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Pregnancy with extra help

A doula provides various types of support to expectant mothers

A doula provides various types of support to expectant mothers

May 09, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

For a few hundred dollars, a pregnant woman can hire a doula - a teacher, friend, provider of emotional support, the one who bears the hand to be squeezed during labor - who will do almost everything short of having the contractions for her when baby comes.

"It really takes the pressure off planning for this birth," says Tracey Durf, who is pregnant with her second child. Durf, 28, of Lurgan, Pa., hired a Hagerstown doula to help her through the pregnancy.

A doula, pronounced DOO-luh, is a professional who is trained to assist a woman during childbirth. Doulas, usually women, are like walking baby manuals. They teach expecting moms and dads about birthing options. They explain the ins and outs of natural, vaginal births, medicated births, and Caesarean sections; and what happens if you deliver at a hospital or at home - what the mother should expect when it's time to deliver. They even talk about what to expect if things go wrong.

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Some doulas provide support after the baby is born.

Unlike a midwife, a doula does not offer medical support.

"I do not deliver babies," says Antonette Hoffman-Robinson, a doula in Hagerstown.

Instead, a doula is more of a coach, a person there to remind you of all those techniques you learned when you're in labor, when the focus shifts to getting that baby out by any means necessary, Hoffman-Robinson says.

A doula can cost any where between a couple hundred dollars to thousands, says Frederick County, Md., doula Nicole Kosineski.

They receive certification from groups such as Doulas of North America (DONA), which require would-be doulas to have experienced labor as a nurse, have midwife training or attend a series of classes on childbirth - not as an expectant parent - in addition to attending a DONA-approved workshop.

Kosineski says she became a doula because of the experience she had with a doula while she was pregnant with her first child.

"She was my rock," Kosineski says.

Hoffman-Robinson says she became a doula because she did not get the type of childbirth she wanted when she delivered her son Baylin, who is now 2. Hoffman-Robinson had a C-section, which she felt was unnecessary. If she could do it over, she says she would have had a natural birth. She would have hired a doula.

"You need an advocate to help give you the birth you say you wanted," Hoffman-Robinson says.

Doulas aren't advocates for a particular birthing style, Hoffman-Robinson says. Still, doulas find themselves fighting the perception that they want to force natural births on their clients. Hoffman-Robinson and Kosineski say they have clients who have had medicated births, a decision they support.

By explaining to a pregnant client all the options, the woman will be better able to make informed decisions about delivering her baby, Hoffman-Robinson and Kosineski say. The doula is supposed to support a client's decision.

"To force natural births, that would go against the point of what we're trying to do - empower women," Kosineski says.

Durf says she wants to have her baby at home, with a midwife. Her doula, Hoffman-Robinson, will be at her side.

"It's nice to have someone there, who's there just for you," Durf says.

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