So, what exactly is a doula?
First lets go over what a doula is not. A doula is not a doctor, or midwife. A doula does not perform any clinical or medical procedures- period.
A doula (pronounced doo-la) is an experienced, non clinical assistant, who provides physical, emotional and informed choice support for women in prenatal care, during childbirth and the post partum period. As a birth doula, I offer continuous care for labor in many settings attending home births, birth center and hospital births.
I am there to support pregnant women in having the kind of birth they want. I don’t try and force my ideals on a client. I inform her and support her with her decisions.
There are two types of doulas. There’s a birth doula (as described above) and the post partum doula.
The post partum doula assists women and their families in settling into parenthood. I recently received a call about a woman who just had her first child a few weeks prior. She was having trouble with breastfeeding, didn’t have family nearby who could help her out, her husband had to return to work and she was having a rough time adjusting. This is where post partum doulas are invaluable. They will come into your home and help you whether it’s with breastfeeding, taking care of baby while you nap, or taking care of other kids or even walking the dog while you rest. She can also do a few chores, maybe some shopping, heating up food and more.
There are doulas that are certified and some that choose not to become certified. Because there is no governing organization over all doulas, certifying is completely up to each individual. Because a doula is certified doesn’t necessarily mean she’s better equipped and/or experienced. It just means that she’s signed up with one of the many certifying programs available and has completed their requirements in becoming certified. She attended workshops, read books, took exams, etc. You can have a certified doula who has only attended 1-5 births and an un-certified doula who has attended 60+ births.
So how do you choose? Being a doula is a “heart” issue. Like choosing any care provider, one should choose a person with whom they connect. If a prospective doula gives you the heebie jeebies, you shouldn’t hire them. There’s a match out there. You may meet and interview two completely different doulas. You may want to go with the more experienced doula but really connect with the doula with only 1 birth under her belt. They may or may not be certified but think about it- every doula has to start somewhere.
How much are doulas? Well for one, It depends on where you live. Birth doulas can range anywhere from $200-$1000. I’ve even heard of a doula who charges $1500. It depends on a few variables- location, experience and sometimes when a doula is certifying, she must document her first few births. In this case, she may do her first few births at a deeply discounted rate in exchange for having her paperwork completed by the client. There are many doulas who will do “Karma” or “Pro Bono” births as well. Many are willing to do payment plans and will give breaks to those who truly can’t afford them but need the support.
So, that’s doulas in a nutshell. It used to be that this type of care was automatic. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins and friends would step up to help a new mom whether it was her first or fifth child. Unfortunately this is no longer the case. But- there is a growing number of amazing women who are trained to help.
Here’s a few ways to find doulas near you: