I <3 doulas. Personally, I have had my mom at my birth as a doula twice (she actually did do doula work and was quite experienced, so she counts!) but not at my other births. Professionally, if I could require a doula for all first time moms I would, but honestly some couples are fine doing it on their own and others aren't and it's hard to tell them apart beforehand. Your personality in everyday life and your personality in labor don't necessarily match up in a completely predictable way! I have been to births where the doula didn't do a whole lot, and since that was what the mom needed, she was perfectly happy with that arrangement. I rarely see doulas taking dad's place; it's more that a good doula will help dad to be the primary support person and she herself will be just there making suggestions or doing additional things or showing dad how to do something. That would be a question for whoever you are thinking of hiring as your doula.
Doula- do or don't? - Page 2
Just another two cents to add to the pile. . .
I become very private and introverted when in labor. I didn't want to be touched or even looked at while laboring. My best labor memories, and the times I coped the best, were when I was alone in the tub with no one around. My Dh would have loved to have supported me more, he's said as much, but I wanted nothing to do with anyone!
I think it's important to consider your HCP's too. I had a CNM I trusted very much to be the "gatekeeper" of what was wanted and needed in my labor, and was at a very NCB friendly hospital. I might have made different choices had I really felt like I was going to need help enforcing my wishes.
Looking back, I wish what I'd really spent money on was a postpartum doula. We had horrible problems breastfeeding in the beginning, and I was totally miserable and would have really benefited from more support at home and help with daily living stuff.
We birthed our first in a hospital with a doula and wouldn't birth without one. As far as I'm concerned, the midwife's main concern has to be the baby. I want someone knowledgeable about birth to be mainly concerned with me! This is where a doula comes in. Without our doula the first time around, I wouldn't have managed a drug-free vaginal birth. She was the rock that kept me going when I thought labor would never end. My husband is an awesome guy, but just doesn't know much about birth, even after having been through it once. The doula being there allowed him to focus on providing me with natural pain relief, which he was very good at. So good in fact that the one time he went to the bathroom during the 24 hours of labor, I yelled at him to get back out there! My husband loves me and would try to do his best for me, but wouldn't be able to talk straight to me about my abilities as a woman giving birth simply because he has no experience or practical knowledge in that area. We plan to hire a doula this time around for our homebirth with a midwife and her assistant. The first doula cost us $600 and this one will cost us around $900 since we are in a more metropolitan area and everything is more expensive here. It's money well worth it as far as I'm concerned.