What is a Doula?

A Doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

                              A Birth Doula

  • Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
  • Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
  • Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
  • Stays with the woman throughout the labor
  • Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision
  • Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
  • Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman's memory of the birth experience
  • Allows the woman's partner to participate at his/her comfort level
Frequently Asked Questions:

Will a doula replace the husband/partner and make him feel unnecessary?

No, a doula does not take the place of the partner or husband. In fact, a doula enhances their role by making sure the partner is taken care of and encouraged, too. Studies have shown that fathers usually participate more actively during labor with a doula present. A doula supports and encourages the father and enhances his support style rather than replaces him. A doula's role changes, depending on the needs of the couple. She may be the primary support person for the woman or have more of a background role of support, providing gentle reminders of how to ease discomfort or encourage labor progress. She is supportive of both the mother and her partner, and plays a crucial role in helping the partner become involved in the birth to the extent he or she feels comfortable.

The father or partner, may be extremely willing and able to provide continuous emotional and physical support but has little actual experience dealing with the forces of labor. Even fathers who have had intensive preparation are often surprised at the amount of work involved (more than enough for two people). Even more important, many fathers experience the birth as an emotional journey of their own and find it hard to be objective in such a strenuous environment. If it comes time to make decisions about the course of labor, the doula can instill clarity and confidence in the couple by drawing upon information shared at prenatal visit regarding their birth wishes to insure that an informed and well-communicated decision is made.

 Does a doula make decisions for the woman?

  No, a doula does not make decisions for the woman or intervene in her clinical care. The doula's role is to help her effectively communicate with her caregivers. The doula provides informational and emotional support, while respecting the decisions of the couple. She can help them get the information required to make an informed decision regarding their care, and can encourage good communication with their hospital caregivers.

Does hiring a doula mean having to labor without pain medications?

  No. A doula is there to support the woman's decisions every step of the way whether she chooses to have pain medications or not. It a woman intends to use pain medications, there is usually still a need for hands-on labor support until a steady labor pattern has been established and an epidural can be most successful. However, if the goal is to have an unmedicated birth, a doula can be an integral part. She will help the woman stay focused on her birth plan and can provide a variety of coping techniques and comfort measures during labor that will aid in relaxation and encourage labor progress. She can also provide reassurance and a belief in the woman's ability to achieve the natural birth she desires.

 Does a doula replace the nursing staff?

  No, a doula does not replace the nursing or medical staff. She does not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, doing vaginal examinations or providing postpartum clinical care. A doula is there to comfort and support the mother and to enhance communication between the mother and medical professionals. She can also enhance the role of the medical staff, allowing them to perform their tasks confident that the laboring woman is getting continued support when they have left the room to tend to their other patients.

 What is a doula's role at a cesarean birth?

  A doula can still be a source of informational, physical and emotional support with a cesarean birth. She can stay by the woman's side during the procedure, if permitted by the care providers, and can help preserve the events of the birth through video, photographs, or by writing them down on paper. If the husband remains in the operating room following the birth, the doula can accompany the baby to the nursery. Once the mother is settled back into her room, a doula can bring the baby to her when requested as well as show her breastfeeding positions that won't irritate her incision site.

 What if the woman gets an epidural?

  Many doctors will not prescribe an epidural until the woman has reached 4-5 cm dilation.  Until then, the doula can provide hands-on labor support using the many comfort measures in which she is trained, helping the woman progress in labor to a point when the epidural will be most effective. After the epidural has been administered, the doula can protect the woman's back and hips by maintaining appropriate positioning for her. She can also keep the couple engaged in the labor and help them feel more connected to the birth by talking about their child's upcoming arrival. A doula can also be an invaluable support during the pushing phase of labor. When the legs and lower torso are numb it can be difficult for a laboring woman to push effectively. A doula can remind her how to push and encourage her with each contraction, affirming her efforts.

 What effects does the presence of a doula have on birth outcomes?

Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth:

·         tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications

·         reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience

·         reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction

·         reduces the requests for pain medication and epidurals, as well as the incidence of cesareans

What effects does the presence of a doula have on the mother?

When a doula is present during and after childbirth, women report greater satisfaction with their birth experience, make more positive assessments of their babies, have fewer cesareans and requests for medical intervention, and less postpartum depression.

What effects do the presence of doulas have on babies?

Studies have shown that babies born with doulas present tend to have shorter hospital stays with fewer admissions to special care nurseries, breastfeed more easily and have more affectionate mothers in the postpartum period.

We cannot afford to hire a doula, does insurance cover this service?

 Most doula services are not covered by the insurance companies, although some do and you would need to contact your insurance company directly to determine if they will cover the cost of a Doula for you.  Doula services are very affordable. Usually you are given a lot of  time to make payments and for what they are offering; at least 4 prenatal visits, continuous  labor support, and postpartum visits. The cost varies from $400 - $1500, and most doulas will use a sliding scale. 

 I already have a great support team, my mother, sister, aunt, cousin will all be there for me. Will the doula just get in the way?

 A doula is trained for this. She knows just how to help and is committed to continuous support. Family members are well meaning, but may not understand what is happening in a laboring woman's mind and body enough to be the best support. However, the doula can help them to meet the mother's desires respectfully and without interruption.