What You Need To Know About Doulas, Midwives & Natural Childbirth

Thinking about hiring a doula or midwife for your child's birth? Read this first.


Michelle Smith IAT, CPD and owner of Embracing Babies, interviewed Debbie Benton, a certified midwife assistant, birthing and postpartum doula. With 15 years of experience, she offers the answers to all of your questions as parents-to-be from pregnancy to postpartum care.

Michelle: What do you say to people who are scared of doing a home birth because they are not close to a medical facility?

Debbie: It begins with pregnancy. You have to take care of yourself. Midwives make sure that you are a low-risk client so that they know what to expect. If something changes during labor, there is usually more than ample time to get mom to the hospital. Yet, a home birth might not be the right choice for every woman. It is important for a woman to understand her choices.


Michelle: You mentioned prenatal visits. Can you explain what prenatal visits are?

Debbie: During prenatal visits, I usually bring a checklist of things to discuss with the family. During the first visit, we will get to know each other, make note of their preferences, discuss their concerns, and develop a birth plan, as well as discuss why it's important to them. At this point, we are trying to get comfortable with one another, and I want to let them know that I am available to answer their questions. During the second meeting, we talk more specifically about what they would like the birthing environment to be like. Does she want music? Does she have snack preferences? And I will address any other fears she has of being in labor. We also go over the plan for when labor begins, and when they should contact me.


Michelle: When should they call you during their pregnancy and when should they call you during labor?

Debbie: Really anytime during the pregnancy. If I work with someone early in the pregnancy I can answer their questions and work with their general nutrition questions as well; nutrition is very important throughout pregnancy. I have also done private childbirth classes and refresher courses for parents. Many people don't decide they want a doula until the end of their pregnancy, which is fine. If this is the situation, I will try to squeeze in two prenatal visits and cover as much ground as possible within that time. As far as during labor, I encourage my moms to contact me after they have had doctor visits, and discuss any changes in how they are feeling — especially if it's a first-time mom, who will not recognize when labor is around the corner. I also encourage my moms to call me as early as they like when they suspect that labor has begun. It doesn't mean that I necessarily go running out the door, but I can rearrange anything I need to do so that I am completely available for them when the time is right.

Michelle: What is the cost of a midwife?

Debbie: For the services of a midwife — and more specifically a midwife offering home birth services — I would say it averages about $6,000. A midwife can do all of your prenatal care, labor, and delivery and postpartum follow-up care.


Michelle: What is the price for a water tub?

Debbie: Approximately $250 for rental. A home birth midwife may have a tub available for use and you would just purchase the disposable liner for the tub, along with any other required home birth supplies.

Michelle: What are some of the benefits of using a water tub?

Debbie: Laboring in water can be very relaxing for mom or at least cut down on the sensations and intensity of the contractions during labor by as much as 50 percent.

Michelle: What is the most painless way to go through labor?

Debbie: Stay present and relaxed as much as possible; let go of any fear and tension. You need loving and caring support. Those who support you will know and understand what is important to you for your birth experience, and help to keep the environment as calm, peaceful and quiet as possible, limiting interruptions from outside sources in order to create a sense of privacy for mom. The family should not bring their own agendas; it is all about mom.


Michelle: What is the average length of first-baby labor?

Debbie: It can range anywhere from 12 to 20 hours (on average) but of course, every labor is different, as every woman is different. Keep reading...

More parenting advice from YourTango:

Michelle: What does a doula do?

Debbie: A doula will provide a nonjudgmental form of support; support that is loving, caring, emotional, and educational. The doula will provide support during pregnancy through the postpartum period, and be available to answer questions your provider may not be able to answer simply due to not being able to spend enough time with you. She will listen to your concerns and help you find your own unique way of approaching "your" birth experience. During labor a doula can also provide physical comfort measures, assist mom with changing positions, give emotional support to the mother and father, as well as be an advocate for them.


Michelle: What is a doula not allowed to do?

Debbie: A doula does not provide medical care or advice, nor can she diagnose or treat any medical concern.

Michelle: Why should one hire a doula?

Debbie: There are many different reasons why you should hire a doula. Most of all, it's for the support aspect. It's someone who can support what you want and help you explore your ideal birth experience; someone who can be there to give you information and answer your questions. They will not force their ideals on you, but empower you to be confident in your choices. A doula can help you find the answers that you are looking for and get you the resources you need. The best part is they can be with you continuously throughout labor.


Michelle: Can a doula help you carry out your birthing plan?

Debbie: Yes, they can. A doula will not speak for you, but she will empower you to speak for yourself. Sometimes we are intimidated by doctors, and we think that they are all-knowing and have all the answers, and there are reasons for why they recommend certain things, but sometimes that is due to the nature of their business. But, that is not always the best option for you. It is best for you to have all the information so you can make decisions and consider what the best option for you is.

Michelle: What does the cost of a doula include?

Debbie: The cost of a doula can vary greatly, but it normally ranges from $1,800 to $2,500 and up. Most doulas will include an initial interview, two prenatal visits and I will also offer to go with mom to the doctor if the family would like. I will labor with a mother at her home and stay with her throughout labor, as well as stay a few hours postpartum, which will include leaving for about an hour to give the mom and baby some bonding time. It also includes two postpartum follow-up visits, one right after the birth and the second about a week or two after the birth. Then, I offer email, phone and even texting support if they have any questions or need resources. I will also offer additional visits if they need more support.


Michelle: What do you cover in postpartum visits?

Debbie: We may cover what happened during pregnancy, labor, or birth, and I can answer any questions that they have. I will also answer any questions that they have about recovery, their baby, or adjusting to life once they are home. In general, I am still providing various types of support, giving encouragement, and helping people build confidence in their new roles as parents.

Michelle: How can a doula help the father or partner?

Debbie: The father or partner may feel like it is not necessary to hire a doula, if they are going to be there to provide support. As a doula, you are there to support both parents. There have been a lot of changes ever since fathers/partners have started coming into the delivery room. I do not think they should have the pressure to be mom's labor coach. They should be there to support mom and give her love. I think that when you support both parents and take the pressure off the father or partner, they feel relieved that all they have to do is hold her hand and tell her they love her. The father/partner does not need to remember everything that was learned in childbirth class. All you have to do is be there. Keep reading...


Michelle: How did you give birth to the children that you have?

Debbie: I have three children and all three were born in a birth center with a midwife. I was adamant about not doing any drugs or going to a hospital. I think that I basically used tools like visualization, relaxation and breathing to approach my birth. I also trusted the process of birth and what my body was designed to do. I didn't even know when my labor started for my first child. I was working on puzzles when my labor with my second child began.

Michelle: Is there anything that you would do differently now that you have all this knowledge as a doula?

Debbie: I would have breastfed my first child longer and I would have had all my kids at home. I stopped breastfeeding the first time very early, at about a month or so, because I lacked support and information. I wish I had breastfed my first daughter for a year to two years, like my other two children.


Michelle: Why did you decide on going to a birth center instead of having your kids at home?

Debbie: I was raised to make sure that whenever people were coming over, the house had to be spotless, so I worried about having the house clean when I was going into labor. I feel so silly about that now.

Michelle: So what sparked your interest in working in childbirth and postpartum?


Debbie: Well, I loved being pregnant. Every moment was something completely new and unique. After having my kids and supporting my friends when they were pregnant, and through labor and birth, I knew that I wanted to learn more about supporting other women. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I also felt that support was so needed. I am very passionate about what I do, and I wouldn't choose to do anything else.

Michelle: What advice do you have for moms who are wondering how and when to start weaning?

Debbie: There is something called "baby-led weaning." As babies develop in different areas, they start to separate themselves from mom. They transition to eating more solid foods, which should be provided to them. Still, every mom and baby are unique and will do what is best for them.

Michelle: What do you think when you hear, "I am petite and my baby was too big to deliver vaginally"?


Debbie: I think everything should be taken on a case-by-case basis. I don't think that anything is impossible. Some doctors will tell you that your baby is too big for you to deliver. I have seen many small women deliver big babies.

Michelle: Why choose Debbie Benton?

Debbie: My goal is to always exceed expectations, and I really hope that I bring something to the table without overdoing anything.  I want to be the best support I can be in helping to create the best outcome possible. I feel that I have a certain level of intuition; I know when to do and not do something, and I truly care about my clients. I can be present to give guidance, encouragement, and information without judgment. I have approximately 15 years of experience and was initially trained as a midwife assistant and an advanced doula. I have continued my education and I am currently certified as a natural health consultant, a certified Dr. Sears wellness institute L.E.A.N. Expectations Coach (acronym for Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude, Nutrition), a certified doula specializing in acupressure for pregnancy care and labor support, and a Level 1 Reiki practitioner. I am currently in the process of completing my certification as an ICEA childbirth educator and pursuing my degree in nutrition.

To hire Debbie Benton as your personal doula, please contact us at EmbracingBabies.com.