I recently took part in an online business course and we were encouraged to think about why people don't use our services and how we could overcome these barriers or misconceptions (if that's what they were). I had actually never thought about this, at that point I had been only really speaking with or aiming at people who were already aware and open to idea of doula support. So it really did get me thinking - why wouldn't someone want a doula? Here are some reasons that came to mind:
You've Never Heard of a Doula
You don't know what you don't know - something I tell my kids all the time! And if you've never heard of a doula, the role they play in pregnancy and birth or the benefits of their support then you can't really benefit from it. Fortunately doula support is becoming more mainstream and widely known - antenatal classes are recommending us, as are some midwives and obstetricians, and of course past clients recommend their care to friends too!
I'm Not a 'Crunchy Mum'
There's a real perception that doulas only support a certain type of person wanting a certain type of birth. You know the stereotype - a natural living, vegan, homebirthing mum who wants to chant her baby out while burning clary sage on a diffuser. Now, there's nothing wrong with this type of birth, just as there's nothing wrong with a planned c-section. Birth is birth and you can find a doula to effectively support you through it all.
But We Have a Midwife/Doctor
Some people wonder what value a doula adds when they are already under the care of a midwife or doctor. A doula's role is not medical and the scope only extends to practical and emotional support of the birthing woman and her partner. She isn't responsible for anyone else down the hall and will be there exclusively to support your birth. Doulas are also independent and employed solely by you, so aren't bound by hospital policy.
Worried About Feeling Awkward
It's a big leap to invite someone into your pregnancy and birth. You have to trust and connect with them and feel comfortable with them being around at one of the most important moments of your lives. If the doula is the right fit for you then she is unobtrusive and her presence supports and enhances your experience. I strongly believe that there is a woman for every doula and a doula for every woman and when the match is right there's a very natural feel to the relationship.
Partner Doesn't Understand How They 'Fit'
This is a biggie. Initially when a doula is suggested to a couple, the partner is often worried that their role will be diminished or they'll be sidelined in the birth of their own child. But the opposite is actually true. Having a doula with you allows the partner to relax because they're not alone in their role, and sharing the practical support of birth means that the partner can be more emotionally connected and available during this special time. Your doula should support you both and bring you closer together, not be in the way.
A Friend's Bad Doula Experience
We are influenced by the experience of our peers and if a friend has had a bad experience then we feel we might have one too. But your friend's bad experience might have been down to a number of factors, the most likely of which is a bad match between your friend and the doula that they worked with. If there's no connection or poor communication the doula/client relationship will not survive the intimacy of birth. Or, as was my situation with my last birth, they might have been let down by their doula. It's important to ask how many births she takes a month and what her backup relationships are and whether you can meet or chat with them before your labour. Because if she can't make it, for whatever reason, then you want to be sure you are still supported.
Pregnancy and birth can be an expensive and unpredictable time and some people feel that a doula is on the 'nice to have' list rather than an essential for birth. Or some people really see the value but just can't find the funds. The most popular ways to make doula support more affordable are to negotiate a payment plan or to ask for vouchers for doula care from family and friends as a baby shower gift. If the fees are still beyond budget then investigate student doulas or midwives in your area, they'd love to support you as part of their training.
Planned C Section
A C Section is still birth, and there's plenty of value in getting a doula to support you through one. She can work with you before delivery to address any fears, help you structure your Birth Wishes to maximise your experience, can either come into theatre with you or wait outside and help settle you all together after baby is born, provide additional support postpartum while you recover from your surgery and adapt to family life.
Can't Find The Right Person
I've mentioned a few times now that finding the right doula for you is key. You should definitely interview a few to be sure that you're making the right choice. If you can't find anyone that is right for you then don't be shy to ask for a recommendation for someone else, most doulas want you to have the right support for your birth and are happy to help you find it.
It's Too Late
It is rarely too late to engage a doula. I've met and effectively supported couples who engaged me at 40 weeks! If the connection is right then you can work together effectively during your birth.
Just Don't Want One
And you can’t argue with that! You know yourself best and if doula support isn’t for you then it just isn’t for you.