Birth Plan: Do You Really Need to Hire a Doula?
Updated: Dec 8, 2019
Congratulations, you're expecting! As that beautiful belly grows and grows, you're going to need to start thinking about how that sweet little baby is going to get here.
To be honest, there are so many variables and unknowns when it comes to childbirth. Everyone's experience is wildly different and there's not much you can really do to prepare for it aside from staying healthy and mindful.
Whatever your birth plan, it's key to remain open-minded about it.
If you have your heart set on any version of a "natural" delivery -- whether it means fully unmedicated, partially medicated, at home, in a birthing center, or anything in between -- all the power to you! But there are also plenty of modern miracles that can make the process a more comfortable and safe experience for both mom and baby. We all have the same end goal, and that's holding a healthy baby in our arms.
Personally, my "birth plan" was to go to the hospital and see what happened. I would labor as long as I could without medication, but I had an open mind about undergoing an epidural when I felt that I needed to preserve my strength for the finish line. I hoped that when the time arrived, I wouldn't be too exhausted to actively push.
And while I hoped to avoid a c-section, I reminded myself that it was a very real possibility -- and that whatever needed to happen to keep myself and my baby safe would be the best option.
I fully believe that in my specific circumstance, had I not had the assistance of skilled nurses and modern medicine throughout my entire labor, I would have likely been rushed into an emergency c-section in the end.
(tl;dr -- Induced at 39 weeks due to high blood pressure, start to finish: 32 hours, had an epidural at the end, and successfully delivered vaginally with very minimal tearing. All in all, I was pleased with the experience and outcome.)
For my birth plan, I chose not to hire a doula.
I always expected to deliver in a hospital and I had the rare luxury of knowing that my personal doctor would be there. It's an old school methodology, but my OB was committed to being the person that delivered my baby no matter what day or time she arrived. (I just kept my fingers crossed for nine months that my water wouldn't break during Los Angeles rush hour, so I would actually make it to the hospital in time.)
I had also heard rave reviews of the nursing staff at Cedars-Sinai, where I would be delivering, and felt confident that I would be in good hands with them.
All that said, I know this isn't the case for every mom! So, I asked a few of my friends who did hire doulas to share their experiences. I hope that my story and theirs can help you make an informed decision about what's best for you! As always, I'm here for whatever questions you might have. DM me on Instagram or leave a comment below, and let me know what you're thinking!
Born May 2018
I never even knew what a doula was until I randomly sat next to one on a plane. She gave me some insight that I can’t even remember today, because I wasn't considering having a child at the time.
When I became pregnant several years later, I ended up hiring a doula because I was planning an unmedicated birth at a birth center. During my pregnancy, I felt a strong connection to the woman teaching my Hypnobirthing class and hired her after our second session.
The Nonprofit Organization Every Mother Counts says statistics show those who had doulas had 35 percent less negative birth experiences, 39 percent fewer c-sections and greater likelihood of shorter labor.
Other than the price point, I can't think of any cons to having a doula. When laboring unmedicated, it all comes down to your mental and physical strength -- one of which can be supported by a doula. It meant a lot to me to have someone present who has experienced all types of births in hospitals, birth centers and even on the side of the road, and who could advocate for myself and my birth plan.
Having a doula is like having a coach you’ve trained with for the greatest physical challenge of your life and, for me, it was invaluable. However, for someone planning to birth with the help of medication, I’m not so sure it would be as important.
During labor, my doula was able to provide a voice through the contractions and keep the environment calm. Since she had been present for so many births, she was able to offer extra techniques for pain management and even massage. Truly, it was helpful to have another hand to hold, an extra person to refill my water and keep me hydrated, as well as talk me through Hypnobirthing techniques while my husband held me. She was also key in offering a professional opinion on when we should go to the birth center.
For fathers who fear they may be eclipsed by a doula in the birth partner department, I would say to look at it as a team effort. The doula is there to support you both. There’s no way to predict how a father will react during their partner’s labor and they should know that even just having their hand to hold and being beside her can be enough.
In addition to coaching me through my Hypnobirthing methods, my doula also encapsulated the placenta for me. It was nice to be able to have the help of a professional during all aspects of birthing and postpartum.
She not only helped me bring my child into the world, but is now a friend I keep in touch with over a year later. The experience we shared created a bond that can never be broken.
Baby Autumn, Born September 2016
Baby Willow, Born November 2018
Many people, myself previously included, believe that having a doula is only for people who aim to deliver without medication.
However, I strongly encourage everyone to use one, because the doula is there for support no matter what your circumstances are. Inevitably, something WILL go against the plan you have set in your mind. Personally, the changes in my first birth plan were the hardest things for me to cope with after my daughter was born.
Truthfully, I only looked into hiring a doula because my sister had used one. After researching it myself, what I found really appealed to me. I've always been a bit of a hippie, so I felt strongly about trying to go through labor without medication and I knew I'd need extra support to make that a reality. In addition to the support of my husband, I needed help from an expert who had experienced labor and delivery before.
I ended up hiring doulas for both of my labors. Since I moved to a new state before the birth of my second child, I had separate doulas each time. After our move, I was even more inclined to find a good doula, since we had no friends or family nearby. I was already well aware of how painful and tiring labor could be, so I knew that the added support would be essential -- and I was correct!
There were several similarities between both doulas' approaches. First, they have wonderful massage and touch techniques to relieve pressure. That all felt great before labor, but when the time came, I actually didn't want anyone to touch me.
What I did find very helpful in both instances was the use of aromatherapy and essential oils. During my first delivery, my doula put lavender and peppermint into wash cloths -- which I literally huffed like drugs! (EDITOR'S NOTE: The nurses in my hospital delivery also used this trick!)
For my second delivery, I was unprepared for how fast it would go. My doula was most helpful before she even came over that night. She was messaging back and forth with me while I was laboring at home -- and while three other adults in my house were snoozing away peacefully. I was legitimately freaking out over the phone to her and in her incredibly soothing voice, she calmed me down. If not for her, I would not have been able to keep my cool.
Both women were extremely encouraging and supportive during labor, and would retrieve anything I wanted or needed.
And in both cases, the doulas came to my house a few days after I returned home from the hospital. It was extremely nice to have someone checking in on me, because coming home was not what I expected it to be like (either time). Plus, I actually had mastitis both times they visited and they had such great tips and tricks to relieve it. They even helped out around the house, folding laundry or holding the baby.
I personally recommend a doula to every mama! A lot of people say their husband is enough, or their mother or a friend, which is great. But something I found invaluable was that my doulas didn't become overly excited about anything. They were more matter of fact, which helped me stay "in the zone," specifically with the Hypnobirthing techniques that I used.
All in all, I recommend building a team of people to be your support system instead of simply relying on any one person. Even relying solely on a doula without additional loved ones wouldn't be enough, in my opinion. Every parent needs a strong support system.
What do you think? Are you planning to hire a doula for your birth experience?
Mom Needs Merlot
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