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Why Should You Use A Doula? Benefits And Purpose

You’re already worried about everyone and their granny seeing your ‘bits’ in labour on the big day. Now people are telling you to PAY someone else to see you in all of your glory from beginning to end!  (No not your consultant but a ‘doula’ (rhymes with moolah). Celebs like Sile Seoige,  Nicole Kidman and Mila Kunas have all hired doulas to support them in labour.

What is a birth doula?

A doula is a trained birth professional who provides emotional and informational support before and during your labour to help you have the best birth possible.

READ NEXT: Plus-size and pregnant? Our guide to a positive pregnancy

Why would I need one?

You may be thinking “I’ll have my midwife – I won’t need any extra people”.  As a midwife, I can tell you that the reality of a busy labour ward is far from what most first time moms would like. Your midwife has breaks to take, leaves after her shift is over and she’s most likely a stranger (albeit a lovely one – but labour isn’t the time to be meeting a lot of new people). You’ll have met your doula a few times before labour and she’ll be with you for as long as it takes  - that could be 4 hours or 44. Your support starts at home until you’re ready to go to hospital or call your homebirth midwife.

When midwives see doulas coming we breathe a sigh of relief - we know that these parents are in really good hands and while I have to focus on documentation and your clinical care I know that your doula is filling in really important gaps that will make your memory of this day a much more positive one. They can make a really big difference for your partner too – there’s a lot of pressure on them to do/say the right thing and a doula is like having your antenatal class right there with you reminding you of ways to support your partner (doulas don’t replace your partner).

READ NEXT: Pain Relief in Labour All you Need to Know

What the Science Says

I know the word ‘doula’ sounds a bit ‘new agey’ but doulas are considered an obstetric intervention. Simply having a trained support person that is not part of hospital staff makes it more likely that you won’t have a cesarean, that you won’t have the drip, you’re less likely to need an epidural and you’re more likely to breastfeed. There’s a famous quote ‘if doulas were a drug it would be unethical not to use them’. Doulas are not just for moms planning an unmedicated birth – doulas can help you optimize your epidural…reduce the side effects and can even support you during a planned caesarean.  At the end of the day you can’t have too much support on the day you bring your baby into the world – no matter how he arrives.

Is the hospital ok with me having a doula?

Yes – thankfully the days of limiting moms to one birth partner is now well and truly over.  Depending on which hospital you are attending you may need to give the staff a heads up just so they know you have extra support. In Dublin, the Coombe have a very progressive policy and are very welcoming of doulas. For the Rotunda and NMH, you’ll have to email the Director of Midwifery (but it’s just a formality). CUMH and most other maternity units are also very welcoming.

READ NEXT: 10 Things you Really Need to Know About Labour

How Do I find a Doula?

Most doulas in Ireland are members of the Doula Association of Ireland so that’s a great place to start, as they are all trained and interviewed. And they follow a strict code of ethics and scope of practice. Another option is to go through a Doula Agency such as DoulaCare.ie. Talk to a few doulas and find one that suits your personality and plans for birth. I always tell moms, in particular, to imagine you are stuck in an airport for 24 hours with this person – will they be a source of stress for you or support (trust your gut on this one).

How Much Does A Doula Cost?

Most doulas have a fixed flat fee approx  €600 - €1400 depending on the package of services you choose but some doulas charge an extra fee if your labour goes over their time limit).  Like any big purchase be sure to check the fine print.

Would you consider using a doula? Have you used one before? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

I’m Tracy Donegan, registered midwife and mum to 2 gorgeous boys. I’ve been working in Irish maternity services since 2005 and really enjoy helping Irish families have the best experiences possible. You may be familiar with my books – The Irish Better Birth Book and The Irish Caesarean and VBAC Guide, as well as the very popular GentleBirth Positive Birth app.

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