Swedish Hospital doula program for all women, no matter their delivery plans

September 22, 2016

When first-time mom Jessica Bertrand heard about the Swedish Doula Program from her doctor, she knew it was something she was interested in pursuing. Jessica hired Shelia Kandeler, one of the doulas contracted with Swedish.

“My doula was absolutely amazing. During my pregnancy, she was there to answer any questions I had and she checked on me frequently,” says Jessica. “Trying to find a doula on my own was a little daunting, but knowing Swedish had already vetted this group of doulas made the process easy. I was matched with doulas to interview based on my interests and personality, which took a lot of guesswork and uncertainty out of the process.”

Swedish out in front

Swedish is the first hospital in Washington to create a paid doula program. “Having doulas on the birth team just makes sense,” says Dr. Tanya Sorensen, executive director of Women’s Services at Swedish. “The research shows us that doulas improve medical outcomes. Doulas help women stay calm and relaxed. When women are less stressed and more comfortable, their labors go more smoothly and they have better experiences.

Extra support

Jessica’s experience bears this out. She wanted to be in labor without pain medication for as long as possible. Her doula used breathing techniques, position changes, massage and time in a warm bath to help Jessica manage contractions before she got an epidural.

“Shelia definitely helped me get as far as I did,” says Jessica. “She was supportive and reassuring. Even after having the epidural, her presence was pivotal in my labor progressing. She stayed with us every step of the way.” 

Help at home

Jessica also says she appreciated her doula’s support after they went home from the hospital. “Once we got home, she continued to check on us, making sure we were doing well with a new baby. She also checked on my emotional well-being, which was great. I can't sing her praises high enough,” Jessica says.

Swedish began its doula program in January 2016 with 27 doulas hired as independent contractors. Beginning in July, the program had to start putting patients on a waiting list because all the doulas were booked. After a rigorous application process, Swedish has added 15 more doulas to the team.

Support for partners, too

“Some husbands or partners are concerned a doula will replace them,” says lead doula Jocelyn Alt. “In fact, our job is to help support partners as well as the birthing person. One dad compared me to a sideline coach supporting him as the head coach. Another husband said I was like a skydiving instructor reminding him to pull the parachute cord when everything he learned in childbirth class seemed to fly out of his head.” Women delivering at Swedish can hire a Swedish doula for $500 to $2,000, depending on the doula’s experience. Health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) usually reimburse for doula services. Women are also welcome to bring private doulas to the hospital.

Any mom-to-be can have a doula

There is a myth that doulas are only for people planning a home birth or an unmedicated birth,” says Kellie Ryan, manager of Women’s Health Product Lines at Swedish. “But over and over, we find that patients find tremendous value in the personal connection and support of a doula, no matter what type of labor they plan or how it unfolds.”

New mom Carolyn Schauble agrees. 

“Our labor and delivery didn't go as we had hoped but this was made much easier by [Swedish doula] Lisa Shire, who was a warm and constant presence in the midst of doctors and nurses who rotated on and off shift,” says Carolyn. “Later my husband and I said to each other that hiring Lisa was the best decision we made. She was worth every penny and we would hire her again in a heartbeat.” 

To learn more, check out our Doula Services or call 206-215-6106 to find the right doula for you.

Swedish delivers more babies every year than any other hospital in western Washington. If you need a doctor or midwife, let us help you find one who delivers at one of our four birth centers. Call 206-386-2229 to get started.