What is a doula?
A doula is many things. Traditionally we were the same thing as midwives, and the same thing as the woman in the village that did all those things – birth, death, medicine, comfort, care, knowledge.
Now doulas are a non-medical, highly trained personal care for birth. We attend pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period and make sure a pregnant person, and their family, know what works best for them, helps them through decisions, and concerns, attends the entire labour and birth, and keep assisting them through the postpartum period.
But what does that mean?
It means that as your doulas, we will provide support, education, and encouragement in all ways possibly throughout your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum periods.
Yes, but what do you actually do?
A doula’s role and duties change with each client. You define our role as your doula. This means that you will determine, based on your own needs, what tasks we will provide for your family. If you’re find yourself saying “I really want someone to do this, and I may need help with that” then you can use a doula!
In pregnancy we might discuss birth choices, help you sort the baby clothes, talk you through a traumatic previous experience, discuss how your partner might react to birth, organize home birth items or help you fill a hospital bag, educate you on specific anxieties, talk to you about tests, help you do the exercises to turn a posterior or breech baby, and help you weigh choices for medical care.
At a birth we might do massage, get drinks, dance with you, use meditative words through each contraction, fill and monitor the birth pool, keep up spills, get towels, hold your hand, turn on your music, talk you through choices, get you a cold cloth.
Postpartum we might help with breastfeeding, grab you an extra pillow, talk to you about helping the older child get used to baby, or about going back to work, show your partner who to calm a crying baby, show you what normal sleep looks like in an infant and give you new strategies to help you cope.
What does hiring a doula look like?
At the initial consultation we will answer any questions you have, and get to know each other. If any questions are unanswered, please contact us by email or phone so that you are fully informed.
Returning your signed contract and deposit secures our services for your estimated month of delivery. Once these items have been received, we will contact you to schedule our prenatal meeting.
During the prenatal visits we will discuss birth goals and choices, positions for labor, relaxation techniques, and the role you would like me to fulfill. We recommend all my clients take childbirth education classes, preferably from a certified independent instructor. We will also discuss when and where we will meet for your labor, any concerns you have that come up through the pregnancy, and any other questions or decisions you wish to talk over.
During your on call period (the month surrounding your EDD), we are available 24/7 to answer questions, help comfort you during prodromal labour if it happens, and to help you decide when labour is coming; we have spent many times on the phone during early labour so that we can decide together what is happening at the time.
When labour is established we will meet with you at your chosen location, and remain with you for the entire birth all the way until you are settled with your new baby afterwards.
We will then keep in contact about postpartum concerns, starting breastfeeding and caring for yourself after birth, and we will discuss the scheduling of other postpartum visits as needed. At later postpartum visits, we will review your birth experience and we will answer any follow up questions you may have about your birth.
We are there to go along the journey with you so that you always have the same team to discuss with, to help and comfort you, and answer all your questions.
What’s the difference between doulas and midwifes?
Midwives in Ontario are primary care, provided by the government free of charge through OHIP. Their role at births is to monitor both the pregnant parent and baby for potential health problems, to catch the baby, and provide immediate postpartum care. A midwife can perform clinical tasks such as vaginal exams, suturing, blood pressure, heart rate, and overall evaluations of the health of the pregnant person and baby. A midwife is trained and certified to attend births as a medical professional. A doula does not perform any medical tasks.
Doulas are trained to provide a high level of informational, emotional, and physical support. A midwife’s, doctor’s, or nurse’s priority is the physical health of the parents and baby, while a doula’s priority is the emotional health of the parents and their baby. Care providers don’t have the time and training to support you through every step of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
Doulas do not replace professional medical care – they do something no one else can.
Isn’t my husband/wife/spouse/partner supposed to do all that? Will their role be threatened if I use a doula?
We consider it a priority to ensure that your partner is free to fully participate in the birth experience with you. Partners need support, too! Freeing the other parents to truly be with the birthing and postpartum parent and be physically and emotionally present for the pregnancy, birth and postpartum care of their family is one of our most important roles as a doula.
I’m the other parent – what does a doula do for me?
Our role as a doula is to support the entire family. This means you can go to the bathroom, grab a bite to eat, or if labor is particularly long, even take a nap without worrying about leaving the pregnant parent labouring or at home alone. It means you can fully participate in the birth or postpartum care of your child at whatever level you are most comfortable. If you’d prefer to take pictures and leave things like massage up to us, you can. If you’d prefer to be the one massaging or holding her hand, we can take the pictures, fetch water, and deal with any other tasks that may come up. If you want to learn about holding a baby, diapering, breastfeeding, or calming a child, we can show you that too. As your doula, we tend to the details, leaving you free to focus on what’s really important to you.
I really want a doula at my birth/for postpartum, but my partner is still reluctant.
This is a common reason that women are hesitant to hire a doula. It is natural for partners to be wary of inviting an outsider to the birth of their child, or to those first critical days at home. Partners often feel their role is to protect the pregnant parent and baby, and minimizing outsiders is one way to do that.
Often, reluctant partners will feel more comfortable with the idea once they have met the doulas and had an opportunity to have their concerns and needs addressed. We offer free, no-obligation consultations for all our services, and we can meet wherever you and your partner feel most comfortable – at home, at the coffee shop, or over dinner at a restaurant.
We encourage you to ask your most challenging questions at this consultation. It is also notable that partners who were reluctant at first are often the biggest supporters of doulas after benefiting from their presence at the birth of their child, or in their pregnancy and postpartum care.
Wait, isn’t this what nurses do?
Many nurses are willing and happy to do these things at births, but unfortunately their other duties often interfere. A nurse’s first priority is to monitor your physical health, and of course they are usually helping many women at once. Nurses rarely have the time to help with things related to comfort, support, and education.
What if I just want you to take pictures/videotape/knit/sit in the corner of the birth?
Then that’s exactly what we’ll do! (If you don’t have a camera, we use ours.) We can discuss the types of pictures you’re interested in to ensure your comfort with the level of modesty. Birth pictures can be very touching mementos and still preserve a high level of modesty, or if you prefer, can record a variety of details.
If you want professional birth photography, we can do that too. 😉
I plan to use pain medication; can I still benefit from having a doula?
Our role as a doula is to support you and your partner, whether your labor and birth includes medication or other pain coping practices. Your need for support and encouragement continues even with an epidural. Peanut balls, and other tricks for comfort and labour progress during an epidural are standard for Birthing Space doulas.
What if I decide during labor that I want medication – will you support that?
As your doula, we will support whatever option is right for you. We believe in the wise and compassionate use of medication for laboring women. As each mother has unique needs, this issue will be discussed in detail at our prenatal visits, so that we will have a complete understanding of your wishes and needs during labor.
My baby will be born by cesarean; what are some ways I can benefit from having a doula?
As your doula, we can help you and your partner navigate the often complex process surrounding a cesarean birth. We will hold the space for your family, helping to remind everyone involved that birth is a deeply emotional and spiritual process, not a medical event, even when medical care is involved. You may need to get special permission for us to stay with you during the birth, but even if that is not possible, we can join you after the birth, while your partner possibly goes to the nursery with the baby, so that you are not left unsupported in the surgery room. Breastfeeding and caring for your baby are sometimes more challenging after a cesarean birth, and as your doula, we will provide support and encouragement while you overcome those challenges.
I am planning to have a homebirth – do I still need a doula?
Some midwives offer a very high level of emotional support. However, having a dedicated doula at your homebirth ensures that the level of emotional support will be maintained from the very beginning of labour, before the midwives attend, and that even in the event of an emergency, during which the midwifes could be too busy to offer much emotional support. As your doula, we also provide an increased level of pregnancy and postpartum support. We can clean up, and tuck you into bed.
It seems so expensive!
Doula fees may seem high because it is an expense that was not anticipated. Many couples do not consider doula services until they are already pregnant and the birth is looming. When put in the perspective of other costs of having a baby, however, the investment is clearly quite practical. Most parents will spend hundreds of dollars on baby furniture, carseats, clothing, bottles, cameras, diapers – sometimes even a bigger car or house! Every family needs support and encouragement before, during, and after labor and birth. Doula fees are actually quite reasonable when you break it down. You receive many in-home, completely personalized visits to discuss your needs and wishes for your birth and to help with breastfeeding or other postpartum needs.
Your doula is also on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the time you hire them, and they will stay with you for the duration of your labor, throughout all hours of the day and night, no matter how long your labor lasts. Not even your doctor will do that! The benefits of having a doula at your birth are truly immeasurable.
How does payment work?
Doulas are worth the money. However, financial need should never stand between you and an attendant at your birth.
- Initial consultations are always free.
- We accept cash, cheque, EMT, and credit card on all services. Our standard terms on doula packages are a $150-200 initial payment, and two remainder payments at 28 and 38 weeks. We are also happy to arrange a payment plan that occurs at monthly, weekly, or twice weekly payments as needed.
- We offer a bursary program for those for that cannot afford the full payment. Please ask for a bursary application – we do not require any financial information that you are not comfortable sharing with us to be eligible for the bursary.
- Our doulas often do one or two volunteer births a year for those in need.
- We often have student doulas that are working on training births. Please contact us to ask.
Sounds great? What are my options for birth doulas?
And what about postpartum doulas?
What if I just want to ask a doula questions for an hour or two?
Over the past years we’ve realized that parents need more, they need a source of information surrounding fertility, pregnancy, labour, birth, breastfeeding, weaning, the postpartum period, sleep, parenting, day care, and life as a parent in general. So the concept of the consulting doula for advanced assistance on many parent, child, birth, and parenting topics was born.
We’ve taken our background, education, and training in various areas and combined them to bring you a peer counselling service that can speak to any and every topic that you’d like to discuss.
If you don’t know who can help you with your questions surrounding wishing to become a parent, pregnancy, new parenthood, or life as a family, we can help you with anything.
- Initial Phone and email consults are always free.
- In-person consulting services generally start at $40 an hour.