By: Aaliyah Ellison-McPeters
What is a Doula?
A doula is a non-clinical professional birth and postpartum assistant who provides emotional stability and support to pregnant mothers and their families during their respective pregnancies, labors, and the fourth trimester. Doula appointments typically involve prenatal visits, labor and delivery, and a post-birth follow-up. Services a doula may provide include supporting loved ones, assisting in communication between mothers and their care providers, informing families on the processes of childbirth and the postpartum period, physical comfort, and more. Studies have shown that when mothers have a doula present for their labors and postpartum, there is a decrease in the use of pain-relief drugs, a reduction in the incidence of cesareans, and delivery is shorter on average. Women also report having fewer negative experiences during their childbirths.
Birth doulas are as close to the mother during labor as she needs, providing comfort, encouragement, and pain-relief techniques. These techniques include breathing, massage, relaxation, and different birthing positions. A birth doula encourages active participation from the birthing mother’s partner and may offer any needed consolation. To the best of their abilities, a doula’s primary concern is to ensure that mothers experience a positive and empowering birth, typically done through advocating for their clients and assisting in fulfilling their desires regarding their childbirth—regardless if the mother is having an unmedicated or a cesarean.
Depending on the type of doula families choose for their support, postpartum care of the mother will differ. A birth doula will typically stay with families for a little while after the baby is born. This time can vary based on the mother’s needs but generally are between 1-2 hours after birth. During this time, the birth doula will assist the new mother through immediate postpartum by helping initiate breastfeeding, answering questions, or by helping create a vision for a restful period after labor. A specific kind of doula, a postpartum doula, specializes in exclusively assisting in the postpartum period. These types of doulas provide support and education on infant feeding, the physical and emotional healing process, infant soothing, and ways for new parents to cope with the adjustment of a new baby. A postpartum doula may help with the housework, meal prepping, and the older children adjusting to a new sibling.
Choosing a Doula and Cost
When choosing a doula, asking your midwife or obstetrician for recommendations and referrals is best. Asking friends or family can be helpful, significantly gaining another point of view. Researching organizations that certify doulas will provide more knowledge on their role. It’s essential to think about how you want a doula to assist you, whether a birth doula, postpartum doula or both. Some questions that can help start the search for a doula are “What kind of training and certification do you have” and “Are you supportive of my desires and expectations concerning childbirth?” Since doulas are not trained medical professionals and aren’t currently regarded as “essential care,” most insurance companies will not cover the cost of their services. It is best to call your insurance company to learn their policy on covering doula services. Paying out of pocket for a doula depends on factors including years of experience, your state, and what kind of doula you choose. On average, it costs between $800-$2,500; some doulas will charge by the hour, whereas others will charge a flat fee. Some doulas may also have payment plans available for prospective clients, which can be something to ask for during the search for a doula.
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