Frequently Asked Questions: What does a doula do?
How will hiring you affect my partner’s role during the birth?
My role is to include and work with your partner, not replace them. Often, a partner tells me that they decided to hire a doula for their wife (girlfriend, partner) but they, also, found that I helped them so much, too. There are times, during labour, when it becomes really hard to witness your loved one in so much discomfort and I'm the calm in the storm to help keep everyone grounded and with a purpose.
During our prenatals, I like the partner to be there so they can ask questions, learn how they can be their best support, learn about comfort measures, etc. In most cases, the partner is the your safest person and having them be the one to do most of the hands-on support is also what will keep your oxytocin flowing - otherwise known as the hormone of love - which is essential to keep labour going.
Besides, this, having my support allows your partner to have mini-breaks (to go to washroom, grab a coffee, get lunch or dinner) and be confident that you are in great hands...so that they can come back refreshed and ready to be there for you.
Do you perform any physical examinations?
No, a doula provides information, education, emotional and physical support but does not perform medical or clinical duties or offer advice of this nature. We are not the same as midwives - who are medical professionals.
What are your interactions with medical staff like?
I love working along side nurses and midwives and we are, continually, learning from one another. Doctors and OB's, typically, come in for cervical exams, when big decisions need to be made, and for the birth of your baby. Our interactions are limited but I am not opposed to being your advocate, should you need one. This often looks like this: An OB/doctor/midwife is rushing you into an intervention or decision and you need to time to think but, as the contractions are coming on you are having a hard time verbalizing this. I will ask you and your partner if you need a moment to discuss your options and if the answer is yes, then I will ask the doctor, midwife, OB to give you some private time to come to an informed decision.
Why do doulas cost so much?
We operate on a broad spectrum of pricing. Those on the higher end, typically, have completed their certification and have lots of experience with pregnancy, labour and birth. Some offer birth photography to compliment their services. We are experienced birth professionals whose mission is to help you have an informed birth free of trauma...and honour your whole journey into parenthood.
We drive to your home, for all your prenatal and postpartum visits and are available to you from the moment you hire us until several weeks postpartum. We provide labour and birth support which may go beyond the 24 hour mark. When all your nurses and doctors have changed shifts and gone home, we are still with you.
We have business taxes, gas bills, website fees, marketing, travel time, costs to become and remain certified, insurance fees, continuing education costs, back-up doula fees, etc.
On top of this, we are on call from 38 weeks until the birth of your baby. This means we cannot plan any holidays during this time, we must drive separate to anything outside of our jurisdiction (for me, this means I can't even go to Costco with family and must do everything alone - just in case you call me that you're in labour and need me - I drop everything to be at your side). We go into this knowing we may miss out on planned events, weddings, birthdays, Christmas's, sporting events, etc.
When you factor in all of these fees and our time, this really is a career based on passion for birth because the average doula brings in very little income. My taxes, last year yielded a $200 profit! My accountant told me its time to find a more lucrative profession but I love pregnancy, labour, birth and babies and I love the families that I have privileged to support.
Will a birth doula make decisions on my behalf?
No, a doula should never make decisions for you or intervene in your clinical care. Nor should they try and change a decision that you have made (such as talking you out of an epidural when you want one). A doula, during your prenatal visits or via your phone or text questions, will provide you with evidence-based information regarding any decision or intervention you want more knowledge about so that you can make the best informed choice, for you and your baby.
What is the difference between a postpartum doula and a mother's helper?
A postpartum doula is a specially trained professional to help a "mother" (term used loosely as I know many parents do not identify as a mother) recover from birth. We are trained in: recognizing postpartum mood disorders and have resources for referring out, breast/chest/bottle feeding and newborn/baby care, sibling care and adjustment so that we can help your first born child/children adjust to your new little one and give them attention while you bond with your newborn. We can prepare light meals for you and your family, do baby laundry and tidy up your main living areas so its one less thing for you to worry about. Many of us do overnight care so that you rest and recover.
One of our goals is to be certified and have a certification number that you can provide to your insurance company in hopes of coverage. This often requires a phone call to your insurance company and some advocacy on your part. Sometimes, a doctor's note, speaking to the importance of a PP doula, in your life, helps.
A mother's helper is another word for "babysitter" but who, often, charges as much as a postpartum doula does. They will care for baby, the siblings and tidy up but are not trained to support or care for you, your mental health or your family during the postpartum period.
Do you attend free/unassisted births?
Personally, I do not attend intentional unassisted or free-births (births that are planned homebirths/out of hospital births, who have refused medical care for the duration of their pregnancy and do not have a midwife in attendance). My reasons are based on legalities; if I chose to attend a freebirth and something goes wrong, anyone in that home/location is liable. That being said, if you were planning a midwife-led homebirth and they did not arrive in time for the birth, I would not leave you. I would support you and your partner (should you have one) through this process. These are different scenarios and one is covered by the Good Samaritan Act and one is not.
How will I know when I'm in labour?
Everyone has moments when they question if they are in labour and I tell them that they will know when its the real deal. For 2 weeks, leading up to their labour, I get questions about their mucus plug, inconsistent contractions, etc...but, one day their intuition kicks in and they just seem to "know."
Typically, if you go into spontaneous labour, your contractions will come consistently, increasing in intensity as each hour passes and won't go away despite sleep, changes in activity, being well-hydrated and eating a decent meal. When you must breathe through them and can no longer talk or joke during them and they are 4-5 minutes apart, you'll be around 4-5cm dilated (on average) and approaching active labour - which is considered at 6cm.
Remember, however, that this is an average. I have had clients have no symptoms, where their body was making change, and they went into precipitous labour and had their baby in 4 hours or less. Others, have experienced consistent contractions coming every 3-4 minutes and go to the hospital only to be told they are "only" 3cm and not in active labour (in these cases we do a lot of asymmetrical movements to try and get baby into the best position for birth as they may be mal-positioned for descent).
How long will labour and birth last?
The most predictable part about labour and birth is its unpredictability....
This is the hardest question to answer and is something we will go over, at length, in our prenatal visits. I've been to births where someone was "stuck" at 6cm for hours and suddenly, with the change of positions and baby slips into the right location, she goes to 10cm in minutes. I've been to births where labour has lasted 3 days long! I've supported births where I was sure it would be fast - everything was progressing textbook-style and then they stall out at 7cm. I've attended births where the first time mom pushes for 4 hours and others where 2 pushes happen and baby is out.
Just remember that everyone is different and everyone's anatomy is different. So much is based on your genetics, your ability to "push past" hard things, and your mindset, in general.
Do you have any more questions?
Send me your most pressing questions and I'll update this section by including the, here.