In short a Doula is a labor coach and support system for the expecting parents not only during labor but in the days leading up to birth day and directly after. A Doula is specially trained to understand the labor process and most can tell what a woman needs before she asks. A good Doula will be able to suggest things to do by reading the cues of a laboring woman’s body without the woman ever saying a word. A Doula is valuable to dads to be as well as they take the stress of taking care of the laboring mom off the shoulders of the dad allowing him to be fully focused and lavish all of his attention onto the laboring mom.
Doulas will help a woman and her partner create a birth plan that suits the expectant parents individual needs and desires. This activity will occur a few weeks or even months before the expected due date depending on how proactive the expectant parents wish to be. Keep in mind babies often come early!
For birth time a Doulas role is to provide comfort and care for the laboring mom, as well as becoming her advocate if the expectant parents wish. Often labor and delivery do not go as planned or as dreamed of, it is the role of the Doula to step in and act as a go between with the doctors, nurses and the expectant parents if so desired. Having a Doula communicate can be a wonderful thing as in the height of activity the laboring mom will often agree to things she does not want because focusing on procedures during labor is almost impossible. The Doula will get to know the expectant parents and their every wish for birth before the big day and will be an advocate for those wishes and ensure they are carried out. If a situation occurs where wishes of the expectant parents cannot be given, the Doula will communicate this to the laboring mom, often along with the doctor, nurse or mid-wife, in terms the laboring mom can understand and help guide her to a decision that is best for overall health and as closely aligned with the birth plan as possible.
During birth a Doula will provide continued encouragement to the laboring mom, and a Doula will often provide physical support as in helping with change of position, using aromatherapy, applying warm cloths, using pressure point techniques and anything that will bring comfort to the laboring mom, (ice chips) at times Doulas who are trained well can also check dilation and be used as a pushing coach if desired.
Post-Partum a Doula will give care for about 2 hours after the birth, helping the new mom get cleaned up, supporting that first restroom trip, soothing any anxiety she may have about the baby, bleeding, and other medical concerns. The Doula can also help a new mom and baby bond by ensuring the expectant parents have their wishes with the baby fulfilled if medically possibly, including skin to skin contact, quiet and dark for an hour or two, latching on to nurse and even ensuring visitors stay in the waiting room if desired.
These things are just the very basics of a Doulas role and each experience will be different. The Doula will provide as much or as little support as the expectant parents want. Interviewing Doulas is very important to make sure he or she is a good fit for the expectant parents and their beliefs and wishes.
Doulas will cost anywhere from $200 to $2000 depending on services and certifications. Sometimes Doulas will provide free service if they are in training still. Most Doulas will lower rates for expectant parents that cannot afford a huge fee, however keep in mind this is their job and they will specifically be on call for one client at a time starting somewhere around 3 weeks before delivery due date, therefore Doulas take on minimal clients in order to give personal care. Be open, honest and upfront with a Doula and trust they will take absolutely the best care of the mom to be and her partner.