What is a Doula?

Now that we’ve established the differences between a Midwife and an OB (You’re pregnant, huh? Now what? Let’s talk: Midwives vs OB), it’s time to think about whether or not a Doula is for you.  Perhaps you’re sitting there wondering what exactly a Doula is/does.

According to DONA International – DONA stands for Doulas of North America – “the word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to 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.”

Stated simply, a Doula is someone present just before and all throughout the labor and childbirth experience.  She provides guidance and support to the mother, as well as acts as an advocate for the mom if necessary.

What is a Doula?

  • A trained professional with a deep understanding of the labor and childbirth process
  • Someone who will be at the mom’s side for the entire duration of labor
  • Provides hands on treatment for pain management such as massage, pressure points, position changes, breathing techniques etc.
  • Helps the mom through the stages of labor and is able to encourage her through the process and in according to the mom’s wishes/birth plan
  • Can help the mom gain a better understanding of medical interventions offered during labor and the benefits/negative effects of them on her and the baby
  • Can ease anxiety associated with the unknown of labor by giving a thorough explanation of what’s happening
  • Helps to process information and talk through potential scenarios associated with emergencies/complications that might arise

What isn’t a Doula?

  • A medical professional
  • Someone who will administer medical interventions – epidural, pitocin, etc.
  • The person who “delivers” the baby – in fact, to quote “The Business of Being Born”, doula’s don’t deliver babies, midwives and doctors don’t deliver babies, mom’s don’t even deliver babies.  Pizzas are delivered.  Babies are birthed. 🙂

Benefits of a Doula – If you desire a natural childbirth experience, studies have shown that having a doula can reduce your chance of having a cesarean section by 50%, the length of your labor by 25%, and the chance of you asking for an epidural by 60%.

Things to Consider

  • Even if you have a Doula, your husband or significant other can still be a huge part of your labor process.  Doulas will be as involved or uninvolved as you want.  They can also provide as a support to your spouse.
  • If you are choosing to have a natural childbirth experience, it’s possible that you will forget about your birth plan as labor progresses and the pain becomes more intense. Doulas can help you stay the course of your birth plan, helping you to be more satisfied with your outcome.
  • Doulas often advocate on behalf of the mother to medical staff regarding undesired interventions, combining the wishes of the mother with an understanding of labor/options from a medical perspective.
  • Typically mothers meet with their Doula in the weeks preceding labor to begin developing a relationship so that the level of comfort is present by the time labor occurs.
  • Costs involved with hiring a Doula can vary greatly.  In some hospitals there are volunteer Doulas available at not cost to the mother – however this is essentially a stranger because they meet each other when the mom comes into the hospital already in labor.  On average though, Doulas cost anywhere from $400-$1,000 depending on their experience, where you live, etc.

Hopefully now that you have a little more information on Doulas you feel a slightly more confident to make the choice as to whether or not a Doula is for you.  Although I chose not to have a Doula present for my childbirth experience due to a variety of factors, I appreciate the value in them and am even working towards becoming Doula certified myself.  As with everything pregnancy related, the most important thing you can do is become well educated and make a choice that best suits you and your pregnancy!  Stay tuned for my next post: Where to Deliver?


For more information, check out the following websites:

DONA International

Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association

International Childbirth Education Association

Did you chose to have a Doula present for your childbirth experience?  I would love to hear about it and what you thought!!  Do you want to know more or have specific things you’re curious about?

Comment below with your experiences or if you have questions regarding Doulas!