What is a doula??
A doula is traditionally a woman, trained and/or experienced in supporting a birthing person during the childbearing year. A doula offers her mind, her heart, and her hands, for the well-being of the birthing person. A doula does not provide any clinical or medical care, and is different from a midwife, doctor, nurse or montrice. A doula offers emotional, physical, and educational support. A doula strives to be knowledgeable, supportive, compassionate, and open. A doula can be of benefit in both home and hospital births.
What is a birth keeper?
I am at heart a birth keeper - a term the late Jeannine Parvati Baker created in reference to those Birth Workers (doulas, midwives, teachers...) who are also Earth Keepers (Eco-activists and those who value the wisdom of the Earth). I am committed to remembering the sacred nature of birth and holding space for the women I serve. I believe, as she did, that we can "heal the earth one birth at a time"
How useful is a doula - - really?
Worldwide clinical studies (click here for the current stats) have consistently shown that women who have the support of a doula are more likely to experience:
- - a shorter labour with fewer interventions.
- a lower chance of surgical or instrumental delivery.
- - a lower need for pain medications.
- - a greater sense of satisfaction with their birth.
- - a baby with a good 5 minute APGAR score
.... those things in turn can often lead to:
- - a baby who breastfeeds more readily.
- a smoother emotional postpartum adjustment.
- - a secure sense of attachment to their baby.
When do I hire a doula?
Most clients hire a doula in their second trimester. Some hire shortly after they discover they are pregnant, while others choose to wait until the very last minute. If you do wait until the last minute, the doula you are hoping for may already have a full schedule. If you really want to make full use of all the skills and knowledge your doula has to offer, hiring her earlier in your pregnancy is your best option.
How much does it cost to hire a doula (& why that much!) ?
You can usually expect to pay between $500 and $1500+ to hire a birth doula in the Northumberland, Quinte, and Durham regions. A doula-in-training may charge on the lower end, and if you live closer to Toronto or are hiring a doula with extensive experience, the fees often lean more towards the $1000-$1500+ range.
As a doula myself for more than 13 years, I believe that making a living wage is essential to doulas being able to meet the needs of their clients, and their own families, for the long-term. Most doulas burn out within just a few years and the financial toll is often a leading factor in this burnout. The exact fee an individual doula charges depends largely on the cost of living in her area, her level of experience, and her services offered. The fee typically includes things like prenatal visits and preparation, on-call time, labour support, and postpartum time, although some doulas include other services in their package too. The fee your doula charges may feel like a lot - - but did you know that hiring a doula costs less than the average Canadian wedding dress? (source) .... and the benefits of doula support last a lifetime! How a woman remembers her experience of giving birth has a significant impact on how she sees herself as a person, as a mother, and on how she relates to her child(ren). (source) When you hire a qualified doula who is a good fit for you, there are immediate benefits, and long-term benefits as well, for you and your family. If you are concerned that you can't afford to hire a doula, or that the doula you want to hire is out of your price range, please know that many doulas offer a sliding scale and/or alternate payment arrangements when needed.
Do you offer discounts, reduced fees, or a 'budget' package?
I do have special offers from time to time - typically these include free bonus offers like reflexology treatments or product credits, and payment plans can be arranged. Although I am not able to provide discounts or reduced fees, I do have a number of valuable links and handouts available at no charge, and am actively involved in my community - providing information & support whenever I can to women in need. I am also open to discussing your unique circumstances, and will do the best I can to help you get the care you deserve!
Will my private health insurance cover the cost of a doula?
If you have private health insurance or health benefits, doula care may be covered (through a flexible health spending account, for example). If you are interested in this possibility, be sure to contact your insurance representative in advance. Sometimes a written 'prescription' for doula care from your healthcare provider, and/or a letter from your doula can help facilitate your request.
Won't my family and friends feel left out?
Actually, most of the time family and friends feel better about their involvement when a good doula is present. Nothing can replace the care of your loved ones, however, helping someone through the birth and postpartum period can be hard work, and a doula can ease that burden for everyone. I can provide gentle guidance for your loved ones (from the most squeamish to the most enthusiastic!) so they can each be involved in a way that is truly comfortable and helpful - for them, and for you!
What about dads/partners?
I believe that birth is a life-changing experience for the birthing person - AND - it is a life-changing experience for partners as well. My job is not to replace your loved ones, but to provide support which fits naturally into your relationship, so that your birth & postpartum time can be a positive experience for everyone. Some partners wish to be very hands-off, while others wish to be very hands-on - I've worked with both, and most fall somewhere in the middle. Please visit the For Partners page, to learn more.
What about military families?
Being in the military presents unique challenges for families, and it is my privilege to work with women in the CFB Trenton community. Having the support of a doula can be especially beneficial for those who may not have an extensive local support network or whose partner is not able to be with them.
What about surrogates and intended parents?
The surrogacy journey is both beautiful and complex, as the birthing person and the intended parents seek a balance between meeting their own needs and desires while also respecting the needs and desires of the others involved in the journey towards parenthood. A doula provides emotional, physical, and educational support to help ensure the birthing woman's needs are kept in balance through the intensity of labour and birth, which can be a relief to all involved.
Do you give advice about mainstream or complementary medicine options?
I provide hands-on (physical) support and comfort measures, information, and education. I can help you understand what options your caregiver presents you with, explain common medical terminologies in everyday language, and help you explore a wide range of options and alternatives. I am happy to help you explore the role which herbs, aromatherapy, homeopathy and so on may play in your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experience. I do not perform any medical/clinical tasks, give medical advice, or offer treatment protocols or prescriptions. I help you find the answers you need, so that you can use your own best judgment when making decisions about the health of you and your baby. I encourage you to consult with appropriate health care providers whenever you feel it is necessary.
What if I want an epidural or other medical pain relief?
While some women do wish to have a medication-free birth experience, and I believe that this is possible for women when they have the support they feel they need, for other women, an epidural really is the best choice. I support you in whatever pain-relief decisions you need to make. While an effective epidural can reduce some of the physical sensations of labour, I can still support you through the many remaining physical and emotional challenges of birth.
What if I want a natural birth?
I believe natural birth is an amazing and achievable goal, and that when women have the support they feel they need, almost anything is possible! Natural birth means different things to different people (medication free? vaginal? orgasmic? intervention-free? unassisted? water-birth? something else?), so we would begin by exploring more specifically what your hopes are for natural birth, so that I can help you achieve your goals.
Won't my nurse or my doctor do everything I need?
Doctors and nurses are essential players in the medical care you and your baby receive. They are focused primarily on achieving a physically safe delivery for mother and baby. Unfortunately, time constraints due to caring for multiple women, documenting labour progress, etc, typically prevent your nurse and doctor from also providing continuous hands-on comfort. Doulas are specially equipped to provide this continuous comfort.
What about midwives?
A registered midwife is a primary/medical care provider for healthy low risk pregnant women and I encourage you to explore this possibility for your medical care. (All persons working as midwives in the province of Ontario must be registered in order to legally practice). If you choose midwifery care and the practice local to you is not full when you apply, you will be assigned a team of midwives to oversee your medical care. Your midwives will care for you during your pregnancy, then typically join you in active labour, and provide comprehensive medical care to mother and baby as well as 6 weeks of postpartum care for mother and baby. Midwives understand that your psychological wellbeing is important too. They strive to provide care which is compassionate and respectful and they may offer suggestions for comfort and emotional support *as time and circumstances permit*. Doula-type care is not their primary role however and it must at times take a backseat to them ensuring your medical needs are met according to the standards set by their College and the community, and that everything is thoroughly documented. Ontario registered midwives are fully funded and overseen by the government of Ontario as primary healthcare providers - there is no charge to the client.
A doula provides ONLY non-medical support and works directly for you. You hire and pay a doula personally and directly so you can choose the doula who you feel best meets your needs. A doula can be hired at any time throughout your pregnancy and will provide varying levels of support depending on her individual business model. Doulas are not healthcare professionals and may choose to become certified or not, through a variety of doula training organizations. Your doula joins you in labour whenever you feel you need her - including for the sometimes tiring or confusing early labour phase if needed - and stays with you continuously. A doula's sole focus is providing you with emotional, educational, and physical support - including natural comfort measures.
When you choose midwives for your medical care a doula can still be an invaluable addition to your birth team, as the doula role and midwifery role have similarities but are fundamentally different.
Do you support unassisted births?
Some people choose, for any number of reasons, to give birth with limited or no professional medical support present. While this is not a common choice, I fully support the birthing person's right to make this choice if they feel it is best for them. We each weigh risk uniquely so what one person deems as too dangerous another considers the most reasonable path. It is not my place to tell you what choice you should make. That being said, a doula is NOT a medical professional. While I am experienced in providing emotional, physical, and educational support during the birth process I am not trained, equipped, educated, or qualified to provide medical care in place of a midwife or other medical professional.
If on the other hand your birth unfolds very rapidly and you have not made it to your chosen birthing location or your midwife has not made it to you, I will do my best to provide assistance to you in the context of first aid and generally under the guidance of either a midwife or 911 operator. I carry a digital camera with me and in circumstances such as this, my camera would be set to record in order to protect all involved.
What if my medical caregiver (doctor or midwife) says I don't need a doula, or they don't endorse the doula I want to hire?
Well, like EVERY other decision about your pregnancy and birth, it is ultimately about what YOU need and what YOU feel is best. Some caregivers have misconceptions about the role of a doula, or aren't up on the research about the benefits of doulas, and so they think doulas are unnecessary. Some caregivers have difficulty with a doula because part of the doula's role is to encourage their clients to make educated decisions and sometimes this means that a client starts asking questions, and stops "following doctors/midwives orders" unthinkingly, which can be really uncomfortable for the medical professional who is used to being a voice of authority. Sometimes there are personality differences, or different philosophies of birth at play as well which lead a caregiver to express a preference about who you have with you at your birth. My personal belief is that the birthing person is the one who should be at the heart of these decisions, and while both caregivers and doulas are allowed to have opinions of, and preferences about, each other, these should not interfere with the birthing person's expressed needs or desires.
One of the very valuable aspects of the doula care I provide, is that I strive to create an atmosphere of calm where everyone is focused on the birthing person's needs. My intention is always to facilitate the creation of safe space, so that you can tap into your own wisdom, courage, and healing ability as you seek your own best path forward. Some caregivers think this is awesome. Some don't. Ultimately the decision to hire a doula is a personal one and you need to make the decision that is right for you after exploring your options.
How do I decide which doula to hire?
I would encourage you to meet each of your potential doulas face to face so you can ask them questions and get a better feel for who they are and what they offer. While the basic services offered are pretty standard, some doulas offer additional services, or have unique skills, interests, or experiences that might make her a better fit for you. Personality and philosophy of care are important too. Some doulas are bubbly and outgoing; some are quiet and gentle... Some tend to be hands-off unless you tell them you need something; some take a more proactive approach... Some are very vocal in their role as your advocate, and others work more subtly to create space in which your voice is heard. In the end, I believe the right doula for you is the doula you feel most comfortable with.
You can read more about Choosing a Doula here