Pregnancy Tip Box and Explainer
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Do You Need a Doula?
Non-medical birth attendants can ease labor
Doulas are birth attendants trained to provide emotional and physical support during labor and birth. A doula will explain your progress, suggest natural ways to ease pain, provide encouragement and moral support, use hands-on contact and massage, and advocate on your behalf if necessary. Midwives do these things, too, of course, but typically do not assist with labor at home and can be busy with medical details and procedures during labor in the hospital. Doulas are a complement to midwives, as well as obstetricians, providing care from your first contraction through successful latch-on.
Studies of doulas have found that their use can cut the length of labor by 25 percent, reduce the use of epidurals by 60 percent, and halve the C-section rate. Research also suggests that women who used a doula during labor had better success with breastfeeding, less depression, and, interestingly, greater satisfaction with their partners. Flat fees range from about $350 for a newer doula up to $1,000 for an experienced one, and insurance usually does not cover the cost. Locally, the doula profession has grown in just the past couple of years. In 2006, Birthways, the city's oldest and best-established network of doulas, had only three labor-support doulas; by this past January the number had grown to ten.
Given that there's no licensing for doulas, how do you find a good one? Start by asking your obstetrician, midwife, childbirth-class instructor, or mom friends for recommendations. Another good source is BirthLink, an online resource for Chicago-area doulas. One credential to look for is certification by Doulas of North America (DONA) or the Association of Labor Assistants & Childbirth Educators (ALACE). Birthways doulas are all DONA- or ALACE-certified and have also undergone additional training. But keep in mind that the professional certification process is lengthy and expensive, and some excellent doulas choose not to go through it.