Ever since starting our Bradley Method childbirth classes, one question Alex and I have gone back and forth on was weather or not to hire a doula to be with us through the birth process.
A doula is a woman experienced in childbirth who provides emotional and physical support to the laboring woman and her partner. Preferably, a doula has gone through a certification program, though this is not required as doulas are not regulated in the United States. As opposed to a midwife, doulas do not have any medical training and, thus, do not preform any exams, give second opinions or make decisions for their clients. Their role is simply to support the couple and help them have the birth experience they hope for.
At first, hiring a doula seemed a completely unnecessary expense. After all, we were taking the Bradley method classes (the Cadillac of natural childbirth education). Also, we'll be giving birth in a hospital (no home birth for us, unlike some of our classmates) and have a comfortable relationship with my OB/GYN.
We started reconsidering, however, when couples who had recently delivered told us how valuable their doula had been to their birth experience. The husbands, especially, seemed glad to have had someone else there who could reassure them what was normal, what was actually cause for concern, and to offer suggestions on how they could better assist their partner (through specific massage, positioning, etc.). The final push toward to doula decision for us came when my OB/GYN casually mentioned on Wednesday, "Oh, by the way, I'll be out of town for the 10 days leading up to your due date. You may have one of my back-up Dr.s instead". Uh, thanks for the warning. By getting a doula, we are now ensuring not only additional support and advice, but a familiar face while we labor at home and in the delivery room.
Each doula we interviewed is certified through Doulas of North America (DONA). Individual services (additional home visits or not), experience and prices, however, ranged widely between them. We ended up deciding on a doula who offers two prenatal and two postpartum visits, in addition to being with us through labor and the 1st hour after delivery. With someone to help us determine if labor is progressing normally, when to go to the hospital, and establish breastfeeding after birth, hopefully this will be a less stressful and more memorable/enjoyable experience for us.