Doulas Ease the Birthing Process
When I was pregnant with Isaac, I enlisted my friend Tasha to act as my doula during his birth.
Greek for “woman servant,” the word doula refers to trained and certified women who aid moms and dads through the birthing process. At the time, Tasha was studying for her doula certification, so acting as my doula gave her some valuable experience and provided me with the comfort of having a trusted, reliable third party present at my son’s birth.
Prior to Isaac’s birthday, Tasha visited me at my home, guiding me through relaxation and breathing exercises that would come in handy during my natural labor. We talked about what I wanted from my birth experience and how she could help me achieve that. We went over my birth plan and talked about what kinds of decisions I might make if faced with the prospect of induction, medication and cesarean section.
Initially, John didn’t understand why I wanted Tasha at Isaac’s birth and what she would contribute. He sort of thought his presence should be enough. But after a 17-hour-long labor and delivery, John quickly admitted he was glad she was there. Her presence took some of the pressure off him, allowing him the luxury of leaving the room once or twice and even taking a bathroom break when he needed it.
The cost of a doula will vary, typically ranging between $200 and $700. The fee usually includes one or two prenatal visits plus the entire labor and delivery and an hour or so afterward.
According to DONA International, an association of certified doulas, studies have shown that when doulas attend a birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.
According to DONA, the role of a birth doula includes:
•Assisting the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth;
•Staying with the woman throughout the labor;
•Providing emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision;
•Facilitating communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers; and
•Allowing the woman’s partner to participate at his/her comfort level.
Postpartum doulas are also available to women after giving birth, and they, according to DONA:
•Offer education, companionship and nonjudgmental support during the postpartum fourth trimester;
•Assist with newborn care, family adjustment, meal preparation and light household tidying; and
•Offer evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills.
Doulas of Northeast Oklahoma, a nonprofit support, resource and referral group that supports doulas in the Tulsa area, hosts a website where moms and dads can locate local doulas. The organization’s website, at www.tulsadoulas.com, lists about a dozen doulas in the area who are taking new clients. It provides a list of services and fees associated with each, as well as contact information.
For women who are planning to labor and deliver naturally, without medication, doulas can be invaluable. The key is enlisting someone you and your partner both trust, who has your wishes and best interests in mind, to contribute to the positive, healthy experience of having a baby.