According to DONA International, a doula is ‘a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during, and shortly after childbirth, to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible’. This support has been scientifically proven to improve outcomes for both the mother and the baby. However, doulas do not have medical training or experience. Their expertise is in supporting women and their families through the childbirth experience. There are also postpartum doulas who provide support to the family as they adjust to life with a newborn.
This is a personal decision. Some women want only one birth partner supporting them, or even to be left alone as much as possible. Others prefer to have a team of support including friends, family members, and a professional doula. Whether you hire a doula will depend on your own personal preferences in this area. Women who use a birth doula are less likely to have a Caesarean section or use pain medication, and tend to have fonder feelings about their birthing experience. However, you can have an entirely satisfactory birth experience without the involvement of a doula. If you decide to hire a doula, you will want to make sure they have proper training. The Doulas of North America organization offers training and certification for birth doulas. Ask potential doulas about their credentials.
The cost of a doula varies widely, but in Canada is usually somewhere around $600-$1000. This typically includes 2 prenatal visits, attendance at your labour and delivery, and a postpartum visit.