I recently had a woman inquire about using my doula services and she expressed that her husband was a little skeptical about hiring a doula. After all, in their case, they already had a plan to have the baby at the hospital under the care of a doctor and nursing staff. What more did they need? Maybe you are pregnant and asking that very same question.
Enter the Labor Doula.
Doulas Provide Continuity of Care
It is true that the hospital provides you with a nurse (or two) to be tending to you throughout the process of the labor and eventual birth of your child, however those nurses are also serving other patients during their shift. Nurses shifts generally change after twelve hours, so the one who started with you may not be the same one who sees you deliver your baby. I recall being very comfortable and friendly with one of my nurses during one of my labors and then being told (in transition!!) that someone else would be taking her place. In the midst of hard labor, this sent me into a bit of a panic. I really liked her and I didn't want her to leave! You can count on a doula being a constant in the room. She will not leave your side. She will be with you from the moment you want her there until your baby has arrived. She will provide a calming presence, information (when asked for it!), and support physically and emotionally. You will never be alone or without support when a doula is with you. Your doctor or midwife - who you may or may not have seen consistently throughout your pregnancy if you are working with a practice with multiple providers - is in and out during the labor, and while he or she does their best to tend to you, they are also likely working with other patients or resting or waiting until called in to deliver your baby.
Doulas Play a Unique Role
As a doula, I find that I am often explaining the difference between a doctor/midwife and a doula. It helps to understand that they are not one in the same. A doctor or midwife provides for your prenatal care throughout the pregnancy and then generally follows up with you at about 6 weeks postpartum. They are trained to help you navigate the pregnancy (tests, measurements, weight, ultrasounds, etc.) and then of course keep track of you and provide for your care when you are in labor. They are the ones responsible for delivering the baby, overseeing any medical interventions or needs, and helping present you with options and information throughout the process. They are needed and vital and do so much more than what I have listed here. Where a doula differs, however, is that her role is to help provide you with consistent, reassuring emotional support, physical comfort measures, positional changes, reminders to eat or drink (if allowed), ideas for stalled labor, providing help with decision-making when asked, and being there to support the husband or partner as well. As much as I'm sure your primary care provider would love to be with you as much as they can in a shift, it simply isn't realistic for them. Even ACOG (The College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) agrees that having a doula present during the labor and birth of baby is a good idea, stating, "Evidence suggests that, in addition to regular nursing care, continuous one-to-one emotional support provided by support personnel, such as a doula, is associated with improved outcomes for women in labor."
A doula is worth her weight in gold as she can be counted on to stick by your side as you navigate through all the ups and downs of this experience!
I hope this helps you as you weigh the decision of hiring a professional doula for your birth. Please feel free to contact me here if I can help answer any of your questions!
As always, thanks for reading!
Happi loves serving families in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago as a labor doula and childbirth educator. When she's not at a birth, she loves spending time her husband and three boys.