The decision to hire a doula to assist at your labor and delivery is a personal one. So, of course, I can’t give you a clear answer either way. What I can do is provide plenty of information that I’ve gleaned from numerous clients throughout the years, as well as some of the current statistics.
I’m a maternity and newborn photographer, and I take my clients’ safety and well-being to heart. Therefore, I feel I must take time to advise: If you’re considering a doula, only interview certified doulas who have been through the industry’s respected doula education and training programs (DONA, CAPPA, Birth Arts International, Childbirth International, etc.). Your well-being, and that of your baby’s, partially rests in your doula’s ability to safely assess the situation from moment-to-moment and provide sound advice and research-backed recommendations.
You may prefer a doula-assisted birth if…
Here are some of the situations or scenarios that indicate a doula would be a good fit for you during your labor and delivery.
You want a natural (as possible) birth and decreased risks
The evidence shows very clearly that women who have strong, personal support during their labor/delivery have more positive outcomes. For example, women who use doulas experience a 39% decrease risk of having C-sections and a 15% increase in spontaneous vaginal birth. According to the American Pregnancy Association:
A recent Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth, showed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a doula was present. With the support of a doula, women were less likely to have pain-relief medications administered and less likely to have a cesarean birth. Women also reported having a more positive childbirth experience.
Those are reassuring statistics for those drawn to the idea of having a doula’s support.
You’re afraid of medical situations and/or labor in general
Every woman experiences trepidation or downright fear when contemplating an upcoming labor. However, some women’s fear and anxiety is above-and-beyond the norm, and some even have phobias around hospitals, needles, etc.. Sometimes this is the result of previous sexual or medical trauma, a phobia or a negative narrative of birth from female relatives and friends. Whatever the cause, hiring a doula can go a long way towards making you feel more safe, calm and aware when it’s time for you to give birth.
You have a high-risk pregnancy or may need a C-Section
The medical establishment, no matter how well meaning, often “takes the power” away from women and their partners. When you are tired, emotional and under duress of any kind, it can be difficult to stand up to their forceful recommendations or pressure to use interventions you’ve been firm about not using. But, why should you have to?
Your doula serves as a birth advocate, working expertly with you through a high-risk pregnancy, and with your medical team, to assure your rights and those of your baby, are upheld all the way through - and that any interventions or changes in your birth plan are due to medical necessity rather than convenience.
For example, your doula will help to make sure you get to hold the baby, skin-to-skin, after the C-section and/or that your partner is allowed to stay with the baby through its ensuing examinations, tests or migration to the NICU even if you can’t. She will serve as an ambassador between yourself, your partner and the medical team.
Your partner doesn’t hold up so well in medical situations (or isn’t supportive of your birth plan)
Similarly, if your partner gets squeamish at the sight of blood or can’t stand to see you in discomfort, telling him to, “buck up” may not do you much good. Hiring a doula to be there as your main support (if needed) not only ensures you have the solid help you need and deserve during labor, but will also help to nourish your romantic relationship - free of blame and shame.
Ultimately, you get to control the birth plan so if you’re worried your partner isn’t on board or that s/he won’t have the guts to stand up for what you want in the delivery room, your doula will have your back - literally and figuratively. Doula’s can also help you with postpartum breastfeeding, especially helpful if you come from a family or culture that doesn’t support breastfeeding with the same passion that you do.
You don’t have a birth partner
The terms doula literally means, “a woman who serves” from the greek word doule.
Her presence, knowledge, insights and capacity to serve as your advocate (like a birth ambassador) throughout your labor, delivery and postpartum period will be invaluable. From partners who are serving in the military to single moms choosing to get pregnant on their own, I’ve seen plenty of women going it solo during their pregnancy and delivery. If you don’t have a birth partner that you feel 100% comfortable with, a doula is a smart way to go.
You’re not using a midwife
There are plenty of women who use both a midwife and a doula. However, if you love your midwife, a doula may be a waste of funds (money better spent on amazing maternity and newborn pictures in my completely biased opinion).
If you don't’ have a midwife, a doula is a tremendous help. She can alleviate any nerves associated with a change in doctors (what if yours isn’t on call that night?) or labor and delivery staff. She’ll be with you if things don’t go as planned - too fast or too slow - and through all of those medical staff shift changes that occur every handful of hours. Your doula is a constant - helping you to feel anchored and secure in the shifting landscape of hospital life.
So why would you not have a doula?
There are cases, however, where a doula may not be the right fit for you and your birth plan. These includes scenarios where:
● There are no certified doulas in your area. There’s no point in paying money for an uncertified doula - just find a supportive, experienced and warm-hearted friend to help out.
● Your husband/partner and/or you would prefer less people present at the birth and worry the doula will get in the way. If you or your partner are worried thinking that extra people in the birthing room will seem intrusive, it might be better to pass.
● You aren’t feeling comfortable or connected with the doula you’ve hired. This is no time to “play nice” or worry about hurting her feelings. Your doula must have your trust, respect and some level of connection for you to reap the benefits of her services during birth.
● The doula charges by the hour, has “extra fees” attached or limits the amount of time she’ll be present at your birth. Professional doulas charge a flat fee and provide a contract with a specific list of what that fee covers - which includes the totality of your birth - be it three-hours or three-days long.
Giving birth is the experience of a lifetime and you deserve to have the most fulfilling version of that possible. And, as long as you’re talking about fulfilling experiences, why not consider hiring a professional maternity and newborn photographer to capture some of your most precious moments? Contact me here at Lemonshoots to learn more about my services.