My husband LOVES doulas, and it’s not just because he is married to one, either. He had heard all the doula statistics before we hired one. And after having a doula at one of our births, he would never consider going without one.
Our first doula brought him a breakfast burrito, our second a Mt. Dew, and our third gently rubbed my back while he took some time for self-care, aka, eating pizza.
Birth partners need energy, too!
Aside from feeding him, there are so many other reasons that he loves doulas.
If you listened to episode 35 on our podcast, you would know that Nick & Ric, mine and Meagan’s husbands, respectively, are sold on the doula model for five main reasons:
- Doulas saved them money
- Doulas helped move our births along quicker
- Doulas allowed them to pay attention to US and worry less about the logistics
- Doulas made them aware of things they had no idea they needed to know
- Doulas improved our birth outcomes and satisfaction with our birth experiences
If you don’t believe me, that’s ok! I have some science ready to back up those claims. Here are six myths about doulas and the important doula statistics, facts, and research you need to know.
Originally published in March 2019, this article was updated and republished on February 22, 2021.
When I tell people I am a birth doula; I get one of two reactions. Some people automatically “get it,” and their eyes light up, telling me about an experience with a doula or a loved one who is a doula.
Other people get a confused look on their faces and ask, “a do-what?”
It can be a little challenging to explain, with no thanks to the media or entertainment industry for their portrayal of what they think alternative birth support looks like.
There is a LOT more to being a doula than hip squeezes and a “you can do it!” attitude. Before we get into the benefits of a doula, let’s bust some common misconceptions about the profession.
Myth 1: Doulas are expensive
Most birth partners’ first thought when they hear about doulas is, “What is this going to cost me?”
Doulas in Utah typically run in the $800 – $1,500 range, depending on experience. This price range may be higher or lower in your area.
But what if I told you that doula statistics show a decreased need for additional medical procedures that cost lots of money? In many cases, having a doula can save you money on the total cost of your birth.
Doulas are trained professionals who pay taxes, business registration fees, and other business expenses. They put miles and miles on their car, traveling to births and prenatal appointments. They spend hours texting, calling, and emailing you and are available for you 24/7. Most doulas spend 30-40 hours with each client.
With overhead costs and the intangibles, the take-home pay as a doula is pretty average.
Doulas put their life on hold for you. They miss birthdays, soccer games, gymnastics meets, and family events to attend your birth and stay close enough to be ready when it’s time.
Whenever, wherever, or however your baby decides to come, she is there, no matter what. The value of that alone is priceless.
Myth 2: Doulas replace the birth partner
Dads need doulas, too. Doulas are not meant to replace anyone on the birth team, especially the birth partner.
So what is a doula, exactly?
A good doula will complement the dad or other birth partner and encourage him to help support his partner in all the best ways, often giving him tips or advice that he wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
Doulas are continually keeping an eye on what is going on in the birth space. They make sure that, as long as medically safe, the birth is going as expected and the mother’s needs are being met.
A doula has access to so many resources to direct you to quickly. The bottom line: she frees you up to pay attention to your birth partner because she knows what is important to both of you.
Boom! Stress relief to the max.
Myth 3: Doulas are the same as midwives
Although doulas do work with midwives, their roles are very different. A common thing we hear is, “I have a midwife, so I don’t need a doula.”
The doula career path is very different from that of a midwife; the most important thing to note is that a doula is a non-medical professional.
In contrast, a midwife is a skilled medical professional who provides care for pregnant people during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum. They take care of all the things necessary on the medical side, including prenatal and postpartum screenings, labor monitoring and check, and delivering the baby.
Midwives offer excellent care. We are grateful for them and the more personal medical care they provide; however, doulas and midwives have very different roles.
Doulas usually come to your home or another place of choice and spend a lot of time getting to know you before birth. She will learn how she can best serve you, how you learn best, and ideas to help you cope through pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
When your provider or other staff members come and go from your room, a doula is your constant, always by your side. Through shift rotations and the hustle and bustle of birth, you can count on your doula to be your rock, always there with a confident, reassuring look in her eyes.
While midwives check on the baby, the doula is always concerned with the parents.
Myth 4: Doulas are only for the mother
Doulas help everyone in the birth space. Some of my favorite experiences as a doula are calming both partners’ uncertainty by educating and preparing them for what’s ahead.
I have been able to help turn less-than-ideal situations into ones that the birthing family can take ownership of. As a doula, I’ve been able to help people have an empowering birth, despite nothing going according to plan.
The best feeling in the world is when a birth partner looks me in the eyes and says, “I am SO glad we got a doula!”
Anyone else involved in the birth? Doulas are there for them, too!
Doulas can help your other children be involved and update the grandparents or other family and friends of what’s going on. They also positively interact with hospital staff to facilitate an encouraging and uplifting birth environment.
Myth 5: Doulas are hippies who chant and sacrifice chickens during the birth
If you don’t understand why this is not only funny but a myth that needs debunking, you HAVE to listen to episode 39 of our podcast. We talk with 5 VBAC dads and grill them on everything from birth prep to VBAC to doulas. You HAVE to listen, the chicken thing is an inside joke, and you need to be on the inside.
While many doulas have a little bit of “hippie” in them, certified doulas are highly trained professionals with intimate knowledge of the birth process. We work alongside the medical system (not against it) to support the person giving birth, emotionally and physically.
Having a third set of eyes on things will help you as you navigate through pregnancy and childbirth.
Myth 6: Doulas only support home or unmedicated births
Doulas go where you go. Most babies in the United States are born in hospitals, and the doula statistics show they are valuable in a hospital setting.
Doulas will also support you through Cesarean birth, whether planned or not. Doulas can also educate you about options for a more family-centered Cesarean birth that can help make both parents more comfortable and even provide benefits for the baby.
Doula Facts and Statistics
Now that we’ve cleared up common misconceptions, let’s get down to doula statistics and research. These facts show just how valuable it is to have a doula as a member of your birth team.
Fact 1: Doulas help you cut costs
An updated Cochrane review shows the following results happen during labor and birth for those with continuous labor support:
- 39% decrease in the chance of having a C-section
- 15% increase in the chance of having a spontaneous vaginal delivery (non-induced)
- 10% decrease in the need for any medication for pain relief
- 41-minute average reduction in the length of labor
- 38% decrease in low 5 minute APGAR score
- 31% increase in satisfaction with the overall birth experience
In the U.S., an epidural alone costs an average of $2,132! Yikes! The doula statistics listed above show that having a doula can save a ton of money on the overall cost of birth, avoiding unnecessary interventions and helping you cope with the discomforts of labor.
Fact 2: Doulas help both parents
Doula research shows they enrich the birth experience and make it more likely that you will look back on the day you gave birth with fondness.
Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite articles on doula support from a dad’s perspective. New dad, Isaac, gives parents the best advice, perfectly describing how a doula supports both the person giving birth AND their partner:
Do you know the quickest way to remove a hospital gown from a woman in the middle of an intense contraction? Can you coach her through the hardcore transition phase and hours of exhausting pushing? Do you have any clue what occiput posterior position is and how problematic it can be for the mother? When blood comes — and there will be blood — will you have any idea how much is normal scary and how much is legit terrifying?
No. Because you’re not a doula.Isaac James Baker
You don’t need to know everything about childbirth because your doula does.
I had a doula with all four of my births, and all four times, my doulas brought food for my husband or gave him some space to eat and a moment to rest. It also helped him focus 100% of his energy on me because my doula had the rest covered.
As a doula, I always have one eye on mom and one on dad. Ensuring the birth partner has the energy and strength to support the birth giver is just as vital. When push comes to push, it’s time for both parents to bond and connect as they bring their new addition into the world together.
Fact 3: Doulas go through extensive training
Professional doulas go through in-depth training through credible organizations. To become a doula, a person needs to take training that consists of 8-12 hours of childbirth education, 10-15 hours of labor and birth support training, and complete a requirement for hands-on support. They typically have to attend several births before their training and certification are complete.
In addition to basic doula training, most doulas keep learning and seek out additional training and certifications such as:
- Advanced VBAC Doula Certification
- HypnoBabies Hypno-Doula Certification
- Stillbirthday Training
- MamasteFit Birth Workers Course
- Spinning Babies® Workshop
- And many more!
A professional doula is continually working to increase her knowledge and experience to best support your family and birth goals.
Fact 4: Doulas are professionals in a growing industry
While 2020 was an unprecedented year for all things, it also hindered doula support in a hospital setting. With hospitals restricting the number of people allowed inside, many parents switched to home birth or a birth center to have the support team they needed.
Despite this perceived setback, the doula profession is projected to grow by 18% from 2015 -2020. The pandemic lit a fire and passion in some parents, encouraging them to stand up for and learn about all their options.
This empowerment and reframing of how we consider birth is likely to grow, and the need for doulas and community-based midwives will keep growing.
Fact 5: Doulas help educate you on your options
Did you know that having prenatal childbirth education increases your likelihood of vaginal delivery by 22%? Guess what? Doulas do that, too.
Doulas will get to know you and your birth preferences when you meet before your baby comes. She will help educate you on any pregnancy complications that may come up and will be a sounding board to provide you with up-to-date, evidence-based information that you can use to make decisions along with your trusted care provider.
Her job is not to replace a medical professional’s advice but to help guide you along in the decision-making process, so you are the primary decision-maker of your care.
While most providers cannot go through every single available option for your birth preferences with you, a doula can; most providers are happy to accommodate deviations from standard care when asked.
Need ideas to help labor move along naturally? A doula knows that. Need help figuring out labor positions to encourage baby to engage in the pelvis? We’ve got you. Want to avoid immediate cord clamping? A doula has your back. Need to know what other options may be available for VBAC induction? A doula can tell you.
She will connect with you and learn more about the birth partner(s), so she can help them feel comfortable and involved on the birthing day. She will also help you mentally prepare for labor, teaching you useful coping tools. She will educate you on what is expected during labor and what you can expect to happen next.
She will provide continuous support before, during, and after labor and may even educate you on dilation, effacement, and the stages of labor. She will also help you understand complicated medical terminology and processes so you can go into the birth space feeling comfortable and educated.
Having a doula is like having a childbirth educator in your back pocket.
Fact 6: Doulas support all types of birth at all locations
Doulas provide better birth outcomes, regardless of birth location. Doula statistics show they are especially helpful in a hospital setting.
One study showed that parents expected their labor and delivery nurse to spend 53% of their time with them. In reality, nurses spent only 6%-10% of their time on labor support activities.
Your doula spends 100% of her time with you and 100% of it supporting you through labor.
Your doula is a professional and likely knows the birth environment in the hospitals where she serves. She will be like your local guide, helping you navigate, preparing you for what comes next, and helping you when unexpected things come up.
If, or when you are ready for an epidural, doulas support you 100%. We even know great ways to labor with an epidural to help prevent common labor hangups and help your baby descend while you rest.
One of the most common reasons for a Cesarean is failure to progress. Doulas know how to keep labor moving right at home or in a hospital, even with an epidural.
Still not convinced? A study on the impact of a doula on a healthy birth experience shares the following about doula support in a hospital:
… the modern hospital birthing process tends to be highly interventionist, taking away decision making from mothers. This results in many unwanted and, in many cases, unwarranted procedures. Medical providers sometimes prefer women to be compliant and recommend procedures to ward off pain and discomfort. However, these actions may actually interfere with birth outcomes, with mothers counseled to focus on their comfort and not necessarily on the possible implications of those interventions on the birth of their baby, the baby’s immediate health, or on later complications from these procedures. A doula serves as a mother’s advocate, providing a woman a sympathetic but informed ear for the choices that the birthing staff may ask her to make during the birthing process… The doula empowers decisions that are made in the best interest of both the mother and her child.Impact of Doulas on Healthy Birth Outcomes
Ready for More Information on Doula Support?
Ready to find a doula?
Knowing how to start looking for a doula can feel overwhelming. Besides asking for recommendations in your local community, we have a directory of VBAC-trained doulas from all over the world. You can also search databases like DoulaMatch, DONA, and CAPPA.
If you’re concerned about preparing for a VBAC, hiring a doula can help you gain the confidence you need to navigate unexpected things that come with pregnancy and delivery.
Interview doulas with your birth partner, and interview as many as you need until you find the right doula, whether it is the first one or the ninth one.
Listen to your gut feeling and choose the doula with whom you have the best connection. They will be part of one of the most memorable days of your life, so having a strong connection is very important.
If you need help knowing what questions to ask a doula, you can download our doula interview questionnaire to help guide you along the way.
Did you have a doula? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.
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