Doula Tips

Of course, I think everyone who wants a doula should have one. But there are a lot of people who don't necessarily feel like they want to hire a doula, or they may live in an area where doulas are scarce. If you find yourself about to have a baby, or if you are about to support someone, here are some nice, simple ideas of how to keep a laboring mom comfortable:

1. Keep the room dark. Lower the shades and dim the lights. If mom goes to the bathroom, keep the lights off in there, too, and just keep the door open.

2. Bring your own pillows from home. Your own pillow is warm and comfortable and smells familiar. It is where you do your most intense relaxing (sleeping), and it might make an unfamiliar birth place seem a little more like home. Encourage mom to hug or rest her head on her pillow during labor.

3. Use lavender, peppermint, or citrus scents in the room. Besides covering up the "hospital" smell, these scents can provide a sense of calming (lavender), quell nausea (peppermint), or be invigorating (citrus). 

4. Provide firm counter-pressure on mom's back. The palm of your hand pressed very firmly on the base of mom's spine throughout a contraction can help take the edge off of contractions, especially in active labor as the baby moves down.

5. Between contractions, give mom lots of encouragement and soft, slow strokes on the arms and back. Rub her neck and shoulders. Encourage mom to relax her muscles between contractions.

6. Encourage mom to drink a sip or two of water after most contractions. Every hour or so, remind her to use the bathroom. 

7. Encourage mom to try new laboring positions, if possible. Sitting on a birth ball, standing with her arms around partner's shoulders, leaning over the side of the bed, sitting or kneeling in a warm bath, and squatting while holding partner's hands or a birth bar are some great options for labor. Offer to walk with her. Stay close to her and help her find something that feels good.

8. Most importantly, stay calm. Speak quietly, listen intently, use gentle words. It can be hard to see someone you love be uncomfortable, and it can feel stressful, or that you aren't doing anything because you can't help her more. But what is the most important thing is that you are there, close to her during contractions, giving her your undivided attention, telling her how much you love her and what an amazing job she's doing. You can't take this experience away from her, and that's OK. She has everything she needs to birth her baby within herself. She just needs you nearby, creating a safe, calm, loving space for her. 

Hiring a Doula

Hiring a birth doula can seem a little overwhelming. There are so many in the Twin Cities area to choose from, and it is such an important decision. Where do you begin?

A great place to begin is by asking friends or family members who have given birth if they had a doula. You may even make a general post on social media asking for recommendations. Being able to ask questions about a doula from someone you know can be immensely helpful and can take away some of the anxiety of this task.

But let’s say you don’t know anyone who has had a doula attend their birth. A great resource for expectant moms in the Twin Cities area is The Childbirth Collective. This is an organization that aims to match pregnant women with doulas and provide information about labor and birth, the postpartum period, and everything else related to pregnancy. They host informational meetings every Monday and Wednesday night called “Parent Topic Nights”, which are free and open to everyone without pre-registration. While these topics generally cover things like common interventions, the natural rhythm of labor, and newborn care, about once a month they have “All About Doulas”, which can answer most questions people have about hiring a doula. Doulas and midwives attend these nights, too, and it can be a great way to meet birth professionals and chat a little.

There is also Doula Match, which allows active doulas to set up a profile, show their availability, their price, and their experience. You can also read reviews about doulas by the families they’ve served and get a sense of the way they practice.

Finally, you may want to ask your doctor or midwife if they have recommendations. They have probably worked with a variety of doulas and may have a name or two that they keep in the back of their heads as particularly great ones.

Once you’ve found a doula you like, ask questions. Here are some good ones to start with:

1. Why did you become a doula?

2. What kind of training/experience do you have?

3. Will you support the kind of birth I want to have? (Hospital, home, birth center, medicated, natural, etc…)

4. What kinds of methods do you use during labor to provide support and comfort?

5. What are your fees and how do you like to be paid?  (*A quick note about this: A lot of doulas are open to payment plans and would really like to attend your birth, even if you can’t pay the fee they are asking for right away. It’s always worth it to ask a doula if she’s willing to work out a payment plan or be flexible about payment if you find the right one!*)

6. What happens if I hire you and you can’t attend my birth? Do you work with one or more other doulas to ensure someone will be there, or should I arrange my own backup doula?

These questions are a great starting out point when interviewing doulas. The most important thing to consider is how comfortable you feel when speaking with her, and how well you think she could support you during your labor and delivery.

Personally, my doula felt like a great friend who was there during my labor. We laughed a lot, we talked a lot about our children, and she gently supported me during the toughest parts of my labor. She was the right doula for us. Some people might want a more assertive doula who will speak up for them, some might want someone who is quiet and calm, or some might want a doula with a lot of medical knowledge. Part of hiring your doula is deciding what kind of vibe you want while you’re in labor, and interviewing doulas until you find one who will be just right.

I would recommend starting the process by the time you are about 20 weeks pregnant because many doulas only take 1-3 clients a month and you want to make sure your perfect doula is available for you when you find her!

Happy searching!