Hiring a Professional Labor Assistant
Another option worth considering is hiring a doula, or professional labor assistant. The word “doula” derives from the Greek term meaning “in service.” This is a good explanation of what a doula does. She is in service to your partner and you, helping you in a variety of nonmedical ways.
A doula is not a medical person. She is not trained in medicine, nor can she advise you on medical matters. She is not a hospital employee, but rather is hired by you to provide physical and emotional support during the birthing experience. The cost usually ranges from $300 to $500, with most doulas charging somewhere in the middle of the range.
What a Doula Does
Doulas cite evidence that shows labor tends to be shorter, far fewer drugs are used, forceps delivery occurs much less, and the Cesarean rate is cut virtually in half when they are present at births. They say that their presence can make the labor less arduous and provide a better birthing experience for women. Doulas are almost all women, and they are frequently mothers who decided to become birth assistants after going through childbirth themselves. Most have assisted at dozens of births.
What does a doula do? She helps the mother focus on her breathing and concentration. She gets her to sit up in bed and change positions in order to keep the labor progressing. She will bring a bag of birthing aids to assist the mother. One of these may be a birthing ball, a big round plastic ball that the mother can use in numerous ways, including sitting on, squatting on, resting on, and supporting her body during contractions. A doula may also bring hot and cold packs with her and know massage techniques such as where to apply counter-pressure during contractions.
Surveys indicate that physicians deliver about 85 percent of all babies, while midwives oversee about 10 percent of all births. Doulas are present for roughly 5 percent of all babies born. Couples generally give high marks to their physicians as well as midwives, with the doulas also receiving high quality ratings for support given to the mother during labor.
How the Doula Supports You
Even if a member of your partner's family will be in the room with you, you still may want to hire a doula. At the same time, you may be thinking, “Heck, why do I need to pay someone to do stuff I can do myself?” Many men also worry that a doula will take over their job.
The truth is, you are going to get tired and possibly frustrated, and a doula may be able to employ methods and techniques of moving the labor along that you are not aware of. She is a woman, probably a mom, and she knows what your partner is going through. She is also a nonmedical person with experience you can confide in. The doula will be an assistant to your partner and you, not someone who is there to run the show.
You may need to take a break from time to time but not want to leave your partner alone. You may have had to leave your car in emergency parking and, after checking your partner into the hospital, you may not have even had five minutes to go back downstairs and move your car to the overnight hospital parking lot where it belongs. Having a doula (or family member, or both) assisting in the birth gives you more freedom and flexibility and takes some of the weight off your shoulders.
A birth coach has a lot of responsibility. He is his partner's greatest cheerleader and her chief advocate at the hospital. He must support her physically and emotionally. He must sometimes make decisions on her behalf as well as his unborn child's. With everything that is going on, you may want to enlist a family member or hire a trained labor assistant to help make the birth experience as smooth as possible.