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Ask a Doula

Gina Dolski, certified doula, founder of The Sown Seed and co-founder Gather Birth Cooperative answers all of your questions about what a doula is, what she does, how to find one, and everything in between.

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the person my friends would come to and discuss women’s and sexual health. I’d always get the same kind of justification, “I don’t know why, I just feel comfortable talking about this with you!” From there, I really dove into and educated myself on the topics, because if I was going to be a resource for people, I needed to know what I was talking about. Often, our conversations included a lot of me sitting quietly and listening, providing judgment-free support. Years of this led me to my vocation: I’m Gina Dolski and I’m a birth doula.

I own two businesses built around supporting people through the voyage of parenthood: The Sown Seed, which focuses on self care and wellness in parenthood, and my main birth business, Gather Birth Cooperative, which I share with three other amazing doulas and birth photographers.

photo of a brunette woman on a couch

What is a doula?

Unlike a midwife who is there to manage the medical aspects of your birth, a doula is there for all the little pieces that can sometimes be forgotten about. Your birth team has to focus primarily on the health and wellbeing of your child, so a lot of the remaining responsibilities fall on other people on your team, most often a partner. Partners are irreplaceable members of the birth team, no one knows how to calm you better than they do, but they also aren’t birth professionals. Your partner doesn’t, and shouldn’t, know what position to put you in to help speed up your labor or all the benefits and risks of interventions, especially in-context of your labor. That’s why you hire a doula, they help fill in the blanks. 

doula helping a woman in a bathtub

What do doulas do exactly?

I support people physically, mentally and emotionally through pregnancy, labor and postpartum. I provide unbiased, evidence-based information to make decisions, all while helping people advocate for themselves and have a positive birth experience. I am absolutely in love with what I do. As mentioned earlier, I own two businesses built around supporting people through the voyage of parenthood: The Sown Seed, which focuses on self care and wellness in parenthood, and my main birth business, Gather Birth Cooperative, which I share with three other amazing doulas and birth photographers. 

I wish more people knew about doulas, not just selfishly so I could be a part of their big day, but because all of the research supports just how beneficial they are to the process. Based on the evidence, we know that having a doula at your birth decreases your chances of a cesarean by 25%. Doula-supported births are on average, 41 minutes shorter. On top of the many other stats, including decreased use of pain medication and improved initial health of your baby, I think most importantly, people that have a doula at their birth are 38% more likely to view the experience positively. That is huge!

doula holding a pregnant woman's back in a kitchn

How do doulas help your significant others or partners in birth?

A good doula should be there to help make your partner look like a birth rockstar. I do a lot of whispering into partners’ ears, giving them all the good ideas and letting them take all the credit. I’m also there to let your partner run to the bathroom, get something to eat or take a nap, all while they know you’re supported and not left on your own. A great doula helps protect what an important bonding experience birth is for a couple; they help foster the confidence two people will have to parent together from a beautiful birth experience. 

As a doula, I’m here to support your ideal birth, whatever that looks like. A doula shouldn’t push an agenda, but instead help you identify what goals you have for your birth and what tools you’d like to use throughout labor. Many people have the perception doulas only support unmedicated birth, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, 60% of the births I support use either epidural anesthesia or IV narcotics for pain relief, while the remaining 40% chooses an unmedicated birth, sometimes supported by inhaled nitrous oxide. 

doula holding a pregnant woman's back in a bathroom

How do doulas prevent C section intervention?

Although doulas help reduce cesareans, their support if you were to have a c-section is tremendous. Some hospitals allow birthing people to have both their partner and a doula present in the operating room. A doula’s presence helps you stay calm and informed on what is happening throughout the process, also ensuring the birthing person is never left alone. If your doula is unable to be in the operating room with you, their presence afterward to support you with postpartum recovery and breastfeeding is amazing.

woman holding her newborn baby in a hospital bed

How do you find a trusted doula in your area?

I know what you’re thinking, “This doula thing sounds amazing, how do I get one?” Well the good news is, there is no wrong time to hire a doula. I’ve worked with families as early as 6 weeks into their pregnancy and been hired by a family at 41 weeks right before their birth. Many families start looking during the third trimester. I highly recommend Doula Match, it’s like Tinder for doulas! You’ll be able to search for doulas in your area who have availability for your birth.

couple in a bathtub holding their newborn baby

What should I look for in a doula?

Once you’ve found a couple of doulas who seem great on paper, it’s important to set up consultations to see who feels like a good fit. Although experience is important, the best choice for a good doula is one that feels like a love connection; this person will be with you in a very vulnerable time, so let your gut help decide. The majority of doulas have gone through training and some may be certified through an organization, although it is not required to practice. Take a peek at what continued education your doula has to help meet your birth and postpartum goals, like Spinning Babies training, lactation certifications etc. 

What’s a typical price range for a doula?

When it comes to budgeting for a doula, know that price varies based on location, but typically has quite a vast range. That being said, keep in mind your doula is putting in a lot of physical and emotional labor to support you, their price is likely a reflection of what is necessary to keep their business alive and support their family. Prioritizing doula payment as part of your birth budget really will pay off with your birth experience. Consider asking family and friends to contribute to their fee as part of your baby registry. Also keep in mind many Flex Savings Accounts and Health Savings Accounts can be used to pay for doula services. 

doula helping a woman in a tub

What is the doula’s role during pregnancy?

Once you’ve picked the perfect doula, you’ll likely work with them at least once during your pregnancy at a prenatal visit. Most doulas help families build a birth plan and are available outside the visit to answer questions and provide support by phone or email. Your doula should also be available for your birth or have a backup doula in the event of illness or other situations where they aren’t able to be present themselves. Typically after your birth, a doula provides at least one postpartum visit to discuss your birth and help your transition to parenthood. 

A doula fills in the gaps of important birth support we used to have regularly. It wasn’t until recently in history that birth was seen as a solitary experience. Previously, loved ones who’d birthed before surrounded and supported a person as they labored. I love that my role in someone’s birth story is to help them walk away with a sense of peace and confidence in their birth; labor was a mountain they climbed and not just an event that happened to them. You deserve to look back on your birth with a sense of accomplishment, no matter how you choose to labor, and feel like an absolute badass. 

Huge thanks to Gina for contributing to Ambitious Kitchen and answering all of your doula-related questions that were submitted on Instagram. Be sure to check out The Sown Seed and and Gather Birth Cooperative if you’re in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. You can also follow Gina on Instagram @gatherbirth and @thesownseed.

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