When I got pregnant, I immediately started doing research for a local doula. Neither of our families live in town (mine in is Utah and my husband’s family is in Boone, NC) so we knew we’d need some help before, during, and after the baby arrived. We both work for ourselves as well so we don’t exactly get time off for maternity or paternity leave, which meant we really needed extra support along the day!
I ran throughout my pregnancy, made a baby registry, shopped for the nursery, picked out maternity photoshoot outfits, read a bunch of pregnancy books and newborn care books, scheduled a maternity photoshoot, made a hospital packing list and purchased postpartum necessities. But NOTHING could have prepared me for the reality of being a new mom.
It is absolutely wonderful wonderful wonderful and I am beyond obsessed with my baby. But it is HARD HARD HARD. And that’s where a doula can really step in to help you feel prepared along the way, specific to YOUR situation and help support you after the baby arrives, without the expectations that sometimes come with family (that is, if you even have family close by!).
Working with a doula throughout pregnancy, labor and when I came home from the hospital was so incredibly helpful. I can’t imagine going through everything without their support. We interviewed multiple doula companies before picking one. It’s important to have someone who feels like a good fit so make sure you meet with them (ours were all via Zoom) and feel comfortable with since they’ll be helping you with some pretty personal, special moments!
Things we were looking for in our doula company:
- Childbirth classes – my OBGYN clinic had cancelled all their classes due to COVID
- Newborn care classes – the hospital had cancelled all their classes
- Breastfeeding support – again, all of the in-person classes were cancelled!
- Pregnancy support – I wanted someone who is trained beyond internet googling to turn to for support! I texted our doulas throughout pregnancy with questions and they’d call to check in with me regularly. We also had three prenatal visits to discuss a birth plan, goals, education on pregnancy, and more.
- In-person labor support at the hospital – thankfully, by the time I delivered, doulas were allowed back in our hospital!! I wanted someone who knew the ropes of labor and the hospital since it all overwhelmed me, especially in covid times. I viewed it kind of like hiring a tour guide or a travel agent, but for a MUCH bigger event!! I was so grateful we had a doula at the hospital during my labor and delivery!
- Postpartum support, both daytime and nighttime – again, without family nearby and work that never really stopped, and a baby who struggled a LOT with sleeping and breastfeeding, we wanted all the support we could get!
One of our doulas, Margo Shelton, is the doula who has been with us the most throughout this process, and she’s here to share more about what a doula is, why they’re important and more.
Margo now crossed over to a nanny role for us and she has become family. We are so incredibly lucky to have her in our life! And Thomas absolutely ADORES her. (I also listed below the other doulas we worked with, in case you’re local!)
Take it away Margo! If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment and Margo will answer!
Why Hire A Doula
A doula’s focus is on your mental health; keeping you calm, helping you feel less anxious, etc. A doula has been trained to provide emotional and physical comfort, and they are trained to be there for you in between staff members at the hospital. They even help lessen medical intervention such as cesarean births (c-sections). (Source, DONA International)
They help lessen medical intervention (oftentimes, reducing the rate of c-sections) and they help the mother’s bonding experience with the baby post labor.
What is a doula and why is a doula used?
We are trained professionals who provide non-medical physical, emotional and informational support such as evidence-based education through pregnancy, childbirth and early postpartum. Think of us as childbirth educators. A doula is used in pregnancy to help educate people on what to expect next and how to prepare for that.
A birth doula is used during childbirth for things like encouragement, comfort measures, or simply keeping you company. We love supporting women. We also like to make sure your birth partner is cared for and that they are involved as much or as little as they want to be — it’s an important time for everyone.
Postpartum doulas are used in early after birth for a lot of the same things— helping you to know what comes next, guiding you through your new normal and showing you ways to find comfort while caring for your newborn.
What typical services does a doula offer?
Some doulas offer childbirth education, either in a group setting or private, via zoom or in your home. We offer 24/7 on-call support and once you’re in labor, we offer in person physical continuous labor support.
We also offer postpartum services, which are home visits, day and/or night. These look different for everyone. Some people want us to cook or do light housework, others want us to hold the baby while they shower or nap and others really just need company and someone to remind them that this is all part of the process and they are okay.
Our nighttime visits are where we care for the baby through the night in hopes the parents never leave their bed!! Teri and Tommy used this service when Thomas wasn’t sleeping very well so they could get some sleep and feel better the next day.
What’s the difference between a doula and other medical staff for a hospital birth?
Doulas are your non-medical support. Your doctors and nurses are there to monitor your physical well being and help keep you and your baby from experiencing an emergency. Since they are focused on that, we are able to focus on your comfort and emotional well being. Your medical staff may also have other patients to attend to. Your doula will there solely for YOU and your comfort.
Is there any data/factual support about the success rate of a doula?
A study done in 2017 showed that “women allocated to continuous support were more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth and less likely to report negative ratings of or feelings about their childbirth experience and to use any intrapartum analgesia. In addition, their labors were shorter, they were less likely to have a caesarean birth or instrumental vaginal birth, regional analgesia, or a baby with a low five minute Apgar score.” (Source, Cochrane Review).
What have doulas been trained to do compared to other medical professionals?
Doula are trained to view birth as something safe and healthy. We are able to attend many different workshops on how to help our clients move and relax in order to let their babies out. This could be through position changes, use of a rebozo, a birth ball or peanut ball, visualization, breathing techniques, hydrotherapy, etc.
How do they work with the rest of your birth team?
We love nurses!! I’m always impressed by how inventive they are when trying to help find ways to ease our clients discomfort in labor and provide pain relief. If we suggest a position, they are usually happy to move monitors or blood pressure cuffs. We also have a good relationship with many OBs and midwives. It’s a great team when everyone has the parents’ best interest at heart. We work together to provide a great birth plan.
What their role is before / during / after labor?
Our role is always, always support!
We will answer questions you have along the way and help your voice to be heard. We will provide emotional support so you’re relaxed and less anxious. We will give physical support so you aren’t hurting and can be more present for your labor and birth. We will keep you fed and hydrated so you can take care of yourself and your baby. We will help with newborn care and breastfeeding if that’s your desire as well.
What happens if the doula isn’t allowed in the hospital room?
In many areas during 2020 doula weren’t allowed in hospitals. This was so challenging! We weren’t able to provide that physical support which we felt was so important during labor and delivery. But with some FaceTime or Zoom magic, we WERE able to provide virtual support! It looked a little different but it sounded the same. We watched our clients slow dance with their partners. We talked dads through double hip squeezes to provide pain relief. We watched the nurses turn our clients from side to side when we suggested different positions. And we made horse lip sounds and saw our clients mimic us. It was a really emotional time but it taught me that my career is more than putting my hands on someone. It’s about connections and you don’t need a doula present to touch you to connect.
Is it worth it if I have a surrogate?
Absolutely. Any time someone is giving birth, a doula is valuable. We don’t just provide support to the birthing person. We can help to make sure everyone in the birth room understands what’s going on and what could happen next.
Is it worth it with a C section?
Yes. Be sure to ask your hospital what the protocol is on having a doula in the OR or PACU. Locally, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, doulas are allowed to attend surgical births. In the OR, we can take pictures, talk to you about what’s going on, and stand with you so your partner can be near your baby. In recovery, we can make sure you’re comfortable, and help you start breastfeeding if you’d like.
Does insurance cover?
We have been reimbursed by some health savings accounts but it is rare that insurance covers the cost of a doula. If cost is an issue, we usually tell people to ask for us as a baby shower gift. A lot doulas will work with a payment plan as well.
How is a Doula different from a night nurse?
This, again, goes back to non medical support. A postpartum doula is going to care for your newborn by changing, swaddling, feeding and bathing them. We will never administer pain medication or any medication for that matter, take a temperature, or make a medical diagnosis.
What activities do you have the post partum doula help you with?
We can meal prep, do some light housework like washing bottles or folding laundry. We could help organize nurseries. We will ride with you to appointments or running errands.
How to choose a Doula
It’s important to look for a doula early on in your pregnancy if you are wanting to start getting to know them well before you’re due. So, the below tips will help you find the right doula. Doula’s schedules can book up FAR in advance, both with birth support and postpartum care, so if you know you want doula support, consider choosing one sometime in your first trimester.
How to find the right doula?
Interview! Really sit with each doulas for a while and get to know them. You must feel comfortable with them so you can really benefit from their support.
A few things to ask about:
- where the doula received training and certification status (DONA international is the most well known and recognized by all local hospitals in the triad)
- Availability – ask about the number of birth clients around your due date, back up support, protocol with long labors, holidays, etc.
- all services they offer (childbirth classes, in-person support, postpartum daytime support, overnight support, etc.)
- if they are compatible with your personality, easy to talk to, etc.
Reader question: “We are very private people, but don’t know anything about babies. How would we fare?”
It’s completely expected to feel inexperienced and overwhelmed when it comes to childbirth. We are happy to teach you teach you how to diaper and swaddle your newborn. We are honored to hold your hands while you give that first bath. When you find the right doula for you, I hope you feel comfortable enough to open up, ask questions, and get the support you deserve.
THANK YOU MARGO! Tommy, Thomas and I all love you!!!
We are so incredibly grateful for the doulas who supported us! They taught us how to swaddle, bathe as a tiny newborn and as he grew, showed us ways to comfort Thomas (for crying, gas, etc.), organized our nursery, did laundry (SO MUCH LAUNDRY), lots of house tasks (refilling humidifiers, taking out trash, you name it), prepped food, ran errands, and helped us overnight so I could get some sleep. They also served as listening ears when I was overwhelmed and even held me at times while I sobbed through hormones and postpartum trials.
Below are some of the local doula companies if you’re in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina area. I asterisked the ones we’ve used or the ones who have people we used. A lot of doula companies work with multiple doula services so you may see some overlap with people. If you have any specific questions about what it was like working with any of them, feel free to email me at [email protected] – happy to help!