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Facts and Myths: The Doula

You have probably heard of a doula by now.

The word doula comes from the Greek word for servant or walking stick. A doula is a professionally trained individual who provides continuous support to couples during pregnancy, labor, and birth. There are a lot of misunderstandings about what doulas do and who they are – so let´s dive into some popular beliefs about doulas and determine whether they are fact or myth.

  1. The doula only works with couples who desire a “natural” or physiologic birth.
    • MYTH! The doula works with couples on the entire spectrum of childbirth: from home birth to planned cesarean birth. They support couples who desire or require medicalized birth and/or cesarean section birth. Doulas have helpful knowledge and support tricks that apply to every possible situation of childbirth.

  2. The doula acts as the voice of the laboring person during labor and childbirth.
    • MYTH! The doula works to empower the couple and the birthing person to exercise and use their own voice, reminding them of their options and of the evidence surrounding each decision. The doula should never speak for you, but rather help you to find and use your own voice.

  3. The doula is a clinical professional/health provider. The doula is the same thing as a midwife.
    • MYTH! The doula works together with the couple and the clinical health providers (nurses, doctor, midwife) to facilitate childbirth through the provision of physical, emotional, and educational support. The doula is not a medical professional, but rather a complementary support person.

  4. The doula is just as helpful to the non-birthing parent as to the person in labor.
    • FACT! The doula provides essential support to both the birthing person and the non-birthing parent. Some ways that the doula supports the non-birthing parent include helping guide them to support the birthing parent, giving them breaks from supporting the birthing parent when needed, reminding them to eat/drink/rest, and of course providing information and education regarding their options in labor and childbirth.

  5. Doulas are expensive.
    • Fact and Myth: It is true that most doulas must be paid for out-of-pocket, and this can be a major expense for a birthing couple. However, if we compare the average cost of a doula in the United States ($800 – $2,500) to potential birth expenses that the doula can help to mitigate or decrease, the out-of-pocket expense is well worth it. For example, a c-section can cost $17,000 on average to the healthcare consumer, and studies show that doulas decrease the likelihood of unwanted cesarean birth by 50%. Perhaps the most important indicator of the cost-worthiness of the doula is maternal satisfaction: studies have shown that having a doula can decrease the risk of dissatisfaction with the birthing experience by 31%.
    • It is also worth mentioning that several states are beginning to cover the work of doula in insurance plans, and across the country, community-based organizations are working to provide low-cost or free doula support to families who cannot afford it.

  6. Doula support is a new, trendy concept.
    • MYTH! While the professional title of “doula” may be relatively new, the support that doulas provide has been a key piece of childbirth since the beginning of time. For centuries, people gave birth surrounded by people within their communities who had already been through childbirth and could provide helpful support. When hospital birth became the standard in the early 1900s, this reality dissipated as birthing people experienced labor and childbirth largely alone and unsupported. Luckily later in the 20th century, we realized that this was not ideal, and so the profession of doula arose between the 1960s and 1980s; however, the concept of community support during labor and childbirth is as old as time itself.

       

  7. The doula is an objective, trustworthy person who will do everything in their power to support you.
    • FACT! During the life-altering events of pregnancy and childbirth, the doula can be your biggest champion, supporter, and advocate. The doula is hired by and works directly for the pregnant/laboring person/couple, so you can be assured that they have your interests at the top of their priority list. While doctors, nurses, and midwives can also be incredibly supportive to you, ultimately they are employed by and accountable to your medical institution. Having a doula working directly to support you (known as primacy of interest) can make all the difference in your experience!

       

We are excited to incorporate a community doula program into our new birth center so that Philadelphia families may receive the continuous, one-on-one support that doulas offer. We believe that everyone who wants a doula should have access to a doula, and are committed to offering free and low-cost options through the new center.

If you would like to continue to support our initiative, please be sure to keep an eye out for our monthly newsletter updates and share exciting news about our FPCN Birth Center with your loved ones!

For more information or to donate to the Birth Center, click here. And of course, please follow us on Facebook and Instagram for real-time updates. If you are not on our newsletter list already, be sure to subscribe to receive updates.

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