Do I Need a Doula Too?

After all, we’re working on hypnobirthing as a couple—practice, practice, practice, right?

Yes, and a doula will be helpful too.

The majority of my students (~75%) will not hire a doula, and will choose to labor as a duo with their hypnobirthing tools. They’ll use those tools to great effect — almost all will report positive birth experiences. Each mother who practices the techniques knows how to work with, rather than against her body, and each birth companion has learned how and when to support the process. So, pretty much everyone is well served by dependable skills to relax the body and calm the mind, and it just helps to hold a clear roadmap for smart self-advocacy. Even if something goes to the side of their original plan, these well-equipped parents are primed to make the most of their labor and birth experience.

Still, a doula will be helpful. Although only about a quarter of my students engage a doula, I’ve yet to hear anyone say they’re sorry they hired one.

An expectant mother recently emailed about the question of hiring a doula, saying she was looking forward to the intimate connection she and her partner are creating with the tools, and was unsure of the benefit of bringing a third person in for their birth … this is what I said to her:

A doula will bring experience and tools that aren’t (and couldn’t be) taught in the class. You and your partner will implement the hypnobirthing tools and a doula supports that process. A doula makes it easier for your partner to devote more focus to you and be more present for  you. Also, sometimes medical discussions come up and decisions need to be made. In that situation, although a doula doesn’t offer medical advice or speak on your behalf, it’s pretty great to have someone experienced to talk things over with. And it helps to have that person be someone who likes you a lot (but doesn’t love you), someone who brings insight, and someone who’s not responsible for your medical care. Parents who hire a doula find having that extra layer of knowledge and reassurance, particularly in a hospital context, is valuable.

While I always respect and support my students’ choices, and so would never “urge” anyone to hire a doula, I do happily encourage expectant parents to consider it.

Choosing a doula? Here are three priorities when making a selection (listed here in order of importance).

  1. Rapport! At that first interview your doula and you (and your partner) should “click” on a gut level. Discussing things with a prospective doula should help you both feel more clear and centered. Whether you’re shy and don’t want a lot of attention or you’re a boisterous goofball, you should feel as if the doula just “gets” you.  Whether you want a doula present at the earliest signs of labor or making an appearance only when and if you send for them well along labor’s road, you can find a fit. My cautionary note on doula selection … think twice about a doula who seems to have a strong agenda about how you “should” birth—it’s about you, and a great doula will support whatever path you choose.
  2. Experience.  Keeping item 1 in mind, the next priority is experience. And this is all about what you want, there isn’t a right amount of experience. Some parents prefer to get the most seasoned doula they can afford, to take advantage of the “wisdom” factor. Other families will prefer a newer doula, to tap into the “learning” energy of someone coming in fresh to the profession. Either way, keep item 1 in mind … if the person looks great on paper but you don’t feel good rapport, talk to some others.
  3. Hypnobirthing experience . . .  Least important of the three, and kind of not a thing. A doula’s understanding of the principles of hypnobirthing will be valuable, though specialized training isn’t a meaningful advantage. A doula that you’re hitting it off with (remember item 1?) is likely to be philosophically aligned with hypnobirthing, and will then be bringing additional tools. It’s like … you and your birth companion are having a party and providing the main course (hypnobirthing) and the doula’s bringing the salad, bread, keeping the water glasses refilled.

So the answer is … though not required, a doula will be a helpful addition to your birth experience, meeting you where you are along the way.