Last night we had our last prenatal visit (OMG!) with our doula and, when she left, I was riding so high on emotions- good ones! I thought I'd share a little bit about what a doula does, why we decided to hire one, and why I say HIRE A DOULA! and we haven't even used her for the birth yet :).
First, the internet can (and usually does) say it better than me. As you can find here and multiple other places, it was found through clinical studies that the use of a doula can decrease csection rates by 50%, length of labor by 25%, use of pitocin by 40%, and requests for epidural by 60%... to name a few perks! I actually didn't go into my doula search knowing that or using that as my reasoning for wanting one. I mainly wanted support for Steven! I know that labor can be looooooooong, that the nurses are very much in and out, and that it could probably easily get overwhelming for him no matter how much we prepared. But then I found so much information on how helpful doulas could be and it really cemented my belief that we should have one. Steven was iffy at first, worried about spending the money, but the more he learned about labor (and the more birth videos I had him watch- ha!), he quickly got on board. After our (wonderful) birth class 2 weeks ago, he must have said 3 different times how excited he is that we have a doula. As we practiced labor comfort techniques for probably 10-15 minutes, it was exhausting. Having the doula there means he doesn't have to be the one doing all the work, which is going to make both of our experiences better. She will not step in and take over unless one of us wants her to, and will just sort of feel us out as to what support we both need. I love that because I definitely want Steven as a very active participant.
Once things began to get complicated with my blood pressure and my doctor said I would need to be induced, I will be honest. I sort of thought to myself "ok... then is the doula pointless?" Absolutely not. First, she helped me research the medical indications of inducing for high blood pressure, which was so helpful. As I told her last night, I want to come out of the birth knowing that, even if it doesn't go the way I want it to, that I was not pushed into anything, that I researched and made decisions for myself and my baby, and that I understood and agreed with what was happening and what was recommended. So having her there to help me check out studies, and she talked to medical professionals she knows, was beyond helpful in coming to the conclusion that an induction is in our best interest. Then I began reading all about inductions online... the horrors of cytotec, the horrors of pitocin contractions, the higher risk of csection, etc. I kept telling Steven how I never really feared labor and birth (yes, I know it won't be fun or easy but it hasn't ever scared me) until we found out about the induction. Now, I was scared.
Cue the doula who talked me through all of my fears, reassured me, let me know what things she'll be doing to help and I feel so, SO good about things now. Again, I know it will absolutely be no walk in the park. I know I could end up with outcomes I don't love. BUT I know that between my husband, doctor, and doula I have an amazing birth team and support network. And I re-learned to stop googling things. Almost everything I was reading online was worst case scenarios made to seem like they were super common place, so hearing from her what she has seen in similar patients she has supported was a breath of fresh air. She talked about things she brings to comfort women during labor, like a TENS unit, clary sage oil to help a slow labor progress, etc. I just have to show up for the party ;).
Another of the many things I love about having a doula is the ability to email, text, and call with my questions throughout pregnancy. She's very honest about what things she can answer and what I need to ask my doctor. She helped us fine tune our birth preferences and gave us the awesome suggestion of having my doctor sign it once he reviews it so the nurses will know he is in support, eliminating any confusion that day. She will not interfere in communication with medical staff but will help me advocate for myself and my wishes, and will help facilitate good communication with the staff. If I were to go into spontaneous labor, she'll come to my house and help me determine when to go to the hospital and to provide comfort there. After the baby is born, she'll help establish breastfeeding before she leaves, and she'll come back to the house within 1-2 weeks to see if there are any resources she can connect me with (ie breastfeeding support, etc). She even offered to go to a prenatal appointment with me if I need her to!
So yes, I absolutely, absolutely recommend a doula even though we haven't labored with her yet. She has already been worth every penny we paid, and I know her value will skyrocket in say.... 6 weeks! ;) Personality is a huge factor so phone and face interview before you make a decision! This person will a) be involved in one of the most intimate experiences of your life and b) will be with you for a LONG time most likely, especially if it's your first labor (she guesstimates that if I were taken in the evening/night of day 1 for induction, baby will be born the middle of the night day 2 going into 3... so 36ish hours). If you hire someone whose personality clashes with yours, who has something that just irks you, it probably won't be a great experience.
I phone interviewed a couple doulas who I knew just from the phone call that I didn't love. Our doula is sweet, calm, confident, knowledgeable, comforting... all things that are very important to me. I couldn't deal with someone who is loud and brash, or someone who is too meek and hands off. She is the perfect balance. You know another thing that sealed the deal? I met her through a meetup group early on in my pregnancy that provides information for pregnant women. I attended their breastfeeding session, and she got in a pretty bad wreck on the way there. SHE STILL CAME. It was a meet up group and there were other people there; she easily could have gone home and everyone would have completely understood, and the meeting would have gone on. But nope, they towed her car away and she came to the meetup. I was like yeah.... she can attend my birth ;).
So there you have it.... everything you possibly never knew you wanted to know about doulas! I highly recommend this website for starting your search.
Did you use a doula? If so, I'd love to hear your labor/birth experience!