Human nature is such that we don’t like seeing another human in pain. Even the natural pain that comes with childbirth can be disconcerting for the unprepared. The best way I’ve come to describe labor for someone who has never gone through labor is to find something that most people can relate to: ye olde hammer meets thumb moment.
If you have ever hit your thumb hard enough with a hammer that you can’t speak or you can’t think logically enough to do a simple math problem, then that’s sort of what labor can be like with each contraction for hours.
Now, before people get upset by my analogy, let me explain.
We all have some sort of mechanism for dealing with pain, that can be quiet and focusing, or vocal and rhythmic. The bigger picture for labor is that we need to know our coping skills and practice them enough where they become automatic.
Right now, reading this, you’re using the logical portion of your brain. In labor, we move to the much more survivalist portion of the brain. We need to become focused on dealing with the contractions. We can’t logically think through the pain.
A doula is usually a trained support person for a woman in labor or directly thereafter. Doulas can also take on two different types of roles, a more active supporting role or the quieter coaching type for partners.
A doula at a birth may shorten labor and may lower the risk of interventions such as forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans. Doulas understand the labor process and what maneuvers can help to progress labor. They work with their clients beforehand to find what type of birth experience a woman and her partner are looking for and will work with them to try to achieve that goal.
Postpartum doulas can help at home as the new family transitions. They can provide some guidance on new baby care and breastfeeding, as well as some will do some light housework or meal preparation.
There are a few insurance companies who may pay for some or all of a birth doula’s fee, which can range anywhere from $400 to $1000, on average. (It’s a fairly small investment for the benefits you get in return.)
So, the question back to you is, “To doula, or not to doula?”