Dear Addie: Doula or Doctor?

Ask the Expert, Childbirth, Featured Article, Pregnancy

Dear Addie: I really want to have a doula present at my delivery, but my OB doesn’t seem too keen on the idea and avoids the topic whenever I ask about it. How do I compromise with my doctor without making it awkward? —Kaia

Dear Kaia: Thanks for your note. To clarify for readers, according to DONA International, a doula is a “trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.” This person can do anything from help the expecting mother prepare a birth plan and acting as a liaison between the laboring mother and clinical care professionals to assisting with newborn care and more. I like to think of a doula as a warm, compassionate person who is dedicated to cheering on and encouraging a laboring mother, whereas OBs and the team of nurses have multiple laboring mothers to care for and therefore may not be able to be as attentive individual needs. Both the doula and the medical team play important roles in their own right, but sometimes things get sticky.

One of the most common issues between OBs and doulas is if the doctor feels like the doula is hindering his or her ability to do what he’s there to do, and that is deliver a healthy baby and ensure the mother is also safe from harm. Often, the assumption is made the doulas refute what doctors prescribe or recommend or try to take a more natural approach to what is a medical practice. There are plenty of online forums that underscore this notion; Google “Do OBs not like doulas?” and see what comes up.

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Meantime, back to your question. How do you compromise with your doc? Think of it like this: you are your OBs employer. That is, you are paying him or her to work for you. And just as any employer would have a frank discussion and perhaps terminate a non-compliant employee, so should be the case with patients and doctors. If your heart is set on having a doula and your OB is making it difficult for you, then it’s non-negotiable: you need to find a new OB. If you like your OB more than you’re married to the idea of a doula at your bedside, then drop the subject and move on.

In the end, this is YOUR childbirth. There are no do-overs. Put the thought and consideration into what matters most to you and how you envision your experience, and then take the steps to ensure that happens.

Dear Addie is a wife and mom of three (with one on the way!) who has done her fair share of diaper changing, morning snuggling, boo-boo kissing, cold nursing, lullaby singing, baby rocking, field trip chaperoning and sideline cheering. She believes that there is no degree required to be a parenting “expert.” You just have to roll up your sleeves, dig in, ask the questions, get the answers, and give it your best shot. Oh, and have a whole lot of love and patience on-hand!

Have parenting questions? Fire away! Send them to [email protected].

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