If you are pregnant for the first time, you might have come across the term doula and are wondering what is their purpose. Doulas do not provide any medical assistance because they are not medically trained. Birth doulas work with the mother at the last stages of pregnancy and during childbirth. Some doulas also provide services immediately after the birth of the child. So let us elaborate on who they are and what they do.
One thing to keep in mind right off the bat is that a doula is not the same thing as a midwife. As the midwives from Hearth and Home Midwifery explain in their doula versus midwife article, a midwife maintains emotional distance from the mother during the birthing process. Her job is to provide medical assistance during the delivery of the child and focus on the physical health of the mother. There are three types of midwives, and their participation during labor and delivery depends on the level of their training.
- Certified professional midwives learn the job as an apprentice to another midwife. They learn the skills on the job. They can only practice in 31 states.
- A certified nursing midwife has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in nursing midwifery. They can practice in all the 50 states and prescribe medications as well. Most of them perform in hospitals and birth centers.
- Certified midwives have a graduate degree in midwifery from a certified program. They can practice in all the states. But they can prescribe medicine in only a few of them.
A doula, on the other hand, is there to provide emotional assistance to you during labor and childbirth. She will inform you about the process of labor and delivery. She will also describe your options and translate the medical terms. A doula will speak up for you and explain to the doctors, nurses, and midwives what you need or don’t need. For example, if you don’t want an epidural, she can advocate for you. Most hospitals in America will allow a doula to accompany you. Some doctors don’t like working with them, so clarify with your obstetrician if he or she is ok with one. But most doctors and midwives will appreciate it if you hire a doula for yourself. Doulas can help you manage the discomfort during labor and childbirth.
When the hospital is very busy midwives cannot spend a lot of time with the mothers during labor. If you have a doula, she will explain to you what is happening. Labor can be a stressful time, and if this is your first child, you might feel confused. Without a midwife or a doctor beside you, things can look very scary. A doula can help you make things easier when a doctor or a midwife is not available. Research has shown that the presence of a doula can reduce your need for medical intervention during the delivery. That means shorter labor and lesser need for pain medication or oxygen. Doulas reduce the number of cesarean sections too.
A postpartum doula can help you after the birth of your child. It can be a very emotional time for you after having your first child. You could still be processing all that happened during the birthing process and might need support with taking care of your baby. A doula can help you with the tasks that you struggle with the first time. A doula can help you feed the baby for the first time, give your baby the first bath, so on and so forth. Postpartum doulas observe how well your family is responding to the arrival of the baby, and give your pointers as required. They can help you transition from being pregnant into becoming a parent.
How Much Does a Doula Cost?
The cost of hiring a doula can differ between the states. You will have to pay for a doula out of your pocket. The hourly rates can vary between $20 to $80, depending on where you are delivering your child. Many hospitals give a doula for free. Some community-based programs provide you a doula for a lower hourly rate. Your insurance will probably not cover the wages of hiring a doula. However, if you have a health savings account, you would be able to cover the cost from that.
If you want to hire a doula, it is best to go through a reputed organization or personal recommendation. You should have a screening process in place to select a person who you feel can bond with you.