I found out what a doula was when I was seven months’ pregnant with my first child and someone asked me, “Who is your doula?” I told them I had no idea what a doula was, but it sounded like maybe I needed one.
I was living in New York at the time so that weekend my husband and I headed to Williamsburg to find ourselves a doula at Carriage House Birth. Best decision we mad. Our doula educated us, supported us and was a constant and calming presence during my 16 hour labour and hospital birth. She showed up for me when I needed her and at about five minutes postpartum I decided that I also wanted to become a doula to give women what she gave me.
Fast forward four and a half years and I am now working as a birth doula and have founded a doula collective in Melbourne’s inner-west.
So, let’s take doulas.
What is a doula and why do I need one?
Birth doulas provide continuous, one-on-one care, information, physical and emotional support during pregnancy and labour and delivery. They are present at the birth of your child and help you feel safe and protected during your labour. They are a familiar face who you have come to know and trust. Research shows that having a doula present during labour can reduce the average length of labour and the risk of unnecessary intervention, improve birth satisfaction and decrease the chance of postpartum anxiety.
So what exactly do doulas do?
Doulas will meet with you usually three times before the birth. We get to know you and your partner, provide birth education and information, help you to understand your rights and help to normalise the birth process, ie. make it less scary. During labour, doulas provide physical (massage, counter pressure) and emotional support to help ground the woman and ensure she feels safe and heard.
But what about my partner? Isn’t that his/her job?
Doulas are not there to replace the partner. We are there to support both of you. We’re there to help the partner help the woman. And birth can be busy. There are lots of jobs to do. It’s good to have an extra set of hands and have someone in the room who’s experienced at birth and can provide information when it’s absolutely needed the most.
I am having all the drugs/an elective cesarean/definitely not a home birth. Do doulas support all kinds of birth?
Absolutely. Good doulas come with zero judgement and are there to support the woman whatever her choices and however her birth unfolds.
How much do doulas cost?
Anywhere from free to $10,000, but the average is around $1500 for an experienced doula.
So how do I find myself a doula?
Finding the right person to invite to your birth is a BIG DEAL. I always suggest meeting a couple of doulas to see who you click with. Our collective has free MEET THE DOULA events every month so if you’re thinking of hiring a doula it’s a great place to start. Or you could ask friends, put the vibe out on social media or Google search. There’s lots of incredible doulas out there and our role is becoming more and more understood and respected.
Gabrielle is a mum of two little girls, a birth doula and the founder of Gather, a women’s space in Seddon in Melbourne’s inner west. You can find out more about them here and follow them on Instagram here and Facebook here.