The short answer to this question is yes.  If you can afford to do so, hire a labor coach or doula is an excellent idea, especially if you’re planning a natural birth.  You can have the most supportive spouse in the world, but odds are he or she does not contain an encyclopedic knowledge of childbirth.  The sole purpose of hiring a labor coach, or to find doula is to provide yourself with an expert in childbirth.  Surprisingly, OBs are expert surgeons, but they aren’t always experts in childbirth; here’s why:

Should You Hire a Labor Coach or Find a Doula

1.      OBs Lack Knowledge in Non-Invasive Techniques
Your OB is most likely a skilled surgeon.  But if you’re having a normal, healthy pregnancy it’s unlikely you’ll need a C-section.  Doulas are skilled in a variety of non-invasive pain management techniques such as massage, breathing exercises, hypnosis, acupressure, acupuncture, and a variety of other practices all of which can lessen the intensity of contractions.  Several studies show that births attended by doulas are statistically less likely to end in a C-section.

2.      OBs Will Have Multiple Patients
Having your OB enter and exit your room can be nerve-wracking.  He or she will come in every so often to check your dilation and effacement, but won’t stay longer than a few minutes until you’re ready to deliver.  A labor coach or doula is there with you 100%.  Want a glass of water?  Need an expert massage because you’re having back labor?  She’ll be there for you at your side until that baby is safely delivered.

3.      OBs are Not Your Advocate
Your OB will present your medical options to you, but he or she will not likely advocate for what you want.  He or she will likely respect your wishes, but some may not, especially regarding natural birth and/or birthing positions other than the birthing bed. Find a labor coach or find a doula who will act as your advocate, conveying your birth plan and working to make it happen.

4.      OBs May Recommend Unnecessary Medical Procedures
Hospitals are businesses too.  If your labor is slow and not progressing, your OB will likely recommend a C-section.  This is also true if the baby hasn’t turned.  A labor coach or doula on the other hand will work with you through non-invasive means to address any issues that arise during your labor.  OBs are also more likely to recommend episiotomies as well instead of recommending labor positions such as squatting to decrease the likelihood of creating one.

5.      OBs are Done After Delivery
Once your baby arrives, your OB’s job is done.  You’ll likely schedule a post-partum checkup, but beyond that, your OB is off attending to other patients.  Some doulas however,  offer post-partum services and will come to your home to help you during the adjustment period.  They can help you master swaddling, safely bathe your newborn, and offer breastfeeding support.  Many also cook and complete light housework such as laundry.  This support can be crucial during the transitional period into parenthood.

Here’s the main difference between OBs and doulas: OBs treat pregnancy while doulas view it as a natural process.  Just as in any profession, you can find a doula in all types of personalities.  Some may be bubbly and energetic; others may be calm and serene.  It’s important to interview several and find a good match for you; the last thing you want while you’re in labor is to have an individual that grates on your nerves!

Most insurances will not cover the cost of a labor coach or doula; however many women believe that this out-of-pocket expense is well worthwhile.  The constant support and non-invasive pain management techniques offered throughout labor and delivery are priceless.  If you’re considering a natural childbirth investing in a doula is a wonderful idea.