In short, a doula is a person (most often a woman) who provides non-medical physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman before, during, and after labor. This support can take many different forms, but is always based on the mother's and father's needs and wishes.
A midwife is medical professional who is licensed to provide mothers with prenatal care and deliver babies (among other things). A doula is a non-medical support person. Doulas do not perform any medical functions, such as examinations. Doulas are not licensed to deliver babies.
A doula will meet with you and your partner one or two times before your due date to find out what you want out of your birth experience. She will ask questions to try to get you thinking about what your birth preferences might be. She is someone who is very familiar with what childbirth is like, and can answer any questions you may have. She will also help you to educate yourself on what your options are - many women don't even know that they have options.
A doula will then be with you from the beginning of labor, all the way through until the birth of your child. She will be by your side, helping you through each contraction, and reminding you how strong and powerful you are as you bring your child into the world. She can translate "medical speak" to you, and help ensure that you are always fully informed about what is going on around you during labor. She can get dad involved by finding positions, touches, or words that are comforting to you, and then showing him how to help. She will stay with you after the baby is born to help establish a good start to breastfeeding. She will also make a postpartum visit to check in and see how things are going at home.
Whether you have just started thinking about how you might like your birth experience to go, or if you have been dreaming about the perfect childbirth since before you became pregnant, a doula can help ensure that your wishes come true. There are many benefits to having a doula.
Clinical studies have shown that women who have a doula are...
30% less likely to have a cesarean section
31% less likely to need pitocin
Less likely to need an episiotomy
Less likely to experience anxiety or postpartum depression
More satisfied with their birth experience
More likely to have a faster labor and delivery
Not only that, but women who have a doula have been shown to have healthier babies, too!
More likely to have shorter hospital stays, with fewer admissions to special care nurseries
More likely to breastfeed earlier, easier, and for longer
Less likely to have a low APGAR score or experienced decreased heart rate or labored respiration
Most partners (we will use father/dad here for ease of prose) actually really appreciate the presence of a doula. Doulas help dads navigate the daunting terrain of a situation which is very new to them, and often out of their comfort zone. Many first-time dads have no idea what to expect from labor, and are often nervous. When they see the mother of their child in pain it can be very difficult and they may not know how to help. A doula can help reassure dad that his wife's feelings and behaviors are normal. A doula can also help mom and dad to connect during labor by showing dad ways that he can help, whether it is through his touch, his voice, or simply his quiet presence. During a long labor, a doula can also remind dad to take short breaks so that he can be there for mom when she needs him most. Dad can re-energize himself knowing that mom is still being well taken care of by her doula.
It is very important to have a doctor or midwife whom you connect with and trust. However, in a traditional hospital setting, the doctor will only be with you during the very late stages of labor - usually just for pushing and the actual birth. Even if you have a midwife, she may come and go throughout the labor, and will generally be focused on the medical aspects of your care. As for nursing staff, many women expect them to tend to their emotional and physical needs during labor. However, several studies have shown that labor nurses, on average, spend only 5-10% of their time giving emotional support, physical comfort, and/or information to mothers in labor. This is because each nurse may be tending to several mothers at a time, and may also have other clinical tasks to carry out. Only a doula will be with you throughout the entire labor and birth, helping you cope with contractions, reminding you of what a wonderful job you are doing, and ensuring that you are as comfortable as possible.
Both! Most doulas are happy to attend your birth wherever you would like to have it - hospital, home, or birth center. If you have not decided where you would like to give birth, a doula can help you figure out what's right for you.
Even if you are going into labor planning to get an epidural, or another form of pain medication, a doula would still be very beneficial. After all, you will most likely be experiencing contractions for at least some period of time before you are able to receive pain medication. A doula will help you cope with these contractions, finding out what works for you through each one. Also, many times epidurals do not work as intended, or occasionally do not work at all. There is also always the chance that your labor would go so quickly that there may not be time for pain medication. In most cases a doula can greatly decrease the perception of pain simply through position changes, comforting touch, establishment of a "ritual" during contractions, and with her kind and encouraging words. A doula is not there to judge your choices, but to ensure that you are educated about your options and that you choose what works best for you.
Each of the Birth Doulas of Racine and Kenosha has her own individual fee. Please contact us individually for exact pricing. Doula services are not routinely covered by insurance; however it is occasionally possible for a mom to get reimbursed through her FSA.
Membership in Birth Doulas of Racine and Kenosha requires that you are either currently a certified doula, or that you are actively working towards certification. There are several organizations that provide certification for doulas, including DONA, CAPPA, and ICEA, among others. You should always ask any doula you are considering hiring about her certification status.
Each of us has our own doula practice, but we do meet up often to discuss current issues in childbirth. One of our goals is to help the women of Racine and Kenosha (and surrounding areas) to have more satisfying experiences in childbirth. We feel that we can best accomplish this goal as a group, although we practice as individuals.
Finding someone who you "click" with is the most important thing. We recommend interviewing several doulas before making a final decision. You can see each of our biographies here. Some questions you may want to ask before hiring can be found here.
Yes! Each doula has her own protocols, so you will need to ask individually, but most of us are willing to travel up to an hour away from our homes.