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Advice about Using a Doula

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Health & Medical > Advice about Using a Doula


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What is a Doula?

A doula (also called a "birth guide") is a person who is there with the mom before, during, and after the labor. (There is an interesting book about doulas called "Mothering the Mother"). "Mothering the Mother" is full of statistics about how women who use doulas require less medical intervention during labor. The doula's job is to take care of the mom.

She helps you with your birth plan before the labor and helps you execute it during the labor. She suggests positions to try and has all kinds of tricks to help make labor easier. She can help you judge whether or not it is really time to go to the hospital. She is not a midwife; she is not medically trained. Her knowledge comes from having attended many, many births. She is a clear head during labor to help you when things get crazy; she can remind you about all the different things you learned in your birth class but cannot remember because you are in LABOR (and your husband is panicking)! She is like your best friend or your sister, but with a lot more knowledge about the birthing process. Invaluable. Laura Beth


A Doula is also known in many circles as a "labor coach." Many times a Midwife is a Doula, and vice versa, but not always. In California, most Doulas have some training, but are not certified in the same strict manner as midwives. I had both a Doula and a Midwife for my hospital birth. A Doula is especially useful for an OB assisted birth in a hospital, since the doula will usually come to your house towards the beginning of labor, and stay with you until at least several hours afterward, a service doctors and most midwives are unable to provide. She will help you decide when to go to the hospital, run "interference" with the hospital staff, and do anything you request to help make you as comfortable as possible. Some doulas are also lactation consultants, which is a real bonus for getting breastfeeding off to a good start. She provides physical and emotional support to the mother. Even if your partner is with you, a doula is a help, since that allows the partner to get some sleep, take breaks, and focus on the mother.

One other way of looking at it is that the midwife/doctor's primary responsibility is the Baby. The Doula's primary responsibility is the Mother.

Hope that helps! Dawn


Why we like doulas

Doula's decrease the average first labor by 9 hours and the chance of C-sec by 19%. With statistics like that, invest in a good doula, it's worth it. Beth (Nov 2001)
I have to say that we found having a doula to be a wonderful thing and we certainly believe that it helped to make our daughter's birth a much easier, more enjoyable, rewarding and safe experience than we would have had if we had not had assistance from Linda Mixon-Jones. Good luck, Adam (Nov 2001)
To the person asking for doula recommendations... I'm not sure if I can be helpful in the reference department, since Janaki Costello was my doula, but I just want to encourage you to find a doula -- having that support made a huge difference to me in having a positive birth experience, and specifically a difference in my confidence before during and after. I also had superb nursing care at Alta Bates. I think they were making an effort (7/2000) to match women who wanted natural childbirth with nurses who were into it, so that may be something to pay attention to. I also was able to get a room with a bathtub, and laboring in the tub helped me a lot. Best of luck, Susan (Nov 2001)
If you're on the fence about hiring one, read "Mothering the Mother" by Marshall Klaus. There are listings of doulas at The Nurture Center in Lafayette and BirthWays in Berkeley. Meri (Nov 2001)

How to find a doula


Sept 2011

I am a 40 year old woman who is pregnant for the first time. CVS test showed fetus is thus far healthy at 14 weeks. I would probably give birth at Alta Bates. People have suggested I get a doula. How does one go about finding a doula? Do you interview different people? Does anyone have any suggestions? I am fairly agnostic on child birth. I would like to do things as naturally as possible, but I am not religiously opposed to drugs, if need be. The most important for me is safe delivery. anon


I highly recommend meeting a few doulas so you can find the one who is a good fit for what you are looking for. You can find some certified doulas at www.dona.org which is a very respected doula associaton. Renata
Having a doula is great. Especially true if you have not attended a few births of your friends or family, or if you mom and sisters cannot be with you during the birth, or have not themselves been at many births. Definitely worth the $1,000 that it costs.

I found doulas by asking friends and co-workers for their recommendations. Turns out half the people we know had doulas. And if a doula is full, she can recommend another doula in her backup group.

Also, Felicia Roche teaches the DONA classes, national certification of Doulas, in the east bay. Part of their training is attending many births before certification. And so many of them volunteer at births after their classwork is finished, therefore low or no cost.

If you plan a homebirth, many midwives will accompany you at the hospital in case of an emergency transfer and will act as your doula there. Ruby


If you haven't already asked your doctor at Alta Bates about a doula, then check there first. There are often doulas that specifically work with a hospital or that have signed up as volunteer doulas. If there is not already a resource for finding a doula through Alta Bates, I would try Birthways in Berkeley for referrals. loved having a doula
Doulas of North America have a website: http://www.dona.org/ On the left they have a search of certified doulas of all kinds (birth, postpartum, all doulas) based on your location. I was very happy with my postpartum doulas I found through that site. Best of luck, Victoria
First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy!! I think it is wonderful that you are considering hiring a doula. There are many wonderful doulas out there, especially in the east bay. I think the best way to find the right doula for you is to ask around for recommendations and look online (like you are doing) for doulas in your area. DONA International, www.dona.org, has a list of certified doulas all over the states, but there are many excellent doulas who are just starting out and working towards certification, like myself, who aren't listed.

Generally doulas begin working with women in their third trimester so you are getting a great, early start! After collecting a list of doulas in your area I highly recommend interviewing several. It's best if you find a doula that you connect with. This is the woman that will be supporting you through an intense, life-changing event. You want to feel comfortable around her. When interviewing her she can provide you with her information and background, cost and answer any questions you have. The doula can work with you to plan and prepare for your ideal birth experience, be it natural or not. The cost of a doula will vary, especially if you have a newer doula. But the truly important thing is how you feel around her. If you don't feel comfortable with her, then it doesn't matter if she has 20 years experience or you're her first client. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me! Take care, congratulations and enjoy your new adventure to motherhood! Nicole


I'd suggest going to a free ''Meet the Doula'' event. Birthways (www.birthways.org) has these on an ongoing basis - check their calendar. Looks like the next one is October 16th. On a personal note I have two dear friends who've worked with Anna and Candace at Family Doula Services and they were wonderful. Definitely interview a few to make sure you and your partner both mesh well with them and are comfortable. Doulas are absolutely amazing, and in my opinion an essential part of the birth team. Happy Birthing! doula fan
November 2001

I am looking for a doula. I am due Jan. 15 and will be delivering at Alta Bates with an OB. My husband and I have heard that delevery can go much more smoothly with the assistance of a doula. We would like to hire a Doula by recommendation. The lists that are out there seem overwhelming. Also, can anyone tell me how much I should expect to pay for Doula services? Elizabeth


I'm new to the area but here are a few suggestions
   Birthways in Oakland, on Santa Clara near the Grand Lake theater (www.birthways.org)
   DONA - Doulas of North America (www.dona.com or maybe org)
   ALACE -Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators
   www.childbirth.org
   CAPPA - http://www.childbirthprofessional.com/
I am a birth and postpartum doula just learning the ropes here in California. I was doing this work in Western Massachusetts for the past 5 years. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me. in peace Samantha

Using a doula in training

May 2013

Hello: Has anyone out there used a doula in training? I would like to use a doula for the birth of our first child in July, but financial constraints prevent us from hiring one. I am considering using one of Carol Shattuck-Rice's doulas in training. The scenario would likely consist of us being assisted by one doula in training who has delivered her own child but never attended someone else's birth, who will be accompanied by another doula in training who has attended half a dozen births and is a nurse. We are also using Lindy Johnson as our midwife (love her!) and will deliver at Alta Bates. Thoughts on this versus asking a friend to be a support person? anonymous


A doula is a great support person during labor, and while her experience with other births can and will give her more tools overall, a doula in training will also be great! Your best way to find a good doula is to find someone you click with. If you click with this one, you're in good hands! She's been trained, and birthed her own child and that will serve her well. I say go for it! Congratulations on your baby. Doula too
Your questions about doulas are really good ones. I am a trained (but non-practicing) midwife and also a mother. From what I have experienced both personally and professionally it is ideal to have a birthing support person who does not have an emotional stake in your birth, which a close friend of yours would. Of course, any doula is in the line of work she is in because she is passionate about birth, but you want someone who is able to integrate her passions with her ability to see the whole picture and advocate for you and support you and your partner. Additionally, your doula is contracted to be available to you and logistics can get tricky with friends who have other priorities and familial obligations. My personal opinion is that a doula in training accompanied by a more experienced doula will be a great combination, especially because the latter has nursing experience. One thing I would advise looking for in your doula, whoever she ends up being and regardless of her training, is her strong ability to communicate and to advocate. Since you have a midwife for the actual birth you won't need an advocate the same way you might if you just had an OB (all depending on your birthing preferences, of course). So just make sure you feel confident in your doula as a person and that communication between all of you is good. All of this to say, the team of support you are considering sounds like a solid team to me. Jeannie
I think a Doula in training along with another experienced Doula and a Midwife sounds like a great combination of support! Whether someone has decades of experience as a Doula or just a few months, it is what drives someone to be a Doula that makes them your support team. Even a Doula in training would be supportive, compassionate, knowledgable and helpful. It is a loving touch, a simple encouragement or even a look in your eye that you'll need during your labor. I say go for it! And happy pushing! Pro-doula

How much does it cost?

A doula usually costs around $300 to $500, which includes one or more pre-birth visits in your home, full support during your labor, and one or more visits afterwards. This cost is occasionally reimbursable through insurance, though rarely. It's well worth it, though, especially if you cannot afford to have a midwife, and must have an OB-attended birth. (Dawn, 1999)
We used Linda Mixon-Jones (see review below). As for cost, I think it cost a total of $650 or so. Adam (Nov 2001)
For 2 pre-consultations (not including the in-person interview) and support during labor (at home and hospital) and up to 2 post-partum lactation consultations, we paid just under $500. Susan (Nov 2001)
Most doulas charge from $500 to $1,000 for the birth and a few pre- and post-partum visits, depending upon their degree of experience. Meri (Nov 2001)
Linda Almond-Nichols ... did a wonderful job. I believed she charged $600, and was worth it! Amzel (Nov 2001)
Lisa Moon's fee 2 1/2 years ago was $800. Half up front half after the birth. What was supposed to be included was 2-3 pre-birth visits, the birth and 2 post-partum visits. Beth (Nov 2001)
Meghan Lewis charged us $775 back in April 2001. Teresa
Linda Jones-Mixon charges in the upper end of the $500-1000 range that others have mentioned for doula services. (Nov 2001)
When I delivered in February 2001, my doula, Jennifer Starling, was charging a sliding scale of $4-700, whatever you can pay. That included two pre-labor visits, one post-labor visit, and of course, being there for the birth. Whitney

Questions to ask a doula

July 2002

I know there are labor doula recommendations on the web site but most of them are 1-2 years old now. I was wondering if I could get any recommendations or cautions from people who have used this service more recently. Also are there any questions you didn't ask your doula that you wish you had in restrospect? Thank you for any help you might have.


I wish I had made it more clear that I wanted my doula to help me breathe through my contractions, and to help my husband coach me through my breathing as well. During the interview I was sure I had made my needs clear, but during my labor she seemed to get caught up in the moment and forgot about mt request. Finally I exclaimed, ''will somebody please help me breathe through these!'' and she did, but by then it was too little too late. To be fair, she was wonderful in many other ways.

I would suggest that you ask the doula you are interviewing to list her strong points before you tell her what you want. If her strengths match your needs then you may have found a good doula for you. If you have to ask her to do something that she doesn't list as a strength, she may not be the right one. anonymous


My wife and I heartily recommend the doula we used to assist us with the birth of our daughter 18 months ago. Her name is Linda Jones Mixon. She's caring, funny, easy going and just fantastic. She was an immense help all the way around. You can reach her at 510-540-7210. Linda also is the proprietor of ''Pickles and Ice Cream'' - the infant / baby store in No. Berkeley on Shattuck at Cedar. You can usually find here there.

Two other recommendations I'd like to pass along are Janicke Costello and Carol-Shattuck Rice. You can reach them at 415-525-1155. They team teach a great 8-week long birthing class in El Cerrito and they are birthing doulas as well. Their class is quite good and we have heard from other folks that they are great doulas. Good luck, Adam.


I would highly recommend my doula, Constance Williams. She attended my daughter's birth 16 months ago. She was incredible. I really believe that I would have had a c-section if it weren't for her. She did exactly what I wanted her to do. She is very strong and she massaged my legs non-stop for 5 hours. I gave birth with out an epidural which was also nice. She also knows all the nurses at Alta Bates which is very helpful because she made sure that we got terrific nurses. Good luck! Madeleine
Not sure if you want specific doula recommendations or genral info. I can just tell you that we used a doula for my daughter's birth last year. We had other family present at the birth but I just wanted someone who ''knew'' what they were doing there as well. Our doula had been our childbirth prep class instructor and we had started to really like her and felt comfortable with her. She was a Godsend. I had a very long labor and some glitches with the hospital. She kept me calm when there were several times I could have freaked out. I opted for an epidural and she was supportive. She made sure my husband and other family were taken care of (rested, got food, fielded calls, etc.) and made sure that I had everything I needed (jello, water, quiet, footrubs, etc.). She asked questions of the nurses and doctors that I wouldn't have thought to ask and did it in a respectful way so the staff didn't feel threatened.All in all, it was a wonderful experience and she definitely made! a difference. I am sure I could have done it without her but I wouldn't have wanted to. Especially with my first baby. My friend is now using her for her birth next month. Nicole
I've replied off-line to posters in the past, and now I'm wondering why -- no reason to keep such a good doula a secret!

We chose Rebecca Husband for our daughter's birth. She was wonderful, thoughtful and respectful of our wishes. Our baby was several weeks overdue and though it became clear that it wasn't going to be the natural birth we'd hoped for, she helped keep it close to our ideal. The fact that she has a very good working relationship with Alta Bates staff was a plus (she also volunteers there for women who arrive without partners and whose births could be helped with a doula) -- our delivery nurse was herself a former doula and personal friend of Rebecca's. Our daughter happens to share Rebecca's birth date, which has kept us close - she came to her christening and recently to dinner with her beau.

The activities we did with her as we got our brains around the reality of birth were interesting, and her information dovetailed nicely with that we received from the instructor, Jennifer, at the Alta Bates Childbirth prep class. My baby brother was born at home, so I was quite familiar with natural childbirth - but when I became frustrated and demanded drugs, she was patient and supportive. They also managed to coax me into the shower instead and the baby was born just 2 hours later (6 hrs total).

The only thing I might have asked her to do was rub my back more - my husband was exhausted and could have maybe just held my hand a bit, but who knows?

She had a sliding scale for three visits and a post-partum follow up, and brought fresh roses from her garden for the delivery room which was really really nice! Happy to provide more details if you'd like. Deirdre


We used Maria Steinman for the birth of our baby boy 7 weeks ago, and were very happy with her. Our son was three weeks early, so we missed two of the three prenatal visits we'd scheduled, (and so I'm not sure what she would've taught us during them) but she made up for that by coming to the house two additional times after the birth to give me an hour-plus massage (she's a certified acupressure practitioner). She's a delight. I would use her again and highly recommend her. If you want more details feel free to email or call me. Or call Maria. Her phone number is (510) 594-2575 Kate Hand pkhand AT attbi.com
I gave birth on February 28, 2002, with my amazing doula Kim Lyons and my husband present. Kim was warm, loving, kind, and unbelievably supportive during a MOST difficult 22-hour labor. She is a masseuse and does some accupressure, both of which were very helpful during the labor. She has a very positive energy about her generally speaking. Additionally, she does infant massage, and teaches you how to do this on your own baby in your post-birth meeting. My baby has been very grateful for this!! Please contact her at birthmate AT yahoo.com or contact me for her phone number. Jennifer
Debi Raya (925-939-2534) was the doula for my birth five months ago for my son Jonah. She was WONDERFFUL! Knowledgable, calm, supportive, well-trained, competent. She is also a massage therapist, which really helped with 30 hours of back labor! She came to our home, where she can do exams to see how dialated you are if you want (she was a certified midwife in Texas I beleive). She stayed in the hospital all night. She's more often at natural births but was very supportive of me when I chose to have petocin and then an edidural for the pain. She was wonderful. My husband and I felt very close to one another during the entire delivery and I beleive it was because of her presence and knowledge. We felt ''accompanied'', supported, and safe. She's a good advocate if you're thinking of a hospital birth. She definately worth having a conversation with to see if it's a good fit for you. Blessings, Sarah
My husband and I would like to recommend our wonderful birth doula, Kathrin Smith, who was with us for the labor and birth of our 2-month-old son. We found Kathrin through Birth and Bonding on Solano. I am a 40-year-old first-time mother, and, though I very much wanted as natural a birth as possible, I was quite apprehensive about being able to go through it without a lot of medical intervention. With Kathrin's knowledge, encouragement and support, we were able to have a better birth experience than we had imagined possible--it was certainly the most moving, amazing and wonderful experience of our lives. I truly believe that without Kathrin's guidance, I would have had a much different, and less participative, experience giving birth to our son. (Most of the labor was at home, and our son was born at Alta Bates.) Kathrin is experienced, smart, warm, loving, grounded, AND has a good sense of humor. I was very inspired and encouraged by her, particularly by the fact that she had her own two daughters naturally at home. She was also very good at including and relating to my husband. She was always available when we called, and was at our home as soon as I needed her once labor began. Kathrin is currently in Marin, but I believe she is moving to the East Bay soon. (She had no trouble getting to our home in the East Bay quickly from Marin.) Please feel free to e-mail me, or call Kathrin at 415/459-4737. Elizabeth
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