lifeguard there to ensure the general public that can’t swim well and are quite unthoughtful and unaware of dangers do not kill themselves. They only are there to intervene if you get in over your head and start drowning. That is a midwife. If you are going to have a pool built at your house, you ensure you know of any unforeseen possibilities in case they may happen. You ensure you and your family know how to swim and you take preventative measures to keep you safe. There is no need for a lifeguard. That is UC.
    Nowhere in there are cheerleaders necessary.
    (In fact, it’s almost too much to have that many ppl in your space in your home when you’re trying to birth)

    In a (mainstream) specific environment such as a swim meet, (typical hospital birth), where your every move is being monitored, you are playing by others’ rules and you do risk losing sight of the overall goal, yes*** maybe a cheerleader just for you – that would be helpful. But one with a servants heart, not a self righteous one that is marveling at how great she is doing being your cheerleader.

    Reply
  17. Cor Meadows

    This is SO great! I can’t wait to share this article. Before I got pregnant with our little one I had never heard of a doula. Soon after though, I learned great things! I had some naysayers, asking me, “well, what is your husband for?” but I knew right away it made sense for us. I’m so glad to read this article from your perspective as naysayer to believer. Plus I’m so excited to find your page because I’m a cori lynn too :)

    Reply
  18. Pingback: Shoulda Had a Doula - Birth Balance

  19. Pingback: Why Every Mother Deserves A Doula | THE TAPROOT DOULA PROJECT

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  21. Tabitha Hidalgo

    Great Post!! I wish I had a doula when I had my water birth. The midwife and head nurse slipped in a pitocin shot right after I got out the birthing tub. Hubby and I didn’t even notice until she was injecting the medicine. If we had that extra set of eyes, it could have been avoided, but unfortunately the ones in my area who charge on sliding scale were all on maternity leave themselves. If we are blessed again, we are first going to look for a doula who is comfortable attending a homebirth without a midwife present, and go from there.. If we find a midwife who will give us longer for payments, we’ll hire a home birth midwife. But as for now, that’s the plan.

    Reply

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