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Frequently Asked Questions


What is a Doula or Childbirth Assistant?
A Childbirth Assistant, or Doula, is a birth professional. They provide non-medical, emotional, and physical support in addition to your medical care provider. They are found in hospitals, birthing centers & home births. They work in cooperation with your families OB/GYN, nurses, mid-wives and the partners of the birthing women. Doulas do not do physical exams or assess fetal or maternal well being. A Doula does provide support, give objective views, and offers comfort to both parents during the birth of their baby. They also provide education in the pre-natal period, during birth, and the post partum period and provide alternatives and options, so that you may make informed decisions.

A Doula is a professional who recognizes the natural process of birth, helping the parents to understand this process and working with them during Birth to create the most positive, healthy and natural experience possible for the family. She provides non-medical continuity of care for birthing women and their partners, and eases the transition from home to hospital or birth center. She also facilitates the birth process, offers words of encouragement, and supports and educates the couple, before, during and after birth.

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What services does a childbirth assistant offer?
  • Customized Childbirth Education in your home
  • Birth Wishes counseling
  • Availability by phone 24/7 to answer questions or go over concerns
  • Early birth support
  • Continuity of care during birth and and following birth
  • Breastfeeding support
  • And so much more...
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What are the benefits of using a Doula?
Statistics show that using a trained Doula can have the following results:
  • Shorter Births
  • Reduced need for pain medication
  • Fewer episiotomies
  • 50% reduction in cesareans
  • Improved neo-natal outcomes
  • Better mother-infant interaction
  • Greater satisfaction with the birth
  • Reduction in the use Pitocin
  • 40% reduction in the use of forceps
  • 60-80% reduction in the request of epidurals
  • Improved relationship between Mom and Partner, and more...
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Does a Birth Assistant take the place of the partner?
Absolutely not. A birth assistant can actually bring a couple closer together. By assuring that the partner’s needs are met (food, drink, rest, and emotional support) only then can he or she give the mother undivided attention. This is a stressful time for both mother and her partner. Partners worry that they are not doing enough of the right thing. A Doula helps partners to care for and support Mom by giving suggestions when needed, providing encouragement, or giving needed breaks during a long birth. These days partners have been cast in the unfamiliar role of Birth Coach, even though most have little or no experience with Birth.

They often become overwhelmed and easily frustrated when the simple comfort techniques taught to them don't work. A doula can help offer the right suggestion at the appropriate time, helping the partner use his or her support skills better.

As one father put it "How can I coach when I have never played the game??" One study showed that 60% of partners that have taken birth education classes became mostly a spectator, as they became overwhelmed with the surroundings. The feeling of insecurity and the lack of knowledge of what is happening takes its toll on both parents.

A doula has accompanied many couples through the birth experience and gained the knowledge needed to help each couple achieve the desired birth experience. She helps the partner to be more involved and more effective. The nurses can not be with you at every moment or may not be at liberty to answer your questions in an unbiased manner. The doula fulfills this role so that parents receive the information they need to make informed decisions. In essence, freeing up the partner to provide un-interrupted emotional support to his or her partner, and not having to play the role of advocate , liaison, educator etc...as well as provide support.

One of the greatest things a woman's partner can do for her is to hire a doula, as she can bring about a more enjoyable birth experience for everyone involved! Partners play a key role in birth, adding an emotional aspect that doulas could never replace or replicate, and my job is to be there for the family as a whole. Many parents have initally raised concerns about how the partner will fit into the birth if a doula is present. Partners always have as much involvement as they want and families that we work with often comment about how intimate they felt birth was for them as a couple. We would encourage you to call us if you would like to discuss this topic more. References are also available and this may prove helpful in making your determination.


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I am planning an Epidural for my Birth, Why Use a Doula?
Doulas first and foremost, help to give you the information you need to make informed decisions for your care and your babies care. This doesn’t stop just because you decide on an epidural during birth. There is no medication that is proven safe for your baby, including the epidural, so support becomes even more important in these situations. As your doulas, we will do our best to help ensure that you understand the risks and you can make informed decisions. We would highly recommend reading The Scientification of Love by Michele Odent if you have doubts that drug use in birthing has no effect on your baby and your lifelong relationship. Drugs in birthing are also not always effective in relieving discomfort and relaxation is really best for avoiding discomfort altogether. With an epidural you are often subject to much more intervention from medical procedures, such as the use of Pitocin (drug used to bring on or increase the strength of uterine surges), episiotomies, and cesarean. Again, we will give you the information you need to make informed decisions and offer you alternatives and it is up to you to decide what you feel is best. After the birth we will help you with breastfeeding, help you at home with recovery, and learning to incorporate a new tiny being into your life.

Most Doulas are all for natural birth, for we have seen enough of what happens to both moms and especially to babies during a medicated birth. But we are there to make the experience what YOU want and no one else. We are here to make your experience the best it can be for your family. Regardless of your choices in birth, we never place judgement on you and we always have your best interests in mind. Above all, our primary goal is to keep you safe and satisfied with your own birth, so we am never thinking "what was she thinking, asking for that?" All of our families are asked to review about medicating you and baby to ensure that they are fully informed about epidural use prior to birth. The choice is always your own to make.


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This is our first baby and I really want this to be a special/romantic time just between my partner and I. We really don't want a stranger there, why would I use a doula?
Well, a Doula is not really a stranger; she is someone that has spent time with you and your partner prior to birth. She will be familiar with you, your preferences, your fears and your concerns so that she can help your partner respond to your needs appropriately, and help the medical staff (which more than likely you have never met) to also know your desires. A Doula helps to ensure medical intervention is kept within your desired level, and can help your birth experience to be a positive and empowering event. Avoiding drugs and a c-section can help the birth be much more romantic and special between you, your partner, and your baby, if your baby is not separated from you. A doula can help your birth be the most special and romantic experience you could desire. By keeping your mind focused on your baby and your body, and letting the doula help your partner know the right thing to do at the right time, you will find that the doula becomes a supporter of the team (you and your partner), and not at all intrusive of your partner's support and in most cases enhancing their ability to respond to your needs. Birth can be very sensual and you are welcome to complete privacy whenever you want it.

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What about other family, won’t it get confusing with a lot of people?
A birth in the family is an exciting event, and family and friends should participate if you want them to. Often family wants to help but aren't sure how, leading to confusion and adding to the stress of the mother. This is especially true if she feels the need to entertain everyone or act as a mediator between members. The Doula can coordinate the efforts of the group, by giving them things to do and making them feel more useful. Eliminating the confusion and helping them work as a team. They may also help educate your family prior to birth, so that your family knows your wishes and what they can do to help you. From experience, we can also say that, if you are questioning whether or not to have family in the room, then you probably should politely ask that they sit this birth out, as a number of my Moms have commented about feeling "on display" or pressured to perform a certain way when their family was present.

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Would a doula be offended if asked to leave for a few minutes? We may want some private time alone as a couple.
A doula should not take offense to anything the parents need to make their birth a positive experience! We actively encourage this. We think its critical if there are moments that you spend alone as a couple before your lives change forever! After the birth, family time is very important and after we have you comfortable and baby breastfeeding well then a doula can certainly step aside until needed again. Usually we take the role of “Photographer” and capture those rare first moments on film, that will be cherished in the baby book for years to come. (if the parents want this). The wonderful sight of two parents looking over their newborn for the first time are pictures rarely taken, since the partner is often the only one there. After that we leave for the family to have time alone.

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Won't the nurses do most of this for us? Why would we need someone there if she will be there for us? What about my midwive, where will he/she be?
The nurses are usually wonderfully supportive, however it is unusual for you to be her only patient. He or she has the burden of (at least) one other couple to support as well. The time she/he does spends in your room is taken up with assessing the well being of you and your baby and charting, often leaving very little time for actual hands-on support. Nurses are not generally trained in alternative techniques for comfort and pain relief and are more likely to suggest medication instead. If you are planning a natural birth this can be defeating. If you were planning on medication this may be fine, however the nurses may not help you to reach a point where medication would no longer cause problems like stalling birth. On average a nurse only spends 9.9% in actual supportive care during an average birth, and only a small percent of that is physical support, its more verbal/instructional support.

The nurses are wonderful people, but they do change shifts. During a long birth you may see several nurses, but your Doula stays with you through all of those changes. Even your care provider may not be the same one that was on call when you started! You midwife or doctor may only be called in occasionally and may not show up until the very last pushes to bring your baby into the world. A lot of doctors are very busy and manage most womens' birth by phone, sometimes managing several women at one time.

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What If I Have a Midwife at my Homebirth or Birthing Center; a Doula Doesn't Seem Needed?
A Doula can still provide a valuable service, including personal childbirth education and birth support. Not all midwives provide birth support and this is a very good question to ask her when interviewing a midwife. Some midwives prefer to attend you later in birth or may prefer not to provide physical birth support. The best way to determine how your midwife will be, is to talk to former clients and see how well they felt supported during birth. There are never too many extra hands at a birth! So even with a supportive midwife, you may still benefit from a doula's services. Ask your midwife/midwives how they feel about doulas and they will almost certainly agree.

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What Kind of Training Does a Doula Have?
There are several paths to becoming a doula. The profession of Doula, does not currently have any state regulation and does not require training or certification. There are many wonderful doulas that have chosen not to certify with any of the current organizations. If a doula does decide to become certified then there are several organizations that do that. They also provide referrals to a doula in their membership. The organizations that are currently training and certifying doulas are:
  • DONA - Doulas Of North America
  • CAPPA - Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association
  • ALACE - Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators
  • ICEA- International Childbirth Education Association Info For Parents
The basic requirements differ from organization to organization, but comprise some basic training including required readings lists, attendance at a workshop, evaluations from a minimum number of births and an audit of a full series of Childbirth Education classes.

The most import attributes of a good doula are a caring heart, a willingness to work with birthing women and their families, professionalism and hands on experience. A lot of very good doulas have done this work for years, before certifications and trainings. It is important to ask a potential doula her training/experience and get references from past clients and to feel comfortable with her skill level. Certification is optional, however it gives parents an easy way to verify skills/training.

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How Much Does a Doula Charge?
Generally it depends on the services offered/desired. Averages of $500.00 to $1000.00 are not unusual depending on where you live and what services are offered. You are paying for her experience, so its is also not unusual for more experienced doulas to charge on the higher end, where a doula that is in the middle of certifying and is relatively inexperienced may not charge at all.

Most Doulas require a retainer (usually $200.00 to $400.00) upon signing the contract for services and the remainder two weeks prior to your due date. Some Doulas have there own payment schedules and are willing to work with families on that, if done in advance or upon signing the contracts.

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What Books Would You Recommend Reading?
This is a list of books that we recommend for Doulas and parents to learn about birth and the options available along with the information needed to make informed decisions during pregnancy, birth and post partum.

  • Pursuing the Birth Machine
  • Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
  • Birth As an American Rite of Passage, by Robbie E. Davis-Floyd, Robbee E. Davis-Floyd
  • Birth Without Violence : The Book That Revolutionized the Way We Bring Our Children into the World, by Frederick Leboyer
  • Childbirth Without Fear: The Original Approach to Natural Childbirth, by Grantly Dick-Read, Helen Wessel, Harlan F. Ellis (Editor)
  • Five Standards for Safe Childbearing, by David Stewart (Editor)
  • The Scientification of Love, Michele Odent
  • Supernatural Childbirth, by Jackie Mize, Terri Mize
  • Silent Knife: Cesarean Prevention & VBAC by Nancy Wainer Cohen & Lois Estner
  • The Homebirth Advantage
  • Open Season: A Survival Guide for Natural Birth and VBAC in the 90's by Nancy Wainer Cohen
  • Unassisted Childbirth, by Laura Shanley
  • Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love, by Lynn M. Griesemer
  • The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth, by Laurie Morgan (free online book)
  • Compleat Mother Magazine
  • The Mother Magazine and Mothering Magazine
  • Breast and Belly Magazine
  • I CAN DO THIS! Excerpts From An Expectant Woman, by Hygeia Halfmoon
  • HypnoBirthing, by Mickie Mongan
  • A Clear Road to Birth (video)
  • Birthing From Within
  • The Birth Book by Dr. William and Martha Sears, RN IBCLC
  • Special Women, Polly Perez
  • Mothering the Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier & Healthier Birth by John H. Kennell , Phyllis H. Klaus , Marshall H. Klaus
  • "The Whole Nine Months," Parenting, Gayle Pryor, May 1992, p34.
  • Active Birth by Janet Balaskas
  • Good Birth, Safe Birth, by Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer
  • Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCuthcheon
  • Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities by Henci Goer
  • Natural Birth After Cesarean: A Practical Guide by Johanne C. Walters , Karis Crawford
  • Easing Labor Pain by Adrienne Lieberman
  • Rebounding From Childbirth: Towards Emotional Recovery by Lynn Madsen
  • The Amazing Newborn, by Marshall & Phyliss Klaus


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Did You Know?
Home births have been shown to be safer than hospital birth for healthy moms???
Read more!

We have a secret in our culture, and it's not that birth is painful... it's that women are strong.
- Laura Stavoe Harm

Contact Us at:

info@birthingforlife.com
or 508-668-4247
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