When it comes to doulas and the services they offer, there is still sometimes confusion about what a doula does and who can benefit from hiring one for their birth. A doula provides emotional and physical support for a laboring woman and her partner. Nearly any woman can benefit from the services of a doula.
When deciding whether or not to hire a doula, there are many things to consider. The first thing that most people think of in this decision making process is cost. It is an important consideration, but if finances are tight, don’t rule it out before you check out your options. Many doulas who are working through certification offer their services for free or at a greatly reduced rate. Some doulas offer sliding scales for low income families. Still others will barter their services. Keep in mind that doulas work very hard for the money they earn, even when their rate of pay might seem high to you. Considering the services they offer, they are worth their weight in gold. Depending upon the length of your labor, your doula might be awake and away from her family for a very long time providing you with support.
Doulas will typically show up at any point in the labor process that you wish for their presence, and stay for a short time after the baby is born. They make sure you are comfortable, fed, and have support nursing your baby for the first time, if you need it. During labor, they will not only provide valuable support for you, they will also support your partner. I have heard many dads who were worried that a doula would take their place rave about them after the fact. A good doula will not push a dad out of his natural supportive role. She will enhance it and possibly help him to be even more involved. She can also allow him the freedom to use the bathroom, eat a snack, or take a short rest without worrying that the woman he loves will be left to cope with her contractions alone.
If you are birthing in a hospital and desire a natural birth, your doula can be one of your best allies and resources for increasing your chances of having the experience you want. If you are planning a home birth, your doula can free up your midwives to take a rest or eat if your labor is long (and you want your midwife to be fresh and alert.) They also provide additional physical support while your midwives is busy with clinical components of your care. Even if you are unsure about the type of birth you wish to have, a doula can be a great source of information and comfort, and a wonderful part of your birth team.