Is a Doula Right for Women Who Choose to Have an Epidural?

Two common questions asked among expecting moms are, “If I plan to get an epidural, do I still need a doula?” and, “If I plan to have an unmedicated birth, but during labor decide I want an epidural, can a doula still help?” The answer to both of these questions is, YES! Doulas are extremely beneficial to a mother laboring with an epidural. A doulas role during your birth is to provide emotional, physical, and informational support. An excellent doula knows how to support you in whatever scenario, and with whatever type of support you require. There are several specific ways a doula can support you through a birth with an epidural.
Preparing for Birth 
During your prenatal visits, you and your doula may have talked about comfort measures. No matter if you are planning an epidural or an unmedicated birth, being prepared with some comfort techniques and having the physical support of a doula during early and active labor is invaluable. Your doula can meet you at home in early labor and help you stay comfortable until it’s time to go to the hospital.Staying Informed
Prior to the placement of the epidural, your doula will talk you through the procedure so you know what to expect. We want you to feel fully informed with each step of the epidural placement. Knowing what to expect beforehand can dispel any fears or anxiety you may have felt about the epidural. We will also remind you of coping techniques (breathing and relaxing through contractions) that will help you get through the procedure. Often times only one support person can be in the room when your epidural is placed. If this is the case, we give your partner a quick refresher (in needed) on how to help you stay relaxed and calm.Setting the Atmosphere – Holding Space
We want you to feel relaxed and ready to bring your precious baby into this world. Dimmed lighting, soft music, essential oils of your choice diffusing, and massaging your head, shoulders, or hands, are all great ways to keep you comfortable, and this can be done with or without an epidural. If you have been laboring for a while and decide you would like to get an epidural your doula will still be present with you for the rest of your labor and birth. We want you to know that you have that emotional support to encourage you and remind you that soon your sweet baby will be in your arms. This might be a great time for you and your partner to regroup or even take a nap and rest! You may even decide to braid your hair or put on a little makeup. This is YOUR birth and we want you to do what makes you feel comfortable.Getting into Good Laboring Positions with an Epidural
While you have an epidural, it may be difficult for you to get into different positions. Your doula can help to maneuver you into optimal positions to open the pelvis and help baby move down. Doulas love using the peanut ball for this! Your doula can help coordinate efforts of your birth team to honor your wishes and still achieve an “active” and physiological labor and birth if at all possible.

Pushing Stage
When it’s time to push, your doula will be by your side. You may even have enough feeling in your legs to get into an assisted “throne” position or semi-squat position with an epidural. If you need those extra words of encouragement or you need her to help you into a better pushing position, your doula will be there. 

A Change of Plans
In some cases, an epidural does not take effect. According to this study, epidurals have a 12% failure rate.  Another scenario where your plans would change is if you end up having a rapid labor with no time for an epidural. As you can imagine, planning for and expecting a pain-free birth and then getting anything but that, would be extremely difficult mentally and physically, especially if you have not prepared for natural labor. Having a doula by your side in these situations can GREATLY help in getting through this and any sudden change of plans.

For some women, an epidural is the first choice in the birth plan, and for some women an epidural is plan B. Either way, your doula is there to support your birth and your choices. We want you to have a positive and amazing experience bringing your baby into the world.

Piggy bank and baby shoes

Prioritizing the Investment of Your Birth

In our previous blog, we talked about the importance and benefits of hiring professional labor support early in pregnancy.

Today we want to talk about how to prioritize and even invest in your birth. There are so many things in our lives we choose to invest in and even fork over a lot of money for. Some have a great ROI (return on investment), some don’t, and some things have an ROI that cannot be measured physically, but rather emotionally and a return of priceless memories that will last a lifetime.

Piggy bank and baby shoes

You invest in your wedding day. The average wedding in America today costs $26,444 (source). You plan for months and sometimes even years to have the wedding of our dreams. Some couples choose to elope in Vegas or travel to an exotic island to get hitched. These memories will last a lifetime, and we want our friends and family to enjoy the big day too. So, good investment!

You invest in your first home. This is one purchase that should definitely yield a good return. It’s a smart move financially to become homeowners…but even more than that, it’s where you make your first memories as a family.  It’s where you have friends over for special occasions, girls’ nights, and even where you gather with your closest friends and family to find comfort during hard times. Purchasing a home, although most likely the most expensive purchase you will make in your lifetime, is a great, sound, and smart investment.

You invest in cribs, nursery furniture, and baby gear. According to Parenting.com, the average middle-income family will spend roughly $12,000 on child-related expenses in their baby’s first year of life. Now that one is a little jaw dropping! Everything quickly adds up when it comes to baby stuff. However, if your family or friends are throwing you a baby shower, you can significantly lower that impact on your wallet!

But even with all these important things we choose to invest in…why aren’t more people investing in their births?

Your birth experience is hugely important. There’s a common belief in our culture that birth is just a means to an end…that it’s something that just happens TO us in order to bring our child into the world, and the experience of birth itself will quickly dissipate once you are holding that sweet baby in your arms. The truth of it is, we are learning more and more about how truly important it is for mothers to have good and healthy birth experiences. A positive birth experience can even lower your risk of postpartum depression. This is achieved through the mother staying informed and involved in her care, trust and communication with her provider, and feeling safe during her labor and birth, for starters.

We believe one of the best ways to become an active participant in your birth and to aim for a healthy birth experience is to invest in it.

What we recommend doing to begin investing in your birth experience is hiring your doula, of course! Like we mentioned in our last blog, hiring a labor support professional means you are not limited to just having support on the “big day”.  There are many ways that a doula provides invaluable, personal support to you and your partner throughout your pregnancy, and from the moment you go into labor through those first few weeks postpartum. Studies show that simply having a doula present at your birth lowers your chances of having a c-section by 28%. According to Evidence Based Birth, women who have professional labor support at their birth experience a :

  • 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin
  • 28% decrease in the risk of C-section
  • 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
  • 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief*
  • 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
  • 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience

*Even though more women were able to labor without pain medication, doula support is not limited to women choosing unmedicated birth. We will be exploring how doulas can provide invaluable support through medicated births, inductions, and cesareans in another post!

So, if you want to talk about a good ROI, investing in your birth experience by hiring a doula is where it’s at! Your doula works for YOU. Your doula will help you navigate through the ups and downs of pregnancy, and even provide invaluable resources as you choose the rest of your birth team and pregnancy support providers. Investing in your birth will yield an amazing return mentally and emotionally for you, which ultimately impacts your partner, children, and will stay with you for the rest of your life. In our next post, we will explore other very important ways to invest in your birth. Stay tuned!!

Pregnancy test

4 Ways Hiring a Doula Early in Pregnancy Can Benefit You!


You just saw the two pink lines on the pregnancy test. There’s initial shock, excitement, and a whole range of emotions. Now it’s time to make lots of decisions. You have to research care providers, decide how to announce your pregnancy, and figure out how to cope with all the first trimester symptoms. But where do you start?

We are pregnant!

The first question we want to ask you is, “Who’s your doula?!” 

In our experience, many expectant couples wait until they are well into their second or even third trimester to hire their doula. An even smaller amount, though, decide to hire their doula as early as 6-12 weeks pregnant. Have these couples found the secret to getting the most out of their professional labor support person? We think so!

Here are four ways hiring a doula early can benefit you:

1.    It makes sense for your budget: Many doulas require a minimum down payment to secure their services but the remaining balance is not due until your final month of pregnancy. Because of this, most couples can easily budget for doula services as soon as they see those two pink lines (and even smarter ones start saving when they are trying to get pregnant).
Are your friends and family already planning your baby shower? Tell them that a gift certificate for birth and postpartum doula services is at the top of the list!

2.    You will have knowledgeable assistance choosing the best care provider for your birthing goals and your values. Laying the foundation for your birth starts with choosing your provider. Since we have experience in all local hospitals and with a wide array of local obstetricians and midwives, we can help give you ideas of providers that may align with the type of birth you are hoping for. And not only do you need to decide what care provider is best for your needs, you will need to decide if a birth center, your home or which hospital is the best location to achieve the birth experience you hope for. Do you want a provider that is very experienced with natural, un-medicated birth? We know who those providers are. Are you more concerned with a doctor who has a great bedside manner and you want to really enjoy the process of birthing at the hospital? We can give you some helpful recommendations.

3.    You have emotional support right from the start. Once you sign the contract and pay your deposit, your doula is available to you every step of the way. They can help with any questions or concerns. Many doulas even provide you with an exclusive community of other pregnant women online and/or in person to be able to process your pregnancy with. As your doulas, we can be there for you through any unexpected turns in your pregnancy, and help you work through the range of emotions and anxiety that often surface throughout your journey to parenthood.

4.    Your doula can provide you with the education you need to prepare for each trimester of pregnancy and your birth: We know that the earlier you start preparing for birth through reading, breathing exercises, and mental preparation, the better your birthing experience will be. Hiring your doula early means getting tips and education for every trimester, not just the third! Most doulas also provide you access to their lending library of books and resources throughout your entire pregnancy, and signing up early also guarantees that you can get great childbirth education to help equip you and your partner. Additionally, if you need resources and referrals such as a prenatal chiropractor, prenatal massage therapist, or even where to go for prenatal yoga, your doula can point you in the right direction.

So, what are you waiting for? Don’t let the long list of questions that follow the sight of those two little pink lines overwhelm you. Simply look in the mirror and ask yourself one question…WHO’S YOUR DOULA?!

4 Reasons to Hire your Doula Early

Nashville Doula Team

Personal Connection, Professional Care: The Heart of Nashville Doula Services

Nashville Doula Services is the rejuvenated agency created by Merrill Durham and Whitney Cantrell, along with our team of doulas. We are excited about our new direction because it is simple and more effective.

The two of us operated our own successful doula practices for several years before bonding around a shared vision: a team approach (as opposed to the pressure of being a solo doula) and the professionalism of an actual business (rather than a hobby). Our first attempt at such a model was a wonderful experience, but we quickly learned that we needed to shift our direction and focus primarily on birth and postpartum doula care. And perform those services really well. Nashville Doula Services is a fresh start with the same goals: compassionate doula support, the security of a team-centered agency model, and a promise of professionalism. 

Nashville Doulas Team

We are wholeheartedly committed to your vision and your values. We strive for the delicate balance between the intimacy necessary for a person who will support you during your birth, and the professionalism needed to ensure your care is excellent and holistic.

“We are wholeheartedly committed to your vision and your values.”

Simply put, we are about: Personal Connection, Professional Care 

Personal Connection
Nashville Doula Services is successful because of the sincere connection we develop with each of our clients.  We allow our doulas to support you with attention and compassion by alleviating the burden of managing a solo business. They can now focus on you 100%. Our doulas will walk closely with you throughout your pregnancy and will be able to provide the type of support you desire. We would be honored to welcome you into the Nashville Doula Services family!

Professional Care
Doula care is not only our passion but also our livelihood. We take pride in the professionalism of each of our doulas and the efficiency of our agency model. All of our doulas are trained and then hand-picked for your family.  Our unique partnership model means you automatically receive two doulas to work with you throughout your pregnancy. This team ensures that you will never have a stranger as a back-up in the event you need one and you will always have a doula who can fully support you regardless of the length of your labor. Because of our commitment to excellent care, you are guaranteed to know the doula at your birth and you will leave feeling confident in your birth support team and the relationship you have built.

Please check out our new website to review our services and meet our doulas. If you have any questions about what makes us different, or if you would like to set up a complimentary consultation that will help us customize a care plan that best suits your family’s needs, contact us today!

Team of Doulas

5 Reasons Your Partner Wants a Doula

Some people don’t hire a doula because they don’t think they will need one. They plan on their partner being their support person, their birth coach, and the only presence needed in the room. It is true is that no doula could ever replace the love that the partner has for the mother. After all, it’s their baby! The connection between partners is invaluable in the birthing room. The partner knows the mother in a way that no one else does and can provide insight on how to best support her. No doula can take that role. However, adding a doula to the birth team can greatly enhance the birth experience for both the mother and the partner. Imagine preparing a huge meal for a dinner party. You have a couple of options: you could plan, prepare, cook, clean, etc. down to the detail and exhaust yourself to no end. Alternatively, you could ask a friend to help, hire a cook or have a professional cleaner to help take that burden off your plate. In the same way, we know women and their partners are totally capable to conquering birth on their own- but they don’t have to! With the support of a doula, the partner can enjoy the birth experience without having the pressure to be everything for the laboring woman. Why go at it alone when you don’t have to?


Here are some ways a doula is invaluable to the birthing couple:

1. Doulas help partners know what is ‘normal’ in labor. 

For first-time parents, everything about birth is new. Even if the mother is going through birth for the 2nd or 3rd time, no two births look exactly the same. The journey is full of unknowns and this can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. A doula will be the calming presence in the room that the partner can look to and hear her say, “that shaking: totally normal!” Even in the midst of the intensity, the doula can help the partner see that the behavior of the laboring woman is normal by saying, “look how powerful she is!” This is where our doulas help guide the parents through labor. Easing the fears of the partner will greatly improve the atmosphere for the mother. If she knows her partner is not afraid, she can fully emerge herself in her birth.

2. Doulas help remind partners of the variety of coping skills and comfort measures that they learned in childbirth class.

Even if the partner took a childbirth class and learned many comfort techniques and skills, it can be so overwhelming to see their loved one go through the intensity of labor, which makes it more challenging to recall the details of the childbirth class. Our doulas can offer coping methods, massage techniques, and have for a vast repertoire of tips for helping mom relax and allow birth to happen. This frees the partner from the pressure of remembering everything. In many instances, having two sets of hands is helpful- the doula may be giving the mother counter pressure on her back while the partner places a wash cloth on her forehead and gives her verbal affirmation. A doula makes the partner look good! However involved the partner wants to be in labor, the doula can help them do that.

3. Doulas know the language of birth and can help the parents understand all the choices available.

While doulas do not speak on behalf of the family, they can help families recall their wished for birth and what they indicated in their birth plan. There are times the medical staff may walk in the room, look at the monitor, and walk out without saying anything. Although we do not diagnose the situation, we can explain what the nurse is looking at and how to read the monitor. In the midst of labor, you may be faces with many choices for your care; for example, having your care provider break your water to speed up labor. There are benefits and risks to any procedure and a doula can help the partner and mother remember to ask their care provider all the questions they need to in order to make the best choice for them. Doulas give unbiased support and act as a sounding board in the birth room to help process all the crossroads of labor.

4. Doulas can give partners a break.

Birth can last a long time- hours or even days! It can be a lot to ask for one person to be the sole source of support during labor. A doula can help the partner by grabbing them food or coffee or allowing them to take short break or nap. Even if the partner needs to step out, the doula will be there to provide continuous support for mom. Our doulas prioritize the partner, making sure they stay nourished and rested through the process.

5. Doulas can ‘doula’ the whole family.

Sometimes partners need help ‘doula-ing’ the grandparents. Anxious and excited grandparents, especially if they are in unfamiliar territory- tend to pace the floor outside of the delivery room itching to get inside. Doulas can help facilitate a quick hello if that is what the mother wants, or they can communicate or send updates to the waiting family outside. Many family members will thank our doulas for helping them understand and for giving updates during labor. This helps the partner be 100% present during labor without having to give updates every hour.

A doula’s job includes nurturing, supporting, and encouraging partners, just as she does for mothers in labor. The partners are experiencing great changes during this process as well. We want both parents to feel good about their choices, all choices! It’s our desire for them to feel like a team, united and bonded by the incredible adventure they just had! It’s a strong way to build the foundation for the next big season of parenthood.

At Nashville Doula Services, we support the whole family!




How Nashville Doula Services Defines a “Doula”

Every day we talk to people who have never heard of a doula and are interested in learning more about our services. The idea of having a doula at your birth has become the norm for many pregnant women. But despite the increase in interest, it is still a fairly new profession in the childbirth field. We still get asked questions like, “Are you the same as a midwife?” and “What exactly does a doula do?” So we wanted to share how Nashville Doula Services defines the role of a doula.
Doula with parents and baby

The word comes from Greek, meaning a female slave. Typically, she was the one who would assist the laboring mother during childbirth when birth attendants were commonplace. In modern times, it was adopted by the founders of Doulas of North America (DONA), one of the first training and certifying organizations. The term has evolved and grown as more doula programs form, each with its own scope of practice. A basic and very broad definition is someone who provides physical, emotional, and intellectual support for a woman and her family during pregnancy, childbirth, and the initial postpartum season. Some people refer to doulas as ‘a birth coach’.

Another term you may hear is a ‘birth guide’. They have either walked through birth themselves and/or have experience walking alongside women in childbirth. Acting as a guide, a doula lends her knowledge of birth and familiarity with hospital policies to parents who are exploring their childbirth options, enabling them to make fully informed decisions that are right for their family. Doulas offer physical support, massage, and pain management techniques to keep the laboring mother comfortable and focused. A birth doula also supports the partner, acknowledging that nothing can replace the love and understanding that the partner has for the birthing mother. Then there’s the emotional side of birth where we hear terms like doulas ‘hold space’. Birth is a powerful event. It transforms women into mothers. For most women, it will be the most vulnerable and challenging experience of their life. A doula is a witness to this process so the mother is never alone. By having a doula present, a laboring woman can release fears and trust the journey her body and baby are taking. Overall, a doula strives to orchestrate a peaceful and cohesive space for the birth of a new baby.

{On our next blog, read about how doulas are invaluable to the birth partner}

There’s typically a misunderstanding that the doula acts as the midwife. A midwife is the mother’s care provider. They are medical professionals trained to deliver babies. They attend the prenatal visits, check vitals, catch the baby at delivery, handle medical situations like hemorrhaging and basic suturing, and they can provide medical care for a baby in the first few weeks of life. They are skilled in low-risk pregnancies and deliveries, and they are a great option for women who prefer a more personal model of care. Doulas are not midwives. We do not perform any medical or clinical tasks. We do not diagnose symptoms, perform cervical checks, or check fetal heart tones.

Another misconception we often hear is that doulas are only used for natural births. Doulas actually provide support for any type of labor – natural, home birth, hospital, epidural, induction, C-section, or whatever the delivery may be. Our care is unbiased and without judgement. We help mothers understand their choices and then we fully support those decisions. A doula can help navigate all the procedures involved with an interventions like an epidural or C-section and can help the mother process any fears or concerns with hospital procedures.

When you hire a doula with Nashville Doula Services, your services include:

  • Two doulas that are hand-selected for you, based on your personality and needs, to work with you prenatally. Your two doulas will meet with you in your home before your birth to discuss your wishes for your birth, hospital protocols, and possible birth fears and concerns. We will help you in constructing a birth plan, review labor sign posts, practice positions, and comfort techniques for delivery. We will also discuss your postpartum plan (breastfeeding, newborn care).
  • On the day of your labor and birth, the doula that is on-call will meet you at your home or place of birth and stay by your side until the birth of your baby. Your secondary doula will act as a back-up in the event that the on-call doula needed assistance. This insures all our clients that they will know the doula(s) who will be at their birth.
  • You will have unlimited assistance via phone, text, or email during your pregnancy, as well as access to our lending library (books, magazines, movies)

At Nashville Doula Services, we can promise that we will:

  • Help empower you by providing resources and education so you can make the best decisions for your family. We support all decisions made before birth and during birth without any criticism. Because it’s your birth and your choice.
  • Support your partner however he or she needs – give them a break, get food, and offer suggestions on comfort techniques, take pictures, communicate with family, and ease any nerves.
  • Be present with you and allow you to experience birth in all its dimensions – including the joys, fears, anxieties, and triumphs. We cannot guarantee any type of outcome or promise a birth according to your birth plan. But we can promise that you will not be alone, that you will have a touchstone in the birthing room to look to for comfort and peace.

Let us provide the unwavering, knowledgeable, and nurturing support you and your family deserve as you prepare for one of the greatest adventures of your life.

Contact Nashville Doula Services today!