To Doula or Not to Doula – A Skeptic’s Guide

As I’ve mentioned, I’m totally a scrunchy mama. I EBF (exclusively breastfeed), cloth diaper, co-sleep, babywear and attachment parent. I always thought I’d give birth with the help of a midwife. But due to various reasons (insurance, hospital proximity in the event of an emergency, and my partner’s wishes), I ended up going with an OB in a hospital setting. But I still knew I wanted a doula. It was a no-brainer for me. But I received quite a bit of opposition from the Mister. He was a huge skeptic. This post is for all of you out there who can’t quite see the benefit in having an extra person in the room at delivery. I mean after all, isn’t that what the other parent is for?

Before we get into it, let’s talk talk about what exactly a doula is and what she (or he) does. The word doula is Greek in origin and essentially means woman who serves. Doula’s are non-medical professionals whose job it is to offer support to the birthing mother in whatever way she may need. There are typically birth doulas and postpartum doulas. Fertility doulas and bereavement doulas are also becoming more popular, and rightfully so. A birth doula might offer hands-on pressure or non-professional massage during contractions, suggestions on optimal birthing positions, or remind the mother of her birthing preferences when she is feeling discouraged. A postpartum doula might assist with light housework, breastfeeding support or childcare while the new parents get some much needed rest.

Ok, ok. So now you know what a doula does. But perhaps you’re still not convinced. Here are some common reasons for not wanting a doula and why you might want to reconsider:

My husband/wife/partner/mother will be with me

As the saying goes, your partner is the expert on you and the doula is the expert on childbirth. The doula definitely does not replace your partner. The doula and partner are complementary to each other. Let’s say Mama needs both her back and her shoulders rubbed. Four hands are better than two in that case! Or if the partner needs to nap, have a snack or take a bathroom break, the doula can stay with Mama and continue to offer her support. Doulas also possess special knowledge about the best birth positions, stages of labor, interventions and can help advocate for Mama’s birth preferences with medical staff.

Isn’t that what my OB/midwife/nursing staff  is for?

The short answer is no. The doula is complementary to the OB or other provider but they definitely do not have the same role. The OB/midwife/nurse is a medical professional and will be serving the pregnant woman from that standpoint. Monitoring, vaginal checks, blood pressure, etc. A doula, as mentioned above, does not serve in a medical capacity. She may possess medical knowledge in order to better interact with hospital or birthing center staff, but she will not conduct any medical procedures or exams. And as wonderful as a midwife/nurse/OB might be, they are not likely (or in some cases not able due to other patient needs) to offer you the type of personalized labor support you will get from a doula. Definitely not continuously.

It’s too expensive

Hiring a doula is an added expense for sure. Prices for doulas range by area and level of experience. In my area I’ve seen doulas charge anywhere from $500 to $1,000. But that usually includes 1 to 2 prenatal visits, on-call availability the last weeks leading up to your birth and continuous support from labor until 1 to 2 hours after delivery. Usually 1 or 2 postpartum visits are included as well. If you ask me, doula’s should be paid more for all that they include. Most are certified by their respective organizations, while also holding additional training in areas like breastfeeding, sleep education and prenatal yoga. If cost is the one thing holding you back, you can always seek out a student doula for a discounted price.

Does having a doula really make a difference?

The most powerful argument is the research showing the significant reduction in interventions when a doula is present. According to the American Pregnancy Association, studies have shown a 50 percent reduction in c-sections, decrease in length of labor by 25 percent, use of oxytocin down by 40 percent, and rate of epidurals down by 60 percent. I mean, come on! The real proof is in the numbers. BUT, even armed with these stats, my Mister still was not convinced. Sometimes the real value of a doula isn’t felt until after the baby has arrived and the couple can reflect on the many ways a doula enhanced their experience.

For me, my doula was invaluable as my contractions became more consistent just as the Mister was heading to work (third-shift). I was able to call my doula around midnight when things really picked up. She suggested I take a shower to see if I was actually in labor or if perhaps the warm water might slow things down. When the contractions continued with vigor, she made the trek to my home at 2:30 a.m. As I turned inward and focused on breathing, my doula crawled into bed with me. She applied pressure to my back, massaged my shoulders and reminded me to relax my body instead of tensing it. She timed my contractions and when my water finally broke and I was about 3 minutes apart, we got ready to head to the hospital. When I arrived, I was 8 cm dilated. My doula, along with the MIster, helped hold my legs back as I pushed. My son was born less than 2 hours later. I know for sure if I had labored at home alone, I would have likely went to the hospital much earlier and possibly ended up with unwanted interventions. But instead I was able to achieve my vaginal, unmedicated birth. Healthy mom. Health baby. Doula for the win!

More here on the benefits of having a doula.


On Becoming a Mother

I always knew I wanted to be a mother. As a young teenager, I remember writing down the names of my potential children in the back of my journal. As I approached my mid-30s, I began to fear motherhood would never happen for me. I mean, many of my peers had children in middle and high school and I only had a 15-pound dog to show for it. (Don’t get me wrong, fur babies are like family to me, but the pull for my own child still nagged).

When my fiance and I decided to give our relationship another go last year (we’ve known each other for more than 5 years), I knew I wanted to fast track getting pregnant. And despite passively trying over the years, I found myself pregnant after just one month using one of those ovulation predictor kits. Advanced maternal age and all! Just like that, I was thrust into the deliciousness and terrifying fear that is motherhood. A lifelong dream realized. Or at least begun.

Welcome to The Alchemical Mama!

Hey, ya’ll. Welcome to my little corner of the web. I am so excited to start this blog. I know it will morph and transform like all things do, but my goal is to offer up a space for the sharing of information and resources, as well as intellectual discussion on parenthood, mysticism and self-actualization. Have a look around. Drop a comment. Shoot me a message. Let’s do this thing!