I take any opportunity to talk about my work as a doula. I love educating people about a doula’s role in birth whether they are expecting parents, medical professionals, or random strangers. Lately though, I find myself debunking myths more than anything. There are a plethora of misconceptions that people have about our work and it’s important to me to clear those up for people. These myths are harmful because they can stop a family from seeking the care they need based on erroneous information. This top 3 list is based on those I address most often.
1. Doulas are Expensive
This is the first myth that needs to be laid to rest because it leads people to believe that most doulas are inaccessible before they even try looking. Doulas are varied in their pricing structures just as professionals in any industry are. They often set their prices based on the clients they wish to serve which means there is a doula for every budget. There are doulas who are committed to keeping their services affordable. Some choose to offer their services free of charge or at a steep discount while they are meeting the requirements for certification. There are community doula programs, hospital doula programs, and even programs for incarcerated individuals. The doulas are usually voluntary or priced based on a sliding scale. In addition to varied prices many doulas offer payment plans, gift certificates, and other creative ways to make it work for all involved.
It is also important to note that when doulas set their prices they are basing that on their experience, geographical pricing norms, service offerings, and other factors necessary to make this work for them and their families. Haggling undermines the invaluable work doulas do and threatens the integrity of the relationship.
Takeaway: You will have to be diligent and resourceful, but you can find a doula who works within your budget. Don’t let this myth keep you from the invaluable support you deserve. Your peace of mind is worth it.
2. Doulas Are Only For Home or Natural Births
This is the one that I find myself debunking the most. I get it. There was a time when the terms doula, midwife, and natural labor elicited images of eclectic women busying themselves around a birth pool in their client’s living rooms- incense burning with nature sounds softly playing as mama powerfully moans through the pain of contractions. However, we know that less than 2% of births take place outside of hospitals. We also know that with the current state of maternal health in the U.S., women need doulas at their hospital bedside now more than they ever did before. This is especially true for African-American women as it has been found that they have 3-4 times the risk of dying in childbirth than Caucasian women. In fact consider this a bonus myth debunked- doulas are also not only for white women.
Doulas impact healthy hospital birth outcomes in several ways. Demands from the hospital keep medical professionals from providing ongoing comforting care during labor. A doula ensures continuity of care for the birthing family. A doula helps them communicate their desires and needs with medical staff while also interpreting information from medical staff to the family when necessary. Having a doula at your bedside during labor is like bringing your own advocate with you.
Aside from the extra TLC and having your own bedside patient advocate there is scientific evidence that doulas have a positive impact on some medical aspects of labor. This article from Evidenced Based Birth highlights these outcomes plus more:
25% decrease in the risk of a cesarean birth
8% increase in the likelihood of a normal vaginal birth
10% decrease in use of medications for pain relief *(but if you want medicine, you will still be supported)
Shorter labor duration
Takeaway: You can have a doula in any birth space you choose-hospital, birth center, or at home. Your doula is there to offer continuous support to you and support your decisions around your care during labor.
3. A Doula Will Guarantee I Have a Vaginal Birth
Every one wants a birth experience that ends with a safe and healthy mama and baby. Ideally the labor would end in a vaginal delivery with no complications and you and your family will welcome your new baby and go on to live happily ever after. As much as doulas would love to guarantee that for you, we cannot. A good doula will not. There are no guarantees when it comes to birth. Neither your doctor or midwife can guarantee the outcome you want either. The uncertainties that surround birth can be anxiety inducing. Having such a rigid goal sets families up for disappointment with factors out of anyone’s control change the outcome of labor and birth.
Doulas educate you on and encourage you to try proven methods that help improve birth outcomes (see #2 again). We help you prepare your mind, body, and spirit for the task ahead. We make sure you are aware of the stages of labor so that not much surprises you. A really good doula will also educate you on the possibilities of other outcomes such as an induction or c section in case it does happen. We practice comfort techniques so you can determine what may work and what won’t work for you. The key is ensuring that you are informed and aware of your choices during labor. When you are fully equipped with knowledge and preparation, you will walk into your birth with confidence. Your partner will be confident in their ability to help support you. Other members of your team will know their roles.
The actual goal is for you to be empowered and able to exercise choice and control when you can during your birth experience. When all of this comes together, you get to focus on bringing your beautiful new baby into this world with love and peace. You will be proud of your birth experience because you knew what to do and trusted yourself.
Takeaway: No one can guarantee you the birth you want. A great doula will make sure you are well equipped to handle any birth outcome and rock it.
Have you changed your mind about hiring a doula because of one of these myths or one like it? Would you consider hiring a doula the next time? Did you push past the naysayers and hire a doula? What was your experience? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s talk in the comments.