Sunday, January 15, 2012

Doula for a Home Birth

I think its interesting that most people I encounter who know little to nothing about doulas right away tend to assume that I attend only home births. They'll ask something about if I do mostly home births or if I'll do hospital births, too, or if I only do births in water, or even if I catch babies. "Doula," if its even known, is assumed to be a "hippy" or "alternative" choice, associated with birthing at home. In reality, if I only attended home births, I might not have very many to attend! 99% of women in the U.S. deliver in the hospital. If I want to have any doula clients, in the hospital I must be! And, indeed, the reason many women hire a doula is precisely because they are giving birth in a hospital.

I also think its interesting, then, that many people who do think about planning a home birth do not think that a doula is even necessary at a home birth at all. Many say that they have a midwife, what do they need a doula for? Won't the midwife do everything that a doula does? In reality, this varies. Some midwives may not show up early in labor, and may wait until the time seems close to attend the birth. Or, if they have other clients whose births are imminent, they may have to leave to attend them. Furthermore, if a midwife attends a birth without an assistant, then she isn't likely to be able to check blood pressure, take notes, set up birth equipment, etc AND provide the physical and informational support that a doula provides.
Photo Credit

There are some midwives who work in pairs, where one can take care of the medical side of things and the other can provide doula support. And there are many midwives who want to be there in a doula capacity for a long labor! But this is not true 100% of the time, and many women and partners feel they greatly benefit from having a doula at their home birth.

To read more about perspectives on doulas at home births, check out this post from Citizens for Midwifery: Doulas and Homebirth

What do you think about Doulas at Home Births?



  1. I had a home birth, and greatly benefited from a doula as well. And this, despite having: 1 primary midwife, 1 student midwife, backup midwife (who arrived when I started pushing), my mother and father, my husband AND my doula. Home birth for me is a time of great celebration, and I wanted to surround myself with positive and helpful people. Plus, we didn't know how comfortable my husband or mother would be with the "support" role, so the doula was there just in case (and my mother really DID suck at supporting me...she was just too nervous!) Doulas can also help in the "homemaker" role, by making coffee/tea/snacks/meals for the rest of the birth support team. She can assist in cleaning up as well. This is especially useful if you're not planning on inviting any other family members to your home for the birth. In my experience, midwives love having doulas around, because even with 2 midwives, there's still so much that needs to be done.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your good experience, Misty!

  3. Sometimes doulas at home births (or elsewhere) can fill unusual but really valuable roles outside the kind of labor support we might think of first. My partner will be my primary support person again--we didn't have or want a doula at our first (freestanding birth center) birth. For this second (home) birth, we'll have our midwife plus an advanced midwifery student, and we have a very close relationship with these people. So, lots of support for me, more even than during my first birth. But even so, we're hiring a doula (or possibly a third midwife--can't have too many midwives, right?) to support, take care of, and answer questions for our five-year-old, who will also be attending the birth. That way he's still someone's first priority, leaving Eric and me more able to focus on my labor.

  4. That's great, Molly!

    At home births I did find some of my time spent on giving siblings someone to talk to, helping clean up, and obtaining drinks for others.


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