Dear yayas,

I’m 16 weeks pregnant with my first baby and am planning a hospital birth. My husband will be with me. A few mom friends have talked about hiring doulas for their births. I don’t know much about them other than they are “certified birth attendants,” but I’m not sure what that means. Do I need a doula? Do you think my husband will be offended with someone else there? He’s great and all, but I’m not sure he will know what to do when I’m in labor. My friends rave about their doulas, but I’m on the fence. Is it worth the extra cost? Are nurses like doulas? Birth seems like such a personal thing, I’m really torn between just having it be me and my husband or hiring a doula. Did any of you use one? Would you recommend hiring a doula? 

– Pregnant and Preparing

Hi Pregnant and Preparing! Great question! I did not have a doula present at either of my births. I think it is such a personal decision. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer—it’s what you prefer. A doula will advocate for you, keep you comfortable, help you find easier ways to labor. This person would not fulfill the same role as your husband, so you would not be replacing him. My mom was present for my first birth, and I lucked out by having a great labor nurse as well as a midwife I trusted completely. My second birth was just my husband and I with two wonderful midwives. I had uncomplicated pregnancies, and am pretty private, so that influenced my decision. I have close friends who say they will never labor without their doula. It wouldn’t hurt for you to interview a few doulas in your area and see if you connect with them. I think, for me, that would have been a big thing; if I could connect with them and feel comfortable having someone else there, it would be ok. Good luck! Whatever you choose, it will be right for you. – Cortney

No, you don’t need another person at the birth. When I had babies they didn’t even allow the husbands in until after the baby was born and then my husband had to dress like a doctor in white gown and slippers. I think it is wonderful if you can have your husband with you and he is the one who is by your side. – Grama Claire Bear

I don’t have any knowledge of doulas but I love the idea of having one for the support and assistance. When I had my baby I had a midwife and took Bradley Method natural childbirth classes (which is husband coached). I’m so thankful for the midwife! And for having a birth plan. The Bradley Method was great for the deep breathing and relaxation exercises, those really helped me. The husband coached part – hmmm. It was mainly for him I think and for some families, that is really important. Also, he knew what his job was and that was good because our daughter never left his sight during birth and our time in the hospital. – Taren

Hello Pregnant and Preparing, Congratulations on your pregnancy! I personally did not have a doula, however, our hospital has a dedicated Women’s Hospital wing, and I had a really great connection with my OB, who was there for me through all three pregnancies and delivered my first two children. She advocated for me and understood (in advance) my wishes, which for me were to labor as long as possible without an epidural but that I would likely eventually want one. However, I will tell you that in a hospital the labor nurses and OBs are likely to have multiple patients they are working with while you are laboring and will be going in and out of the room. Labor can take several hours. If your husband is squeamish at all or may be uncomfortable seeing you in pain as your labor progresses, I’d consider looking into having a doula there. She can help you with different positions to keep you most comfortable throughout your labor of you think it might be overwhelming for your husband. You might also consider signing up for a childbirth class with him and seeing how confident you both feel afterwards. I had very textbook pregnancies. But, I am also a pushy person who won’t hesitate to advocate for myself or bug a nurse. Thinking back on it, I guess a doula might be beneficial for you, at least for your first childbirth experience. But no matter who is involved, whether it is your husband, your OB, a midwife or a doula, making sure they are on the same page with you regarding your wishes during labor is the most important thing. – Lorelei

Hello Pregnant and Preparing, I absolutely LOVED my doula and highly recommend having one. My biggest concern with having a hospital birth was being rushed through the process. I was also a first time mom and had no idea what to expect and neither did my husband. Having our doula in the room was not like having a stranger but more like having a familiar person to guide us. She really helped bring my husband and I closer together through the process. It felt very comfortable having her there and honestly her presence was subtle. She jumped in when we really needed her but stood back when we didn’t. It was also wonderful having her as an advocate for giving us space and having the room to ourselves. For example after you have the baby the nurses tend to rush you to the recovery room. Instead, our doula advised that everyone leave the room and allowed my husband and I to have skin-to-skin with our baby without anyone around (including our doula). Things like that just made the process go smoothly and I felt very confident during the whole process. I hope this is helpful and congratulations on your journey as a new mom. – Nadia

As with lots of parenting decisions, this is another one of those that is definitely a personal choice. I had one labor/birth with a doula and one without, and honestly, there were pros and cons to each. I think that since you’re considering the idea, I’d go ahead and explore it – meet/interview a doula and see how you feel. Also, it’s a good opportunity to talk with your significant other about the role he will be playing during labor and birth. You will have a better idea of your feelings if you explore your options and then go from there. – Diana

I’m a big fan of doulas! I had 3 births and 3 different doulas. They are this amazing, educated “neutral party” who keeps your goals and best interest in mind. They provide support, information, and comfort. It is absolutely worth interviewing a few to find out more. I’d hate for you not to get one and keep wondering “what if.” Doulas don’t replace partners, they are a whole different layer of support for both parents. Talk with your husband. Talk with doulas. And congratulations! – Lori Beth

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