Top Ten Myths and Misconceptions About Doula Services

by Rebecca Overson, Maternity Massage Specialist and Birth Doula, Owner/Director of Salt Lake Prenatal Massage

I was working on a client last week - a first-time mom about 36 weeks pregnant.  Although we always encourage clients to tune in and focus on the massage, this woman was very curious and talkative and excited for her upcoming birth and was asking me lots and lots and LOTS of questions. Somewhere in the course of the dialogue I asked her if she had considered hiring a doula. Her response made me chuckle. She said:

"No, I'm just having a doctor deliver my baby at the hospital."

To which I replied,

"Hm, by your response I suspect you think a doula is something they are not."

Naturally she asked more questions and I gave my 2-minute elevator speech about what a doula is, what they do to support women and couples in labor, and a few reasons why many women opt to hire a doula.

It made me think that it might be nice to post something here to DISPEL THE TOP TEN MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT DOULA SERVICES!

See if any of the following echo your beliefs about Doulas.

1. Doulas are only needed/useful if you are 100% committed to a natural birth.

Nope! A doula supports whatever your wishes are. A doula supports natural birth or medicated birth. (The only exception is for c-sections - most hospitals will not let more than one person in the operating room, which is usually the husband or partner. A doula can be there for you post-op, however.)

In a natural birth, the doula works very hard to help the mother (and father) deal with the physical, emotional and mental challenges of labor. In a medicated birth, the doula can help you to keep your head in the game and look out for your body which can be compromised by medication. I've often felt it's more challenging to support women with epidurals because in a sense, their body is handicapped and unable to respond to the physically-directed instinctual urges to move about in labor.

2. It's weird to "hire" a stranger to support you in a very personal experience.

Sure, maybe at first it seems that way, but consider this: you have NO relationship with the nursing staff. You get whatever nurse is assigned to you, and shifts change all the time. The benefit of having a doula is that you have ONE person that you know, that is dedicated to supporting YOU and no other mom in labor at that moment. Besides your husband or partner, your doula will be the one familiar face (because you should also know, most doctors don't arrive until your baby's head is crowning.) As you interview doulas, you get to know them and get a sense of their personality. I always advise you select a doula that you trust and respect and feel comfortable with. You will build a relationship with them that lasts a lifetime!

3. Doulas and midwives are basically the same thing, right?

Ummmm no. Doulas do not do anything medical. Doulas do not listen to the baby's heart rate, they don't check your blood pressure, they don't check for cervix dilation, they don't deliver babies.

Doulas provide support to the laboring couple. They provide emotional support, physical support, and information that helps couples make decisions during an emotionally and physically challenging ordeal.

As one client put it: "Doctors, Nurses, and Midwives attend to the actions your uterus, cervix, and baby. Doulas pay attention to what's going on in your head and your heart!"

4. I don't need a doula because my husband is going to be there.

5. If I hire a doula, my husband will feel useless or ousted.

6. I don't need a doula if I'm giving birth in a hospital.

7. A doula is a waste of money; I don't need to hire someone to put cold washcloths on my forehead, pat my back and give me sips of water between contractions.

8. My doula will talk to the doctors and nurses for me to make sure my wishes are known. It is their job to intervene if needed and save me from a bad birth experience.

9. I don't need a doula because the nurses and doctors at the hospital will help me.

10. I don't need a doula at a home birth because home birth midwives are so much more hands-on.

BONUS:

11. Only first-time moms need a doula because they've never given birth before.