In recent years, more and more women have enlisted, or considered, the assistance of a doula as part of their pregnancy and birth journey. This week (Mar 22-28) is World Doula week and we felt this would be a great time to check in with a doula in our area to learn more about the benefits of hiring a doula. Alexandra Tran, owner of Houston Womb Service, thankfully shared some inside information on when and why to seek a doula and how a doula can support you throughout. We hope you enjoy the interview as much as we did!
What is a doula?
A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous emotional, physical, and informational support to families going through fertility journeys, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum transitions – and beyond actually.
Why did you decide to become a doula and how many births have you been to?
Ahhhh! This could be such a long answer but to sum up I experienced a medicalized birth. It was an overall positive experience but I left with more questions than answers and I felt compelled to research why I was pressured to make certain decisions and agree to interventions. I actually didn’t learn about doulas until about a year after my son’s birth and sort of fell into the profession. So far I have supported 56 births and over 200 postpartum families.
How long have you been a doula and what areas do you service?
I have been a doula for 12 years and I serve all of the greater Houston area including Sugar Land, Stafford, Missouri City, Richmond, Rosenberg, and Pearland. Basically, I will come to you wherever you’re having your baby!
What is the difference between a doula and a midwife? Do I need both?
This is a great question! A midwife is a traditional maternal medical care provider who can provide medical care and support to those from the beginning of menstruation to menopause. We really hear about midwives when it comes to childbirth. During that time they will provide your medical care all throughout pregnancy and shortly after baby arrives. They can work in all settings like hospitals, birthing centers, and homebirths depending on their licensure and what their preferences are.
A doula provides the non-medical support to families. So we would provide emotional support for those decisions you’ll routinely need to make (talking it out with you without judgment) and physical support (assisting with positioning for pain relief and coping during labor). This also helps a ton with giving baby space to move down. Also informational support, meaning we help you sift through all the evidence. There are so many articles, books, websites, podcasts and blogs out there. It can be very helpful for someone that you trust to sift through it for you and explain things. Then you can take that info and make your own decision.
Is there evidence on the benefit of doulas during childbirth?
There have been several studies that illustrate the benefit of doulas in the birth space. In the Cochrane review, we find:
- 39% decrease in the risk of Cesarean birth
- 15% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
- 10% decrease in any use of medications for pain relief
- Shorter labors by 41 minutes
- 38% decrease in a baby’s risk of a low five minute APGAR score
- 31% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience
What should women look for when hiring a doula?
I always encourage people to interview several doulas. You want to pick someone who you feel safe and relaxed with.
What if I want an epidural?
Cool, I support you.
The first step in rocking your birth is ensuring you’re well informed about all of your choices. Epidurals are a fabulous tool to use in birth for a variety of different reasons. With every medical intervention, there are risks, so it is imperative that you receive all the information on the procedure without bias so you are able to choose the best option for yourself. Also, people can still experience strong sensations with pain-relieving medication and changes in positioning can help reduce that.
Does a doula replace a partner in the delivery room?
Doulas know birth. Your partner knows you.
Your doula is there to empower and guide not only the birthing person but th
e partner as well. By working together we’ll make the perfect birth team. For example, during the hectic hours of birth, your partner may struggle to do or say the right thing or they may agonize seeing their partner in discomfort. With your doula there, you will have a calming presence who is able to reassure the partner of what is normal and direct them in methods of support.
What about with all the Covid restrictions and only one person being allowed in the delivery room during birth?
There was a time where hospitals were restricting who came in and only allowed one person to be with the mom. They counted us as visitors even though we were hired by the parent. But now, they’ve relaxed this and have allowed two. So we’re back baby!
What is typically included in a doula package?
So doula packages will vary depending on what kind of support you’re looking for. Usually, a birth package will include prenatal support meetings where you will discuss your birth preferences, any fears, concerns, or questions. Birth support where they’re with you during your labor and birth. And postpartum support meetings where we meet to decompress after birth and help you rest and recover and ask newborn care questions. Postpartum and Fertility packages will differ.
What is a postpartum doula?
A postpartum doula is trained specifically to assist families in adjusting during the 4th trimester, or coming home. This consists of: teaching correct methods of infant feeding, ensuring a correct breastfeeding latch, encouraging family–baby bonding, teaching infant soothing methods and newborn care, encouraging emotional and physical recovery from birth, and supporting routines that work for the family. Overnight postpartum care also allows for parents to get some much-needed uninterrupted sleep when sleep deprivation can be at its worst.
And how does fertility support work?
When making the decision to begin your fertility journey you may experience a wide range of thoughts and emotions. It can be extremely easy to become overwhelmed and feel isolated when you’re dealing with something so personal. By having a fertility doula by your side you’re choosing someone who’s devoted to providing emotional, informational, and physical support during each phase. Just beginning and looking into cycle charting? Choosing medication? Moving on to IUI or IVF? No matter what stage you’re in, a fertility doula can help you make heads or tails of it.
So, What happens during a prenatal or postpartum visit?
A prenatal visit for me typically lasts an hour and a half and I like to meet with your partner too, since I do so much work with them during your birthing time. We talk, we laugh, I show your partner movements to help ease your discomfort, we discuss your wants and how you envision your birth, and I give you homework to practice together to prepare you for the day you meet your little baby.
How would you describe your support style?
Modern and balanced. I’m here to help you through this without judgment regardless of where or how you decide to birth your baby.
At what stage in pregnancy should women make the decision to hire a doula?
You can choose your doula at any time. I’ve gotten calls at 6 weeks gestation and have been hired the day of labor when moms decide they needed more support. But I always recommend you start looking for your doula as soon as possible, that way you have time to pick your favorite, ensure they are available for your due date, arrange a payment plan if needed, and take advantage of getting to know your doula.
What should women expect to pay when hiring a doula?
Doula prices vary based on area. In Houston, prices can vary between $800 – $1800 depending on experience, training, and packages.
Are you accepting new clients?
I am currently accepting limited birth clients and I am booked for postpartum for the rest of 2021.
Tell us about your podcast: In The Family Way. That sounds so interesting!
Ahhhhh, my little love child. This podcast was a product of years of being irritated with the lack of realistic support given to moms. A fellow doula whom I just adore, I call her my doula wife LOL, teamed up and decided to create short straightforward episodes to help families get the trusted info they need. You can find us on all platforms (Apple, Spotify, Google podcasts, etc.) and we drop new episodes every other Wednesday or hUmpDayyyyy!
I want to extend a huge thank you to Alex for taking the time to provide us with a super informative chunk of information and knowledge! I hope this interview provided you with some general knowledge about doula services and the modern family. Alex is offering 15% off birth packages when you mention South Houston Moms. More information on her services can be found here.