Pregnancy can be a pretty overwhelming experience. There is lots to do, lots of think about, lots to prepare for. Sometimes, it can be helpful to have someone on your side. Not just a best friend or a partner, but someone additional who can give you the support that maybe others aren’t always capable of. Or perhaps you’re a single parent-to-be and are in dire need of emotional support. Fortunately, there are such people out there, and they’re called. But exactly what is a doula, and when and why should you hire one? There are lots of factors to consider. Let’s look into them.

What Is a Doula?

According to DONA International, a doula is a hired, trained professional “who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.” What this means, is that they are someone you meet with throughout your pregnancy to discuss any and all concerns you have, from medical issues to your birth plan. While a doula is not necessarily a medical professional, their extensive experience in working with pregnant persons allows them to help find you whatever help you may need from the appropriate sources. A doula might help you find a good midwife or OB/GYN. They might go over what your local hospital’s labor and delivery policies are like. They can help you write a birth plan. They can show you relaxation techniques so you aren’t overly stressed for child birth.

Additionally, they’ll help support you during labor. They’ll be there to hold your hand, pass you water, get you food, rub your back, play soft music, change the lighting, help you in and out of a birthing tub, and more. Some are also trained in pain relief methods like massage and breathing techniques. They also serve as a backup in the event your needs a break.

So Why Hire One?

Not everyone needs a doula, but having a doula is definitely an added bonus for many. If you have a lot of close friends and/or family who have knowledge of child birth or are generally supportive people, you might want to save your money for the endless amounts of diapers you’ll eventually need. But if you’d feel comfortable having someone guide you through the pregnancy and birth experience, it’s a great way to have a doula by your side.

Additionally, your doula may work with you postpartum (or you might just get a postpartum doula) who can help with the baby and your transition into parenthood. This can mean everything from lactation consultations (if they have such training) to helping you better understand baby’s needs.

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(Image: iStock / LiudmylaSupynska)