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What's a Doula?

Find out why you might want a doula in the room during your birth.

What's a Doula?

It seems like the closer you get to birth, the more you hear the D word: doula. And since everyone's talking about them, you totally want one, of course. But...what's a doula? Jada Shapiro, co-director of Birth Day Presence, clues us in and gives us some insight on how a doula can provide extra emotional and physical support before, during and after labor.

Why would someone choose to use a doula during the birthing experience?

A doula provides extra emotional and physical support to the laboring woman and her partner. Studies show that if a woman is birthing with an OB, she can expect to see her doctor about 5 percent of the time and she may see her nurse about 25 percent of the time. So, couples are left alone for much of the birth experience. A doula is the only childbirth professional who stays continuously with the mother throughout her entire labor.

Doulas also free up a partner to have his/her own emotional experience and to just be there for the mom. Finally, studies show that doula care leads to a reduction in unnecessary cesarean births, reductions in postpartum depression, reductions in request for pain medications, and an increase in maternal satisfaction with the birth experience.

What services does a doula provide, from the most minimal relationship to the most in-depth offering?

Doulas provide pain relief techniques, massage, emotional and physical support, informational support, reassurance, and more to help the mother and her partner through the birth experience. Once a doula is hired, she is on-call 24-7 by phone and email from 36 weeks until birth. Usually, she comes to the mother's home at about 36 weeks for a prenatal meeting with the parent(s)-to-be about how she can best support them through the birth. She will join the family during labor when the mother requests her presence, and stay until about 1-2 hours after the birth, helping with breastfeeding and getting the family settled.

How does a doula complement the birth, rather than compete or conflict?

If you hire a doula who is following the correct standards and codes for doula practice according to DONA International (the organization which certifies our affiliated doulas), then she will not be competing or conflicting with your midwife or doctor in any way. A doula is non-clinical, and there to support the mother emotionally, physically and informationally. The doula complements the medical staff by providing the calm state and reassurance a women needs during labor. Many of the care providers we work with recommend a doula because it makes their job easier, and over the past decade, we have seen some of the formerly doula-resistant doctors begin to accept our role in labor.

What are some of the most important characteristics for a person to determine when choosing the right doula for their birth?

Chemistry between the mother and the doula is critical. Do you feel a good, strong connection? Can you imagine that person there with you during one of the most intimate times of your life? Does she make you feel safe and secure? Choosing a doula is partially about listening to your gut instincts, and partially about practical things like your budget, doula experience and personality type.

Are doulas just a luxury for ladies who lunch? Are there affordable options?

We believe that all pregnant women and families who want a doula should be able to work with one. Birth Day Presence provides a wide range of doulas, with fees starting at $300 for doulas-in-training. All doulas affiliated with Birth Day Presence take our incredible doula training, and some trainees just out of our program will volunteer their services to families in need. Insurance is starting to cover doula care as well.

There's a common perception that only "crunchy" gals use doulas. Does hiring a doula mean you have to have a home birth or can't have an epidural?

Absolutely not!! Our clients run the gamut from granola to glitz, and we are there to support women through whatever type of birth they want to have. Most births in New York City take place in the hospital, and most women have epidurals. But even if you are planning to have an epidural, you still have to be in labor before you can get one, or the anesthesiologist may be unavailable for 1-2 hours. What if the epidural doesn't totally work for you? These are all cases where having a doula could be critical.

Think of a doula as an extra helper. Even with pain medication in play, there will still be a lot of hard work ahead for you, from pushing the baby out, to managing any potential medical side effects, and helping once the baby comes out. And for those women who hope to avoid pain medication, a doula is so helpful in providing non-pharmacological pain-management techniques and encouragement.

Photography by ©Jada Shapiro, Birth Day Presence

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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