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  Using a Doula

Using a Doula

Making it through the long hours of labor with your motivation intact can be a bit dicey. Hours of pain and mental concentration can lead to even more hours of pain and pushing (doesn't that sound fun), but gives way to the most glorious moments in any mother's life. Getting through each contraction and being ready to face what's ahead is more easily managed if you don't have to do it alone. Finding trusted, supportive partners, friends, or even professionals to help coach you through the most powerful emotional and physical moments of childbirth have been proven time and time again.

Research has shown that women who labor with a doula present needed less pain medication, had a lower rate of Cesarean Section delivery, and reported a better labor experience overall.

Doulas are certified, trained birth coaches. Some may have a medical background, while others do not. Whether they have a medical background is really of no importance at all-as they are not trained or allowed to perform any procedures. Serving as a support person, labor coach and postpartum helper, doulas take on an important role in pregnancy. In addition to being support for mom, a doula may also cut common anxieties between mom and her partner-presenting that ever-calming force that can be so necessary when tensions run high.

Most doulas do their job by using the power of touch and massage to help the body through the labor process. Massage has been shown to help release oxytocin during delivery that is twofold: first, to help create more effective contractions and second to pass into the brain where this powerful hormone causes a sense of relaxation and feelings of ease. IV oxytocin (known as Pitocin) does not have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier; therefore it triggers contractions but is never able to produce the natural relaxation that the body would make on its own.

Doulas are usually certified through organizations like which provide training related to the birth process, normal prenatal development, pain management and coaching among other topics. Upon completion of doula training, graduates must complete a set number of hours assisting mothers in labor in order to become certified.

The duties of a doula may vary as widely as they themselves. Some doulas may stay with you even into your postpartum period and after you get home from the hospital to assist with infant care, breast feeding and light cooking or cleaning. Others prefer to work with you in the weeks leading up to delivery and during labor, but offer no postpartum services. It will be up to you to decide what type of services you would like to find in your professional doula, and make those wishes clear to them when you interview.

There are doulas available across the country--you can perform a quick internet search for one in your area (many have personal sites) or search through groups like DONA. Arrange a personal meeting or two with your doula before birth to ensure you are a right fit for each other. If you prefer, meet with two or three and pick the one who most closely represents what you will need during your delivery. Sharing your views about labor will be very important when looking for the right doula. Some points to consider include:

  • How does your doula view pregnancy in general?
  • Will she be available at any time?
  • What methods does she use for coaching?
  • Do you share similar views on pain control, labor positions, and delivery methods?
  • How many deliveries has she been present for?
  • How does she manage emergency situations?

Many women worry that hiring a Doula might not allow any room for dad to coach. While a doula can be as hands-on as possible, she may also serve as a coach only when dad gets tired, or in the case of some men, serves as the complete coach so that they may be able to fully enjoy the process of labor with mom-without having to wear so many hats. With more and more dads getting involved in the labor process, a doula can be a valuable resource to both parents.

Doula assistance does not come cheaply --not typically covered by insurance, you can expect to pay between $500 and $700 start to finish or more. Make sure to discuss cost and payment with the doula of your choice, and happy birthing!

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