I’ve heard this question asked many times. Different women will give different answers; some feel that going into birth with the knowledge a class provides is more important. Others feel that the hands-on support a doula will give you is key. As a childbirth educator, doula, and mother, my honest answer is that no matter what kind of birth you want, both of these things are absolutely crucial.
In a good childbirth class, you’ll learn about exactly what happens with your body and baby during labor and birth. You’ll learn ideas for feeling comfortable during labor, and ideas of things to do when you don’t feel comfortable. You will learn about various interventions, procedures, and medications, so that you can have an understanding of the risks and benefits before you’re faced with decisions about them during a vulnerable time. You’ll deal with fears and anxiety, work through creating a birth plan, and learn what to expect postpartum. If you take a class like Intuitive Birth, you may greatly reduce your risk of ending up with a cesarean, and you may find you have the confidence and know-how to give birth naturally without fear.
When you hire a doula, you have a go-to person for your pregnancy. Rather than calling the nurse you barely know at the doctor’s office, you can call the doula you’ve spent time with and feel comfortable with. If you have a pressing question at 4 am, your doula will answer the phone and she’s happy to do it. No matter who your birth attendant is, if you’re planning a hospital birth you will not get continuous labor support. With a doula, you can rest assured that you will have someone with you from the time you call until your baby is born, and for a little while after as you settle in. You also have postpartum support and help with breastfeeding. Doulas have been found to reduce the c-section rate, the use of Pitocin, the need for forceps or vacuum extraction, and many other interventions.
So how do you choose? The fact is, you really shouldn’t choose just one unless you absolutely have to. With childbirth classes, time and money can be a factor. Baby Steps offers private classes if you can’t find a group class that fits into your schedule, or if you’ve started looking too late to be able to take a comprehensive 9-week class. We also offer the shorter Preparing for Your Birth class which, while not as comprehensive as our natural birth class, is a great alternative to the less balanced classes the hospitals offer. We hope that cost will not deter anyone from taking a class that can change the experience of their birth so dramatically, so we’ll work with you to make classes affordable. We take credit cards through PayPal and we offer payment plans as well.
Money may also be a factor with doulas. Doulas often take payment plans as well, and some will accept partial payment in barter form if you have a skill or product to trade. What’s even more exciting is that there is an insurance billing code for doula services now. Though most doulas don’t deal with insurance companies themselves, you can now submit a claim to be reimbursed for the cost of your doula. Insurance companies tend to deny things routinely so if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying! Often just resubmitting a claim will get it paid. Some couples don’t want to hire a doula because they want more privacy during the birth, but having a doula can actually increase privacy. Hospital births are not particularly private in many cases, with strange nurses coming and going and sometimes medical students, depending on the hospital. A doula can help remind people that they should knock before entering, and that people coming and going should be kept to a minimum. And if you ever need a private moment, your doula is happy to step out, waiting close by until you need her again.
Each birth you experience will be different, presenting its own unique joys and challenges. Each child of yours is born only one time, and making each birth the most positive and the safest experience possible is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, your partner, and your baby. Taking a class and hiring a doula will add value you can’t imagine if you have never done it that way. If our classes and doulas aren’t a good fit for you, there are many other options available in the Atlanta area. Make this birth your top priority, and you won’t regret it.