1. A trained labor assistant, or doula (from a Greek word for “woman’s helper”) provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to mothers and their partners during labor and birth. Studies have shown that continuous labor support decreases the use of pain medication, epidural anesthesia, episiotomies, and cesarean sections and provides greater feelings of control and satisfaction for women in labor.

    A doula would play a unique role on your birth team. She would not replace your own loving support for your partner. Instead, she could help both of you by offering suggestions about comfort measures—such as relaxation, visualization, breathing, massage, aromatherapy, use of a birthing ball, and spending time in the tub or shower—and assistance in carrying out these measures. She would not influence any medical decisions that you and your partner may need to make, but she could help you figure out what questions to ask of your practitioner and your nurse to help you in making these decisions. Each person on the birth team has different responsibilities, and everyone working together makes the amazing dance of labor a very positive experience for the mother and her partner.

    The cost of using a doula can vary a great deal. The community hospital in my neighborhood provides free doula services to women who have no partner, friend, or relative to accompany them in labor. Doulas usually charge for their work, however, and I have seen fees ranging from $350 to more than $1,000. Fortunately, some insurance companies are reimbursing couples for a portion of a doula’s fee. You may want to check with your insurance provider.

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Ask Tori RN®, by registered nurse and resident author of The Joy of Pregnancy, is a helpful and reassuring resource for parents-to-be.