How to pick a doula is so important. There are plenty of inexperienced doulas out there, and finding an experienced doula that is the right fit can be a huge benefit to you & your labor team.
Today’s guest is April Davis from The Vagina Blog. She has worked as a birth assistant, birth photographer and doula. She is also behind The Vagina Blog Podcast and you can also find her on Instagram (seriously, follow her, my friends).
This post was inspired by my post on Pro’s and Con’s of Doulas. Which is loved to hate by the doula community, but I want to be VERY clear that a GOOD dolula is worth their weight in gold. Those types of doulas are just harder to find…
Big thanks to our sponsor The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. I don’t think it’s ever been more important to GET PREPARED for your upcoming labor!
In this episode:
We are talking about how to choose your attendant if you are planning a home birth.
The best parts of having a doula at your birth.
The questions to ask when interviewing doulas
What good doulas do during birth
Other things that might interest you:
My post on hospital vs home birth
Creating a birth plan (and I talk a LOT about how flexible you need to be in that post as well).
Episode on good doula boundaries.
Producer: Drew Erickson
Check out my other pregnancy podcasts:
Check out all my podcasts:
Hilary Erickson 0:00
Hey guys, welcome to Episode 47 of the Pulling Curls Podcast today I have my soul sister coming on We met at a conference recently we’re going to talk about what doulas are good for what to look for in a doula and how they can help you and your partner in your upcoming delivery. Let’s untangle it. Welcome to the pulling girls podcast where we untangle everything from pregnancy parenting Homer, teens, even some family travel because heavens knows our lives are tangled.
I’m your host, Hilary Erickson. Hey guys, before I introduce my guests, it’s my time to beg you for a review. If you’re already on a podcast platform leave me some stars leave me some words. I really appreciate it and it helps our podcasts get heard by more people. Okay. Today’s guest has a blog called the vagina blog. Right? All of my friends. We were at a conference called all together and she was speaking on vaginas. And well it was more like on periods I think and all of my friends were like, that is your person Hilary and she kind of is she is Former doula she’s retired from dueling but now she runs a blog, the vagina blog.
She runs a podcast. I don’t know if it’s the vagina podcast. I think it’s the vagina blog podcast maybe. Anyway, I want to welcome my friend April Davis. This episode of The pulling curls podcast is sponsored by the online prenatal class. for couples. It simplifies understanding labor so you can have a more relaxed pregnancy and birth taught by a highly experienced labor and delivery nurse and can be done wherever you are whenever you want. No more arranging busy schedules to fit in a prenatal class. Save 15% with a coupon code untangled You can find out more at pulling curls calm and the menu under courses or in this episode show notes. Hey, April, welcome to The Pulling Curls podcast.
April Davis 1:43
Hey, glad to be here.
Hilary Erickson 1:45
I know we are Kismet, the vagina blog. All my friends think I’m obsessed with that word. Yep, yep. So tell us a little bit about like your background what you’ve done. As far as vaginas.
April Davis 1:58
I kind of started off This journey I’ve always had like a very natural curiosity towards anatomy, specifically female anatomy for sure. I did emergency medicine in the very early beginning as a college and kind of became fascinated with it. I also did digital Motion Picture production. So I did a lot of videography, graphic design and video, which is just in photo which is so funny that I have this very mixed college experience. So I went on after the birth of my second I knew at that point that I really wanted to work in childbirth. And so I was kind of looking to become a doula and stumbled into a job with certified nurse midwife as a birth assistant. So I moved neighborhoods, I met a woman in my neighborhood who was working as her assistant.
She was a nikkie nurse, originally and then was doing this and I think I needed that kind of, because I was it was interesting because we Homer using humberts Ember sweepers but for subversion, so I was just wasn’t sure about it. I just felt so in love.
So I worked as a birth assistant to a nurse midwife for five years. And then I also started working as soon as I got really comfortable assisting in childbirth, I started working as a doula and would take my own clients either at their homes or in the hospital. And then I also worked as a birth photographer, so I kind of had the opportunity to see birth from three different angles, which was really cool. And working for a nurse midwife was great. She was also our nurse practitioner Planned Parenthood here and does a lot of gynecological care. So I kind of got to see the ins and outs of not just birth, but gynecological care.
Hilary Erickson 3:31
That’s awesome. That’s really cool. So is she certified nurse midwife? Yep. And a nurse practitioner or no? Yeah. So she just does it as a midwife, because a midwife could still practice at Planned Parenthood.
April Davis 3:41
Yeah, yeah. So you can go in and practices in Planned Parenthood as a CFM.
Hilary Erickson 3:44
Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah. If you are planning a home birth, that is the way to go, my friends. 100% Yeah, that is totally different than a lay midwife who’s just had experience in birth. Well, because a certified nurse midwife, she’s probably practices The labor and delivery nurse and then went to midwife School, which is like a master’s and now even a PhD school, right? It is. That’s what’s so interesting if you do your DNP, which you can now and they kind of want you to do if you’re going to be freestanding and all this changes state to state
April Davis 4:12
Utah’s very loose midwifery practices and so a nurse midwife can actually practice and not have to be under the guidance of an obstetrician. Most states require that nurse midwives have an OB that they practice under Utah does not which is really there’s pros and cons to that for sure. And I would say to Certified Professional midwives practice and I’ve seen some really good ones and some really bad ones. But for me personally, nurse midwife way to go
Hilary Erickson 4:40
Yeah, and I work with nurse with my son my hospital they do hospital they do birth center they do home depending on your state. I’ve heard in Arizona we’re tighter. Yeah, I think and in the hospital they have to practice under an OB Yeah, homers illegal they’re right here in Arizona. Now you can homework
April Davis 4:56
you can I don’t believe that.
Hilary Erickson 4:59
nurse midwives can Humberto lay lay people can can home birth I believe, I mean, we have failed home births that come to us. So probably,
April Davis 5:07
I still don’t know if it’s legal.
There’s like a handful of states. It’s such a weird thing to me. But there’s a handful of states where the homework is straight up illegal and some midwives can actually get arrested for practicing. It’s which I feel like is crazy United States of America. That’s even a thing that
Hilary Erickson 5:24
Yeah, I guess. I mean, I would doubt they would get arrested. It probably just protects the state somehow, one of those weird rules. That’s what I’m saying. So April’s had all this cool background. So that’s really neat. So but today, we’re going to kind of focus on doula. Yeah. So I have a really popular post for people to hate about the pros and cons of doulas. And so I write April on to talk a little bit more about the pros of a doula because people think that I’m a doula hater and that post But mostly, I’m a hater of cheap doulas who aren’t worth anything. So a lot of people go to find a doula. And they’re looking for a low cost one because they don’t want to spend very much And then those doulas aren’t worth anything in fact they might even cost you like emotional support while you’re in labor so absolute April I can tell was a great doula so how what is the best part about having a doula ever I just the thing
April Davis 6:13
that was interesting for me is and I let me preface this was really fantastic hospital. I’ve been so impressed I’ve delivered to me to the hospital and went to home. So I’ve been through both systems, but I will say going into the hospital even with the doctors that I’ve just adored. I it was interesting as I would go in because people would say, oh, they’re they’re treating us different now that you’re here. And I was like, What do you mean? Well, they’re explaining more now that we’ve told them we have a doula here. They’re telling us everything that’s going on more. And I really, really I liked being there. It’s you’re almost a translator, I think as a doula because I know what it means when they want to place a scalp electrode and can kind of help explain that process. And you know, for me as a doula, too, I think the most important thing is to be this cushion and liaison between the medical staff and the you know person laboring and any support that they have. And I also doulas are great to serve as not only a support to you if you’re the one in labor, but to your partner, I always wanted to help people, their partners be able to know how to best help, because I think sometimes partners they get so panicked. They don’t know what to do, they don’t help. I mean, this might be your husband, this might be your sister, this might be your mother, they don’t always know what to do. And so I love being able to enable them and help them know what to do. So doulas really serve and I mean, they they’ve now shown us studies that doulas really helped keep things lower intervention and are really amazing at helping with pain relief. Yeah, I mean, I love a good doula.
Hilary Erickson 7:42
Yeah, but I find them to be very rare. The good ones? Yeah.
April Davis 7:46
So for me, I wouldn’t even necessarily look at price. I would, I would look at how they answer a list of certain questions. But that’s more important to me. When you’re looking for a doula. I think it’s really important to ask them because my frustration with a lot of them is this You aren’t going to birth the way that they think you should first. They’re not good at supporting you. And that really frustrates me and I have people sometimes come to me and say, Well, I want an epidural. Do I need a doula? Absolutely, because because you know, the longer we can kind of push off an epidural, there’s a big difference between if they get an epidural at like three centimeters, four centimeters, it’s an epidural at like six centimeters, eight centimeters, if you can push it off just a little bit further, you’re hopefully going to be upright a little bit longer, gravity’s going to help have that effect moving that baby down, you’re going to be able to move around in positions that are more instinctual to you. And then you’re just getting an epidural there at that healing. So you don’t have to go through, you know, maybe some of the pushing or some of the transition. So I really want to meet my client and say, What do you want? What is your birth look like? What’s your ideal birth leg look like? And how can I help you have that? So if you meet with your doula, and they say, you know, I really only like doing home birth. And I don’t think you should ever get any medication ever and you should never have any medical intervention at all. Not be the doula for you. Because if she’s got, or they have that that mindset kind of going in, you just can’t you don’t know you don’t know what’s going to happen. You kind of have to be able to go with the flow you want to do that can be answering the questions as you’re going with the flow. What’s happening?
Hilary Erickson 9:15
Yeah. So first of all, I think everyone that’s hospitalized sort of needs a hospitalization doula, because when my mom was in the hospital last fall, like right, nurses forget stuff. I’m not saying that the nurses were bad by any stretch of the imagination. maybe one or two wasn’t the most awesome, but even great nurses forget things totally. Or they just kind of like this is what we’re doing because I have 500 other things on my plate, and they just do it. And so then they would do it and then I would explain everything to my mom when they left, right,
April Davis 9:43
don’t you? I feel that way too, because I’m like, Oh my goodness, this person needs a doula. You need to do it for what you’re like. I feel like all cancer patients need a cancer doula.
Hilary Erickson 9:52
I totally agree. Yeah. And so I think that that is awesome when you kind of go into it thinking that she I love how you said the word translator. Yeah, I don’t know that I see practitioners that different I do have practitioners who do not like doulas in general. So they tend to bristle maybe when the doulas in the room but I love a good doula. Yeah. What I don’t love is when they aren’t very well trained. And then they’re asking me like 600 questions. It’s like I’m training them. So that’s frustrating. That’s been my most annoying, but Oh, for sure. I love them. And I love that you give the partner support because sometimes I see the doula shove the dad to the side and the dads just like playing Angry Birds on his phone while the baby’s born. No, see, I
April Davis 10:33
hate that I want partners to be as heavily involved in possible and I want to empower them, give them the tools they can do to help. I’ve taught so many husbands how to squeeze hips, how to put pressure on knees, you know, kind of pressure on the knees, how to, you know, help with this business. I want them to be the hero in the situation, not me, you know. And so that’s another great question to ask your doula. What are you going to do to help not only take care of me but my partner and like I said, whether that’s your spouse or your Or your sister or a friend that’s coming with you, like, be clear about that role that you want your doula to fulfill. Because that’s really important to me, you know, to be able to really kind of help tie that family unit together cuz I’m just gonna be there that day and then, you know, I’m a little bit of support after and then I’m gone.
Hilary Erickson 11:16
Yeah, cuz you’re in this forever. Yeah, yeah. You know, because a lot of times, it doesn’t come naturally to dads either. It’s not like they have some motherly instinct that’s gonna kick in and tell them how to squeeze your hips or how to really help you out. Yeah,
April Davis 11:30
yeah. They don’t know.
Hilary Erickson 11:32
Honestly, it doesn’t come naturally to most people.
April Davis 11:34
No, and I birthing doesn’t always come naturally. I mean, it’s, it’s everybody you’re learning for the first time it can feel kind of scary. You know, as you’re going in. I still remember with my first baby, I was in the middle of transition, and I decided to get an epidural. My husband was holding my hands and I looked up and my husband was just crying. He was so scared. He didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how to help me. He felt so powerless and I just I never want Want partners to feel that way? I never, ever want the laboring person fall away. I always want everyone to feel so safe and secure and informed. It’s something that’s really important to me too, is just making sure people understand, you know, as they’re making choices throughout labor, what pros and cons could be, and why it would be a good idea or why it wouldn’t be a good idea. Because I there’s a lot of I really love. What’s the website? It’s
Hilary Erickson 12:24
evidence based birth. Yes,
April Davis 12:25
exactly. So that’s what I really try to point people to as much as possible because I want them to be able to make evidence based informed. And also, I really, I don’t know, I feel like you read on that. And then I’m really big. Also on some intuition. I had a good friend called me and said, April, I had a C section of my first she had breech and I was like, you don’t have to have a C if this is a breech, baby. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re, you can’t deliver and she called me and she said, I just feel like I should have a second c section. I don’t know why, but that’s what he’s talking about. I was like, Okay, well, let’s make it the best c section like what can we do to really prepare you for success. And so she was able to call the hospital and say, Okay, what are my options? Can I have a clear drape? Do I have to do it with the drape? Do I have to be, you know, they’re not tying them down anymore, which is really nice. But so she’s able to talk through, like, what can I do within my C section to make it exactly how I kind of want it to be. And she had a beautiful c section experience, because that’s, there’s no one way to birth, I cannot preach that enough. Everyone has their own unique experiences. And even if you’ve had one baby one way, it doesn’t mean your next pregnancy and delivery is going to be that way. They’re also different. And so I think it’s so important to go in with, you know, an open mind and to be aware of kind of what you would prefer given different scenarios, and then you just kind of have to go with the flow. And that’s hard. And I think it helps having a having a support person there to help you stay in that mindset of, I’m going with the flow, and I’m allowing things to happen as I feel they should and also based on the research that I’ve done ahead of time, right.
Hilary Erickson 13:55
I think that’s awesome. And I think it’s really nice to have an because while I’m not employed By the doctors, I am sort of employed by the doctors because they do wield some influence in the hospital and I can get in trouble if I get on their bad side because we want those doctors to keep coming back to the hospital because it is. So there are sometimes things we can’t say. Although if you look deeply into a nurse, you’ll see eye rolls and size in the background sometimes, but it’s hard to read those because, yeah, we’re not really allowed and we don’t we don’t write orders. And ultimately, it’s not our responsibility. So it’s really easy to be the backseat driver for a doctor sometimes. So
April Davis 14:33
yeah, oh, hundred percent. And I mean, that’s another reason why you have to be so particular about your care provider. Make sure you interview them, ask them a whole bunch of questions, do that early on in your pregnancies. If you don’t like them, you can switch people realize they can fire their doctor and switch doctors that’s so important to do that
Hilary Erickson 14:49
and it’s important to do early on because once you pass the weeks it is not as easy to fire a doctor.
April Davis 14:55
Yeah. And you don’t want to be that pregnant looking for a doctor. It’s so hard. Yeah,
Hilary Erickson 14:58
and the other thing I to recommend is that if you are looking for a doula I would ask your doctor if they have any recommendations because even the ones that bristle have ones that they do like to work with and are good, but then you know, they get the newbie and they don’t want to teach the newbie either just like I don’t. So that can be a good way to at least find someone who has a collegial relationship with your physician or provider. So especially if you’ve decided you like your care provider and you like your hospital and you kind of know what how they do things. Yeah, if you find a doula that works really well with that care team. That’s so ideal.
April Davis 15:30
Yes. 100% Okay, so we’ve talked a little bit about questions. People should be asking the doulas anything else you would say to ask in that meeting? Do usually just like do people reach out in an email usually I get emails or text messages. I mean, I’m I’m currently retired so I one of the reasons the vagina bog even started is because I kind of had to retire from being on call all the time because as a birth assistant, and as a doula, it’s just on call. It’s not a you’re not scheduled for a certain shift, you know, and so I kind of It’s hard but I still on occasion will have friends reach out to me or people who have kind of heard of me and just say, Hey, is there any way you can get going?
Yeah, I mean typically, you know, normally you can kind of ask around Ask your doctor reach out, you know, on Facebook or Instagram or social media and just say Does anybody know of any good tools and then I always recommend to set up an initial interview with them have a conversation about maybe how you would like your birth to go and like I said, if you start to see red flags of Well, I think your birth should go like this.
You know, that’s when a or if they’re home birth or die, I’m not home birth or die. I love homers, but I know a lot of people who are like, Oh, if you’re not having a home birth, I don’t support you. I don’t care what your risk factors are. Like, that’s not a good idea.
That’s a red flag. And so I would look for some of those. And if you feel like this is someone that can truly support you and be there for you. And once again, I think this is an intuition comes in. You want to feel it out and really see if this is someone that you click with your partner cliques with that you feel like is going to be supportive of you during this time? Did you do an in person
Hilary Erickson 17:05
meeting for that? Or do you do? I mean, I guess right now it would be zoom because everybody’s on zoom. Totally. I think now
April Davis 17:12
it’d be a zoom meeting. But, you know, once we kind of get back to things and how I was doing things before, it was always in person, I think there’s this has to be in person, you know, because it’s pretty intimate.
Hilary Erickson 17:22
That it is the vagina blog. Yes, we are recording this during COVID comes out a little bit later than after we record it. But I want to remind pregnant ladies that even once we get into COVID going away, they’re probably still going to be hotspots are times when we don’t allow to lose in the hospital at this point. And so do you have any tips? I know you’re not practicing right now. But what about doulas in a time where you might not be able to be in the hospital with them.
April Davis 17:48
Something that I’m seeing a lot of doulas doing that makes me so happy is they’re offering either free support or discounted health and like one of my favorite practices up in northern Utah. She’s doing everything virtually.
So the people that they’re supporting are able to reach out to them either on zoom or FaceTime or something as they’re going into the hospital as their labor and even though it’s not as great as having an actual doula there in person with eyes on everything, it’s something you know, it’s it’s someone having some eyes on things or they’re able to at least ask questions or get opinions or and you really want to make sure to if you are going to be reaching out to a doula for her opinion on X, Y and Z that this is someone who’s knowledgeable and trustworthy, you know?
Yes, for sure. Do you have any tips on what about like the initials behind your doula name or their initials? Or do they have certifications or there are certifications that exist Donna is probably the biggest one.
I personally chose not to certify because I also was working in a birth from a math medical aspect and doulas once you certify you’re you’re no longer allowed to do anything medical. There’s kind of this weird, can’t really cross Because a doula if you come to them with a medical question, really their best answer is have you asked your care provider? Right? That’s really kind of and then you can be like, well, what what would you do in this situation? And that’s when I start to say,
Okay, look, I’m not your doctor. And here’s the questions you should ask your doctor. If it was me, I would do this that and this is why this is a great conversation to have with your care provider. A good doula is really going to be helping point you in the direction and helping you know better questions to ask your care provider.
Yeah, do doulas get sued very much because there’s a labor nurse everything we say we’re always so crazy, cautious. Totally. And I don’t I don’t blame you. I know it’s actually you know, to be honest, I don’t know I think in in bigger cities where they’re bigger on certifying and things I could definitely see that being an issue. I don’t know of any doulas that are carrying things like malpractice or anything though. I don’t think that’s a necessity because they’re no giving official medical advice.
Hilary Erickson 19:56
I’m not sued as Hilary Erickson. I’m sued as Hilary Erickson as an employee of this giant hospital with deep deep pockets because Hilary Erickson sprockets are very small.
April Davis 20:07
So shallow same with same with April Davis’s vagina bog even though I feel like I’m a doula for the people, because people all the time I have this and this and this, but he and Bernie, that sounds painful. Have you talked to your doctor?
Hilary Erickson 20:22
I do think people need the words unable to like talk to their doctor and able to get the answers that they need. Because sometimes doctors just think in a weird way
April Davis 20:31
well, or the validation to have like, Oh, no, that’s serious. I think we’re constantly asking for permission or like to validation of like, is this really that big of a problem? And so I think it is really important to to have someone that can kind of maybe help validate that and say, here’s the questions. Here’s the round of questioning. This is the direction I would go with that.
Hilary Erickson 20:52
Yeah, I like that. And I think that’s important. And even if you don’t have a doula and you have a question you want to ask your doctor but you’re not sure how to ask you definitely do With a nurse because we’re good on how they should be providing informed consent, but don’t often do it so
April Davis 21:06
well and ideally to, you know, especially going into a hospital might I always try to make friends with the nurses get to know them and their personalities and their preferences? And then also just, I love everyone being on the same page, same team. I think that’s another thing to look for in a doula is are they looking to be on the same team as your care provider, because that’s ultimately what you want. everyone just wants to be wanting a healthy, healthy mama healthy baby.
But that should be the goal for everybody. I do think that having a birth plan this is when a birth plan really comes in handy. I mean, you can go all over the place with the semantics of a birth plan with my third baby I wasn’t sure where I was going to be able to deliver at a very difficult pregnancy and so my birth plan really looked like mom and baby are one unit.
Please keep it that way. Like I just I explained to you because I saw a nurse midwife in hospital and when I saw the hospital and I wasn’t sure I just said Look, I really We want this baby to stay with me as much as humanly possible I want him or substituted on my lap or possible, I want us to stay together, I just don’t want him whisked away.
And if he was to say, Please, please take my husband with them. That’s what’s most important to me is that we’re together. And I think when you get down to the root of what we all want, I think that’s it, you know,
Hilary Erickson 22:17
so not everybody does. Because there are moms who don’t want it on their chest after and there’s some moms who want them on their chest for a minute, and then it’s just too overwhelming. And so either we can give them the data, or we can take them to the warmer.
So it’s great to know as a nurse what you want, because there’s so many cultures, and there’s so much and it may bring up emotions for you that it’s not bringing up for other people. So I always say that we’re like driving the bus on public transportation, and it’s kind of up to you to pull the cord and tell us No, I don’t want that because we kind of just have to drive the bus because the bus is already going. It’s like speed.
April Davis 22:50
That’s why some of these discussions two at a time are such a good idea. It is funny though, because I’ve had one or two change their mind where they’re like, Oh, I don’t know if I want to see the sticky gooey baby and I don’t want them to touch me and then they deliver and they’re like give me the baby.
Hilary Erickson 23:06
It’s so hard to predict what your emotions are going to be like. So I always tell people, whatever you’re feeling, just please tell me because we can make whatever happen. Well, not whatever. I you know,
April Davis 23:14
within reason. Absolutely. I love
Hilary Erickson 23:16
that we can’t find a plastic surgeon to sew up your downtown. I have been asked that before. That’s
April Davis 23:21
what good obstetricians are for.
Hilary Erickson 23:23
I don’t think a plastic surgeon would actually be that great.
April Davis 23:26
No, no. These are the ones that are doing all day long. That’s who you want.
Hilary Erickson 23:29
Yeah. Okay. Well, this has been awesome. Hopefully, people have opened their eyes to what a doula could do for them. And we’ll see you soon.
April Davis 23:36
Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.
Hilary Erickson 23:39
Okay, guys, I hope you enjoyed that episode. I get so much crap for being super negative about doulas. But I have to say that most of the ones I’ve seen have not been very well trained, and they’re all donor certified, which now I find out maybe isn’t all that important. And so mostly what I can recommend is look at tons of reviews. Ask around ask for clients that they’ve had. How they enjoy them all that kind of stuff. You’re gonna really want to vet this person rather than just being like, Oh, I like her price. You know what I’m saying?
So I’m really grateful that April could come on and give us all the pros about doulas so that you guys can make up your choice if that is worth it for your family because clearly, the big con of a doula is the cost. So you’re just gonna have to decide what that’s going to work for you guys. Big thanks to April for coming on the podcast. It was so fun to talk to her. It’s really fun to kind of get the idea of home birth. I don’t really think about it all that often because it makes me nervous.
But I love home birth stories after the baby’s out and I hear everything’s fine. I just think it’s so fun and exciting. And I do think that a lot of people are considering home birth, which is valid at this point in time during the whole COVID mess. If my husband wasn’t able to be at the delivery with me, it would definitely make me rethink my birthing plan.
So excited to talk to April about all those different things Big thanks to our sponsor, the online prenatal class for couples. I do think that now is the most important time to get prepared for your upcoming birth. So definitely jump inside you can do it in a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, just about To you and what kind of time you have to devote to it. If you liked today’s episode, we’d love it if you would share, subscribe and review it really makes a difference. We drop an episode every Monday and until then I hope you have a tangle free day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai