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Studies have shown that mothers attended by doulas produce lower levels of stress hormones than those left alone in labor or attended by inexperienced father/coaches. If you are serious about not using drugs, a doula may be your best ally; and even if you think you might want to receive an epidural, a doula can help make the experience less stressful and more satisfying. Another great benefit of choosing to have a doula during labor and delivery is that a doula will be with you continuously throughout your labor and delivery, as opposed to the nurses who will probably come on and go off shift several times. A doula is also a welcomed relief for most nurses as they will probably have several patients at once and not be able to give you as much attention as you would like. Additionally, doulas can provide support as you begin breastfeeding and tips on newborn care.

Research has shown that hiring a doula results in a smoother, more natural birth. According to the authors of Mothering the Mother, How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth, a doula can mean the following:

  • 50 percent reduction in c-section rates
  • 25 percent shorter labor
  • 60 percent reduction in epidural requests
  • 40 percent reduction in oxytocin use
  • 30 percent reduction in analgesia use
  • 40 percent reduction in forcep delivery

Unfortunately, most health insurance companies do not cover doulas, so you may end up paying out of your own pocket. The cost of hiring a doula varies from area to area and doula to doula. What you pay for your doula will be based on how much experience she has and the going rate in your area. The range is usually $200 - $1000. However, because most doulas feel so strongly about what they do, many will set up a sliding scale or payment plans to help those who can't afford the service. So don't let cost keep you from researching and hiring a doula.

If you do decide to use the services of a doula, we recommend you choose one who is certified through a nationally-recognized organization. These women undergo rigorous training and testing and have assisted at numerous births.

In many cases expectant couples find out about good doulas through word of mouth. Other places to look for referrals are organizations associated with childbirth, lactation consultants, childbirth educators, hospitals or birthing centers, your doctor or midwife, or anyone who has recently had a baby or works in the field. There are three national doula organizations: Doulas of North America (DONA); National Association of Childbirth Assistants (NACA) which can be reached at (408)225-9167; and the Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (ALACE).

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