Can my friend be my Doula?

Have you thought about having a doula at your birth but wonder if your friend can do the job instead? 

The short answer: of course your friend can attend your birth and provide support. 

The longer answer depends on what you want out of your support person and your birth. Women throughout history have had their births attended by close female relatives and friends. During this time in our history, birth was something most women witnessed many times before they gave birth themselves. In modern times the women around us don't have much exposure to childbirth. Even if they have given birth themselves, their experience may differ greatly from what you want for your own birth. A Doula studies birth extensively and has witnessed many births in a variety of settings. Her knowledge of birth is much more in depth. She can help you navigate many different scenarios. While having a friend support you is an option, you have to ask yourself what you are looking for in your labor support person. The purpose of this post is not to discourage anyone from having a friend attend their birth, it is to highlight the difference in a doula being there and a friend being there. Read on for a few of the difference between doula support and the support of a friend. 

Experience: A doula has specialized trainingin comfort techniques to help you relax during labor. A doula also has in depth knowledge of the process of childbirth and hospital procedure. They can help answer questions that arise during labor. While a friends support is good, their knowledge is not likely as specialized as the doula who is trained and has attended births regularly. As we look back on our history, relatives and friends who attended births had this unofficial doula trainingbecause they had witnessed birth frequently. When you hire a doula you get your own personal birth assistant. The doula has trained and studied birth. They are specially trained to help a couple navigate birth and to help them explore all of their options. They have experience with a variety of birth settings and situations that present themselves in birth. A doula can suggest things such as certain position changes, comfort techniques, and they help you address emotional blocks. She also helps your partner during the birth and suggests ways they can support you more effectively. A doula practices these things regularly so she can call on these techniques during labor. A friend may be well read on childbirth but it is  hard to recall everything they have read about in the moment. When you hire a doula, you are hiring someone with experience and knowledge. 

Availability: Another point to consider is if your friend will need to tend to their families needs. Will they possibly have to leave you at some point? Will they be available when you go into labor? A good doula has childcare in place and a backup doula secured to ensure you will not be left alone without your support person. Your support person having to leave during labor may sound alright to you beforehand but it can be very upsetting when you are in a vulnerable state during labor. A doula makes arrangements and is on call for you to meet you when labor begins and stays with you for the duration of your labor. When you hire a doula you can be sure you are not left without your support person. There have been instances where women talk about a doula not making it to their birth. It is important to ask questions about how a doula handles the on call time and what their backup situation is like when you are interviewing them.  

Access to a community: When you hire a doula you are gaining access to a wealth of resources that your loved ones may not be aware of. A doula is connected to the birth professionals in your area. If you are experiencing breastfeeding issues she can refer you to lactation specialists; if you are having questions about your birthplace or provider she can provide insight into their policies; if you are interested in placenta encapsulation she can connect you with the right people; and if you are interested in homebirth she can provide you a list of midwives. Your doulas support also extends to the postpartum period. She can help you set up a mealtrain, connect you with postpartum doulas, and provide continuing emotional support as you navigate caring for your newborn.  
At the end of the day, having someone there that you trust to provide support during your birth is the most important thing. If you have read about a doula and doula support sounds like something you want, hiring a doula is worth the investment. A friends support is valuable but the two are not interchangeable. When you hire a doula you get so much more than a person to hold your hand in the delivery room.