What Is a Doula?
This is an exciting time to become a mother. Birthing parents have more resources, opportunities, and information available to them than in recent years. One of the major impacts in a new parent’s journey through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, is a doula. Doulas are members of your support team that are trained to provide education, support, and advocate on your behalf when needed. If you are wondering “is a doula right for me?”, ask yourself, would you like someone who is experienced, whom you trust, and in whom you can confide as a member of your care team? If you answered yes, then you might benefit from hiring a doula.
Doulas specialize in different areas to better serve mothers and their growing families. You can add a birth doula to your team to prepare for and experience a better delivery. You can also elect to have the support of a postpartum doula to help you through those early days and weeks with your new baby.
Birth is a life transforming experience. There is a lot to learn from pregnancy to delivery and beyond. During your birth experience, you will be faced with decisions about birth preferences, pain management, and potential interventions. While you are laboring, it can be difficult for you and your partner to focus on these decisions and their implications. A birth doula’s role is to offer support in the form of education as well as emotional and physical support.
Typically you begin your relationship with your doula before birth. This gives you a chance to get to know each other, build trust, and go over your expectations and hopes for your delivery. During this time, you can ask questions, learn about your pregnancy and delivery.
When we interviewed a postpartum doula, Sandy J. Green, she summed it up perfectly: Postpartum Doulas specialize in what is normal. During your recovery after birth, your new baby and family are adjusting to a new version of normal. You are learning and growing together.
A postpartum doula can help answer questions about your recovery, your baby, and even your family as they bond with the newest addition. Some postpartum doulas will even help with light housework or hold the baby so you can grab a shower, or a much needed few moments of sleep.
People who elect the services of a doula often form a special relationship with their doula. You can find doulas who are trained in both birth and postpartum care. Choosing a doula who is trained in both can make the transition easier and help you feel more comfortable to open up and talk about personal topics like mental health.
How Does a Doula Function within My Care Team?
A big question for people who are determining whether a doula is right for them, is how they fit into the structure of a care team: whether that be in a hospital, birthing center, or home birth? Doula’s are not medical staff and are trained to function within your larger care team as your personal advocates. These individuals help you communicate with medical professionals to ensure your wishes are understood, particularly during labor.
Midwives and birthing centers often work with doulas, and hospitals. They are now advocating for and promoting the services of doulas. These organizations are seeing statistical proof that the role of a doula has a direct impact on patient experience and reducing medical interventions.
What Does a Doula Cost?
Cost is a major factor in pregnancy and delivery. Determining what is and is not covered by insurance is almost a full time job itself. If you are wondering if a doula is right for your family, cost can be an important factor.
There’s no one size fits all fee when it comes to enlisting the services of a doula. These will range geographically and based on the individual doula’s training and experience. Many doulas also offer sliding scale pricing to be more accessible to any family who wishes to have their support. Check with your insurance provider to see if there is any portion of additional support services such as a doula, midwife, or birthing center that they will cover. If they do provide coverage, they may have a list of approved specialists.
Some areas might have grant programs which cover the cost or partial cost of the services of a doula. These might be based on race, economic status, or other factors. We had the pleasure of interviewing Erryn of The Black Doula Project who offers grants to Black mothers in DC and Maryland. Listen here.
Finding the Right Doula
When searching for your doula, you need to find some with whom you established a relationship. This means that you need to feel comfortable with this person or team. You need to be able to trust them and rely on them during a time when you are personally vulnerable. The first doula you meet might not be the right one for you and your family.
A good doula will understand this. Some will even work to give you a recommendation for someone who is a better fit for you. Within the world of doulas, you can find those who specialize in high risk pregnancies, LGBTQ birthing people and relationships, and more. Finding someone who understands you and your unique situation is essential for a good experience with your doula.