What is a Birth Doula and Why Do You Need One? An Exclusive Interview

what is a doula and the benefits of having a doula featured by top US mommy blogger, Baby Castan on Board

It’s not a secret that my first birth experience was a bit traumatic. I was determined to make it a much better experience this time around. One of the first things I considered was whether a birth doula might be a good investment to help me achieve the birth experience I wanted. Fortunately, we have a family friend who is a doula so I interviewed her to find out more about what a doula is and how they can support a birth experience. Here is my interview with Devon Roe on what a birth doula is and why you need one for your birth.

While I was looking for a doula I realized that they are not one size fits all. It is super important to interview doulas to find a good fit for the birth experience you want. In my case, I was planning on a hypnobirthing birth so what I really wanted was someone to support Dan and make sure that he felt confident since he would be articulating our birth preferences and primarily working with the hospital staff. We were also most anxious about the early stages of active labor (for example knowing when to go to the hospital).  Devon Roe was a great fit for us because she primarily supports the birth partner and she has a phone doula option where she is available to you at any time by phone and will come to the hospital only if you feel you need it (and if she is available).

 

Interview with Birth Doula Devon Roe:

What is your Background and Why did you Become a Birth Doula?

While I was teaching yoga I got into teaching prenatal yoga. After becoming a mom I felt like being in the birth world was something I was passionate about. In 2007 I started childbirth training and doula certification so I could enter that world.

What is a Birth Doula and How Can they Benefit a Pregnant Mom?

Doulas are supported people. They are not medical professionals, they are there to help facilitate whatever birth process the mom (or parents) want. Sometimes they are there for moms who don’t have a support person, sometimes they are there to support the father or other support people. I personally come from a background of trying to support the couple so I usually help the couple facilitate a stronger connection during birth between the two and try to stay in the background to assist the support person.

What Should Moms Look for in a Birth Doula? Are they One Size Fits All?

There are actually many kinds of doulas. Most people probably think of birth doulas but it’s probably just as important for moms to understand that there are also postpartum doulas. For some, postpartum doulas can be as important or more important depending on how supported, helped, or prepared they feel for the actual birth process. They are especially helpful if dad (or other partner) has to go back to work right away or mom is still healing (ie; c-section). The postpartum doula would be in the home after the birth to act like any other caregiver helping out mom so mom can focus on healing and bonding with her new baby. Postpartum doulas can help mom by watching the baby so mom can take a nap, they can make meals, do the laundry.

How Do You Find the Right Birth Doula for You?

It’s important to figure out what you want from a doula first. Are you looking for someone to take charge at the hospital, someone to comfort you, or support your birth partner? Once you know what you are looking for, come up with a few questions for potential doulas and send them out. The biggest question is usually “What is your role as a doula?” and “How do you facilitate the parent’s vision of the birth.” I, personally, try to stay in the background and assist the support person (unless I am the only support person). Some doulas try to work in conjunction with the birth partner to be the actual support person.

Where Can a Mom Find a Birth Doula?

The best way is to ask other moms. Word of mouth/referrals and finding people you trust that had a great experience with a doula and felt like they want to share that with you is a great way to start.

Another place to look is DONA International, the largest certifying body for doulas.

If you are concerned about cost consider a phone doula or birth doula in training.

When Should a Mom Consider Hiring a Birth Doula?

The earlier the better especially for a more experienced doula. Doulas schedules can fill up quickly and far in advance, especially if they deal with a lot of repeat clients. For example, my repeat clients will usually contact me as soon as they have a positive pregnancy test. It is something you will want to look into as early as possible if it’s something you know you want.

Of course, you can always find doulas at the last moment too, if you don’t realize you need one until closer to the end of your pregnancy or even the day of your birth. Many people will start looking for one in the last 8-10 weeks when they realize it’s getting real and maybe I am not as prepared or my partner isn’t as prepared and we might need that extra support. You will just have more limited choices.

Doulas can’t take on as many clients at once. That is part of the reason why prices are high. You don’t want to risk missing a birth and you never know when they are going to happen so many doulas won’t take on more than 2-4 clients per month.

What are some Common Problems/Issues/Mistakes that you have Encountered with First Time Moms as a Birth Doula and How Can a Doula Help?

  1. Not a lot of prep prior to birth. For example, if you are doing a hypnobirthing or other relaxation program like the Bradley Method and you haven’t done a lot of practice to prepare.
  2. Long labors — First-time moms often have long labors and they don’t anticipate it being as long as it ends up being. It can be really hard if you don’t have that preparation in place to sustain a long labor especially if you are trying an unmedicated birth.

What is your Number One Piece of Advice for Laboring Moms?

Whether you are having a medicated birth, unmedicated birth or even a c-section it’s all about finding a way to stay present. How can I survive this one moment during labor? If you do this through the whole labor then you will get through it. At some point, you have to surrender to the experience instead of fighting against it. There is definitely a giving in process.

With c-sections you have to think can I survive this moment of having an epidural put into my back or preparing to go to the operating room? Can I stay present right now and not stress about what is going to happen or worry about what has already happened? You can’t do anything about those things. You have to think my body is going through this experience and I just need to let it happen.

A more tangible piece of advice is to lean on your support people. Whoever that is whether it’s your partner, your doula, your sister, your mom, or even a group of people — it’ doesn’t matter, but lean on them. Let them be your strength when you are struggling.

What is a Common Misconception about Labor and Delivery?

There are many — it depends on how educated they are about birth prior to birth. The biggest misconception is probably feeling like they can just wing it. Feeling like well I am going to a good hospital and people have babies all the time it will be fine — I can do this. I mean I am glad people are confident — that’s a good thing, but without that preparation in place they often walk away without the experience they want.

Birth Doulas are Expensive and Not Covered by my Insurance, Why Should I Invest in One?

I believe we need to change the mindset of how we look at birth and how we are willing to financially support birth. We look at things like weddings and think oh well we can splurge for a caterer, or the hall, or all these things. Nothing is covered by insurance, we pay for them because we think this is the one time we are going to have a wedding (hopefully) and we are going to do this and remember it for the rest of our lives let’s go and splurge a little bit to get the experience we want.

With birth, many women think well that’s not covered by insurance so I guess I don’t really need it. I think if we look at what happens to women in their 90s, and women going through dementia or memory loss — the one thing they can remember is their births very vividly and in detail. We need to do whatever needs to happen to make sure that they are getting the experience that they want. Women should feel empowered by their birth and they should feel like it was a beautiful and amazing experience. They should not walk away from it thinking “if only I had…” or “I wish ‘this’ happened”. We need to get away from If only I had done this differently or planned this better.  You want to remember it as the most powerful and beautiful experience of your life.

What About a C-Section? Is a Birth Doula Still Helpful?

An unplanned c-section — definitely. If you have a support person there they are going to do everything to help make sure an unplanned c-section does not happen if it doesn’t have to happen. But if it does have to happen they are there to help ease that transition for you.

It’s super emotional and really hard to go from what you expected to this new situation. Doulas are there to help mom and birth partner have the time and space and preparation to transition from vaginal birth to c-section. Doulas have been through it — maybe themselves but definitely with other couples, so that gives them some ability to explain the process and maybe some of the things the doctors or nurses don’t take the time to explain which again takes away some anxiety and makes things go more smoothly.

A planned c-section — Doulas can still be helpful depending on what kind of support you think you need. It also depends on the hospital and whether a doula is allowed in the operating room. They can still be beneficial for everything they do prenatally (preparing for the birth process and postpartum period) and if they are allowed with you during the birth it gives you another person to lean on and someone who can explain the process and be with you so that neither you or your birth partner has to be in a fear place.

For planned c-sections doulas can be particularly helpful during postpartum recovery. They can help to facilitate breastfeeding (if that’s what you choose to do), get through the first few weeks of recovery which are really hard, help your partner understand how to help you with things like moving pillows and how to get the baby to and from the breast and all these things that dads (or other partner) need help with too.

Is there anything else moms should know about doulas?

Doulas don’t walk away from you once the birth is over. They don’t walk out the door and say that’s it we’re done, see you later. I still stay in contact with my couples. They are there as a resource.

Did you have a doula for your birth? Did you find it helpful? Let me know in the comments!

If you liked this post check out  Birth Prep Online Birth Classes: An Interview with Creator Mandy Roberson and 15 Hospital Bag Essentials to Pack and Be Prepared.

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Melissa

Hi, I’m Melissa! I am a mama to an energetic preschooler and newborn, a wife to my amazing husband Dan, and I work full-time as a meeting planner. I started this blog because, after having my first little guy, I quickly learned that exhaustion and baby brain causes you to forget some of the amazing (sometimes horrible and sometimes wonderful) details related to the first several months of raising a baby. Realizing that we would probably have more kids in the future, I wanted to document everything, so we would remember what worked the first time around, and hopefully help other first time mamas along the way!

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