From spending hours researching the best prenatal vitamin to scouting out the best childbirth preparation classes, we begin parenthood with a deep desire to do what is best for our family as we prepare for our coming new addition. At times, it can feel overwhelming; there’s so many tasks to be done and a lot to learn (like… why are there so many car seat brands and what are padsicles?!). The to-do lists and choices seem endless. Where does one even begin? Take a deep breath! You’ve got this.
One of the first and most important pieces of preparation begins with assembling your birth team, or the people who will care for and support you during your pregnancy and birth. Once you’ve chosen your care provider, whether that is an OB or midwife, hiring a doula is your next, right thing. Trust us.
At Arrow, our mission is to support and empower moms and dads on their parenthood journey through top-tier education, resources, and personalized 1:1 support. Our co-founders, Tara and Mari, have a combined 25 years of experience doing exactly this, supporting expecting and new parents as professional birth doulas. So when it comes to the “Birth Prep To-Do List”, a doula is at the very top of our list!
Have you been curious about whether or not to go with a doula for your pregnancy? Here’s what makes hiring a doula the hands-down best choice as you prepare for labor and delivery.
A Great Choice For Any Pregnancy
First, let’s clarify what a doula is exactly. A doula is a trained and/or certified professional who offers educational, physical, and emotional support during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Some call them the tour guides of birth, as they answer your questions and walk alongside you from prenatals to your time postpartum.
A doula is your on-call, non-emergency hotline. They will help you vet and curate resources during pregnancy and work to know your birth goals during prenatal meetings.
When the time comes for you to give birth, they are there to support you and your partner through the process as they help you achieve your birth vision. Whether it’s a massage to relax you, suggesting a better laboring position, or applying counterpressure and hip squeezes, your doula will strive to meet your physical needs during labor. They can help you navigate decision making by helping you weigh risks and benefits as well as install confidence in you as you communicate your preferences to the medical staff and/or birth team.
Most doulas support a variety of births, from unmedicated, natural home births to planned cesareans.
When it comes to hospital birth, you may not be expecting to be left alone in your room to labor. Your care provider and nurses will check in on you every so often as they make their rounds on the labor and delivery floor. Having a doula who stays with you and is dedicated to your comfort, calm, and care makes for a less isolating and otherwise possibly overwhelming experience.
Likewise during home birth, your doula is the one offering you constant support. They will assist you in labor positioning, pain management, and keep you focused on your mission.
We’ve heard it said before, “If I have a midwife, why do I need doula?” The difference between a doula and midwife has been likened to treading water in a swimming pool. Your midwife is the lifeguard, making sure you (and baby) stay above the water. She is tasked with your health and safety concerns during the birth. Occasionally she’ll get in and tread water with you but she’ll need to get back up in the lifeguard stand. Your doula is the one who will tread water with you the whole time, offering you the emotional and physical support you need to keep going.
There’s also a common misconception that doulas are only for unmedicated, natural births. Epidurals and cesareans don’t disqualify you from the need for support. Having a pain management plan other than an epidural or medication is a really good idea in case the epidural fails to work properly. Whether you’re free to move around or tethered to monitor or epidural, a doula works to make you comfortable and assists with the continual movement of your pelvis as your body labors your baby down. For a cesarean birth, your needs may look different, but companionship before surgery and after the birth in recovery proves to be incredibly valuable.
Whatever the plan for your upcoming birth, support from a trained birthworker makes a real difference. Pregnancy and birth support from a doula is proven to provide better outcomes in the birth room. Statistics also show professional support gives you a positive outlook on your birth, which is linked to a lower risk of perinatal mood disorders.
Doulas are truly for every pregnancy and every kind of birth.
What to Expect From Your Doula
Everyone looks for something different in a doula. You may want someone who is information based or you may be looking to simply connect on an emotional level or both! You may be looking for someone to help you achieve an unmedicated birth or guide you before, during, and after your planned cesarean. Generally, you can expect your doula to offer a variation of the following:
✔️ Pregnancy support: On-call availability, educational and emotional support, at least one prenatal meeting to discuss birth goals, preferences, and important information related to the pregnancy and birth.
✔️ Labor and birth support: In-person or virtual support when you want it including comfort measures, labor positioning, and visualization techniques
✔️ Partner support: Partner inclusion and assistance, guidance in best ways to help laboring partner
✔️ Postpartum support: Immediate post-birth feeding assistance (breastfeeding or bottlefeeding), at least one postpartum visit or virtual support
A good doula attunes to your needs in the moment and they may be completely different from what you previously planned or thought. Attunement is pivoting and going with the flow when you call an audible. It may look like stepping in and being a constant pillar of support through each contraction or stepping back to hold space for when you’re coping well. Expect them to work well with your care provider and other medical team members. They are there to support you and that includes being a cohesive part of the birthing environment.
Most importantly, you should expect your doula to offer non-judgmental support and give you confidence in your decisions.
How to Find and Hire the Right Doula
Finding the right support is just as important as the presence of support. As you build your birth team, it’s vital to choose people who understand you and who are dedicated to making your vision a reality.
Begin your search by asking for doula recommendations from your care provider. Your OB or midwife may know a doula they enjoy working with and highly recommend. Asking your friends and online parent groups allows you to hear firsthand experiences from people you trust and get you closer to finding the right doula for you. Other than using a good ‘ol search engine, social media like Instagram and Facebook can be a great way to find and assess a doula’s compatibility.
Once you’ve reached out to a doula in your area, you’ll be set up for a consultation. This is a time for connection, asking all your questions, and hearing how the doula will support you. Before a consultation, jot down some goals, desires, and questions you may have for the doula.
Ask about their training and/or certification organization. There are many training organizations all with differing philosophies, methods, and extensiveness. Most organizations have a couple days of workshop learning and course/test work. Ask them why they chose their organization and what they love about it. Feel free to inquire about their birth philosophy and what they think about certain birth related issues that are important to you.
Look for a good connection as you get to know the potential doula. You are inviting this person into a very sacred and important part of your life. You will want to feel like it’s easy and comfortable, like you’re getting to know a good friend.
Ultimately, go with your gut and move forward in confidence about your decision.
What You’ll Spend on a Doula’s Services
The cost of hiring a doula ranges greatly and depends on several different factors like your location, point of hire, and specific offerings of the doula. Typically, you can expect to spend anywhere from $500 to upwards of $2000. Doula care is almost always covered by a health savings account and sometimes covered by insurance plans.
If you experience “doula sticker shock,” it’s helpful to remember everything that is included in a doula’s fee: on-call doula support during pregnancy, labor/birth, and postpartum, prenatal meetings, in-person or virtual support for an unknown amount of time during labor, and postpartum meetings and check-ins. You are asking a trained professional to come support you at the drop of a hat!
Some doulas have packages where they offer varying levels of support, others may offer an hourly rate. Certainly shop around but when possible, it’s important to place connection over cost.
Find the Doula and Support That’s Right For You
The miracle of birth has often been compared to a marathon. Some run the race fast and others slow. Despite your pace, you will want someone there cheering you on, guiding you, and making it physically easier for you to race! The presence of support is why sports teams do better at home than they do away. They’re surrounded by the presence of people who want them to win! Doulas help create a space of camaraderie, positivity, and peace throughout your entire transition to parenthood.
Arrow and doulas go together like peanut butter and jelly. We too, are here for you as you prepare for one of the biggest days of your life and all the ones beyond it. We offer top notch, on-demand childbirth education courses and access to a network of certified specialists, waiting to hop on a live, 1:1 support call to tackle your needs. While we don’t offer in-person doula care, we do have doulas available for 1:1 virtual support sessions. Arrow was also founded by two experienced doulas in the Washington, D.C. area. That’s why we are so incredibly passionate about being your one-stop-shop for the support and education you deserve and need.
Birth is different and significant every time. Whether you’re a first time parent or a parent to six, support is crucial on your journey, starting at the very beginning of the road, during pregnancy and birth! These life-changing stages are foundational to parenthood and you will not regret bolstering your support system with the presence of a doula.
They get an enthusiastic two thumbs up from us.
This post was written by Arrow content contributor, Sarah Burzio.