Finding a Doula
Many hospitals nationwide now offer doula services at little or no cost. (The price of a nonhospital-based or private doula ranges from about $200 to $600 per delivery.) Though standard health insurance rarely covers the cost of these services, patient demand for doulas is growing. In the past year, the number of women seeking referrals each month from Doulas of North America (DONA), a nonprofit international association based in Alpine, Utah, has nearly doubled.
Currently, some 10,000 to 20,000 doulas practice in the U.S. You can now find qualified birthing coaches in every state -- usually within a 30-mile radius of where you live. Many receive training and certification through local hospitals. Those who are certified through DONA must be trained in childbirth education or midwifery, complete a 14-hour course, and get on-the-job experience by providing labor support to at least three satisfied clients. Doulas certified through the Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators meet similar requirements.
If you decide to use a doula's services, let your obstetrician know as early as possible. If she's unfamiliar with the practice, "you might tell her that these types of labor coaches have been the subject of studies in medical journals and have been found to be very helpful," suggests Howard Minkoff, M.D., chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Maimonides Medical Center, in Brooklyn. You and your partner will likely meet with your doula a few times before your due date to discuss your plans for the birth. If possible, introduce her to your doctor at a prenatal visit and discuss any potential sticking points. If you and your doula are against an episiotomy, for example, now is the time to bring it up.
Mothering New Moms
During labor's turbulent moments, an experienced, reassuring voice can provide moms with a much-needed reality check. "Sometimes a woman doesn't know if what she's going through is normal or not," says Penny Simkin, a doula trainer in Seattle and a DONA co-founder. "A doula can provide some perspective."
Rebekah Krakora, 34, a stay-at-home mom from Pittsburgh, needed that emotional help during the pushing phase of her baby's birth. "My doula would say, 'That was a great push. Look how far the baby has moved.' I needed to know that the finish line was near. Nobody else was telling me that," Krakora says.
Shortly after delivery, doulas also routinely contact the mother to relive some of the details and provide an objective view of the birth. "The labor may not have gone according to plan, but we hope a mom can still walk away with a positive memory," says Ginger Breeck, a doula at Community Hospital Anderson, in Anderson, Indiana. You can also hire a postpartum doula, who will come to your home to help out with child care or household chores after the birth.
All of this extra support for moms benefits newborns too, says Dr. Klaus, author of Mothering the Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth (Perseus). His studies suggest that a doula's presence helps a woman feel more in control of childbirth -- minimizing postpartum depression and fostering an earlier bond with her infant. "When a mother is well cared for in labor," he says, "those caring feelings get transferred to her baby."
Copyright © Sandra Gordon. Reprinted with permission from Parents magazine.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.