We asked Sarah, Offbeat Tribe moderator and certified doula to weigh in on this question…
I’m 21 weeks pregnant with our first child, and have been really thinking about having a doula. My husband is wonderful, but totally introverted. He won’t be able to be much of a liaison with any medical personnel when we’re actually laboring, and frankly, God love him, I doubt his stamina if things get long and drawn out. I have no close girlfriends nearby — at least not anyone I’d want in the delivery room — and my family is all out of state, too.
The catch? I’m not planning to give birth without medication. If I’m managing the pain well and it happens that way, great, but I’m totally pro-epidural. My draw toward a doula is more for emotional support backup. But is it even worth it to have a doula if you don’t really need them for medication-free-birth advocacy? That’s all I ever really hear about them doing. — Rebecca
First of all, YOU BET you can have a doula at your hospital birth. Doulas handle hospital births just like they handle homebirths, water births, birthing center births, accidental births that happen when you’re driving with your pregnant best friend to go mini-golfing and have to call 911 from the side of the road… you get the picture.
The skills and mindset your average doula brings to a birth are going to be useful regardless of where you end up delivering. A doula can provide emotional support, be an extra pair of hands, or just be a listening ear during the rigors of labor. I understand your concerns about hiring a professional from a fairly crunchy field for your medicalized birth, and here’s the thing:
Many doulas, myself included, have opinions about the benefits and risks of medical and non-medical birth. Some of them may have opinions about your choice to deliver in a hospital. And you know what? It’s really not their place to judge how you choose to experience your birth, because it’s your birth.
You don’t need to defend your choices to anyone. A good doula will want to empower you to make healthy, well-educated decisions with which you’re comfortable, period. Her entire job is to support you through your birth experience. It shouldn’t matter where that experience takes place or what interventions are involved.
One thing it’s worth noting is that a doula is not a medical professional. She can present your birth plan to your doctors and nurses, and she can remind them of your specific desires for the birth, but she cannot advocate for you on a medical level — that is to say, she cannot determine when and how you get medication, or whether certain interventions and treatments are necessary. She can advocate for you and be your voice when you’re in the depths of your labor, but she can’t make medical decisions about your care. Only you and your doctors can do that.
Regarding your concerns about your husband’s experience, I think hiring a doula would be a great way to make him feel more at ease and capable during your birth. Plenty of new moms worry that their partners are going to freak out during labor, and studies have shown that not just mothers, but parents have more positive childbirth and postpartum experiences when they hire a doula. Offbeat Mama also recently talked about how doulas are there to support you AND your partner.