Choosing a Labor Support Doula For Your Birth

Congratulations on your pregnancy! The thought of giving birth can be overwhelming for most people. Why? Isn’t it a natural event? Won’t the hospital take care of everything? To the last two questions – yes and no!

While it is a natural event, you won’t be in a natural environment to give birth. Birthing in a hospital is a relatively recent change from previous centuries of human history. And while there is benefit to having the medical staff surrounding you, birth is not a medical event.

A laboring woman who has fear and anxiety can unwittingly slow down or sometimes even stop her labor from progressing.

We release stress hormones – mainly cortisol and adrenaline – when we are stressed. These hormones block the flow of the hormone oxytocin that is essential during labor. Oxytocin is needed by the uterus to clamp down on the baby, eventually pushing the baby down and out of the birth canal. Oxytocin cannot flow if a mom is filled with anxiety and fear.

Studies show that birthing women who have a support person during labor have shorter labors, less caesarean sections and less use of other drugs and interventions. The benefits are thought to be because having support allows the laboring woman to relax which allow her body to labor more efficiently.

How to find a labor support doula for your birth

  • Ask a friend who has used a doula. See what she liked about her birth. Don’t feel obligated if, upon meeting, you don’t “click” with the same person.
  • There are certifying groups such as where you can find recommendations.
  • Check with your midwife if there is one in your group. Mid-wives are often supportive of labor doulas during delivery and will have names of some they’ve work with.
  • See if there is a Birth Network in your area. They will have recommendations.
  • Facebook has mothers groups that are often a good resource for finding doulas.

What makes a doula a good fit?

  • Look for someone who you sense will help you to keep calm. What helps you to relax? Does she do massage? Do you like quiet or would you rather be distracted with conversation?
  • Ask her about her personal philosophy about birth. Some doulas are pro-natural, i.e. feel strongly that non-medicated births are essential. Is this what you are looking for? How does she feel about the use of medical interventions?
  • What is her view of the medical team? Doulas should be supportive and respectful of the medical staff. There are ways to help you get the birth you want in a hospital setting without being confrontational.
  • Will she physically support you or is her role emotional only? There are comfort techniques that can help labor along. Does she use these techniques?
  • How will she support your spouse or partner? Will she take his place or help him to participate? A doula should help your partner participate at his comfort level and then pick up the support for you from there.

Specific questions to ask:

  • How many births have you attended?
  • What training or certifications do you have?
  • Why did you become a doula?
  • What is included in your doula package?
  • Do you have training with breastfeeding?
  • Do you have a back-up doula?
  • How do you work with a husband/partner, doctor or midwife?
  • How many clients do you have with due dates close to mine?
  • Can I contact you with questions via text/phone/email with birth questions?
  • Do you do a postpartum follow up?
  • When will you be on-call for my birth?
  • At what point do you come to my home or to the hospital?
  • Do you have client references?

You need someone who is capable of speaking up but not taking over. She should be able to explain your options (if there are any) and be willing to help you to achieve the type of birth you want. This is especially true if you want a non-medicated birth. Labor gets intense and you’ll need someone who is up to telling you what you need to do when labor gets going.

The memory of your birth will last a lifetime. It needs to be positive birth! That being said it’s important to realize that even with a labor support doula, a C-section is always a possibility. If that is the outcome for you, it will help you going forward to know you did everything you could to have a positive birth experience. Everyone working with you has one goal – for you and your spouse to have a healthy baby!

About Susan Shepard

I am the owner/partner of MothersCare Doula Services in CT. I am a Postpartum doula and my business partner, Sheila Marley is a Labor doula. MothersCare places both Labor and Postpartum doulas with CT Families. I am the mom of five beautiful children, one set of twins. The best quote for me as a young mother and the catalyst for MothersCare is “It’s not weakness to know you need help, it’s wisdom.”


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