What is a birth doula?

A birth doula is a trained labor coach who will assist you and your birth partner during labor and delivery by providing continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and directly after childbirth. A birth doula can provide varying levels of support. If you are laboring without a birth partner, then your doula will provide primary support, handling all of your physical and emotional support needs. If you are laboring with a birth partner, then your doula is there as a secondary support system providing both emotional and hands on support. A doula can also serve as "invisible support" providing quiet nonintrusive support while assisting your partner with reminders, food and drink, and hot/cold compresses. A doula offers a wide variety of services to help ensure that your child's birth is a positive life affirming experience for all those involved. The intent of a doula is to foster an environment that makes for the calmest, most gentle experience possible given circumstance.

What is the origin of the word "doula"?

The word doula originated in Ancient Greece and is translated as woman's servant, and was used to describe the women who supported other women through labor and birth. In todays' society the word is used to describe a trained professional who provides emotional and physical support during pregnancy, labor, birth and the postpartum period. Doulas are sometimes referred to as Childbirth Assistant, Labor Coach/Assistant, Birth Assistant, etc.

Why have a doula?

Numerous studies have shown that if a pregnant woman has continuous labor support (that is, someone who never leaves her side), that woman and her baby are statistically more likely to to have better outcomes. The presence of a doula tends to result in shorter labors, fewer complications, decreased risk of unwanted interventions such as Pitocin (a labor inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction, less request for pain medication and epidurals, and decrease in the need for a Cesarean section. A doula is an impartial voice of reason, a viable form of pain relief, and help get breastfeeding off to a great start.

What does a doula do?

Doulas are support people, and who doesn't appreciate a little extra support, your birth partner, your labor nurse, and even your caregiver might be thankful for the presence of a doula at your birth. Doulas enhance the birth experience by anticipating your needs, and helping to carry out your wishes. A doula can give assistance with creating and maintaining a birth plan and you need a strong, well thought out birth plan. Doulas are an impartial voice of reason, we serve as an information source, there to answer any and all of your questions. A doula helps you advocate for yourself, they provide a pain-relieving touch, can guide you through breathing techniques and visualizations, or simply suggest a helpful change of position, a better birthing position. A doula comes to you, no matter when you have your baby, your doula will be there to support you while you labor at home, midwife center and/or hospital. A doula gives continuous one on one support throughout your entire labor and delivery experience, given circumstance, she will not leave your side. A doula does not leave right after the birth, she helps you get settled in, helps with breastfeeding, "mothering the mother" by giving you an opportunity to take a shower, and to attend to other personal needs. A doula comes for 1-2 postpartum visits either in hospital or at your home to answer questions, be of assistance, help you feel better about your experience and can help you process a birth that wasn't like you planned, and give closure to our shared experience. 

How soon in my pregnancy should I contact a doula?

The earlier the better, from the get go you will have someone to answer questions, lend an ear, and offer suggestions, plus the longer you know your doula the closer your relationship. Especially, if we meet while you are taking my prenatal yoga classes as I will already be able to sense some of your particular needs, likes and dislikes, and will be able to factor those into your birth plan. You will benefit from doula support, whether you contacted her early in your pregnancy or late in the third trimester, it is never too early or too late to contact a doula. 

How does the presence of a doula effect birth outcomes for mother and for your baby?

With a doula present, pain relief requests are reduced by 30% and epidural requests are reduced by 60%, overall labor is 25% shorter, a shorter labor translates to less pain. Doulas have been proven to be viable sources of pain relief. Having a doula present gives you a 50% less chance of needing a Cesarean Section, and a 40% less chance that the caregiver will need to use forceps or a vacuum cup to deliver the baby. Doulas decrease the risk of unwanted interventions. According to a Case Western University study 7.8% of women supported by a doula requested an epidural versus 55.3% of women who requested an epidural while not having a doula support her.

With a doula present new moms have less anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and are more likely to breastfeed and for longer. Doulas are great for babies, having a doula means having a shorter hospital stay, fewer NICU admissions, and their moms are more responsive and affectionate. 

Bottom line, if you have continuous labor support (that is someone who does not leave your side, someone who is not hospital staff or a part of your social network) you are statistically more likely to have better outcomes and your baby is more likely to have better outcomes. If you want to decrease use of labor augmentation drugs such as Pitocin, decrease your risk of having a Cesarean Section, increase your likelihood of having a spontaneous vaginal birth, and decrease the risk of being dissatisfied with your overall birth experience then engage a doula to give you continuous one on one support throughout your labor, delivery, and postpartum. (Source: Evidence Based Birth)

How does the presence of a doula benefit the experience of your birth partner?

It is wonderful for a laboring woman to have the support and presence of her loved ones, no doubt. It is the job of the doula to enhance the support that others supply by increasing their confidence in assisting the laboring mother. A doula is supportive of both mother and birth partner and can play a crucial role in helping a partner become involved with the process, without being intrusive. Doulas allow birth partners guilt-free breaks, relieving their fears of exhaustion. Mom will not be left alone but in very capable hands. Doulas support the birth partner by stepping in with suggestions. knowledge, and to help keep the partner and mom from becoming overwhelmed. Doulas are great for your relationship with your partner. Each member of a woman's family will have their own emotional response to seeing a woman they love experience labor, this is a special moment for each of these people. A doula respects the specialness of this moment in a way that both respects the laboring woman's needs and honors the needs of her loved ones to offer support. A doula is an information source, there to answer any and all questions, the doula can help the family process test results and translate medical jargon.

I have a doctor/midwife and a nurse do I still need a doula?

Doctors, midwives, and nurses all play pivotable roles in your birth experience and will each support your birth in their given capacities. These people are highly trained medical experts and as such are responsible for monitoring your safety and the safety of your baby during labor and delivery. However, doctors, midwives, and nurses all come and go during your labor and delivery, often leaving you and your partner alone for extended periods of time. They are busy people, you are not their sole point of focus, they often have many other patients to monitor as well as yourself. A doula is not part of your medical team and is not a replacement for a medical team, a doula serves to complement that team by providing continuous one on one support to the mom from the beginning of labor, through delivery, and during several hours postpartum. Doulas offer a different kind of support from your doctor, midwife, or nurse. A doula gives no medical advice, runs no diagnostic tests, or diagnose any medical conditions, instead a doula is trained to take care of the non-medical aspects of pregnancy and birth which are at least of equal importance, as birth is not a medical condition but a normal life process.

Will a doula make medical decisions for you?

NO. A doula does not make medical decisions on your behalf nor does a doula intervene with your clinical care. Instead a doula offers a different type of support as a doula is trained to take care of the non-medical aspects of pregnancy and birth. Informed choice. You have the right to full and accurate information about your body and the right to participate in all decisions made about you and your baby. You cannot make accurate choices without accurate information. So educate yourself, a doula is an information source, she will be able to answer your questions, process test results, and translate medical jargon, a doula will also be there to help you and your birth partner advocate for your choices and your informed decisions. The doula is there to support you no matter the decisions you may need to make during labor and delivery, you and your needs are the doula's primary focus. A doula can help you prepare a strong pithy birth plan and she is there to gently remind you and others of the wishes outlined in your birth plan. A doula can serve as a buffer and your advocate with your medical staff, in accordance with your stated decisions.

I am taking childbirth classes will I still need a doula?

Every woman owes it to herself and her baby to attend an accredited high quality childbirth class, preferably, with her intended birth partner. A doula is familiar with many of the various birthing techniques taught today and can work to help implement what you have learned during your childbirth class into your birth plan. The doula can also help you and your birth partner facilitate the techniques and the breath work taught in the class.  

I'm not sure I want a stranger in the room with me during birth, isn't this supposed to be a private experience?

A doula is a trained professional, she respects that birth is a very intimate experience and will do her best to respect your privacy and your modesty. A doula provides support that is compatible with your needs, from a primary hands on approach to an almost invisible layer of background support. A doula can also act as a buffer for the laboring woman and her birth partner by interacting with the medical staff and other family members so that the couple's birth experience remains as intimate and private as they desire. 

 I'm not sure if I will choose to go natural, what if I want an epidural, what if my labor needs induced, what if I need a C-section? Can a doula still help?

A doula's intent is to foster an environment that makes for the calmest, most gentle birth experience possible, given circumstance, for all involved. A birth doula helps to prepare you mentally, emotionally, and physically for your birth experience, but the power to make these decisions lies in your hands, not anyone else’s. A doula is not with you to push her own agenda, she is here to help you engineer a path towards the individualized care that best suits you and your baby’s needs as her job is to help facilitate your birth plan. A doula comes to you and starts working with you in early labor well before an epidural can be considered, and will continue to work with you and your partner to provide support in whatever way is needed throughout your labor and delivery. Even with an epidural a doula can help you work with your body by using methods that have been proven to shorten labor which leads to less pain, overall. A doula can help prevent the waterfall of associated complications after an epidural has been administered, as epidurals are known to increase the need for augmentation of labor, instrumental delivery, and Cesarean Section. Many times these can be avoided and a doula can help by providing massage, encouraging on urge pushing, and facilitating frequent position changes. If your caregiver suggests further interventions, your doula will help ensure that you are informed of all your options, the risks and benefits, the side effects of the suggested procedures, the effect on the baby, and the recovery period that can be expected postpartum, so that you can make an informed choice based all the available information. Rest assured your doula is there to fully support the decisions that you have made regarding yourself and your baby. Choices that are made out of informed decisions lead to more overall satisfaction with your birth experience and a doula can help you process through an experience that isn't turning out as you planned. There is more than one way to do the right thing. A doula has your back, no matter circumstance, you are still giving birth, and even a Cesarean results in an amazing new baby, so let's celebrate. 

How much does it cost to hire a birth doula?

This varies from location to location and on the services you desire, a typical birth doula package begins at around $600, although some cost a lot more, it all depends on the going rate in your particular area. The Whole Way Doula Services full fee is $500 to hire a birth doula and includes all services as listed here. I believe that the services I provide have great value and they are worth the effort I put forth, I hope you agree. While doing my due diligence I came across an article by Jodi Green that broke down a Doula's work so succinctly that I wanted to share it. What's In a Fee? I believe that finances should never be allowed to stand in the way of hiring a doula and I am willing to work with you to set up a payment plan that works for you and your family. "A doula for every woman who wants one."

Is this cost covered by my insurance company?

That depends on your individual insurance company but is well worth checking with your particular agency. As more women are choosing doulas as a part of a birth team, and more research is being done proving the benefits of Doula care, more insurance companies are covering the cost of Doula Service. Many insurance providers also cover the cost of childbirth classes, whether those classes are taught privately or in-hospital. All receipts and information you need for filing for insurance reimbursement will gladly be provided.


What do postpartum doulas do?

A postpartum doula provides support as you settle into your new family by taking care of the duties around your home, doing what is needed to allow you to best enjoy and care for your baby each day. What a postpartum doula does changes from day to day as the needs of the family change, but rest assured the doula is there to do whatever you need to best enjoy and care for your baby each day. The doula makes sure that both you and your baby are fed, well hydrated, clean and comfortable. The doula handles such tasks as grocery shopping, running errands, light housekeeping, laundry and other domestics chores. Some postpartum doulas (like me) are also available for food preparation and basic cooking for you and your family.

What period of time will a postpartum doula spend with a particular family?

There is no specified length of time that a postpartum doula spends with a family, it is totally up to the preference of the mother and her family. Postpartum doula service can run from 1-2 visits soon after the birth of your infant, 1-2 visits to help a new mom make the transition back to work, or extend to the entire twelve weeks of the baby moon (4th trimester). This period of time is such an amazing and transformative period, not only for mom and baby, but for the whole family, as well. Take advantage of this "once in a lifetime" opportunity by allowing the presence of a doula to take away some of the stress and worries common to new parents.

What hours does a postpartum doula work?

This will vary greatly from doula to doula, some work a full time shift, others work in 3-4 hour shifts (helping out during the times of day when support is more necessary), some work during the day and others at night, either daily or a couple of days a week. Click here for information specific to Whole Way Doula Service.

What is the difference between a postpartum doula and a baby nurse?

A baby nurse gives care and support specifically to the baby, that is her primary role as a caregiver. A postpartum doula helps her client settle into her new role as mother to this child. It is the doula's role to create an emotionally safe place, a nest for the new family, so that the mother is comfortable to nurture her baby and allow herself to be nurtured, as well. A postpartum doula's "role" is to help the new mom move into her new responsibilities gradually, mothering the mother, so that she feels supported and cared for in "her new role". When a mother's needs are meet, when she feels supported and understood, then the new mom will naturally be better able to focus on nurturing her new baby.

What are the benefits of hiring a postpartum doula?

Hire a postpartum doula so that you won't feel judged while you learn to care for your newborn. Doulas offer judgment free support allowing you to develop motherhood skills peacefully, smoothly and at your own pace. A postpartum doula is an information source, feel free to discuss various parenting styles, exploring your options, letting your guard down, because your doula is there to support your choices not her own agenda. Doulas assist with breastfeeding education, having a doula by your side while dealing with the challenges of breastfeeding adds a comfortable layer of support. A doula nurtures you while you nurture your newborn. "Mothering the mother." The presence of a doula allows you to take a shower, sit down to a complete meal, allows you to rest and enjoy real sleep, knowing that your baby is both nearby and in very capable hands. Nourished, rested, hydrated women naturally make better moms. A doula frees you from daily household tasks which allows you to focus on bonding with your amazing new baby. A doula is an information trove of knowledge about everything baby and can share up-to-date information on baby related products. A doula is trained to recognize the signs of the postpartum baby blues and can advise you on what is normal and when you might think about getting help. You, your new baby, and your family all deserve to receive the kind of care that a postpartum doula brings into your lives. Allow a postpartum doula to take the stress and worry out of becoming a new mom, so that you can rest, relax and focus on loving and bonding with your amazing new baby and your new family.

What is the postpartum doula's role, do they teach a certain parenting technique, how do they help new parents?

No. A doula is a good listener, a source of information and provide a judgment-free sounding board if you wish to discuss your options, as a new parent. The doula is there to support your parenting choices, not her own agenda. The doula is not only available to the mom and new baby instead her focus is on fostering an atmosphere that supports the well-being of your entire family. A doula is respective of your partner and other family members, values their role and input, and is available to teach them concrete skills to allow them to help nurture the baby and the mother. How the partner and other family members handle their new roles in the family unit can have a dramatic positive effect on the entire family.

Can a postpartum doula diagnose postpartum depression? Can a postpartum doula help me deal with postpartum depression?

Postpartum doulas are trained to recognize the warning signs that a mother may be experiencing postpartum depression but doulas are not therapists or psychiatrists and therefore do not make any sort of diagnosis. A certified postpartum doula can help their client to screen themselves for postpartum medical depression and, if the client feels that they might need help, can make recommendations that will help the mother get the support that she feels necessary such as the names of therapists and support groups in your area. Doulas help by creating a safe place for the mother emotionally, doulas provide a cushioning effect, a calm nonjudgmental acceptance of the mother within each stage that she passes through. Doulas help ensure that new moms are prepared for parenthood by maximizing support, good nutrition, and getting enough rest.