Meghan Markle is Hiring a Doula. Should You?
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have already broken centuries of royal tradition and reports are they are about to break another one when they welcome their first child. It has been reported that Meghan has hired a doula to help her through childbirth, something that no royal in recent memory has done. Meghan's reported plans to use a doula have sparked interest around the world in what doulas are and what they do.
The word doula is a Greek word meaning “woman's servant.” A doula's job is to help women through the birthing process by providing emotional and physical support. Doulas are trained professionals, but they are not medical professionals and do not deliver babies on their own. Doulas can, however, provide education around choices in childbirth and empower women to make choices with which they are comfortable before, during, and after labor.
Doulas can do just about anything a laboring mom needs during labor, from providing comfort measures, such as suggesting different laboring positions and providing cool washcloths and ice chips, to relieving a tired partner and taking over his duties in the birthing room. Unlike nurses, doctors, and some midwives, doulas typically stay by the mother's side throughout her labor. Many doulas also provide some support after the baby is born in helping the new mother find a safe and comfortable position in which to hold her newborn, help establish nursing, and massaging the feet of a tired mom who has just spent hours (or days) laboring.
Doulas also advocate for mothers during labor and help ensure that their birth plan is followed to the extent that it is possible and safe, as well as helping to fill any other needs or desires of the mother during labor, ranging from music choice to preferences as to how the birth is managed. While doulas may be more popular among moms attempting natural births (Meghan Markle is reportedly going to use hypnobirthing) moms planning epidurals and even c-sections have found doulas to be helpful.
It is not uncommon for a doula to spend more time with a laboring mom than any other professional involved in her birth, often meeting the mom at her home before she is ready to go to the hospital and staying with the mom for some time after her baby is born. Many doulas also meet with the mom-t0-be and her partner at least a couple of times during her pregnancy to get to know the expectant parents, answer questions, and help the expectant parents think through decisions they will have to make surrounding the birth. This helps ensure that the new parents and doula are comfortable with one another in the birthing room and that doula understands what the mom is hoping for while laboring. This is very important since a woman in labor may not be able to clearly think through her options or communicate her wishes in the moment.
Several studies have documented the benefits of having a doula. Benefits include the mother experiencing less pain, lower anxiety, and a lower cesarean rate. Partners also report a more positive experience when a doula is present. This is, in part, because even though a birthing mother's partner is supposed to be her main source of support, partners often are unsure of what they should be doing and may themselves become exhausted during the birthing process and appreciate the guidance of support of doula to help them best support their partner through labor.
If you are interested in hiring a doula, check out these suggested questions to ask. You can also start your search for a doula here. Be aware that despite the clear benefits of using a doula, most insurance plans will not cover the cost of using one and they may be expensive. Some doulas do offer sliding scale fees or even barters. There may even be student doulas available to assist mothers through labor at no cost.
Since cost is not a factor for Meghan, given all of the benefits of having a doula, it is not surprising that she is likely to use one for her upcoming birth. Would you consider using a doula?