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Doulas Under Fire

To Doula or Not to Doula

When I was pregnant, I did prenatal yoga. My instructor was a woman who doubled as a doula. According to DONA International,

The word, "doula," comes from the Greek word for the most important female slave or servant in an ancient Greek household, the woman who probably helped the lady of the house through her childbearing. The word has come to refer to "a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after childbirth.

To learn more about doulas and why some hospitals ban them,


A virgin to the term two years ago, I am no longer as many of my friends have chosen doulas for their birthing plans. Doulas can range in intensity — some prefer to only work with antimedicine couples while others are more open to the idea of a laboring mother accepting an epidural or c–section. And while many doula–mother relationships are fine and dandy, the doctor or nurse association with doulas is not always positive.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran a story on the subject. The article said,

The increased popularity of doulas and lactation consultants has also led to more conflict — not only with parents but doctors and nurses as well.

There are no national statistics on the phenomenon, and few women readily admit to doula discord. But according to a 2006 study of women who used doulas in Alabama, 44 percent of women described the relationship between their hospital nurses and doulas as hostile, resentful, and confrontational.

At Reston Hospital Center in northern Virginia, disputes became so common that in 2005, the hospital banned doulas. “From a nursing standpoint, too many crossed a line and interfered with my job,” said Sarah Baxter, a registered nurse and director of labor and delivery at Reston.

My yoga instructor actually recommended some San Francisco hospitals over others as the medical staff at some were more accepting of doulas and their practices. And odd enough, the women I know who hired doulas were the ones who ended up having c–sections or had to be induced into labor via drugs.

Did you or do you want a doula at your side in the delivery room?


Join The Conversation
LiLRuck44 LiLRuck44 9 years
I would like to have one next time, as I'll try and go drug free. But if labors get shorter each time, my third baby will arrive in less than an hour and a half. So who knows if she would even make it in time? =)
ErieIndiana ErieIndiana 9 years
Doulas are again there for the emotional, spiritual, and whatever else the mother needs support. They can be especially helpful for first time mothers who are scared of the process and whether or not they are doing things correctly. They are there to encourage you and tell you that you are doing a great job when you need to hear it.
luckyme luckyme 9 years
I had an epidural and a doula ;) I labored pretty good for a good 4 hours before I requested the drugs. At no time did she pressure me about the epidural (which I fully planned on having from the very beginning). She brought in hand towels soaked in lemon oil for me to breathe in when I was enduring terrible nausea and vomiting. That was really nice. She also massaged my back and taught my husband how to do it the right way :) She wasn't around for the birth because I had the baby at 11:00pm and she was off the clock. I didn't really care to have another person their for that anyway. All in all I liked it and would do it again.
Bookish Bookish 9 years
I didn't have a doula for either of my childbirth experiences, but my little sister did. It was just my sister, the doula, and myself. I was not a fan, but I think it was just a bad doula- my sister at four months along decided she didn't want any pain medication, then once labor got going, fairly quickly changed her mind, and the doula kept trying to talk her out of it. Once my sister got her epidural, the doula seemed to be sort of huffy and listed off the complications of pain medication. Childbirth being an emotional time and all, I wanted to sock her one- she was making my kid sister feel guilty for getting pain medication! And getting paid! I know that a lot of people think they're the best thing ever, and I'm sure that they do work for most people. My sister's was just young, probably inexperienced and sort of self-righteous.
schnappycat schnappycat 9 years
A doula might be helpful for a natural or complicated birth, but for my epidural birth (yes, with all the lights on), I certainly wouldn't have needed her. Hell, I barely needed my husband--drugs are good! :) And I found the doctors and nurses very helpful and willing to do whatever I wanted before, during, and after the birth, so never felt I needed another voice. She just would have been another person watching Arrested Development on DVD with us during labor. Heh. But I had a wonderful labor, delivery, and hospital experience, so I can see in another situation the possibility of needing more assistance.
musewings musewings 9 years
My doula sat with me for a good 12 hours during my 27 hour induction attempt, and she didn't frown on my choice in the least. She's had clients with inductions, epidurals, c-sections, and natural births. I think most of her clients give birth in a hospital. She has personally had both a hospital birth and a home birth. It helps that she and I have become good friends throughout my pregnancy. Of course, if you're considering a doula, you want to meet her and make sure she's someone you like and trust. If you don't want a natural birth, there are plenty of good doulas who will support you, regardless.
peepshow peepshow 9 years
Okay, so the doula stays with you through the entire delivery- when the Dr. just checks in until it's 'go time?' That might be nice, or it might get on my nerves... haven't given birth yet. I thought (and could be wrong) that doulas were for natural births- and things like at home births, water births, etc... so if I decided to have an epidural in a hospital with every flourescent light on, it would be frowned upon b/c it's unnatural. Like I said, I might have created that in my brain and be totally wrong.
milosmommy milosmommy 9 years
I thought about it, but it was way too costly for us. But in the end when I think about it she wouldn't have been necessary. My husband did all of the things that we would have paid a doula for.
musewings musewings 9 years
I want to add, in response to the first comment, a good doula would never try to force her will upon you! As a matter of fact, at one point I asked my doula to convince me to make a particular choice, and she flat out refused. That's not her job. She's here to support me in what *I* want, and help me become as informed as possible.
musewings musewings 9 years
I have one with this pregnancy, and I wish I'd had one with my first. I'm a week overdue, and just experienced a failed pitocin induction. (I have a GI disease that is being severely aggravated by my pregnancy; I would not have attempted an induction so early, otherwise.) I definitely feel more empowered to make good choices for myself with her input and expertise. She has easily earned what we're paying her and then some, and I wouldn't hesitate to hire a doula again, though I'm done at two!
luckyme luckyme 9 years
I had a doula and I loved her. She was there when the doctors weren't and was overall a great addition. She was very supportive. Don't get me wrong, my husband was supportive too, but this was our first baby and he was kind of freaking out. She was CALM and supportive and pretty much knew what was coming my way. I'd definitely request a doula for the next baby.
Greggie Greggie 9 years
I would've loved one. Doctors dislike them because doulas work on behalf of the patient - they're the voice, so to speak. I've never known doulas to be anymore "my way or no way" than any other medical professional, and generally work much more for the patient's best interest than a doctor does. Doctors and nurses admit to wanting laboring mothers to get epidurals and other pain relief so that they're easier to control. Doulas fight against that if it's what the mother wants. Unfortunately, by the time I learned about doulas and had doctors who worked with them, I was on my third c-section and a doula would've been an unnecessary expense.
peepshow peepshow 9 years
I still don't understand their role. My doctor always asks me if I want to do something/procedure- explains the benefits and possible complications. I wouldn't want someone else telling me what choice to make. Or making me feel bad b/c MY decision is not complimentary to HER version of what's supposed to be happening. I could have a clouded view since I don't have one.
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