Choosing a labor doula is a little like falling in love: The chemistry has to be just right. After all, this trained birth assistant will be at your side during one of the most important days of your life. So how do you find your special someone? Enter doula speed-dating, a chance to meet a variety of doulas with different styles, backgrounds and experience levels in hopes of finding “the one.”
At 6:45, I parked my car and walked into the hospital. I changed into scrubs, swiped on some lipstick and headed to the nurses’ station. By 7:10 I was in the operating room with a woman I’d never met as her doctor made an incision. At 7:20, I was resuscitating a seconds-old baby born floppy, gray, not breathing or crying. At 7:35, I handed the little girl to her beaming father who burst into tears of relief that his baby and wife were both just fine.
Midwives are being “rediscovered” by growing numbers of pregnant women today. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2006 (the most recent figures available), they attended a record-busting 317,168 births—7.4 percent of all U.S. births; 96.7 percent of them took place in hospitals, 2 percent in birth centers and 1.3 percent in homes. To help you decide whether to go the midwife route, here are answers to some of the most common questions.
What advantages do midwives offer?
I must have been the only person in America who hadn’t seen Mad Men. That is, until last weekend when rain and lack of motivation found me lying on the couch with my laptop and a pile of Season One DVDs. No surprise that it’s just like everybody’s been telling me - phenomenal. I’m totally hooked - the characters, those clothes, the furniture and that hair. It’s love.
Shannon absolutely hates, hates, hates vaginal exams. She’s pregnant with baby number two, due next month and says she’s dreading the onslaught of fingers in her vagina that start in late pregnancy and don’t end until after the baby’s born. Her question: What happens if I just say, “no?”
Nicole emailed that she saw a note in her chart she didn’t understand. Her doctor wrote at her nine-week prenatal appointment that her “abdomen was soft and the uterus non-palpable.” Nicole’s worried something might be wrong.
I often answer emails that come from far away. Today, I’ll answer one from down the street. My banker has finally gotten “pregnant enough” that it’s safe to ask when she’s due. Anyone with any amount of common sense knows better than to ask that question before its obviously a pregnancy, and not, say, a few extra pounds. I like Dave Barry’s quote: “You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests you think she’s pregnant unless you can see a baby actually emerging from her at that moment.” Excellent advice, Dave.
I’ve been deluged with reader questions lately that all share one thing. They all ask: Can you tell me if I’m OK? I’ve gotten questions about breastfeeding, stomach pain, spotting, missed periods, cramps, discharge and many other subjects. Readers range from “not sure they’re pregnant” to somewhere near the end of their pregnancy. They’re all confused about a symptom, feeling or piece of information they’ve picked up somewhere and just want me to tell them: You’re OK.
How early is too early in a pregnancy to call my midwife or doctor? If I don't want to "bother" my doctor, how can I find out more about my medical situation? What should I do if it's the middle of the night and I have spotting? These are some of the recent questions readers have emailed and they all have one thing in common. They're all worried about inconveniencing or bothering their doctor.
It's a good week to answer questions. I'll try to tackle a few. Amber wrote wondering when she should expect to start looking pregnant and when to go to the doctor. The doctor part is easy to answer. Call for an appointment as soon as you take a home-pregnancy test. They may have you come in right away if you have any medical conditions they're concerned about or, they may schedule for what they guess will be your 6-8th week of pregnancy. According to the March of Dimes, this is what you can expect for your prenatal schedule of appointments:
Samantha and Natalie emailed and both started their questions with, "I know this might be silly or trivial but..." Ladies, please, there are no silly or trivial questions except for the ones you don't ask. Pregnancy, obstetrics, labor, birth, insurance plans, hospital policies and doctors' preferences are all so varied and complicated that I'm surprised at how few questions most women ask.
Heather wrote with some darn good questions. Her husband doesn't want to be in the delivery room. It'll be gross and he doesn't want to see Heather in pain. After some "discussion," she's talked him into being there but isn't sure he'll be much support. She's considering hiring a doula for labor support though she's planning on an epidural. Her doctor says the labor nurses at her hospital are great so Heather wonders if a doula is necessary. She's due on Christmas day and worries she'll get an inexperienced nurse without enough seniority to get Christmas off.
I get dozens of calls and emails a year from friends, family, friends-of-friends, asking questions about pregnancy, labor, birth, epidurals, breastfeeding, what-to-do-with-a-terrible-two, and an endless array of worries and concerns. Everybody needs a labor nurse friend to help sort these things out. Some questions are silly (we'll attribute those to placenta-brain) but most are very common. Here are a few for starters:
Q: My baby was sucking his thumb during the ultrasound. What can I do to get him to stop?