Doula Q & A
How can a doula help me and my family?
Your doula's first goal is to get to know the mother and her partner and build a trusting and warm relationship so that by the time your baby is ready to be born, you will know and trust all of your support people. She will help you to determine your goals for your birth, and work to help you meet those goals. Your Doula can help to clarify information discussed with the doctor or midwife and suggests topics for future discussion with your caregiver. Once your labour begins, she will stay with you throughout your whole labour and delivery, using non-medical pain relief techniques, and providing emotional support. Your Doula helps ensure your partner is involved in the birth at a level they are most comfortable with. Your doula is trained in the physiology of labour, and can help explain medical terms and procedures, to help keep everyone calm. After the baby is born, she will help with the initial breastfeeding, and in processing the birth experience. She is also available to answer questions, make suggestions, or just lend a friendly ear over the phone before and after the birth.
What can I expect from my doula?
Your doula will meet with you a minimum of 2-3 times before the birth to answer questions, discuss the birth process and breastfeeding, help with a birth plan if you wish to make one, provide resources and develop a relationship with you and your partner. Once you go into labour, she will be available by phone until you are ready for me to assist you, either at home or in the hospital. She will stay with you throughout your whole labour and delivery, providing comfort, information, and support, and taking photographs (if you so desire). She will stay for about two hours after the birth, helping you with initial breastfeeding.
What is the difference between a nurse or midwife and a doula?
A doula is trained to be your emotional support and provide you with comfort measures during your birth. A nurse or midwife is trained to do medical procedures and evaluate the well-being of both mother and child. As shifts change, you may see many different nurses throughout your labour, whereas your doula stays with you continuously. Also, your doula focuses only on you, but a nurse or midwife may have other moms to look after at the same time. Whatever caregivers you choose, doulas works cooperatively with your entire health care team.
Do I need a doula if I have a midwife?
Absolutely! Although there is some cross-over between the roles of doulas and midwives, there are many important distinctions. Primarily, the midwife's responsibility peaks at the time of the birth, which is when she must be at her most alert to perform her job effectively. This means that she must conserve her energy throughout your labour to perform her job as best she can. This does not mean that midwives do not provide labour support--they do--just that they have many other responsibilities that must take precedence. In contrast, a doula's responsibility peaks during active labour and transition, when you need the most help coping with your contractions. By the time the birth rolls around, the doula has already accomplished most of her work--she has helped you through your labour to the point of delivery. As a result, a doula can afford to use most of her energy in the labour stage. As the midwives are busy setting up for the birth, taking fetal heart tones, charting, and many other important tasks related to monitoring the health of mom and baby, your doula is there with you and your birth partner(s), coaching you through each contraction, heating up your hot water bottle, adding fresh water to your labour tub, and fetching a glass of juice for you, and a mug of tea for your partner. Doulas are also very helpful at home births, where an extra pair of hands to help with the clean-up, or whip up a postpartum meal can come in very handy.
Will we feel comfortable having a stranger at our birth?
Well, by the time you have your baby your doula really should not be a stranger. She should be someone that has built a warm and trusting relationship with you and your partner prior to labour. She will be familiar with you, your preferences, your fears, and your concerns, and you will have a good sense of her as a caregiver and as a person. Your doula is a supporter of the team (you and your partner), and encourages and expects that your labour and birth will be a loving experience between the mother and her partner.
What doesn’t a doula do?
Doulas do not perform medical tasks such as vaginal exams or fetal heart checks. Doulas do not speak to the medical staff on your behalf. Doulas do not make decisions for you.
Isn’t my partner my doula?
No. Your doula has training and experience above and beyond what your spouse may learn from a prenatal class. No matter how much experience your spouse has with childbirth, the birth experience can be stressful and confusing, and the presence of a doula frees your partner from the heavy responsibility of being your only support person. Your partner is now free to be loving, supportive, responsive, and emotionally involved in the thrill of the birth of your child. Your doula in no way replaces the presence of your partner; she enhances it.
How does a doula help my partner?
Your doula is there to support both you and your partner. From simply letting your partner take a break to reassuring them that what is happening is normal, your doula takes a lot of pressure off of birth partners, who may sometimes feel overwhelmed. Partners may also feel unsure about what to do. A doula will make suggestions, helping them help you.
Can a doula help me avoid a repeat cesarean?
Absolutely! Doulas are especially important if you are planning a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) because she helps you avoid the interventions that increase your likelihood of having another cesarean birth.
If I don’t have a doula, what do I need from my support people?
Your support people need a basic knowledge of physical comfort techniques, and the ability to remember them under pressure. Also, you need to be able to get a hold of your support people at any time, because labour can start unexpectedly. Your support people must be able to drop everything, leave work in the middle of a shift, get up in the middle of the night, and find childcare on a moment’s notice. Your support people must be willing to commit to be with you though your whole labour, which in some cases can be days. Your support people should know what you are looking for from your birth and be willing to support you in any decisions you make, even if those decisions are different than what they would want for you. These are all standard aspects of doula care.
How can I hire a doula?
Speak with your midwife and see if she can suggest a good match for you and your family. Also check out our resources online for a link to a list of all the doulas in Prince George.
At what point in my pregnancy should I contact a doula?
The earlier the better! The sooner you meet your Doula the better--she will know your wishes for your upcoming delivery and you will get to know her as well. You'll have someone you know that you can call on with those "Is this normal?" or "What does this mean?" sort of phone calls throughout your pregnancy. As well, the longer you have known your doula, the more of a relationship you will build. Furthermore, some doulas tend to book up very quickly, so it is a good idea to contact a doula soon so you can to see if you are a good fit and to ensure that you will have a doula available that you're comfortable with. That being said, don't assume that you're too far along--it's not uncommon for women to find themselves in the last stages of pregnancy before they realise that they would like some extra support. It's still a great idea to call a doula and see--if she is not available, she will put you in contact with other great doulas, and there's still a very good chance that you will find just the right fit.
What fees do doulas charge?
Your Doula provides you with a professionally trained expert in childbirth to support you throughout the entire childbirth process. Having a birth doula, or labour assistant, at your disposal during your last few weeks of pregnancy is a great way to prepare for your child's birth. You'll be able to call your doula with questions no matter what time of day (or night) and meet with your doula for prenatal visits filled with information and hands-on learning.
Most doulas charge their fees on a sliding scale (please be sure to ask your doula what she charges at your first meeting). Locally, their fees range from $350-$600. Most ask you to pay what you can afford and what you think the services they provided to you are worth.
What you can expect from your Doula
- Pre-natal visits for birth preparation and preference planning
- Emotional support and advice during pregnancy--we are just a phone call away
- Explanation of medical procedures and interventions
- Physical suggestions to make pregnancy and childbirth more comfortable
- Discussion of your birth preferences and guidance creating a sheet for your caregivers
- Facilitation of communication between members of your birth team
- Massage, non-pharmacologic pain relief measures, aromatherapy, and other comfort techniques
- Positioning suggestions and assistance during labour and birth
- Encourage and instill confidence in your partner to get involved in your labour and birth support
- Help avoiding unnecessary interventions
- Assistance with breastfeeding at the hospital, and at home
- Attendance during your entire labour and hours postpartum
Make sure your doula has past clients who are happy to provide references regarding the care and services she provides.